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worldlings which has inspired the flower of this nation to offer themselves for service overseas, but it has been the churches and the clergy, with the remnant of devoted laity who are an honor to themselves and our race, who have built the foundations of justice, patriotism, righteousness, and truth into the fabric of rising manhood. The church boys went to war, at the call. It was not our Christian young manhood that was lashed into the war with the draft. Better than a thousand invectives has been the steady untiring teaching of the clergy.
And do we say that the moral leadership of the church and its healing leadership have been turned over to lay organizations, the Y.M.C.A. and the Red Cross? Bless my soul! Is a layman a pagan? an unconverted heathen? a mercenary? Are laymen so much raw material, whose Christian excellence is crowned only when they are ordained? Are we committed to some monarchical theory of the Church, which is represented only when its entitled officers conduct affairs? Is not every Christian layman, in the Y.M.C.A. or the Red Cross, demonstrating the spiritual supremacy of the leadership of the Church?
The Church does not consist of the clergy alone. Clergy and people are the spiritual entity called the Church. I know that we are afflicted with the plague of 168 denominations. Were it not so, however, and were we one great body, and were the whole religious and healing functions of war created by our fiat, could we more effectively conduct our responsibility than by creating these agencies of the Y.M.C.A. and the Red Cross, in which every willing worker could express his Christian manhood and satisfy his desire for service of God and man, whether or not he was part of our hypothetical one Church?
Has not the Church done its part? Countless men high in the Church have rushed to service. The service flags in our churches proclaim the militant quality of our Christian manhood. I have seen a bishop in the uniform of the Red Cross, and he has been in France, too. But who really represents the Church to-day in France? The elderly lady in the next pew will say that it is being represented by the spiritual service of the Y.M.C.A., and the zealous roller of bandages will think of the Red Cross as expressive of the compassion of the Church. But, thank God, the Church has another representative in France to-day. The complete representative of the American Church in France is the United States Army overseas. Yes, an army, with its cannon and rifles and machine-guns and its instruments of destruction. The Church militant, sent, morally equipped, strengthened and encouraged, approved and blessed, by the Church at home. The army today is the Church in action, transforming the will of the Church into deeds, expressing the moral judgment of the Church in smashing blows. Its worship has its vigil in the trenches, and its fasts and feasts; its prayers are in acts, and its choir is the crash of cannon and the thrilling ripple of machine-guns, swelling into a tornado of persuasive appeal to a nation to remember the truth, "The soul (or nation) that sinneth, it shall die.' Our army is preaching the sermon of the American Church to Germany.
A priest or parson may think himself better equipped to serve in the noble ranks of our Y.M.C.A. or Red Cross, but the priest or parson who goes across to-day is fortified by his ordination and its vows, by all the moral sanctions of his calling, in his possible choice of going into the trenches with his rifle in his hand. If the army of the Stars and Stripes is not the army of
the Church of God; if the army bent upon destroying the fiendish rule of criminal conspiracy against mankind is not the army of the Church whose teachings and labors for years have formed the judgments and character of those who fight, then indeed the world is chaos and God is dead.
Has the Church spoken in words as well as deeds? Do you think, Mr. Odell, that if the Church as a whole had opposed war, or had sat by the fire warming itself, the nation could have put an army overseas without draft riots? No. From the beginning the Church has been patriotic and loyal. It would not embarrass the government, if it could have done so, by saying that this is a holy war, and we will take charge of it. Merely to state the case is to show how futile is such an attitude. Before even the government, with its vast responsibility for the consequences of its acts, and with the burden of 'carrying on' when its decision was taken - before even the government could see its path plain, the Church prepared the national mind for the inevitable decision of the government. While neutral in act, the Church was not neutral in thought and judgment. Neutrality in thought was immoral. No power on earth could have silenced the thousands of voices that arose from Christian pulpits. Peter shook himself from his reflections and made the halls ring with his words.
It would have been more melodramatic to have had one commanding figure, like another Peter of the Crusades, command the national attention and point the moral issues involved in the lid blowing off Hell through the line of least resistance at Berlin, but it was more effective to have a hundred thousand spokesmen prepare the nation for the task. It would have been spectacular for John D. Rockefeller to have floated the first Liberty Loan sin
gle-handed, and it would have made him more popular, but it would not have helped to raise the second loan.
And the clergy and the Church of our nation spoke, and spoke with pow er. Hot, flaying, excoriating, scarifying words of righteous indignation and anger have been poured forth from our pulpits. Rousing and enkindling appeals have started the people from their stunned complacency. I have heard many of them. Even before the United States declared war the words were uttered. Like a widely distributed rainfall they did not make a local flood but they fed wide areas and brought forth enormous crops. The Red Cross and the Y.M.C.A. were the immediate result, but the Church in France, in the trenches, was their ultimate aim.
The clergy spoke and spoke plainly. I wish it were possible for Mr. Odell to have every war sermon preached by the clergy, with the date of its delivery. There was a deluge. No one man, no matter how eloquent, could have produced the smallest fraction of the result that the thousands of clergy produced in interpreting the deeper issues of the war. Even the government declined the services of the most militant figure in America, in favor of a widespread military effort that would embrace the rising tide of the modern crusading spirit.
Have conventions spoken! Here is a resolution of one ecclesiastical gathering, which passed with a shout:
Resolved, That this Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Ohio declares its conviction that the United States has entered into the War under the compulsion of every motive of patriotism and humanity. On the one side were the forces that seek to impose upon the whole world the will of a false, cruel, detestable autocracy; on the other side were the forces of democracy, fighting for our own liberty not less than theirs. It is our
conviction that, had we remained neutral, we should have been contemptible even in our own eyes, as a people too selfish and cowardly to bear our part with the democratic peoples of Europe who have fought so long, and so gloriously, and at such vast cost, for everything that is dear to us as a free nation.
The Church has many problems. It is honeycombed with individualism and imperiled by divisions. It must work out its own salvation. But when it comes to issues of right and wrong, the Church takes its place with right. The Church in our land stands, as Peter stood of old, first, to let conscience speak and to struggle against the instincts of peaceful habits, and then it goes, sword in hand, committed to a struggle, to war a war of no compromise or artful evasion of a decision, but a war to victory.
To-day the duty of the Church is slowly getting a different emphasis. Standing as Peter stood, debating with conscience the value of peace, the
Church must and will set its face against the moral iniquity, the utterly unpardonable desertion of its cause, of concluding a peace based on any other consideration than the complete mastery and dissipation of every evil organization or movement of government which has shown itself to be the cruel and heartless foe of humanity. Better that every man in America should go to the plains and farms to wrest again his living from the soil, as our forefathers did, better that every woman should turn again to spinning-wheel and churn, better that every vestige of our material civilization should be swept away, than that we should compromise this issue between righteousness and evil. Now is the time for the Church to awaken to its new peril of bankruptcy and demolition, unless it begins at once to speak, as it has spoken for war, for the complete and final and overwhelming victory for righteousness, which alone will save mankind from a moral decay more fatal than death.
THE CROSS AT NEUVE CHAPELLE
BY THOMAS TIPLADY
THE war on the Western Front has been fought in a Roman Catholic country, where crucifixes are erected at all the chief cross-roads to remind us that, in every moment of doubt as to the way of life, and on whichever road we finally decide to walk, whether rough or smooth, we shall need the Saviour and his redeeming love. We have seen a cross so often when on the march, or when passing down some trench, that
it has become inextricably mixed up with the war. When we think of the great struggle, the vision of the cross rises before us; and when we see the cross,, we think of the processions of wounded men who have been broken to save the world. Whenever we have laid a martyred soldier to rest, we have placed over him, as the comment on his death, a simple white cross which bears his name. We never paint any tribute
on it. None is needed, for nothing else could speak so eloquently as a crossa white cross. White is the sacred color in the army of to-day, and the cross is the sacred form. In after years there will never be any doubt as to where the line of liberty ran that held back the flood and force of German tyranny. From the English Channel to Switzerland it is marked for all time by the crosses on the graves of the British and French soldiers. Whatever may be our views about the erection of crucifixes by the wayside and at the cross-roads, no one can deny that they have had an immense influence for good on our men during the war in France.
The experience of many a gallant soldier is expressed in the following Belgian poem:
I came to a halt at the bend of the road;
I reached for my ration, and loosened my load; I came to a halt at the bend of the road.
O weary the way, Lord, forsaken of Thee, My spirit is faint lone, comfortless me; O weary the way, Lord, forsaken of Thee.
And the Lord answered, Son, be thy heart lifted up;
I drank, as thou drinkest, of agony's cup; And the Lord answered, Son, be thy heart lifted up.
For thee that I loved, I went down to the grave, Pay thou the like forfeit thy Country to save; For thee that I loved, I went down to the grave.
Then I cried, 'I am Thine, Lord; yea, unto this last.'
And I strapped on my knapsack, and onward 1 passed.
Then I cried, 'I am Thine, Lord; yea, unto this last.'
Fulfilled is the sacrifice. Lord, is it well?
Be it said-for the dear sake of country he fell. Fulfilled is the sacrifice. Lord, is it well?
The Cross has interpreted life to the soldier, and has provided him with the only acceptable philosophy of the war. It has taught boys just entering upon life's experience that, out-topping all
history and standing out against the background of all human life, is a Cross on which died the Son of God. It has made the hill of Calvary stand out above all other hills in history. Hannibal, Cæsar, Napoleon - these may stand at the foot of the hill, as did the Roman soldiers, but they are made to look mean and insignificant as the Cross rises above them, showing forth the figure of the Son of Man.
Against the sky-line of human history the Cross stands clearly, and all else is in shadow. The wayside crosses at the front and the flashes of roaring guns may not have taught our soldiers much history, but they have taught them the central fact of history; and all else will have to accommodate itself to that, or be disbelieved. The Cross of Christ is the centre of the picture for evermore, and the grouping of all other figures must be about it.
To the soldiers it can never again be made a detail in some other picture. Seen also in the light of their personal experience, it has taught them that, as a cross lies at the basis of the world's life and shows bare at every crisis of national and international life, so at the root of all individual life is a cross. They have been taught to look for it at every parting of the ways. Suffering to redeem others and make others happy will now be seen as the true aim of life, and not the grasping of personal pleasure or profit. They have stood where high explosive shells thresh out the corn from the chaff the true from the false. They have seen facts in a light that exposes things stark and bare; and the cant talked by skeptical armchair philosophers will move them as little as the chittering of sparrows on the housetops.
For three, long years our front-line trenches have run through what was once a village called Neuve Chapelle. There is nothing left of it now. But
there is something there which is tremendously impressive. It is a crucifix. It stands out above everything, for the land is quite flat around it. The cross is immediately behind our firing-trench, and within two or three hundred yards of the German front trench. The figure of Christ is looking across the waste of No-Man's Land. Under his right arm and under his left are British soldiers holding the line. Two 'dud' shells lie at the foot; one is even touching the wood; but though hundreds of shells must have swept by it, and millions of machine-gun bullets, it remains undamaged. Trenches form a labyrinth all round it. When our men awake and 'stand to' at dawn, the first sight they see is the cross; and when at night they lie down in the side of the trench, or turn into their dug-outs, their last sight is the cross. It stands clear in the noonday sun; and in the moonlight it takes on a solemn grandeur.
I first saw it on a November afternoon when the sun was sinking under heavy banks of cloud, and it bent my mind back to the scene as it must have been on the first Good Friday, when the sun died with its dying Lord, and darkness crept up the hill of Calvary and covered Him with its funeral pall to hide his dying agonies from the curious eyes of unbelieving men. I had had tea in a dug-out, and it was dark when I left. Machine-guns were sweeping No-Man's Land to brush back enemies who might be creeping toward us through the long grass; and the air was filled with a million clear, cracking sounds. Star-shells rose and fell, and their brilliant lights lit up the silent form on the cross.
For three years, night and day, Christ has been standing there in the midst of our soldiers, with arms outstretched in blessing. They have They have looked up at Him through the clear starlight of a frosty night; and they
have seen his pale face by the silver rays of the moon as she has sailed her course through the heavens. In the gloom of a stormy night they have seen the dark outline, and caught a passing glimpse of Christ's effigy by the flare of the star-shells. What must have been the thoughts of the sentries in the listening posts as all night long they have gazed at the cross; or of the officers as they have passed down the trench to see that all was well; or of some private sleeping in the trench and, being awakened by the cold, taking a few steps to restore blood-circulation? Deep thoughts, I imagine, much too deep for words of theirs or mine.
And when the battle of Neuve Chapelle was raging and the wounded, whose blood was turning red the grass, looked up at Him, what thoughts must have been theirs then? Did they not feel that He was their big Brother and remember that blood had flowed from Him as from them; that pain had racked Him as it racked them; and that He thought of his mother and of Nazareth as they thought of their mother and the little cottage they were never to see again? When their throats became parched and their lips swollen with thirst, did they not remember how He, too, had cried for water; and, above all, did they not call to mind the fact that He might have saved Himself, as they might, if He had cared more for his own happiness than for the world's? As their spirits passed out through the wounds in their bodies, would they not ask Him to remember them as their now homeless souls knocked at the gate of his Kingdom? He had stood by them all through the long and bloody battle while hurricanes of shells swept over and around Him.
I do not wonder that the men at the front flock to the Lord's Supper to