Thoughts On Religion At The Front - Ch. 15
( Originally Published 1917 )
AKIN to the difficulty that the will of God is inscrutable and hard to know, is the protest that to speak of Him as at work in the world to bring in His kingdom, is remote from the actualities of daily life. As I have walked about in Flanders, turning over thoughts about the onward movement of God's purposes in the world, I have met those matchless monuments of patient and unchanging daily toil, the peasants working in the fields. harnessed into the perpetual cycle of seed time and harvest, what can this talk of movements and purposes in the great world be to them ? Is enthusiasm for the Kingdom of God possible only for those who are so removed from the drudgery of existence that they can sit in the exhausted air of committee rooms and talk about it ? Or is it that under God's heaven and close to the soil men know better ? Is there no room for great expectations in those pressed down into the thick of things ?
There is telling truth here, but it is not the last word. The old man in the fields—or is it the old wrinkled woman doing more than one man's work knows that. They know that life cannot fully be measured by the gauge of the individual's daily round. A word will bring pride and light to their eyes. It is `Vine la. France !' They are citizens of a world wider than their fields. They belong to 'La Patrie.'
Their common tasks count—only a little—but they do count in the world of great events. Life is monotonous and cyclical, and yet it is more than that. Great changes do arrive in days of crisis and convulsion—yes, in days of judgment, and the victims of changelessness are caught up by movement.
They are awakened out of the sleep of humdrum existence, and are asked to give proof, and proudly do give proof, that, plodders though they be, they belong to no mean city.
This is true in the sphere of patriotism.
It is true in the wider sphere of the Kingdom of God. The difficulty here considered is one of the products of our incorrigible individualism in religion.
Christianity is not narrow preoccupation with my sour It is an entrance into a sphere as wide as the world. It is membership in a universal society which is concerned with great causes and astir with deep movements. And be the individual never so anchored in the daily and local necessities of existence, he can nevertheless share with loyalty and pride and prayer and service in the fortunes and onward march of the commonwealth of Christ