Thoughts On Religion At The Front - Ch. 6
( Originally Published 1917 )
WAR, when it breaks in on peace, reveals in a fierce light the condition of men in peace. It would be ungrateful and disloyal not to acclaim the main sound heart of our country which this war has revealed. It would be treasonable to the great company of good men and true—not least out of the school and university world most familiar to the writer—who have risen to "the day " and have gladly given their all.
Yet, after generous allowance for that, a great poverty of allegiance to God has been laid bare. Indirectly, in the answers made to the claims of duty, honour, service, and self-sacrifice, He has been acknowledged, but of direct devotion to Him as the one arid preeminent reality there has been little.
After all, can it be denied that the war has found us devoted rather to the idols of money, pleasure, and appetite than to God and His righteousness ? We have had to be aroused from a great sensual preoccupation with worldly traffic. " As it was in the days of Noah," so in a measure it has been today : " as we ate and drank, and bought and sold and planted and builded, the flood has come upon us and has all but swept us away. At home, as the thinly-veiled wantonness of some of our weekly illustrated papers reminds us in the field, it seems that a mass of self - pleasing and luxurious folk cannot yet find an escape out of the prison-house of Vanity Fair, though thousands bleed and die by their side.
In the field, the mind and manner of a gross peace - life is kept alive by pictures of smirking nudities placarded in dug-outs and billets, and the farther back from the front one travels, as the hot breath of war grows more tepid, the more heavy grows the atmosphere of materialistic indulgence. That God minds is hardly thought of, for at home and abroad we have been carried into war in a peace-condition of great heedlessness of Him. And the strains and cost and dangers of war will not scare men out of their forgetfulness.
The heart of man is incorrigible by fear. God, if He is little regarded in peace, is hard to come nigh to in war. If religion in peace and prosperity has not been full of His praise—of joy in Him, it is something to which adversity must drive men, and they think it as such a little disreputable, and many of the best men, richly gifted with manly excellences, tend to leave it on one side.
Yet "I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ." We can adopt the ringing note of St. Paul's defiance. For the Christian religion does not spring primarily out of human anxiety and need. It is not an expedient which may be left on one side till the hour of need arises. That many men should think thus of it shows that it has been widely forgotten, misunderstood, or never known.