Never before in the history of our nation has there been such a terrible war. The magnitude of the struggle, the multiplicity of human interests concerned, the complexity and difficulty of the many problems involved, the anguish of anxiety and suffering, and the glory of the countless deeds of heroism, altogether make a bewildering atmosphere in which the great tragedy is being enacted. It is therefore of paramount importance that we should one and all try to see certain points quite clearly, and try to disentangle the simple straight issues from the general mass of actions and events that are piled up from day to day.
We ought to be very grateful for all the help that has been given to us towards doing this since the first day of the war. Great sermons have been preached; great success have been made by statesmen; great messages hae been framed by the King, and by Commanders at home and in the battle line or afloat; simple words have come to us from the front; hymns and verses have been written, all helping to clear our vision and make us see points of light and threads of gold through the darkness.
Will you let me try to set down some of the thoughts which have been given to us at this time?
- In the words of the great Christian hero who is being laid to rest in St. Paul’s today, “We are at War – to hold our promise, to help our friends, and to keep the flag of liberty flying not only over our own Empire, but over the whole world.”
- The spirit of patriotism is aflame and burning to make any sacrifice for the Motherland.
- The countless deeds of heroism done every hour by sailors, soldiers, chaplains, doctors and nurses shine with a light which will never be quenched.
- The brave love and splendid fortitude of those whose dear ones have given their lives for the country are amongst the most beautiful things on earth, and we have examples of these daily before our eyes.
- Thousands of men and women, boys and girls, and little children all over the Empire are helping with their sympathy, their works and their prayers to hold up those who are in posts of honour and of danger on land or afloat, and to mitigate the sorrows of homeless Refugees.
- The most selfish soul alive is faced with a priceless opportunity for forgetting self.
- The greatness of the present moment consists largely in the hope that the soul of England will be cleansed through the suffering and ennobled by the sacrifice of her sons, and will live again in all simplicity and Christian faith and humble obedience to God’s will.
- What we humbly hope for England we may hope for Europe, and through the vitalising of Christian nations we may hope for the spread of God’s Kingdom of Truth and Love through-out the world.
These are some of the thoughts which may help to keep our hearts brave and our wills strong and our prayers fervent through all these sad days. For sad days they are, and we may pray God that there may never be such sad days again. As the Bishop of Salisbury said in his sermon in the Cathedral, there is much in war that must be hateful in God’s sight. We are probably all feeling that modern methods of warfare are hateful. The cleverness of man is surely misdirected by making larger and larger engines for the wholesale destruction of human life, and the hidden hand that strikes in the dark by mines cannot surely be counted an honourable weapon. May there be a world-wide consensus of opinion ranged against such methods as these when this most awful war is over. But besides these things, which must be hateful to God, there are all the faults and failings of individuals which have helped to make the sum total of that which is displeasing to Him. So whilst we take courage, we must seek out the weak places in our characters, and must pray for penitence, real personal penitence, which will result, with God’s blessing, in real personal renewing, for again, the renewing of the world is the sum total of the renewing of individuals. This war can leave none of us as it found us. God grant that we may all so learn its lessons that the world may be prepared to serve Him not slothfully through the peaceful days to come.