In the spring of the year 1914, the world was at peace. It was even daring to dream that never again should war take its toll of tears and blood. On the 28th of June of that fateful year, a drunken student in the streets of Bosnia, fired a pistol shot that shook the earth. On August 4th Germany began the rape of Belgium; then the world went mad and flung itself headlong from its fancied paradise. It was the tragedy of time: civilization crumbled, and Christ bled afresh on a million calvarys. The Ghost of Voltaire might have repeated his famous indictment of the church: "I know I am among men, because they are fighting; I know I am among civilized men, because they are fighting so fiercely." Twenty million mothers’ sons were given to gorge the gluttonous god of war. The triumphs of genius and the trophies of art were blasted by the breath of cannon. It was the world-wide recrudescence of savagery, and the law of the jungle repealed the rule of reason. Into that mad maelstrom of hate and hell, we sent four million men, for the most part clean men, members of the church, young men of the age when impressions deepen into destiny; – four millions of the flower of the earth and the hope of our future. In that hard school of war they were taught that only one thing counts – that is courage. Easy-going chaplains spoke lightly of the forms of religion and of church relations. For two years these young men lived in an atmosphere where the laws of chastity were more lax than here at home, and where women were dazzled by uniforms. They had little time for prayer or reading the Bibles which their mothers had packed in their kit-bags; one and only one thing stood supreme – to carry on with the courage of crusaders, and with unflinching front, meet death, if need be, for the cause of humanity.
Here at home, a monetary madness supervened. Billions of bond issues made money as the autumn leaves. An era of wild extravagance ensued wherein our young people forgot that money is but coined brawn, blood or brain. They forgot that the fearful holocaust which had burned up so much of the world's wealth, must be allowed by a period of pinching economy. Our survivors came back to us – new men to a new world. During those awful days when the hearts of our women kept them awake of nights, optimist dreamers, of cheerful vision and voice, told us that militarism was putting the knife to its own throat – that this was a war to end war. That our youths over there had "looked into the face of God," and were coming back to render more fruitful service to our churches. Well there are many ways of putting out a fire, but shutting the eyes is not one of them. The way to the better, demands facing the worst. Instead of the world of the optimist’s dream, we look out on a civilization shell-shocked, gassed, wounded, and trembling on the verge of utter collapse. Instead of a world at peace, now nearly seven years since the armistice, more men are in arms than ever before in earth's history. Instead of that splendid flame of enthusiasm, that pardonable passion for freedom, which marshaled men on the field of arms, we have the harsh utterance of hate and greed and debate about boundary lines and remuneration.
The spirit of Shylock has supplanted the passion of Godfrey. Here at home, the old landmarks, set by our fathers, have disappeared. Our young men, on Sunday, instead of crowding the churches, are crowding the highways in automobiles. The modest maidenhood of that older day has yielded without apology to an age of flap-perism. The old high reverence for constitutional law which marshalled our fathers on the frontiers of Dixie, has fallen before a mercenariness which leads men of official life to enrich themselves at the expense of the Eighteenth Amendment. Our schools and colleges heart-centres of civilization, are becoming nurseries of skepticism in which the Bible of our fathers is relegated to the realm of myth, and refused room as a common text-book. Our leading newspapers are conspiring with the colleges to crucify Christ on a cross of "reason;" with consummate arrogance and insolence, they are setting up the molten image of a gorilla, and are crying out to our starving souls: "Behold your Gods."
Glance at some of these landmarks our fathers have set:
1. The Home. What has become of the old-fashioned home where the father and mother were held in profound reverence and honor, whre the sweet incense of prayer rose each night and morning from the family altar? God Almighty "set the solitary in families" for the one purpose of developing the enfolding life for this world and for the world to come. God said His servant Abraham should be great: "For I know he will rule his household and command his children." God punished Eli because he did not make his sons obey. Paul demanded, of the highest official of the church that: "He should rule well his own household." The old home has gone — far gone, and we have fallen on a day of liberty, latitude and license. The new home is only a service-station where the young, in their mad pursuit of pleasure, halt only for refreshments; where the boy regards any suggestion from his father as a voice from the victorian age; where the girl wears no fetters — and not much of anything else. I read just the other day, of a girl of 19 years, who going out at night, said to her father: "Good bye, old top, don't wait up for me; I'll be in some time before morning." Oh! men and women, the home is the citadel of civilization. It is the embryonic church and state. If we lose God from the home we lose him every where. In the vision of Ezekiel, the glory of the Lord first departed from the altar to the threshold; then from the threshold to the East gate; then from the East gate to the mountains beyond the city. So when God is banished from the home altar, He goes from the community, the state and the nation.
2. Another great landmark is the church of God. It is the optimism of rank folly that fails to see the that the church is not gripping our young people. They look upon it as an obsolete institution that was good enough for an older day, but, now is only an impertinent interference with their freedoms of life. They stop not to remember that, without the organized church, they would have no freedom and life worth living. Every thing that makes life worth while, the home, the rights of liberty and property, the idea that man is something more and better than the brute, that there is a dawn beyond the dark – all these have been faithfully guarded through centuries of blood by the church. Moral men and women sharing these blessings, yet stand aloof in an attitude of polite toleration of the church, bearing little of her burden, thrilled not by the knightly passion of her progress. Sometimes, I fear, our preachers are partly to blame. In that older day they spoke with prophetic voice and authority, under an awful sense of the Eternal. Our modern gospel has become a sort of rich, whipped syllabub with all the blood left out of it; a sweet little nosegay with the thorns removed; a medley of musical phrases like sounding brass and clanging cymbal. I would call out to our young people and say: “If you wish to find life in all its freedom and fullness, you shall find it only when you can say with the world's supreme man: 'nevertheless I live not, but Christ liveth in me'." I would cry to our young men who once felt the superb passion and pleasure of sacrifice in a war to make the world better, and say to them: "The only way to make the world better is to follow the program of Jesus, and that program is found only in the church. Come with us. Fall in line. We need your dreams and daring and strength and knightly enthusiasm."
3. Another landmark is the sacred Sabbath. It is a father's summons to his children to meet in the Father's house and hear the speech of the abiding home. It is the weekly halt in the hard journey of life for rest and refreshment of spirit. It is a day of prayer, not pleasure; of service, not sport; of worship, not work; a holy day, not a holiday. Sunday sleeping, Sunday joy-riding, Sunday games deliberately fling the gauntlet full in the face of God who said: "Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy." From the tombs of time, comes the lesson of history, that no nation had long survived the desecration of this day.
4. Another landmark is our dear old Bible. It is the only explanation and justification of the mysteries and miseries of life. It is not only a lamp to our feet and a light to our path, but it is the only lamp and the only light; — let it go out, and our darkness and despair are utterly unrelieved. Criticism would crush it out as fable; Modernism would brand it as unscientific; Evolution would smother it in the embrace of a feigned friendship. As Joab laid his hand tenderly on Amasa while he smote him in the fifth rib; as Judas betrayed his Lord with a kiss, — so Evolution professes an ardent love for the old Book while branding it as a lie. Oh! It tires my contempt to see the colossal arrogance and impudence with which these disciples of this "doctrine of dirt," claim a monopoly of wisdom, and complacently class as fools those of us who believe the Bible which says: "God created man in His own image and likeness." Just the other day, Julian Huxley, rank atheist, grand-son of Tom Huxley, said that North Carolina and other Southern States stood in a class with those who think the earth is flat and the center of our solar system. Now, I concede that one may be a Christian and believe that God developed man from the brutes; I am quite sure one can be a Christian and believe the Biblical account that God created man directly out of the clay; but I am absolutely certain that no sane man can believe both at the same time. Either the Genesis account or evolution is a lie. These mushroom philosophers tell us there is enough truth in the Bible without the Genesis account. How may I know? When you begin to delete the Bible, where will you stop? If Moses is wrong in one statement, then he is not a credible witness, and the whole Pentateuch false. The whole Bible or none. In my boyhood home is the old family Bible which I prize above rubies. Here and there on its pages, are profound and scholarly annotations from the hand of my dead father; here and there a tear-stained witnessing where my sainted mother had sought it for consolation: – it is not for these I prize it most, but I believe it is the Word of the Lord God Almighty. I appeal to the young manhood of a shell-shocked, gassed and war-worn world. I do not believe all ideals are dead. I believe that at heart they desire a better world. Christianity is the only thing that can save civilization. Only one path leads out of the perils and pitfalls of this troubled age, – that path is marked by bloody foot-prints that lead by the Cross of Calvary.
[From the Biblical Recorder, July 29, 1925. On-line edition. Formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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