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The old Prussian doctrine of Weltmacht oder Niedergang has taken on aspects that were never dreamed of by Bernhardi or the General Staff. It has extended itself to all Western civilization - the Weltmacht that comes from continued economic development, or the Niedergang that must result from economic exhaustion. Collapse is inevitable if the impaired resources of the world are to be steadily depleted by the com
petition of armament that has been stimulated beyond the wildest dreams of ante-bellum imperialism. Unless the statesmanship of the world can be brought to a realization of the imperative necessity of economic rehabilitation and of the immediate need of sacrificing everything that stands in the way of that rehabilitation, then indeed was this war the Götterdämmerung - the twilight of the white man's gods.
PREACHING IN LONDON
BY JOSEPH FORT NEWTON
[From 1916 to 1920 the writer was Minister of the City Temple, in London, following the Reverend R. J. Campbell. His ministry was not intended to be permanent, but was undertaken as a kind of unofficial ambassadorship of good-will from the churches of America to the churches of Britain, and as an adventure in Anglo-American friendship. It was a great privilege to stand at the cross-roads of the centuries at such a time, a teacher of Christian faith and an interpreter of the spirit and genius of our country to the motherland. The following pages, from a diary kept during those years of the great war and the little peace, record observations, impressions, and reflections, of men, women, and movements, of actors still on the stage of affairs, of issues still unsettled, and events that seem to have more than a passing meaning, and of beauty-spots in one of the loveliest lands on earth. Of the necessity of the friendship of English-speaking peoples I am still convinced; but the possibility of it is not so manifest as it seemed to be. Once I discussed this matter with the most picturesque statesman of England over the tea-cups; and to my suggestion that America should have a tea-hour for relaxation from the strain and hurry of its life, he replied: "But, remember: we offered you tea once and you would not take it!' His thought was that what Britons and Americans need is ‘a smoking-room acquaintance'-something to break the stiffness and formality, and enable them to mingle in freedom and fellowship. No doubt; but great nations cannot meet in a smoking-room, and in this instance their ignorance of each other is appalling. Still, if each one who journeys from one country to the other is an ambassador of good-will, the sum of our efforts will be felt at last.
Once more I wish to express my deep gratitude for the cordial and fraternal reception everywhere accorded me in England, Scotland, and Wales, and to renew the hope that, when the irritation and confusion of war and reaction have passed away, the two great English-speaking peoples may be drawn into an intelligent and enduring friendship.]
May 17, 1917. - London! If I had been set down here from anywhere, or from nowhere, I should have known that it is 'ye olde London town,' where
all things turn to the left, as they do in the Inferno of Dante. And how quiet! Compared with the din of New York, or the hideous nightmare of the Chicago
loop, London is as quiet as a country village. There are no sky-scrapers to be seen, but the picture spread out like a panorama from Primrose Hill is not to be forgotten. Slowly it works its ancient spell, equally on long sundrenched afternoons, and on those pensive evenings of not insistent rain, -everywhere the hauntings of history, everywhere the stir and throb of history in the making. From a low, dim sky a gentle rain was falling when I arrived, and a soft wind, burdened with a damp fragrance, came as a delicate promise of the purity at the heart of things. Along the aloof avenues of the rich, and the drab streets of the poor, that little wind wandered, like a breath of God bringing a sudden tenderness and sad beauty to an imaginative soul. At such times the essential spirit of London is revealed, its mysterious promise of half-hidden things becoming almost palpable, — and I feel strangely at home in its quiet excitement, its vivid stimulations, and its thousand evocative appeals. London has seen war before; it is a very old city, weary with much experience, and willing to forgive much because it understands much.
Yes, it is London; but the question is, Which London is it? For there are many Londons the London of the Tower and the Abbey, of Soho and the Strand, of Downing Street and Whitechapel, of Piccadilly and Leicester Square. There is the London of Whittington and his Cat, of Goody Twoshoes and the Canterbury Shades, of Shakespeare and Chatterton, of Nell Gwynne and Dick Steele aye, the London of all that is bizarre in history and strange in romance. They are all here, in this gigantic medley of past and present, of misery and magnificence. Sometimes, for me, it is hard to know which holds closest, the London of fiction or the London of fact, or the London of literature, which is a blending of
both. Anyway, as I see it, Goldsmith carouses with Tom Jones, and Harry Fielding discusses philosophy with the Vicar of Wakefield; Nicholas Nickleby makes bold to speak to Mr. W. M. Thackeray, and to ask his favor in behalf of a poor artist of the name of Turner; and 'Boz,' as he passes through Longacre, is tripped up by the Artful Dodger, and falls into the arms of St. Charles Lamb on his way to call on Lady Beatrix Esmond. No doubt my London is in large part a dream, but it is most enchanting.
May 20. Attended the King's Weigh House Church to-day, - made famous by Dr. Binney, and heard Dr. Orchard preach. He is an extraordinary preacher, of vital mind, of authentic insight, and of challenging personality. From an advanced liberal position he has swung toward the Free Catholicism, and by an elaborate use of symbols is seeking to lead men by the sacramental approach to the mystical experience. Only a tiny wisp of a man, seldom have I heard a preacher more searching, more aglow with the divine passion. He does not simply kindle the imagination: he gives one a vivid sense of reality. He has a dangerous gift of humor, which often sharpens into satire, but he uses it as a whip of cords to drive sham out of the temple. He said that preaching in the Anglican Church 'is really worse than necessary,' and he was sure that in reordination it is not enough for the bishop to lay his hands on the preacher; the servant-girl and the tram-driver ought also to add their consecration. With his face alight he cried, 'You need Christ, and I can give Him to you.' Surely that is the ultimate grace of the pulpit. It recalled the oft-repeated record in the Journal of Wesley, in respect to the companies to whom he preached: 'I gave them Christ.' It was not merely an offer: it was a sacrament of communication.
How beautiful is the spirit of reverence which pervades an English church service, in contrast with the too free and informal air of our American worship. The sense of awe, of quiet, of yearning prayer, so wistfully poignant in these days, makes an atmosphere most favorable to inspiration and insight. It makes preaching a different thing. In intellectual average and moral passion there is little difference between English and American preaching, but the emphasis is different. The English preacher seeks to educate and edify his people in the fundamentals of their faith and duty; the American preacher is more intent upon the application of religion to the affairs of the moment. The Englishman goes to church, as to a house of ancient mystery, to forget the turmoil of the world, to be refreshed in spirit, to regain the great backgrounds of life, against which to see the problems of the morrow. It has been said that the distinctive note of the American pulpit is vitality; of the English pulpit, serenity. Perhaps each has something to learn from the other.
May 27.- No man may ever hope to receive a warmer welcome than was accorded me upon my return to the City Temple, and it was needed. Something like panic seized me, perhaps because I did not realize the burden I was asked to bear until I arrived at the Temple. Putting on the pulpit gown of Joseph Parker was enough to make a young man nervous, but I made the mistake of looking through a peep-hole which he had cut in the vestry door, the better to see the size of his audiences. The Temple was full clean back to the 'Rocky Mountains,' as the top gallery is called a sea of faces in the area, and clouds of faces above. It was terrifying. Pacing the vestry floor in my distress, I thought of all the naughty things the English people are wont to say about American speakers - how we
talk through the nose, and the like. My sermon, and almost my wits, began to leave me. There was a vase of flowers on the vestry desk, and in the midst of my agony, as I bent over it to enjoy the fragrance, I saw a dainty envelope tucked down in it. Lifting it out, I saw that it was addressed to me, and, opening it, this is what I read:
Welcome! God bless you. We have not come to criticize, but to pray for you and pray with you. - THE CITY TEMPLE CHURCH.
At once all my nervousness was forgotten; and if that day was a victory, it was due, not to myself, but to those who knew that I was a stranger in a strange land, and whose good-will made me feel at home in a Temple made mellow by the richness of its experience, like an old violin which remembers all the melodies it has heard. May 28. Every day, almost anywhere, one sees a little tragedy of the war. Here is an example. Scene I: a tube train standing at Blackfriars Station. Enter a tired-looking man with a 'cello in its cumbrous case. He sinks heavily into a seat and closes his eyes. People passing stumble against his instrument and are, in about equal numbers, apologetic, annoyed, and indifferent. Enter a tall New Zealander. He sits opposite the tired 'cellist, and looks lovingly at the instrument. Scene II: the same, four stations west. The New Zealander rises to leave the car. The musician looks up, and his eyes meet those of the soldier. The latter smiles faintly, trying to be light-hearted, and pointing to the 'cello-case, says: 'No more of that for me. It was my favorite instrument.' He goes out, and the 'cellist sees that his right sleeve is empty. He flushes slightly and, after a moment, blows his nose defiantly, looking round furtively to see if anyone has had the indecency to notice his emotion. No one has.
June 4. Went down to-day to see White Horse Hill, near Uffington, and lay for hours on the June grass near the head of that huge horse carved in the chalk. What a superb panorama of Southern, Western, and Midland shires lay spread out, with the Hampshire and Wiltshire downs to the south, clipped out on the skyline. Just below is the vale of White Horse, which Michael Drayton, no mean judge of such matters, held to be the queen of English vales. The great creating tide of summer is nearing its zenith. Everything is brimming over with sap, scent, and song. Yet one is conscious of the infinitely old all around, of the remote and legendary. The Horse himself, for instance - who cut him out of the turf? When? To what heroic or religious end? There is nothing to tell us. How different Nature is in a land where man has mingled his being with hers for countless generations; where every field is steeped in history and every crag is ivied with legend. Such places give me a strange sense of kinship with the dead, who were not as we are; the 'long, long dead, the men who knew not life in towns, and felt no strangeness in sun and wind and rain.' Uffington Castle, with its huge earth walls and ditches, is near by. Perhaps the men of the Stone Age fortified it. Perhaps King Alfred fought the Danes there. Nobody knows, and a day in June is no time to investigate. But what is that faint, rhythmic throb? The guns in France!
June 9. Spent yesterday afternoon and evening at the country house of Lord and Lady M―, with an oddly assorted group of journalists, labor leaders, socialists, radicals, conservatives, moderates, and what not. It was a rainbow club, having all colors of opinion, and yet, as Carlyle said of his talk with Sterling, 'except in opinion not disagreeing.' They discussed many matters, formally on the lawn, or
informally in groups, with freedom, frankness, and thoroughness. They were not afraid of names or labels. They cracked the nut of every kind of idea and got the kernel. The war, of course, was a topic, but more often the background of other topics, in the light and shadow of which many issues were discussed, such as Ireland, AngloAmerican relations, industrial democracy, socialism, religion, and the like. The Government was mercilessly criticized not merely abused, but dealt with intelligently, with constructive suggestion, and all in good spirit. Try to imagine such discussions at a dinnertable on Fifth Avenue.·
It was a revelation to me, showing that there is more freedom of thought in England than in America. Liberty, in fact, means a different thing in England from what it does with us. In England it signifies the right to think, feel, and act differently from other people; with us it is the right to develop according to a standardized attitude of thought or conduct. If one deviates from that standard, he is scourged into line by the lash of opinion. We think in a kind of lock-step movement. Nor is this conformity imposed from without. It is inherent in our social growth and habit. An average American knows tens times as many people as the average Englishman, and talks ten times as much. We are gregarious; we gossip; and because everyone knows the affairs of everyone else, we are afraid of one another. For that reason, even in time of peace, public opinion moves with a regimented ruthlessness unknown in England, where the majority has no such arrogant tyranny as it has with us.
June 11.- More than once recently I have heard Dr. Forsyth lecture, and I am as much puzzled by his speaking as I have long been by his writing. Each time I found myself interested less in his thesis than in the curiously involved
processes of his mind. It is now several years since I read his famous article on "The Lust for Lucidity,' a vice, if it is a vice, of which his worst enemy, if he has an enemy, would never think of accusing him. It is indeed strange. I have read everything Dr. Forsyth has written about the Cross, and yet I have no idea of what he means by it. As was said of Newman, his single sentences are lucid, often luminous, many of them, indeed, glittering epigrams, but the total result is a fog, like a Scottish mist hovering over Mount Calvary. One recalls the epigram of Erasmus about the divines of his day, that 'they strike the fire of subtlety from the flint of obscurity.' Just when one expects Dr. Forsyth to extricate his thought, he loses himself in the mystic void of evangelical emotion. But perhaps it is my fault. When he writes on other subjects on literature and art, especially — he is as inspiring as he is winsome.
June 14.-To-day was a soft, hazy day, such as one loves in London; and suddenly, at noon, there was a rain of air-raid bombs. The explosions were deafening. Houses trembled, windows rattled or were shattered — and it was all over. Throngs of people soon filled the streets, grave, silent, excited, but with no signs of panic. Quickly ambulances were moving hither and yon. Not far from the City Temple I saw a cordon formed by police joining hands at the doorway of a shattered house, as the dead and mutilated one little girl with her leg blown off - were being cared for. Calm good-nature prevailed. Officials were courteous and firm. Everybody was kind, helpful, practical. Even the children, darting to and fro, seemed not to be flustered at all. I find it difficult to describe, much less to analyze, my own reaction. I seemed to be submerged in a vast, potent tide of emotion, neither fear, nor anger, nor ex
citement, in which my will floated like a tiny boat on a sea. There was an unmistakable current of thought, how engendered and how acting I know not; but I was inside it and swept along by it. While my mind was alert, my individuality seemed to abdicate in favor of something greater than itself. I shall never forget the sense of unity and fusion of purpose, a wave of common humanity, which drew us all together in a trustful and direct comradeship.
June 18. Met H. G. Wells at lunch to-day, his invitation being a response to my sermon on his book, God, the Invisible King. He entered with a jigging sort of gait, perspiring profusely, in fact, doing everything profusely, all fussed up about the heat, saying that he feared it would exterminate him. In personal appearance he is not distinguished, except his eyes, where one divines the strength of the man. Eager, friendly, companionable, his talk, thinly uttered, is not unlike his writingvivid, stimulating, at times all-questioning. Just now he is all aglow with his discovery of God, 'the happy God of the heart,' to use his words. He looked surprised when I suggested that he had found what the Bible means by the Holy Spirit, as if he had thought his discovery entirely new. What if this interesting man, whose genius is like a magic mirror reflecting what is in the minds of men before they are aware of it themselves, so long a member of the Sect of Seekers, should join the Fellowship of the Finders. Stranger things have happened, but his rushing into print with his discovery fills me with misgiving. The writing man is an odd species, but I recall the saying of the Samoan chief to the missionary: 'We know that at night Some One goes by among the trees, but we never speak of it.' Anyway, we had a nutritious time.
Two ministers have just told me how, at a meeting of ministers some time ago,