AN undergraduate once received a simultaneous visit from a subaltern and a High Church Socialist curate. Unfortunately he was unable to entertain them in the afternoon, so he sent them out together in a canoe on the "Char." The canoe returned in safety. As soon as he had a chance, the host asked the curate privately how he liked the subaltern. "Oh," said the curate., "a very nice chap; but awfully young, and knows very little about life." A little later the host asked the subaltern how he got on with the curate. "Quite a decent little man," said the subaltern; "but it would do him a lot of good to mix more in society and broaden his views; and, of course, he is very young!" Probably they were both right. Both were good fellows; but they had looked at life from an utterly different angle, and their views on what they saw were diametrically opposite. Neither was old enough to be very tolerant, and so it is rather a wonder that the canoe did return in safety.
Of course the curate was a University man, and the subaltern had been at "the Shop" or Sandhurst, and the implication is that each was typical of his schooling. That is as unfair as most generalizations. All University men are not Socialist curates, and all soldiers are not Tories; but at the same time the lack of sympathy between these two individuals is paralleled in most cases where representatives of the two types meet. In some outlandish Colony you will sometimes find a soldier and a University man collaborating in the government of a district. If you ask the soldier how he likes his assistant, he will probably answer: "A damned good chap when you know him"; and then he will add, with a somewhat rueful smile: "but, by Jove, that Oxford manner of his took a bit of getting over at the start!" If you ask the University man how he gets on with his chief, he will answer: "A 1 now; but, by gad, his manner was a bit sticky at first!" You will also find the same state of affairs in many battalions of the New Army. The fact is that the University, or Sandhurst, or "the Shop" receives a boy at his most plastic age, and sets its mark on him indelibly; and the mark of each is wholly different. Two boys may come from the same public school and the same home; but if one goes to Oxford and the other to Woolwich, they will be utterly different men. As one who has been to both, I think I understand just why it is.
It is twelve years since I was at "the Shop"; but from all I hear and see the place has not altered so very much. It was run on Spartan lines. The motto was, and is, "Unhasting yet unresting work," and the curriculum was almost exclusively utilitarian. The chief subjects were mathematics, gunnery, fortification, mechanics , electricity, physical training, riding, and drill. None of these is calculated to widen the sympathies or cultivate the imagination. They are calculated to produce competent gunners and sappers. Our day was fully occupied, and in the two hours of leisure between dinner and lights out, one had no inclination to embark on fresh subjects of study. The discipline was strict, and ethically the value of the life was that it inculcated the ideas of alertness, duty, and honor. To do one's job thoroughly and quickly, and to be quite straightforward about it if one had omitted any duty, was the code to which we were expected to conform. Religion was represented by a parade-service on Sundays. In so far as it meant anything, it was the recognition that God was King of kings, and, as such, deserved His weekly meed of homage. Here is a story which illustrates rather well the military view of religion. A certain devout major had promised to attend a prayer meeting, and on that account refused an invitation to dine with a member of the Army Council. When someone expressed astonishment at his refusal, he replied shortly that he had an engagement with the Lord God, Who was senior to the member of the Army Council! If there was little opportunity for the study of the "humanities," and little inducement to mysticism in religion, there was no encouragement at all to the development of the æsthetic faculties. Our rooms were hopelessly bare and hideous. My first room I shared with three others. The walls were of whitewashed brick. The floor was bare. The beds folded up against the wall, under print curtains of an uncompromising pattern. The furniture consisted of a deal table, four Windsor chairs, a shelf with four basins, and a locker divided into four compartments and painted khaki. One could do nothing with such a room. It crushed individuality of taste most effectually. Finally, one learnt not to show physical fear or nervousness. The plank bridge across the roof of the "gym." ensured an appearance of courage, while the "snookers' concert," where one had to sing a song in front of a hall full of yelling seniors, was the cure for a display of nerves.
The result of such a schooling is distinctive. The average officer is a man with a good deal of simplicity. His code is simple. He sees life as a series of incidents with which he has to deal practically. It is not his job to ask why. He has to get on and do something about it. If he does his work well, that is all that is required of him. His interests are practical. They relate to his profession, his men, and his recreations. His pleasures are simple. They are the pleasures of the. body rather than the mind---sport, games, sex. His relations with his fellow men are simple and defined. To his superiors in rank he must be respectful, at all events outwardly. He must support them even when he thinks they are mistaken. To his equals he must be a good comrade. To his men he must be a sort of father, encouraging, correcting, stimulating, restraining, as the occasion demands. They are quite definitely his inferiors. It is not surprising if he lacks sympathy with Socialism, Idealism, Mysticism, and all the other "isms." Like everyone else, he has the limitations of his virtues.
The life at Oxford, which I experienced some four years later, was the most complete contrast imaginable to what I have been trying to describe, and, as is only natural, the product is absolutely different from the product of "the Shop." At Oxford we were the masters of our time. We read what we liked and when we liked. We went to bed when we liked, and, in the main, got up when we liked. We had beautiful rooms, which offered every inducement to the exercise of individual taste. Our reading was the reverse of utilitarian; it was calculated not to make us competent craftsmen, but to widen our sympathies and stimulate our imaginations. We read history, philosophy, theology, literature, psychology---all subjects which incite one to dream rather than to act. Our religion tended to be mystical. In creed and ethics we were inclined to be critical, to take nothing for granted. In politics our sympathies were too wide and our skepticism too pronounced to be compatible with definite views. Socially we were theoretically democratic; but our inherited and æsthetic prejudices kept most of us from putting our theories into practice. When we left our Alma Mater we were full of vague ideals, unpractical dreams, and ineffective good-will. Those of us who then went to work took little practical enthusiasm with them at the first; and it was many months before they were able to relegate to its proper place in the dim background the land of dreams which was their kingdom of the mind.
All stories end in the same way now: "then came the war." Most University men took commissions, and found themselves working side by side with their opposites---the men from Sandhurst and Woolwich. In the end both types found that they had something to learn from the other. In the routine of the barrack and the trench the University man learnt the value of punctuality and a high sense of duty. He found it very hard to work when he felt inclined to meditate, to perform punctiliously duties of which he did not see the necessity but only the inconvenience. Yet time showed that the military code was not simply arbitrary and irritating, as it appeared at first, but essential to efficiency. So, too, the professional soldier saw that the psychological interests and broad human sympathies of the University man had their uses in helping to maintain a good spirit, and to get the best work out of men who were experiencing hardships of a kind that they had never known before. And in the days of danger and death a good many officers felt the need of an articulate philosophy of life and death, and recognized that Oxford and Cambridge had given their sons the power to evolve one, while Sandhurst and Woolwich had not,
Other University men there are who have preferred to remain in the ranks of the Army. Who shall say that they are shirking their responsibilities? The men also need the wisdom that they have gathered, for they, too, have to face death and wounds with the poorest mental equipment for doing so. And in the ranks the student will find that his philosophy is becoming practical, that his dreams are being fulfilled, and that he is the interpreter of a wider experience of life than even he ever imagined.
ENGLISHMEN have a horror of being thought "theatrical" or "poseurs." If a man is described as "theatrical," they immediately picture a person of inordinate vanity and no real character striving after outward effect. He may be a petty criminal of weak intellect, glorying because he is the centre of a Police Court sensation., and because his case and his photo are in all the evening papers. He may be a mediocre and not too honest politician trying to exploit some imaginary scandal to increase his own notoriety. These are the types that the Englishman associates with being "theatrical" or a "poseur," and he hates and despises them. But by "a sense of the dramatic" I mean something absolutely different. I mean getting outside yourself and seeing yourself and other people as the characters of a story. You watch them and criticize them from a wholly detached point of view. You just want to see what sort of a story you are helping to make, and what points of interest it would be likely to offer to an outside observer. There is no vanity or superficiality or egoism about this. It is simply realizing the interest in your own life, and it will often enable you to see things in their proper perspective, and so to avoid being bored or oppressed by circumstances which you cannot alter.
After all, every life has a certain amount of interest and romance attached to it if looked at from the right angle. Every one can see something interesting in another fellow's life. We all experience at times a curiosity to know what it feels like to be something quite different from what we are. It is a relic of our childhood, when we used to play at being anything, from the Pope of Rome to a tram-conductor. But it is nearly always the other fellow's job that is interesting, and hardly ever our own. There is romance in dining at the Carlton, except to the habitués of the place. There is romance in dining for a shilling in Soho, unless you are one of the folk who can never afford to dine anywhere else. If you are rich there is romance in poverty, in wresting a living from a society which seems to grudge it you. If you are poor there is romance in opulence and luxury. There is romance in being grown up if you are a child, and there is romance in youth if you are old or middle-aged.
Now a sense of the dramatic means that you see the romance in your own life. If you are rich, it will enable you to see the munificent possibilities in your wealth, as the poor man sees them. You will catch at an ideal, and try to live up to it. Every now and then you will get outside yourself, and compare yourself with your ideal, and see how you have failed. If you are a workman it will enable you to understand the glory of work well done, of strong muscles and deft fingers, of a home which you have built up by your own exertions. Without this sense the rich man is bored by the easiness of his existence, and will always be striving after new sensations, probably unwholesome ones, in order to stimulate his waning interest in life; while the poor man will become oppressed by the grinding monotony of his existence, and will become a waster and a drunkard.
Suppose you are an uncle. If you have no sense of the dramatic you will miss all the fun in tipping your small nephew. You will do it with no air at all. You will do it in a mean and grudging spirit. You will wonder how little you can with decency give the young rascal, and will dispense it with a forced smile like the one which you reserve for your dentist. The urchin will probably make a long nose at you when your back is turned. But if you have a sense of the dramatic, you will see the possibilities of the incident from the nephew's point of view. You will understand the romance of being an uncle. You will disburse your largess with an air of genial patronage and bonhomie which will endear you to the boy for ever. You will go away feeling that you have both been a huge success in your respective parts.
A sense of the dramatic is, of course, closely connected with a sense of humor. If you have this faculty for getting outside yourself and criticizing yourself, you will be pretty sure to see whether you look ridiculous. If you are a real artist in the exercise of the gift, you will also see yourself in your right perspective with regard to other people. The artist must not be an egoist. He must not allow the limelight to be centred on himself. He will see himself, not as the hero of the story, but as one of the characters---the hero, perhaps, of one chapter, but equally a minor character in the others. The greatest artist of all, probably, is the man who prays, and tries to see the story as the Author designed it. He will have the truest sense of proportion, the most adequate sense of humor of all. Undoubtedly prayer is the highest form of exercising this sense of the dramatic.
Probably there is no one to whom this saving grace is more essential than to the fighting soldier, especially in winter. Every detail of his life is sordid and uncomfortable. His feet are always damp and cold. He is plastered with mud from head to foot. His clothes cling to him like a wet blanket. He is filthy and cannot get clean. His food is beastly. He has no prospect of anything that. a civilian would call decent comfort unless he gets ill or wounded. There is no one to sympathize with his plight or call him a hero. If he has no sense of the dramatic, if his horizon is bounded by the sheer material discomfort and filth which surround him, he will sink to the level of the beast, lose his discipline and self-respect, and spend his days and nights making himself and everyone else as miserable as possible by his incessant grumbling and ill-humor. On the other hand, if he has any sense of the dramatic, he will feel that he is doing his bit for the regeneration of the world, that history will speak of him as a hero, and, like Mark Tapley, he will see in his hardships and discomforts a splendid chance of being cheerful with credit. He will know that God has given him a man's part to play, and he will determine to play it as a man should. There are many men of this kidney in the army of the trenches, and they are the very salt of the earth. They have been salted with fire. They are the living proof that pain and suffering are something more than sheer cruelty---rather the conditions which turn human animals into men, and men into saints and heroes fit for the Kingdom of God.
Imagination has its disadvantages; but on the whole, and when well under control, it is a good quality in a leader. Often in war, when the men are tried and dejected, and seemingly incapable of further effort, a few words of cheer from a leader whom they trust will revive their spirits, and transform them into strong and determined men once more. The touch of imagination in their leader's words restores their sense of the dramatic. They see the possibilities in the part which they are called upon to play, and they resolve to make the most of it. The appeal so made is generally not one to individual vanity. In the picture of the situation which his sense of the dramatic conjures up it is not himself that the soldier sees as the central figure. Probably it is his leader. He sees himself, not as an individual hero, but as a loyal follower, who is content to endure all and to brave all under a trusted captain. He looks for no reward but his leader's smile of approval and confidence. His highest ambition is to be trusted and not to fail. Happy is the leader who can command such loyalty as this! And there are many such in the army of the trenches.
Here, again, religion gives the highest, the universal example of the particular virtue. The most perfect form of Christianity is just the abiding sense of loyalty to a divine Master---the abiding sense of the dramatic which never loses sight of the Master's figure, and which continually enables a man to see himself in the rôle of the trusted and faithful disciple, so that he is always trying to live up to his part.
No, a sense of the dramatic is not theatrical, not conducive to, or even compatible with egoism. It is a faculty which gives zest to life: putting boredom and oppression to flight; stimulating humor, humility, and idealism. It is of all faculties the most desirable, being very agreeable to honor and to true religion.
IT is said that a certain eminent Doctor of Divinity once summed up a debate on some knotty theological problem in the following terms: "Well, gentlemen, speaking for myself, I think I may venture to say that I should feel inclined to favor a tendency in a positive direction, with reservations." It is easy to sneer at such an attitude; but in reality it is rather splendid. Here was an old man, who had spent the greater part of his life in studying the fundamental problems of metaphysics and history, and at the end of it all he had the courage to confess that he was still only at the threshold of the house of Knowledge. At least he had realized the magnitude of his subject, and if we compare him with the narrow dogmatists of other ages, we shall be forced to allow that in his exceeding humility there was some greatness, nobility of mind, and dignity. At the same time it must be confessed that such an attitude does not lend itself to expression in a terse, definite form; and that, unfortunately, is what is needed by the men who are busy doing the hard work of the world. The ordinary man wants something simple and applicable to the problems with which he has to deal. He wants a right point of view, so that he can see the hard facts which crowd his life in their proper perspective. He wants power, that he may be able to master the circumstances which threaten to swamp him. For the nebulous views of modern theology he has little use.
Of course, theoretically the pastor should mediate between theology and life, having a working knowledge of both. Unfortunately, but not altogether unnaturally, the hierarchy is timid. Ordinands are discouraged from learning too much about life., lest they err in strange paths and lose their way. Equally they are discouraged from penetrating too far into modern theology, lest they get lost in the fog. They are advised to be content with the official guides to both; and the official guides are somewhat out of date, and in them accuracy and adequacy are apt to be sacrificed to simplicity. The net result is that the ordinary man does not receive much help from the Church in his attempts to get a mental grip of life and death.
Indications are not wanting that the present crisis may evolve teachers of a new kind in the ranks of the clergy and the professors. Many clergy have enlisted in non-combatant corps, and must there have gained a much deeper sense of the needs of ordinary men than they ever acquired in the University, the clergy school, and the parish. Some of the younger dons have also plunged into life, and they may be expected to produce literature of a new type when they return to their studies. Perhaps we shall see again something analogous to the old books of wisdom: shrewd commentaries on life couched in short, pithy sentences. If so, they will be refreshing reading after the turgid inconclusiveness of most modern theology. In this article will be found what may prove the first fruits of the crisis. It is, in its way, a little book of wisdom. The writer, though not yet entirely emancipated from the traditions of his type, seems nevertheless to be feeling after greater clearness of expression and more definite views. Here is a short history of how he came to write it.
He wished to be a clergyman; but he rejected the advice of his elders, and lost himself in the mists of modern theology. There he wandered contentedly for some years, until one day he discovered that his nation had gone to war in what he conceived to be a righteous cause. To the astonishment of his friends, he immediately came out of the cloud, and announced his intention of taking part in the struggle. Being of gentle birth, he was urged to apply for a commission; but, laughingly dubbing himself "a mere dreamer," he preferred the humbler lot of a private soldier. What follows is taken from his notebook. In it he jotted down from time to time what he considered the chief truths which his study and his experience of life had impressed upon his mind. There is no conscious connection between the various groups; but the dates give one a due which enables one to see how each group is connected with a particular phase of his experience, and to trace the development of his mind due to the reaction of these successive phases. Thus June, 1914, sees him preoccupied with abstract problems, trying to mark his tracks as he wanders through the mists. August sees him turning from his mind to his conscience, and nerving himself to decisive action. In September he was already becoming an empirical rather than an abstract philosopher. In October and December the barrack-room had compelled him to try to define the place of religion in practical life. In February, 1915, he is contrasting religion with theology, to the disadvantage of the latter. In May and June death is teaching him the supreme truths. But let his words tell their own story
"June 20, '14.---Do not think to 'get to the bottom of things': most likely they have not got one.
Agnosticism is a fact: it is the starting-point of the man who has realized that to study Infinity requires Eternity.
Only he who has failed to perceive the immensity of the universe and the insignificance of man will dare to say 'I know': ignorance is always dogmatic.
Where knowledge is exact it is merely descriptive: it tells the how, but not the why, of a process.
Agnosticism is no excuse for idleness: because we cannot know all, it does not follow that we should remain wholly ignorant."
"August 5, '14.---Knowledge is not a right end in itself: the aim of the philosopher must not be to know, but to be somewhat.
The philosopher who is a bad citizen has studied in vain.
The law said: 'Thou shalt not kill'; the Gospel says: 'Thou shalt not hate.' It is possible to kill without hatred.
The Gospel says: 'Love your enemies.' That means: 'Try to make them your friends.' It may be necessary to kick one's enemy in order to make friendship possible. A nation may be in the same predicament, and be forced to fight in order to make friendship possible."
"August 10, '14.---Rank in itself is one of the false gods which it is the business of religion and philosophy to dethrone.
Outward rank deserves outward respect: genuine respect is only accorded to real usefulness.
Rank is only valued by the wise when it offers opportunity for greater usefulness.
To know one's limitations is a mark of wisdom, to rest content with them merits contempt.
There is no dishonor in a humble lot---unless one is shirking the responsibilities of one more exalted.
The wise man will take the lowest room; but only the shirker will refuse to go up higher.
To fear a change in one's manner of life is to be the slave of habit: freedom is a chief object both of religion and philosophy.
Here are two contemptible fellows: a philosopher without courage, and a Christian without faith."
"September 1, '14.---The interest of life lies largely in its contrasts: if a man finds life dull it is probably because he has lacked the courage to widen his environment.
To have a wide experience is to inherit the earth: with a narrow horizon a man cannot be a sound thinker.
Experience is the raw material of the philosopher: the wider his experience, whether personal or borrowed, the more sure the basis of his philosophy."
" October 15, '14.---Man is the creature of heredity and circumstance: he is only the master of his fate in so far as he can select his environment.
Sordid surroundings make man a brute: friendship makes him human: religion begins to make him divine.
Religion means being aware of God as a factor in one's environment: perfect religion is perceiving the true relative importance of God and the rest.
Some men are brutes: most are human: very few begin to be divine."
"December 5, '14.---Almost all men are slaves: they are mastered by foolish ambitions, vile appetites, jealousies, prejudices, the conventions and opinions of other men. These things obsess them, so that they cannot see anything in its right perspective.
For most men the world is centred in self, which is misery: to have one's world centred in God is the peace that passeth understanding.
This is liberty: to know that God alone matters."
"February 2, '15.---Optimism is the condition of successful effort: belief in God is the only rational basis of optimism.
To offer a sound basis for optimism, religion must take count of facts: the hardest fact is the existence of unmerited suffering.
Religion is feeling and aspiration: theology is the statement of its theoretical implications.
Religion is tested by experience: theology by logic and history.
Christianity survives because the Cross symbolizes the problem of pain, and because its metaphysical implications have never been finally settled.
Christianity is a way, and not an explanation of life: it implies power, and not dogma."
"May 25, '15.---In the hour of danger a man is proven: the boaster hides, the egotist trembles; only he whose care is for honor and for others forgets to be afraid.
It is blessed to give: blessed is he of whom it is said that he so loved giving that he was glad to give his life.
Death is a great teacher: from him men learn what are the things they really value.
Men live for eating and drinking, position and wealth: they die for honor and for friendship.
True religion is betting one's life that there is a God.
In the hour of danger all good men are believers: they choose the spiritual, and reject the material.
The death of a hero convinces all of eternal life: they are unable to call it a tragedy."
"June 1, '15 .---I have seen with the eyes of God. I have seen the naked souls of men, stripped of circumstance. Rank and reputation, wealth and poverty, knowledge and ignorance, manners and uncouthness, these I saw not. I saw the naked souls of men. I saw who were slaves and who were free: who were beasts and who men: who were contemptible and who honorable. I have seen with the eyes of God. I have seen the vanity of the temporal and the glory of the eternal. I have despised comfort and honored pain. I have understood the victory of the Cross. O Death, where is thy sting? Nunc dimittis, Domine. . . . "
I HAVE recently read two books, both dealing with the probable effect of the war on the Churches. One of them was by a clergyman of the Church of England, and the other by a Nonconformist layman. Both agreed that the Churches were hopelessly out of touch with the average laity, and both were concerned with the problem which will confront the Churches when the war is over, and the fighting men return to their civilian occupations. These men will return from their experience of hardship and danger, pain and death, in a far more serious frame of mind than that in which they set out. Then, if ever, will they be willing to listen if the Churches have any vital message for them, any interpretation to offer of their experiences, any ideal of a practical and inspiring kind to point to. If the Churches miss that opportunity, woe betide them! It may be centuries before they get such another. So far both writers were agreed, and also in their anxiety, that the Churches were not fit to grapple with that opportunity, that they were too remote in their methods and doctrines from real life to be able to give a lead to men whose minds were full of real problems. But in their remedies for that unfitness the two writers were wholly at variance. The clergyman looked to his colleagues for help. They must cut themselves loose from the business of parochial and philanthropic organization on which at present so much of their energy is expended, but which is not really their proper work. Instead they must devote themselves to cultivating a deeper spirituality, repair more diligently to the Mount of God, there to receive enlightenment and revelation. The layman, on the other hand, abandoned the clergy as hopeless. They did not know enough about life to be of any use in this work. It was laymen, men who had shared the experiences of "the lads, " who would have to be their prophets and interpreters. It was not in the ordinary services of Church or Chapel that the returning soldiers would find the sort of religious teaching and worship which they needed, but in Adult Schools and P.S.A.'s organized by their fellow laymen-men who had struggled and suffered at their side, and had found and tested in their own experience how communion with God can raise a man, and make him contented and clean and useful.
Personally, my sympathies are much more with the Nonconformist than with the clergyman. The clergy are out of touch with the laity. They do not as a rule understand the real difficulties and temptations of the ordinary man. The sin against which they preach is sin as defined in the Theological College, a sort of pale, lifeless shadow of the real thing. The virtue which they extol is equally a ghost of the real, generous, vital love of good which is the only thing that is of any use in the everyday working life of actual men. Although there are brilliant exceptions, this is almost bound to be the case as long as the majority of ordinands are segregated in the artificial atmosphere of the clergy school before they have any experience of life; as long as the work of the younger clergy is so largely concerned with suffering women's gossip, ministering to the amusement of children, and trying to help the hopeless, so that they have no time or opportunity for free intercourse with the adult male inhabitants of their parishes; as long as the old traditional mistrust exists between clergy and laity, due in no small measure to the refusal of the Church as a whole to face the facts of modern science and research, and breeding as it does misconception on the one side and reticence on the other; as long as the teaching and worship of the Church continue to be a compromise between the two historic parties to an outworn ecclesiastical controversy rather than the interpretation of the real needs and aspirations of living men. As long as these are the outstanding features of clerical training and life and method it is difficult to see how anyone can expect the average clergyman to be able to help or lead his brethren of the laity. It is useless for him to go to Horeb until he has understood the life in the streets of Samaria. It is useless for him to spend more time in praying until he has more to pray about. And the situation is not going to improve one bit if the younger clergy are kept back from taking their share in the nation's present struggle. If, while men of every class and every profession are uniting in the common life of service., the ordinands and younger clergy are alone withheld, at the end of the war they will be more out of touch with the laity than ever. In such circumstances one could only agree with the Nonconformist writer that after the war it is laymen who must minister to lay men, while the clergy are left to attend to the women and children. But since the Bishop of Carlisle has had the courage to declare that he can find no reason either in the New Testament or in the Canons of the Reformed Church why clergy should not be combatants, one is emboldened to ask whether there is not opened up a yet more excellent way.
Suppose the Church were mobilized so that the majority of the younger clergy and all the ordinands were set free for service in the Army, the situation at the end of the war might be very different from that which we have been anticipating. There is no life more intimate than that of the barrack-room. There is no life where the essential characters of men are so fully revealed as the life of the trench. Those of the combatant clergy who returned from the war would know all that was worth knowing of the characters of ordinary men. They would have seen their weaknesses in the barrack-life at home, in the public-house and the street. They would have appreciated their greatness in the life of the trenches. They would know their potentialities and understand their limitations. They would be able to link the doctrines of religion to the lives of men, and to express them in language which no one could fail to understand. With such men as clergy a new era might dawn for the Church in this land, and the Kingdom of Heaven be brought very nigh.
The Church could be mobilized so as to set free a large number of the younger clergy, if only her leaders could see that the greatness of the opportunity made the sacrifice worth while. To begin with, an enormous amount of ordinary parochial work could be discontinued for the duration of the war with very little loss. A large amount of relief work could be dispensed with, men's clubs could be shut, men's services suspended. Visiting could be confined to the sick, and a good deal of the work among women and children handed over entirely to lady helpers. A large number of older men could, if they were public-spirited enough to consent, be set free to take the place of younger men. It is being done in almost every other profession, so why not in the Church? The majority of the city churches could be temporarily shut down, and in almost all large towns quite a third of the churches could be closed. Of course, parochial work at home would suffer; but that is a sacrifice from which we should not shrink---in view of the unique nature of the opportunity.
The chief fear of the Bishops seems to be that there might be a dearth of clergy at the end of the war. Personally, I believe that the reverse would be the case. There are in the ranks of the Army many men who at one time have contemplated being ordained, but who have been greatly discouraged during the past year by realizing more intimately the conditions with which the Church has to deal, and perceiving more acutely than ever before her inability to deal with them satisfactorily. Such men, if they knew that the Church was resolved to learn, was resolved to make sacrifices in order to establish a new contact between herself and the laity, would be confirmed afresh in their determination to help her. If ordinands are scarce, it is simply because the relations between the clergy and the laity are so lacking in cordiality, and the obvious way to secure a larger number of ordinands is to cultivate better relations with laymen.
The opportunity is indeed great. All that is wanted is faith from the leaders of the Church., and loyalty from the other incumbents. The younger clergy will need no pressing. They are splendid fellows, most of them, fully alive to the disadvantages of their position, full of enthusiasm for any scheme which would enable them to restore cordial relations between themselves and their brethren, and would give them the intimate knowledge which they need before they can preach a living Gospel. Mobilize the older clergy, and mobilize the noble and efficient army of women helpers, and parishes at home will not suffer very much: while the mission to men will be prosecuted under conditions more favorable than have ever occurred before, or are ever likely to occur again.
1. As a matter of fact, nearly all ordinands of the Church of England, being of the right age and sound of, limb, have enlisted or been granted commissions in the Army. In addition many of the younger clergy have found their way into the ranks of the R.A.M.C., and even of combatant units. The writer has, however, retained the article because he is convinced that the present crisis is, for the Church of England, an unprecedented opportunity for either making a fresh start or committing suicide.
IT is with many misgivings that "A Student in Arms" offers the present article to his readers. It is so horribly egotistical, being frankly a record of personal experiences and resultant personal beliefs, that it can only be written in the third person. He has no right to imagine that any one is interested in his personal opinions or history, and yet he has a feeling that a certain number of his readers are inclined to class him as a bit of a fraud, and that is a state of affairs which he does not want to continue. "Who is this fellow? Some of his articles aren't bad; but why this bitter and prejudiced attack on the Church, and this hasty and unjust condemnation of the clergy, when a few weeks ago he was pretending to be a Churchman himself? Probably he is one of these modern sentimentalists who are full of sloppy ideals, and empty of sound principles: whose beliefs are nebulous, and their ideals impracticable." That is the sort of judgment that he wants to appeal against.
In order to render what follows intelligible it is unfortunately necessary to go into a little bald personal history. The Student was in a Service battalion, and very early in the proceedings was made a sergeant. He remained a platoon sergeant for about nine months, with "the beloved Captain" as his subaltern. Then, for reasons which only concern himself, he descended with a bump to the rank of private, and was transferred to a different company. He is now a temporary second lieutenant on probation for his sins.
So much for that. Now one Sunday morning the Student, who is now transferred to the home establishment, went, as his custom is, to Holy Communion, where he took the Bread and Wine in the visible company of the sergeant-major's wife and daughter. But when he shut his eyes he saw a whole host of figures that he knew and loved kneeling, as he thought, at his side. Yet this was the perplexing part, that so far as he knew, a great many of them had never been to Communion in their lives, or even to Church, unless they were marched there. They were his old comrades. Then afterwards, when he ought to have been at Matins, he was wandering through the woods like any heathen, and the same throng accompanied him. In fact all that day he had only to shut his eyes, and there they were.
There was Fred, who had been his assistant sergeant in the old platoon. There he was, with his short, stodgy figure, his red cheeks and waxed mustaches, his black eyes and truculent voice. For eight long months they had slept and worked and amused themselves side by side, with never an angry word or a misunderstanding, never a note of jealousy or of pique. They had grown in mutual understanding and respect and affection without ever saying a word about it. Then, on the last night, when the Student told his chum that he was to be a private the following day, Fred the inarticulate spoke words that the Student will never forget: words which showed a sympathy, an understanding, and a generosity which a man is lucky to meet with once in a lifetime.
Then there were the boys of the old platoon. There was Wullie, the dour pessimist from Manchester way, who died in England. Wullie was, I doubt not, a good workman in civil life; but he was sadly awkward at his drills. The Student, who was his sergeant, was forever pointing out his deficiencies, as it was his business to do; but at last Wullie could bear it no longer, and losing his temper told the sergeant in the plain language of the North Country that he had him set, and did not give him a chance. And because the Student who was his sergeant kept his temper, and was able to recognize the genuine grievance of a real trier, and answered with soft, encouraging words, Wullie never forgot it, and was his staunch supporter till the end.
Then there was Tommy, the Londoner with the big nose and the lively temperament. Tommy was Wullie's chum, because both were straight, clean-living men, and faithful to their wives. And though their temperaments, aye, and their class, were so different, their principles were the same, and both had suffered for them in the rough life of the working world.
There was Dave, too. Dave was a pit lad from Lancashire. His speech was plain and homely, not to say pungent. His humor was quaint and pithy. His strength and will to work were without equal. He was a faithful and loving husband and father to the little woman and the kiddies in the far Lancashire village; and because the Student who was his sergeant was once able to help him a bit to go and see a child who was dying, Dave never forgot it. And when the sergeant fell from his high estate Dave said "nowt," but used to purloin his mess tin and make it shine like silver, for in that art he was mighty cunning; and the Student knew what he meant, and will not forget.
Then there was little Jim from Brum, ætat. sixteen. He had the awkward grace of a young colt, and the innocent, pathetic eyes of an antelope, mischief and secret mirth lurked in the corners of his mouth, and his heart was strong and undismayed like the heart of a young lion. Jim shall not be forgotten.
Besides these there were the lads of the company in which the Student found himself after his descent. There was Billy who, when the Student was feeling rather awkward and dazed after his rapid fall in rank, took possession of him., and constituted himself the most loyal and unselfish friend that ever man had; Billy, the most modest lump of efficiency that ever wore a stripe and shall wear a star.
There was D-----, the genial boon companion, generous friend, and faithful lover. There was Albert, the silent and reserved and observant, who did not quickly give his loyalty to any man, but who, when he did give it, gave without stint. There was Jack, the lion-hearted bomber, who was always most cheery when cheerfulness was at a premium.
These are but a few of the comrades with whom the Student held silent communion that Sunday morning; yet only one of them had ever knelt at his side in the flesh to receive the Bread and Wine of Life. They were the comrades of a year ago. Now they are scattered. Some are dead and some maimed, some are still fighting, and some promoted. Never again shall they meet in this world. Yet the Student prays that if ever he forgets them, or is ashamed of them, he may be cut off from the company of honest men. Of the Church in which he believes they are members, whether they know it or not. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit in Whom he believes are their God too, whether they know it or not. For the Father is the Giver, and the Son is the Lord, and the Spirit is the Inspirer of all good life; and if these were not good---the Student is a blasphemer, and calls evil good, and good evil. The Student calls himself a Churchman. He believes in the Holy Catholic Church invisible, wherein is and shall be gathered up "all we have hoped and dreamed of good." He also calls himself an English Churchman. But he will never be satisfied or cry "All's well " till the Church of England is the Church of all good men and women in England, and until all the good thoughts and deeds in England are laid at the feet of the Lord of All Good Life, through the medium of His body the Church. Yet when he criticizes the Church of England he is not blaming any particular body of men such as the clergy. Organization, methods, clerisy, laity, all are lacking. Human nature is frail and sinful. These things must be so. Yet he accounts it damnable treachery, faithlessness, and blasphemy to sit down under it. To rest content with the inevitable is surely the negation of faith.
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