by battle, one of the recognized doctrines of heathendom, was stated
afresh by non-Christian authorities in
far more novel and infinitely more grave, it is voices
So the Bishop of London, Dr. A. F. Winnington-Ingram, in a sermon in St. Paul’s Cathedral on August, 1914, said:- "If it so happens that some dear boy, the darling of your home, passes with unsullied honour, and to uphold the nation’s name, into the presence of the Unseen, you will find him there, waiting for you, when your time comes, one of God’s own children and kept most safely in His care. If a heathen poet with only a vague belief in another world could say: ‘a sweet and pleasant thing it is to die for your country’, with how much more conviction should a Christian parent say the same?"
voices were equally explicit. Dr. Fort Newton, of the
[* So many errors around us, which plume themselves on their novelty, and imagine that they are brilliant inventions of the modern mind, are merely old heresies refurbished. Salvation by martyrdom - which has at least the advantage of a direct and deliberate death for Christ - is thus stated by Aretas, one of the early Fathers:- "The shedding of their blood for Christ’s sake delivered them from every stain; for being baptized in their own blood, they came up white from the laver." Nor is the idea always confined to heroic death. When a trooper in Napoleon III's Guards, who had robbed a jeweller, cut up his body into seventy-eight pieces, and thrown them down various drain-pipes, was guillotined, he exclaimed:- "I am quite ready to die, for my own blood spilt will not be too much to wash away my crimes."]
that actually Christian preachers are not only proclaiming salvation by battle,
but making the soldier’s death part of the Atonement. Says the
we turn to men actually at the battle front. It is upon a heroism
recognized by the Holy Ghost that this monstrous perversion of the Gospel is
boldly built. Paul recognizes
self-sacrifice for a loved and noble friend, or devotion to death for a just
and holy cause, as a rare but remarkable able proof of devotion. "Scarcely for a
righteous man will one die: for peradventure for the good man" - or
the good cause - "some one would even dare to die"
Against this, however, we can put a letter which came from the trenches - a remarkable letter signed by nineteen soldiers representing eleven denominations. Addressed "to the Churches at home," it ran thus:- "Out of gratitude to us the Church is losing thousands of us. If you fought by our sides you would know that ‘sacrifice’ is not our saving grace as we are carelessly told, which belittles our Saviour’s great Sacrifice when He gave Himself, not only a dead, but a living, Sacrifice for us. He laid down His life, with all its moments and days: we out here ‘walk-blindly’, gambling, drinking, cursing, into death. We cannot tell you all, but we pray to God that you will understand, as leaders of the Churches. Is it compromise we need now, and when we come home, or is it a Saviour and examples of manhood? For the Master’s sake do something, if only to appeal to your chaplains and teachers out here upon this grave question, to show us what the giving of our lives to God through Jesus Christ means. We sign this letter to the leaders of the Churches, as a band of Christians of many units, who, although few in number, are banded together to show one another, and also our comrades, Jesus."
critical passage - for the Bible always has a Scripture which immediately
settles a controversy - dissipates this pagan error. "For the good man someone would even dare to die; but"
- here is a vaster prodigy, an unheard of love - "GOD commendeth"
- proves, establishes beyond question, throws up into sharp contrast - "his own
love" - a love altogether unlike human love, and a love
absolutely peculiar to Himself - "that while we
were yet sinners" - that is, while not an inch nearer
meriting such a love - "Christ died for us."
That which man will hardly do for what
is noble and right, God has done for what is unutterably abhorrent to His
sensitive holiness. Which of us would
lay down his life for a low blackguard, or a vile and dangerous criminal? but this is what Christ did. But the contrast is still sharper. "For while we were enemies" -
not simply godless and careless, but machine-gun enemies of God - "we were reconciled to God through the death of His SON."
If a man murdered your son, would he not
be your enemy? so around the Cross, men-civilians and soldiers, priests and
people, governors and citizens, Jews and Gentiles - all appeared, not only at
their worst, but at their most malignant and murderous, at the very
moment that Christ was dying for them. Here is the vast and impassable gulf
between the two sacrifices. No
Englishman in the Great War ever cast himself on a bursting bomb to save
the lives of a German platoon; no Austrian submarine ever scuttled itself and
sank in the Mediterranean rather than torpedo an Italian cruiser; no Turk ever
filled an Armenian grave with his own corpse: yet this is the miracle of
love God wrought on
For so He left the mountain top,
that none but He had found,
And He descended that abyss,
that none but He could sound;
still downward, downward, amid night,
that only He had known,
‘Mid deathly horrors still He went,
unaided and alone,
‘Mid awful terrors, dark and grim,
that only He could dare,
And when He reached the end
He found a grave was waiting there.
A Christian lady visited a soldier terribly wounded, lying in the ward of a large military hospital. A nurse, entering, said to him:- "You have no need to worry over your sins; anyone who gives his life for his country, as you have, is all right." The man smiled faintly, but he shook his head and said:- "Ah! lady, that is a mistake! When I lay out there in the open, I knew I had done my bit. I hadn’t failed King and Country; but that didn’t help me to face God. I wasn’t fit to die, and I knew it, and it has been an awful trouble to me every day since. But just now, as I heard that lady’s prayer, I saw that the Lord Jesus had been punished for all my sins, and I might go free, and such a peace has come into my heart. How wonderful of Him to die for the likes of me! No, I’ll not be afraid to die now, because He has forgiven me." *
heathen conception is brought up to date by an incident (New Statesman, Jan.
27, 1940) in