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I THE GREAT PERIL
 If a man on a bright July morning in 1914 had sailed abroad and had the misfortune to be wrecked on a desert island, returning to civilisation a week ago, the change which Europe presented to him would be sufficient to induce him to believe that his long solitude had unhinged his mind. To him it would have appeared as the stuff of which dreams are made. He would have remembered a German empire with an august head, ruling with autocratic sway a population striding with giant steps into prosperity and wealth, possessing a matchless army, whose tread terrified Europe; with a fleet that provoked articles and novels and agitations about the invasion of England; with vast possessions across the seas. In its place he would see Germany, instead of being a confident, powerful,[Pg 26] arrogant empire, a timid, nervous, and apologetic republic presided over by a respectable and intelligent workman, her minister issuing notes to propitiate Belgium, and having them sent back like the stupid exercises of a backward schoolboy to be rewritten in accordance with the pleasure of the taskmaster; the great army reduced to a force one-half the size of that of Serbia; the menacing fleet at the bottom of the sea; the watch on the Rhine kept by French, British, and Belgian soldiers. He would see the Krupp works in French occupation; not a German colony left.
 
Russia he would have recollected as a powerful autocracy rooted in a superstitious belief by the peasantry in the divinity of its head. He would find it now a revolutionary area ruled by the exiles of yesterday, shunned by the rest of the world because of the violence of its communistic doctrines; tsardom, with its gilded retinue of splendour, flung into a hideous doom, and the sceptre of Peter the Great enforcing the doctrines of Karl Marx. He would see the Austrian empire as much a thing of the past as the empire of Nebuchadnezzar, a poor province lifted out of beggary by the charity of her foes: new states, which had been dead and buried[Pg 27] for centuries, risen from the dead, casting off their shrouds, marching in full panoply; Trieste an Italian port; the Dolomites an Italian bastion. The Turk alone quite unchanged, a few more amputating operations performed upon him, but still preserving sufficient vitality to massacre Christians irrespective of denomination or race, and to become a sore trial and perplexity to the rest of the world.
 
If our returned voyager travelled through Europe he would find even more fundamental changes in the world of finance, trade and commerce. He would find impoverishment, dislocation; the elaborate and finely-spun web of commerce rent to pieces, and its torn threads floating in the wind. With a few sovereigns in his pocket, he would expect in return 25 francs, 20 marks, and about 26 lire. Instead of that, with a paper sovereign he would find that he could buy 70 francs, nearly 100 lire, 250,000 German marks, 300,000 Austrian kronen, and millions of Russian roubles. The money-changers who once prospered on decimal fractions now earning a precarious livelihood in the flights of the multiplication table. That would give him a better indication perhaps of the reality of the change than even the fall of empires. On his journeys he would[Pg 28] travel through prosperous provinces rutted and overturned as by a gigantic earthquake; he would pass vast cemeteries where 10,000,000 young men fallen in the Great War were having their last sleep; he would see on all hands signs of mutilation of men who had been engaged in the great struggle. Taxation everywhere quintupled with nothing but debt to show for it; industry with its back bent under a burden of taxation which when he left existed only in the nightmares of the dyspeptic rich. He would then be able to realise something of the tremendous upheaval that had taken place in the world.
 
But what would surprise him more than all these amazing and bewildering transformations would be the one thing in which there was no change. He would naturally expect that after such terrifying experiences, the world would have learnt its lesson, turned its back finally on war, its crimes and its follies, and set its face resolutely toward peace. It is the one thing he discovers has not changed—the world has not learned one single syllable. Suspicions amongst nations exist just as ever, only more intense; hatreds between races and peoples, only fiercer; combinations forming everywhere for[Pg 29] the next war; great armies drilling; conventions and compacts for joint action when the tocsin sounds; general staffs meeting to arrange whether they should march, where they should march, how they should march, and where they should strike; little nations only just hatched, just out of the shell, staggering under the burden of great armaments, and marching along towards unknown battlefields; new machinery of destruction and slaughter being devised and manufactured with feverish anxiety; every day science being brought under contribution to discover new methods to destroy human life—in fact, a deep laid and powerfully concerted plot against civilisation, openly organised in the light of the sun. And that after his experience of four or five years ago! Man the builder, and man the breaker, working side by side in the same workshop, and apparently on the best of terms with each other, playing their part in the eternal round of creation and dissolution, with characteristic human energy. What a complex creature is man! It is little wonder that God gave him up repeatedly in despair. He is unteachable.
 
I wonder whether it is realised that if war were to break out again, the calamity would be a [Pg 30]hundredfold greater than that of the last experience. Next time, cities will be laid waste. Possible, and I am sorry to say, probable enemy nations are more closely intertwined, and the engines of havoc are becoming more and more terrible. I have called attention repeatedly to the developments which took place during the late War, in the variety, the range, and the power of destructive weapons. Compare the a?roplane at the beginning of the war, and its small bomb which could easily be manhandled, with the same machine at the end. By the end of the war machines had been built, and but for the armistice would have been used, the devastating power of which was terrific. Since then the power of the machine, the weight of the explosive, and the incendiary material it drops, have grown, and are still growing. Science is perfecting old methods of destruction, and searching out new methods. One day, in its exploration, it may hit on something that may make the fabric of civilisation rock.
 
Can anything be done to avert this approaching catastrophe? That is the problem of all problems for those who love their fellowmen. I warn you that it is madness to trust to the hope that mankind,[Pg 31] after such an experience, will not be so rash as to court another disaster of the same kind. The memory of the terrors, the losses, the sufferings of the war, will not restrain men from precipitating the world into something which is infinitely worse, and those who think so, and, therefore, urge that it is not necessary to engage in a new crusade for peace, have not studied the perverse, the stubborn, and the reckless nature of man. There is the danger that the last war may even make some nations believe in war.
 
I have talked to many young soldiers who were fortunate enough to have passed unscathed through some of the worst experiences of the war, to many who suffered mutilation in some of these experiences; they have given me one common impression that the memory of fear is evanescent, and that they cannot now re-create in their own minds the sensations of terror through which they passed. If that is true of those who went through the furnace, what of the multitudes who simply looked on?—the multitudes of those who were too young to take part, and can only recall the excitement produced by the conflict and the glory of victory? The recollection of the headaches of an orgy never lasts as long as[Pg 32] that of its pleasures. It is useless to recall memories of the terror and torture of the war, and expect them to crusade for peace. Memory is a treacherous crusader. It starts with a right purpose fresh and hot on its path, but its zeal gets fainter as the days roll past, and it ends by handing over its banner to the foe.
 
You can only redeem mankind by appealing to its nobler instincts. Fear is base, and you cannot lift mankind by using it as a lever. The churches alone can effectively rouse the higher impulses of our nature. That is where their task comes in.
 
There is another reason why we cannot regard the danger as having passed away. You have all the elements which made for the Great War of 1914 more potent than ever to-day. The atmosphere of Europe is charged with them.
 
What made the last war? Armed international dislikes, rivalries, and suspicions. The dislikes were based on age-long racial feuds stimulated by memories of recent wrongs. Celt and Teuton disliking each other; Slav and Teuton suspicious of each other; the hatred of the Slav for the Teuton intensified by the arrogance with which Germany humiliated Russia at the moment of her weakness [Pg 33]immediately after the Japanese War, when she was peculiarly sensitive to insult. You will recollect the peremptoriness and the insolence of her gesture over the Bosnian annexation, and insolences are always more painful than wrongs and rankle longer. They corrode the flesh, and burn into the soul of a nation, keeping its anger aflame. I wish nations always remembered that. There was the hatred of the Celt for the Teuton deepened by the annexation of Alsace-Lorraine, and by the incidents inseparable from the invasion of a foreign soil. There was Germany suspecting that every railway constructed by Russia was aimed at her heart. There was France convinced that Germany was only waiting her opportunity to pick a quarrel which would enable her to deprive France of her much-coveted colonies. There was England watching with vigilant insight and increasing anger the growth of Germany's great fleet, which she was convinced was aimed at her shores. There were great armies in every continental country ready to march at a moment's notice, fully equipped, each commander firmly persuaded that his own legions were irresistible. You had there all the conditions that made for war. Had it come of set purpose? I have read[Pg 34] most of the literature concerning the events that led up to that war, and it is full of warning as to how wars happen. They do not come because the majority of those who are concerned are bent upon bloodshed, not even the majority who have the decisive voice if they exercised it in time. Had a plebiscite been taken in every country in Europe a week before war was declared as to whether they wished to engage in a European conflict, the proposal would have been turned down by a majority so overwhelming as to show that the proposition was one that no nation had the slightest idea of entertaining. That is not the reason why it came. But you have always in control of the affairs of nations some men who hesitate; many who are apathetic, many who are merely inefficient and stupid; and then most men, even in a government, have their minds concentrated on their own immediate tasks.
 
I will give you an illustration of how war is begun, once you have the predisposition to quarrel, without anybody wanting it and with the vast majority of the people who are to be engaged in it opposed to it. Austria issued an ultimatum to Serbia. There is nothing a big bully likes better than to[Pg 35] hector a little man who is near the point of his toe. Serbia was so near the boot that Austria was constantly tempted to give it a kick, and it did. It issued an ultimatum, which was a very insolent one. The Serbian reply was a practical acceptance of the Austrian demands. This is the note the kaiser wrote on it: "A brilliant performance this. But with it disappears"—listen to this written by the Kaiser of Germany just a few days before war was declared—"but with it disappears every reason for war, and the Austrian minister ought to have remained quietly in Belgrade. After that I would never have given orders for mobilisation." In three days there was war.
 
Let me give another illustration. Admiral Tirpitz said he saw Von Jagow two days after the Austrian reply. Von Jagow, the German foreign minister, was so little interested in the Austro-Serbian conflict that he confessed to the German ambassador to Austria on July 27th, two days after the reply had been received, that he had not yet found time to read the Serbian reply to Austria. Here is the document on which ten million young men who had no responsibility for it have been slain, homes have been desolated, and a debt of[Pg 36] taxation, confusion and sorrow incurred which will not be wiped out as long as this generation lasts.
 
It is inconceivable, if one had not some knowledge of the carelessness and the procrastination which are bred in official circles by long practice. That was only three days before war was declared. This high official in the Wilhelmstrasse, who subsequently agreed to the fateful decision to declare war against Russia, had not even read the critical document which ought to have averted the struggle. But there are always the vigilant few, the very few resolute men whose whole mind and energy and skill is engaged ceaselessly in driving forward the chariots of war. Whilst others are asleep, they are craftily dodging the traffic, and stealing along unawares, slowly getting their chariots into position for the next push forward. Whilst others are asleep, they lash the fiery steeds along their destructive course. In the press, on the platform, in the council chambers, in the chancelleries, in society of all kinds, high and low, they are always pressing along. When the precipice is reached, they dash through the feeble resistance of the panic-stricken mob of counsellors and officials, and nations are plunged into the abyss before they know it.
 
[Pg 37]
 
This is the way most wars come.
 
Read the history of the war of 1870. It came about in the same confused, clumsy, purposeless way. In all these cases there is always in the background the sinister figure of that force for mischief which used to be known by our Puritan fathers as the devil. Have these hatreds and suspicions abated? Are there no rivalries to-day? Are there no men whose one joy is in war? Was the devil numbered amongst the slain in the last war? I have never seen his name in any casualty list. Look around. His agents are more numerous, more active, more pressing and efficient than ever. Europe to-day is a cauldron of suspicions and hatreds. It is well to speak frankly. Celt and Teuton are now interlocked in a conflict which is none the less desperate because one of the parties is disarmed. There is a suppressed savagery which is but ill concealed, and there are new hatreds which, if they have not been brought into existence during the war, have at any rate come to the surface. Mankind has learnt no lesson from the four or five years of war, although it has been scourged with scorpions. There was nothing that contributed more to the last catastrophe than the annexation by Germany[Pg 38] of Alsace-Lorraine. As long as that act of folly remained uncorrected there was no real peace possible in Europe. The nations concerned were just abiding their opportunity, and the opportunity came. Now you have two Alsace-Lorraines at least. There is the annexation of Vilna by force; there is the annexation of Galicia by force, by violence, by the use of arms against the will of the population. Elsewhere you have the German and the Pole quarrelling over Silesia; the Russian and the Pole over doubtful boundaries; the Czech and the Magyar; the Serbian and the Bulgarian; the Russian and the Rumanian; the Rumanian and the Magyar. There is the age-long feud between Greek and Turk. All have an air of biding opportunity, all are armed ready for slaughter. Europe is a seething cauldron of international hates, with powerful men in command of the fuel stores feeding the flames and stoking the fires. It is no use blaming the treaty of Versailles. This state of things has nothing to do with treaties. Here it is the spirit that killeth and not the letter. Sometimes wrongs are imaginary. Where the wrongs are imaginary time will heal the sense of hurt, but sometimes they are real, and time will[Pg 39] fester the wound, but everywhere and always the hatreds are real enough. Can nothing be done? If it can, let it be done in time. Let it be done at once. Yet, once more I remind you that if the gun is loaded—and it is loaded in every land—when the quarrel begins it is apt to go off, not because the trigger is deliberately pulled, but because some clumsy fellow in his excitement stumbles against it.
 
In a continent which is nominally Christian, the churches surely are not impotent. When the West was all Catholic, and it had the good fortune to have a high-minded and capable occupant of the throne of St. Peter, many a struggle was averted by his intervention. Can the churches not once more display their power? They can only do so by moving together, not merely every denomination in Britain, but every Christian community throughout Europe—Catholic and Protestant—Catholics even more than Protestants, for the countries where the peril is most imminent are more under the domination of the Catholic churches than of the Protestant faiths. If all the heroism of millions, their sacrifice and their sufferings, are to be thrown away, it will be the most colossal, criminal and [Pg 40]infamous waste ever perpetrated in human history. Millions of men endangered their lives willingly. Millions lost their lives for the sake of establishing peace on earth on the basis of international right. A temple to human right was built with material quarried out of all that is choicest in the soul of man. But its timbers are being drenched with the kerosene of hatred, and one day a match will be lit by some careless or malignant hand which will set fire to this magnificent edifice; its splendour will be reduced to black embers, and the hope of mankind will be once more laid in ashes. The task of the churches is to put forth the whole of their united strength to avert that catastrophe.
 
Peace is only possible when you introduce into the attitude of nations towards each other principles which govern the demeanour of decent people in a community towards their neighbours. If international methods were introduced into the dealings of neighbours with each other life would become intolerable—the unconcealed suspicions, distrusts and ill-will which rule everywhere, the eternal expectancy of and preparation for blows, the readiness of the strong to use violence, either to enforce his will on his weaker neighbour or to deprive him of his[Pg 41] liberty or his possessions, or even his life, to satisfy anger, revenge, or greed. Had this been the rule in private affairs, we should all have to live in caves, or in castles, according to our means. As a matter of fact, man is only half civilised. In international matters he is still a savage, in his heart he recognises no law but that of force. The savage has his restraints. His instinct warns him not to pounce save when he thinks he can do so effectively and with impunity, and for some purpose which he thinks worth his while. Whether he hates or covets, he has no other restraint. I wish I could say that in essence nations to-day obey any other impulse. Man must be civilised in his international relations, otherwise wars will go on as long as mankind remains on this earth.
 
I have seen a city wrenched from its people. I have seen a whole province appropriated against the protests of its people, and all within the last four years, since the Great War to establish international right. There was no conceivable justification for either of these depredations except that both the city and the province were desirable, were at hand, were very tempting, and that the owners were too feeble to resist their pillagers.
 
[Pg 42]
 
The lesson must be taught that larceny does not diminish in turpitude as it increases in the scale of its operations. A nation that feloniously steals, takes, and carries away a city or province is just as criminal as the thief sentenced to imprisonment for robbery by violence on the high-road. And these national felonies will assuredly bring trouble one day. They invariably do so, and unfortunately international trouble is never confined to the felon. Human retribution, once it begins, is as indiscriminating and uncontrollable as a prairie fire. The flames consume the wheat as well as the tares. Hell fire administered by the hand of man scorches the innocent equally with the guilty. The doom of Germany involved millions in its tortures who were outside her gates, abominated her crimes, and did all they could to prevent their perpetration. That is why it is written: "'Vengeance is mine, I will repay,' saith the Lord." It is the supreme duty of the churches to teach nations to understand that the moral law is just as applicable to them in their corporate capacity as it is to the individuals who compose them; to teach them that hatred is just as unseemly between nations as it is between individuals, and far more dangerous. Goodwill must[Pg 43] be assiduously cultivated between nations. It must be ingeminated in every way—in schools, in the press, in sermons, in classes. The men who are always sowing distrust and dislike of men of other races and lands should be picked out, condemned, shown up, hunted by the scorn, the contempt and the wrath of their fellowmen. They are more dangerous than the incendiary who burns down an occasional hay-rick or habitation.
 
Let the best side of every nation be better known. Each nation has made its contribution to the sum of human greatness. Dwell on that, and not on the failings and the deficiencies, the errors, and the crimes which are unhappily common to all nations. Name me the land that has no stain on its record. There is no end to the resourcefulness of hate. Its variety is infinite. I recollect, not so long ago, a time when you were not a patriot if you were pro-French; the fact that you were pro-French stamped you as a Little Englander. France was supposed to be a busy and malignant foe of Britain all the world over, scheming everywhere against British interests. She stood for all that was unpleasant and repugnant to the British mind—in her thought, her literature, her politics, and her manners.[Pg 44] France heartily reciprocated our dislike. There were at least two occasions when war between the two countries was apprehended, was openly talked of, and was even likely. The atmosphere of the press in both capitals was charged with brimstone.
 
Now it is to Germany you must not utter one word of toleration or even fair play. I am not counselling the abandonment of the just measure of our national rights as against either of these two countries, but they are both great nations. They are both nations that have contributed richly of the things that make for the elevation, for the happiness, for the splendour of mankind. If Germany is the land of Bismarck with its blood and iron, all Protestants will remember that she is also the land of Luther and the Reformation. If she fought in the late war for four years to establish a military domination in Europe, she fought for thirty years with enduring valour and much suffering to establish the freedom of conscience in Europe. She has given to the world great literature, great painters, great philosophers, great explorers in all the continents of thought. She is the land of unrivalled song. Even in the middle of the bloody conflict with Germany, every Sunday we praised God in[Pg 45] our churches to the notes of German music. Let us give credit for these things in our efforts to reconstitute the reign of goodwill. And if we feel angry with France, let us remember her dazzling array of great writers, her gigantic struggles for liberty, the penetrating imagination devoted to scientific research, which has brought incalculable blessings to humanity. Let us not judge France by the fussy little men that give expression to her petulance in the fits of temper that overtake every nation, but by the great men who have given noble expression to her immortal soul. France is the land of Victor Hugo, of Pascal, of Renan, and many another teacher who has taken humanity by the hand along the upward road.
 
Everything depends on a consistent, determined, continuous inculcation of the principles and the ideal of goodfellowship, between nations. Goodwill on earth means to think well of and dwell on the best side of others, and goodwill on earth and peace have been linked together. Without the one you will not have the other. Let us, therefore, cultivate the spirit of brotherhood amongst men. The church must appeal to the noblest sentiments of the human heart. Mankind can only be redeemed[Pg 46] by an appeal to those higher instincts. Not by an appeal to ignoble fear. War means terror, war means death, war means anguish. That will not prevent war, and never has. Man is the most fearless of God's creatures, and when his passions are roused there is no fear that will restrain him. The fire of his passion burns the restraints of self-preservation like bands of tow, so that fear will not restrain the nations and make peace among them. War destroys trade, it brings unemployment. Look at all the losses, reckoning them up in cash. That will not prevent war: it never has. Selfish interests have a means of deluding themselves. Greed has a blind side. Do not trust to selfishness and selfish interest to ensure peace. Selfishness will ensure nothing which is worth keeping in the world. Selfishness pays good dividends, but it wastes capital. The nation or the individual that makes self-love the managing-director of the soul will end in bankruptcy—bankruptcy of respect, bankruptcy of ideals—bankruptcy of honour—bankruptcy of friendships. What is it that Germany is suffering from now? Her great tragedy is not her indemnity, not even her gigantic casualties, not even the destruction of her trade. The one[Pg 47] great tragedy of Germany is that she has lost the respect of mankind. It affects her trade, it affects her business, it makes it difficult for her to climb to the pitch whence she fell. The rope is gone. She has done things of which she herself is now ashamed. Her people—I can see it when I meet them—are ashamed. That is the tragedy. They are a gallant people, they are a brave people, they fought bravely, but they are broken-spirited. Why? They have lost their self-respect because they have done something that they know in their hearts was wrong. These are the things that have to be taught to nations.
 
A public opinion must be worked up that will be strong enough to sustain international right. No law is possible without an active public opinion for its enforcement, least of all international law. Without it the League of Nations is a farce. You might as well have a wooden cannon; however splendidly mounted it may be, however imposing its appearance, every one knows that the moment it is fired it will burst. Unless the world is taught to respect its authority, it will become a butt of derision. It is no use keeping up pretences. Pretences never delude events. The League of [Pg 48]Nations may gather together representatives of all the great powers of the earth, and yet it may be a futile, barren, costly nothing unless it has behind it the spirit of the people who constitute those nations. The real danger of the moment is lest the League of Nations should become a mere make-believe, whilst the same old intrigues, the same old schemes, the same old international greed and hatred, should be working their will freely outside. The decision of the League of Nations has been, within the last two or three years, openly flouted by a member of that league, a member which owes its national independence to the treaty which founded that league. Another nation, one of the principal authors of the league, refuses to refer a question in which is it concerned, and in which Europe is concerned, to the arbitrament of the league. Both these nations prefer to resort to force. The rest of the world looks on feebly with indifference, accepting the rebuff to their league in each case. Why? Because there is no public opinion in the recalcitrant countries to bring pressure to bear on the respective governments, and there is no public opinion strong enough outside to exercise the necessary insistence.
 
[Pg 49]
 
The churches alone can remedy this. There ought to be an international movement of all the churches, Catholic and Protestant, Protestant and Catholic. I know it is difficult to compass. The divisions in Christendom are too often fatal to common action for the attainment of common aims. They ought to be overcome. They must be overcome. There was a time in the Middles Ages when religion exercised a direct as well as an indirect influence in the domain of government and social relations. It helped to win for Englishmen their great charter. It gradually emancipated the serfs. It preserved the peace of Europe many a time when it was gravely imperilled by the quarrels of kings. In the days of Puritanism, and the days of the Covenant, the partnership between religion and politics won for us the two great boons of parliamentary liberty and liberty of conscience. When Methodism spurred the conscience of England, its influence was felt in the political movement that emancipated the slaves throughout the British Empire.
 
That was one of the greatest feats of disinterested righteousness ever exhibited by a nation. The tasks awaiting religion to-day in the sphere of government are even greater—emancipation of the[Pg 50] worker from the tyrannies of economic greed, the saving of the nation from the curse of alcohol, and the spreading of the angels' message heard on the hills of Bethlehem until the obdurate heart of man shall at last re-echo it: "Peace on earth and goodwill amongst men."


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