Yes, it is dark, and we have dwelt so long in the darkness that we are in danger of losing our sight. And yet here and there one, longing for the dawn, is catching a gleam that heralds it, and is sure that the day is coming, and that the rays he catches are not enemy flares, but God’s own coming sunshine.
Peace is in the air. We know it, we know it—as surely as the throstle knows the coming spring. But WHAT shall peace bring? What manner of world shall this be, when the boys come home? Shall we go back to our old manner of national and international life, having learned nothing—only so much the poorer, so much the narrower, so much the more selfish—with the empty chairs and the desolate hearths calling us only to hatred and revenge? Or can we, through the earthquake, the fire, the storm, hear the still small voice of God at last, and learn some lessons that shall make even this war worthwhile?
We do not know how the Kingdom of God, for which we pray, for which we look, will come—whether suddenly, perfectly, by miraculous agencies—or whether gradually, like a mighty tide after the late great ebb. May we not look to see it rise higher, that Tide of Righteousness, than we have ever known?—as in very truth it has sunk lower than we had deemed possible,—and may we not be privileged to help it on!
Behold, this Dreamer cometh," some will say. But in very truth unless our old men do dream dreams and our young men see visions it will be because there is no outpouring of the Spirit, and the nations will perish. Never a moral pioneer yet called his fellows forward in the long upward march, but his efforts were born of noble dreams, and visions of higher heights. Do not let us be afraid to be called Utopians. Think how much better the world would be if it could rise even to our poor level—and that is surely not much to expect. Nay "God is able to give us much more than this" if we have but faith.
Of what, then, do we dream, in the time that is close upon us? That men will get at least a glimpse of the elementary truth that selfishness does not PAY—that every man for himself, and every nation for itself alone,—that way madness lies. That by helping our neighbors we ourselves should be the richer—not morally only, but economically, in hard cash. That each nation is able to produce something, whether music or coals makes no matter, better than its neighbors can, and by acting as Trustee for the whole world alone can find its soul. And so, in my dream, hostile tariffs are ruled out. If individuals feel that, because of the terrible deeds done by our enemies, and sanctioned by their governments, they can never have commercial dealings knowingly with any member of that nation, or those nations again—that is their look out—to their own Master they stand or fall. But others believe that even in the most decadent Nations, God has many that have not bowed the knee to Baal, and that the sufferings through which their people have passed will have purged away some of their grossness and prepared the way for better things. It must then be left to the individual to ostracize his late enemies or not, and we must not commit the folly of impoverishing our own poor for the sake of enriching a few and doing evil to those who have done evil to us. Why, it is elementary Christianity, and some of us believe that Christ was no unpractical visionary, but knew what He was talking about, and that only by obedience to His behests can the world be successfully run.
That their wrong can never smother
The wrong-doing of another;
That by hatred hate increases,
And by Good all evil ceases,
They would cleanse their hearts and actions,
Banish thence all vile detractions—
If they only understood.
And what of our own National sins? Some—nay, let us grant, many of our enemies have done vile deeds, but are we in a position to say "Lord I thank Thee that I am not as other men are, even as this German? this Turk?"
What about the state of our streets, which hindered a Japanese envoy from recommending to his country that Christianity should be their National Religion?
What about the Drink traffic, which even in war time, with the specter of famine threatening us, destroys EVERY DAY 1,200 tons of food? Well may we feel, in the presence of an evil such as this, like the spies of old, but grasshoppers in our own sight. But we remember how Caleb and Joshua, young men who saw visions and did not leave God out of account, said in presence of the sons of Anak and their mighty walled cities, "We are well able to overcome them" and so must we—and so will we.
What about our returning soldiers and their wives? Are they going back to the old conditions, a precarious 25/- a week and in many cases two families in one cottage because there is "no room"— broad spaces of the earth’s surface still out of cultivation for my lord’s pheasants or his racehorses, but no decent accommodation for the laborer? I venture to think that this sort of thing will never be tolerated again.
Woman has come into her own, and we look for great things from her gentle influence. We believe that many thousands of our ablest women will no longer be content with "playing at precedence"—no longer content within that little rose garden of which Ruskin speaks—but will go out in gentle ministry even where the ground is torn up by the agony of men. And, in our dream, we men must no longer deny her anything she can do. Beyond the physical restrictions imposed by Nature, how foolish are our artificial barriers. I for one will acclaim her if she is able to produce the fittest Prime Minister of England or Archbishop of Canterbury. My own Mother was my truest Priest, and so "Faith in womanhood, comes easy to me" and others such as I hail the coming time when without distinction of sex, or class or color, we shall work together for the coming good. Certainly we must reel back into the darkness, or take along step forward to the light, and we cannot doubt which it shall be. The vision is yet for an appointed time. Though it tarry, wait for it—it will surely come. It will not tarry.