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Extract from a Solder's Diary

(By permission)

A man who believes in the Supreme Being will do either of two things. He will make God in his own image (that is to say his conception of God will be like himself), or he will strive to make himself in the image of his God. One attitude is stagnant and has the nature of decay and death; the other is life, motion, progress.

To say that men are made perfect through suffering is true, but not all the truth. It is not the ultimate purpose of Creation that men should suffer, but that they should overcome suffering, so that happiness may not depend on enjoying an existence from which suffering has been banished, but through an inward state of mind over which suffering has no longer any power to disturb its tranquility.

* * * * * * *

Devon.—The beauty of Devon and Home seems to mock me. It seemed so callous of nature to be so beautiful and joyful while her world was torn in the agony of war. But listen, it is a message from the Eternal Heart. "Man’s wreck on earth shall not mar my countenance. Look on me, and still believe that I am good, and rest thy soul on me in patience."

* * * * * * *

"We have got to follow what we think right quite recklessly, and leave the issue to God."— "A Student in Arms" (Donald Hankey).

A soldier can appreciate, better than other folk, the fact that the attitude of the Centurion to Jesus is a pattern of the attitude that everyone should bear to the Divine Lord. The Centurion being "a man in authority," knew that he was, and should be, obeyed without question, and with clear insight, saw this should be the attitude to the Holy Master. A soldier has to obey not heeding the consequences; he does not know either the reason or the outcome, but his leader does. In the vaster calls of life we do not know what our Spiritual Captain has designed and what the end will be. Even as the soldier obeys his leader to the point of recklessness, there remains nothing for us to do the same, and "leave the issue to God."

* * * * * * * *

The outcome of this War we cannot foresee, but we can do what is right and leave the issue to Him Whose purposes are not begun and ended in one generation, but are from Eternity to Eternity. It is easy to do the right when we can foresee the result to be gained, but when doing the right appears to be courting disaster, strength is needed and a heroic spirit. If the requirement of the moment tempts us to be unfaithful to truth or justice, we need be faithful to the point of recklessness, and leave the issue to Him Who has committed the choice into our hands. This has meant to some being "faithful unto death," but what were life, asked those Martyrs, bought at the cost of losing truth and devotion? Life would then be but a few lingering years of shame, weighed down with the sorrow of infidelity and added fear of death. But to turn neither right nor left, and to press forward along the road of honor, even recklessly, was to receive the Crown and enter into Life more Abundant.

* * * * * * * *

When, within the secret precincts of the heart the struggle for light proceeds fiercely, the truth is not to be feared though at first it appears ugly. Follow the light recklessly. It is bound to lead to unclouded sunshine at last.

All through life it is for us to obey, not blindly but trustfully, the Captain of the Host, or, to use another simile, the Pilot of the Vessel. Were we but to have our own desires, the end might be disappointment for our folly and shortsightedness, but to obey His whispered command in the heart, and to do His Will as the Angels in Heaven will be to awake in His Likeness and be satisfied. The end will be rejoicing in His purpose, and, as the sun of life sinks, to say with eagerness and anticipation,

"I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crossed the Bar."

An April Day...Beautiful indeed is the necessity that compels the primroses to bloom in field and hedgerow. It is not beautiful for the sake of being beautiful and to make the face of the earth lovely, but just because the necessity of its nature forces it to shine forth and attract the insects that will enable it to propagate its kind. It is not beautiful in order that it may make the earth beautiful, but just to fulfill its purpose...Beautiful are the buttresses of our cathedrals, but neither are they ornaments for the sake of being so, but in order that they may aid the walls to bear the weight of the roof...By fulfilling the same beautiful necessity in our daily life will our life become beautiful. Not so much by aspiring to be beautiful, but by doing the commonplace duties of life, the beautiful will transfigure those who have turned brazen duties into gold by performing more than they promised. If by fulfilling the necessities of its nature the primrose is beautiful, how much more shall man become beautiful by obedience to the promptings of the All Perfect? "If God so clothe the grass of the field, shall He not much more clothe you?"

* * * *

At St. Albans...near the center of the city is a garden, the disused burial ground of the Society of Friends. It is neatly planted with flowers which seem to breathe the fragrance of the sainted dead...May we so breathe fragrance into the world while we are in it and when we are gone..."What can one man do?" we often ask. The great Abbey of S. Alban bears witness to the influence of one man’s fidelity in life and death through centuries. We minimize our own power.

* * * * *

In these days when knowledge of psychic power is spreading, there is a danger that it be used for selfish ends, and this is evil. Jesus never used spiritual power for Himself. Tradition says He could have had twelve legions of angels but He would not. The fiend is not a materialist, but he who has knowledge of psychic power and uses it for selfish purposes. Witches and wizards were such. They were anything but materialists. The Devil (if there be such) is rightly supposed to be a fallen angel, not an unbeliever, (Do not the Devils believe, as S. James said) but one who misused the spiritual power of an angel.

* * * * *

When we leave this life, we are disrobed not only of our bodies, but our rank, wealth and position. Our very nakedness will be a judgment. Character, and that only, will weigh then. Our wealth here, in the eyes of the multitude, we carry in our pockets. Our wealth there, will be the wealth of the heart. Our rank here is our position in life, military or civil. Our rank there will be determined by character. What treasures are we laying up that will be wealth there? Shall we be cast down with the mighty or be exalted with the humble?

"How shall I...
...before the Ineffable appear
And on my naked spirit bear
The uncreated beam."

* * * * * *

How gladsome are the smiles, and how brightly do the eyes flash when friends parted for awhile meet again! May be the parting has been for years, may be the acquaintance was but brief, but the pleasure of meeting again is sweet. It restores faith in the goodness of life, and makes days gone by live again.

Is this experience but a foretaste of even better things to come, when old acquaintances and friends and our dearest will be reunited to us?

Our homeland, with its grandeur we may never see again, the old fireside we may never sit by, and the paradise of childhood may be gone, but have we not known reunions before, and in the night can we not look for the daybreak? Though we may have said goodbye to the Old Home for ever, "we know that, if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens."

"We have built a house that is not for time’s throwing,
We have gained a peace unshaken by pain forever
War knows no power. Safe shall be my going
Secretly armed against all death’s endeavor.
Safe though all safety’s lost, safe where men fall.
And if these poor limbs die, safest of all."

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