It was New Year’s Eve. I sat by the fire in my billet and my mind turned, as it always does on New Year’s Eve, to Tennyson’s lines:—
"Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light,
The year is dying in the night,
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die."
But again, it was not the bells that rang out, for alas, they have been melted down and cast into cannon. So instead of the bells ringing out the old, and the new, the guns boomed out the old and in the new.
Though the change be accompanied with discord instead of music, "the old order yieldeth place to the new."
The ideas of the past are not adequate to the stress or the times. No life philosophy or moral code that is not strong and sound will stand the strain of the judgment of this age. Old prejudices also have to go.
The judgment of this age on the young men of the nation is similar to that of Our Lord. When the Rich Young Man came to Jesus he said he had observed all the Commandments from his youth. But that was not sufficient. A sacrifice was required of him. He was not equal to it, and though religious and respectable as he was, he could not become a disciple. In these days a man may be respectable and religious, but he is thought nothing of, if he be unwilling to make a sacrifice. The judgment of this age is not on sins committed, but on the leaving undone of those things we ought to have done.
This standard of a man’s duty is right, and is equally applicable to all relations of life. It is not sufficient to live a blameless life, a life of service is demanded of us. We need ask ourselves not only "What have I done that I ought not to have done?" but "What have I left undone?" "There is a spot somewhere that needs my little bit of joy. Have I found it? Have I neglected it? There is error somewhere where I am required as a witness for truth. Have I done so? There have been hungry for me to feed. There have been sick for me to visit. There has been distress for me to alleviate." When that day arrives, far or near, when we sit in calm judgment on ourselves, how shall we face those questions? Has life been an existence self centered from day to day and of no value at all as far as the world without is concerned, or one which can show a deed for every opportunity—a talent for every one bestowed on us?
There must be a judgment on those things left undone which ought to have been done. The soul is like a plot of ground. If it is not put to good use, weeds will grow on it. If men were concerned with their obligations to the larger life of those about them they would drive selfishness and sin out of their lives. Weeds only thrive on unused ground.
Mankind will not be reformed by seeing the folly of doing wrong, for there is something venturesome in human nature which delights in daring to do the foolish thing. Mankind will be reformed when men’s eyes are opened to the larger life of man’s corporate existence—when men realize that to seek their own selfish good is to lose it, and that he that loses his own life for the Master’s sake and for the sake of mankind shall find it.
The great sins that mar civilization arise from the abuse of good powers. The highest powers with which man has been endowed, misused, bring forth the deadliest sins, solely because they have been used for selfish ends. When these powers are directed by the Higher Motive, they become a great power for good. For instance the love of excelling may be actuated by unworthy pride, but if the Higher Motive rules, the desire to excel will be governed by a desire to give good to the world. It is leaving undone those things we ought to do, that causes us to do those things we ought not to do. Weeds will not thrive on carefully tilled ground.
Our life is interwoven with the life of those around us, and we need always be conscious of it. That consciousness can only be born of the spiritual life—the life lived near to God and ordered by Him. So, as "A Student in Arms" says, "For most men, the world is centered in self which is misery: to have one's world centered in God is the peace that passeth understanding."