Appendix O. Speeches For Study And Practise. Part 7
Christ also led the way to peace by giving us a formula for the propagation of truth. Not all of those who have really desired to do good have employed the Christian method - not all Christians even. In the history of the human race but two methods have been used. The first is the forcible method, and it has been employed most frequently. A man has an idea which he thinks is good; he tells his neighbors about it and they do not like it.
This makes him angry; he thinks it would be so much better for them if they would like it, and, seizing a club, he attempts to make them like it. But one trouble about this rule is that it works both ways; when a man starts out to compel his neighbors to think as he does, he generally finds them willing to accept the challenge and they spend so much time in trying to coerce each other that they have no time left to do each other good.
The other is the Bible plan - "Be not overcome of evil but overcome evil with good." And there is no other way of overcoming evil. I am not much of a farmer - I get more credit for my farming than I deserve, and my little farm receives more advertising than it is entitled to. But I am farmer enough to know that if I cut down weeds they will spring up again; and farmer enough to know that if I plant something there which has more vitality than the weeds I shall not only get rid of the constant cutting, but have the benefit of the crop besides.
In order that there might be no mistake in His plan of propagating the truth, Christ went into detail and laid emphasis upon the value of example - "So live that others seeing your good works may be constrained to glorify your Father which is in Heaven." There is no human influence so potent for good as that which goes out from an upright life. A sermon may be answered; the arguments presented in a speech may be disputed, but no one can answer a Christian life - it is the unanswerable argument in favor of our religion.
It may be a slow process - this conversion of the world by the silent influence of a noble example - but it is the only sure one, and the doctrine applies to nations as well as to individuals. The Gospel of the Prince of Peace gives us the only hope that the world has - and it is an increasing hope - of the substitution of reason for the arbitrament of force in the settlement of international disputes. And our nation ought not to wait for other nations - it ought to take the lead and prove its faith in the omnipotence of truth.
But Christ has given us a platform so fundamental that it can be applied successfully to all controversies. We are interested in platforms; we attend conventions, sometimes traveling long distances; we have wordy wars over the phraseology of various planks, and then we wage earnest campaigns to secure the endorsement of these platforms at the polls. The platform given to the world by The Prince of Peace is more far-reaching and more comprehensive than any platform ever written by the convention of any party in any country. When He condensed into one commandment those of the ten which relate to man's duty toward his fellows and enjoined upon us the rule, "Thou shaft love thy neighbor as thyself," He presented a plan for the solution of all the problems that now vex society or may hereafter arise. Other remedies may palliate or postpone the day of settlement, but this is all-sufficient and the reconciliation which it effects is a permanent one.
My faith in the future - and I have faith - and my optimism - for I am an optimist - my faith and my optimism rest upon the belief that Christ's teachings are being more studied to-day than ever before, and that with this larger study will come a larger application of those teachings to the everyday life of the world, and to the questions with which we deal. In former times when men read that Christ came "to bring life and immortality to light," they placed the emphasis upon immortality; now they are studying Christ's relation to human life. People used to read the Bible to find out what it said of Heaven; now they read it more to find what light it throws upon the pathway of to-day. In former years many thought to prepare themselves for future bliss by a life of seclusion here; we are learning that to follow in the footsteps of the Master we must go about doing good. Christ declared that He came that we might have life and have it more abundantly. The world is learning that Christ came not to narrow life, but to enlarge it - not to rob it of its joy, but to fill it to overflowing with purpose, earnestness and happiness.
But this Prince of Peace promises not only peace but strength. Some have thought His teachings fit only for the weak and the timid and unsuited to men of vigor, energy and ambition. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Only the man of faith can be courageous. Confident that he fights on the side of Jehovah, he doubts not the success of his cause. What matters it whether he shares in the shouts of triumph? If every word spoken in behalf of truth has its influence and every deed done for the right weighs in the final account, it is immaterial to the Christian whether his eyes behold victory or whether he dies in the midst of the conflict.
"Yea, tho thou lie upon the dust,
When they who helped thee flee in fear, Die full of hope and manly trust,
Like those who fell in battle here.
Another hand thy sword shall wield, Another hand the standard wave,
Till from the trumpet's mouth is pealed, The blast of triumph o'er thy grave."
Only those who believe attempt the seemingly impossible, and, by attempting, prove that one, with God, can chase a thousand and that two can put ten thousand to flight. I can imagine that the early Christians who were carried into the coliseum to make a spectacle for those more savage than the beasts, were entreated by their doubting companions not to endanger their lives. But, kneeling in the center of the arena, they prayed and sang until they were devoured. How helpless they seemed, and, measured by every human rule, how hopeless was their cause! And yet within a few decades the power which they invoked proved mightier than the legions of the emperor and the faith in which they died was triumphant o'er all the land. It is said that those who went to mock at their sufferings returned asking themselves, "What is it that can enter into the heart of man and make him die as these die?" They were greater conquerors in their death than they could have been had they purchased life by a surrender of their faith.
What would have been the fate of the church if the early Christians had had as little faith as many of our Christians of to-day? And if the Christians of to-day had the faith of the martyrs, how long would it be before the fulfilment of the prophecy that "every knee shall bow and every tongue confess?"
I am glad that He, who is called the Prince of Peace - who can bring peace to every troubled heart and whose teachings, exemplified in life, will bring peace between man and man, between community and community, between State and State, between nation and nation throughout the world - I am glad that He brings courage as well as peace so that those who follow Him may take up and each day bravely do the duties that to that day fall.
As the Christian grows older he appreciates more and more the completeness with which Christ satisfies the longings of the heart, and, grateful for the peace which he enjoys and for the strength which he has received, he repeats the words of the great scholar, Sir William Jones:
"Before thy mystic altar, heavenly truth,
I kneel in manhood, as I knelt in youth, Thus let me kneel, till this dull form decay,
And life's last shade be brightened by thy ray."