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the constitution of the Holy Roman Empire
tried to establish a balance between temporal
and spiritual dominion. Later still, at the
time of the Reformation, the idea of a Chris-
tian state received fresh developments, and in


some countries the ruling powers tried to
combine political and religious control of the
people. From the historic point of view these
changes and developments are of the greatest
importance. But though historically import ant,
it seems to me that they are not very important
from the modern and ethical point of view.
They belong to a pastwhich is rapidly vanishing.
The collapse of the Russian Czardom shows
how little real power the conception of the
unity of Church and State has in the modern
world. In England, in particular, the alliance
of Church and State is in a depressed condition.
Those who defend it, often called Erastians,
do so, not on the ground of principle, but only
on that of expediency. They think that while
moral and religious principles are in a fluid,
almost a chaotic state, the modified control of
religion by the political authority is valuable,
as keeping order, and enabling new ideas to
make their way beneath the surface. The
state is regarded as a mere force of police, to
check the wranglings of the sects into which
the English Church seems in danger of dis-
solving. But the authority of the Church in
national and international relations, though
symbolised by the presence of Bishops in the
House of Lords, has fallen to a vanishing


If we want to introduce again, into the
international arena, any of the principles of
Christianity, we must start afresh almost from
the beginning ; and consider, in the light of
observation and experience, how this may be


What I propose is to try to make out how
the principle of nationality, when accepted in
a Christian and idealist way, may be, not a
danger to modern civilisation, but a principle
of order and progress.

We have to realise that a nation is after
all a personality, a being with character and
tendencies ; and like a person it has about it
something sacred. Each nation, like each
individual, is fitted to bring into the world,
and embody in its common life, some divine
idea, to do something towards the prevalence
of the divine will under human conditions.

Most of those who have felt the power of
our past history in the present, more especially
Freeman, have made at least a partial ship-
wreck on the question of race and physical
type. Questions of race are of all questions
the most insoluble. It would not be easy to
find in the length and breadth of the country
a man of pure race. Since we inherit as much
from our mothers as from our fathers, and



since no race, except in some degree the
Jewish, has been exclusive in marrying only
within the clan, a wide mixing of blood has
taken place. Every one of us inherits blood
and character from a variety of peoples, Dane,
Saxon, and Norman, Celtic, Pre-Celtic, Flemish,
Jewish, and what not. This is a fact, how-
ever much we may regret it ; and it is useless
to attempt to build on the denial of fact.

But there is a saving distinction, a distinc-
tion on which it is impossible to lay too
great stress, the distinction between race and
nationality. From the race we inherit blood,
tendency, capacity, a blank sheet which may
be used for many kinds of writing. But from
the nation we inherit a spirit and a character.
The nation is a personality, not free of course
from the tendencies of blood, but capable of
building on those tendencies things noble or
things base, a type far beneath or far above
that of our congeners. Jerusalem and Carthage
were closely allied in blood : how different the
tendencies of the two cities ! The Romans
were scarcely to be distinguished in race from
the Latins ; but compare the history of Rome
with that of Tusculum. The people of Athens
and those of Boeotia were of similar strain ;
but the former were proverbial for talent, the
latter for crassness.


The personality of a nation is like that of
an individual. Each man inherits a physical
frame, talents, a disposition ; but he may make
of them whatever he will, within certain limits,
by help of the divine power which works in
each of us. So a nation inherits a stature, a
form of skull, a colour of skin, certain clearly
marked ethical tendencies ; but the use which
the nation makes of these things depends upon
itself, upon its great men, upon the persistency
with which it follows the higher path. It has
its conversions, its crises, its periods of back-
sliding and inertness, its times of progress and
of colonising expansion. The nation too has
a soul and a conscience.

No people ever realised this more fully than
the small minority which formed the directing
force of the Jewish people. The blessings and
the curses pronounced with such magnificent
force in the book of Deuteronomy have refer-
ence, it is true, almost entirely to worldly
prosperity, but they are in the main true to
the nature of things. And though there is
doubtless a great deal of what is called
tendency, of high ethical colouring, in Jewish
chronicles of Judges and Kings, yet the
history there set forth is true in the sense
in which the Iliad and Shakespeare's Hamlet
are true. It is in general accord with the


laws of God in the world of nature and
of man.

It should surely be the business of states-
men to judge to what destinies their own
people is called, and what capacities it has
for realising that destiny. It is here that the
history of the country will be of inestimable
value, since all progress in the world is con-
tinuous, and if the line of past history is
carried on straight into the future, it will
within certain limits indicate what may be
expected to come to pass. The character, the
qualities, of a people show clearly in their
history, and it is by moving in accordance
with those qualities and in the strength of
that character that a nation must hope to
fulfil its destinies and live in accordance with
the divine will. The true leaders of a people
can rarely be of alien race, and at any rate
should embody the highest side of the national

We in England have certainly been some-
what late in our recognition of national
tendencies and ideals. But when we accept
them consciously we shall have little cause
to envy other peoples. Our history is a
splendid history ; few nations have on the
whole showed greater capacity ; none has
been more clearly guided and helped by a


divine Providence in its growth. If any
people can say "our fathers trusted in thee
and were not confounded," we can use those
words. We are a people slow of speech and
slow in thought, lacking in fire, in logical
acumen, in taste for art. But we possess in
high degree other qualities, less brilliant but
perhaps more valuable in the world determi-
nation, persistency, conscientiousness, a strong
sense of justice. We are behind no nation
in our love of truth and straightforwardness,
and in our determination to do our duty, and
we possess in a high degree the invaluable
faculty of organising, though it must be
confessed that that faculty is shown in
greater perfection by Englishmen outside our
islands than within them. We may well still
believe in our future, in spite of the many
dangers which beset our national path, and
the many sources of weakness and corruption
within. It is, however, of infinite importance
that we should learn consciously to realise
what is our share in the progress of mankind,
and do our part in promoting the Kingdom of
God on earth. It is by our success in this
work, not by the extent of our empire or the
growth of our commerce, that England will
in the long run prosper or perish.

Many people would now say that England


stands for democracy, as indeed our states-
men have emphatically declared. But the
democracy for which England stands has not
hitherto been mere egalite, the levelling of all
distinctions, but something of a more con-
structive character. This subject, however,
lies outside the scope of the present work.

The power of nationality is in the modern
world one of the greatest of all forces which
have to be reckoned with. Externally it is
exhibited in the clinging to a language and to
a literature, which represent the nation in an
ideal and spiritual aspect. It is manifested in
the claim to self-government, that is, to such
a condition of public affairs as may give the
nation an opportunity of realising its wishes
and its character. One may say that in most
of the countries of Europe there is a strong
feeling that a nation has a soul which may be
saved or lost ; that in resisting external forces
which would cramp or injure its self-expression,
it is performing a high and a holy function.
No doubt in practice there is in all countries
mingled with this more lofty patriotism a
more materialist element, the desire to secure
mines and factories, ports and colonies, to have
a share in the sun of worldly prosperity. But
the higher element is seldom wholly wanting.

But as there has become conspicuous in our


days the nobler side of the passion of nationality,
so we have seen a great deal of its baser and
more materialist side. A few years ago, the
arising of the Christian peoples of the Balkans,
Bulgaria, Serbia, and Greece, against the domi-
nation of the Turks, stirred the enthusiasm of
many among us. We thought that a new era
was dawning in South-Eastern Europe. The
vision, alas ! has been obscured ; and we now
see little but internecine quarrels between the
nationalities, each of which suffers from
megalomania, and is determined to acquire for
itself every square mile of territory which has
ever belonged to the race, or in which a bare
majority of the people are kindred. As the
different nationalities are everywhere inter-
mingled, there opens out a long prospect of
continued strife and bloodshed, the contem-
plation of which may well drive us to despair.


But, of course, if one tries to point out the
terrible results of the principle of nationality
accepted in a materialist way, and striven for
in complete defiance of all ethical restraint,
one must turn to Germany.

We have indeed lately witnessed terrible
things, things more lurid and portentous than
the world has ever before seen. We have


seen Germany spring to arms, and begin by
violating Belgian neutrality, which she had
solemnly undertaken to protect. We have
witnessed the ravage and ruin of that most
unfortunate country, the burning of Louvain,
a fierce and unsparing military rule of a
helpless population. We have seen Germany
make war upon our own civic population with
aircraft and submarines, slaying and maiming
thousands of defenceless men, women, and
children. We have heard how the ablest
chemists and engineers of our enemies have
given all their thought to the discovery of
new means of torture and destruction. We
have been fighting for our lives and our honour
against the most highly organised forces of
militarism ever arrayed on the earth.

And most of us have learned to see how
this terrific outburst is but the manifestation,
on the stage of the world, of ideas which had
been long stirring in the Teutonic mind, a
national pride amounting almost to insanity,
a determination that by all means, whether
fair or foul, Germany shall have the best place
among the nations, and bask in the sun of
material prosperity, that every power which
opposes shall be relentlessly crushed, that the
immediate interests of the Fatherland are the
only test of right and wrong, that any sort of


humanity is mere weakness, and respect for
man as man a thing to hold in contempt.

Do not these lurid events show that the
national principle is essentially wicked, that
by following it men relapse from Christianity
into heathenism, and from heathenism into
mere savagery ? Do not they place us in
the position of having to choose between the
rejection of the national principle in morality,
and a long series of wars, ending only with the
destruction of the peoples and civilisation of
Europe ?

It requires some courage to answer these
questions in the negative, yet I venture to
do so. The root of German militarism and
brutality is national feeling, but national feel-
ing debased by materialism. The spring of
the nation's action is not so much the hope
of raising either themselves or other peoples
to a higher intellectual and moral level, as
the desire of imposing their yoke upon other
peoples, and procuring for themselves the lead
in wealth and commerce. As materialism
has been the cause of corruption in the uni-
versalist civilisation of England and America ;
as the haste to be rich has led them into all
sorts of dishonesty and abomination, so the
same tendencies have plunged Germany into
crime and blood.


It is not only Christian ethics which the
Germans have abandoned. They have also
abandoned that compound of nationality and
Christianity, chivalry. They have regarded
the end, victory at any price, as excusing
and sanctioning any means by which it may
be won. They have distinctly debased the
current usages of war, and increased its horror
and brutality. Thus they have rejected not
only the Christian ideal, but also the traditions
of their own knightly ancestors.

The Germans, it is true, sometimes talk of
a hope, when they are victorious, of spreading
through the world their Kultur. It is doubt-
less the fact that in some branches of science
the Germans excel other peoples ; and that
they have carried further than other peoples
their organisation, which is conspicuous in all
intellectual, scientific, and social developments.
But they have given in recent history very
little sign of helping other peoples by imparting
to them their methods : rather they use those
methods to the utmost in exploiting other
peoples. And Culture, in any higher sense
of the term, has, as all impartial observers have
declared, not advanced in Germany in recent
decades, but steadily declined. In the middle
of the last century Germany was eminent in
literature, in philosophy, in music, in the study


of history and the like. But the growth of
extreme specialism has acted as a blight on
Culture ; and Germany no longer produces
the intellectual giants of half a century ago.
In fact, this talk about Kultur is one of the
expedients by which Germany tries to conceal
from herself the materialism and selfishness
of her endeavours, and her attitude of in-
humanity towards other peoples.

Yet the great qualities of the German
people, with which many of us have become
personally familiar, cannot have disappeared.
They can only be concealed for a time by the
stress of war and the dominance of militarism.
Some day, when the passing madness is over,
they will again come to the top ; sooner if
Germany suffers defeat, later if she is victori-
ous. We cannot believe that God will finally
abandon Germany, any more than we can
believe that He will abandon England.
Among hopeful symptoms none is more to
the point than the saying of Dr Michaelis, a
former Chancellor of the German Empire,
that the war is a punishment on Germany for
her worship of wealth and material progress.
There must be movements going on beneath
the surface of which we hear little.

I venture to maintain that even already we
may see strong ethical currents underlying


events. The Germans have had a great
measure of success ; but it has really been
due rather to their virtues 'than their vices,
not to the policy of frightfulness, but
intense patriotism, discipline, self-surrender
what they regard as a national call ; and ab
all, the great virtue of taking trouble, ai
giving their best mind to what they attempt,
which is one of the greatest of all virtues,
not only in commerce and intellectual matters,
but even in the moral aspect. It is no new
discovery that order is Heaven's first law.
And the world at large, however it may re-
sent the spirit of Germany, will have to learn
a great deal more from its order and discipline
before the world can combat its influence.
The brutalities which have shocked us are the
result in most cases of a pedantry which carries
out the military -code without any regard to
human feeling and Christian emotion ; a kind
of pedantry in action which corresponds to
the pedantry in thinking to which we have
long been accustomed in German writers.
But great as is our natural indignation, we
must not let it blind us to our own faults,
which lie in exactly the opposite direction, in
exaggerated individualism, want of discipline,
the overvaluing of sentiment in comparison
with principle.



But let us turn from the painful prospect
of Germany, to consider our own position,
our own responsibilities. It has always been
the way of mankind to compound for sins we
are inclined to by damning those we have no
mind to. And I fear that there are deep
shadows on our English culture, even if we
escape the besetting sins of Germany.

If Germany has erred in the direction of
over-development of the state, by placing it
above morality and Christianity, England has
erred in the opposite direction, by the extreme
of individualism, and the excess of party spirit.
We have allowed individual liberty to defy
the general good, to carry out plans and
purposes which in a really healthy state would
have been placed under severe control. The
excess of ^laissez faire has placed such things
as the growth of towns, the amenities of the
country, even the health and welfare of whole
communities, at the mercy of unscrupulous
men of wealth. And the wretched growth
of the spirit of political party has, in the
minds of whole sections of the people, made
party gain eclipse the good of the state, and
handed over the government of the country,
not to far-sighted statesmen, keenly alive to


the signs of the times and anxious to provi(
for the future, but to politicians who follow
a short-sighted public opinion, and are more
anxious to secure an oratorical party triumph
than to introduce really wise governmenl
In the first years of the war the party spiri
was quenched by a general enthusiasm ; bul
there are now signs of its revival, and in a
worse form : it looks as if instead of pai
against party we shall have class against class,
while the great principles of wisdom am
justice, and of adaptation to the coming
changes in the organisation of the world, ai
but little regarded.

Nothing could more clearly show the exc<
of individualism in England before the
than the outbreaks of lawlessness, and th<
popular sympathy which they have com-
manded. Not long ago, insurgent women
claimed that unless they had a share in the
making of laws they would not obey them,
and England was made ridiculous and abased
in the eyes of the world v because she could
not resolve to enforce the laws against these
women. More recently we have been vexed
by the conscientious objectors, who were
determined that is, those of them who did
not use their consciences merely to hide their
cowardice that their private views of moral-


ity should be allowed to override all the
claims of the community, and exempt them
from any national service. Them also some
have defended : fortunately they were but
few. Not that the state has any right to
override the conscience of individuals as to
right and wrong ; but it has a perfect right
either to require such services as it needs
from any man, or else to withdraw from him
all help and protection. These objectors
claimed to receive a number of inestimable
benefits from the state and then to refuse to
give what was asked in return. The logical
plan would be to exile them ; or to confiscate
the property which they could only hold by
means of the protection afforded them by the
state. And if they were consistent in their
conscientiousness they could not complain.

When the protests of these insurgents ap-
peared in the newspapers, one's mind went
back to the immortal example of Socrates.
Unjustly condemned to death, and offered
the means of escape from prison, he refused
to be rescued, because he felt that one who
had received from his childhood onwards all
manner of good from the laws and institutions
of the state must be prepared also to receive
evil if the state judged it necessary, and to
suffer and die without any complaining.


Undoubtedly the war will in social matters
have important effects. One province after
another of industrial and commercial life has
been taken over by Government ; and we
have been despotically ruled by a group of
dictators, obedience to whom has been 1<
often compelled by law than produced
public opinion, as set forth by the newspapers.
But while obedience has been general, ex-
cluding disloyal individuals and groups, there
has been at the same time a great and grow-
ing chorus of complaint at the unwisdom
shown by the great organisers. And there
is widely spread a feeling that our submission
to them is only a matter of necessity, a
temporary phase to be thrown off as soon as
it is at all possible, in face of the national
danger, to revolt against the yoke.

When peace returns, will the central control
which has been set up be continued and
solidified, or even extended in new directions ?
Or will the individualism which was so pro-
nounced a national feature reassert itself?
It would be rash to attempt to answer the
question. There must be in England clash-
ings and crises at the magnitude of which
one may well stand appalled. But it is safe
to prophesy that whatever happens in the
immediate future, in the long run it is a


question of ideas. Mere desire of well-being
and the war of classes is not a principle of
reconstruction, and can never lay the founda-
tions of a noble or a durable commonwealth.
It is only in proportion as the people of
England realise that the thing to be aimed
at is health and happiness rather than pro-
sperity, and general good-feeling rather than
the humiliation of one class by another, that
they can recover from the terrible ravages
of war, and " build Jerusalem in England's
green and pleasant land."

If it be the sin of Germany to have cor-
rupted the national ideal with materialism,
it must be confessed that England also has
sinned as grievously in another direction.
We have corrupted with materialism the
ideals of individualism. We also have made
material prosperity the end and object of our
strivings. We have made haste to be rich,
to exploit in the interests of a material
civilisation all the sources of wealth provided
by a scientific use of natural resources. We
have too often forgotten that material re-
sources are not in themselves an end but
only a means which may be used for good
or for bad purposes. Instead of using our
vast wealth to raise the level of life for all
the nation, we have allowed whole classes of



the people to remain in squalor and misery,
while trusts and capitalists struggle one with
another in eager contest as to who shall secure
the greatest share of the spoils. Individual-
ism has run mad, and flung aside in contempt
the moral considerations which in any healthy
society curb the strivings of the wealthy after

Hence, just as Germany has thrown away
morality in the eagerness for national success,
so whole classes in England and America and
elsewhere have thrown aside all ethical con-
siderations in the hunt after wealth and
material prosperity. They have almost for-
gotten that there are such considerations. The
difference between Germany and England in
the rejection of ethical principle lies mainly
in this, that the Germans being a more
rationalist and callous people carry out their
intentions with less scruple and more thorough-
ness, whereas in England there still rules an
immense deal of traditional and instinctive
scruple, so that here men of affairs are not so

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Online LibraryPercy GardnerEvolution in Christian ethics → online text (page 14 of 15)