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bad as their want of principles would lead one
to expect.

Nor is it only in the conduct of individuals
that materialist greed has reigned. It has
been written large in a great part of our
empire-building and our foreign policy. We



CHRISTIANITY AND NATIONALITY 259

forget that it is not long since Clive and
Hastings founded by very unscrupulous means
the British Empire in India ; and that even in
more recent times such proceedings as the
Jameson raid have disgraced our foreign
politics. There is no doubt another side to
the matter. British rule has been in many
parts of the world a great blessing ; it has
usually taken the place of something inferior
to it, most of our rulers and magistrates have
been high-minded and just men, who have
studied the good of the peoples committed to
them. All this is quite true ; but it does not
affect my present point, that the ethics of
the British domination bear but little of the
impress of Christianity. Our wars in India
were much like the Roman wars in Asia. On
the whole, the Roman domination in the
Mediterranean was a good thing ; as on the
whole our rule in India has been a good thing.
But we have not acquired the British Empire
on any really Christian principle.

Can we wonder that, not only in Germany,
but also in most countries of the Continent,
a reproach most commonly brought against
England is that of hypocrisy ? It is not really
hypocrisy, but it is a national dullness to ideas,
a national contempt for any radically consistent
policy. I think that a subconscious feeling



260 EVOLUTION IN CHRISTIAN ETHICS

of our radical inconsistency has been a great
source of weakness. We have grown out of
the way of searching for right principles of
national action, and carrying them out con-
sistently, so that our course has been full of
turns and compromises ; and the paths of right
and wrong have not lain clearly before us.



Surely our duty does not end with the
working out of our national destinies. Just
as an individual who is always thinking of his
own character and duty and not of the good
of his neighbours tends to subjectivity and
egoism, so a people which will not recognise
the destinies and the faculties of neighbour-
ing nations is convicted of selfishness. Such
selfishness, it must be confessed, has been the
ordinary tone of international politics in the
past; and probably most politicians would
regard any other tone as chimerical. Yet we
clearly see that if national clashings go on in
the future as in the past, the only prospect
before the world is one of a succession of wars,
each more destructive and terrible than the
last, until European civilisation drops into the
gulf and disappears.

I do not believe that the hope for the future
of humanity lies either in the spread of the



CHRISTIANITY AND NATIONALITY 261

mere principle of nationality or in the merging
of the idea of nationality in a broad humani-
tarianism. The example of Germany shows
that the principle of nationality when carried
to excess leads to a reckless and inhuman
militarism. The example of England and
America proves that the principle of indivi-
dualism when carried to excess leads to cor-
ruption, to the extremes of wealth and poverty,
to luxury and social war. And, at all events
until man has climbed to a higher level of
being, the principle of universalism when
carried to excess leads to sentimental weak-
ness, to cowardice, and to anarchy. The thing
to be hoped for and to be worked for is a
combination of the three under the guidance
of wisdom, idealism, and Christianity.

Nationalism may become a lofty and even
a religious tendency if the rulers work not
merely for the advancement of their people into
the sunshine of material prosperity, but into
the realisation of national character, and the
accomplishment in the world of the things
which that people is by nature and history
qualified to accomplish ; while at the same
time the qualities and powers of other peoples
are recognised, and we try not to thwart but
to aid the good and reasonable developments
of other nations.



262 EVOLUTION IN CHRISTIAN ETHICS

Individualism may also become a power of
health and expansion, if the individual, while
trying to realise the ideal embodied in his own
nature arid character, tries to help others also
to do the best they can for the progress of
mankind. If unrestricted competition in
matters industrial and commercial leads to
mere clashing, and to the exploitation of the
weak by the strong, yet it is ultimately the
self-realisation of the individual, the formation
of character, and the production of good works
in the world which produces the well-being
and the happiness of the community.

And universalism, on the lines laid down for
all future ages by the Founder of Christianity,
is the only force which can make men prefer
the invisible to the visible, the spiritual to the
temporal, and so furnish high ideals, and noble
principles of action alike to the nation and
to the individual. In these matters, as in
all others, it is selfishness and materialism,
materialism and selfishness, which turn to bad
ends powers and tendencies which when rightly
used and followed might lead to blessedness.

It is a confirmation of the view taken in
Chapter III. as to the essentially self-contra-
dictory character of secularist axioms, that the
desire of nations for physical expansion and
wealth has brought about a war which has



CHRISTIANITY AND NATIONALITY 263

almost entirely destroyed the wealth which
had been for the last century heaped up in the
expanding countries. People do not gener-
ally realise that our wealth is gone, but they
will find it out before long.

The nations of the Entente are committed
to fighting for one defined object, the right of
self-determination of peoples and the triumph
of democracy. As opposed to the mere spirit
of military autocracy these are doubtless noble
purposes. But they are means rather than
ends. The present state of Russia furnishes
a lurid commentary on the belief that democ-
racy will necessarily bring salvation to society.
And even the self-determination of peoples
will not bring peace or happiness unless the
peoples have lofty ideals of national self-
realisation. The attempt of the Turks to
produce a national revival has so far led to
little but a series of atrocious massacres of
Armenians and Greeks. Still less can any
such movements as that of the proletariate for
greater political power, or of women for fuller
liberty, lead to any real raising of the standard
of life, unless these activities are dominated
by something better than a mere selfish
motive. Liberty is doubtless a good thing;
but, like all good movements, the movement
towards freedom will only benefit a nation, or



264 EVOLUTION IN CHRISTIAN ETHICS

even a class within the nation, when it is
inspired by lofty ideals, and is careful to allow
a similar liberty to other nations and classes.

Christianity has always made war, with
however imperfect success, on the selfishness
and materialism of individuals. If it has not
made war in like manner upon the selfishness
and materialism of nations, it is because in
all its earlier history it regarded the spirit of
nationality as a thing with which it had
nothing to do. When in early days the
Church baptised into Christ Jewish ethics
and Greek philosophy and Roman organisa-
tion, it left the enthusiasm of nationality
unbaptised. But it furnished the principles
with which, if ever nationality was to be
baptised, it must be consecrated. Has the
Church Universal of Christ now the power
to remedy this omission, and to baptise this
last and greatest of the heathen ? I fear we
should look in vain for any attempt in this
direction on the part of the Papal Curia, which
has shown in recent years no power of assimi-
lating the spirit of the new age, but has turned
its face steadily not to the future but to the
past. But there are forces and enthusiasms
stirring in all branches of the Church, not
among Cardinals and Bishops but among
enthusiasts in obscure places. And it is



CHRISTIANITY AND NATIONALITY 265

certain that among the movements which
are bubbling up from below, some will take
the form of an attempt to apply to nationali-
ties the principles of Christian ethics.

It seems to me futile to suppose that merely
negative international morality will suffice to
block out war in the future. That a nation
ought to adhere to its treaties, and honourably
keep its word, is no doubt a part of the ethics
of nations. But recent events have shown that
as a restraining force mere probity of this kind
is of little value. It is not only Germany
which regards treaties which hamper the
expansion of national energy as not binding.
Germany tears up such pieces of paper with
brutal frankness when military advantage bids.
But other peoples have on occasion refused to
regard a treaty which they consider an impos-
sible restraint on growth and development as
sacrosanct. And this view is really endorsed
by International Law, for it is recognised by
that law that by declaring war a nation may
at a stroke release itself- from unpleasant
obligations. And treaties concluded under
the pressure of military force are not binding
upon the conscience of the people which is
compelled to conclude them. Even in civil
law a promise made under duress, or in
consequence of false representations, is not



266 EVOLUTION IN CHRISTIAN ETHICS

binding ; and a nation may nearly always find
a pretext of this kind when it feels an impulse
towards fuller life. Mere negative morality
is a frail barrier, unless there is, as in the
case of private persons, some external power
to stand behind and enforce it. Any force
which in the future sways the nations in the
direction of righteousness in their dealings
with one another must be of a more positive
and more spiritual kind.

I fear it may be objected that if, in nineteen
centuries Christianity, in spite of constant
efforts, has done so little to raise the morality
of the individual, and to inspire him with the
love of God and man, it is surely hopeless to
expect that now at the end of many ages the
main principles of Christianity can be so
imported into the relations of the peoples as
to put them on a new level. If the spirit of
nationality has for all these ages escaped
Christian baptism, can we expect it now to
submit to the spirit of Christ ? Of course, one
cannot under the circumstances hope for any
rapid or immediate change. Modern nations
must pass through terrible calamities and
bitter trials before they will see the way of
escape. But if this is the one hope of the
future, it is our business not to give way to
despair, but to do what we can to introduce



CHRISTIANITY AND NATIONALITY 267

in the world the divine Kingdom of our
Master.

Looking about us at present, the horizon is
indeed dark. Germany, as we are all agreed,
carries national egotism to the verge of in-
sanity. It looks on all questions of the
mutual relations of nations simply in the
light of German interests; and is entirely
unscrupulous as to the means which it em-
ploys to further those interests. The peoples
of the Balkans hate one another with a bitter
hatred ; and the alliance between them against
Turkish supremacy which seemed hopeful a
few years ago has vanished in a black cloud
of strife and cruelty.

When we turn to the Anglo-Saxon peoples,
the prospect is far less dark. In spite of much
chauvinism in England, and in spite of the
regrettable saying, not so long ago, of President
Wilson, that he was for America only, and for
America all the time, we may see the working
of another spirit. The revelations of Prince
Lichnowski, German Ambassador in England
in 1914, have shown how Lord Grey, carrying
on the fixed traditions of the Foreign Office,
laboured hard to prevent war, and to satisfy
the equitable claims of all peoples.

England has, in the past, really cared about
the national revival in Italy, in Serbia, and



268 EVOLUTION IN CHRISTIAN ETHICS

other countries. We would go a long way,
and submit to great sacrifices, if we could
establish in Ireland a state of things in which
the character of the people could have free
play. Before the fatal period of 1870, many
in England rejoiced at the growth of German
unity. And more recently it was a profound
sympathy with Belgium which united us and
the Americans in a firm resolve to fight against
the reckless militarism of the Hohenzollerns.
America indeed is probably in this war as
disinterested and unselfish as any nation has
ever been in undertaking a terrible task for
the good of other peoples. The feeling is
probably both in England and America most
highly developed in particular circles ; but the
whole nation follows willingly.

Of course we must not forget how much
easier such feelings of friendship and sympathy
are in peoples which bask in the sun of pros-
perity, and have all they really want in the
way of national possessions, than they are
in nations which are struggling for national
objects. France, Italy, Roumania, all feel
deeply the pain and humiliation of seeing
many of their co-nationalists under a harsh
and foreign domination. The suspicion of
such a state of things in South Africa made
England plunge into the Boer War. And



CHRISTIANITY AND NATIONALITY 269

Germany feels intensely that her position in
the world is quite incommensurate with her
education, her talents, her energy. Perhaps
we have not in the past been ready enough to
recognise the explosive force of such a con-
viction; if so, we have paid dearly for our
want of sympathy.

There is, and can be, only one way for
gaining a satisfactory outlook, and putting
ourselves right with the order of the world
and its divine Controller. That way may be
hard ; but unless we discover and follow it,
our final doom cannot be averted. Incon-
sistency in matters of national policy can only
be avoided by the discovery of true principles,
and the determination to carry them out, even
at a great cost. And it is clear that they
must lie in the middle ground between the
individualism of early Christianity and the
hyper-nationalism of Treitschke. Quietism
and the non-resistance of injuries is not pos-
sible for a nation ; and least of all possible to
a nation which has without deliberate planning
grown to be a great power in the world, and
to dominate a great proportion of the fairest
regions of the earth. But, on the other hand,
the principle that might is right, that there
is no morality in the relation of nations but
the law of self-preservation and expansion, is



270 EVOLUTION IN CHRISTIAN ETHICS

hideous. And the adoption and consistent
carrying out of that principle by Germany
has thoroughly aroused our consciences to its
hideousness. There is no fear that England
may consciously adopt it ; though we may
well unconsciously act in accordance with it.

But there is a higher third course. It may
be possible to bring into the relations of
nations something of the comity and mutual
appreciation which is introduced, at least in a
measure, in well-disposed communities, in the
relations of individuals. Far as our social
arrangements are from perfection, they are
not, between neighbours, governed by mere
greed and the desire of dominance. Men who
are allowed by their neighbours to be good
show mercy, sympathy, good-will in their deal-
ings with one another. Instead of trying to
drive out and suppress those with whom they
come in contact, they learn to respect their
characters, to appreciate whatsoever in them is
good and true and lovely. If the international
morals of Europe could be raised even to the
level of the ordinary civic life of individuals, it
would not be an ideal condition of policy, but
it would be an enormous improvement on that
which exists. Nations would not be blinded,
by a misleading if natural prejudice, to think
that they alone are children of the light, and



CHRISTIANITY AND NATIONALITY 271

that other peoples lie at a lower level. They
would see that there are few nations which
do not in some points of morality excel the
rest, and which do not bring some contribu-
tion towards the highest ideal of humanity.
I cannot here develop this theme. But 1 may
venture to insist that an exclusive valuing of
one's own people and their character is as ugly
a thing in the world as is in a smaller sphere
a developed and complacent egotism. As a
small society is only healthy when it is made
up of individuals who respect and value one
another, so the world can only be healthy
when nations respect one another. This ideal,
alas ! seems far enough away now. War
naturally stimulates an intense patriotism.
Yet it is only by a curbing of that patriotism
by a sense of the mission of other peoples and
our duty to them that there is any prospect
of exorcising the hideous spectre of war, and
bringing back a state of comparative rest
among the peoples.

It seems to me that, until such feelings as
these find more general acceptance in the
world, ambitious schemes for a League of
Nations to guarantee universal equity and to
preserve international peace are impossible of
realisation. You cannot make leagues except
among friends ; and at present the nations



272 EVOLUTION IN CHRISTIAN ETHICS

which count show no signs of becoming friends.
A simple consideration will show how chimeri-
cal these schemes are. Is the league to exclude
Germany and Hungary ? In that case it would
be useless ; we have in fact at present a league
almost as extensive as this. Is it to include
Germany and Hungary? In that case it
would at once split into two sections, and
cease to have any unifying power. If Germany
were powerless, or completely changed her
way of regarding things, such a league might
be dreamed of; but this can scarcely be the
case, whatever happens in the immediate
future. There is nothing for it but to wait ;
and to work for the spread through the world
of a better, a more humane, a kindlier spirit.

And such a spirit will never be propagated
by the mere desire for material comfort. Such
a desire is the main cause of strife, whether
between nations or between classes. It is
only by spreading the root-principle of Chris-
tianity, that the love of one's neighbour has
to be fused with the love of God, that nations
can be moved to a better frame of mind. The
immortal saying of Jesus, " Seek ye first the
Kingdom of God and His righteousness," is
as true when applied to the relations of states
as when applied to individuals.



CHRISTIANITY AND NATIONALITY 273

VI

In order to make this survey complete, I
ought to add a chapter on Christianity and
Universalism. For indeed in England and
America there is a strong and growing sense
that it is the great duty of the visible Church
of Christ to proclaim an unity higher than
that of nationality. On all sides we see the
separated branches of the Church drawing
together, and considering how, at least for
certain purposes, they may become united.
This tendency one may watch with the
deepest sympathy and the strongest hope.
And there can be no doubt that it has been
fostered by the experiences of the war. But
at present it is only in an inchoate condition.
It is likely that its action will draw many
towards the more highly organised and power-
ful churches.

If these churches had the courage to
launch out more boldly: to think less of
consistency with the past, and more of meet-
ing the needs of the present and providing
for the future, there seems hardly a limit
to what they might accomplish. But this is
far too great a matter to be taken up in the
last pages of a small volume, and too practical

a subject to be discussed in a work devoted

18



274 EVOLUTION IN CHRISTIAN ETHICS

to the consideration of principles and tenden-
cies. I leave this subject, as I have left the
future of the family and other practical ques-
tions, to writers more accustomed to organisa-
tion and to practical statesmanship.



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