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THE CHURCH AND THE LEAGUE OF
By Rev. WILLIAM PIERSON MERRILL, D.D.
(Abstract of an address given in connection with the campaign on the Moral Aims of the War.)
HE question may arise, “Why should this
campaign be pushed among the churches ?”
The campaign has two objects: First, to show why the war must be won by America and her allies and to arouse a spirit of determined loyalty and enthusiasm, and second, to create a strong and intelligent interest in the idea to establish, as one outcome of the war, a League of Nations, pledged to maintain the peace of the world and to substitute judicial processes for war. If such a League of Nations is to be formed at the conclusion of the war, people must be thinking about it intensely and continuously from now on.
But it may be said that these matters are not particularly related to the church. The winning of the
war is a national and governmental concern; the establishment of a League of Nations is a political idea. Why then should we not push this campaign among the people generally, rather than among the people of the Christian church?
The answer is not simply that the churches have power and influence, which we desire to enlist on the side of the prosecution of the war and the establishnient of a League of Nations. The reason for our pushing this campaign among the churches is rather in the fact that the church acknowledges a higher loyalty than that expressed in patriotism; a loyalty to truth, to God and His word, to Christ and His kingdom. We are convinced that Christian people will not be, and ought not to be, loyal to a government simply as a matter of course, or at least that their loyalty will be far more intense and vital if they understand that these higher issues are involved in the stand their government is taking. We believe we can show the people of the churches that their noblest faiths and dearest hopes are bound up with the success of America in this war and with the establishment of a League of Nations as the outcome of the war.
I. The War. The church is concerned in the winning of the war because of the issues directly involved in the war itself.
1. The issue between the people and the kings.
Our American history and traditions are no more vitaily concerned in this struggle for popular rights
against alleged divine rights than is our Christianity. Christ was and is the leader of true democracy. He saw the independent worth of individual manhood. He said, “call no man your master on the earth,” and, “ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” The church has been, on the whole, the great champion of human freedom. True democracy and true religion have depended each upon the other.
2. The issue between the heathen and Christian conception of greatness.
Christ told his disciples that they were to have a different idea of greatness from that which prevailed in the world. The heathen counts great the man who lords it over his fellowmen, “But it shall not be so among you, but whosoever would be great among you, let him be your servant." These two ideas of greatness are locked in the struggle of this war. Germany turned aside from the path to greatness through service and took the old discredited path through attempted lordship over others.
3. The issue between nationalism and internationalism, between selfishness and unselfishness, as the motive of international action.
Germany is in the war because she did not trust other nations, because she frankly accepts the philosophy which says that there is no authority, and can be none, superior to an individual nation. America is literally and absolutely in the war with nothing to gain except the establishment of an inter
national order. This war is an issue between the spirit which seeks the best "place in the sun” and the spirit which seeks only one's proper place in a family of nations. Christianity is essentially interested in all, rather than any group. It is based on a faith in the universal fatherhood of God and the universal brotherhood of man. The Christian church ought therefore to be vitally concerned in this contest between nationalism and internationalism.
The church then has a great part to play in connection with the war, for the strength of such a war as America is waging is in the realm of the spirit, rather than anywhere else. It is of the utmost importance that America's motives be kept high, her ideals pure, and that the disinterested spirit in which she entered the war be preserved blameless to the end of it. Here the church can give vital support.
II. The League of Nations. With the details of the policy of the League of Nations, I am not now concerned, but I want to urge that the church ought to give itself to any extent that may be required to support the ideal of an international organization. The church is vitally interested in helping to establish such a League of Nations. Why?
1. Because the church can give to this movement indispensable support.
(a) The church can impart a sanctity to the international organization without which it can scarcely
hold its own in the world. People cannot arouse any great amount of enthusiasm over a world court or any cold scheme of organization. They need something which will give a sanctity to the movement, even as the flag stands for our country and helps to stimulate and support the instinct of patriotism. The international organization will need something which will exalt it above all local patriotisms. Here the church can render indispensable aid.
(b) The church can put a spirit into the international organization without which it will fail. Nothing is more significant than the fact that Sir Edward Carson and Sir Frederick Smith and other speakers, who have recently discussed the project of a League of Nations, declare that the idea can never be put into successful operation without a very great extension of goodwill between nations. That is the peculiar function of the church.
(c) The church can impart faith which is vital to the success of this movement. The great obstacle at present in the way of a League of Nations is the fact that people call it impracticable or Utopian. Many are saying “it is almost hopeless to try to establish a League of Nations, and yet there is no hope unless we can establish it." Now Christ came into human life to be the author and finisher of faith. It is the peculiar function of his church to infuse faith, the faith that can move mountains, into just such undertakings as this. The Christian church