Page images
PDF
EPUB

Augusto, a Deo coronato, magno et pacifico imperatori, vita et victoria." __modern history began.

Certainly with him began a new vision of power in Europe, : new in reality, new in its relations to society. For the first time since the fall of the Roman Empire in the West a great king had arisen among the new nations to rule with strength and glory, a founder of social order, a restorer of religion, a patron of education, a statesman, a legislator, an emperor, as the popular acclaim had entitled him, truly “great and peace-giving,” because his aim was not only to conquer and overthrow and selfishly to enjoy, but to labor long and resolutely, and with deliberate purpose, to bring order out of chaos, government out of confusion, for the benefit of man and the good of the peoples.

It is true that his romantic reign of nearly fifty years was but an episode of political order and statesmanship in a wild and tumultuous age, but the work of Charles-a genius preeminently creative-was not lost in the anarchy which followed, for he had laid the foundations upon which, for many generations, men continued to build.

His policy and deeds were gradually wreathed round with a gorgeous mist of legend and romance, but at least he left behind a memory and a tradition of a settled government and of a noble and extensive scheme of polity, an ideal of imperial duty and obligation, to which his successors in a later age could look back with a devout admiration. For so wisdom is justified of all her children, and God fulfils himself in many ways.

And again, in that later time of turbulence and political confusion, through all the disasters of private war and public

1" To Charles Augustus, crowned of God, the great and peace-giving Emperor, life and victory."

[ocr errors]

feud which characterized the peoples of Europe from the tenth to the thirteenth centuries, who shall say that the old prophecy of Joel, the newer promises of Pentecost, had no fulfilment? Into “ that wilderness of the peoples ” the Church of Christ had gone forth, and had proved herself

not only a herald of spiritual blessings and of glorious hopes in another life, but a tamer of cruel natures, the civilizer of the rude, the cultivator of the waste places, the educator, the guide, and the protector” of the weak and oppressed. When little else could be done, was it nothing, do you think, that the Church organized “the Truce of God”?

From Thursday evening among all Christians ”—80 ran the words of an ordinance of the Council of Limoges in 1031

_“ friends or enemies, neighbors or distant, peace must reign till Monday at sunrise: and during these four days and four nights there ought to exist a complete security, so that every one can go about his own affairs in safety from all fear of his enemies, and under protection of this truce and this peace. Let those who observe this peace be absolved by the Father, All-powerful, by Jesus Christ his Son, and by the Holy Ghost. Let those who have promised truce and have voluntarily broken it be excommunicated by God.”

There are many sad chapters, it is true, in the history of Christendom, humiliating to the disciple of Christ, but surely that chapter in the “Gesta Christi” of the Middle Ages is at least a touching one, which, although it tells, first, of desolated towns, depopulated villages, wasted fields, plundered peasants, widows and orphans weeping under the curse of war, yet goes on to speak of that “ Crusade of Peace” preached by the Church for two centuries and more, made the subject of conciliar and synodical and episcopal enactment, quieting, if only for a time, the waves of strife, in

1

spiring men with a new spirit of good will and concord and brotherhood, under which, it might be for months, or weeks only, or days, the bloody sword was suffered to rest in its sheath, the homes of the poor to go unplundered, and the unwonted “ Peace of God” to fall upon a land drenched with tears and blood.

It was not, however, until the fifteenth century was passed, and the various communities of Europe, each retaining characteristics of its original source, but each also taking to itself, with the assertion of individual freedom, new characteristics, had finally separated by definite national signs into free and liberal States, that the foundation was laid of the modern system of International Policy.

The adoption of standing armies, although they may seem to have created new dangers for our modern industrialism, it must never be forgotten, disarmed war of half its terror. But the need of some recognized code of law to regulate the intercourse of the new nations became pressing. In 1625 the groundwork of such a code was laid by Grotius, AdvocateGeneral of the Treasury of Holland and Pensionary of Rotterdam, in his treatise, “De Jure Belli et Pacis," a work which has been said by jurists to have contributed more than any other uninspired book to the commonwealth of nations.

And indeed, in memory of the Pentecostal promise, ought we to speak of the book as uninspired ?

It is true that such a code as that of Grotius could not have arisen in any country where the jurisprudence of ancient Rome had not been the fountain of all legal ideas and the groundwork of all positive codes, nor could it have been written by any man who was not a learned student of that ancient system.

But Hugo Grotius was not only a student of Roman juris

prudence; he was something higher and better. He had been a great Christian poet before he became a great Christian publicist. I venture, therefore, to say that it was because in his youth he had seen poetic visions of the ideal truths of Christianity that in his old age he dreamed wise dreams of the true relations which should bind together the nations of Christendom, and saw clearly how necessary to the maintenance of the social State is the recognition of the sphere of spiritual as well as of temporal government. Certainly his immortal work is permeated, every line of it, in every chapter and in every section, with the Christian spirit. In the first words of his preface he touches the keynote of all Chrise tian progress through comradeship and association when he says:

"The Sacred History doth not a little provoke us to mutual love, by teaching that we are all of us born of the same first parents."

And in the last chapter of his book he strikes once again the true chord of Christian fellowship as he recalls to the memory the parting benediction of the great Master in the memorable words with which he closes:

“ A safe and honored peace is not too dearly bought if it may be had by foregoing as well the offending as the charges and damages of war, especially to us Christians, to whom our great Lord and Master hath bequeathed peace as his last legacy. ... God, who alone can do it, instil these things into the hearts of those who manage the affairs of Christendom!”

Once more, and lastly, for I must hurry to a conclusion, can we doubt that in our own age the Pentecostal prophecy has been and is being fulfilled? Have we no young men

nowadays who see visions, no old men who dream dreams, which it will be good for the world to see realized, even in part, of that divine order in which “God shall fulfil himself,” not only “in many ways,” but in the one way of perfectness—

" When shall all men's good
Be each man's rule, and universal peace
Lie like a shaft of light across the land,
And like a lane of beams athwart the sea,
Through all the circle of the golden year?

English churchmen, at any rate, cannot certainly at this time forget the example of one great English statesman whose body, just a year ago at Whitsuntide, they were burying in Westminster Abbey “ with a nation's lamentation," whose splendid political achievements have left an indelible mark on English statesmanship and on English citizenship, whose voice, in the plenitude of his power and strength, had ever been raised, not only for what he thought the good of his own countrymen, but for the deliverance of the oppressed and downtrodden peoples in any part of Christendom, and whose example of Christian fortitude and patience at the last taught lessons to the English people concerning the reality of religion and the power of prayer in daily life, more potent for the inspiration and ennoblement of national life than all the splendid achievement of the strenuous years that lay behind.

And when we recall these things we cannot forget that it was also to Mr. Gladstone that we owe the Geneva Arbitration of 1872, an event by which two great nations, at a time of great bitterness of popular feeling, and when one side felt itself deeply injured, under circumstances which in all past history would have been thought to justify a declaration of war, deliberately controlled their passion of resentment and

« PreviousContinue »