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determined to submit their differences to impartial arbitration, a decision which in its issue has not only largely contributed to the happy brotherly relationship of England and America to-day, but has also thus enabled the modern world to take probably the greatest step forward in history toward the application of right reason and Christian wisdom to the settlement of international disputes.
Nor can we forget many another occasion in which that great Englishman seemed to be taking a prophet's stand, looking forth on the nations, reading the secret causes which make them living or dying, and then, “ looking beyond the results of the moment,” in the sure conviction of his long and dearly bought experience, dreamed the old man's dreams, among others—can we doubt it ?—of the golden year of International Peace, “satisfied”-I quote his own words
that though to-day may not see it and to-morrow may not see it, yet the fruits of patience and perseverance will be reaped in the long future of the nation's existence, when the reckoning cannot fail.”
And, my friends, if, happily synchronizing with the holy memories of Whitsuntide, the commemoration this week by English churchmen of their great statesman’s death-day a year ago takes us back in thought to an old man's prophetic dream, certainly the great event of this week in this place, to be held by history-God grant it--as a perpetual memory of blessing to all civilized peoples, speaks in unmistakable tones of a young man's vision.
Can there be any Christian in this place to-day who, recalling the ancient Pentecostal prophecy and promise of which I have spoken to you, would wish to think that these last words of the young Tsar's rescript are anything but an aspiration and a prayer, sincerely responsive to the leading,
piously pleading for the guidance, of God's holy Spirit of Wisdom, Peace, and Love?
This Conference shall be, by the help of God, a happy presage for the century which is about to open. It would converge in one powerful focus the efforts of all the States which are sincerely seeking to make the great conception of Universal Peace triumph over the elements of trouble and discord. It would at the same time cement their agreement by a corporate consecration of the principles of equity and right on which rest the security of States and the welfare of peoples."
What is it that blocks the way-do we ask?—to this land of Utopia, to the present earthly realization of the young man's vision, the old man's dream?
I can only answer that the mountains of difficulty which some tell us stand in the way are moral difficulties for the most part, faults of character and will, failure of moral courage and purpose, -in a word, want of faith.
And yet, if we be Christians, we cannot, we must not, lose heart. The mountains of difficulty may be there. We cannot deny it. They do block the way to the promised land. But we walk by faith, not by sight. It was a saying of the great Napoleon, looking out from France on the neighboring country of Spain, “ There are no more Pyrenees!” The power of the human will, the vaulting ambition of one man, was—so he thought-sufficient to remove this greatest of natural boundaries.
My friends, do we forget the promise of Him who said that by faith we too should remove mountains?
Mountains of difficulty, mountains of misunderstanding, mountains of prejudice, will only vanish before the courage which despises difficulty, before the insight which sees into the heart of stone, before the love which compels confidence.
Ah, yes! the true Christian faith is like that fabled sword of which one reads in the “Song of Roland,” by which that renowned Paladin cleft a way for his army through those same Pyrenees mountains to the open land beyond. Such a breach of Roland, doubt it not, will one day be made through the mountain walls of national jealousy and national pride and national prejudice, and open out a way to the land of International Peace.
May God, of his great mercy, send into the hearts of each member of this Peace Congress his great gift of vision! Let us pray for them—and what words could we better use than those in which for so many generations the Church of Christ has yearly sung her Advent antiphon of preparation for the Christmas message of Peace on earth, good will to men
“O Sapientia! quæ ex ore Altissimi prodiisti, attingens a fine atque ad finem; fortiter suaviterque disponens omnia: veni ad docendum eos viam Prudentice ! ”
A THANKSGIVING FOR WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE
THE BIRTHDAY SERMON PREACHED IN THE COLLEGIATE CHURCH
OF THE HOLY TRINITY, STRATFORD-ON-AVON, APRIL 23, 1899
“ What thanksgiving can we render again unto God for him, for all the joy?”—1 Thess. iii, 9.
HE special festival of this day-at once a saint's day
of the English Church, and a hero-day of the English
nation, for it is the Day of St. George, the Patron Saint of England and of Chivalry, and it is the birth-day and death-day of Shakespeare-happens to synchronize this year with the Third Sunday after Easter.
We have already, at our earliest service this morning, celebrated the greatest Eucharist of our Church, that sacrament of thanksgiving for the risen Lord which not only should throw its consecration over all our other acts of worship in this place to-day, but also should consecrate for us all realms of human thought and action. It is quite natural, therefore, that at this later service the “note of thanksgiving” which we would most wish to emphazise should be for him whose power and presence must always, I should imagine, be felt more vividly in this place than elsewhere in England.
In this memorial service, then, “ let us render again unto God for him thanksgiving for all the joy,” thanksgiving for all the mighty achievement of his poetic genius, of his prophetic vision as a supreme interpreter of human life “how noble in reason! how infinite in faculty! in appre hension how like a God!”-thanksgiving for all the joy which has come down to us through the centuries as his gift to the English race, to the human race, forever.
And, that I may not be misunderstood, let me repeat that in rendering such debt in this place we need not think we shall be in any sense trenching upon His inviolable honor who must always remain the ever-present centre of our worship here. For it is only through the study of the many and varying qualities of his servants that we learn by degrees to welcome the fulness and the richness of his ideal manhood. Much less in doing this honor to Shakespeare to-day do we arrogate to ourselves any authority of final judgment as to his personal character or life.
In thanking God, then, for the gift of the heroes and the saints, the prophets and the kings of England, for their lives and thoughts, we are recognizing our national benefaction
and so far acknowledging the power and love of God in those by whose ministry it was made known to us.
I have already indicated my desire to speak to you to-day of Shakespeare as a national prophet. You will rightly ask me in what sense I use this term. Let me answer you in the words of two modern poets.
In his magnificent prose essay on “The Defence of Poetry,” the poet Shelley thus compares the functions of the poet and the prophet:
Poets, according to the circumstance of the age and nation in which they appeared, were called, in the earlier epochs of the world, legislators or prophets. A poet essentially comprises and unites both these characters. For he not only beholds intensely the present as it is, and discovers those laws according to which present things ought to be ordered, but he beholds the future in the present, and his thoughts are the germs of the flower and fruit of latest time. Not that I assert
poets to be prophets in the gross sense of that word, or that they can foretell the form as surely as they foreknow the spirit of events. Such is the pretence of superstition which would make poetry an attribute of prophecy rather than prophecy an attribute of poetry.”
And this is how a great American poet, Russell Lowell, has expressed a similar thought in imperishable verse:
“ To know the heart of all things was his duty,
All things did speak to him to make him wise,
The soul of all looked grandly from his eyes.
He watched the flowing of Time's steady tide,
And whispered to him, and he prophesied.
And all his brethren cried with one accord-
Him who hath spoken with the unseen Lord.'"
But you will ask me very probably, and some of you perhaps with some surprise-Can you really speak of Shakes