This is the eternal agreement, but an agreement of which we find it difficult to accept the terms. To the material alone, we are in the habit of ascribing power. Though we repeat a thousand times in the course of a year, “For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory,” we do not believe it. To few of us, it is more than a sonorous phrase.
I remember the impression of this which once received at the great thanksgiving for peace in St. Paul’s Cathedral in London some twenty years ago. The Boer War had ended in an English victory, and while the thanksgiving was not precisely for this, it did express the relief of an anxious nation that peace was again restored. It was what is generally known as the most impressive service. All that a great spectacle can offer to God is offered. King, queen, princes, princesses, ambassadors, ministers, clergy, admirals, generals, and a vast assembly of citizens filled the choir and nave with colour and life, while the music was of that passionless beauty of which the English cathedral choirs guard the secret.
But the detail I remember best was the way in which the repetition of the Lord’s Prayer rolled from the lips of the assembly like the sound of the surging of the sea. It was the emotional effect of a strongly emotional moment. One felt tense. It was hard to restrain tears. As far as crowd-sympathy has any spiritual value, it was there. The Caucasian God was taken out of His pigeon-hole and publicly recognized.
Then He was put back.
I take this service merely as an instance of what happens in all the so-called Christian capitals in moments of national stress. Outwardly it happens less in the United States than it does elsewhere, for the reason that this country has no one representative spiritual expression; but it does happen here in diffused and general effect. As a Christian nation, we ascribe in common with other Christian nations the kingdom, the power, and the glory to God— on occasions. We do it with the pious gesture and the sonorous phrase. Then we forget it. The habit of material trust is too strong for us. Kings, queens, presidents, princes, prime ministers, congresses, parliaments, and all other representatives of material strength, may repeat for formal use the conventional clause; but there is always what we flippantly know as a “joker” in the lip recitation. “Kingdom, power, and glory,” we can hear ourselves saying in a heart-aside, “lie in money, guns, commerce, and police. God is not sufficiently a force in the affairs of this world for us to give Him more than the consideration of an act of courtesy.”
Practically that is all we ever get from group impulse—an act of courtesy. I repeat and repeat again that whatever is done toward the conquest of fear must be done by the individual. I must do what I can to conquer fear in myself, regardless of the attitude or opinions of men in general.
To men in general, the appeal to spiritual force to bring to naught material force is little short of fanatical. It has never been otherwise as yet; it will probably not be otherwise for long generations to come. Meanwhile, it is much for the individual to know that he can act on his own initiative and that when it comes to making God his refuge, he can go into that refuge alone. He needs no nation, or government, or society, or companions before him or behind him. He needs neither leader nor guide nor friend. In the fortress of God, he is free to enter merely as himself, and know that he is safe amid a world in agony.
PHOTO CREDIT : AJEET PANESAR
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