The Colonel in the Theological Seminary
How the Colonel got the appointment to the Chair of Military Science in the Theological Seminary would be too long a story to tell. Indeed, it was a little peculiar that there was any Chair of Military Science in the Theological Seminary. It constituted, as the young man who wrote it up for the newspapers remarked, “one of the most unique features of the institution.”
There was no mystery about the chair, however. A wealthy gentleman had left funds for its endowment, and the Trustees had not been inclined to look a gift horse in the mouth. They accepted with the idea that they might, perhaps, secure a clergyman who had been a chaplain in the militia, and who, after a few lectures on the manual of arms, might quietly change the subject to something more definitely related to the work of the ministry. It was only by accident that they got a retired army officer.
I confess that I was prejudiced against the new chair, for I am naturally opposed to fads of every description; I am also opposed to war, except as a last resort. I disliked to see the wave of militarism sweeping over the Theological Seminary. It seemed that young men should here be trained in the arts of peace. I feared that there might be a recrudescence of controversy or militant sectarianism. Instead of disinterested search for truth, there might be only a planning for visible success. I even feared the methods of the Salvation Army. The thought of a squad of students marching to the sound of drum and fife to a lecture on apologetics offended my sense of the fitness of things.
But when I met the Colonel my fears vanished. He had the fine simplicity of mind that is characteristic of the best men of his profession. He had the mildness of countenance which comes when “ grim-visaged war hath smoothed his wrinkled front.” Moreover, he was evidently a spiritually-minded and freeminded man. If he would sacrifice everything for success, he had an exceedingly high ideal of those things wherein true success consists. He was a believer in arbitration so far as the controversies between nations are concerned. The cruelty anti waste of the physical strife had been impressed upon him, and the thought that the time was fast approaching when a more excellent way of settling differences would come. For a time he felt that his occupation was gone. But he was at heart a soldier. The ideal aspect of his profession had fascinated him. Morally he delighted in the soldierly virtues of courage, loyalty, patience, and obedience to rightful authority, — the virtues that belong to the ordered life of armies. Intellectually the problems which fascinated him were those of generalship. Here the mind was dealing not merely with the uniform movements of nature, but with the incalculable powers of another and active mind. Here quickness of perception, steadiness of will, and comprehensiveness of judgment were tested at every step. Military genius seemed to him the most wonderful exhibition of pure intellect.
He wondered sometimes what would become of the militant qualities he so loved and admired,—
And the battle-flags were furled.
It was then that the idea of the world as a spiritual battlefield came to him. Here was a conflict of forces, a good fight to be fought. He looked about for some organization fitted to make a strong stand against the evils of the world. He realized the significance of the term The Church Militant. That was enough for the Colonel. All the ardor of youth was rekindled. He saw at once the irrepressible conflict between those who were banded together in behalf of a spiritual ideal, and the forces of sensuality and selfishness. “Here is something,” he said, “that can’t be arbitrated. It must be fought out. The Church Militant has, I believe, the right of it, but the question is, is it strong enough to win out ? Has it mobilized all its forces, and is it prepared to assume the strategical offensive?”
When he was called to the Chair of Military Science in the Theological Seminary, the Colonel accepted with alacrity. It was just what he was looking for. He took it for granted that in a training school of officers in the church militant, the chief concern would be the solution of the problems connected with attack and defense. These gallant men were to overcome the world; they must learn the scientific way of doing it.
I have often regretted my own complete ignorance of military science, for in my capacity of visitor at the Theological Seminary I attended many of his lectures. Some of his technical terms I only imperfectly understood, and many of his allusions were to affairs with which I was unfamiliar. Sometimes, too, his earlier enthusiasms got the better of his later purposes, and he would spend a morning over the campaigns of Marlborough, illustrating every move with topographical charts, but leaving no time to point out the bearing of all this upon the work of the ministry. But I believe there always was an association of ideas in the Colonel’s mind.
Perhaps from my imperfect notes I may give some idea of his main contentions. Here is a portion of his introductory lecture.
“Young gentlemen,you may have been troubled, as I have been, by questions as to the limitations proper to the study of military science in this institution. It appears on the face of it to include everything necessary to the successful conduct of your profession. But a glance at the curriculum shows that many other branches are taught here. In fact, your profession may be approached from several directions. The most familiar approach is through the ancient and honorable science of husbandry. A knowledge of agriculture and of the care of flocks has always been insisted upon.
“Bishop Hugh Latimer, in his admirable sermon on ‘ The Plough ’ insisted on careful training in this matter.
‘“The preacher and the ploughman may be likened together first of their labour of all seasons of the year, for there is no time of the year in which the ploughman has not some special work to do; as in my county of Leicestershire the ploughman has a time to set forth and essay the plough, and at other times for other necessary work. The ploughman first setteth forth his plough, and then tilleth his land and breaketh it in furrows, and sometimes ridgeth it up again, at another time harroweth it and clotteth it and dungeth it, and hedgeth it and diggeth it and weedeth it. So the preacher hath a busy work with the people, now casting them down with the law, now ridging them up with the gospel, now weeding them by telling them their faults, now clotting them by breaking their stony hearts.’
“Latimer made a plea for the labor that produced the necessaries of the spiritual life, rather than the fancy horticulture that went in for luxuries. ‘The preaching of the word of God unto the people is called meat. The Scripture calleth it meat, not strawberries.’
“ My colleague who instructs you in Pastoral Care has doubtless made you familiar with the history and methods of the cultural work of your profession.
“ But I sometimes fear that the agricultural aspects of your work, important as they undoubtedly are, may have been emphasized at the expense of that which is equally vital. A too pacific and yielding temper of mind is the result of a training that ignores the elements of conflict.
“ The lack of attention to military science manifests itself in a number of ways. For example, I have often noticed the way in which the members of your profession interpret the call of duty to what they speak of as ‘ a larger field of usefulness.’ I have no reason to doubt their disinterestedness, but I have been often amazed at what they called a larger field. Frequently they will evacuate a strategic point, leaving an important part of the field open to the enemy, and retire to a position of no importance for offensive operations. I could not understand the movement till it was explained to me that they are accustomed to use the word field in an agricultural rather than in a military sense. They are not thinking of it as a field of battle, where a lonely hilltop may be the key to the situation; they are thinking of a field fenced in and under pastoral care.
“Not long ago I was invited, of a Monday morning, to a ministers’ meeting which discussed the present condition of religion. Knowing that the situation is critical, I went with keen expectancy. The company was divided, not in regard to the expediency of any particular movements, but only by temperamental differences. Some felt that everything would come out right if let alone; these were called optimists. Others, who were somewhat reproachfully called pessimists, agreed very contentedly that everything is going to the dogs. Neither side suggested that they could do much about it one way or the other.
“‘Gentlemen,’ I said, ‘I understood that this was to be a council of war. Instead of a plan of campaign you seem to have brought out a clinical thermometer in order to take each other’s temperature. On the eve of an engagement the question is not how you feel, but what you intend to do. Nobody is interested in your symptoms. The only temper which befits men who are called to leadership is that which Wordsworth describes in his character of the Happy Warrior: —
That every man in arms should wish to be?
— It is the generous Spirit, who, when brought
Among the tasks of real life, hath wrought
Upon the plan that pleased his boyish thought
What knowledge can perform, is diligent to
Abides by this resolve and stops not there,
But makes his moral being his prime care ;
Who, doomed to go in company with Pain,
And Fear, and Bloodshed, miserable train !
Turns his necessity to glorious gain.
You will observe that the Happy Warrior has a twofold task. He must have a knowledge of stern necessity, and a knowledge how to turn his stern “necessity to glorious gain.” ’
“ In preparing myself for the duties of this professorship, I have been impressed by the fact that the art of spiritual warfare has not kept pace with that which is on the material plane. Antiquated methods and theories, in regard both to equipment and tactics, are still tolerated. In many instances there seems to be little advance over the primitive notion of war as a series of disconnected single combats. The Happy Warrior, accoutred in ancient fashion, will sally forth challenging a foe that is perfectly disciplined and armed with weapons of precision.
“ I have noticed this lack of contemporaneousness in most attempts at treating this subject. In the sevententh century John Bunyan published a military manual entitled The Holy War. It was an account of the operations around the fortified town of Man-soul. Many individual acts of valor are narrated, but it is remarkable that throughout the campaign the forces of Immanuel were armed with the traditional weapons,—swords, spears, darts, slings, etc., — while only the Diabolian army seems to have understood the use of gunpowder.
“ Here, for example, is an account of one of the many attacks upon Man-soul. The investing army had concentrated its forces upon Ear-gate, which was in accordance with the usual tactics of the Puritans, they having been inclined to undervalue the strategic importance of Eye-gate and Feel-gate. ‘Now they in the town had planted in the tower over Ear-gate two great guns, the one called High-mind and the other Heady; unto these guns they trusted much.’
“ What follows is of great interest to the student of our art. ‘Now the King’s captains brought with them several slings and two or three battering rams, and with them they sought to break Ear-gate open. With much valour they let fly as fast as they could at Ear-gate, for they saw that unless they could break open Ear-gate they would in vain batter the wall. . . . But Man-soul held out lustily through the valour of Old Incredulity the Mayor and Mr. Forgetgood the Recorder, and the charge and expense of the war on the King’s side seemed to be quite lost. And when the captains saw how it was, they made a fair retreat and entrenched themselves in their winterquarters.’
“ Bunyan, who was more interested in the moral than in the scientific aspect of the war, seems to have seen no connection between the antiquated weapons of the assailants and their ill success. No careful student, however, will be surprised at the failure of an attack upon artillery in an entrenched position, by a detachment provided only with slings and battering rams.
“ You, young gentlemen, will be called upon to make many attacks upon Eargate. It will not be enough that you are individually more valiant than Old Incredulity or Mr. Forgetgood. You must bring against them such superior force as will compel capitulation.
“ A sound military education involves much discipline. At your chapel services this morning you sang ‘Onward Christian soldiers, marching as to war,’though in a way that suggested that more attention should be paid to company drill. Marching as to war is quite a different matter from strolling down the street. A perception of this obvious difference might have saved you from several mistakes which I noted.
“‘Like a mighty army moves the Church of God.’ This involves that branch of our science called Logistics, which includes all the details of the movements and supply of armies, and the choice of roads. It involves the ordering of the different divisions, that they may move so as not to interfere with one another, but may give mutual support in case of attack.
“I fear that the training in Logistics has been neglected in the Theological Seminary, as I meet with graduates who scarcely know what to make of the mighty army when they see it in motion. All their arrangements are made on the assumption that the church is meant to be stationary, and that its officers should lead a sedentary life. Their chief concern is in the construction of permanent barracks.
“Logistical considerations are ignored, not only by those who are averse to movements of any kind, but also by those restless spirits who are all the time advocating sudden and unrelated movements which are incapable of execution bv any large force, encumbered, as it necessarily must be, by its heavy trains. They give no heed to Napoleon’s maxim that ‘the secret of war lies in its communications.’ They seem to imagine that armies can be moved hither and thither on the impulse of the moment. This is far from being the case. Moving a considerable number of human beings from one place to another is always a transaction of considerable difficulty. The more experience a person has had, the more he realizes the embarrassments inseparable from moving day.
“To take an example from civilian life: a gentleman in moderate circumstances wishes to move his family, for the summer, to the country. In making his plans he has to consider, besides himself, his wife, six children, and two maids, — ten persons in all, — no very considerable force. But the problem of actually moving them to a specified position on a certain date involves strategic combinations which almost reduce him to despair. He cannot move freely to any breezy hilltop which strikes his vagrant fancy. His choice is severely limited by considerations which he had at first view overlooked. There is the matter of transportation; he cannot move too far from the railroad. He must look carefully at the water supply before he occupies an otherwise advantageous position. In case of a sudden call, he must secure a line of retreat to the city, and make sure of constant. communication with the butcher, the grocer, and the post-office. Even for the sake of bracing air and an excellent view, he dare not move too far from a yeastcake. He may have started out with the most adventurous plan of campaign, but after consultation with the domestic Board of Strategy he determines to confine the summer movements well within the range of the commonplace. Even then, when the eventful day arrives his mind is ill at ease. Shall his little army move as one body ? He shrinks from the weight of responsibility that is involved. He determines to divide into two detachments advancing by parallel roads, then gradually converging and forming a junction at four o’clock in the afternoon. It is one of the simplest strategic manoeuvres, and yet he knows from past experience how many chances there are against its complete success.
“Now, if the problems of Logistics are so difficult in the case of an honest householder who has not a single known enemy to molest him or make him afraid, what must they be for him who has to make all the arrangements of moving day for a hundred thousand men, in the face of an energetic enemy. It must be remembered that the enemy can be treated as a negligible quantity only by the strategists of the easy chair.
“The critics of the church are accustomed to berate it for not doing at once all the admirable things which they see ought to be done. Their cry is like that which assailed the successive commanders of the Army of the Potomac during the Civil War: ’On to Richmond!’ Even the most unsuccessful of the generals recognized the beauty of the advice, as a counsel of perfection. They were all anxious enough to be in Richmond; what troubled them was how to get there. A very disquieting thought always in the background of a general’s consciousness is that, if he makes a mistake, he may not have any army to move.
“It will be your duty to be continually urging your fellow men to new exertions, but you will spoil your temper to no good purpose unless you know how much can reasonably be expected of them. You must carefully consider the obstacles to be overcome, and the provisions to be carried, and what is to be taken as a fair day’s march. You must be aware that a great army taking permanent possession of the territory which it has conquered, and establishing itself in such a way that it cannot be dislodged, moves at a different speed from a detachment of cavalry on a raid. Occasionally you may have the exciting experience of being on a raiding party, but as you rise into more responsible positions you must be prepared to deal with the more serious problems which confront an army of occupation.
“The most perplexing situations arise in the course of any widely extended advance movement. An army advancing into the enemy’s country is continually losing strength at the front. There are always numerous stragglers, and large numbers of troops have to be left behind to guard the ever lengthening lines of communication. An army in an orderly retreat gathers in its stragglers and its rear guard, so that it is numerically augmented as it falls back. ‘Attacking armies,’ it has been said, ‘melt away like the snow.’ Napolcon in 1812 crossed the Russian frontier with 442,000 men, and reached Moscow with only 95,000. In 1810 the French crossed the Pyrenees with 400,000, and after a successful advance reached the lines of Torres Vedras with only 45,000. Even the Germans in 1870, out of an army of 372,000 which crossed the frontier, after a six weeks’ campaign brought only 171,000 men to Paris.
“You will note many illustrations of this law of the diminishing power of the strategic offensive in the conduct of the church militant. The most progressive bodies tend to waste away as they advance, while reactionary movements bring a rapid augmentation in numbers. For this reason many members of your profession seek a larger fellowship by retreating in good order to the position they had left yesterday. They are much pleased to find so many friends tenting on the old camp ground. Their delight in these reunions speaks well for their amiability, but it sometimes interferes with their military efficiency The lesson which the soldierly mind draws from the rapid diminution of the advance guard is that especial pains must be taken to keep it continually reinforced.
“A distinguished teacher of the art of war remarks, ‘We are right in describing the ever-diminishing power of the strategical offensive as an unavoidable drawback, which has to be taken into account and which invariably becomes more pronounced the longer the line becomes over which the attack advances. The existence of this drawback requires that measures should be adopted in the way of organization and strategy continuually to reinforce the fighting head of the army with reserves. The main roads in the rear of an advancing army should never be allowed to become empty.’
“I commend this advice to any of you young gentlemen who may have the honor to undertake any forward movement. The most gallant advance will be futile if you have neglected to provide a reserve force which may be brought forward according to the need.”
I have heard several members of the Faculty criticise the Colonel for the way in which he would trespass on the fields of his colleagues. I believe that this was altogether unintentional. Like Sir Philip Sidney, when he heard of a good war he went to it. He was quite unaware that in doing so he disarranged the curriculum. One day I entered his classroom as he was beginning a lecture on the military principles of Homiletics. I was a little disturbed at this, as we had already ,a professor of Homiletics who was highly esteemed. However, the Colonel approached the subject from a different point of view.
“The first essential of Homiletics,” he said, “is that you should shoot straight. You have doubtless already received instruction on this point, and I shall, therefore, confine myself to questions of tactics.
“I went to church yesterday and witnessed a series of operations that filled me with dismay. The minister began by seizing a text as a base of operations. I observed that the base was not secure, but this made less difference, as he was evidently prepared to change his base if the exigencies of the engagement demanded it. His first mistake was one of over-caution. In order to defend himself from an attack from the Higher Critics, he had strengthened his front by barbed wire entanglements in the way of exegesis. This was an error of judgment, as the Higher Critics were not on the field, at least in sufficient force to take the offensive. The entanglements intended to keep a hypothetical foe from getting at him prevented him from getting at once at the real enemy. He thus lost the psychological moment for attack.
“While he was endeavoring to extricate himself from his own defenses I trembled for the issue of the affair. Having finally emerged into the open, he was apparently prepared for vigorous operations. I watched intently for the development of his plan. I was bewildered by the rapidity of his evolutions. With a sudden access of courage he would make a wild charge against an ancient line of breastworks which had long been evacuated. Then he would sweep across the whole field of thought, under cover of his artillery, which was evidently not furnished with accurate range-finders. The next minute he would be engaged in a frontal attack on the entrenched position of Modern Science. Just as his forces approached the critical point, he halted and retreated to his textual base. Reforming his shattered forces, he would sally forth in a new direction.
“At first I attributed to him a masterly strategy in so long concealing his true objective. He was, I thought, only reconnoitring in force, before calling up his reserves and delivering a decisive blow at an unexpected point.
“At last the suspicion came that he had no objective, and that he did n’t even know that he should have one. He had never pondered the text about the futility of fighting as ‘one that beateth the air.’
“As we came away a parishioner remarked, ‘ That was a fine effort, this morning.’
“‘An effort at what?’ I inquired.
“How many such unfortunate enterprises might be avoided if there were a clear understanding of a few guiding principles which have been deduced from experience on many a well-fought field. Among them are such maxims as these: —
“Always attack where the moral effect will be greatest.
“Strike the enemy’s flank in preference to his front; threaten his line of retreat.
“Do not offer battle except on your own ground and at your own time.
“Never attack unless you are in superior force.
“Never knock your head against a strong position.”
The Colonel quoted with approval Lord Wolsey’s remarks on the best way of teaching military history.
“By far the most useful way of teaching military history is to find out from your books as far as possible what the situation was at a given time, then shut the books, take the maps, and decide for yourself what you would have done, had you been in the place of one of the commanding generals. Then write your orders. You are thus dealing with a problem that actually occurred; and remember that war presents a constant series of such problems to every officer who may hold an independent command.”
The Colonel was accustomed to follow this plan. He particularly admired Chrysostom, whom he called the Napoleon of divines. He had the class make a special study of Chrysostom’s sermons “Concerning the Statues.” He first made them familiar with the details of the situation in Antioch. There had been a riot in which the statues of the Emperor had been dragged about the city. The Emperor, enraged, threatened vengeance; a panic followed, then an embassy to ask pardon, and long days of terrified waiting. Each day the people flocked to the church for some word of help.
“Put yourself in the place of Chrysostom and plan your sermons according to the changing situation. Meet each crisis as best you can. After you have done this, we may see how Chrysostom did it.”
Occasionally he would present a sermon for criticism. Thus, he asked the opinion of the class on a sermon by the fine old Puritan divine, John Howe, on “A Particular Faith in Prayer.” Before he had reached Howe’s fifteenthly, the unanimous opinion was that it had one fault, it was too long.
“That is a point worthy of consideration,” said the Colonel. “The undue extension of the lines is, under most circumstances, a cause of weakness. But you must remember that Howe was not conducting a vesper service; he was preaching before Oliver Cromwell. His object was not to please Cromwell, but to convince him. This took time, for Oliver was prepared to resist stoutly every advance. We are told that during the discourse Cromwell was observed to ‘ pay marked attention, but, as was his custom when displeased, knit his brows and manifested other symptoms of uneasiness.’
“It is easy for you, young gentlemen, to criticise the deliberation of Howe’s movements, but the question is how you would improve upon it. Let me give you this exercise. You have Oliver Cromwell before you ‘paying marked attention.’ Your problem is to convince him quite against his will that he has been mistaken. You must make a careful preliminary study of Cromwell, and learn all that you can of the disposition of his moral and spiritual forces. Then make your plans accordingly.
“After you have made two or three unsuccessful attempts to carry Oliver’s position by storm, I imagine you may think more favorably of Howe’s method. It was that of a regular siege. You will observe that he first makes a wide enveloping movement which ends in a complete investment. Then his forces advance cautiously in two main lines, keeping under cover as much as possible. It is now a case for sapping and mining. To cover the approach fifteen parallels are constructed, — and in my opinion they were not too many.”
On one of my last visits to the Colonel’s classroom he was discussing the present crisis in the Christian Church. He elucidated his ideas by means of the maps of Grant’s battles in the Wilderness.
“The greatness of Grant consisted in his ability to do two things at the same time. He must make a strong fight at the front against Lee’s army, and at the same time must change his base from the precarious railroad to the more effective waterways.
“ The public were more particularly interested in what was happening at the front, and were delighted at Grant’s declaration that he would ‘fight it out on this line if it takes all summer.’ But the student of military affairs is most interested in what took place at the rear.
“The Christian Church is at this moment engaged in this most perilous, but often necessary manoeuvre, — a change of base in the face of the enemy, and as a part of a grand forward movement.
“There is a call for courage at the front, but the question is in regard to the communications. The line of communication, with the base in Infallible Authority, has been cut; the necessity is to establish free and adequate communication with the ample supplies which are believed to exist in the Religious Nature of Man, and in the Spiritual Realities of the Universe.
“ If this can be done in time, the advance against the strongholds of Sin can go on: if not, there is sure to be disaster. It is to arrest this disaster that you are to put forth all your efforts.
“ In the presence of the dangers that confront you, I must remind you of the difference which exists between war and all imitations of it. I have dwelt much on strategy and tactics, a knowledge of which I look upon as indispensable, but let me remind you that battles are not won in the armchair. The great thing is to have collected sufficient force and to put it forth to the uttermost.
“In order to arouse the true professional spirit which is necessary for victory, I would recommend a recent book by a British naval officer, entitled Heresies of Sea Power. You will observe that the same principles apply to the other branch of the service that we recognize in conflicts on land.
“The gallant writer analyzes the great sea fights of history; in the attempt to find some law governing success he finds there is no trick by which a half-hearted power can overcome one that is alert and persevering and daring.
“The only formula that he arrives at — that he sets forth as a conclusion of the whole matter — is fitness to win.
“ Who are those who are fit to win ? not those merely who have the command of good material, but those who, having it, are impelled by an overwhelming desire to use it to the uttermost in carrying on the project in which they are engaged. ‘The full possession of that desire,’ he says, ‘has implied caution where caution was required, rashness where rashness was the better way — but always because of the fullness of the desire.’
“The great cause of failure, he insists, has been feebleness of purpose. ’Whatever its inferiority in heavy guns cost the Spanish Armada, its inability to use effectively such guns as it had, and to secure sufficient amunition for them, cost it a great deal more.’
“ You, young gentlemen, in preparing for active service should seek the best equipment possible, but remember that ‘ fitness to win ’ is indicated not by mere superiority in heavy guns, but by the ability to use effectively such guns as you have.”