Preaching in London

[From 1916 to 1920 the writer was Minister of the City Temple, in London, following the Reverend R. J. Campbell. His ministry was not intended to be permanent, but was undertaken as a kind of unofficial ambassadorship of good-will from the churches of America to the churches of Britain, and as an adventure in Anglo-American friendship. It was a great privilege to stand at the cross-roads of the centuries at such a time, a teacher of Christian faith and an interpreter of the spirit and genius of our country to the motherland. The following pages, from a diary kept during those years of the great war and the little peace, record observations, impressions, and reflections, of men, women, and movements, of actors still on the stage of affairs, of issues still unsettled, and events that seem to have more than a passing meaning, and of beauty-spots in one of the loveliest lands on earth.

Of the necessity of the friendship of English-speaking peoples I am still convinced; but the possibility of it is not so manifest as it seemed to be. Once I discussed this matter with the most picturesque statesman of England over the tea-cups; and to my suggestion that America should have a tea-hour for relaxation from the strain and hurry of its life, he replied: ‘But, remember: we offered you tea once and you would not take it!’ His thought was that what Britons and Americans need is ‘a smoking-room acquaintance ’ — something to break the stiffness and formality, and enable them to mingle in freedom and fellowship. No doubt; but great nations cannot meet in a smoking-room, and in this instance their ignorance of each other is appalling. Still, if each one who journeys from one country to the other is an ambassador of good-will, the sum of our efforts will be felt at last.

Once more I wish to express my deep gratitude for the cordial and fraternal reception everywhere accorded me in England, Scotland, and Wales, and to renew the hope that, when the irritation and confusion of war and reaction have passed away, the two great English-speaking peoples may be drawn into an intelligent and enduring friendship.]

May 17, 1917. — London! If I had been set down here from anywhere, or from nowhere, I should have known that it is ‘ye olde London town,’ where

all things turn to the left, as they do in the Inferno of Dante. And how quiet! Compared with the din of New York, or the hideous nightmare of the Chicago loop, London is as quiet as a country village. There are no sky-scrapers to be seen, but the picture spread out like a panorama from Primrose Hill is not to be forgotten. Slowly it works its ancient spell, — equally on long sundrenched afternoons, and on those pensive evenings of not insistent rain, — everywhere the hauntings of history, everywhere the stir and throb of history in the making. From a low, dim sky a gentle rain was falling when I arrived, and a soft wind, burdened with a damp fragrance, came as a delicate promise of the purity at the heart of things. Along the aloof avenues of the rich, and the drab streets of the poor, that little wind wandered, like a breath of God bringing a sudden tenderness and sad beauty to an imaginative soul. At such times the essential spirit of London is revealed, — its mysterious promise of half-hidden things becoming almost palpable, — and I feel strangely at home in its quiet excitement, its vivid stimulations, and its thousand evocative appeals. London has seen war before; it is a very old city, weary with much experience, and willing to forgive much because it understands much.

Yes, it is London; but the question is, Which London is it? For there are many Londons — the London of the Tower and the Abbey, of Soho and the Strand, of Downing Street and Whitechapel, of Piccadilly and Leicester Square. There is the London of Whittington and his Cat, of Goody Twoshoes and the Canterbury Shades, of Shakespeare and Chatterton, of Nell Gwynne and Dick Steele — aye, the London of all that is bizarre in history and strange in romance. They are all here, in this gigantic medley of past and present, of misery and magnificence. Sometimes, for me, it is hard to know which holds closest, the London of fiction or the London of fact, or the London of literature, which is a blending of both. Anyway, as I see it, Goldsmith carouses with Tom Jones, and Harry Fielding discusses philosophy with the Vicar of Wakefield; Nicholas Nickleby makes bold to speak to Mr. W. M. Thackeray, and to ask his favor in behalf of a poor artist of the name of Turner; and ‘Boz,’ as he passes through Longacre, is tripped up by the Artful Dodger, and falls into the arms of St. Charles Lamb on his way to call on Lady Beatrix Esmond. No doubt my London is in large part a dream, but it is most enchanting.

May 20. — Attended the King’s Weigh House Church to-day, — made famous by Dr. Binney, — and heard Dr. Orchard preach. He is an extraordinary preacher, of vital mind, of authentic insight, and of challenging personality. From an advanced liberal position he has swung toward the Free Catholicism, and by an elaborate use of symbols is seeking to lead men by the sacramental approach to the mystical experience. Only a tiny wisp of a man, seldom have I heard a preacher more searching, more aglow with the divine passion. He does not simply kindle the imagination: he gives one a vivid sense of reality. He has a dangerous gift of humor, which often sharpens into satire, but he uses it as a whip of cords to drive sham out of the temple. He said that preaching in the Anglican Church ‘is really worse than necessary,’ and he was sure that in reordination it is not enough for the bishop to lay his hands on the preacher; the servant-girl and the tram-driver ought also to add their consecration. With his face alight he cried, ‘You need Christ, and I can give Him to you.’ Surely that is the ultimate grace of the pulpit. It recalled the oft-repeated record in the Journal of Wesley, in respect to the companies to whom he preached: ‘I gave them Christ.’ It was not merely an offer: it was a sacrament of communication.

How beautiful is the spirit of reverence which pervades an English church service, in contrast with the too free and informal air of our American worship. The sense of awe, of quiet, of yearning prayer, so wistfully poignant in these days, makes an atmosphere most favorable to inspiration and insight. It makes preaching a different thing. In intellectual average and moral passion there is little difference between English and American preaching, but the emphasis is different. The English preacher seeks to educate and edify his people in the fundamentals of their faith and duty; the American preacher is more intent upon the application of religion to the affairs of the moment. The Englishman goes to church, as to a house of ancient mystery, to forget the turmoil of the world, to be refreshed in spirit, to regain the great backgrounds of life, against which to see the problems of the morrow. It has been said that the distinctive note of the American pulpit is vitality; of the English pulpit, serenity. Perhaps each has something to learn from the other.

May 27. — No man may ever hope to receive a warmer welcome than was accorded me upon my return to the City Temple, and it was needed. Something like panic seized me, perhaps because I did not realize the burden I was asked to bear until I arrived at the Temple. Putting on the pulpit gown of Joseph Parker was enough to make a young man nervous, but I made the mistake of looking through a peep-hole which he had cut in the vestry door, the better to see the size of his audiences. The Temple was full clean back to the ‘Rocky Mountains,’ as the top gallery is called — a sea of faces in the area, and clouds of faces above. It was terrifying. Pacing the vestry floor in my distress, I thought of all the naughty things the English people are wont to say about American speakers — how we talk through the nose, and the like. My sermon, and almost my wits, began to leave me. There was a vase of flowers on the vestry desk, and in the midst of my agony, as I bent over it to enjoy the fragrance, I saw a dainty envelope tucked down in it. Lifting it out. I saw that it was addressed to me, and, opening it, this is what I read: —

Welcome! God bless you. We have not come to criticize, but to pray for you and pray with you. — THE CITY TEMPLE CHURCH.

At once all my nervousness was forgotten; and if that day was a victory, it was due, not to myself, but to those who knew that I was a stranger in a strange land, and whose good-will made me feel at home in a Temple made mellow by the richness of its experience, like an old violin which remembers all the melodies it has heard.

May 28. — Every day, almost anywhere, one sees a little tragedy of the war. Here is an example. Scene I: a tube train standing at Blackfriars Station. Enter a tired-looking man with a ’cello in its cumbrous case. He sinks heavily into a seat and closes his eyes. People passing stumble against his instrument and are, in about equal numbers, apologetic, annoyed, and indifferent. Enter a tall New Zealander. He sits opposite the tired ’cellist, and looks lovingly at the instrument. Scene II: the same, four stations west. The New Zealander rises to leave the car. The musician looks up, and his eyes meet those of the soldier. The latter smiles faintly, trying to be light-hearted, and pointing to the ’cello-case, says: ‘No more of that for me. It was my favorite instrument.’ He goes out, and the ’cellist sees that his right sleeve is empty. He flushes slightly and, after a moment, blows his nose defiantly, looking round furtively to see if anyone has had the indecency to notice his emotion. No one has.

June 4. — Went down to-day to see White Horse Hill, near Uffington, and lay for hours on the June grass near the head of that huge horse carved in the chalk. What a superb panorama of Southern, Western, and Midland shires lay spread out, with the Hampshire and Wiltshire downs to the south, clipped out on the skyline. Just below is the vale of White Horse, which Michael Drayton, no mean judge of such matters, held to be the queen of English vales. The great creating tide of summer is nearing its zenith. Everything is brimming over with sap, scent, and song. Yet one is conscious of the infinitely old all around, of the remote and legendary. The Horse himself, for instance — who cut him out of the turf? When? To what heroic or religious end? There is nothing to tell us. How different Nature is in a land where man has mingled his being with hers for countless generations; where every field is steeped in history and every crag is ivied with legend. Such places give me a strange sense of kinship with the dead, who were not as we are; the ‘long, long dead, the men who knew not life in towns, and felt no strangeness in sun and wind and rain.’ Uffington Castle, with its huge earth walls and ditches, is near by. Perhaps the men of the Stone Age fortified it. Perhaps King Alfred fought the Danes there. Nobody knows, and a day in June is no time to investigate. But what is that faint, rhythmic throb? The guns in France! June 9. — Spent yesterday afternoon and evening at the country house of Lord and Lady M—, with an oddly assorted group of journalists, labor leaders, socialists, radicals, conservatives, moderates, and what not. It was a rainbow club, having all colors of opinion, and yet, as Carlyle said of his talk with Sterling, ‘except in opinion not disagreeing.’ They discussed many matters, formally on the lawn, or informally in groups, with freedom, frankness, and thoroughness. They were not afraid of names or labels. They cracked the nut of every kind of idea and got the kernel. The war, of course, was a topic, but more often the background of other topics, in the light and shadow of which many issues were discussed, such as Ireland, AngloAmerican relations, industrial democracy, socialism, religion, and the like. The Government was mercilessly criticized — not merely abused, but dealt with intelligently, with constructive suggestion, and all in good spirit. Try to imagine such discussions at a dinnertable on Fifth Avenue.

It was a revelation to me, showing that there is more freedom of thought in England than in America. Liberty, in fact, means a different thing in England from what it does with us. In England it signifies the right to think, feel, and act differently from other people; with us it is the right to develop according to a standardized attitude of thought or conduct. If one deviates from that standard, he is scourged into line by the lash of opinion. We think in a kind of lock-step movement. Nor is this conformity imposed from without. It is inherent in our social growth and habit. An average American knows tens times as many people as the average Englishman, and talks ten times as much. We are gregarious; we gossip; and because everyone knows the affairs of everyone else, we are afraid of one another. For that reason, even in time of peace, public opinion moves with a regimented ruthlessness unknown in England, where the majority has no such arrogant tyranny as it has with us.

June 11. — More than once recently I have heard Dr. Forsyth lecture, and I am as much puzzled by his speaking as I have long been by his writing. Each time I found myself interested less in his thesis than in the curiously involved processes of his mind. It is now several years since I read his famous article on ‘The Lust for Lucidity,’ a vice, if it is a vice, of which his worst enemy, if he has an enemy, would never think of accusing him. It is indeed strange. I have read everything Dr. Forsyth has written about the Cross, and yet I have no idea of what he means by it. As was said of Newman, his single sentences are lucid, often luminous, — many of them, indeed, glittering epigrams, — but the total result is a fog, like a Scottish mist hovering over Mount Calvary. One recalls the epigram of Erasmus about the divines of his day, that ‘ they strike the fire of subtlety from the flint of obscurity.’ Just when one expects Dr. Forsyth to extricate his thought, he loses himself in the mystic void of evangelical emotion. But perhaps it is my fault. When he writes on other subjects — on literature and art, especially — he is as inspiring as he is winsome.

June 14. — To-day was a soft, hazy day, such as one loves in London; and suddenly, at noon, there was a rain of air-raid bombs. The explosions were deafening. Houses trembled, windows rattled or were shattered — and it was all over. Throngs of people soon filled the streets, grave, silent, excited, but with no signs of panic. Quickly ambulances were moving hither and yon. Not far from the City Temple I saw a cordon formed by police joining hands at the doorway of a shattered house, as the dead and mutilated — one little girl with her leg blown off — were being cared for. Calm good-nature prevailed. Officials were courteous and firm. Everybody was kind, helpful, practical. Even the children, darting to and fro, seemed not to be flustered at all. I find it difficult to describe, much less to analyze, my own reaction. I seemed to be submerged in a vast, potent tide of emotion, — neither fear, nor anger, nor excitement, — in which my will floated like a tiny boat on a sea. There was an unmistakable current of thought, how engendered and how acting I know not; but I was inside it and swept along by it. While my mind was alert, my individuality seemed to abdicate in favor of something greater than itself. I shall never forget the sense of unity and fusion of purpose, a wave of common humanity, which drew us all together in a trustful and direct comradeship.

June 18. — Met H. G. Wells at lunch to-day, his invitation being a response to my sermon on his book, God, the Invisible King. He entered with a jigging sort of gait, perspiring profusely, — in fact, doing everything profusely, — all fussed up about the heat, saying that he feared it would exterminate him. In personal appearance he is not distinguished, except his eyes, where one divines the strength of the man. Eager, friendly, companionable, his talk, thinly uttered, is not unlike his writing — vivid, stimulating, at times all-questioning. Just now he is all aglow with his discovery of God, ‘the happy God of the heart,’ to use his words. He looked surprised when I suggested that he had found what the Bible means by the Holy Spirit, as if he had thought his discovery entirely new. What if this interesting man, — whose genius is like a magic mirror reflecting what is in the minds of men before they are aware of it themselves, — so long a member of the Sect of Seekers, should join the Fellowship of the Finders. Stranger things have happened, but his rushing into print with his discovery fills me with misgiving. The writing man is an odd species, but I recall the saying of the Samoan chief to the missionary: ‘We know that at night Some One goes by among the trees, but we never speak of it.’ Anyway, we had a nutritious time.

Two ministers have just told me how, at a meeting of ministers some time ago, which they attended, a resolution was offered, and nearly passed, to the effect that not one of them would darken the doors of the City Temple during my ministry. My visitors told it with shame, confessing that they, too, had been prejudiced against me as an American. It recalled how, thirty years ago, when Dr. John Hall was called to the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, New York, he received a letter from an American friend saying, ‘You will find a prejudice against you in the minds of some of the smaller men here. It is natural that they should feel slighted by a call being given to you, a foreigner, which to some extent will be strengthened by the prejudice against Irishmen in particular.’ Evidently human nature is much the same on both sides of the sea; but that was long ago, and our two countries were not then allies in the great war. I do not recall that in recent years any British minister working in America — of whom there are many, but not half enough — has had to face such a feeling.

July 18. — Joined the Bishop of London at luncheon with the Lord Mayor at the Mansion House, and he was much interested in the ministry of my colleague, Miss Maude Royden. The two grave questions in his mind seemed to be, first, docs she actually stand in the pulpit where I stand when I preach? second, does she wear a hat? If I had to wear the gaiters of the Bishop of London, I should be concerned, not about Miss Royden’s hat, but about what she is doing with the brains under her hat. Like John Wesley, she may remain all her days in the Anglican fold, but she will be there only in her private capacity, and her influence will be centrifugal. The Bishop, moreover, though his foresight is not abnormal, ought to suspect the existence of the forces gathering about the greatest woman preacher of our generation outside his jurisdiction.

Had he been wise, instead of leaving her to consort with feminists, intellectuals, and social revolutionaries outside the church, he would have set her the task of bringing them inside. As it is, the little dark woman in the big white pulpit is a note of interrogation to the future of the Church of England, and the sign of its failure to meet a great movement; but the Bishop can see nothing but her hat!

Frail of figure, slight unspeakably, with a limp in her gait, as a speaker Miss Royden is singularly effective in her simplicity and directness. There is no shrillness in her eloquence, no impression of strain. In style conversational rather than oratorical, she speaks with the inevitable ease of long practice. Some of her epigrams are unforgettable in their quick-sighted summing up of situations; as when she said recently in the Royal Albert Hall: ‘The Church of England is the Conservative Party at prayer.’ She is an authority on all matters pertaining to woman and child, holding much the same position in England that Miss Jane Addams has long held in America. Untrained in theology, — which some hold to be an advantage, — she deals with the old issues of faith as an educated, spiritually minded woman in sensitive contact with life, albeit casting aside the ‘muffled Christianity’ that Wells once described as the religion of the well-to-do classes. Not the least important part of her work is what I call her ‘clinic’; her service as guide, confidant, and friend to hundreds of women, and as confessor to not a few. Here she does what no man may ever hope to do, doubly so at a time when England is a world of women who are entering upon a life new, strange, and difficult. As she remains a loyal Anglican, at least, we are giving an example of that Christian unity of which we hear so much and see so little.

July 20.—How childish people can be, especially Britishers and Americans when they begin to compare the merits and demerits of their respective lands. Each contrasts what is best in his country with what is worst in the other, and both proceed upon the idea that difference is inferiority. It would be amusing, if it were not so stupid. One sees so much of it, now that our troops are beginning to arrive in small detachments, and it is so important that contacts should be happy. As it is, Americans and Englishmen look at each other askance, like distant cousins who have a dim memory that they once played and fought together, and are not sure that they are going to be friends. Both are thin-skinned, but their skins are thick and thin in different spots, and it takes time and tact to learn the spots. Each says the wrong thing at the right time. Our men are puzzled at the reticence of the English, mistaking it for snobbishness or indifference. The English are irritated at the roars of laughter that our boys emit when they see the diminutive ‘goods’ trains and locomotives, and speak of England as if they were afraid to turn around lest they fall into the sea. Among the early arrivals were a few, more talkative than wise, who said that, England having failed, it was ‘up to America to do the trick.’ They were only a few, but they did harm. Alas, all of us will be wiser before the war is over. If only we can keep our senses, especially our sense of humor. But there is the rub, since neither understands the jokes of the other, regarding them as insults. Americans and Scotchmen understand each other quickly and completely, no doubt because their humor is more alike. We shall see what we shall see.

This friction and criticism actually extend to preaching. The other day I heard an American preach in the morning, a Scotchman in the afternoon, and an Englishman in the evening. It was most interesting, and the differences of accent and emphasis were very striking. The American was topical and oratorical, the Scotchman expository and analytical, the Englishman polished and persuasive. After the evening service a dear old Scotchman confided to me that no Englishman had ever preached a real sermon in his life, and that the sermon to which we had just listened would be resented by a village congregation in Scotland. On my objecting that there are great preachers in England, he insisted that ‘an Englishman either reads an essay, or he talks nonsense; and neither of these is preaching.’ As a rule, a good English sermon is, if not an essay, at least of the essay type; but the Scotchman exaggerated. When I made bold to ask him what he thought of American preaching, with a twinkle in his eye he quoted the words of Herbert:

’Do not grudge
To pick treasures out of an earthen pot.
The worst speaks something good: if all want sense,
God takes a text, and preacheth patience.'

Not wishing to tempt providence, I did not press the matter; but we did agree, diplomatically, that neither type of preaching is what it ought to be. The people are not. astonished at the teaching, as of old, nor do the rulers tremble with rage.

July 24. — Had a delightful chat over a chop with Sir Gilbert Parker, and a good ’row’ about Henry James. When I called James’s renunciation of his American for British citizenship an apostasy, my host was ’wicked’ enough to describe it as an apotheosis. It was in vain that I argued that James was not a true cosmopolitan, else he would have been at home anywhere, even in his own country. The talk then turned to the bad manners of the two countries, ours being chiefly diplomatic, theirs literary. Indeed, if one takes the trouble to read what Englishmen have written about America, — from the days long gone when they used to venture across the Atlantic to enlighten us with lectures in words of one syllable, to the days of Dickens, and how Britishers have gone sniffing their way through America, finding everything wrong because un-English, — it is a wonder there has not been war every five years. This attitude of supercilious and thinly veiled contempt has continued until it has hardened into a habit. Nor could we recall any books written in America in ridicule of England. Meanwhile, our diplomatic atrocities have been outrageous. Such antics and attitudes, we agreed, would make friendship impossible between individuals, and they demand an improvement in manners, as well as in morals, on both sides. In the midst of the question whether WattsDunton saved Swinburne or extinguished him, there was an air-raid warning — and so we reached no conclusion.

July 27. — Received the following letter from a City Temple boy in the trenches: —

The luck is all on your side; you still believe in things. Good for you. It is topping, if one can do it. But war is such a devil’s nursery. I got knocked over, but I am up and at it again. I’m tough. They started toughening me the first day. My bayonet instructor was an ex-pug, just the man to develop one’s innate chivalry. They hung out the bunting and gave me a big send-off, when we came out here to scatter the Hun’s guts. Forgive me writing so. I know you will forgive me, but who will forgive God? Not I — not I! This war makes me hate God. I don’t know whether He is the God of battles and enjoys the show, as He is said to have done long ago. ... If so, there are smoking holocausts enough to please Him in No Man’s Land. But, anyway, He let it happen! Omnipotent! and — He let it happen! Omniscient! Knew it in advance, and let it happen! I hate Him. You are kinder to me than God has been. Good-bye.

The religious reactions of men under the pressure and horror of war are often terrifying. The general rule— to which, of course, there are many exceptions both ways — is that those who go in pious, with a kind of traditional piety, come out hard and indifferent, and sometimes militantly skeptical; while those who were careless emerge deeply serious— religious, but hardly Christian, with a primitive pantheism mixed with fatalism. Many, to be sure, are confirmed in a mood such as haunts the stories of Conrad, in which the good and bad alike sink into a ’vast indifference,’or the mood of Hardy, in whom pessimism is mitigated by pity. Others fall back upon the ‘hard, unyielding despair’ of Russell, and their heroism fills me with awe. Huxley, I know, thought the great Force that rules the universe a force to be fought, and he was ready to fight it. It may be magnificent, but it is not war. The odds are so uneven, the fight so futile. And still others have learned, at last, the meaning of the Cross.

(In the interval between these two entries, I went along the war-front, as a guest of the British Government; and after spending some time speaking to the troops, returned to America. I discovered an amazing America, the like of which no one had ever seen, or even imagined, before. Everywhere one heard the sound of marching, marching, marching; and I, who had just seen what they were marching into, watched it all with an infinite ache in my heart. Hardly less terrifying was the blend of alarm, anger, hate, knight-errantry, hysteria, idealism, cynicism, moralistic fervor and plain bafflement, which made up the war-mood of America. One felt the altruism and inhumanity, the sincerity and sheer brutishness lurking under all our law and order, long sleeked over by prosperity and ease, until we were scarcely aware of it. From New York to Iowa, from Texas to Boston I went to and fro, telling our people what the war was like; after which I returned to England.)

October 24. — Joined a group of Free Church ministers at a private breakfast given by the Prime Minister at No. 10 Downing Street. It was the most extraordinary function I have ever attended, as much for its guests as for its host. Mr. Lloyd George spoke to us for more than an hour, and we saw him at close quarters in the intimacy of a self-revelation most disarming. What a way he has of saying, by the lifting of an eyebrow, by the shrug of the shoulders, by a gesture in a pause, volumes more than his words fell. He feels that his Free Church brethren are estranged, and he wished to explain matters and set himself right. His address was very adroit, but one felt a suggestion of cunning even in his candor, despite a winning smile. He talked like a man in a cage, telling how he was unable to do many things he would like to do. As he spoke, one realized the enormous difficulties of a man in his place, — the pull and tug of diverse interests, — his incredible burdens, and the vast issues with which he must deal. No wonder time has powdered his hair almost white, and cut deep lines in his face. Behind him hung a full-length painting of Pitt, and I thought of the two together, each leading his country in an hour of supreme crisis. I thought him worthy of such company, — though hardly in the Gladstone tradition, — a man of ideas rather than of principles, with more of the mysterious force of genius than either Pitt or Peel, but lacking something of the eternal fascination of Disraeli. Such men are usually regarded as half-charlatan and halfprophet, and the Prime Minister does not escape that estimate.

At the close of the address there was a disposition to heckle the Prime Minister, during which he learned that Nonconformity had been estranged to some extent — and he also learned why. One of the urgent questions before the country is an actual choice between Bread and Beer, and the Government has been unable, apparently, to decide. The food-hogging brewery interests seem to be sovereign, and the Prime Minister is tied — too willingly, perhaps. When asked why, unlike President Wilson, he avoids the use of the word God in his addresses, I thought his reply neat. It is done deliberately, he said, lest he seem to come into competition with the blasphemous moothings of the German Emperor. His final plea was that, as Britain must bear the brunt of the war until America is ready, — as Russia bore it until Britain was ready, — she must muster all her courage, her patience, and her moral fortitude.

As I left the house, a group of lynxeyed, sleuth-like press-men — good fellows, all — waylaid and assailed me for some hint of the meaning of such a gathering; but I was dumb. They were disappointed, saying that ‘after a minister has had breakfast with the Prime Minister he ought to be a well-primed minister’; but as I declined to be pumped, they let me go. When the supply of truth is not equal to the demand, the temptation is to manufacture, and speculations in the afternoon papers as to the significance of the breakfast were amazing. It was called ‘A Parson’s Peace,’ in which the Prime Minister had called a prayer-meeting to patch up a peace with the enemy — which is about as near as some journals ever arrive at the truth.

November 6. — Under cover of a dense fog — a dirty apron which Mother Nature flung over us to hide us from the air-raiders — I went down last night into Essex, to preach in a village chapel for a brother who is discouraged in his work. I found the chapel hidden away on a back street, telling of a time when these little altars of faith and liberty dared not show themselves on the main street of a town. It was named Bethesda, bringing to mind the words of Disraeli, in Sybil, where he speaks of ‘ little plain buildings of pale brick, with names painted on them of Zion, Bethel, Bethesda; names of a distant land, and the language of a persecuted and ancient race; yet such is the mysterious power of their divine quality, breathing consolation in the nineteenth century to the harassed forms and harrowed souls of a Saxon peasantry.’ Nor is that all. They have been the permanent fountains of religious life on this island; and, in any grand reunion of the Church hereafter to be realized, their faith, their patience, their heroic tenacity to principle must be conserved, else something precious will perish. Tribute is paid to the folk of the Mayflower for their daring of adventure in facing an unknown continent for the right to worship; but no less heroic were the men who remained in the homeland, fighting, suffering, and waiting for the freedom of faith and the liberty of prayer.

November 10. — So, at last, it is decided that we are to be rationed as to bread, sugar, and fats of all kinds, and everybody must have a coupon. It is a democratic arrangement, since all will share equally as long as the supply lasts. Unfortunately the Truth has been rationed for a long time, and no coupons are to be had. It is a war fought in the dark by a people fed on lies. One recalls the line in the Iliad, which might have been written this morning: ‘We mortals hear only the news, and know nothing at all.’ No one wishes to publish information which would be of aid to the enemy; but that obvious precaution is made the convenient cover of every kind of stupidity and inefficiency.

Propaganda is the most terrible weapon so far developed by the war. It is worse than poison gas. If the wind is in the right direction, gas may kill a few and injure others; but the possibilities of manipulating the public mind, by withholding or discoloring the facts, are appalling. One is so helpless in face of it. No one can think intelligently without knowing the facts; and if the facts are controlled by interested men, the very idea of democracy is destroyed and becomes a farce. This, and the prostitution of parliamentary government in every democratic land, are the two dangers of a political kind most to be dreaded.

November 17. — Dean Inge, of St. Paul’s, is one of the greatest minds on this island, and an effective preacher if one forgets the manner and attends to the matter of his discourse. An aristocrat by temper, he is a pessimist in philosophy and a Christian mystic in faith — what a combination! If not actually a pessimist, he is at least a Cassandra, and we need one such prophet, if no more, in every generation. No wonder he won the title of ‘the gloomy Dean.’ Without wasting a word, in a style as incisive as his thought, — clear, keen-cutting, — he sets forth the truth as he sees it, careless as to whether it is received or not. There is no unction in his preaching; no pathos. It is cold intellect, with never a touch of tenderness. Nor is he the first gloomy Dean of St. Paul’s. There was Donne, a mighty preacher in his day, though known now chiefly as a poet, whom Walton described as ‘enticing others by a sacred art and courtship to amend their lives.’ Yet surely the theology of Donne was terrifying rather than enticing. There is very little of the poet in Dean Inge, and none of the dismal theology of Donne, who was haunted equally by the terrors of hell and by the horrors of physical decay in death.

December 1. — The British Army is before Jerusalem! What an item of news, half dream-like in its remoteness, half romantic in its reality. What echoes it awakens in our hearts, evoking we know not how many memories of the old, high, holy legend of the world! Often captured, often destroyed, that gray old city still stands, like the faith of which it is the emblem, because it is founded upon a rock. If Rome is the Eternal City, Jerusalem is the City of the Eternal. Four cities may be said to stand out in the story of man as centres of the highest life of the race, and about them are gathered the vastest accumulations of history and of legend: Jerusalem, Athens, Rome, and London! But no city can have the same place in the spiritual geography of mankind that Jerusalem has. For four thousand years it has been an altar and a confessional of the race. Religiously, it is the capital of the world, if only because Jesus walked in it and wept over it. O Jerusalem, if we forget thee, Athens fails, Rome fails, London fails! Without the faith and vision that burned in the city on Mount Moriah, our race will lose its way in the dim country of this world. Berlin does not mean much. Jerusalem means everything. If only we could agree that, hereafter, when we have disagreements, we will make our way to the ancient City of God, and arbitrate them!