The War and the Churches/Chapter II
CHRISTIANITY AND WAR
The day will come when the student of human development will find war one of the most remarkable institutions that ever entered and quitted history. Civilisation took it over from barbarism; barbarism from the savage; the savage from the beast. So we are accustomed to argue, but we must make a singular reservation. The lowest peoples of the human family, which seem to represent primitive man, do not wage war, and are little addicted to violence. They seem by some process of natural selection to have obtained the social quality of peacefulness and mutual aid. There was, in a sense, a stage of primitive innocence. As, however, these primitive peoples grew in numbers and were organised in tribes, as they obtained collective possessions—flocks and pastures and hunting grounds—they came into collision with each other, and all the old pugnacity of the beast awoke. Skill, and even ferocity, in war became a valuable social quality, and we get the stage of the savage. The barbarian, or the man between savagery and civilisation, was still compelled to fight for his possessions. He was usually surrounded by fierce savage tribes. The civilised man in turn was surrounded by savages and barbarians, and needed to fight. So through thousands of years of development of moral sentiment and legal procedure the primitive method of the beast has been preserved.
But I am not writing a history of warfare, and need not describe these stages more closely, or examine the new sentiment of imperialist expansion which gave civilisations a fresh incentive to develop methods of warfare. The point of interest is to determine at what stage it might have been possible for the moral element to intervene and bid the warriors, in the name of humanity, lay down their arms; at what stage the tribunal which men had set up to adjudicate between the quarrels of individuals might have been enlarged so as to be capable of arbitrating on the quarrels of nations.
Now this was plainly impossible in the early centuries of the present era, and it is therefore foolish to ask why Pagan moralists did not do what we expect Christian moralists to have done. I have already mentioned, and have fully described elsewhere, how humanitarian sentiments were generally diffused throughout the old Græco-Roman world. There is not a phrase of the New Testament which has not a parallel among the Jews, the Egyptians, the Greeks, and the Romans. The great fusion of peoples in the Roman Empire begot a feeling of brotherhood, and, by a natural reaction on years of vice and violence, there was a considerable growth of lofty and tender, and often impracticable, sentiments. Moralists urged men to avoid anger, to bear blows with dignity, to greet all men as brothers, even to love their enemies. Plato and Epictetus and Plutarch and Seneca and Marcus Aurelius urged these maxims as forcibly as Christ did. The Stoic religion or philosophy, which guided Emperors and lawyers, and had a very wide influence in the Roman world, was intensely and quite modernly humanitarian. Its principal exponents condemned slavery and promoted a remarkable spread of philanthropy.
It was, however, not possible for the Stoics to condemn war. Some of the more ardent and less practical humanitarians of the time did this, but no alert Roman citizen could advocate the abolition of the legions. The Empire was completely surrounded by barbarians who would rush in and trample on its civilisation the moment the fence of spears was removed. From the turreted walls in the north of England, where men watched the Picts and Scots, to the deserts of Mesopotamia—from the banks of the Danube and Rhine to the spurs of the Atlas—it was essential to maintain those bronzed legions who guarded the civilised provinces from marauders. With those outlying barbarians no treaty was possible or sacred; no legal tribunal would have protected those frontiers from the men who looked covetously on the fertile fields and comfortable cities of the Roman provinces. From the first to the fourth century Rome fought, not for its expansion, but for its preservation against these increasing enemies; and it was the final intensification of the pressure in the Danube region by the arrival of enormous hordes of barbarians from Asia which precipitated the final catastrophe. Paganism had never the slightest opportunity to abandon the military system, and only those who are totally unacquainted with Roman history can wonder why it did not make the attempt. It would have been a crime to abandon the civilised provinces to barbarism.
This was the essential position of the Roman Empire: the civil wars of the fourth century, by which its military system was abused, need not be considered here. And the student of history must recognise with equal candour that the new Christianity, which succeeded Paganism in the fourth and fifth centuries, was equally powerless to abolish warfare. What we may justly blame is that the triumphant Christianity of the fourth century did not merely sanction the use of arms in defence of civilisation; it employed them in its own interest. The earlier Christians had exasperated the Romans by refusing to bear arms in the service of the Empire, plain as the need was. To a slight extent this was due to an aversion from the shedding of blood; for the most part military service was refused because it was saturated with Pagan rites. When the Empire became Christian, this objection was removed, and the Christians freely entered the army. Unhappily, the Christian body deteriorated with the new prosperity and base instincts were indulged. It is an undoubted historical fact, recorded by St. Jerome himself, that the election of Pope Damasus, his friend and benefactor, was accompanied by bloody and fatal riots. From undoubted historical sources we know that the Christian mob compelled the Prefect of Rome to fly from the city, and there is very serious evidence (in a document written by two Roman priests) that Damasus employed the swords and staves of his supporters to secure his position. Damasus and subsequent Popes then obtained or sanctioned the use of the Roman soldiers for the suppression of heresy and schism and Paganism, and Christianity was installed by violence throughout the Empire. In the Eastern Roman Empire things were even worse. Violence became the customary device in the seething religious quarrels of the time, and, literally, tens of thousands lost their lives. The Byzantine or Greek Christianity entered upon a record of crime and violence which disgraced it for many centuries.
This development did not augur well for the application of Christian principles to warfare. We may, however, observe at once that for many centuries the Roman Church had not the slightest chance of establishing peace in Europe. The destruction of the Roman Empire and disbanding of its armies made an entirely new situation in Italy. The Popes were, for the most part, good men, but they did not dream at that time of controlling the counsels of kings and dictating affairs of State. Even the story of Pope Leo the Great overawing the King of the Huns, Attila, and turning his army away from Italy, is a mere legend of medieval writers, and is at variance with the nearer authorities. The northern tribes themselves were to a great extent, and for some centuries, of the Arian faith, and took no advice from Rome. In a word, it would be stupid to expect Christian leaders of the early Middle Ages to press the cause of peace. The northern peoples, who would in time form the nations of Europe, were essentially violent and warlike, and would have recognised no pacific counsels in that imperfect stage of their religious development.
Where the historian may and must censure the Church is in its adoption of militarism for its own purposes. Pope Gregory the Great found Italy in a chaotic and pitiful condition, and no doubt he acted, on the whole, rightly in organising its military defence. The more serious circumstance was that he began to receive immense estates, as gifts or legacies, in all parts of Italy as the property of the Roman Church, and from that time either a Papal army or the employment of the army of some friendly monarch was necessary in order to protect these estates. With the confirmation and consolidation of these estates into a kingdom under Charlemagne in the ninth century the Papacy completed its moral aberration. Most of the Popes were still men of good character, and they no doubt persuaded themselves that, since the income of these estates was needed for the fulfilment of their spiritual task, it was proper to defend them by the sword. But casuistry of this kind has never prospered indefinitely, and few historians will doubt that this temporal development led directly to that degradation of the Papacy which rendered it unfit to exercise moral influence on Europe. The Papacy became a princedom to attract the covetous and the ambitious, and the line of Popes sank so low by the tenth century that the grossest characters were able to occupy the chair of Peter at a time when the nations of Europe were sufficiently advanced to be susceptible of a sincere moral influence. The record of the Papacy, from the ninth century to the nineteenth, contains on almost every page a bloody struggle for the temporal power. The most religious and most eminent of the Popes, such as Gregory VII and Innocent III, were the most prompt to set in motion the machinery of war in defence of their territories or in punishment of rebels against their authority. Not one of them was in a position to bid kings disband their armies, or ever dreamed of enjoining them to do more than observe a few days' truce or keep their swords from each other in order to save them for the common enemy of Christendom.
It would be useless to speculate about the date when the new nations of Europe had become sufficiently civilised to hear a gospel of peace. The idea of superseding the military system of Europe by a juridical system occurred to no Christian leader, and therefore we need not consider what prospect it might have had of realisation. The Christian gospel of meekness had become a mockery: even the great abbeys, in which the gentler and more religious were supposed to be immured, had their troops, and abbots and bishops, and very often Papal Legates, appeared at the head of armies. Two Popes, John X and Julius II, marched themselves at the head of their troops. Cardinals had their suites of swordsmen, and the castles of the Roman aristocracy were at times strong fortifications from which war of the most ferocious and unscrupulous character was waged. Christendom was steeped in violence; only a gentle saint or bishop here and there caught a futile vision of a world of peace. Every man was armed against possible trouble with his neighbour; every noble had his retainers and kept them well exercised; every prince was free, as far as the spiritual authorities were concerned, to covet and bloodily exact the lands of his neighbour. The noble, of either sex, found supreme delight in jousts which the modern sentiment finds as inhuman as a sordid quarrel of Apaches over a mistress; the peasants found a corresponding pleasure in the play of quarter-staves or the combats of dogs and cocks.
It is, as I said, little use to speculate about the chances of a gospel of humanity in such a world. The overwhelming majority of priests and prelates made no effort whatever to restrain the prevailing violence. The elementary duty of any profound moral agency was to protest without ceasing, even if the protest was unavailing. It is not at all clear that it would have been unavailing. The power of the Popes was beyond that of any other hierarchy known to history, and at least the moral education of Europe would have proceeded less slowly, and war would have been abolished centuries ago, if there had been any serious, collective, and authoritative enforcement of Christian principles. There was not, and to this silence of the clergy during those long ages of their power we owe the maintenance in Europe to-day of the regime of violence. They were so far from enjoying moral inspiration in this respect that they were amongst the first to bless the banners and swell the coffers of an aggressive monarch, and they gave the military system a final consecration by employing it repeatedly in the interests of the Church.
All that one can plead in mitigation of this deep historical censure of the medieval Church is that the frontiers of Christendom were for centuries threatened by the Turk and the Saracen. The old need of protecting civilisation by arms had almost disappeared. Few and feeble peoples remained outside the range of Christian civilisation after the tenth century. Armies were maintained only in the interest of criminal ambition or for the settlement of disputes which ought to have been submitted to judges. The menace of the Turk, with his hostile religion, was, of course, a just ground for armaments, but a few nations generally bore the whole brunt of his onset. Whatever religious feeling may make of the great Crusades, which drew to the east armies from all parts of Europe, secular history must dismiss them as appalling blunders. The few advantages they brought to European culture cannot seriously be weighed against the terrible sacrifice of lives and the even more terrible consecration of militarism. In a word, the menace of the Turk could have been met admirably by such an arrangement as we are advocating in Europe to-day: the maintenance of a small force by each nation for common action, under the direction of a supreme legal tribunal, against nations which would not obey the common law of peace. But we need not seriously discuss the influence of the Turk on the system. The last phases of the struggle, when the selfish nations and the ambitious Papacy spent their time in idle mutual recrimination and left the Hungarians and Poles to do all the work, justify us in dismissing that element. Kings and republics maintained armies for purely selfish purposes, for brutal aggression and defence against aggressors; and not a prelate in Europe had any moral repugnance to the system, or ventured to condemn it, especially as the Church used the same agency in defence of its own temporal interests.
With the development of the Papal power and the advance of the peoples of Europe the opportunity of peace became greater, but the spiritual authority pledged itself more and more deeply to the military system. The Popes aspired—as Gregory VII and Innocent III repeatedly state—to control the temporal as well as the spiritual affairs of Europe, to transfer crowns when they thought fit, to direct invasions and military expeditions against any who questioned their authority. Hildebrand boasts (Ep. vii, 23) that, when William of Normandy sent envoys to ask Pope Alexander to sanction his unscrupulous invasion of England, and the Papal Court was itself too sensible of the enormity to give its sanction, he (Hildebrand) overbore the wavering Pope and forced him to bless the enterprise; and, when he had in his turn mounted the Papal throne, he vehemently claimed that his action had made England a fief for ever of the Holy See! Gregory VII and Innocent III are the two greatest and most sincerely religions of the medieval Popes, and they carried the power of the Papacy to a height which excites the amazement of the modern historian. But they were at the same time the most militant of the Popes, and on the least provocation they set armies—even the most barbaric and ferocious troops in Europe—in motion to carry out their imperial commands. They arrogated the power of deposing monarchs, and thus encouraged civil war and the ambitions of neighbouring kings.
The rise of heresy and of protests against the corruption of the Papacy was another very grave pretext of the Church to support the military system. In the days of Gregory VII a body of Puritans known as the Patareni spread over the north of Italy, and Rome encouraged a few soldiers to lead armed mobs against them and drown their idealism in blood. Innocent III has a more terrible stigma on his record. The Albigensians, an early type of Protestants, were spreading in the south of France, and the Pope sanctioned a "crusade"—an expedition, largely, of looters and cut-throats—against them from all parts of France. The appalling deceit practised by the Papal Legate and sanctioned by the Pope, the ferocity of the campaign, and the desolation brought on one of the happiest and most prosperous provinces of France, may be read in any history of the thirteenth century. Tens of thousands of men, women, and children were savagely put to death. And this was only the beginning of the Papal war on heresy, which from the thirteenth century never ceased to spring up in Europe until it won its right of citizenship in the Reformation. Even more vehemently was war urged against the Moors, then the most civilised people in Europe.
In face of this notorious history of Europe during the long course of the Middle Ages it is now usual for Catholic apologists to plead that the blood of the barbarian still flowed in the veins of the Christian nations and men were not yet prepared to listen to the message of peace. This plea cannot for a moment be admitted in extenuation of the Church's guilt. The clergy had themselves no conception of the criminality of war, and did not rise above the moral level of their age. Here and there a saint or a prelate raised a feeble voice against the violence of men, but we do not estimate an institution by the words of an occasional member, especially if they are at variance with the official conduct and the general sentiment. On the other hand, to boast that the clergy at times enforced a temporary cessation of fighting (the "Truce of God") only increases our appreciation of their guilt. The men who enforced that Truce gave proof at once of their power and of their perception of the un-Christian nature of warfare. But they were unwilling to condemn outright a machinery which they might employ at any moment in defence or advancement of their own interests. Had the Church been a serious moral influence in Europe, had it been true to the message in virtue of which it had grown rich and powerful, it would have protested unceasingly against this reign of violence. It was not a great moral influence. The grossness and illiteracy of the people, the appalling immorality of the clergy and monks and nuns, and this almost entire failure to apply Christian or ordinary human principles to the worst feature of the life of Europe, are terrible offsets to the little good it achieved. Europe was steadily educated and encouraged, century after century, in the shedding of blood.
The Protestant is at times disposed to dismiss the whole sordid story with the remark that this Roman Church was not Christianity at all. He contrives to overlook the serious difficulty that, if the Roman Church did not represent Christianity from the sixth century to the sixteenth, there was, contrary to the promise of Christ, no Christianity in Europe for a thousand years; and he surrenders all the wonderful art of the Middle Ages (as he ought) to entirely non-Christian forces. That, however, does not concern me here. The slightest recollection of history would warn the Protestant that the Reformation brought no improvement whatever, as far as this reign of violence is concerned. The forces set up by the Reformation and the Counter-Reformation fought each other for some decades with the comparatively peaceful weapons of mutual abuse and heated argument. When it was perceived that these weapons were of no avail, there was the customary appeal to the sword. In the historical documents which tell the life of Pope Paul IV we see the Papacy and the Jesuits urging the Catholic princes to lead out their armies. Heresy was to be extinguished in blood; and, seeing how many millions in the north had by that time embraced the heresy, there can have been no illusion as to the magnitude of the oceans of blood that would be required to drown it. So Europe entered upon the horrors of the Thirty Years' War (1618–1648), which put back the civilisation of Germany for more than a hundred years and utterly ruined some of the small principalities. The population of Bohemia alone fell from three millions to less than a million. Nearly every nation in Europe was involved, and the war was conducted with all the brutality of the older medieval warfare.
The fact that political as well as religious ambitions were engaged in the Thirty Years' War does not affect my argument. In so far as religious sentiment was responsible—and it will hardly be questioned that it had a large share in the Thirty Years' War—we find a fresh consecration by Christianity itself of the use of the sword. But the main point we have to consider is that the new spiritual authorities were no more inclined than the old to declare that warfare was opposed to Christian principles. The last three centuries have been as full of aggressive war as the three centuries which preceded, but there was no protest by Christian ministers either in Protestant England and Scandinavia or in Catholic France and Austria. It was the period when the modern Powers of Europe were building up their vast dominions, and no one who is acquainted with the story can have any illusion as to the application to that process of what are now described as clear Christian principles.
This is precisely the plaint of modern Germany. We seek, they say, to do merely what England and France—it were indiscreet to mention Austria—did in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. They were vigorous peoples with an impulse to expand and to extend their civilisation over backward lands. They appealed solely to the right of the sword, and all the Christian authorities in Europe—the bishops of William and of Anne, the bishops of Louis XIV, the bishops of Peter the Great—had not a single syllable to say against the right of the sword. The various branches of the Christian Church were at that time singularly unanimous in accommodating their principles to imperialist and aggressive warfare. Now that you have obtained all that you need—the aggrieved Teuton says—now that I in turn would expand and colonise, you discover that this imperialist aggression is supremely opposed to Christian principles.On some such meditations, in part, the German bases his conviction of the hypocrisy and perfidy of the English character. He is, of course, entirely wrong. A real change has taken place in the moral sentiment of this country; a change so real that when, in South Africa, the nation entered upon a war which many regarded as aggressive and merely acquisitive, there was a very widespread revolt. The cynic might genially observe that it is not difficult to retire from evil-doing and cultivate lofty principles when your fortune has been made, but it is important to realise this change and understand its significance. There is, no doubt, a sound human element in the cynic's observation. It is easier to recognise moral principle when the period of temptation is over. Every thoughtful and humane Englishman will make allowance for the less fortunate position of Germany, and not foolishly pride himself on his own superiority of character. The fact remains, however, that there has been a real moral improvement in England and France, and it would now be impossible for those nations to enter upon the aggressive and nakedly ambitious wars which they were accustomed to undertake before the nineteenth century. We have a genuine abhorrence of the "lust for land" which has impelled Germany to plunge Europe into war. But until a century or two ago that lust for land was considered a legitimate appetite in Europe, and the clergy crowded with the people to greet the warriors who came home with the news that they had added, by the sword, one more province to our spreading Empire.
That this change of heart is not merely a feeling that we have no further need of aggression, and would ourselves suffer by the aggression of others, could easily be proved, if it were necessary. In the same period of change we abolished the duel, and there was no material advantage in discovering the immorality of the duel. We abolished dog-fighting, cock-fighting, bull-baiting, and other brutalising spectacles. We undertook a reform of our industrial and penal systems which, however imperfect it be, was very considerable in itself, and was inspired solely by motives of humanity. There was a general and marked improvement of public sentiment, and it is as part of this improvement that we now find a universal condemnation of aggressive war and a widespread demand for the entire abolition of war. The construction of English history and English character on the lines of Mr. G. B. Shaw may be entertaining, and may save considerable trouble of research, but it does not conduce to sound judgment. The laments of social pessimists and of certain religious controversialists are never supported by accurate knowledge. Every social historian who gives evidence of knowing the evils of the England of a century ago as well as the England of to-day admits that there has been a great moral advance.
I will examine in the next chapter certain comments of religious writers and speakers on this advance. Here I wish to determine the facts with some clearness. It has not been necessary for me to discuss the medieval and the early modern period with any fullness. There is no dispute about the features of those periods. They were ages of violence, of incessant and frankly aggressive war, of unrestrained ambition. The smallest pretext sufficed for a monarch, if his forces and finances were in order, to invade his neighbour's territory and annex as much of it as he could hold by the sword. Frederic the Great and Napoleon did not introduce new ideas into Europe; they attempted to revive medieval ideas in a changing world. Austria in its annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Germany in its ambition to annex Belgium and the colonies which other Powers have laboriously cultivated, are following their example. They are not inventing new forms of criminality; they are not returning to Pagan ideals: they are reverting merely to ideals which were accepted throughout Europe for more than a thousand years. In the more brutal features of war to which they have descended they are even more emphatically reverting to the Middle Ages. The Romans did not commit such outrages at the command of educated officers. Medieval Christians did: the record of Papal warfare, down to the "Massacre of Perugia" in 1859, is as deeply stained as any by these abominable methods.
My further point, that the Christian Church or Churches made no serious resistance to the prevailing brutality, is just as easy to establish. It is a sheer travesty of argument to put forward the gentle exhortations of a Francis of Assisi as characteristic of the Christian Church when the Pope of the time, one of the most powerful and conscientious Popes of all time, Innocent III, was threatening or directing the movements of ferocious armies all over Europe. Most assuredly there were among the numbers of fine characters who appeared in Christendom in the course of a thousand years many who deeply resented the prevailing violence. But when we speak of the Church, we speak of its official action and its predominant sentiment. The official action of the Popes was, during all that period, to make the same use as any terrestrial monarch of the service of soldiers; they failed, from Gregory the Great to Pius X, to recognise one of the supreme moral needs of Europe. The bishops of the Church of England and the heads of the Lutheran and Calvinistic Churches did not prove to have any sounder moral inspiration in this respect. It was left to despised bodies like the Friends, who were hardly recognised as Christians, and to rare individuals to protest against the system which has brought such appalling evil on Europe.
In the nineteenth century the moral sentiment of Europe began to advance more rapidly than it had previously done, and the idea of substituting arbitration for war began to spread. The history of this reform has not yet been written, as far as I can discover, but it is hardly likely that any will be bold enough to suggest that the idea was due to Christianity. After the Napoleonic wars, at least, Europe was ripe for such a reform. I do not mean that public feeling in Europe was prepared for the idea. It would have met with a very considerable degree of resistance, and would have generally been conceived as the dream of an amiable fanatic. Such resistance makes the duty of the moralist or the reformer all the more pressing, and it is merely amazing to hear the earlier Christian clergy exonerated on the ground that the world was not prepared to receive a message of peace from them. They did not try the experiment because it did not occur to them, or because they were too closely dependent on the monarchs of the earth to question the wisdom of their arrangements. Europe was, in point of fact, quite ripe for the change in the second decade of the nineteenth century, and there would assuredly be no war to-day if the Churches had had the moral inspiration and the moral courage to insist on it. The frontiers of the nations were (except in the case of Italy and Poland) defined with a fair show of justice, and the time had come to disband armies and submit any future quarrel to arbitration: to retain only a small standing army in each country for the defence of its colonial frontiers against tribes which do not respect arbitration, or for the enforcement of the decisions of the central tribunal. The conditions were almost as favourable for such a change in 1816 as they are to-day, or will be in 1916, and it is another grave point in the indictment of Christianity that it had no inspiration to demand that change. The bishops of England no less than the bishops of Rome were deeply concerned about the rise of democracy and the spread of unbelief, and they joined with the monarchs in enforcing a system of violent repression. For the larger and more real need of Europe they had no feeling whatever, and militarism entered upon its last and most terrible phase: the stage of national armies and of means of destruction prepared with all the fearful skill of modern science.
As the nineteenth century proceeded, humanitarianism attained clearer conceptions and more articulate speech. The scheme of substituting legal procedure for military violence was definitely put before the world. It is not necessary, and would be difficult, to trace the earliest developments of this idea. On the one hand, I find no claim that it was put forward by representatives of Christianity; on the other hand, literary research among the records of the early Rationalist movements in this country has shown me that the idea was familiar and welcome amongst them. No doubt the aversion of the Friends from bloodshed had some influence, and we find representatives of that noble-minded Society active in more than one of the early reform-movements. But, as far as I can discover, it was Robert Owen who first definitely advanced the idea of substituting arbitration for war, and it was repeatedly discussed among the "Rational Religion" Societies—which were not at all religious—that he founded or inspired in various parts of the country. The immense influence which he obtained in the thirties and forties enabled him to direct public attention to the reform.
This early history is, however, as yet vague and unstudied, nor do we need to enter into any ungenerous struggle about priority. It is enough that the idealist scheme was well known in England long before the middle of the nineteenth century. Did the Christian Churches adopt and enforce it? Here, at least, no minute research is needed. The Christian bodies failed lamentably and totally (apart from the heterodox Friends) even to recognise the moral and humane greatness of the idea when it was definitely presented to them. It is only in the last few years that a Peace Sunday has—at the suggestion of lay associations—been adopted in the churches and chapels of England. It is only in quite recent times that bishops and ministers have stood on peace-platforms and advocated the reform. And even to-day, when peace associations founded by laymen have been endeavouring for decades to educate the country, no branch of the Christian Church has officially and collectively decreed that Christian principles enjoin the reform; no Pope or Archbishop or Church Council has supported it with a stern and official injunction that Christian and moral principle demands that all the members of the particular Church shall subscribe to and work for the reform. Even at this eleventh hour, when the issue of peace or war confronts the whole of mankind, one notices hesitation, reserve, ambiguity. During the fateful years between 1900 and 1914, when the nations were, in the eyes of all, preparing the most appalling armaments ever known in history, when men were speaking freely all over Europe of "the next war" and the terrific dimensions which modern science and modern alliances would give to it, the various branches of the Christian Church adhered to their ancient and futile practice of preaching general principles (as far as national conduct is concerned), and had little practical influence on the development.
I am not unaware of the small movements among the clergy for cultivating international clerical friendship, or of the extent to which individual clergymen have co-operated in the various arbitration movements. That is only a feeble discharge of a small part of their duty. Had Leo XIII or Pius X issued a plain and explicit Encyclical on the subject, and directed his vast international organisation of clergy to labour wholeheartedly for its realisation, who can estimate what the result would have been? Had the clergy of Germany issued a stern and collective denunciation of the Pan-German and Imperialist literature which was instilling poison into every village of the country, can we suppose that it would have been without avail? Had the Archbishops and Bishops of England, and the leaders of the Free Churches, definitely instructed their people that the pacifist ideal was not merely in accord with Christian principles, but was one of the most urgent and beneficent reforms of our time, would the English people have passed as inobservantly as it did through the five years of preparation for a great war?
It is no part of my plan to analyse this deplorable failure of the Churches as moral agencies. The explanation would be complex, and is now superfluous. The clergy were, like the majority of their fellows, obsessed by the military system and unable to realise the possibility of a change. In part they were deluded by the catch-words of superficial literature. They had an idea that we were asking England to lower its armament while the rest of the world increased its armament. They muttered that "the time was not ripe," not realising that it was their business to make it ripe. They had been accustomed for ages to preaching a purely individualist morality, and they felt ill at ease in the larger social applications of moral principle which our age regards as more important. They feared to offend military supporters, and did not realise that one may entirely honour the soldier as long as the military system lasts, yet resent the system. They felt that this new movement was suspiciously hailed by Socialists, and that to denounce armies had an air of politics about it. They were peculiarly wedded to tradition, on account of the very nature they claimed for their traditions, and they instinctively felt that to denounce war would be to attempt to improve, not merely on their predecessors, but on the Old and the New Testaments. They solaced themselves with the thought that unnecessary violence was condemned in their general teaching, and that, if it eventually transpired that war was unnecessary, they could point out once more the all-embracing character of the Christian ethic. In fine, they were for the greater part, like the greater part of their fellows, mentally indolent and indisposed to think out or fight for a new idea.
Whatever the explanation, the fact remains. By the tenth century Christianity was fully organised, and all the peoples of Europe were Christian; by the thirteenth century the power of the Church was enormous and the nations of Europe were settled and civilised. But neither then nor at any later period did Christianity perceive the crime and stupidity of the prevailing system. The perception is even now only faint and partial. It is this long toleration of the military system, the thousand-year silence on what is now acclaimed as one of the greatest applications of Christian principle, that one finds it difficult or impossible to forgive. The zeal of some of the modern clergy is open to a certain not unnatural suspicion: in view of their shrinking authority and the growing indifference of the world to dogma and ritual, they have been forced to take up these new and larger ideas of our time.
Even if one lays aside that suspicion, and in many cases it is quite unjust, the clergy must realise that the indictment of Christianity is grave, and is almost unatonable. Those thousand years of conflict, during which they sanctioned every variety of war and initiated many wars in their own interest, have given the military system such root in the hearts of men that it will require a supreme and prolonged effort to destroy it. The proverbial visitor from Mars would not be so much amazed at any feature of our life as at this retention amid a great civilisation of the barbaric method of settling international differences. He would ask in astonishment how an intelligent and generally humane race, a race which raises homes for stray cats and aged horses, could cling to a system which, on infallible experience, plunges one or more countries in the deepest suffering every few years. He would learn that there has not been a war in Europe for a hundred years the initial cause of which would not have been better appreciated and adjudicated on by a body of impartial lawyers; and that, if the quarrels had thus been submitted to arbitration, we should have saved (including the annual military expenditure and the cost of the present war) some three million lives and more than £15,000,000,000—since the end of the Napoleonic wars. In answer to the amazement of this imaginary critic, we could reply only that Europe has grown to regard the military system as so permanent and unquestioned an institution of our civilisation that it simply cannot imagine the abolition of that system.
For this incapacity, this widespread inertia, this blundering idea that there is some serious intrinsic difficulty in the matter, the Churches are responsible. If they had directed to war the smallest particle of the ardent rhetoric they have poured on disbelief in dogmas which they are to-day abandoning, the public mind would have awakened long ago. There is no intrinsic difficulty in substituting arbitration for war. There are technical difficulties which the great lawyers and statesmen of the peace-movement have given ample promise of surmounting, but the overwhelming obstacle is merely this—the peoples of Europe do not insist on the reform. Of all the large problems which confront the modern mind this is incomparably the simplest. We are hopelessly divided as to the nature of the remedy for most of our social ills. Here the remedy is acknowledged: the plan has been elaborated almost in entirety: the international tribunal already exists, and awaits only its executive, which the nations of Europe could supply to-morrow. It is the will, the demand, that is wanting. For that lack we charge the utter failure of the Churches during the ages of their power to enunciate a plain moral lesson, and their positive encouragement of an evil system. That is the real indictment. It affects the Christian Church in every nation.