THOSE who worship here will, I think, have recognised my desire that, amid the daily endeavour to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, we should not forget our national duties, our duties as human beings in the great family of man. We suffer even in our spiritual life when we confine our thoughts to the narrow horizon of our individual welfare. If the great remedy for selfishness be to lose ourselves in God, if the great example of unselfishness be the example of Christ, if the great work of Christ was to sacrifice Himself for the sins of the whole world, then surely he must be the best and truest man whose hopes and fears are not wholly absorbed into the silence and seclusion of his interior life, but who yearns for the religion of active service, who desires to follow in the Divine footsteps of Him who " went about doing good." But he who would live thus, while he strives to be a child of God, must never forget that he will be a better child of God in proportion as the whole influence of his life, whether in a large sphere or in a small, tends not to poison but to purify the current of the world's life. If at the words, " I am a man; and therefore in all things human I have a concern," the whole audience of a heathen theatre could rise up to shout their approval, ought not a Christian congregation to feel that those lessons are deeply religious which turn their thoughts to our own work in a Christian nation, and to the work of a Christian nation in the world? It is a mistake to suppose that such questions are too vast and vague. Results the most vast are brought about by the aggregate of small separate exertions. The coral insect is a small and ephemeral creature, with soft and feeble body, yet the result of its insignificant existence, the contribution of its tiny grain, rears the league-long reef which forms a barrier in the ocean, or builds the basis of continents which form for untold ages the home of man.
Let none of us try to prove that we have but little responsibility. " We never die; we are the waves of the ocean of life, communicating motion to the expanse before us, and leaving the history we have made on the shore behind".
I shall speak to you then this morning of matters political. I shall touch only on those eternal principles of which it is well for us at all times to be reminded. And if you ask me how I can venture to speak of politics in the presence of statesmen and senators, I answer that there can be no presumption in the herald who in any presence, however august, does but deliver the message of the King of kings.
Let me speak first of what should be the Foreign Policy of England, and let me indulge for a moment in a large retrospect.
You heard in the first lesson of this morning about the three sons of Noah. When first the separate races of mankind begin to be discernible in the confused sea of humanity, we see dark-skinned and savage tribes living for the most part in the deepest night of barbarism, identified theoretically with the race of Ham. Out of this aeon of unprogressive barbarism emerge, in course of time, the great semi-civilised nations of Eastern Asia and Northern Africa, the Chinese and the Egyptians, with their oppressive despotisms and cruel superstitions. Then in the third great aeon of human records, from 2000 to 3000 years before the birth of Christ, we witness the first definite appearance of those two mighty races, the Semitic and the Aryan, which many have regarded as the race of Shem and the race of Japhet. Fairer in complexion, stronger, more physically beautiful, more intellectually gifted, they appear first in the great table-lands of Central Asia, and to them is due almost all that is progressive or noble in the history of mankind. To the Semitic race, and pre-eminently to the Jew, God entrusted the religious education of the ancient world. To this race it was mainly given to keep alive in the world a belief in the Unity of God, and the Eternal Majesty of the moral law. To the Aryan race, to which we belong, was entrusted mainly the civilisation of mankind; from it sprang mainly the arts of war and peace; the glory that was Greece belongs to it, and the grandeur that was Rome; it has been the parent of the lofty spiritualism of India, the deep philosophy of Germany, the glorious art of Italy, the dauntless energy of England. But its destiny did not culminate until, in the crucifixion of our Lord, the Semitic race, knowing not the day of its visitation, proved false to its function and its heritage. Then the torch of the Christian Revelation, which would have been extinguished for ever in the hands of the Semitic, was transferred into the hands of the race of Japhet, and soon burst into a lustre which was intended to illuminate the world. Of all the families of that Aryan race we, the English of to-day, have the grandest history and the most magnificent, yet also the most perilous responsibilities. We have colonised the western world, we are undisputed lords of the great southern continent. Our language is already more widely disseminated than any tongue that was ever spoken by the lips of man. It seems likely to become the almost universal language of the future. Who can exaggerate the immensity of such an influence, or the awfulness of such duties ? They affect many of us directly, and in many ways. Our sons and daughters go to every quarter of the globe, and such as we are they are, and as are the lessons they have learnt in their English homes so will be the influence which they exercise in the most distant colonies. But a vast proportion of these our national duties are summed up in the words, "the Foreign Policy of England." What then should be the one object of that Foreign Policy? Can there be in the light of Christianity any other answer than this—the intellectual, the moral, the spiritual welfare of mankind ? Ought we not to teach to the world the lessons of a superior wisdom, a purer justice, a loftier morality? Ought we not to inscribe on the banner of our progress that sacred name which it is at once our highest mission and our most blessed privilege to render visible and glorious through a regenerate world ? Much, by God's blessing, we have done. But, alas! there is another side of the picture. Whole races have disappeared before the advancing conquests of our sons. The footsteps of our countrymen as they have passed across the world have too often been footsteps dyed in blood. Africa has known them as the buyer of the slave. The islands of the Pacific have known them as the stealer of their youth. The aborigines of Tasmania have known them as the exterminators of their race. Wise and eminent laymen often speak of these things more plainly than we timid, conventional clergymen, terrified as we too often are into a decorum which is cowardice, and into a weakness of statement which is a treachery against eternal truth.
Ah, my brethren, ought we not to have stern search-ings of heart as to the way in which we have dealt with these other sheep of Christ, though they be not of this fold—children with us of a common God, heirs with us of a common immortality? Do we not owe them an immense reparation, as well as eternal duties ? And do we not owe these duties not to them only, but to all our brethren, whether they belong to our own or to other races of mankind ? In two great ways we influence them—by war, and by commerce. War is sometimes inevitable; it must sometimes be. Only let us see that as, in carrying out its dreadful arbitrament, our sons have always been heroically gallant, so in entering into it we all strive to be inflexibly, rigidly, scrupulously just. Every war that is not absolutely indispensable—every war of mere ambition and of wanton aggression — is a sowing of dragons' teeth. Nor let us ever forget that on all that we do—undisturbed by sophistries, unbribed by interest, judging solely by everlasting laws of righteousness—God will exact His strict retribution, and history record her impartial verdict.
Righteousness—you might write it as the epitome of all history, upon the first page of every history— Righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is the reproach of any people. If we never go to war save when justice and righteousness require that we should do so;—if our dealings with every other nation, whether weak or strong, whether civilised or savage, be rigidly and chivalrously upright;—if our commerce be not corrupted at the fount by that horrible selfishness which sacrifices nations to its insatiate greed of gain;—then we may expect, and we shall receive a blessing from the God of all nations, for then the one principle of all our foreign policy will be this,—to aim at ever finding our own highest good in the highest good of all mankind.
How wide, how noble is the sphere of enlightened Christian politics ! What ample scope is there still for men to win a civic wreath as green as that of Chatham or Wilberforce! To see that the very weakest and humblest be safe under the inviolable protection of equal laws; to see that by the universal extension of sound learning and religious education a limit be put to brutality and vice; to see that there be a national acknowledgment of our allegiance to Him before whom all nations are but as dust in the balance—does this open no sphere of action wide enough for the most soaring ambition ?
In one last word, then, of all that I have said this is the sum : Let godless philosophy say what it will, let a cold-blooded political economy say what it will, I say that unless all history be a delusion and all Scripture a lie, then "what is morally wrong cannot be politically right;" and that " every state's organisation is perverted, perverse, and doomed to ruin, where single individuals or single classes have the pretension to constitute the broad bases of society." And of our foreign policy I say that our intercourse with all nations, whether strong or weak, will be always wrong, and must be ultimately fatal, if it be not based on the principle that international morality has no separate code, but is only a wider application of the Christian ethics. " Mankind," said a great patriot and a great orator, " has but one single aim; it is Mankind itself; and that aim has but one single instrument — Mankind again." " God," said an inspired Apostle, speaking to contemptuous Pagans, " hath made of one blood all nations of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after Him, and find Him, though He be not far from every one of us: for in Him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also His offspring".
Ephphatha Sermons, p. 287.