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corner of a dense wood near Thiacourt, less than two kilometers back of the line and under intermittent shell-fire, I found a Bible study group of about thirty-five men. The leader was a Jewish boy who had been converted to Christianity in a mission in Philadelphia. The company was isolated and so without a chaplain and this lad was looking after the spiritual interests of the men. He told me that his Bible class was engaged in a study of the social teachings of Jesus.
As men thought upon these subjects it became increasingly clear to them that the war was due in large measure to a materialistic theory of life worked out to its logical end by Germany. In this theory, the rights of the individual were ignored; the state was made supreme--all progress was by struggle, conflict, antagonism and the survival of the physically fittest. The basis of morality was transferred from the Ten Commandments and the inexorable judgments of conscience to the realm of might and expediency. The God of our Lord Jesus Christ was dethroned and a repulsive creation of human wisdom, audacity and selfishness put in His place. The authority and value of the Bible was undermined and its teachings distorted. The result was a hideous, lurid war of frightfulness and brute rage. Further discussion led to the conclusion that this same theory of life underlies Marxian Socialism, Bolshevism and that type of corporate greed that thrives by cruelly crushing all competitors, by ignoring the public welfare and by arrogantly denying the rights of labor. It is only a question of which power is in the saddle. Men came to see all of this with great clearness and they also came to realize that it is in the Bible that we find the basis of social rebuilding.
1. The first and most fundamental one of all is the teaching concerning the ethical nature of God. God has revealed Himself in the creation of an ordered universe, where law prevails for benevolent ends. "In the beginning God.” He is the God whom every man finds in the moral and spiritual constitution of his own soul. He is the God who has made Himself known to us in the person and work of Jesus Christ and who, in this last great war, has so clearly revealed Himself on the side of right, of justice, and of mercy. The history of every nation can be read accurately by a study of its idea of God. Its future power and prosperity can be predicted with equal accuracy upon the same ground. Biblical history and prophecy is an interpretation of the idea and purpose of God as revealed in an ordered universe, the collective souls of men and the character of Jesus. The new world must be built around the idea of an ethical God, a God of righteousness and justice and love.
2. Following close upon the necessity of a right idea of God is the importance of an adequate conception of man and human labor. “And God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. And the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had made; and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it; because that in it He had rested from all His work which God had created and made."
The entire philosophy of the social life is compressed into these few ancient sentences if we have a mind to search for it. The essence of true liberty is the primary right of man to conquer and have dominion over the land God gave to him. This right, this liberty he must exercise as a social being through labor and for the purpose of supplying food to all men as the basic condition of human progress. In the achievement of this world dominion he must conserve the claims of the body to periods of physical rest. Men therefore insist that society shall be rebuilt on a Christian basis. They have come to the conclusion that the nation that does not reckon with God and Christian morality is doomed. They are also determined that "government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from the earth,” but rather that it shall become a universal, actual reality. Such are the plain teachings of the Bible which are necessary as the basis for rest and the right of the soul to time for mental, moral and spiritual culture. Thus conceived, labor becomes the most potent instrument of civilization and a man's daily work a point of rich contact with his Maker. The ruthless submarine campaign that outraged Christendom was primarily directed against the shipment from America of food stuffs. "Rather than risk the replenishment of the poilu's larder from the harvest fields of Kansas, William, the Conqueror, elected to defy the Republic.” The ultimate aim was the supremacy of the seas in order that dictating the control of commerce for selfish ends, Germany might destroy and rebuild the social order after her own fashioning. With incredible swiftness an aroused America organized her armies and her industries, her agriculture and her commerce and the great battle of bread was on. Men realized that the issue at stake was far deeper than the temporary relief of starving Belgium, or even the winning of the war by sending food stuffs to Eng. land and France. The central problem of civilization is primarily a question of food. Upon the free dom of the seas depends the problem of distribution, and upon this in turn depends an ordered society. Hunger produces Bolshevism, which in turn is unable to solve the problem it has created : namely, the problem of food and a just sharing of the world's wealth. Disorder leads to discontent and 80 grows by what it feeds upon. The situation is not a matter of charity and temporary relief; it is a question of the world-wide stabilization of the food supply in order that society may exist comfortably as the result of its own labor. When the German high seas fleet emerged from its hiding place in the Kiel canal and made to the British admiralty the most abject and the most humiliating surrender in history, the foundations of a new social order were guaranteed. The Bible teaches plainly that the right of private property must be guaranteed subject to governmental control of the land for the good of all the people. World markets must be kept open to all nations for the mutual exchange of commodities and the conscienceless profiteer must be eliminated. More and more the govern. ments of the world acting unitedly must assume responsibility for the equitable and least expensive distribution of the food supply. Thus only can we escape the blight of socialism or the more radical upheaval of Bolshevism.
3. In order that there may be a new world, the public conscience must be made more sensitive to the Biblical conception of sin. The war has disclosed the reality and hideousness of sin beyond the power of words to picture. Without lessening the ugliness of such sins as drunkenness, gambling, fornication, adultery and idolatry, new emphasis has been placed upon the damnable character of such sins as cowardice, selfishness, disloyalty, and