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Belloc when he says: “The Battle of the Marne secured Europe, not from an external peril, as did Tours and Chalons from the Arab and the Hun, but from one internal and spiritual. It decided that most profound of all issues which can appear within a man's own soul or within that of a nation, or within that of a whole vast tradition, such as the tradition of Christendom-I mean whether the lesser should conquer the greater, the viler the more noble, the more changeable the more steadfast, the baser the more refined. The Marne was that moment of issue in which a soul is saved or lost."
While in France it was my privilege to ride for an entire day in the same railway compartment with a great grandson of Lafayette. He was a most cultured gentleman and secretary of the Lafayette Society. In the course of our conversation he said to me with feeling:
“We Frenchmen will never forget America for coming over here to help us in this hour of our great need.”
My reply somewhat startled but greatly pleased him as I said:
“We are here because we have always dreamed of coming, ever since we read about Lafayette in our schoolboy days.”
With an impulsive movement of his body he threw one arm around me, and the tears ran down his cheeks as he uttered these memorable words:
"I have always heard that the young men of America were materialists and now they are teaching my beloved France to again believe in the power of the ideal.”
It was impossible for one who was in France during the months just preceding and following the Battle of Chateau-Thierry not to realize that a profound change had taken place in the mind of the world, a change so profound and far-reaching that we have not yet grasped its full meaning. It was a change wherein the great masses of the people suddenly and for all time turned from a belief in physical force as the final arbitrament of nations to faith in the sure supremacy of Christian ideals; and in making this change the world unconsciously experienced a religious rebirth. The thrilling and beautiful thing about this whole new experience of humanity is just this: the secret of human progress lies in the inborn capacity of youth to dream dreams and see visions and die for ideals. At first thought our visions and ideals seem rather nebulous and flimsy things upon which to rest great issues; but in the long run they prove to be possessed of the real substance of things worth while. As it has so often happened in the past, so it will come true again, that the dreams of the youth of today will become the constitutions of tomorrow. In his Boston speech President Wilson has given us a glimpse of what happened in France in the great midsummer days of 1918. Among other things he said: "Men have testified to me in Europe that our men were possessed by something that they could only call a religious fervor. They were not like any of the other soldiers. They had a vision; they had a dream, and they were fighting in the dream, and fighting in the dream they turned the whole tide of battle and it never came back."
As we contemplate thoughtfully upon the heroism of these men who went forth to crusade for the world's redemption and seek to penetrate to the main springs of action, the interior and mysterious greatness of the human soul begins to disclose itself—the soul with its infinite appreciation of spiritual values and its immense capacity to suffer nobly. Here is the secret of true culture, both in the life of the individual and of the nation. Religion does not have to be clothed in pious phrases or conventional forms or result in emotional and effervescent expression, in order to reveal its presence. It is something far deeper, more intimate and spiritual.
If the reader has perused this chapter at all thoughtfully he will have discovered that the deeper life of man finds its center of orientation in three fundamental facts.
1. There is the fact of faith in the reality of the unseen; the vision of God at work in His world; the sense of Divine comradeship in the struggle, the pain and the final issues of life.
2. There is the fact of the sure reaction of the soul to the demands of duty, through loyalty, courage and love and a similar sure reaction to the principles of justice, righteousness and self-sacrifice.
3. There is the fact of the ideal, like a mighty magnet drawing men upward into the realization of their best selves.
These are the intangible things that war made real, and in obedience to which men found that they became free; for liberty is the reign of law in the realm of the spirit, and the highest form of freedom is the right to lay down one's life for his fellow
Just as the tide irresistibly returns to the shore, drawn by the invisible arms of natural law, so by faith, duty, loyalty and love God is forever coming into the souls of men, and men are being drawn upward into the larger life of God. Because of the reality which the war gave to these funda: mental virtues, men came to put the emphasis on sin in a new place. In the reaction of conscience to their own conduct and in their attitude toward their fellows, the soldiers almost unanimously agreed that the three sins worthy of the severest condemnation were cowardice, selfishness and disloyalty. These are the things that make men mean and contemptible and that must be fought and defeated both in friend and enemy. When these are present God cannot come into the life of a man.
It can be seen at a glance that these three sets of facts are of the utmost value for religious education and any statement of educational laws that would meet the needs of the new day must take them into account. In a study of the training of the twelve disciples, one sees how Jesus was always bringing them face to face with these fundamental things and it was only as he was able to develop in them, faith, loyalty to duty, courage and love and a keen sense of justice, righteousness and self-sacrifice, that he could use them mightily for his work. The way in which Jesus was able to accomplish this transformation of character in a group of fearful, selfish, and unletttered men is one of the most vital studies in religious educational method. The war has given us a deeper insight into God's estimate of the greatness and the possibilities of all men and the consequent worth of their redemption.