An Ancient Solution of the War Problem

Micah 4:3.---' Nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.'

This beautiful dream of a world at peace, willing to settle by arbitration whatever quarrels should arise among the nations, must have profoundly fascinated the Hebrew imagination. For the passage, in which these great words occur, appears also---at the beginning of the second chapter of Isaiah, and this simple fact suggests that the noble thought enshrined in the passage must have been peculiarly welcome and precious---addressed, as it probably was, to a world torn and distracted by war. For hundreds of years the Hebrews had seldom for any long period been exempt from the experience or the danger, or at least from the rumor and the thought of war. Frequently it had surged up upon their borders and over their borders; even when this did not happen, the sound of it was seldom far away; and passages like this show how weary of it all the better heart of Israel was becoming, and how earnestly it looked forward to the day when the bloodstained swords and spears would be beaten into ploughshares and prunning-hooks, and international disputes could be settled in saner and kindlier ways.

The true patriot longs for the day when no more war-horses and chariots will be seen in the land he loves, but when from end to end it will be filled with the knowledge of Yahweh as the waters cover the sea. One of the dearest wishes of his heart is to see the cruel and bloody accoutrements of war flung once and for ever into the devouring flames. He looks for and believingly works for the day when every boot of the warrior that thundered along, and every garment rolled in blood shall be doomed to the burning, and fuel for the fire.

Let us look at the passage as a whole; for its three brief verses constitute and ancient solution of the war problem, remarkable alike for its insight and its relevance to our modern world. 'It shall come to pass in the latter days.' The truly religious man has always his eyes fixed upon the latter days. He sees very clearly what is going on in his own days, and his heart is often sore as he looks upon it all. But he never allows himself to lose hope; for he sees beyond the days that now are, with their sins and confusions and disappointments, to the days when some better thing shall be. To a patriotic Jew, there would be for Jerusalem and the Temple a great place in the better world to which he looked forward. He felt towards Jerusalem as a Roman felt to Rome or as Englishmen to London. Jerusalem was for him the true capital or the world, and the thing of central importance in Jerusalem was the Temple, Jehovah's house on Mount Zion. To it the nations are represented as streaming up; they exhort one another, saying, 'Come, let us go up to Zion.' Why? Because they are conscious that she has something which none of themselves have. She worships a God of international justice. 'He will teach us of His ways,' they confidently say, 'for out of Zion shall go forth the law.' that is guidance, instruction. They are in difficulty, they need guidance, and the God of Jerusalem can give such guidance as no heathen god can give.

It is not quite clear what sort of guidance the nations desire, or in what sort of dilemma they are involved. But this much is plain: that international disputes have arisen which call for wise intervention; and in Zion they find one who will judge and 'decide'---as the American Revised Version properly says---concerning strong nations. This is the Hebrew way of saying that the disputes are settled by arbitration. They come to Zion in faith, and they do not go away disappointed. The Zion of the latter days was to be the embodiment of that justice for which, in their lifetime, the prophets often so eloquently and so vainly pleaded. The nations have submitted their case to arbitration, and so just and satisfactory is the decision they receive in Zion that they go away content, with thoughts of war in their heart no more. 'He decides, and then they beat their swords into ploughshares.' The deadly things can be transformed to a noble use, so they beat their swords and spears lustily into ploughshares and prunning-hooks; for their thoughts are now turned away from quarrels and wars and battle-fields to fields of waving grain and terraced slope of vines, upon which those now transformed instruments can do their beneficent work. Disarmament is the sequel of arbitration. With nations so reasonable, there will be no fear for the world's peace; nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

Like ourselves, the prophet lived in a world whose nations were ever ready to fly at each other's throats; and here he gives us his solution of the problem, which is full of pregnant suggestions for our own day.

From the prophet we learn that, in order to secure international peace there must be a hatred and horror of war. These nations were fully armed, and might easily have appealed to the arbitrament of the sword, but they had sense enough to choose a more humane and excellent way. Mechanical butchery is surely a barbarous and idiotic way of solving our great human problem; and the forces that make for civilization and religion throughout the world must exert themselves without delay to secure, so far as is humanly possible, that never again shall so savage a solution be attempted.

Today man has at his service means of destruction which greatly exceed in scope and power more than any generation before could employ. And it is said that he is on the verge of discovering yet deadlier secrets---secrets so deadly that only the pure in heart can safely overcome them. With such weapons at man's command, the next war, if waged on a large scale---and it is probable that in the next war there will be no neutrals---would be one of racial suicide. Civilization would be entirely overwhelmed; human life would be permanently debased and impoverished; and we might even come within measurable distance of the destruction of the human race. The mere possibility of so stupendous a catastrophe is surely an unanswerable argument for the early abolition of war.

Here, then, is the supreme opportunity of the Church. One may fairly ask whether she has in the past so steadily held this great idea of a world-brotherhood before the minds and consciences of men as she might have done. For long she considered very devotedly the welfare of the individual soul; lately she has begun to rise to an appreciation of her social task and opportunity; now she must learn to face international obligations and to recognize that her 'field is the world.' There is a powerful sentiment in every nation in favor of the peaceful settlement of international disputes, but it is a floating sentiment, and therefore does not produce the public and political effect to which its volume entitles it. It needs to be stimulated, organized, and given a practical direction, and from this high task the Christian Church dare not stand aloof. Above all earthly institutions it is her business to create and encourage a sentiment in favor of the peaceful settlement of international problems, and so thoroughly to permeate society with this conception that those who hold in their hands the destinies of the nations dare not disregard it. No one Church could effect this; but is it too much to believe that all the Churches of all the nations could, if ministers and people had in them the spirit of the ancient propaganda, which carried the gospel from Jerusalem to the ends of the world.

The prophecy asserts that the settlement by arbitration of international disputes 'shall come to pass in the latter days.' Can we believe that? It is not easy; and yet not to believe it is to believe in a God whose will is ultimately to be defeated by the sin and folly of men. Are we prepared to believe that? If the love of justice and the recognition of the rights of others can be made to prevail, justice within the nation between its classes and justice between the nations---and it is the privilege and the duty of the Church to work for this---stable international peace can only be a question of time; and those who are working for this consummation may work in good hope.

'It shall come to pass.' But how? Not in any miraculous way [the reality of His presence has ever been], but and by careful thought and concerted action deliberately directed to that specific end. It will come to pass when Christian democracies are determined to bring it to pass. No one man can do much---the impotence of the individual in the presence of so stupendous a problem is pathetic; but each of us has his own share in the creation of public opinion, and it is for each of us to realize that he is responsible up to the measure of his opportunity. It is ours, first of all, to rebuke and restrain within our own hearts the aggressive and quarrelsome temper, to cultivate a large appreciation of the needs, the rights, the legitimate aspirations of other men, and other nations, to recognize that, if we are all sons of the heavenly Father, we are therefore brethren one of another. To some extent the brotherhood of man is already an accomplished fact. Every international convention, whether of scholars or working men, business men, or scientists, is a practical demonstration of it. Every ship that travels the seas is a testimony to our need of one another. But the bonds must be knit firmer. Those who live in the hope of a more rational and brotherly world must not only long for it but work for it, giving patient and hospitable consideration to all proposals for securing it, and bending all their energies to the accomplishment of the ancient prophets dream. Then perhaps the glorious days which he foresaw would not be so very far away after all, and we should wake some morning with a glad surprise to find that we were already living in the latter days, when nation would not lift up sword against nation, neither learn war any more.

'The Prince of Peace' works, as at the first, through those souls whom He has made His own. Through them He reaches and leavens the mass around. Any of us can contribute something to His work, or can refuse the contribution. And each soul that is at peace with itself and with God, works thereby for the cause of universal peace; works for the harmony of the Church and of the world; works for the credit and glory of the 'Prince of Peace.'

In Christ, timothy maranatha