The hand of God is in this war. Each nation may seek to lay the blame of its origin on the other, and endeavour to clear itself; but, back of all this self-vindication, and behind the secret working of Satan, there is, evidently, the permission of God in a slaughter of men, as universal as it is unprecedented.
If God be God it is needless to deny His knowledge and permission of that which is transpiring. He is calling the attention of the whole world to that permission, calling it to the fact that, spite of the extraordinary skill of man in the warlike inventions of the day, things have reached a kind of deadlock, and, so far, victory is withheld from all.
What the end may be people may surmise, but they may not foretell. It is known only to God.
Meanwhile the terrible slaughter must proceed, and the waves of sorrow roll onward, while hearts are broken, and tears flow, and widows multiply, and the frantic rush for the manufacture of limitless stores of munitions, and the wild waste of treasure, and the still more prodigal waste of human life, all this frenzied activity, this madness, marks the desperation of all the lands involved, and that to their misery. They fight for their very existence. But what else can they do? It is surely impossible for one nation, still unconquered, to lower its flag to another, or to sue for peace while victory trembles in the balance. That is true; and so the struggle continues until utter exhaustion, on one or both sides, forces a settlement. But what a result! The world decimated of the best of its men, and reduced to the pinch of poverty and desolation. The prospect is dark indeed.
It may be asked: What better can a nation do than fling all its energies into the construction of the most life-destroying instruments of war, or marshal its greatest resources, or sacrifice the best of its men? Could anything else be done? Well, this is no doubt the way of war, nor can war be waged otherwise; but the question is: if God indeed be God, and if His mighty hand be outstretched in chastening, should not He be sought to restrain, in His power and mercy, the wrath and the fury and the violence of man? Let us remember that “He does as He will in the armies of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth,” and that if “none can stay His hand, or say ‘What doest Thou?’” yet He bids us humble ourselves under His hand, that He may lift us up. He is supreme everywhere. The non-acknowledgment of GOD is the common sin of the day. God is excluded.
Witness the well-nigh impossibility of obtaining common humiliation and prayer. The word “humiliation” seems to be most objectionable, as though there were no cause for it, and as though God had no voice in permitting countless thousands of the bravest to be swept away.
Can this mighty massacre have no interest to Him? Can He who cared for the very cattle of Nineveh be regardless of the appalling loss of human life today? Surely not!
What then should be done?
Things cannot be forced. That which is not the work of the Spirit of God is of no value. Unless He be pleased to produce a spontaneity of desire we need not look for unanimity in supplication. Common humiliation in the church has been disproved by her downward history in Revelations 2-3, as also that of Israel in her moral decay, while repentance on the part of the world at large is negatived by the fact that the vast profession of Christianity will be “cut off” (Rom. 11).
As to Israel, we read in Isaiah 9:13 that “the people turns not to him that smites them.” They were assailed back and front by the Syrians and Philistines; their condition was bad enough as smitten by these opponents, but another hand was against them, unseen, unacknowledged, disowned, but none the less smiting them, and to that smiting hand they refused to turn. Things had to take their course.
Had they turned to God how different their end would have been! But if the mass be insensible and immovable it is all the more incumbent on the individual—the man of God and of prayer—to maintain the honourable place of intercession with God. So did Moses and Samuel of old to the deliverance of their nation; and if only today those who know and love the Lord set themselves personally, privately, and irrespectively of the pride and prayerlessness and cold exclusion of God from the exigencies of the day, to cry continually and thankfully to God, their cry would be heard by Him, and their example would soon become a stimulus to others.
May each child of God who reads this paper see to it that he, at all events, shall turn to the hand that is smiting, and thus become the honoured instrument of accomplishing more, by the good hand of God, than can possibly be done by the resources of man.