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Friday March 1 2019

Looking Back: Are We Downhearted?

A rallying-cry from March 1919.

Are we downhearted?

WHEN the first battalions crossed to France, there was a common cry on their lips, “Are we downhearted?” and the cry was answered by a stentorian “No.” The Church of Christ, which is the army of the living God, is prone to fall into moods of discouragement, and needs to reassure itself by the same stout self-confidence and confidence in its Lord.

There are causes of discouragement without doubt. The Church is not to many of her children the dear mother she ought to be. They are careless of her, and hardly give her a thought. The hierarchies have proved a failure. Even the democratic churches mean less to many of their nominal adherents than their golf club or their football team. There is no use in forgetting solid and grim realities. The slack hold that the Church retains over a multitude of men is such a solid and grim reality. But there is abundant reason to check discouragement.

Since the days of Elijah, who fancied that every one was an apostate from the truth except himself, those who have to deal with spiritual matters have been prone to take desponding views. They look only at the seamy side of things. There is another side.

What organisation exists in the world that is doing better work for the welfare of humanity than is done by the Church of Christ? To what adviser do the great mass of the people turn so readily in time of distress as to the homely minister of the Church whom they know to be their friend? Critical and sometimes scornful of the Church as many are, even they have no wish to see her perish. Moreover, she deals with the things of the soul that give little or no outward expression of their vitality. Immensely powerful in reality, their importance can be easily under-rated. It is not impossible that the Church is a more significant factor in the world to-day than at any time since the Apostolic age when the Roman world was won.

Even on the war itself the influence of the Church has been immensely powerful. There is universal testimony to the value of the work done by the Chaplains. The Churches’ Huts and Y.M.C.A. have done a vast service to the men, not unappreciated. And at home the ministry of consolation has upheld many anxious and sorrowful spirits, and the ministry of courage and hope has sustained the heart of the nation. One can think of great uplifting services in some churches that were like a bugle call to flagging and weary people. In the midst of the Civil War in America Lincoln exclaimed: “Thanks be to God who in such an hour as this gives us the Churches.” If men think justly, it is in such a way they think to-day. Are we downhearted? No.

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