The Cross and Flag: World War I Experiences – By George Ridout

Chapter 19

Consecration – As Illustrated by the War

Rom. 12:1 “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.”

The war has preached a powerful sermon to us on the subject of Consecration. Millions of men have come up to the altars of patriotism and dedicated their all to the cause of country. The rich have come with their millions, the merchant with his stores, the banker with his money, the scholar with his learning, the professional with his art, the poor in their penury — all have come and dedicated their lives and blood to the cause of humanity and liberty, and they have thousands of them, sealed their consecration with their blood upon the battlefields of the Marne, the Vosges, the Meuse, the Argonne.

I think one of the most remarkable cases of Consecration the war has revealed is seen in the remarkable sacrifices made by Paderewski that man of Poland, who, in order that Poland might be set free from the yoke of the Hun and be restored again to her rights as a free and independent nation, gave himself without reserve to his country’s cause. Paderewski was the world’s greatest pianist. His earnings became enormous. All Europe and all America clamored for his recitals. In one engagement in this country for just a month or two his income was near the $150,000 mark. He traveled in private car and in state, servants in livery waited upon him. He and his wife enjoyed all the luxury and comforts that royal heads could command. It took over thirty trunks to carry his wardrobe and treasures. A secretary and treasurer traveled with him everywhere. But everything became changed when he thrust himself into his country’s cause. He gave up all that his country might be made free, and might be made contented and prosperous and happy again. When he arrived in Poland he bore no trunks, no luxuries; a handbag was sufficient almost to carry just his necessary toilet articles. When he came to Posen and Warsaw and Cracow, he was hailed by the Poles as liberator and savior, but his life was hourly in danger from enemy bombs or bullets. At Posen his hotel was attacked by Germans, five bullets entered his room. He has to be guarded constantly from the assassin’s attack.

He came to Paris the other week to plead before President Wilson and the others for fair play for Poland. This is how one of the Paris papers describe Paderewski:

“One morning he simply walked to his piano and shut the lid. It was a symbolic gesture — the closing of one side of his life, the side which, with the strength and nerve-power of every day for thirty years he had been building up, the deliberate killing of every artistic urge within him, and his self-consecration to the dream, born in his youth, of a Polish State. Since that time those amazing fingers of Paderewski, which even in their smallest movements fascinate one, have not touched a keyboard; and in the almost tawdry hotel rooms in Warsaw where he now finds a home, there is a gray line of unbroken dust along the crevice from which the great instrument, crowding one corner, opens. Briefly, in 1916 Paderewski renounced art. And in renouncing art then, renounced all the leisure and ease, all the homage and acclaim that went inevitably with such a success as his had been.

“He began work. Three years followed in which hundreds of hopes proved vain, in which one bright hour was succeeded by ten desperate ones, in which friends failed and faith wavered, in which ignorance, callousness, blindness, stupidity, malice, enmity to be combated were daily potions, in which the very fiber of the man was strained almost momentarily to the breaking point. Then that period ended, and thanks to British courtesy, it became possible for him to come to Poland. He landed from a cruiser at Dantzig, with his wife was machine-gunned in a hotel, ran countless perils, but at length reached Warsaw. The arrival in Warsaw marked a new epoch — an epoch a part of which it has been my privilege to be able to observe.

“In Warsaw M. Pederewski lives in three very modest rooms in the Hotel Bristol — shelter for fabulously-rich Ukrainian refugees who keep treasure-chests of cash under their beds, pest-house of German and Bolshevist intrigues, spy-ground for a small army of international agents, a veritable babel of the tongues of the world, and there he has toiled for something like eighteen hours every day for three full months.”

It is true Paderewski’s consecration is patriotic and political, yet nevertheless it serves the purpose of illustrating some of the important elements that enter into real consecration, which I think, resolve themselves into the following:

1. Possession of a great ideal.
2. Passionate devotion to it.
3. Answering its call and meeting its claim. I wish we might have as full a dedication to God and His cause of our lives and powers and all we have and are as we have witnessed in this war business. When I got ready to go to France in December, 1917, I made my will. I made out all necessary papers to my wife pertaining to any property I had. I fixed up all my affairs as though I was never coming back home again. I was giving myself without reservation to France. I was going to New York and then sail out on the ocean which had perils great and perils many in it. There was the unspeakably dangerous peril of the submarine added to all the other dangers of the sea. I was going to France where dangers stood thick. In Paris there were the bombing planes in the heavens above and in the war zone there was the constant menace of gas and shell attack. One’s life was never safe. So the best way to live was to be ready for any emergency that arose. It was a good thing to have all your affairs adjusted, your will made, and above all to be at peace with God and to be able to read your title clear to mansions in the skies. Now this was consecration in a certain sense, and yet it was possible to do all this without entering into Paul’s idea of consecration to the Lord Jesus.

I believe the present situation is calling for a special kind of consecration of the Pauline type. This old world has gone far astray and this war in many of its aspects only goes to illustrate the wickedness of humanity, how Christless has been our much-boasted civilization and how far we have gone away from the mind of Christ.

The consecration that our times demand and the church requires shall include: The Consecration of Intellect. The Consecration of Heart. The Consecration of Purpose.

1. The Consecration of Intellect must mean the bringing of every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ or in other words thinking in terms of the mind of Christ. It will mean a constant seeking to know the mind of Christ and thinking things out as He would if He were in our place.

This will mean the rejection of Rationalism, that evil thing which had no small effect in bringing on the war, because it was Rationalism in its schools and Rationalism in its pulpits that led to the collapse of moral judgment in Germany, swept away all allegiance to the God of the Old Testament and the ten commandments and rushed it over the abyss.

The intellect consecrated to Christ will think in His terms and will make faith not reason its final court of appeal. It will put the emphasis on the supernatural instead of the natural. The consecrated intellect will be needed greatly after the war to bring us back to Biblical and Christian thinking. It will be needed in our schools and colleges because there is a frightful amount of infidelity. One of the most emphatic infidels — shall I say? I met in France, was wearing the uniform of a Christian organization. I met him on the train and for a couple of hours we talked together. I was glad to inform him that after seeing war in all its aspects I had found no reason to throw overboard any of the traditions of a lifetime. We must learn a lesson from Germany, whose schools corrupted the nation and robbed it of the glorious gospel which its Martin Luther proclaimed to the world in the Reformation. And above all must we have this consecration in the pulpit. Too long has the pulpit been giving out an uncertain sound and telling things born more of rationalism and doubt than of faith and reverence and revelation.

There will be a tremendous need now that we shall settle down to normal life again to have a pulpit after the mind of Christ when the preacher will preach Christ’s gospel and not the shifting gospel of the times. Again do we need a pulpit like Spurgeon’s where always and without fail Christ’s gospel was preached, a pulpit such as Methodism produced in those days of great revivals, crowded churches and prayer meetings — a pulpit such as Moody’s was in Chicago, Inskip’s in Brooklyn, Cookman in Philadelphia, and a pulpit such as John S. Jowett’s is today in London where the preacher knows no one save Christ and Him crucified, and whose great consecrated intellect devotes itself to setting forth unceasingly the unsearchable riches of Christ.

2. There must be a Consecration of the Heart. Religion that is of the head only becomes superficial and artificial. What is needed is more heart. As the heart is the seat of the affections a consecration is called for that makes for a stream of affection with Christ as its object of devotion. This will make such affections as Love, Pity, Compassion, Admiration, etc., shine forth in the life.

3. Then there must be Consecration of Purpose. The question actuating the true Christian should be, To what am I devoting my life? What is the one dominating purpose of my life? A great man once said when asked the secret of his power as a Christian that he had but one passion and that was Christ.

We have to admit that we have today many Christians, so-called, without any definite purpose, and in consequence lacking the fire of real devotion. It was his purpose firm that made a Daniel that produced a Joseph. It was their high purposes that made the martyrs. The kind of purpose I speak of is that which will be willing to suffer and risk all for Jesus’ sake trusting the consequences to God. I think possibly I can illustrate this thought with the following incident from history:

In 1799, when the armies of Napoleon were sweeping over the Continent, Massena, one of his generals, with an army of 18,000 men, suddenly appeared on the heights above the little town of Feldkirk, on the frontier of Austria. It was Easter Day, and as the morning sun glittered upon the weapons of the French, the town council hastily assembled to consult what was to be done. Should a deputation be sent to Massena with the keys of the town and an entreaty for mercy, or should they attempt resistance? Then the old dean of the church stood up, and said: “This is Easter Day. We have been counting on our strength, and that fails. This is the day of Christ’s resurrection. Let us ring the bells and have service as usual, leaving the matter in God’s hands. We know only our weakness, and not the power of God.” Then all at once from the three or four church towers the bells began to chime joyous peals in honor of the resurrection, and the streets were filled with worshippers hastening to the house of God. The French heard with alarm the sudden clangor of joy bells, and concluded that the Austrian Army had arrived in the night to relieve the place. Massena soon broke up his camp, and before the bells had ceased ringing not a Frenchman was to be seen.