The Nation’s Need: August 1914

This is an edited version of a sermon given by Canon Farrer, Rector of Bridport on Sunday 14th August 1914 in St. Mary’s Church, Bridport.  It was reprised by his successor, Canon Andrew Evans, as part of the ‘Lest Bridport Forgets’ concert held at the church on Sunday 3rd August, 2014.  The original may be read in the Bridport News held on microfiche at the Town Library. 

The Nation’s Need.

The Lord opened the eyes of the young man and he saw and behold the mountain was full of horses and chariots.

II Kings v 17.

The words of my text are taken from one of those quaintly fascinating stories of the Old Testament in which an aged and tired servant of God prays that his young companion in a time of great national danger and harassing anxiety , in a time of personal danger and harassing anxiety, might not lose his faith and trust in God, but might remain firm and steadfast in the religious principles of his upbringing.

The story runs that Benhadah, King of Syria, had summoned his army to make war upon Israel. He had mobilised vast forces of cavalry, chariots and foot soldiers , and had made a swift descent upon the people of a small kingdom whom he intended to quickly crush. Beside the King of Israel had only a small army to draw upon, and it attacked quickly would be quite unable to oppose the greater army of Syria coming against him with sudden awfulness.

There is something absolutely pathetic in the story, as we picture the young servant rushing into the room where his master the prophet was quietly sleeping. There is an anguish of loving terror in the young man’s voice as we listen to his words, ‘Alas! My Master, how shall we do!’

This week that has just drawn to a close has been full of distressing news. Against overwhelming numbers our gallant little army has been fighting magnificently. It has been pushed back and back by the sheer weight of numbers. We know that our men have inflicted huge losses upon the enemy, but we alas also know that some thousands of our brave brothers have fallen and will never return.

We rejoice, with thankful pride, to feel that at sea our navy once again proved that the old magnificent traditions of English bravery and English seamanship are as true today as they ever have been and that the loss of ships the enemy has sustained this week has given us fresh security that the shores of ur dear country will remain unmolested.

But we would not be human, we should not be true to our country, we should be lacking in patriotism if we were not filled with a great and very terrible anxiety. For our little army needs immediate support and we ought to be able to give it. We ought to be able to put half a million men of the Continent at Ostend to protect the coast and to threaten the flank of the enemy……….we have to possess our souls in patience and we need to turn in faith to the God of our Fathers and to remember that ‘His kingdom rules over all….’

We are fighting for liberty, for justice and for righteousness, because we are seeking to defend those who have been wantonly attacked: because we want to give the Belgians back their homes and to punish those who have brought such wanton misery and horrible suffering upon them: because we want to curb that evil spirit of militaryism that would allow Germany to dominate the world, because in other words we are fighting to uphold what we believe God has given us, our empire, for namely freedom, justice and righteousness. I want to cheer you and remind you that our God is with us.

But remember praying to God is not sufficient. We have to pray and do our duty. You remember that Charles Kingsley said in a time of great fever: ‘Prayer is wonderful, no doubt, but you must look to your drains.’

Prayer is magnificent, but we all have to make it understood far and wide that every man between the ages of 19 and 35, has, as the result of prayers to come forward and say to his country; ‘Here I am, put me either in the fighting ine or let me work in the position that is most needed. Is it nothing that 100,000 sons from Canada are coming to help us? Is it nothing that if we want them five time that number are willing to come from India?

Prayer is being similarly answered. It means that after anxious waiting of days of agonising sorrow, it means that after some sorrow and discipline there will be final victory and then a lasting and honourable peace when the kingdom of righteousness shall be formed and the name of Jesus Christ be heard.

But, and this is the absolutely important thing, young men at home must hear the prayers, not hang back. They must hear the prayers going up to God and one and all must offer themselves. It is no time to think that young men may remain behind the counter to serve. Our women can do this work better than they can. It is no time to think that young men may remain sitting upon their office stools in the bank, or in the counting house and say they are not wanted yet. They are wanted. They are wanted now. Every young man must decide, either to his shame to remain at home, or he must accept his country’s prayer now at once and say ‘Here I am, use me for my country’s good. ‘ I have no fear’.

Our country is slow to move but I believe it is moving in answer to prayer. Our women are generally the first to stir, and I already hear the women of our empire crying shame at any man who holds back when England wants them so badly. But our young men are made of better stuff then to hold back. Once they know that their country needs them, thyey will offer by the thousand.

‘Tis well, from this day forward we shall know,

That in ourselves our safety must be sought.

That by our own right hands it must be wrought

That we must stand unpropped or be laid low.

O darstard, whom such foretaste doth now cheer!

We exult, if they that rule our land

Be men who hold its many blessing dear,

Wise, upright, valiant, not a servile band

Who are to judge of danger which they fear

And honour which they do not understand.

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