They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.
Psalm CXXVI, 5.
The subject matter of this concluding section was prompted by a question that was addressed to me soon after my return from Bromsgrove.
Like Paul, I had a longing to visit the scenes of former labours and the friends and associates of earlier days, to see how they had fared. Accordingly I visited a small town some twenty miles or so distant from Luton and one of the persons on whom I called, was the writer of the letter to my wife that is referred to in Chapter 7. However I was ignorant of that fact at the time and indeed for a number of years subsequently. While in conversation with her and after preliminary greetings, the first words she addressed to me were, “Well, now it’s all over, do you think it was worthwhile?” My astonishment at this question knew no bounds, for it seemed so utterly superfluous. I sprang upwards from the armchair that I had been reclining in and vehemently exclaimed, “Good heavens! Yes! A thousand times, yes!” It was then her turn to be astonished, with the outburst of just one word, “Extraordinary!”
Now the reader will to some extent understand, when I say that it had not remotely occurred to me that someone who professed to have even a basic knowledge Christian ethics, would for one moment doubt that the wholehearted following of conscience, could be anything but worth while. That conscience itself is not enough for righteousness, I readily grant, because it is dependent on the knowledge the individual has of right and wrong. But if conscience is not essential to finding the true path, why has the all wise Creator given it to us, constituting as it does a distinguishing characteristic between the human race and mere brute creation? The fiercely patriotic Chaplain of Wandsworth Prison was wont to advance the argument that conscience requires to be educated. At face value, I would agree, but what he really meant was that conscience requires to be sophisticated, that is imbued with the world’s wisdom and as James tells us, the world’s wisdom is earthly, sensual and devilish.
In my own case the depth and richness of the spiritual experience that came my way as a result of following conscience, made that course infinitely worthwhile. As a result thereof, my faith has become robust, my understanding of the mind of Jesus has heightened and broadened and my heart has softened in Christ like sympathy for my fellows.
It may be asked if my views on militarism have changed as a result of my experiences? Yes, they have. Whereas before, my antipathy towards it was a half-hearted (because half understood) aversion arising from a general sensibility of its unchristian nature, now it is an all consuming, fiercely burning conflagration of irreconcilable hatred, based on first hand knowledge of its real diabolical character. So great is that hatred, that to encounter the slightest reminder of militarism rouses me in an anger that suffuses my whole being.
Shortly after settling in Worcester, I was returning home one Sunday morning from a meeting of the Adult School, with two fellow members, when we came across an assembly of Boy Scouts and Church Lads’ Brigades being marshalled into a procession for a ceremonial church parade. The sight of military usages being adopted in the service of Christ was more than I could stand and I turned off sharply away from our intended direction. As I turned I said in a half choking voice that trembled with rage, “Come on, let’s get out of this.” So great was my emotion that my friends glanced at me in astonishment, wondering what had stung me.
With respect to the effects on my physical and mental being, perhaps I should say no more, than just to remark in the language of Paul, “I bear the marks in my body.” These, although not apparent to the casual observer, I shall doubtless carry with me to the grave.
I know that my Redeemer liveth and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth. If when I reach the end of my probation, whether that end is the grave, or the return of Jesus finds me still numbered among the living, I can look back like Paul, who declared, “I have fought a good fight.” I will meet my Lord and King with some little trepidation at the recollection of faults and blunders, yet with joy unspeakable, in the assurance that my onward course has been in the right direction.
And so this story of suffering and sorrow ends at last on a note of joyous confident and jubilant triumph.
Yes, it was worthwhile. A thousand times YES!!!
It takes the grey and golden minute,
The tear as well as the smile,
The heart that has sorrow and gladness in it,
To fashion a life worth while.
Whose Image and Superscription?
The story of a First World War conscientious objector