An Easter Sermon
IF the nations of the world are not emulating each other in various deeds, it is from no lack of precept, or of expostulation on their neighbors' parts. The amount of political preaching done in the last three years has been equaled only by the high moral tone of the preachers, and by the amazing nobility of their sentiments. Such clarion notes of mingled denunciation and self-esteem have sounded so shrilly from shore to shore that the din of it all is just a trifle confusing. We no longer feel cocksure who are the wicked oppressors, and who are the saintly oppressed.
How exalted was our domestic indignation not so very long ago at the misrule of the Spaniards in Cuba! How beautiful the language we heard from pulpit and platform and press! "Old-world tyranny." "Heroic struggle of a downtrodden people for national existence!" "Sacred cause of freedom!" "Divine rights of humanity!"—and much more to the same effect. It was simply grand while it lasted, and when, for obvious reasons, it couldn't last any longer, a beneficent Providence saved us from introspection by winding up the incomparable Dreyfus case, so that the whole English-speaking world should have a chance to exalt itself at the expense of France. The Anglo-Saxon, to do him justice, did not lightly throw away this opportunity. More in sorrow than in anger, he pointed out the contrast between the perfidy of the Gaul and his own splendid rectitude. He sighed in England, and he groaned in America, over the rottenness of that fair land which never has appreciated at its true worth the admirable example set by the nobler race. He prophesied speedy ruin for the misguided French; he proposed—though faintly—excluding himself and his handiwork from the promised Exposition; he enjoyed, as only the Anglo-Saxon can enjoy, the exquisite delight of being better than his neighbor, and of expressing without diffidence his sense of superiority.
And now? Well, now the situation has broadened. One hears the same sentiments, but with varied applications. "Heroic struggle of the Filipinos for national existence!" (Sympathy of England, France and Germany.) "Heroic struggle of the Boers for national existence!" (Sympathy of America, France and Germany.) "Sacred cause of Freedom trodden under foot by the great Republic which has ever proclaimed itself the champion of Independence." (Extract from Radical English journal.) "Sacred cause of Freedom trodden under foot by the ruthless Monarchy which seeks ever its own aggrandizement." (Extract from ardent American journal.) "Humanity robbed of its inalienable rights by the rapacity of the United States and Great Britain." (Extract from French journal, taking its turn—and why not?—to be virtuous.) "Oppression of the weak by the strong!" (Chorus of every land, including Russia. China listens amazed.)
If any one would like to preach an Easter sermon, sure to be unpopular and unfruitful, he might take for his text that admirable sarcasm uttered long ago by one who must have seen a vast deal of human nature before he retired to his monastery: "In judging others, a man usually toileth in vain. For the most part he is mistaken, and he easily sinneth. But in judging and scrutinizing himself, he always laboreth with profit."