War is one of the greatest forces disrupting our organized society. It is first and uppermost in our minds, because it affects every aspect of our living—home, church, government, and family. War is as old as the human race. In fact, it existed before there was ever a human being. We read, "There was war in heaven. . . And the great dragon was east out, . . . and his angels were cast out."
Some deplore the devastation which the present conflict has brought, and others argue that war produces good results, such as contacts with other peoples, cultures, inventions, and the like. But, we ask, what are these in comparison with broken homes—family disunion, delinquency, maimed and crippled dear ones, disregard for the church, governmental disruption, strife between capital and labor, vice, immorality, changed attitudes, unconventional standards of living, and above all, hatred and bitterness? And so we may go on and on. We look upon it all with misgiving, and say, What does it all mean? How will all this affect my personal life?
This I should like to illustrate by telling you of the famous Thomas Nast. In a public exhibition of his skill, Nast once performed a strange feat. Taking a piece of canvas six by-two feet, he placed it horizontally on his easel. Before his audience, with brush in hand, he began to sketch a beautiful landscape—fields, farmhouses, buildings, green meadows, cattle, and over all a blue sky, with fleecy clouds, which seemed to pour its benediction upon the scene below.
At last, the artist stood back, brush in hand, to receive the applause from his audience. When the applause had subsided, he stepped up to his picture and began with dark colors and swift strokes to strike out the landscape, meadows, cattle, buildings, and sky. Up and down, up and down, went the strokes of the brush until the beautiful landscape was totally obliterated.
With a satisfied look, he stood back, laid his brush down and said, "It is finished" But no applause came from his astonished audience. He then placed a gilded frame around the picture and ordered the attendants to place it in a vertical position. Then there before their eyes appeared a beautiful waterfall, plunging over a precipice of dark rock, skirted with trees and verdure.
So it is with our landscape—we sketch a picture with health, wealth, prosperity, peace, and all the good things of life. We imagine our sketch complete, but an unseen hand comes along and blots out houses, lots, farms, merchandise, cherished hopes, and ambitions. Even the portraits of loved faces are blotted out. We cry, Hold, Hold. But the hand that applies the dark colors moves relentlessly up and down across our fair scene. We bewail our ruined picture, but it is because we do not have the true angle of vision. At last, God turns our picture, and there appears a work, not for time, but for eternity.
While the famous artist was spoiling the landscape he might have said, "What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter." John 13:7. What puzzled the audience was plain to him. In each destructive stroke upon the landscape, he was making a constructive stroke upon the waterfall. What in the providence of God appears so strange to us, is clear to Him who guides the destiny of our lives. He would save us from being conformed to this world, and would help us to be transformed by the renewal of our minds, that we may prove what is that "good, gnd acceptable, and perfect, will of God." Rom. 12 :2.
"We are building every day
In a good or evil way,
And the structure as it grows
Will our inmost self disclose,
Till in every arch and line
All our faults and failings shine.
It may grow a castle grand
Or a wreck upon the sand.
Build it well whate'er you do,
Build it straight and strong and true ;
Build it clean and high and broad,
Build it for the eye of God."