The 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War in 1918 is about to occur. When war erupted in August 1914, there was great enthusiasm in some quarters about a fight that many thought would be over before Christmas of that year. Rev. Thomas Todhunter Shields was the pastor of Jarvis Street Baptist Church in Toronto. He was a militant fundamentalist and a fiery orator who championed all things British. He had no tolerance for liberal Protestantism, Catholics or French Canadians, and he reserved a special venom for Germany. Early in 1915, Shields preached a series of sermons, using scripture to demonize the Germans and to exhort young Canadians to enlist and fight. Here is one of those sermons.
“The Kaiser and Beelzebub”
I must tell you plainly that I am not now and never have been a pacifist. In respect to my British citizenship, the perpetual clanking of the Kaiser’s sword forbade the intellectual somnolence essential to sweet dream of peace; and in respect those deeper considerations which concern the prime source of all human envy, and jealousy, and strife, I never have been able, and am not now able, to see how war can be banished from the earth while anywhere in the universe “the strong man armed keepeth his palace.” The Kaiser and Beelzebub, and they are not unrelated, forbid my crossing out of my Bible this word of Him with Whom they both are at war. “And he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one” . . .
Satan at work
Satan is more than a religious philosophical abstraction. There is surely no escape from that conclusion for those who accept the authority of Scripture; for nothing is more plainly taught than that as the first Adam was defeated by that malevolent spirit; the second Adam, like David contending with Goliath, came expressly to conquer him: “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil” … But the devil is not yet gone; or, if he were, I do not know how such a monster as the Kaiser is to be accounted for. The only satisfactory explanation of such a mad and blood-costly costly ambition as the Kaiser’s is found in the Biblical doctrine of a personal devil.
Germany and darkness
I think too, there is abundant evidence of the operation in human affairs of a mastermind which loves darkness. Germany has professedly been calling for light for many years. She has loudly professed her love for the truth. All her schools and universities she has regarded as lights shining in a dark place. Her scholars professed a passion for the truth. Nothing was to be accepted as true until it was proved. Old theories of life must be abandoned. Nothing must be allowed to escape her searching scrutiny. Even the Bible must no longer be taken for granted. The truth must be known at all costs.
But after all this loud profession, did the sun ever look upon a land more afraid of the truth than Germany? It would appear from all reports that Germany is a united Germany. But no one will deny that Germany has given to the world some of the noblest Christians who ever blessed the sons of men. And to me it seems incredible that German Christians, and Germans of high moral character who may not bear the Christian name, should approve of the German conduct of this war. I am of the opinion that it will yet transpire that the nation has been kept in darkness with respect to the real causes and conduct of the war. It is conceivable that one man, consumed with ambition, should lead others into such a conflict; but that a whole nation should deliberately embark upon a campaign of plunder and bloodshed seems beyond belief. The only explanation is, that official, governmental, Germany has systematically blinded the minds of her people to the truth . . .
A mad dog
You cannot reason with a mad dog. Eloquence is wasted on a tiger from the jungle. The only effective argument is a gun of the largest possible calibre, an army of the maximum striking power. Oh, we all have failed here. We have argued with the devil: we have made speeches to principalities and powers! Young men, you have parleyed with the wolves of hell, with the devil’s dogs of war. You have thought to match the devil with diplomacy! Your only safety is in fighting!
In this moral and spiritual warfare Paul was no pacifist. He did not recommend disarmament. He said, “Put on the whole armor of God that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” There is no other way.
Enlisting to fight
And now let me enlist you for this war. I tell you, you must be trained, and disciplined, and armed, to the highest possible state of military effectiveness. What is the panoply, the whole armor? What are its elements? Truth, righteousness, preparation of the gospel of peace, faith, the helmet of salvation, the sword of the spirit, all-prayer. But where are all these elements to be found? I give it you in one word, “Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might.” As all abstract principles of evil potential become mighty when transformed and transmuted into personality, so do all principles of righteousness, and truth, and faith, become invincible when so transmuted . . .
That is the principle of salvation. Salvation, in a Person, and He, the Man Christ Jesus. He is thy panoply, oh man. Take Christ and He will clothe you with Himself, His righteousness, and truth, and peace, and faith. The strong man armed keepeth his palace and his goods are in peace only until a stronger than he cometh upon him. Satan has beaten everybody but Christ. He is our only hope in this war. “Thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” ♦♦♦♦♦
Source: Revelations of the War: Eight Sermons, T.T. Shields (Toronto: the Standard Publishing Co.1915), pp: 61-72.