The Hongkong Telegraph.
Monday, April 24, 1939.
AT ST. ANDREW'S
Scouts Parade and Hear Sermon on Courage
Addressing the St. Andrew's congregation, in which scouts were strongly represented the Rev. J.R.Higgs said:
Today Englishmen throughout the Empire and the World remember the patron saint of their country St. George. No doubt one reason why you Scouts have chosen today for your Church Parade is because it is St. George's Day. It is a matter for thankfulness that recent years have seen an increase of devotion towards our national saint, for it would be a bad day for England if she forgot St. George. He has about him a soldierly directness and simplicity, a knightly courtesy, and a faith that is at once confident and joyful. He is in fact the example of our race at its best what we desire to be and all miss by so much.
Very little is known about St. George. He did not, in fact, formally become the patron saint of England until the reign of Edward III. Even before the end of the 5th. century his deeds had been forgotten. Towards the end of that century a writer mentions him in a list of those "whose names are justly reverenced among men, but whose acts are known only to God." The only solid fact that seems to be established about him is his martyrdom at Lydda in Palestine. And then, because Lydda is near Joppa, a myth connected with Joppa was transferred to him.
At Joppa, according to the myth, Perseus had slain the sea monster that threatened the virgin Andromeda. So the story grew up that George was the slayer of a dragon - as he is still represented on an English sovereign. That, of course, is first legend. George was in reality a soldier of the Cross and as such very appropriately our patron saint - "the unknown warrior" who laid down his life for Christ. Crusading Englishmen discovered his fame in the near East and his high qualities somehow "spoke to their condition."
"St. George for England"
So for years his shining figure stood before the English imagination as an example for an English manhood to follow. English men at arms cried his name on many battlefields. It gave them courage. King Henry V ramed his army at Agincourt with the famous lines "God for Harry, England, and St. George." The words epitomised their hopes and their loyalties. It was a home cry. They thought of homesteads and green fields. It expressed for them their loyalty to England and to God. In the darkest hour of 1918 the awful tedium of senseless slaughter was relieved by Roger Keyes's signal, "St George for England."
One wonders why it is that the procession of arms has so often produced such magnificent Christians. I believe it is because there is a spirit in the soldier that has something in common with that of the Religious. He is a man under discipline for certain ends, although we may disagree with those ends. Discipline fosters its own graces of simplicity, directness, and humility. The roots strike deep where they cannot stray. It was the spirit of soldierly discipline that once made its appeal to Englishmen, but it has been an unpopular word for some years now. May be our present anxious in the world will help to revive it again.
Everybody has been so busy expressing themselves, so terrified at repression, that any kind of restraint seems to constitute a new impiety. The result is dissipation of vitality and a restless, dissatisfied spirit. Our baptism should remind us of the soldierly character of our vocation. It is only through the bondage of Christ - a bondage voluntarily accepted, mark you - that the soul enjoys true liberty.
And there is another virtue in this knightly figure that calls forth our admiration. There is a tendency to grow impatient with the weak, the (???), the slow - an unwillingness to suffer fools gladly. St. George recalls us to the courtesy of the wise and the strong. His courage was at that rare kind that can choose without
faltering between two loyalties. He loved his life as a tribune. He was a fine soldier. He loved his own men with that rare soldierly - pastoral love, and yet when the choice came, he made the choice of the Cross simply and humbly and without heroics.
Courage We All Need
We all need that sort of courage in the Christian life. To be able to stand alone, to see the smile of worldly superiority, to be out of the fashion, to take a different road from our friends, to have our life perhaps accounted madness. This was the sort of courage we see in St. George and this is the sort of courage that is so essentially Christian.
Since the 14th. century St. George has been the Patron Saint of England and on St. George's Day we think of our country and thank God that we belong to a great Christian nation standing almost alone in the world for the great principles of liberty, free speech, constitutional monarchy, fair play and justice.
To hear some people talk one would imagine that all patriotism is out of date and wrong. But though there is a bad patriotism, a superficial and blustering jingoism, there is also a good kind, a deep, true love of our native land for its own sake. That surely is not wrong. Our Lord Himself was a patriot. "And when He drew nigh, He saw the city and wept over it. I would have gathered thee as a hen gathers her chicks under her wing but ye would not."
Jerusalem was the one great city in the little country of Palestine. There had been times in the nation's history when the Jewish Kingdom had consisted of little more than Jerusalem and its environs. It was the love of His native land that made our Lord weep that day. But His patriotism was deep enough to be patient and wise. He distinguished between what was of first importance for them from what was only secondary. For more important than their relations with the Romans were their relations with God. "If thou hadst known the relations with God which make for thy peace." And this is true of any nation at any time. Far more important than its relations with any other nation are its relations with God. We need to be reminded of that on St. George's Day as it applies to our own country.
Inspiration of Browning
In the collected works of Robert Browning the two poems, "Home thoughts from abroad" and "Home thoughts from the sea" are printed one after the other. The first speaks of England in April:
"Oh, to be in England
"Now that April's there."
But it is the second that we should read on St. George's Day. Browning is at sea and he passes places where great naval battles were fought to maintain our country's freedom. He thinks gratefully of those who fought and bled there for England, and for him, and then asks himself what he in his turn can do.
"Nobly, nobly, Cape Saint Vincent to the North west died away;
"Sunset ran, one glorious blood red, reeking into Cadiz Bay;
"Bluish 'mid the burning water, full in face Trafalgar lay;
"In the dimmest North east distance dawned Gibraltar grand and gray;
"Here and here England help me: how can I help England? - say.
"Whoso turns as I, this evening, turns to God to praise and pray.
"While Jove's planet rises yonder, silent over Africa."
What can we do for England? As members of the great world wide communion of the Church of England and as individuals, let us, by following the example of Christ's warrior St. George, set the right example for God and straight and honest living, and so do our best in our day and generation to live as good soldiers of Jesus Christ.