Motto: "The sea is his." Psalm 95:5.
For I am a man under authority. Matt. 8:9.
In October last there was a conference of Army and Navy chaplains at Governor's Island in New York Harbor. As he sat in the beautiful post chapel of St. Cornelius, named after the converted Roman centurion at Caesarea, it seemed to the writer more natural than ever before, that the first three outside the immediate circle of Jesus to recognize his claims were military men (Matt. 8:5; Luke, 23:47; Acts, 10:1). They saw in him and his teachings the needs of their own profession, order, obedience, duty, self-control, and self-sacrifice. We may go even farther and note that as his very name, announced by the angel of God before His birth, that of one of the greatest fighters of his race, Joshua, would indicate, to be a true follower of the "Prince of Peace," requires habitual practice of all the military virtues. He who is out to obtain true peace, whether with himself, his fellow-men, or with God—in view of the heroic changes in character required—will soon discover that he is out for a fight, though his weapons be not physical.
The commanding officer of the Post at Governor’s Island, now chief of Staff of the United States Army, Major General Charles P. Summerall, was quite true to form as a spiritual descendent of St. Cornelius, when shortly after the conference, in an address delivered in New York City, he expressed himself thus : "If one studies history one must inevitably come to the conclusion that no great army has ever existed and no successful leader has ever commanded, who did not possess some deep form of religious conviction. Indeed, history teaches that patriotism and religion have ever gone hand in hand, while atheism has invariably been the accompaniment of communism, radicalism, bolshevism, and all the enemies of civilization and good government."
Others whose names are illustrious in the annals of the Army might be quoted in similar vein. The records at West Point in particular abound in examples of the loftiest devotion to Christian ideals.
The records of the Naval Academy are no less emphatic.
They that go down to the sea in ships and occupy their business in great waters; these men see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep. Psalm 107:23, 24.
Writers beyond number have dwelt upon the hold which the sea has ever held upon the imagination and emotions of mankind. In its calmer aspects, it suggests the serenity, mystery, immensity and irresistible energy of God, and in its wilder moods his power, majesty, and awfulness. In all moods it is a constant reminder of man’s littleness dependence, and has ever been one of his chief stimuli to resourcefulness, courage, heroism and self-sacrifice.
No one can find more about his calling in the Bible than does the “sailor,” whether in the Navy or not. From Genesis through the Psalms and Prophets to the New Testament, and again on through the Gospels down to and in the last book of the Bible, he will find references innumerable.
The Saviour often taught by the sea-side in ships and boats. Fishermen were among his earliest disciples and were called to be fishers of men. Nets and fishes were often used in his illustrations. He “rebuked the winds and the sea,” and when he saw his disciples “toiling in rowing,” came to them walking upon the water in evidence of his power.
Sacred writers from the earliest days have used a ship as a symbol of the church in its course through history, and as a symbol of the human soul, voyaging safely under the guidance of the Saviour as Pilot, not only over the sea of life, but across the sea of death, “into the haven where they would be.” In this faith they have ever found “an anchor of the soul both sure and steadfast.”
From the walls of the catacombs there has come down the fish used as a symbol by Christians in the days of the persecutions. As a sign of recognition, one would begin to draw the outline of a fish and the other would complete it as a proof of his Christian discipleship. A fish would suggest the waters of baptism—the believer being caught in the gospel net— and himself to be a fisher of men. Perhaps there was a reference to immortality—a power over-riding Death as a fish does the “watery chaos.”
But it is more probable that the fish was used as a symbol because the early Christians saw in its name their religion, Bible and creeds in one word. The five letters which spell the word “fish” in Greek, IX?Y?, (ICTHUS) are the initial letters of the Saviour’s title, “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour.”
(Iesous Christos Theou Uios Soter)
The people that do know their God shall be strong and do exploits. Daniel 11 -.32.
“Every great American enterprise began from God.” wrote George Bancroft, the historian and the Secretary of the Navy, in whose regime the Naval Academy was founded, and after whom its largest building is named. The great names in our history are not those of atheists or agnostics. “For God and His Church” read the pennant on the Half Moon. “In the name of God, Amen,” began the Compact in the cabin of the Mayflower. From Washington down through Lincoln and on again through Wilson, Harding, and Coolidge, our great constructive leaders have been firm believers in God and have sought and obtained his aid. “Fear God and take your own part,” wrote Theodore Roosevelt. He placed the fear of God first in his own life as in his advice to others, knowing well that the other factors then would have their proper perspective. Last May the commander-in-chief of the Army and Navy put himself on record in these words:
It was in accord with basic truths of the universe that the signers of the Declaration of Independence declared their reliance upon the protection of a Divine Providence. Founded upon religion, our government has derived strength and stability from the religious nature of its people. If we are to maintain our national existence, we must continue to foster and cherish this spirit, which underlies all enduring achievements. So long as we adhere to the eternal verities of religion, we shall not fail to keep that inspiration which has carried us through nearly one hundred and fifty years.
Fear thou not; for I am with thee. Isaiah 41:10.
The tablet which records the fact that the “Naval School” was founded October 10, 1845, is at the entrance to Mahan Hall, the center of the academic building. A 300- page volume of sermons which would do credit to any well trained clergyman has as its title, Thoughts on the Life of the Christian. Its author was A. T. Mahan, D.C.L., LLD., Captain, U. S. Navy, who wrote, The Influence of Sea-Power upon History. During the summer months he often conducted the service in the absence of his rector and preached the sermon himself.
In a little town upon the Hudson is a small church, built by Farragut with his Mobile Bay prize-money. “God is my Leader,” his life motto, encircles his four- starred flag at the top of the window in his memory in the Academy Chapel.
The corner-stone of the Chapel was laid by Admiral George Dewey, who for years taught a Bible class for young men. A new emphasis was placed upon his high Christian character a year ago when his body was laid to its final rest in the Washington Cathedral.
The most successful chain of missionary stations in Alaska today had its beginning in a service conducted ashore by a young naval lieutenant, better known later as Admiral Stockton.
In the name of our God we will set up our banners. Psalm 20:5.
Over the main entrance to the Naval Academy Chapel, the dome of which, significantly perhaps, is the first feature of the Academy to greet the eye whether one approaches it by land or by water, is the motto, “Non sibi sed patrice,” “Not for self, but for country.” But the Chapel “Colors,” the national ensign and the Academy flag, were not deposited at the door. As they swept through it, they passed another motto on the door itself, almost at the level of one’s good right arm, “Deo et patrice,” “For God and for Country.” So on up the aisle they passed to the altar, to come to rest in line of vision with the Cross of God, and flanking the form of the Divine Leader in the altar window itself. Religion and patriotism cannot be separated except in theory, because God has joined them together. That religion is incomplete and impractical which does not include love of country and duty to it. That is a false patriotism which leaves out God and will prove to be a creature of “whim” and not of principle. Having its roots in our homes, true patriotism binds them and us to the throne of God and is religion in terms of citizenship,—loyalty to God is the basis and guarantee of every other.
The U. S. Navy instructions require that the church pennant “be hoisted at the same place of hoist and over the ensign during the performance of divine service on board vessels of the Navy.” This is not a tribute to any ecclesiastical body, but to Religion and God.
I will go in the strength of the Lord God.
As in civilian life, so in the Army and Navy. It is not difficult to discover that most of our great leaders have been firm believers in God and in themselves as his instruments. They had faith in themselves and in their fellows primarily because they had faith in God.
It is hard to see how a great man can be an atheist. Without the sustaining influence of faith in divine power we could have little faith in ourselves. We need to feel that behind us is intelligence and love. Doubters do not achieve, skeptics do not contribute, cynics do not create. (President Coolidge)
Anyone aspiring to leadership must study the successes and the failures in the lives of others, and avail himself of every means to a wider and more thorough preparation within his reach. It would always be presumptuous and often tragic to assume the obligations of leadership if one lacks knowledge of the spiritual points of the compass. To the chaplain in particular, the leader who leaves God out of his life work and daily engagement list has failed to connect up with the great Dynamo of the Universe. He is like a house wired for electricity, in which the current has not been turned on. He is not only cheating himself by failing to get results which are within his reach in his own personal religious and professional growth, but by thus dwarfing himself, he is robbing his men, for whom he is responsible to the Flag as well as to the God whom he ignores. And they often discover it.
Many who would scorn to wear second hand clothes or shoes are content with a religion which really is not their own. No wonder they are confused and distressed by the so-called “conflict between religion and present-day science.” That phrase is born of ignorance. Ready to accept Truth whenever and wherever found as from God, the man who has known God as a friend and companion, has a conviction as the result of his own personal experience, and is content to await the “deposit” if the waters of thought seem troubled. In these days of radio and electrons, he would be superficial indeed who claimed that we have no knowledge except that revealed through the senses. Faith does not contradict reason; it supplements it. It is not a “leap into the dark” but sheds light into it, and the man of faith has a peace in his heart and an obstinate steadiness in his life which the “world” did not give and which the “world” cannot take away.
The great leaders of the Army and Navy seem to have lived the advice of Phillips Brooks to the men of Harvard: “Be sure of God, and in the end nothing can overthrow you.”
Shall we not open the human heart Swing the doors wide till the hinges start? There is no need to search so wide Open the door and stand aside—
Let God in!
“And must I wait till science give All doubts a full reply?”
Nay rather, while the sea of doubt,
Is raging wildly round about,
Questioning of life and death and sin,
Let me but creep within
Thy fold, O Christ, and at Thy feet
Take but the lowest seat
And hear Thine awful voice repeat
In gentlest accents heavenly sweet,
“Come unto Me, and rest;
Believe Me, and be blessed.”
Then He arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm.
Above the altar of the United States Naval Academy chapel is one of the most exquisite windows in America, placed there in memory of Admiral David D. Porter, U. S. Navy, by the Class of 1869. It is of singular beauty in lines and coloring and portrays the Saviour walking upon the water, his figure being one of remarkable tenderness and majesty. At every service it is a reminder that Jesus is still the ruler of the winds and the sea. One of the traditions of divine service in the chapel is that each official service shall end with the hymn, “Eternal Father! strong to save,” with its closing lines, “O hear us when we cry to Thee, For those in peril on the sea.”
It is a thought precious to many officers and men of the Navy afloat on the seven seas, that they are “remembered” regularly by the kneeling congregation in the Navy’s Mother Church.
Eternal Father! strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave, Who bidd’st the mighty ocean deep Its own appointed limits keep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee For those in peril on the sea!
The stanza sung is one of four stanzas of a hymn written in i860 by William Whiting, a clergyman of the Church of England, after a storm in the Mediterranean. At once it became popular and is often sung in England and in our own country, particularly
along the coast in times of storms and anxiety as to the welfare of those at sea. And on many a ship it is sung at the close of divine service.
The hymn is really an earnest prayer set to music. In the first stanza God the Father is addressed, the Creator of the World. Surely He who created the machine can control it and will hear our prayer.
O Christ! Whose voice the waters heard,
And hushed their raging at Thy word,
Who walked’st on the foaming deep,
And calm amidst its rage didst sleep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee For those in peril on the sea!
Appeal is made in the second stanza to God the Son, the compassionate Jesus, who wore a human body for thirty-three years and understands our joys and sorrows from experience. He controlled the winds and the sea then and can do so now.
Most Holy Spirit! Who did’st brood Upon the chaos dark and rude,
And bid its angry tumult cease,
And give, for wild confusion, peace;
Oh hear us when we cry to Thee For those in peril on the sea!
In the third stanza the appeal is to God the Holy Spirit, who brought order out of chaos at the Creation and does so in individual hearts and lives today.
O Trinity of love and power!
Our brethren shield in danger’s hour;
From rock and tempest, fire and foe,
Protect them wheresoe’er they go;
Thus evermore shall rise to thee Glad hymns of praise from land and sea.
The appeal in the fourth stanza is cumulative and even more intensely emphatic. It is addressed to the Divine Three in One. The third line, “From rock and tempest, fire and foe” is a particular witness to the inspiration of the author. All dangers today of the sailor may be classed under one of the four heads, of which those named are typical.
The writer had the privilege of acknowledging in part the spiritual debt to the author of the hymn under which those of us who are in the Navy rest, by officiating at the baptism of the author’s great-granddaughter in the Naval Academy chapel on Easter Sunday, 1926.