I have owned this book since I was ten years old. My parents found it at a market stall, and knowing what a WW1 enthusiast I was, they bought it for me. From what I can gather it was privately printed. If anyone has any information on this little book I’d love for you to get in touch.
The Red Flowers
Sermons From The Front To The Children At Home
Rev. Stuart Robertson M.A.
Before The Battle
‘Looking unto Jesus.’ – Heb. xii. 2.
‘Like Him.’ – 1 St. John iii. 2.
BOYS and girls, you read in the papers of great battles and their results. I wonder if you ever think of the preparation that goes before a battle. Roads have to be made, railways built, water-pipes laid for miles, and huge stores gathered together in special places.
But there are two things I want to tell you about. One is Compass-Bearing.
Every officer must have a compass, and every sergeant that can get one, will have one too. The attack often begins in the dark, and the soldiers have to go into an unknown country. They have studied it from maps and photographs, and seen it from a distance, but still they have never been there, and so to be sure of keeping the right direction, each body of men must steer by compass, and they must know their direction by compass.
Then although it is dark and no stars are to be seen and the country is strange, the compass is set, and one look at the luminous needle tells them which way to go.
So before the battle officers are comparing their compasses, taking them to headquarters to be tested, and talking about their compass-bearing.
Their colonel will ask them questions to see if the know what they have to do, and he is sure to ask, ‘Have you a compass?’
‘Has it been tested?’
‘What is your compass-bearing?’
’27 East,’ or whatever it may be.
The next thing is ‘Final Objective’. That means how far you are to go and where you are to stop. On the map there will be lines drawn, Blue, Green, Black. One regiment is to take the Blue Line and stop there. Another is to go to the Green Line and stop there. A third is to go to the Black Line. So the colonel will ask the men: ‘What is your Final Objective?’ and they will answer, ‘Such and such a point on the Blue, Green or the Black Line.’
Well, boys and girls, you too are preparing for a great battle; it is the Battle of Life, and these two questions are important for you too. You all have a compass; it is your conscience, that strange voice within us that points us to the right and tells us when we are wrong.
What is your compass-bearing? it is this: ‘looking unto Jesus’. That is our true North, to which our conscience-compass points.
But compasses may go wrong and so may consciences. In pirate stories we often used to read how some traitor on the ship put a piece of iron in the compass so that it pointed wrong, and the ship steering by it got off its course and away from its convoy in the dark, and at the pirates’ mercy.
Without treachery compasses go wrong and need to be adjusted: and often you will see ships lying apparently idle in some quiet land-locked haven, where no winds blow. They are being swung to adjust their compasses, and they need a quite place for that.
Consciences, too, may be betrayed; and consciences, too, may cease to point true to Christ, so we need to go into the quiet places of worship, like the ships into harbour, and in church and at the Lord’s Table get our consciences set true again. We need to go to headquarters like the officers, and have our consciences tested.
Then, if they are true, we need not fear to stray in the dark, or to be lost in the unknown country or tomorrow which lies beyond the lines of today. We have our compass-bearing, ‘looking unto Jesus’, and we cannot go wrong unknowing.
And our ‘Final Objective’ ?
There is a line of the Map of Life which God has drawn and we are not to rest short of that. But we often try ‘to draw the line’ somewhere short of it, and only win little successes instead of a great victory.
An old man was once talking to a young one. The young one said, ‘I am going into business with So-and-so.’
‘Yes, and then?’
‘Then when I have mastered the business, I shall push out for myself in such-and-such a town, when I see a good opening.’
‘Yes, and then?’
‘Then when I have got on well, I shall settle down and get married.’
‘Yes, and then?’
‘Well, after a time I shall retire and live comfortably at my ease.’
‘Yes, and then?’
‘Oh! Well, I suppose some day I shall die.’
‘Yes, and then?’
But this time there was no answer. He had no Final Objective.
What is God’s line? It is this: We are not to rest ‘until we come to the measure of the stature of the perfect man, Christ Jesus’.
We are not to be satisfied till we ‘wake with His likeness.’ We are to be ‘perfect as He is perfect,’ and we are not to stop anywhere short of that.
That is our Final Objective.
A Covert From The Tempest
‘A man shall be … a covert from the tempest.’
Isa. xxxii. 2.
GIRLS and boys, I wish to tell you of a thing I saw in a village in France. It was a place called Aubigny: a dull and unlovely place, just a huddle of untidy and uninteresting houses and muddy streets, full of French folk weary of the war and British soldiers plastered with mud, and also very tired with war and work.
I have lived there a good while and had come to think that no beautiful thing could ever come out of Aubigny.
People once said the same about Nazareth. but they were wrong, for Jesus came out of Nazareth; and I was wrong about Aubigny.
It was a day in March. The winter was slowly and unwillingly giving place to spring, and the weather was uncertain. This day was windy and cloud-swept, with bursts of sunshine and bursts of rain.
One of these sudden deluges had come down and everybody was making for shelter. Among them was a group of five little children.
Do you know where they sought and found shelter?
Under the rain-cape of a British soldier. He had one of those big, wide, sleeveless waterproof cloaks, and the children ran to him and crept in beneath. The rain splashed on his steel helmet and dripped from it on to his cloak, running down in streams, but they were sheltered and dry and happy. ‘A man was a covert from the tempest.’
And as I watched this beautiful thing, set like a jewel, the more beautiful for its unlovely surroundings, three thoughts came into my mind.
The first was this. When the War is over and the Army comes back, it will be very glad to ‘get out’ of France and the French will be very glad to see it go. For it must be a great burden to them to have a strange people, as we are to them, living in their houses, and planted in their possessions. We and they are good friends, and they know why we are there, but it is only natural that they will be glad when we go away and things are their own once more.
But the French children will be sorry: for they have found the British soldier always kind and friendly to little folk.
I know a little French boy who ran away from home to live with the British soldiers. I asked him if he had any parents. ‘Yes,’ he said.
‘Well, are you going back to them?’
‘Oh! Too much kick.’
‘Who kicks you?’
‘But are you not afraid the British soldiers might kick you?” I asked.
‘No,’ he said, in a voice that was full of trust, and a little angry that anybody should think such a thing of his soldier friends.
Our soldiers are brave and cheerful, and many fine things can be said about them, but I think the finest thing of all is to say, and it is true, the children of France love them.
The second thing was that the soldier sheltering the children from the tempest was a beautiful parable of true of the war.
We are fighting against a power that wars not only on the strong but on the weak. It sends warships to fight and sink defenceless merchant ships. It sends airships to drop bombs on harmless folk. Its armies have slain women and children: their path has been marked by broken hearts and little graves; and children lie dead in Belgium and France, in England, and in the deep salt sea because the cruel hand of Germany struck them dead.
We are fighting against that, for the weak against the strong. The flag of our navy and our army is a shelter against this terrible tempest; and the soldier sheltering the children under his rain cloak in this big truth told in a little parable.
And the last is a thing we all need to know.
There are other tempests more terrible than rain, or even German cruelty, tempests of temptation and trial, tempests of sorrow with a bitter rain of tears. No one will escape them for they sweep across the way of every life.
Yet there is one shelter. It is a Man, and His name is Jesus. No tempest can overcome those whose defenceless head is sheltered by the covert of His wings.
When I saw the children sheltered under the wide wings of the cloak of the British soldier, it was to me a parable of that Man who, the prophet said, would be ‘a covert from the tempest’ ; and I want it to be so to you as well, that in the storms of life you may turn to Him with as sure a trust and find as sure a shelter, as the children did in the storm of Aubigny.