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EARLY CHURCH

Ambrose
Ambrose, Pseudo
Andreas
Arethas
Aphrahat
Athanasius
Augustine
Barnabus
BarSerapion
Baruch, Pseudo
Bede
Chrysostom
Chrysostom, Pseudo
Clement, Alexandria
Clement, Rome
Clement, Pseudo
Cyprian
Ephraem
Epiphanes
Eusebius
Gregory
Hegesippus
Hippolytus
Ignatius
Irenaeus
Isidore
James
Jerome
King Jesus
Apostle John
Lactantius
Luke
Mark
Justin Martyr
Mathetes
Matthew
Melito
Oecumenius
Origen
Apostle Paul
Apostle Peter
Maurus Rabanus
Remigius
"Solomon"
Severus
St. Symeon
Tertullian
Theophylact
Victorinus

HISTORICAL PRETERISM
(Minor Fulfillment of Matt. 24/25 or Revelation in Past)

Joseph Addison
Oswald T. Allis
Thomas Aquinas
Karl Auberlen
Augustine
Albert Barnes
Karl Barth
G.K. Beale
Beasley-Murray
John Bengel
Wilhelm Bousset
John A. Broadus

David Brown
"Haddington Brown"
F.F. Bruce

Augustin Calmut
John Calvin
B.H. Carroll
Johannes Cocceius
Vern Crisler
Thomas Dekker
Wilhelm De Wette
Philip Doddridge
Isaak Dorner
Dutch Annotators
Alfred Edersheim
Jonathan Edwards

E.B. Elliott
Heinrich Ewald
Patrick Fairbairn
Js. Farquharson
A.R. Fausset
Robert Fleming
Hermann Gebhardt
Geneva Bible
Charles Homer Giblin
John Gill
William Gilpin
W.B. Godbey
Ezra Gould
Hank Hanegraaff
Hengstenberg
Matthew Henry
G.A. Henty
George Holford
Johann von Hug
William Hurte
J, F, and Brown
B.W. Johnson
John Jortin
Benjamin Keach
K.F. Keil
Henry Kett
Richard Knatchbull
Johann Lange

Cornelius Lapide
Nathaniel Lardner
Jean Le Clerc
Peter Leithart
Jack P. Lewis
Abiel Livermore
John Locke
Martin Luther

James MacDonald
James MacKnight
Dave MacPherson
Keith Mathison
Philip Mauro
Thomas Manton
Heinrich Meyer
J.D. Michaelis
Johann Neander
Sir Isaac Newton
Thomas Newton
Stafford North
Dr. John Owen
 Blaise Pascal
William W. Patton
Arthur Pink

Thomas Pyle
Maurus Rabanus
St. Remigius

Anne Rice
Kim Riddlebarger
J.C. Robertson
Edward Robinson
Andrew Sandlin
Johann Schabalie
Philip Schaff
Thomas Scott
C.J. Seraiah
Daniel Smith
Dr. John Smith
C.H. Spurgeon

Rudolph E. Stier
A.H. Strong
St. Symeon
Theophylact
Friedrich Tholuck
George Townsend
James Ussher
Wm. Warburton
Benjamin Warfield

Noah Webster
John Wesley
B.F. Westcott
William Whiston
Herman Witsius
N.T. Wright

John Wycliffe
Richard Wynne
C.F.J. Zullig

MODERN PRETERISTS
(Major Fulfillment of Matt. 24/25 or Revelation in Past)

Firmin Abauzit
Jay Adams
Luis Alcazar
Greg Bahnsen
Beausobre, L'Enfant
Jacques Bousset
John L. Bray
David Brewster
Dr. John Brown
Thomas Brown
Newcombe Cappe
David Chilton
Adam Clarke

Henry Cowles
Ephraim Currier
R.W. Dale
Gary DeMar
P.S. Desprez
Johann Eichhorn
Heneage Elsley
F.W. Farrar
Samuel Frost
Kenneth Gentry
Steve Gregg
Hugo Grotius
Francis X. Gumerlock
Henry Hammond
Hampden-Cook
Friedrich Hartwig
Adolph Hausrath
Thomas Hayne
J.G. Herder
Timothy Kenrick
J. Marcellus Kik
Samuel Lee
Peter Leithart
John Lightfoot
Benjamin Marshall
F.D. Maurice
Marion Morris
Ovid Need, Jr
Wm. Newcombe
N.A. Nisbett
Gary North
Randall Otto
Zachary Pearce
Andrew Perriman
Beilby Porteus
Ernst Renan
Gregory Sharpe
Fr. Spadafora
R.C. Sproul
Moses Stuart
Milton S. Terry
Herbert Thorndike
C. Vanderwaal
Foy Wallace
Israel P. Warren
Chas Wellbeloved
J.J. Wetstein
Richard Weymouth
Daniel Whitby
George Wilkins
E.P. Woodward
 

FUTURISTS
(Virtually No Fulfillment of Matt. 24/25 & Revelation in 1st C. - Types Only ; Also Included are "Higher Critics" Not Associated With Any Particular Eschatology)

Henry Alford
G.C. Berkower
Alan Patrick Boyd
John Bradford
Wm. Burkitt
George Caird
Conybeare/ Howson
John Crossan
John N. Darby
C.H. Dodd
E.B. Elliott
G.S. Faber
Jerry Falwell
Charles G. Finney
J.P. Green Sr.
Murray Harris
Thomas Ice

Benjamin Jowett
John N.D. Kelly

Hal Lindsey
John MacArthur
William Miller
Robert Mounce

Eduard Reuss

J.A.T. Robinson
George Rosenmuller
D.S. Russell
George Sandison
C.I. Scofield
Dr. John Smith

Norman Snaith
"Televangelists"
Thomas Torrance
Jack/Rex VanImpe
John Walvoord

Quakers : George Fox | Margaret Fell (Fox) | Isaac Penington


PRETERIST UNIVERSALISM | MODERN PRETERISM | PRETERIST IDEALISM

Daily Strength for Daily Needs
Mary Tileston (1896)

A temple there has been upon earth, a spiritual Temple, made up of living
stones; a Temple, as I may say, composed of souls; a Temple with God for its light, and Christ for the high priest; with wings of angels for its arches, with saints and teachers for its pillars, and with worshippers for its pavement. Wherever there is faith and love, this Temple is.

J. H. NEWMAN., Jan 5

 

The Rise of Civilization


PROOF OF THE GOSPEL & GROUNDS FOR CHRISTIAN ENCOURAGEMENT
Fall of Pagan Rome | Fall of Jerusalem | Fall of Temple-Based Worship | The Rise of Civilization


Athanasius - Wars Lulled by Christianity

 

The last age, decreed by Fate, is come:  And a new frame of all things does begin.  A holy progeny from Heaven descends.  Auspicious be his birth! which puts an end To the iron age! and from whence shall rise A golden state far glorious through the earth!
VIRGIL


Is the world better because of Christ, or not?  Many would have us believe that things are worse than they have ever been, but this surely is not the case.  If we can suspend our prejudices about the matter of who is in control of the world, we may see the glory of Jesus Christ like never before.    The Gospel According to CNN teaches that Jesus is a failure.  Surprisingly, many Futurist Christians are quick to join this anti-Christ chorus:

"To say that Christ is ruler now is a statement that reaches almost blasphemous proportions.”  (Tim Lahaye End Times Controversy: 2nd Coming Under Attack, pg. 11)

If we look, however, at Jesus himself, the author and finisher of our faith, we can see the progress of society in His watch-care:

"Examples could be multiplied, in every field. The whole rise of Western Civilization—science and technology, medicine, the arts, constitutionalism, the jury system, free enterprise, literacy, increasing productivity, a rising standard of living, the high status of women—is attributable to one major fact: the West has been transformed by Christianity."  - David Chilton, Paradise Restored

Following will be a collection of quotes and stories which attempt to paint the larger picture of the long struggle for civilization, particularly since the dawning of the New Covenant age.   According to this website, the simultaneous appearance on earth of Augustus Caesar (man's best man) and Jesus Christ (God's best man) in the first century is  the all-time fulcrum point of history.  It is the strong belief that the battle was decisively won in that day and at that time, and that it is the pleasure of the King of Kings to use His army of spiritual warriors to wage the ground war in His name -- so that His body may reveal as clearly on earth, through the process of time, the reality of things in the new heavens and earth of His never-ending age.

"Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end.. the zeal of the Lord of Hosts will accomplish this"
(Isaiah 9:7)


 

"THE WORLD IS GETTING BETTER"
VICTORY-FOCUSED COMMENTS

"Force is always, and everywhere, a sign of fear -- that is, a sign of weakness. From the Creative point of view, which is God's point of view, force is weakness, and only Love is power."
G. A. Studdert Kennedy, The Wicket Gate

"It is significant that the decline of the Roman Empire dates from  the fall of Jerusalem."

  • Christianity Taking Over Planet? - WND "The growing core of Christianity crosses theological lines and includes 707 million born-again people who are increasing by 8 percent a year," he says.  So fast is this group growing that, under current trends, according to ("Megashift" author Jim) Rutz, the entire world will be composed of such believers by the year 2032.  "There will be pockets of resistance and unforeseen breakthroughs," writes Rutz. "Still, at the rate we're growing now, to be comically precise, there would be more Christians than people by the autumn of 2032, about 8.2 billion."   "Very few people realize the nature of life on Earth is going through a major change," he writes. "We are seeing a megashift in the basic direction of human history. Until our time, the ancient war between good and evil was hardly better than a stalemate. Now all has changed. The Creator whose epic story flows through the pages of Scripture has begun to dissolve the strongholds of evil. "

Celsus
"There is a sort of arrogance in the assumption of the Christians that evil is on the rise.  Even is something seems evil to you it is far from clear whether it is really evil; one person with his limited perspective on the whole state of creation is unequipped to know whether what is good for you is good for someone else in the universe, and vice versa.  When a man was angry with the Jews and killed them all, both young and old, and burned down their city, they were completely annihilated; yet (they say) when the supreme God was angry and wrathful he sent his son with threats - and suffered all kinds of indignities. *Celsus refers to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman forces under Titus in August of 70: the contrast he intends is between the power of Rome, manifested in the destruction of the Temple, and the powerlessness of the Christian God, which he claims is reflected in the killing of Jesus)" (Celsus, on the True Doctrine: A Discourse Against the Christians)

 

St. Athanasius
"When the sun has come, darkness prevails no longer; any of it that may be left anywhere is driven away. So also, now that the Divine epiphany of the Word of God has taken place, the darkness of idols prevails no more, and all parts of the world in every direction are enlightened by His teaching." (On the Incarnation [55])

 

David Chilton
"Examples could be multiplied, in every field. The whole rise of Western Civilization—science and technology, medicine, the arts, constitutionalism, the jury system, free enterprise, literacy, increasing productivity, a rising standard of living, the high status of women—is attributable to one major fact: the West has been transformed by Christianity. True, the transformation is not yet complete. There are many battles ahead. But the point is that, even in what is still largely an early Christian civilization, God has showered us with blessings."  (Paradise Restored)

F.W. Farrar
'What need to tell you again how it purified a society which was rotten through and through with lust and hate, how it rescued the gladiator, how it emancipated the slave, how it elevated manhood, how it flung over childhood the aegis of its protection, how it converted the wild, fierce tribes from the icy steppes and broad rivers of the North, how it built from the shattered fragments of the Roman Empire a new-created world, how it saved learning, how it baptized and recreated art, how it inspired music, how it placed the poor and sick under the angel-wings of mercy and entrusted to the two great archangels of reason and conscience the guidance of the young! ' " (Farrar Quoted by Alexander Brown, Great Day of the Lord. pp. 217,231.)

Earnest Hampden-Cook
"The fact is that bad as the world still is, yet morally it is a vastly better world than it was when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea. It is said for example that at the present time there are not anywhere on the earth outside of Christendom ten square miles where the life of a man or the honour of a woman is safe. But this, which is now true of only part of the world, was probably true 1,860 years ago, of the whole world. Few people in these days have any adequate conception of the misery and degradation which were then the common lot of almost all mankind, owing to the monstrous wickedness of the times, to continual war, and to the cruelties of political despotism, and of the everywhere-prevailing slavery.

"This earth of ours is a new world compared with what it was two thousand years ago. Let anyone who doubts it read C. L. Brace's Gesta Christi, or Dr. R. S. Storrs' Divine Origin of Christianity indicated by its historical effects Whence has come the change for the better? There can be no reasonable doubt that it is largely due to the fact that the supreme spiritual influence which has been at work in men's hearts and lives during that long period has been the influence of the Lord Jesus Christ." (ibid.)

John LeClerc
"The world manifestly improves every day, and grows wiser than it was" (True Religion Explained and Defended against the Archenemies Thereof in the Times (The Truth of the Christian Religion) p 14.)

Arthur Lichtenberger
"How readily we assume that the Church is the only channel of divine action among men! Common sense tells us this assumption is wrong -- and nothing in the Bible supports such a conclusion. Believing that God is the Lord of history, we believe that God is at work now in the development of industry and commerce throughout the world, in the experiments and researches of the scientists, in the deliberations of the United Nations, and in the course of events in Berlin and Havana, in Moscow and Peiping, and Detroit. One might say, then that He seems to be doing some very strange and contradictory things! But, though we cannot claim to know God's purpose in all this, we do believe that God acts in all these circumstances. The revolutionary changes of our time are not all a mistake: they are not taking place without God." (The Day is at Hand)

Philip Schaff
"Jesus of Nazareth, without money and arms, conquered more millions than Alexander, Caesar, Mahomet, and Napoleon; without science and learning, He shed more light on things human and divine than all philosophers and schools combined; without the eloquence of schools, He spoke words of life such as never were spoken before or since, and produced effects which lie beyond the reach of any orator or poet; without writing a single line, He has set more pens in motion, and furnished themes for more sermons, orations, discussions, learned volumes, works of art and sweet songs of praise, than the whole army of great men of ancient and modern times. Born in a manger, and crucified as a malefactor, He now controls the destinies of the civilized world, and rules a spiritual empire which embraces one-third of the inhabitants of the globe. There never was in this world a life so unpretending, modest, and lowly in its outward form and condition, and yet producing such extraordinary effects upon all ages, nations, and classes of men. The annals of history produce no other example of such complete and astonishing success in spite of the absence of those material, social, literary, and artistic powers and influences which are indispensable to success for a mere man. "

Thomas Scott
"It is also observable, that the Romans after having been thus made the executioners of divine vengeance on the Jewish nation, never prospered as they had done before; but the Lord evidently fought against them, and all the nations which composed their overgrown empire; till at last it was subverted, and their fairest cities and provinces were ravaged by barbarous invaders." [Thomas Scott, The Holy Bible, etc., 956.]

 

Jerry Burnaman
"Yes, the pessimists say the world is falling apart, and there is nothing we can do about it. However, when we think of our relationship with God through our Savior Jesus Christ, we have incredible stability and an exciting opportunity to make a difference in the world. We have the assurance, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and to day, and forever." Hebrews 13:8." (Baptist Progress.)

George Caird
"The first readers were almost certainly well versed in the sort of symbolic language and imagery in which the book is written. Whether they had formerly been Jews or pagans, they would read the language of myth as fluently as any modern reader of the daily papers reads the conventional symbols of a political cartoon. Much of this language we can reconstruct for ourselves from the Old Testament and Jewish apocalyptic writings on the one hand and from Greek and Roman literature, inscriptions, and coinage on the other (Black's New Testament Commentaries, "A Commentary on the Revelation of St. John the Divine," 2nd edition, p. 6)." 

"Our difficulties begin when we try to decide how far to take this picture language literally and how far to take it figuratively. When John echoes the Roman legend that the dead Nero was about to return, how literally does he mean it? Does he believe that Nero was not in fact dead, or that he would be resurrected, or that another paranoiac would come to fill his empty shoes? (Black's New Testament Commentaries, "A Commentary on the Revelation of St. John the Divine," 2nd edition. p. 7)."

"Misleading to say that in Revelation the monster is Rome, and still more misleading to say that it is ruler worship. The monster is both an older and a newer phenomenon than Caesar, and the great city is more ancient and more modern than Rome" (Black's New Testament Commentaries, "A Commentary on the Revelation of St. John the Divine," 2nd edition, p. xii)." (Revelation: Book of Cosmic Symbols)

G.A. Studdert Kennedy
"Force is always, and everywhere, a sign of fear -- that is, a sign of weakness. Behind the vast armies and navies which we call the great powers of the world, there is fear. Fear it is that drives us out to war. Fear is the father of ferocity, and the forger of the sword. From the Creative point of view, which is God's point of view, force is weakness, and only Love is power."  (The Wicket Gate)

David Livingstone
"Discoveries and inventions are culminative . . . filling the earth with the glory of the Lord, all nations will sing His glory and bow before Him . . . our work and its fruit are culminative."

"We work towards a new state of things. Future missionaries will be rewarded by conversions for every sermon. We are their pioneers and helpers . . . Let them not forget the watchmen of the night, who worked when all was gloom and no evidence of success in the way of conversions cheers our path. They will doubtless have more light than we, but we serve our Master earnestly and proclaim the same Gospel as they will do.

" . . . A quiet audience today. The seed is being sown, the least of all seeds now, but it will grow into a mighty tree. It is as if it were a small stone cut out of a mountain, but it will fill the whole earth (Daniel 2:34-45).

" . . . We work for a glorious future which we are not destined to see, the golden age which has not yet been, but will yet be. We are only morning stars shining in the dark, but the glorious morn will break - the good time coming yet.

" . . . The dominion has been given by the power of commerce and population unto the people of the saints of the Most High. This is an everlasting kingdom, a little stone cut out of the mountain without hands which will cover the whole earth; for this time we work."

Abbott, Jacob, Rome. Harper's New Monthly Magazine, vol. 36, issue 211 (December 1867).

Abbott, Lyman, The Eternal City. Harper's New Monthly Magazine, vol. 44, issue 259 (December 1871).

Tholuck

"From the day when the faithful first assembled around their Messias until the date of this epistle, a series of years had elapsed; the full daybreak, as Paul deemed, was already close at hand. We find here corroborated, what is also evident from several other passages, that the apostles expected the speedy advent of the Lord. The reason of this lay, partly in the general law that man is fond to imagine the object of his hope at hand, partly in the circumstance that the Saviour had often delivered the admonition to be every moment prepared for the crisis in question, and had also, according to the usus loquendi of the prophets, described the period as fast approaching." (Comm. on Romans, in loc.)

 

 

"THE WORLD IS GETTING WORSE"
FAILURE-FOCUSED COMMENTS

"To say that Christ is ruler now is a statement that reaches almost blasphemous proportions.”
Tim Lahaye

An important part of the spiritual war is identifying and exposing the enemies of the Christ's victorious work - forces consciously or subconsciously promoting darkness -- actually seeking to bring darkness to the world instead of light.  This group clearly includes non-Christians who deny the effective power of Christ.  Regrettably, though, this group also includes many who claim the name of Christ.  By promoting an 'end times now' world view, they present a weak, ineffectual Messiah, who failed His first time around (by failing to be made a temporal King), and whose people have failed in history (in the supposed "end of the church age").

Anthony Buzzard
"The text above is currently attracting attention. It is supposed to support the amazing idea that the Second Coming (Parousia), as described by Jesus in the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24), took place in AD 70!

Such a view abandons the Gospel of the Kingdom, which promises the world a universal era of prosperity and peace when the Messiah comes back. The destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 and the scattering of Jews outside their homeland did not signal the arrival of the Kingdom of God (Luke 21:31). The Kingdom, when it comes, will produce peace in Israel and the restoration of Israel as the headquarters of the Messianic Kingdom (Luke 1:32-35; Acts 1:6; 3:21, etc.). To imagine that the coming of Jesus happened in AD 70 is to misunderstand the Kingdom of God and thus the Christian Gospel of the Kingdom (Matt. 4:23; 9:35; 24:14)." (This Generation)

J.N. Darby
"What we are about to consider will tend to show that, instead of permitting ourselves to hope for continued progress of good, we must expect a progress of evil; and that the hope of the earth being filled with the knowledge of the Lord before the exercise of His judgment, and the consummation of this judgment on the earth, is delusive... Truly Christendom has become completely corrupted, the dispensation of the Gentiles has been found unfaithful: can it be restored?  No! Impossible." [Speech in Geneva, 1840, in William Kelly, ed., The Collected Writings of J.N.Darby, Prophetic no. 1, vol. 1 (Kingston-on-Thames: Stow Hill Bible and Tract Depot, undated), 471, 486)]

"It is absolutely necessary that we should renounce everything. We shall have to do so sooner or later, either with joy by the Spirit of Christ, or with shame when the judgments of God shall break every tie that is still keeping us back. We must then leave everything, or else be burnt up with Sodom. Prophecy has a special power to separate us from this present evil world, which the patience of God can bear, because He is taking His own out of it, but which is judged already nevertheless. (Writings, II.44. Emp added.) 

Benjamin Franklin (1869)
"But there is another class of scoffers that this discourse has to do with. They say the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ has long since occurred--that he came the second time at the destruction of Jerusalem; that he there judged the world; separated the righteous from the wicked, and, consequently, argue that the coming of Christ, the judgment, and punishment of the wicked are all long since gone by. This fallacy must now be refuted. It must be shown that the coming of the Lord is yet future." (The Second Coming of Christ and the Destruction of the World, The Gospel Preacher, Ch. 18)

Franklin Graham
'Certainly. I think Judgment Day is approaching fast. I think there are major prophecies that have been fulfilled. The rebirth of Israel. All of this was foretold. The great tribulation will come then. And this world will be judged for rejecting Jesus Christ. In America now, you cannot mention His name on television, you cannot teach the Bible in school, but you can talk of Muhammad all you want. Why is that? Because the great tribulation is coming. The true followers of Jesus will be taken up and the remainder left behind." (source)

Tim Lahaye
"When Jesus comes, He is going to be King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Could anyone even suggest that for these last 1,900 years Jesus has been Lord and King over the kings of this earth – kings who have persecuted Christians by the millions (an estimated 50 million martyrs have been slaughtered for their faith)? To say that Christ is ruler now is a statement that reaches almost blasphemous proportions.”  (End Times Controversy: 2nd Coming Under Attack, pg. 11)

 

The Christmas Peace of 1914

Live-and-let-live accommodations occur in most wars. Chronicles since Troy record stops in fighting to bury the dead, to pray to the gods, to assuage a war-weariness, to offer signs of amity encouraging mutual respect. But none had happened on the scale or duration - or the potential for change - as when the shooting suddenly stopped on Christmas Eve 1914.

The difference then was in its potential to become more than a momentary respite. In retrospect, the interruption of the horror, to soldiers "the sausage machine", seems unreal, incredible in its intensity and extent, impossible to have happened without consequences for continuing the war. Like a dream, when it was over, troops wondered at it, then continued with the grim business at hand.

Under the rigid discipline of wartime command authority, that business was killing, targeting even those whose hands one had clasped, whose rations one had shared, and who had joined in singing of peace on earth and goodwill to all men. The Christmas truce of 1914 was no myth, although song, story, film, and dubious reminiscence have added layers of fantasy upon it.

For four, bloody months, what became known, with good reason, as the Great War had been raging. Christmas has always been hard on soldiers who are far away from home. The British and German troops facing each other in chill, muddy, sometimes freezing Flanders were as close to home geographically as enemies on someone else's territory get. London was 60 miles away, across the watery trench of the English Channel. The German border abutted Belgium, which the Kaiser's army had invaded and despoilt.

Yet the muck, and the crisscrossing, water-logged trenches and the barbed-wire entanglements separating the two armies, as well as the relentless firing by machineguns and artillery, made the distances home seem far greater.

A Royal Engineer, Andrew Todd, wrote to The Scotsman in Edinburgh that soldiers were "only 60 yards apart" at some places on the front lines. They could see and hear each other, and even raise bold placards to taunt each other. Such intimacy hardly contributed to morale, because they could also fire at each other, and raising one's head above a trench parapet invited death. The number of casualties was already enormous. Troops dreamt of Christmas with their families, who seemed increasingly remote in time as well as place. A cynical German saying was, "We'll conquer until we're all dead". A cartoon by Lieutenant Bruce Bairnsfather, "AD Nineteen Fifty", depicted two soldiers with drooping white beards musing over an old newspaper while shells scream over their trench. War-weary "Ole Bill" is asked how long he is "up for". "Seven years", he groans. "You're lucky," says the other. "I'm duration."

To make it feel more like Christmas, governments on both sides had prepared small holiday gift-boxes for the troops, with snacks, sweets and tobacco. Queen Victoria had set the precedent in 1899, ordering small tin boxes of chocolates shipped to soldiers in distant South Africa for a Boer War Christmas. In 1914, Tommies received a "Princess Mary" brass box, with her head embossed on the lid, much like that of the queen 15 years before.

German troops in Flanders, accessible from home by land, received, along with their wooden gift boxes decorated with a wreath and a Flammenschwert - a flaming sword - tabletop-size Christmas trees with candles conveniently clamped to the branches. The law of unintended consequences activated itself. On Christmas Eve, as darkness came early, the Germans - at some hazard - placed trees atop trench parapets and lit the candles. Then they began singing carols, and though their language was unfamiliar to their enemies, the tunes were not. After a few trees were shot at, the British became more curious than belligerent, and crawled forward to watch and to listen. And soon they began to sing.

By Christmas morning, no man's land between the trenches was filled with fraternising soldiers, sharing rations, trading gifts, singing, and - more solemnly - burying the dead between the lines. (Earlier, the bodies had been too dangerous to retrieve.) The roughly cleared space suggested to the more imaginative among them a football pitch. Kickabouts began, mostly with balls improvised from stuffed caps and other gear, the players oblivious of their greatcoats and boots. The official war diary of the 133rd Saxon Regiment says "Tommy and Fritz" used a real ball, furnished by a provident Scot. "This developed into a regulation football match with caps casually laid out as goals. The frozen ground was no great matter. Das Spiel endete 3:2 fur Fritz." Other accounts, mostly German, give other scores, and British letters and memories fill in more details.

The high brass on both sides quickly determined that they could not let the situation develop. In the national interest, the war had to go on. Peace has always been more difficult to make than war, but it was materialising. Under threat of court martial, troops on both sides were ordered to separate and restart hostilities. Reluctantly, they drifted apart. General Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien's order to II Corps from his cushy rear-area headquarters read: "On no account is intercourse to be allowed between opposing troops. To finish this war quickly we must keep up the fighting spirit."

But some units were too contaminated by Christmas to be reliable, and it took a few days to bring in replacements. Both commands ordered rolling artillery barrages to disrupt the stillness and to motivate responses.

In most sectors where the shooting had stopped, signals (in some cases, flares) set by their officers called men back to their trenches or confirmed the imminent close of the truce. Private Percy Jones of the Westminster Brigade wrote in his diary: "We parted with much hand-shaking and goodwill." Rifleman George Eade of the 3rd London Rifles said a German soldier told him: "Today we have peace. Tomorrow you fight for your country. I fight for mine. Good luck."

Some troops referred to the "wonderful day". One wrote of the experience as "a waking dream". The remarkable happening is corroborated by reports from up and down the line, even from French sources. Although the French officially denied there was a truce, Victor Granier, a Paris Opera tenor, sang "Minuit, Chrétiens, c'est l'heure solennelle" ["O Holy Night"] - across the trenches near the Polygon Wood, and a leading singer from the Berlin Imperial Opera, Walter Kirchoff, performed for the British for the first time since his appearance at Covent Garden the year before.

There was no way to conceal French fraternisation even when the unwelcome reality was kept from the newspapers, because German accounts identified the units, and the sick and wounded evacuated to hospitals at the rear delightedly reported what had they had seen and done.

Most fascinating as corroboration of the truce are the letters posted home, before censorship closed such opportunities, by both sides. Many from the British side can still be read, because families eagerly sent them to their hometown newspapers, from the Exeter Argus to the South Wales Echo and Belfast Evening Telegraph, which through January 1915 described details of what otherwise would indeed have seemed a fairy tale.

The truce would reappear in song and story, seemingly stranger than mere fiction. Robert Graves, who joined the Royal Welch Fusiliers just after the truce, wrote a short story which included a game of football and a German juggler who entertained the troops in no man's land. However improbable any account of a juggler in such circumstances, the 3rd London's official war diary reported that he "drew a large crowd".

The German writer James Kruss wrote of an impassioned soldier who took a lighted tree into the French trenches to stop the shooting, and found the enemy were Algerian Islamic troops, who knew nothing of Christmas. In astonishment at the apparition, they put down their rifles. The tale, allegedly from Kruss's grandfather, came from his uncle, who had been at the front, I discovered, opposite the 45th Division of the Armeé d'Afrique.

The last veteran associated with the real thing, Alfred Anderson, died at 109 on 21 November, in a nursing home in Scotland. In 1914, he was 18, and in the Black Watch. Off the line in reserve, Anderson was sheltering in a dilapidated farmhouse on Christmas Eve, when British and German troops, emerged from their trenches in the darkness near by, and fraternised. A spokesman for the Royal British Legion of Scotland called him "the last surviving link with a time that shimmers on the edge of our folk memory".

It could not have been better phrased, for Anderson was only on the edge of that remarkable event. He heard the stillness, the suddenly silent night in embattled Flanders. By New Year's Eve the firing almost everywhere along the line had restarted. Hundreds of thousands would die before the armistice four gory years later in November 1918.

Attempts at other Christmas truces failed. On 22 July 2001, Bertie Felstead, a veteran of the Royal Welch Fusiliers, died aged 106. He was also called "the last known survivor of the Christmas truce". The longer he lived, the more famous he became. He recalled hearing the Fritzes call out "Merry Christmas, Tommy!" and playing football with the enemy in no man's land, bartering souvenirs, singing carols. But he said the experience lasted only half an hour, a fleeting moment for so much to have happened to him. And the year was 1915. A second truce, he called it. Yet both the British and the German headquarters issued explicit orders, under pain of punishment, that there was to be no repetition of the extraordinary 1914 stoppage of the war, football included. Wars were to be fought, with no holidays from the killing.

Two officers who tried to initiate that second truce, Captain Miles Barnes and Captain Sir Iain Colquhoun of the 1st Scots Guards, did so ostensibly to bury the dead. The two sides mingled briefly and returned to their lines. For the rest of Christmas Day, Colquhoun said, "the Germans walked about and sat on their parapets. Our men did much the same, but remained in their trenches. Not a shot was fired".

A court martial was convened, and the two officers were reprimanded, the mildest sentence possible. So went the abortive 1915 truce. It is more than possible that Felstead's vivid memories traded upon the tales of his Welch Fusilier comrades who were in the trenches in 1914.

Such wartime truces as in 1914 are no longer likely. My late friend Nigel Nicolson, an army captain in Italy in 1943, said the Germans ringing bells on Christmas Eve from a church high on a nearby hill. "Can we stop shooting?" he asked a superior. "Not on your life," he was told. The more vast the cultural and ideological divide, the more improbable such truces become. There could have been no shared Christmases with the Japanese in the Pacific war between 1941 and 1945, nor now with Islamic combatants in Iraq.

A Christmas truce seems in our new century an impossible dream from a more simple, vanished world. Peace is indeed, even briefly, harder to make than war.

Stanley Weintraub is the author of 'Silent Night: the Remarkable 1914 Christmas Truce' and 'Iron Tears: Rebellion in America' (both Simon & Schuster). 'Joyeux Noël' is in cinemas now

 

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Date: 11 Jan 2007
Time: 11:49:13

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The world is not getting better and the Bible tells us that in the last days it will be like it was in the days of Noah. HELLO, wake up and find the truth. Jesus is returning soon and we all had better be awake and watching.

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