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One evening on the Aisne, after a day's heavy fighting, when the storm of battle had died down and men crouched in the trenches with anxious faces, fearing a renewal of hostilities, I lay in the trench trying to realize God's allness and ever presence. I was declaring to myself that there is no discord in Love, when a great feeling of peace came over me, and as I lay there thinking what a beautiful night it was, and how strangely the quiet contrasted with the terrific noise and fighting of the day, I noticed that many of my comrades round me seemed to share this peaceful sense, and were lying down comfortably for the night. Presently, as I lay there lost to the material senses in thought, I became conscious of a most beautiful presence, while I seemed to hear a voice in the sky above, which filled the whole country round about with music, a mysterious, wonderful sound, although none of my comrades could hear it, as in the case of Paul's experience on the way to Damascus. I lay quiet, and listened, while I heard mentally the words of our Leader's beautiful hymn (Poems, p. 4):
O gentle presence, peace and joy and power;
As the music died away it left me feeling most joyous, with an assurance of safety and protection, while there came to me a throng of most uplifting thoughts, bringing a calm sense of trust.
On another occasion, at the battle of Ypres, we had dug a trench overnight to sleep in until morning. With the first beams of the breaking dawn the battle opened in the distance and men stood to their arms, peering into the gray mist before them. I felt anxious and fearful as to what the day would bring forth for my comrades and myself, and for a time could not clear my thought or overcome that sense of fear. A little later rations were served out, and letters from England. With the mail I received a letter from a Christian Science friend, who had kindly sent me a copy of the ninety-first psalm, together with a poem taken from the Sentinel. As I read this letter, so full of glorious truth, I felt a sense of peace and security, and that sweet angel thought came to me, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." With this influx of light and peace, I sat down and calmly awaited orders, knowing that God was with me, an ever present help. Soon the orders came: "Tools to be left where they are, and stand ready to advance. Section commanders see that your sections are ready!" I received these orders quite calmly, and seeing that my section was in readiness I was able to read the ninety-first psalm through again before the order of advance came, and so felt doubly strengthened by the beautiful promises contained therein. With the order we went forward by sections and advanced about two hundred yards, then extended out as we neared a thick hedge on which the enemy had range. As we came up to this hedge the enemy gunners opened fire upon us, and we went forward at the double, getting through and keeping on until we came to a small gully, along which we moved to the right in a crouching attitude to avoid being hit.
While in this gully I suddenly slipped and became mixed up with the men of the sections behind me, my own section moving off to the right. Suddenly the enemy's guns opened fire upon us again, and we were forced to lie flat to avoid being struck by the pieces of shell flying about and over us. There was a terrific crash, and a huge shell exploded about five yards in front of me, sending up showers of earth and stones, together with the pieces of shell. The explosion was so close that the concussion forced my head down upon my shoulders and almost stunned me, while I was seized with such fear that I could not crouch low enough; in fact I tried to tear my way through the earth with my hands, so great was the fear of mortal mind, which is always a coward.
After this the firing died down a little, and as I lay there trembling, I suddenly became calmer, and was conscious of an unseen presence, while it seemed as if a strong, calm voice spoke to me, and said, "Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness." With this beautiful thought I again experienced a great calm and a newborn courage, and so looked up and round me, but only to see that all my comrades on either side had been struck and killed.
For a moment mortal mind again tried to hold sway, and I trembled; but then came the words of the psalm, "A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee. . . . For he shall give his angels charge over thee . . . They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone." The whole atmosphere around me seemed so full of this wonderful presence and of uplifting thoughts, that there was indeed no place for fear or danger. I remember rising and going forward to my section with the thought expressed in one of our hymns (Hymnal, p. 178):
I know no life divided,
On joining my section I found that not a man in it had been hurt, and we all rejoiced at being safe together.
I feel grateful that I am privileged to testify to this freedom giving, uplifting truth that God has made clear to us through Mrs. Eddy, His devoted servant and our revered Leader.
Corp. Douglas V.
Christian Science Sentinel, January 18, 1919
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