Duke of Wellington Statue, Manchester

In Manchester centre, not far from where the gospel is preached each Wednesday afternoon, stands a larger-than-life statue of Arthur Wellesley, better known as the first Duke of Wellington. It was he who gave Napoleon the thrashing he so very much needed, and ended French domination of Europe. He is depicted in civilian frockcoat, his general’s uniform hanging up behind him. When the war was ended, he entered civilian politics, becoming Prime Minister. Below him sit a number of other characters, chiefly Mars god of war, and Minerva, goddess of wisdom. I always think it ironic that in that most Christian of periods, the nineteenth-century, a penchant for erecting statues of pagan deities seemed commonplace. Nevertheless, the Victorians felt they could appreciate art without worshipping it. Mars sits by his sword, but it is Minerva who points upward. The Duke was a man of war, but primarily a man of peace.

Solomon observes in the third of Ecclesiastes, that there is:

A time to love,

And a time to hate;

A time of war,

And a time of peace. (v8)

A time to kill,

And a time to heal;

A time to break down,

And a time to build up. (v3)

Knowing when to go on the offensive and when to merely defend, or just keep quiet, has been the most difficult decision of every general, and every Christian. On the bus yesterday, some women were effing and jeffing. Should I ask them not to, I wondered? At one point do I muster all my pastor-ly courage and rebuke those who infrequently darken our doors? At one point do we accept persecution or stand up for our rights? As this century wears on, we shall need more heavenly wisdom than ever Minerva was thought able to supply.