There are two great perils confronting men in every land, but especially in the lands, which are called Christian, for they are greatly aggravated by a corrupt Christianity. Both will rise to a head before the end, each in its turn, and the real character of each will be manifested before they are put down for ever. In the meantime each is growing, each is an enemy of Christ, though they are also deadly enemies the one to the other.
The first is Imperialism, which wears a grand majestic air. It is robed in purple, great and grand are its schemes, and brilliant its promises of honour and glory for its votaries. In its hands are all the rewards, which this world has to give. It is allied with religion; it would not demean itself by throwing that off. The priests of religion are in its high places. Its name is Babylon — imperial Babylon, with all its glories; religious Babylon, with all its religious honours and reputation; commercial Babylon, with all its luxuries, its arts, and its sciences. All that this world can produce is in her hand. Grandeur and greatness are hers. Well may the men of this world be proud of her. She is like a lion in her strength.
The other peril is like a spectre stalking through the land. If Imperialism is like a lion, Socialism is like the serpent, with its venom, its ominous hiss, its menacing aspect. Imperialism would lift up man to his highest possible greatness; all the glories of this world shall shine for him. Socialism would drag all down; and in her desire to bring down the great, and produce equality in all men, would involve all in one common ruin, and equality would be obtained by oneness of degradation. Socialism is allied with irreligion and infidelity; it sets its face alike against all authority and all religion. Not but that Socialism, too, makes many promises and has great schemes; yet, while Imperialism has its baubles, its delights for the flesh and the eye and its pride of life, Socialism has only its dreams, the awakening from which must be to its horror. Still, be it the one or be it the other, both must utterly perish that the Kingdom of the Son of Man may be established and the knowledge of the glory of the Lord may cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.
But why mention these things?
We neither go in for the one nor the other of these evils. We (writer and readers alike) are eminently respectable. We are separate from all that has been spoken of. Can we not thank God that we are not as other men are? We are not Imperialist or Socialist. These shall perish and go to their doom, and we shall be caught away to our bliss and our glory. Thus are we, alas, often apt to yield ourselves to our snug self-congratulation, forgetting that it is possible for us to be all we say and yet, after all, come in for the scathing rebukes which our Lord uttered to the Pharisees, who thought themselves righteous and despised others.
Undoubtedly the full issues of good and evil must be worked out to their ultimate result, the horrible character of this and the beauty of that in the midst of the evil must be fully developed; but
What is the Christian's place in the midst of it all?
Is he not to be here as Christ was? We agree that we are very respectable, we speak the truth generally, we pay our debts, we bear not false witness against our neighbour, the law of the land has no terrors for us. We bear a good character, we do also some good works, we give somewhat of our substance (generally taking care to leave sufficient to have all we really care for for ourselves), we are regular in our attendance at our services. What more could any one ask for, then? We know our Bibles better than most Christians — the mysteries are open to us. Are we not ready, also, to instruct those who will place themselves under our instructions? Is not the Gospel preached, too; can sinners not hear, if they will? If not, it surely is not our fault; have we not done all that could reasonably be expected of us? Maybe, we are strictly orthodox. Maybe, we quickly get rid of those, who think otherwise than we do. Maybe, we tithe mint and anise and cumin, and have a narrow opening through which a man must pass, if he would be with us. It is their fault, is it not? not ours; why can they not conform?
Is this to be of Christ?
Is it thus we can walk as He walked? Is this anything like His walk? Is this anything which will act as an antidote to the terrible power of the world, Imperial, Socialistic, or what not?
To speak after the manner of men, the power of Christ lay in this — He was intensely dependent upon God, His meat was to do His will; He burnt Himself out for God and for man, self-forgetful, self-emptied, self-abased. Yes, for God and for man. There cannot be the one without the other. Are there not the two great commandments, Godward and manward? Was not the law within His heart? By the olive they honoured God and man; the vine by its wine cheered God and man. He who serves Christ in righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost is acceptable to God and approved of man. The two go together. Woe be to us if we divorce the one from the other. He, who is true to God alone, does good to men; and he who truly does good to men is the only one, who is true to God.
How did Christ meet Imperialism?
He received not honour from men. He refused to work miracles to suit his own ends, saying, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God." He refused to pander to the prince of this world, saying, "Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve." He refused display, saying, "Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God." He would not be made king. He loved the low place. He emptied Himself. He would take nothing save as the Father's gift. He interfered not with Caesar; on the contrary, He said, "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's"; but He wanted none of these things. He would not call down fire from heaven. He would not do signs to satisfy curiosity. He would not even defend Himself. What power had Imperialism to touch Him? None whatever!
How did Christ meet Socialism?
He gave His all. He was the last of all, and the servant of all, Who so rich as He? And He lavished it all on others. Who so poor as He? He had to ask to be shown a penny when He needed to see it. He had nowhere to lay His head. He did not lay up treasure on earth. He was anointed to preach glad tidings to the poor, to set the captive free, to break every yoke. He was true to God first, and He spent Himself for man. He sought not His own things. He lost. He suffered. His sleep was forfeited; there was not time to eat in peace, for He was the servant of all, who needed Him. Never was He too wearied to do the will of God, or to serve man. What power had Socialism upon such a one? None. Socialism has no power against those who follow in His steps.
How are we to meet Imperialism and Socialism?
There is no other way than the way of Christ. These cannot be met by Acts of Parliaments, by authority, by words of command; nothing but the life of Christ in His people has any effect. But, it may be asked, will not these things come to pass whether we act in one way, or in its opposite? Surely these two evils will come to pass, but why? Because of the pride and selfishness of us Christians. A dispensation ends when God's people have no longer any faith to utilize the power God puts at their disposal, then is the Christian dispensation drawing to its close. Those with most light feed themselves and feed not the flock; the servants oftentimes eat and drink and beat their fellow-servants, and thank God they are not as other men are. Can God use such?
The end will surely come, and that swiftly; but if we are truly following Christ in these ways the blessing will not fail us. We shall be blest, and made a blessing; but if not, our light and our knowledge will do us no good, yea, rather will enhance our condemnation.
God grant we may truly follow Christ in refusing honour from men, while spending and being spent for men according to the will of God; and it may be that God may grant us a little reviving in this the day of great weakness.