In order to give a forecast of what things are coming to in that which professes the name of Christ no prophetic gift is required; all that is really needful is acquaintance with the Scriptures. There the whole ways of God with man, from the outset of his fallen history upon earth until the close of his rebellious career, are clearly delineated, as are also the tortuous ways of apostate and corrupt human nature. It is not only that a careful record has been made of the past; the future also has been as accurately foreshadowed. The Scriptures open with the announcement that “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” and close with “A new heaven and a new earth,” the first heaven and the first earth having passed away. Between these two epochs we have the record of the ceaseless activities of the human mind in its alienation from God, occupied in a vain quest after knowledge, and after a happiness lost by transgression, as well as the secret operations of a hidden power of evil, which, having instilled into the human soul distrust in God, deceives him as to the pathway of true wisdom and as to that in which eternal happiness is found; and giving impetus to his profligate will drives him headlong to destruction. Thus are laid bare on the page of inspiration the past history, the present condition, and the future career of all flesh, with all the inner workings of a heart and mind in revolt against divine authority, influenced, prompted, directed, inspired, and stimulated, by infernal forces of evil, driving man in the direction in which he loves to travel, but hiding from him the awful goal to which his lawless career is bearing him. And in such plain and simple language have all these things been recorded, that he may run who reads.
And it is as in some measure enlightened by this glorious revelation, given to us in the grace of God, that I venture to call the attention of all whom it may concern to the things which lie ahead of the present dispensation of grace, as well as to the things which must take place before the present dispensation closes. I am, like many others, passing through this world on my way to heaven, and my purpose is to go through it quietly, not interfering with it in any way, except in so far as the publication of the testimony of God to its inhabitants may be by it considered an interference. I observe its laws, pay tribute, respect the authorities, and pass on, neither courting its favour, nor fearing its frown. I meddle not with its politics, one way nor another, nor have I ever recorded a vote in connection with municipal or parliamentary representation. Christians pray for all men; for kings and for all in authority for God would have all men to be saved, and to come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Tim.), but their path leads out of this world to the glory of God; and for all its woes and contentions they have but one cure, and that is Christ. He alone can annul the consequences of sin, which must continue to afflict humanity until He returns.
But the fact that my hopes and expectations lie outside the region of things visible does not cause me to be insensible to the trend of things upon the surface of the earth. I see the direction in which they are moving, and it is just the direction in which they have been moving from the primal transgression of the head of the race, and the direction in which Scripture declares they shall continue to move until the moment when the Lord shall intervene in judgment. Therefore I do not expect to see them alter their course, either religiously, socially, or politically. I have no ground for such expectations: the gospel has furnished me with an entirety different set of ideas. I look for the deterioration of everything down here. I look for an increase of rebellion against all rule and authority; for men to be more selfish, more greedy after gain; for more profanity; for men to have less confidence in one another; for the complete renunciation of Christianity, even as a religious system; and I look for these things because Scripture says they are coming.
The thought of man, which in the beginning caused him to break with his Creator, has not altered in the least. Nothing would do him but divinity; and though in attempting to grasp it he fell headlong, he has never to the present moment swerved a hair’s-breadth from the vain conceit. At the beginning the wheels of his mad ambition moved comparatively slowly down the steep incline of his blind pursuit, but on its treasonable career it gathered impetus, until at the present moment its speed is something terrific.
They tell us Christianity has been a complete failure, that its dogmas are repulsive to this enlightened age, and that it must give place to something more in harmony with the thought of this present twentieth-century civilization. With the statement that Christianity, looked at as a system of religion on earth, is a complete failure, I have no fault to find. It has been an unfaithful witness, and will meet its just judgment at the hand of Him whose name it bears, only to drag it in the mire of this polluted world. Even in the days of the Apostles it had made itself amenable to the judgment of God, and the time was come when judgment must begin at it (1 Peter 4:17). When God begins to judge the world He will begin at the circle nearest to Himself, and those who have been so unfaithful to the great trust committed to them must be the first to feel the hot breath of His righteous wrath.
But we must keep in mind that everything that has been at any time committed to the responsibility of man has broken down. From the beginning of the world every dispensation has failed outwardly; the husk has ever come under the judgment of God, though the kernel has been carefully preserved as that which is most precious to Himself. The antediluvian world came under His righteous anger, but Noah and his family were saved from the deluge which destroyed the human race. Sodom and Gomorrah are wiped out, through the government of heaven, on account of their wickedness, but just Lot is delivered. Israel comes under the wrath of Jehovah, but a remnant is saved and added to the Church. Now the Church must feel the brunt of His anger; but the Lord knows them that are His (2 Tim. 2:19). Such look for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life (Jude 21).
The united testimony of the writers of the New Testament is to the effect that the profession of Christianity would become utterly corrupt, and in the end be condemned with the world. Our Lord likens the kingdom of heaven to a net cast into the sea, which gathered of every kind, both bad and good; also to a field in which good seed was sown, but in which an enemy sowed tares; also to meal, in which leaven was hidden until the whole was leavened; also to a mustard seed, which, cast into the earth, became a monstrosity for power and influence (Matt. 13). The ruin of that which professed His name would be that, instead of His avowed followers being a little flock in the midst of a hostile world, they would become a mighty and influential power in the earth, which would rival, or rather become assimilated, to great Babylon itself (Dan. 4:21; Matt. 13:32). Peter foretells the invasion of the Church by the servants of Satan, and declares that many would follow their pernicious ways (2 Peter). Paul gives descriptive particulars regarding the evil state of things which would be present in the last days, and which would display itself in covetousness, pride, boasting, blasphemy, deceit, treachery, love of pleasure, and opposition to the truth, and in heaping to themselves teachers who would teach them nothing but that which their corrupt and godless minds desired to hear (2 Tim.). Jude depicts those people as in open rebellion against all the authorities of heaven and earth.
Thus Christendom is seen to drop down to the level of all the wicked and godless who have ever been upon earth, from Cain and his generation right through the history of the world to Antichrist himself, and all who ally themselves with his blasphemous pretensions. Of these Enoch, the seventh from Adam, has prophesied; and all the prophets who have spoken in the name of the Lord have made mention of the day when the Lord would come and execute judgment, and that nothing short of this would bring to an end their wicked activities.
In the book of the Revelation we have Church history written by the Spirit of God, from the moment in which it could be said to be “fallen” (Rev. 2), until it arrives at a point in its downward career when it becomes so nauseous to Christ it must be rejected (chap. 3:16): for I suppose it will not be questioned that the contents of the book are summed up in “The things which thou hast seen” (the seven assemblies in their responsible position as witnesses for God, with the Lord in the midst of them judging of everything according to the responsibility which attaches to those occupying such a position), “The things which are” (the various phases through which the Church would pass in its history upon earth, represented, and set forth, in the seven), and “The things which shall be hereafter” (the things which would come to pass when the Church had left this world). The history of the Church, like that of man, begins to be written when it has fallen, and in both cases the history is one of corruption and departure from God.
The first charge against the Church is couched in the word to Ephesus: “Thou hast left thy first love.” They had in about them that was very commendable and precious in His sight, for it was all the fruit of His own work of grace in their hearts, and He overlooks nothing that might be a witness in their favour. But the pure gold had become dim; the vital principle of first love that was so precious in His sight was lacking; the assembly had ceased to present God in His true character to the world, and was therefore useless as a witness for Him. It is of the utmost importance that we should understand this. Christ was here as the witness of the grace and love of God to man, and now that He has gone to heaven there is no other witness to this except the Church: and it is here for the purpose of maintaining the character of God in the face of the world. If it fails in this it is useless. It is like salt which has lost its savour; it is neither fit for the land, nor yet for the dunghill (Luke 14:34-35). A candlestick is valueless if it contains no light to dispel the surrounding gloom. It is not that the Church preaches the gospel, there are heralds for this purpose, but it is to be so in the love of God itself that it will shine in the light of that love, and in that way it will glorify God. Hence the moment this is wanting the candlestick is threatened with removal.
We require to lay this to heart. It is true we must not forget to build ourselves up on our most holy faith; and, indeed, this should be our first concern, otherwise we cannot shine at all, for naturally there is no light in us. But there is such a thing as making Scripture truth a mere study of the mind, separating it from Christ and from the knowledge of God, so that it becomes little more than mere philosophy, a dry, barren, lifeless, form of doctrine, connected in our minds with ourselves; something to distinguish us from others; advanced truth, beyond the understanding of our brethren who have not attained to the same spiritual elevation as ourselves. All this but nourishes the pride of the flesh, breeds worms, and stinks. If we take good heed to build ourselves up on our most holy faith, pray in the Holy Ghost, and keep ourselves in the love of God, we will not fail to truly present Him to the world, and we will be able to deliver others (Jude 20). We cannot shine by trying to shine, nor can we be a testimony to God by making this our object; but we shall shine if we keep our hearts in the deep and blessed enjoyment of divine love, and thus will our testimony for God be true and effective, without thinking of ourselves at all.
Smyrna, the second phase of the Church in its downward career is subjected to a season of persecution, with a view to separate the saints from the world and drive them nearer to Christ, but instead of this being the result of the fiery trial with which they were tried, we find that Pergamos presents it as having taken shelter under the wing of the power which was its natural and implacable enemy “Thou dwellest where Satan’s seat is.” Within the assembly were also those who held the doctrine of Balaam, which led to spiritual fornication and idolatry. There were also those among them who held the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, a doctrine which set, as lords over God’s heritage, men whose moral and spiritual qualifications would not have entitled them to companionship with any Christian. All these were hateful to the Lord.
Thyatira is a long step downward into the abyss of evil. This is the popish phase of the history of the Church down to the middle ages, and it will go on to the end, for those who propagate this system will never repent. In this system the religious power is wife to the secular, and controls it as Jezebel controlled Ahab. Here it is not only that the doctrine of Balaam is held, it is taught and thrust upon the servants of the Lord. The wicked system which does this, and which is represented by Jezebel, is cast into a bed; she must pursue her adulterous course to the bitter end: and those who commit adultery with her shall be brought into great tribulation except they repent.
In Sardis we have Protestantism; and in the address to this Church we have reference made to the light given through the grace of God at the Reformation: “Remember, therefore, how thou hast received, and hold fast, and repent.” They have a name to live, but are dead. They have not really profited by the light so graciously bestowed upon them, and therefore they are to be treated as the world, He will come on them as a thief, the way in which He will take the world by surprise (2 Peter 3:10). Very differently does He speak to the Thessalonians: “Ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief” (1 Thess. 5:4).
The address to Philadelphia is as a burst of sunshine, which for an instant dispels the surrounding gloom and brings to light that which, in an environment of unfaithfulness and corruption, is precious to the heart of Christ, and which has His commendation, and is supported by His gracious and encouraging words. With these in the mind of the Spirit are linked up all that are Christ’s upon earth. He will make the vast legal profession, who take the place of Jews and are not, to come and worship before their feet, and to know that He has loved them.
When we come to Laodicea we are at the bottom, as far as the present dispensation is concerned; though I do not doubt that when the Church is removed they will have yet one step downward to take, and that step will assuredly be taken; this will be the renunciation of the name of Christ altogether. But even this can hardly be said to descend much lower than the assertion that they can do very well without Him. At present the name of Christ is still retained. However men may give up the truth, and whatever fables may be revelled in, the greater part are still nominally Christian. But as a Saviour they do not require Him; and as to redemption through His blood, it is too vulgar for their minds. He may be as worthy of respect as Gautama, as truly inspired as Confucius, as great a teacher of ethics as Socrates, Plato, Philo Judæus, or any others who have followed in the wake of those great lights, but nothing more can be claimed on His behalf. To speak of His atoning sacrifice, His death for our sins, His resurrection for our justification, and His session at the right hand of God, from which He will come to judge the world, is to babble in the language of our barbarian ancestors. As one who gave up His life rather than surrender that which He believed to be the truth, He is set forth as an example for us, but that is all the benefit we can hope to get from the sorrows of Golgotha. There have been a few perfect men, and He is one of the number. Is He the Son of God, a divine Person? No doubt He is; but we are all sons of God, divine persons; though according to order we should stand thus: R.J.Campbell, General Booth, Keir Hardie, and the Crocodile. Does my reader suppose I am presenting unfairly the ideas of a very large proportion of Christendom? If he does he has not read “The New Theology,” a book devoured by thousands, and which is, according to its author, the coming religion. In it these four have honourable mention.
I should not be greatly disturbed in the presence of all the forces of evil which threaten the profession of the name of Christ upon earth, nor would I have the least fear for the final triumph of the truth of God, even in that which has so departed from the faith, had I any warrant from Scripture for such a hope. I would not much regard the barking of the dogs of hell, nor the feeble pulse which can hardly be felt in the body of Christendom, had I any divine authority for expecting the resuscitation of the profession, which already exhales the effluvium of death. But when I see that even at the outset, when the gospel was still gaining victories over the forces of the enemy, and when the responsible body was still in a comparatively healthy condition, the Spirit of God was drawing attention to pestilences which darkened the atmosphere, and to the seeds of death with which the whole system was inoculated; and when we are told that these germs of evil would increase in number and virulence, until the whole framework of Christianity would become a moral wreck, to nourish a hope of any betterment of things would be utterly delusive.
Christianity is said to be dying. Almost all the great thinkers and scientists have rejected it. The truth is, the great mass of such men never had any vital part or lot in it. The things of God have always been hid from the wise and prudent, and revealed to babes (Matt. 11). Paul tells the Corinthians, who boasted greatly in the mind of man, that not many wise men after the flesh were called; but God had chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and the weak things to confound the things that are mighty, and base things and things that are despised, and things that are not to bring to nought the things that are; the object being that no flesh should glory in His presence (1 Cor. 1). Therefore, if the leaders of the world are today found rejecting Christianity, there is nothing new in it; it is simply on a line with the whole history of the preaching of the cross. God was determined to destroy the wisdom of the wise, and to bring to naught the understanding of the prudent. This He was doing in the days of Christ’s flesh, in the days of the apostles, and He has been doing it ever since.
From the days of Constantine the Great, when the Christian religion became the mistress of the world-power, the doctrine of Balaam supplanted the preaching of the cross, and “that woman Jezebel” ruled, not only in that which was the assembly of God upon earth, but her evil influence was felt in the State as well; so much so that it ultimately became an indispensable condition to holding any position in the empire that one should be a Christian, at least in name. There was nothing to lose by outward submission to the faith, but everything to gain. This spurious Christianity (for it was not Christian in anything but name) and the world became indissolubly welded together, the result being that the world corrupted the Church, and the Church in turn corrupted the world. The Roman Pontiff, himself very often a beast in human form, declaring himself the vicar of Christ upon earth, ruled as lord of those that reign; and priest and people vied with one another in drunkenness, debauchery, and in every detestable and degrading vice that the fallen heart of man was capable of inventing.
From this state of things the Reformation brought a measure of deliverance, but the reformers knew little more about the cross than did those who preferred darkness to light, and who, therefore, remained in the gloom of popery. Hence it was just as it had been before the light of the gospel shone into the soul of the German monk; the princes of the world became as good Protestants as they previously had been Papists. Christianity was still a religion of the world, and according to the creeds well suited to man in the flesh. High and low, learned and unlearned, had been Papists, but now they had donned another garb, they were Protestants. While Rome had the power, all who asserted any opinion differing from the Roman prelate, or the hierarchy, were made short work of; the prison, the rack, and the auto-de-fé did their hellish work; and, except a few who loved Christ and the truth of God better than their own lives, all submitted to the ape of God, who took, upon himself to control the destinies of men for time and eternity.
The Reformation was largely used to deliver men from all such religious tenor. It not only affected in this way those who embraced the principles of Protestantism, even Rome herself was eventually compelled to abandon in a great measure her horrible system of persecution. But if people were delivered from the domination of Rome, the way that deliverance was used was not as an opportunity to turn with thankful hearts to God, and in lowliness of mind and in the judgment of self seek to become better acquainted with His revealed will, but the human mind now, unfettered ran riot in the things of God; the swing of the pendulum was from priestcraft to free thought; the result being that sects and parties sprang up everywhere. Bad as this was it was better than Rome; for free thought is better than popery, or, to put it more correctly, popery is worse than free thought. Both are evil, but free thought is of the flesh, and popery is of the devil.
But what I want to come to is this, it is in Protestantism that things are allowed to assume their natural condition. Delivered from the trammels of priestcraft, and from the terrors of the Roman See, the leaders of the world have been allowed to come out in their true colours, and you find that what was true at the beginning has been true all along the line, is true today, and is likely to be true as long as the world lasts, that not many wise men after the flesh are called. It is not that great men are giving up Christianity, and that therefore it is manifested as in a dying condition; for these great men who have apostatized never were true believers, but it took time to educate the minds of the thoughtless multitude up to that standard which would enable them to tolerate the infidelity of their leaders. That time has now arrived, and men are free to say exactly what they like on the subject of religion, and the result is a confusion of tongues which out-babels Babel itself.
It is not only that Christendom has been split up into creeds innumerable, but every form of infidelity and spiritual wickedness have found a home in that colossal ruin. Every unclean bird and every hateful thing has found a resting place in its towers of darkness, and every abomination that is done under the sun is practised within its cloisters of gloom. There is not an error that ever was hatched in pandemonium but is as much at home there as ever it was amid the conclave of demons. For the flesh it is liberty-hall, and a palace of varieties. There the diabolical machinations of the wicked Jezebel are brought into existence, and there is Ahab, her husband and her slave, conscious of his inability to rule without her aid, working out her murderous will. Cain is there with all his antipathy to the sacrifice of Christ, which is God’s appointed way of approach for guilty man, and with all his deathless hatred of the One who offered the acceptable offering. There Korah and his confederates rise up against the Lordship and Priesthood of the Son of God. There Balaam, for the sake of filthy lucre, teaches the princes of the world how to corrupt the saints of the living God. There is enthroned the Evolutionist, whose disciples are innumerable. There are the Theosophists and the Spiritualists with their mediums, their planchettes, and their table rappings. There are the Buddhists, the Pantheists, and the Devil-worshippers; and close beside them sit the higher Critics, tearing to pieces that which God has given to man as a revelation from Himself. There, through the live-long night, atheistical owlets hoot from its ancient turrets, and through its dusky chambers anti-Christian vampires glide. No human being knows the way through its wildering dungeons, and what may be met with in its corners lone no mortal tongue may tell. Its depths are full of fear, its atmosphere is pestilential. It bears false witness to Christ in the world that rejected Him. It lies about God, about man, about Satan, about the world, about itself—man is God, and God is man, and Satan is a vacuum; the resurrection of Christ is a myth, and there is neither heaven nor hell, and death is but the loosing of the mortal coil and all is bliss beyond. It boasts that it is rich and increased in goods, and in need of nothing, knowing not that it is wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked. It is intoxicated with its earthly prosperity, and has no use for the rejected Nazarene, one way or another. It has not yet given up His name, but it has no room for Himself in its pursuits and fellowships. It is neither altogether for Him nor against Him. It is neither cold nor hot. This is nauseous to His palate, and He will spue it out of his mouth. As it has rejected Him, so will He reject it.
It is not the papal system we have described in Laodicea, but rather a form of Socialism; for after all Socialism is not merely a political movement. At the first glance it may appear to be altogether political, but it is far from it, it is quite as religious as it is political. But I do not doubt that all the systems which call themselves Christian will eventually find themselves drawn together into the Roman net. What form it may take I am not prepared to say, but it will bear the features of the Papal system. It may lose some of its characteristics and put on some others, but it is not difficult to recognize it when we see it coming to light in the seventeenth and eighteenth of Revelation. That which is spued out of the mouth of Christ does not seem to have lost anything from an earthly point of view by His rejection of it. It is seen never to have abandoned its innate lust for power in the world. The apostate Church, for it is she who rides the scarlet-coloured beast with the seven heads and ten horns, is clothed with royal and earthly glory. She is supreme in Western Europe, for the Roman Empire is for the moment under her control. Everything in the Roman Empire must come under the influence of this great religious system, for “The mother of harlots” represents that which shall be in that day the state religion.
But her power shall be but short-lived. We read that there is a time coming when the kings of the earth will no longer be able to bear her high-handed and brazen arrogancy. They will make her desolate and naked, and they will appropriate her riches and delicacies for themselves, and burn her with fire. Her judgment shall be sudden and terrific: “In one day shall her plagues come, death and mourning and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire; for strong is the Lord who judges her.” Today Rome boasts an ancient and venerable religion, handed down from the apostles themselves, but she might unquestionably go back a long way farther than that; she might go back to the firstborn of fallen Adam, and trace her history adown the ages, putting on the garb of Judaism in its apostate character, and adopting the cloak of Christianity only to corrupt it, and eventually being judged as the mother of harlots, for the religion of the flesh has been one the whole way down from the beginning, whatever name it may have gone by. And what is said of Babylon only proves this, for “In her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth.” This wicked system never was Christian, though it bore His name for centuries.
John, who watches over the fortunes of the professing Church, from the moment when she can be described as “fallen” until she is seen seated upon the beast with the cup of her abominations in her hand, and drunk with the blood of the saints, wonders with great wonder at the sight. Who could have imagined that that which was set up so morally beautiful at Pentecost would in the hand of man become a spectacle so loathsome and disgusting? No doubt, according to man, it is the pinnacle of her greatness, for it is the consummation of her guilty ambition; but for anyone in the mind of God it is an appalling spectacle. But her judgment is sudden, swift, and final. The whole earth laments over her fall. The royal and commercial systems are shattered by the fall of the religious. The whole fabric of the world’s prosperity comes down with a crash, which awakes a wail of despair over land and sea. The earth puts on mourning: heaven rejoices. The kings of the earth, the merchants, the shipmasters, the sailors, and all that trade by sea shall stand afar off from her, for fear of her burning, and shall bewail her with weeping and lamentation. Heaven shall rejoice over her, and all the holy apostles and prophets shall see in her overthrow the just judgment of the righteous God. “And a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all. And the voice of harpers, and musicians, and of pipers, and trumpeters shall be heard no more at all in thee; and no craftsman, of whatsoever craft he be, shall be found any more in thee; and the light of a candle shall shine no more at all in thee; and the voice of the bridegroom and of the bride shall be heard no more at all in thee: for thy merchants were the great men of the earth: for by thy sorceries were all nations deceived. And in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth.” Gone is her “merchandise of gold, and silver, and precious stones, and of pearls, and fine linen, and purple, and silk, and scarlet, and all thyme wood, and all manner vessels of ivory, and all manner vessels of most precious wood, and of brass, and iron, and marble, and cinnamon, and odours, and ointments, and frankincense, and wine, and oil, and fine flour, and wheat, and beasts, and sheep, and horses, and chariots, and slaves, and souls of men.” From the earth arises a wail of anguish, and from heaven the thunders of an exulting host, crying, Alleluia.
This is what the lifeless profession of Christianity is coming to. It cannot come to it until the true saints of the Lord have been taken out of the midst of it. Until then the Holy Spirit shall be here, and this exercises a powerful restraint upon the forces of evil. But when the true saints of God have been taken away to heaven, the brake will be removed from the wheel of man’s wicked and lawless ambitions, and things will move more rapidly towards the goal at which he has been aiming from the beginning. But, as I have indicated, Rome will absorb the incoherent and aimless sections of Christendom, except those who take open infidel ground, and I do not doubt that even they must at length fall under her powerful influence. The outward form of Romanism may undergo some slight changes, but Jezebel, the deadly principle of evil which makes Rome what she is, will never change. Whatever modifications the system may undergo, they will be entirely outward, and confined to minor details, and possibly only made to satisfy the prejudices of the various opinions of those it would entangle in the meshes of its net.
Once the true Church is gone the various Protestant bodies will count for nothing. They have no cohesiveness, no political unanimity, no discipline, no controlling central authority to give definiteness and direction to the forces that are undoubtedly there. Rome is a compact, solid, concrete mass of well-disciplined forces, ruled and guided and commanded by one mind, which is held to be infallible. The Modernists will accomplish little or nothing. They may help to bring about some of the modifications of which I have spoken, but all the religious systems must finally come under the domination of Rome, and in her judgment they shall find their doom. I do not think that a movement such as Modernism will accomplish much. Those who adopt such views may break away from Rome or be by her excommunicated, but if they are ever to be of any account in Western Europe they must come back again to the fold, and become obedient children to the Mother of Harlots.
The political aspect of things can scarcely be viewed apart from the religious. Until this dispensation began they were inseparable. In Israel they were one and the same thing; their politics were their religion, and their religion was their politics. It was the same with the nations around them. I might say it is the same with regard to Christians: for their politics are heavenly and connected with the kingdom of God. As to the present world, they are passing through it as strangers and pilgrims, and are not supposed to meddle with its political affairs. It is just because they have been untrue to their heavenly calling that the confusion between earthly and heavenly citizenship has come in. Now, though most people draw a distinction between the two, religion plays a huge part in the political arena. At first sight it would seem as though an effort was being made to divorce the secular from the religious, but this is really not so. That an attempt is being made to oust from the political world the God of our Lord Jesus Christ is evident enough, but that does not mean the annihilation of everything that goes under the name of religion. A God objective to creation, and who is the Creator, may be questioned. One to whom man is responsible for his actions, and to whom he must give account, is likely to be utterly refused; but a God of some sort man must have, for he is so constituted that his look is upward to a Being higher than himself. This principle of his creature existence may be so perverted by sin, and so blinded by the power of the devil, as to cause him to clothe his own spiritual being with the attributes of Godhead, or his imagination may even invest the quadruped or creeping thing with divine terror; but a God of some description he will have, and one with reference to whom he will order his conduct, and according to the character of the being he reverences his religion will be. I have no doubt as to what that God shall be in the Roman Empire; Scripture speaks with no uncertain sound about it, neither does the trend of things around us: the culmination will be the worship of a MAN.
It is plain enough that the political world has made up its mind to do without the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Old customs are, of course, hard to be got rid of, and therefore is there a kind of farcical acknowledgment of God by the legislators, but not the will of God but the will of the people is paramount; not His fear, but the fear of the masses governs the action of those who sit in the parliaments of the world. In England not the word of the living God, but the ballot-box, settles every question; and day by day a deeper darkness settles steadily down upon the seat of government, and day by day the power to control everything is quickly passing into the hands of the irresponsible crowd, and everyone is wondering what it is all coming to. The rich give themselves over to a life of ease and fleshly indulgence, by this means seeking to compensate themselves for the loss of prestige in the world, and then—I was going to say the poor, but we have no poor now. There may be people out of work, and people in want of the necessaries of life, but the poor, such as God speaks of, and to whom the Gospel is preached, where are they to be found? What may be called the poor, or what used to go under that name, is now as important in the State, and has as much power as a marquis or a duke. Hence he cannot count on the intervention of God on his behalf as he formerly could have done. He asked for this power, and he got it; but it has not satisfied him. He now wants wealth, and as this cannot be had except by robbery, he is determined to rob. Why should any one man have more than another? Are we not all brothers together? But it is the man who has nothing to lose who holds these views. As soon as he comes into anything in the way of wealth himself he alters his principles. Between the Socialistic element and the propertied classes no human being could legislate; it is all selfishness together.
But what is it all coming to? is the question. I have no doubt chaos is in front of all these destructive elements. But out of that chaos will arise one who will take the whole thing in hand and rule with rigour. He will be welcomed by everyone when he comes. He will be a man after man’s own heart, the man they are looking for today, the man who will bring order out of chaos, and who will exalt himself above all that is called God, or is worshipped; and woe betide the soul who raises a question regarding his authority. Like Cain, he will be a child of the devil, and will complete that world of which Cain laid the foundation. Like Hiel the Beth-elite, who rebuilt the cursed city Jericho, laying the foundation in his eldest son and setting up the gates in his youngest (Josh. 6:6; 1 Ki. 16:34), so did the devil lay the foundation of the world in his first-born, Cain, and will set up its gates in his youngest, Antichrist; then will God be altogether excluded, as far as man can exclude him from the earth.
In that day there will be a trinity of evil upon earth, the like of which was never before, and never shall be again. The head of the Roman empire will arise out of the sea, the unsettled state of things which will result from the contrary elements which are in conflict at the present moment; the false Prophet, the Antichrist, will arise out of the earth, the order resulting from the revived Roman empire; the devil, driven out of heaven by angelic power, will be the secret influence of evil, inspiring and energizing these two to grasp the earth out of the hand of the living God; and what is at the present moment threatened will then be fully realized, the individual will be robbed of all liberty; no man will be able to buy or sell who does not carry upon his forehead or on his hand the evidence that he belongs to that system inaugurated, directed, and controlled by the trinity of wickedness, the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet.
The devil having lost his place in the heavens, and knowing that he has but a short time in which he will be at liberty to work out his mischievous devices before he is cast into the abyss, his wrath knows no bounds. All the power he possesses is bestowed upon man in the persons of the beast and the false prophet, that by that power they might destroy both themselves and those who fall under their satanic influence. The little while that remains to him will be a time of unparalleled wickedness and tyranny, and of persecution of the saints of God. But the appearing of Christ will bring all this to an end. The Lord will be revealed from heaven with the angels of His might, taking vengeance upon them that know not God, and who obey not the Gospel. The devil will be taken and bound for a thousand years in the abyss, and the beast and false prophet will be cast alive into the lake that burns with fire and brimstone. Christ will take the throne: a king shall reign in righteousness and princes shall rule in judgment: for His saints shall reign along with Him for a thousand years. After that Satan shall go into the lake of fire, where the beast and false prophet shall have been for a thousand years; the dead shall be judged, the earth shall be burned up, and a new heaven and a new earth shall be brought in, in which righteousness shall dwell. Thus shall be for ever effaced the world, with its religion and its politics.
What is the outlook of those who love His blessed name? Are we to expect the state of things in Christendom to improve? Not with the word of truth before our eyes on the page of inspiration. Our outlook is just what it was in the palmiest days of the Church’s history—the coming of the Lord, and our gathering together to Him in the heavens. For this the early believers waited; and if hope deferred made their hearts sick, and if they fell under the soporific influence of the surrounding darkness, we need to see that we are thoroughly awake, and that we have our loins girded about with the truth of God, and our lamps burning brightly in the power of the Holy Spirit, and our whole deportment like unto men that wait for their Lord. His word is, “Behold, I come quickly” (Rev. 22), and we know He is not slack concerning His promise; only He does not measure time as we do in our littleness and impatience. One day with Him is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. Still, we can see the day approaching, and therefore we may expect Him any moment, for long before the day breaks we shall be with Him.
To wade through the history of the departure of the Church from Christ is distressing to the spirit, and the only gain that is likely to accrue to us through the labour is the self-judgment that may be produced by it. It is no pleasure to the heart that loves Christ to be compelled to point out the evil of that which bears His most blessed name. The bitter lamentations of Jeremiah came from a heart broken about the woes of Zion and Jerusalem, and from the eyes of a Greater than Jeremiah tears of sorrow fell for the same city, as her judgment came up before His vision. And the tears of Paul fell fast as he thought of those who, by their enmity to the Cross, sought to influence the saints back again to the world, out of which they had been redeemed at such infinite cost.
Thank God there is that which cannot be defiled by sin. In the midst of the false profession there is that which is true to Christ; and it is true to Him because it is of Himself. The Church which Christ builds is proof against the attacks of the enemy. The Body and the Bride of Christ is, and shall ever remain, inviolate from evil. That which is born of God the devil cannot touch. The wheat will be gathered into His garner when the chaff shall be cast into fire unquenchable. In the midst of this evil scene there are those who are Christ’s, and He knows then. He says, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand. My Father which gave them Me is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand” (John 10). Whatever state the profession may get into, He is able to keep His own in the midst of it, and in the end present them faultless before the presence of His glory with exultation (Jude 24). Blessed assurance! May we have more confidence in His grace and love.
May we be also more faithful to the holy trust He has committed to us, the privilege of bearing His name in the presence of a hostile world. I do not doubt that many followers of the Beast will be proud to have imprinted upon their foreheads his name or the number of his name: for the boast of a man is more often in his shame than in his virtues. How much more reason have we earnestly to seek that upon our foreheads the name of the rejected Nazarene might be legibly engraven. What an honour it is to be allowed to stand for Him, and perhaps suffer a little shame for His name from a world which from its foundation will have none of Him. And how sad it is to see many of His beloved saints mixing themselves up with that world, contending in its parliaments, and helping to direct its affairs, like Lot in the gate of Sodom! What would one think of the sons of a man murdered by robbers contending with the lawless band for a fair division of the spoils? I may be told that the picture is overdrawn. What, then, is the truth of the matter, the plain unvarnished facts of the case? The Jews condemned Him to death, and handed Him over to the Gentiles, who crucified Him, and began by gambling for His raiment, and ended by gambling for the kingdoms of the world, which are His by right, and His only.
And that which bears His name is the greatest sinner of the lot. It is the unblushing prostitute with whom the kings of the earth have had guilty intimacy, and whose judgment will be of such swift and terrible nature as to stagger the world. It is true all this applies more to the principle which works in the midst of the profession, and which is called Jezebel; but the whole body is tainted by it, and is drifting in that direction, and will most assuredly end there. The ritualists, one may almost say, are there already; and though the dissenters seem heading towards infidelity, it is only another road to Babylon, and all shall meet there.
May the saints of the living God hearken to the voice from heaven, which, speaking in infinite love, would wake up His own to the danger of having any association with her, saying, “Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues” (Rev. 17:4). When the judgment of God falls upon her, the kings, merchants, ship-masters and sailors “stand afar off” for fear of her burning, and lament her overthrow. May we now “stand afar off” from her, and keep near to Him to whom the true Church belongs, and in the spirit of that which is ever as true to Him as a faithful bride is to her husband, may our unceasing cry be, “Come, Lord Jesus.”
It is in His grace and faithful love He has told these things to His servants, in order that they may know how to avoid that which is so contrary to Himself, and be able to order their walk and ways pleasing to His heart in the midst of a state of things upon which His judgment is about to fall. His own word about it all is, “I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify these things to you in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star.” How sweet is the answer to this from the heart of that which is the object of His love, and for which He gave Himself! “And the Spirit and the Bride say, Come.” What else is there for the faithful wife to say to her Beloved? Her whole heart’s affections are enshrined in that short, and to Him infinitely sweet, message contained in that one word COME. Nothing short of Himself will satisfy her longing soul, nor does He desire to hear anything else from her lips. He loves her, and she loves Him; and that is enough for the heart of both.
Does the reader say, I know nothing about the Bride, but I love the Saviour? Well, you hear what He says, “I am the bright morning star.” Do you long to see Him? If so, “Let him that hears say come.” When you see Him face to face, how sorrowful it would be should you have to reproach yourself with a feebleness of affection that was never able to rise to the occasion of giving Him an invitation, or of telling Him that you would be glad to see Him! May the Lord awake up the affections of His own.