"Whence Come Wars"?

The Self-Will of Man

There is an important statement of truth in Acts 17:26, "God hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitations, that they should seek after God."

It should be evident to all that if men dwelt together as being of one blood and were contented to abide within those bounds set for them by God, humanity would not be disgraced by strife and bloodshed. But the history of the world is one long record of man's insubjection to God's ordering in this respect. Not that a man's habitation is sufficient to satisfy his heart no matter how wide the bounds of it may be. Alexander got the whole world, and then wept like a disappointed child because there were no others that he could get. God's intention was that men should seek after Him, for it is in Him alone that the human heart can find satisfaction, and when God is found by a man he is contented with his lot. So we read — "Godliness with contentment is great gain."

In the day when THE TRUE KING shall rule with equity men shall no longer be insubject; "they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig free" (Mic. 4:4) — that is, each will be contented with the holding apportioned to him, and he will not attempt to transgress the bounds of it; but that will be because he has found his satisfaction in God. "And in that day, saith the Lord of hosts, shall ye call every man his neighbour under the vine and under the fig tree" (Zech. 3:10); that is, all shall recognize that they are of one blood and shall seek each other's good. The best that a man has in knowledge, skill, and strength will be put at his neighbour's disposal. Then the sword shall give place to the plough and nations shall learn war no more, but that day cannot come until the law of God is put into men's hearts and written in their minds; that is, the law of God will be loved by them, and it will control them — the law which says, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and thy neighbour as thyself."

But this much-to-be-desired condition does not yet exist; men are still in rebellion against God; they are lawless, and sin is lawlessness.

Sin has affected man both in his relations with God and with his fellow men. As regards God he is insubject, as regards his fellows he is envious of their prosperity and covetous of their possessions. He is self-centred and will not admit God's right to command him and wants the best his neighbours possess for himself, and will not scruple, should a favourable opportunity occur, to bring all his powers into play to seize their wealth or land or glory. He will not LOOK UP TO GOD to find the satisfaction that no earthly possession can afford, for with his heart he hates God, but he looks North, South, East, and West, and tries to satisfy his covetous and empty heart by reaching beyond his appointed bounds and grasping that which belongs to others. This is one of the great causes of war and strife, whether between nations, individuals, or brethren.

"Whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even from your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war" (Jas. 4).

Satan's Part in it

But Satan works behind the lawlessness and covetousness of men and makes use of them for the perpetration of his own designs.

Man supposes that in throwing off God's yoke and in doing, as he believes, his own pleasure, he is a free man. The fact is that when he first exercised his sinful will in opposition to God's will he became the servant and dupe of Satan.

Through man's sin and his rejection of Christ, who is the Prince of peace (Isa. 9:6) and the true God (1 John 5:20), Satan has acquired the place of prince of this world (John 12:31), and god of it (2 Cor. 4:4). He exercises his authority in the counsels of nations as the prince of the world through the spiritual powers that serve him — the universal lords of darkness (Eph. 6:12, N.Tr.; Dan. 10:13; Luke 4:6).

Now he to whom men have yielded and allied themselves in their opposition to God's claims is a murderer from the beginning (John 8:44), he is the dragon or destroyer (Rev. 20:2). There is no pity in his breast, no mercy in his works, no peace for his dupes. Satan's domination of men must mean, so long as it lasts, "no peace" on earth. That he has strange, spiritual forces under his command for the stirring up of strife on the earth, when it suits his purpose, is revealed in connection with the great "Armageddon," which is not yet. The Seer saw "three unclean spirits . . . the spirits of demons go out to the kings of the whole habitable world to gather them together to war of that great day of God, the Almighty" (Rev. 16:13-14, N.T). This remarkable revelation to John lays bare for us, we believe, an important secret as to the reason of warfare. It proceeds from the devil and it is fomented by demons, the devil's angels, and in this belief we are confirmed from 2 Chronicles 18. These are wholly evil, and though they may unite to oppose God and destroy men, love is foreign to their nature, and hatred is characteristic of them; thence strife must prevail in Satan's kingdom of darkness to which they belong, and to which also all men belong who refuse the gospel. The fact of Satan being "god" and "prince" of this world, then, is another cause of the shoutings of armed men upon the battlefields and the sobs of broken-hearted women at home.

The Government of God

But there is another side to this question, namely, the supreme government of God. His government is not yet in manifestation, for as we have pointed out, the devil is the prince of this world, and so we pray, "Thy kingdom come." Nevertheless, God has not abandoned the earth to the will of man and Satan. He is the Judge of the whole earth, and the Almighty God. He says of unscrupulous men and to the forces of evil, as He says to the waves of the sea, "Hitherto shalt thou come and no further, and here shall thy proud waves be stayed." And the wrath of man, when it breaks forth, shall be made to praise Him, and the remainder of the wrath shall He restrain (Ps. 76:10). So that whether it be the will of men or the malice of Satan they shall both alike be made to subserve the will of God.

Now the sword is spoken of as one of God's sore judgments. "For thus saith the Lord God; How much more when I send my four sore judgments upon Jerusalem, the sword, and the famine, and the noisome beast, and the pestilence, to cut off from it man and beast" (Ezek. 14:6).

Israel was greatly favoured by God in those olden days, and because they did not answer to the favour shown to them they came under His judgments and were punished by the sword. In this present period, the Gentiles, for the effectuation of God's purposes, have come into Israel's outward place of favour. They, a wild olive branch, have been grafted into the olive root, while Israel, the natural branch, has been broken off for the time being (Rom. 11). How specially favoured of God have the European nations been, and particularly has this been so in respect to those that came under the cleansing and invigorating power of the Reformation. They have had free access to God's Word — that priceless treasure. But to what account has this favour of God been turned? They have turned it to their own aggrandisement. Unbelief, pride, and high-mindedness have flourished — the sins against which special warning is given in this very connection — and there has been very little of the fear of God before their eyes as a result of His favour (Rom. 11:20). We believe that this must be taken into account at this present time, for the greater the favour the greater the responsibility, and this men cannot escape. And if God has at this time withdrawn in measure His restraining hand, giving men and the evil powers behind them a loose rein for a while, may it not be one of His sore judgments upon the nations that have set His will so completely at defiance?

But such dealings of God with nations must not be confounded with His wrath that is still to come upon men at the coming of Christ because of their ungodliness and rejection of Christ, nor with the individual judgment of all who die without mercy at the great White Throne.

Every nation involved in the present war must suffer enormously, whether victorious or defeated, but can any say as they consider the way God has been defied and His Word rejected, by these nations, and their pride and unrighteousness, that chastisement is not overdue? We do not dogmatise about it, but so it seems to us.

To GERMANY was given the Reformation in large measure; and the Word of God put into the hands of the people proved to be a great lamp in the darkness for all who feared Him. But from this same Germany has gone forth that destructive criticism of that same Word, which has rolled in a whelming flood over the whole of Christendom, clearing the way for all that evil teaching which dethrones Christ from the throne of Deity and exalts humanity in a godless and terrible pride. For the place that New Theology, Christian Science, Theosophy, and kindred blasphemous teachings have gained in Christendom, modern criticism, which originated in Germany, is largely responsible. Has not God seen this? And may it not be that at the very end of the church's history upon earth He will open the eyes of multitudes of His saints who have been deceived and seduced by this German "learning and culture," by showing that the casting off of God and His Word by a highly favoured nation can only result in so great an increase of human pride, that at last neither the fear of God nor man can hold it within bounds.

FRANCE refused the Reformation and stained her annals, under the influence of Rome, with a St. Bartholomew and many other persecutions of the saints. She has been humiliated in the past, but has not learned the lesson. Her atheism and immorality are world-notorious. The name of God has been obliterated from every textbook in her schools; her legislators have openly boasted that the name of God has been banished from state, schools and homes. Some years ago all religious orders were swept from her borders, not because she abhorred these abodes of vice and superstition, we fear, but to be rid, as far as she was able, of even that which professed to own God. And not many months ago a high festival was held in Paris in honour of the Sun — an obvious return to heathenism on the part of many there.

BRITAIN above all nations seems to have had a place in God's providence, for from these countries have gone out missionaries world-wide, and wherever her flag has flown there has been secured an open door for the gospel and the truth of God. For this we may be thankful. But of late years what a change has passed over the land. She has slighted the Bible which good Queen Victoria spoke of as the cause of her greatness. Her Universities have opened their doors to "modern" thought; German rationalistic and atheistic teachers have been lauded and honoured; her theological professors have bowed the knee to the Baal of "higher criticism"; and a large percentage of the pulpits of the land have been captured by the progeny of colleges in which human intellect and culture are everything and the Word of God despised or openly antagonized. And, as though this were not enough, the mission fields, many of them won by the soul-agony and blood of devoted men of God, have been invaded by this same proud, Bible-despising, humanity-exalting cult.

The necessary consequence of the weakening of the authority of God's Word has been the decline of the fear of God, the growing indifference to spiritual things, and the mad rush after pleasure, and luxuries and wealth, until London and the larger towns run almost neck to neck with the Continental pleasure cities.

RUSSIA and the persecution of the Jews are almost synonymous words. And the atrocities committed upon the Congo natives by Leopold's, the late King of the Belgians, servants cannot be forgotten. What an estimate must both Jews and heathens have formed of the God whom these "Christian" nations professed to own as a result of the cruelties that have been inflicted upon them. And God's eye has witnessed these things.

"Whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap" is an inexorable law in God's ways with every man, and it is equally true in the history of nations. If nations persistently sow disregard of God's will they must reap the evil results of the wills of man and Satan. If they sow military pride they must reap unrestrained lust for war. If they sow diabolical engines of destruction for land and air and sea they must reap a blood-drenched earth and sobs and tears and misery and death.

In God's governmental ways with nations He may use one as His rod with which to punish another; this we constantly see in Old Testament Scriptures; but woe betide the nation so used if she becomes lifted up with pride thereat, for as surely as God rules with justice so surely shall she be justly humiliated in her turn. For of all alike it is true that there are "sins with you, even with you against the Lord your God" (2 Chr. 28:10).

The Christian may rest in the fact that this affair can only go as far as God permits, and that He will keep it within bounds as long as His church is here. His saints as long as they are here are the salt of the earth, preserving it for the while from these overwhelming sorrows that must sweep over it, when the church has been raptured out of it, and in the meanwhile the Christian's position in the midst of it all is that of the intercessor. He can be of more use to others in this position than in any other, for the fervent effectual prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

Abraham and Elijah filled this place in former times; it is open to every child of God today; but if prayer is to be of use it must be according to the current of God's will, and it can only be thus as there is great nearness to Him. In His presence we are lifted above all national prejudices; we are able to appraise things according to His thoughts, and we pray according to the breadth of His grace and the feelings of His heart — for "ALL MEN" AND FOR "ALL SAINTS."