Councils, Congress, and Social Science.

1872 94 The Ecumenical Council of Rome, and the late assumption of infallibility by the Pope, as the great ecclesiastical head of Christendom, and the vicar of Christ on earth, mark perhaps the highest point of pretension to which the civilized world has yet reached. Prophecy however shows a greater than this, when "the Antichrist sits in the temple of God, declaring that he is God" — whom the Lord shall destroy with the spirit of His mouth, and with the brightness of His coming. Upon this graduated scale (though much lower) is also marked the favourite scheme of modern ecclesiastics for a united Christendom by the fusion of its eastern and western churches, and the union of Patriarch, Pope, and Primate. Connected with this movement, the Pan-anglican Council of Protestantism held its session; and "the Eirenicon" of Dr. Pusey (like the dove sent forth out of Noah's ark) was let loose to see whether the waters of division were abated. The Evangelical Alliance still lends its hand as a connecting link with what is yet lower, and is almost become the next door neighbour to the Great Social Science Congress, with all its off-shoots and its monster meetings.

The International of Europe, and of America (which is the herculean progeny of these days), has a character of its own, and must be added to this catalogue, in order to see the mighty machinery of all kinds which is so variously acting upon general society to produce the last formations, out of which the long expected universal prosperity is to spring!

In effect, and as the fruit of this widespread "knowledge of good and evil" by human attainment, the world's progress and the consolidation of its political and social systems are boldly affirmed as existing facts by the accepted organs of the times; and repeated as such in the familiar intercourse of daily life. All are thus encouraged to build with certainty, upon. "the good time coming;" and as men congratulate each other upon this hope, their only enquiry is, as to its near approach. It must seem strange, in such a state of eager expectation of the best that can happen from these councils and congresses, to raise the question whether they are not the proof that man has long ago left the good behind him! and stranger still perhaps to have these flattering hopes dimmed by the conclusion of such an ancient as Solomon — "lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright, but they have sought out many inventions." The issue is obviously an important and a grave one, which is thus raised between the wisest of men, and the wiser men of the nineteenth century Has man by some disaster or other, lapsed from an original position and state, as "upright before God," and irrecoverably forfeited that place? Is he thus in his own person a witness of what he has departed from? or, of "the uprightness" to which he fondly hopes he is advancing? Are all his "many inventions" proofs of what he has lost, and to be viewed as but so many clever expedients, by which he successfully meets the inconvenience, and reduces the misery, that attaches to his present condition? Is not man a creature, who has become fruitful in discoveries in order to mitigate his own wretchedness, and to relieve himself from the pressure of circumstances, which, had he not broken loose from God, could not have existed at all? "God made man upright;" but that he departed from this state, and sought out many inventions, is the real solution of most modern problems.

Adam's fall was no justification of Cain's "going out from the presence of the Lord," and becoming an inventor of expedients, against the effects of his own independence, as "a fugitive and a vagabond." Man had lost his uprightness — the image in which God had created him; but the Lord had not on that account forsaken the earth, or His creatures. "Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him." The book of Proverbs tells us that the delights of God "were with the sons of men," rejoicing in the habitable parts of His earth.

Indeed the great proof that God did not leave man to himself and to the devil is historically given in the various books of Moses and the Chronicles, when a perfect system of political economy was introduced, and established by Jehovah in relation with the people of Israel. "Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians and how I bore you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself," and "ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests and an holy nation," are the recorded facts of the way by which God delivered His people from the house of bondage, and established them under His protection, and in His favour.

Having called them out of Egypt, He took the whole charge of them upon Himself and chose for them the land of Canaan, "a good land and a large, flowing with milk and honey," the mountain of God's own inheritance, the place which the Lord made for Himself to dwell in, the sanctuary which His own hands had established. They were His people, and He was their God; accordingly He called Moses up (where man never was before) and appointed him as their lawgiver and commander, charging him with ordinances, and statutes, and precepts, that Israel might be different in all other respects from the nations of the earth. They were thus separated by laws and ordinances from the rest of mankind, so that God might dwell among them, and walk with them, on their journey to the land which He had prepared. Nor were they only to be morally and politically different to all the nations of the earth, but by instruction as a religious people they were taught how the God of Israel was to be approached and worshipped. Moses was therefore established as a mediator, and Aaron consecrated as a great high priest, "to make reconciliation for the sins of the people." Their intercourse was based thus on the full recognition of who and what God was in His holiness; and what they were as in the flesh: still God could and did meet the people at the door of the tabernacle which He had erected, and talked with their mediator and them. Besides these personal relations, thus established on sacrifice, mediation, and priesthood, that man might "be upright before God" in conscience, on the footing of redemption, by the blood of another; they were cut off from all their own inventions — "if thou wilt make me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone, for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it." Another of these early lessons was at their Exodus, "stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord. The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace." And Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the seashore. As to the tabernacle itself, Moses was admonished of God; "for see," saith He, "that thou make all things according to the pattern showed to thee in the mount." Their education, day by day, was to own that their sufficiency was of God, who dwelt in their midst by the visible cloud, and the pillar of fire by night. Pharaoh and his captains and chariots at the Red Sea, Israel in the wilderness and the manna and the rock that followed them, Jordan, and the final possession of the land of Canaan, alike show that the right hand of the Lord triumphed gloriously. Their future was to be as bright as their past, uprightness of heart consisted then in their obedience; and prosperity was pledged to this uprightness by Him who was in their midst: "if ye walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments, and do them," your threshing shall reach unto the vintage, and the vintage shall reach unto the sowing time, and ye shall eat your bread to the full, and dwell in your land safely. Moreover as to conflict (if conflict came) it would only prove their God fought for them: "five of you shall chase an hundred, and an hundred of you shall put ten thousand to flight, and your enemies shall fall before you."

Besides these relations to their Jehovah, and to one another, and even to their enemies, there were intimacies which the Lord desired personally to cultivate with His people; and these were established by "the feasts of the Lord or holy convocations," which were to be proclaimed in their seasons. "The first-fruits of all the increase" which God had given His people were to be brought to the Lord, even the hin of wine, and the oil, and the fine flour, for His delights were with His people, and He would share in all the good that He had given them. Nothing had been overlooked by Him that could contribute to their prosperity and blessing; even the land was to enjoy her sabbaths every seventh year, and the trumpet of jubilee on the fiftieth year proclaimed liberty through all the land unto the inhabitants thereof, "and ye shall return every man to his family, and to his possession." These scriptures, and the whole of the Mosaic economy, show the desire of Jehovah to establish relations with His people, and prove how He cultivated in every possible way the acquaintance of the people with Himself. God had come down to man upon the earth to bless him in his basket and in his store, to take away all diseases from him, and to establish Israel in such outward prosperity and glory as His people, that all the nations of the world might acknowledge there was none other God than He.

This intercourse, which also contemplated man in all his capabilities as a moral and social being with his neighbour, was maintained by statutes and laws, which directed him how to behave to his fellow in the smallest matters. "If thou lend money to any of my people that is poor by thee, thou shalt not be to him as an usurer, neither shalt thou lay upon him usury." Legislation on the one hand, or limitation in obedience on the other, was equally out of the question; and he was "upright" before God, who allowed no will of his own to compromise himself in thorough compliance. Inventions were also out of place, and their inventors were troublers in those days. When God dwelt with men upon the earth, everything was by divine pattern, and executed in complete submission. If a man were required "to devise cunning works, or to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass, and in cutting of stones to set them, and in carving of timber to work in all manner of workmanship," it was Jehovah's care, and He provided such a one. "The Lord spake to Moses, See, I have called by name Bezaleel, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship." Moreover, "in the hearts of all that are wise hearted I have put wisdom, that they may make all that I have commanded thee," the tabernacle, the ark, and the mercy-seat, etc. Beyond all that was merely moral, political, and social, in the circle where man lived with his fellow, the same loving hand led the Israelite as a worshipper, into the nobler exercises of his soul, with God Himself. Moses, Aaron, and his sons; Bezaleel, and Aholiab; had all fulfilled their parts, in "the tabernacle of witness," in the wilderness, and in due time gave place to another order of intercourse with Joshua, and the "ark of the covenant of the Lord of the whole earth," on their way over Jordan, into the rest which God had prepared for Himself, and His beloved people in Canaan. Here also in the days of Solomon, when Jerusalem the city of the great king was to have its gorgeous temple as the dwelling-place of Jehovah, all was by divine pattern, and when finished, the glory took possession of it (as it did with Moses and the tabernacle) so that the priests could not enter, and the Lord was at home, and in rest with His people whom He loved. Kingship in David and the throne of Israel in the reign of Solomon (the bright centre, and light to all the surrounding countries) were added by God to all He had previously showered upon this favoured people, and man was at his highest and best.

It is a sorry thing to ask, What has become of this grand social system, this nation and its economy, this throne and its Solomon, the city and its prosperity, the temple and its glory, or the feasts of the Lord and the worshippers? It is a yet sadder lesson to learn, that the best and happiest that Jehovah in His infinite wisdom and grace could establish for men (where man is) has become an historical fact, and is behind him! Acquiescence in these ways and judgments of God ought to lead men to repent and turn to the present testimony which He now gives to the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, as the new foundation on which His actings for His own glory and for man's blessing rest. To attempt to reconstruct a social system in this world, where it has already been established and failed through the incompetency of the people of God, is but sparks of man's own kindling! Solomon, in the consciousness of his endowments and resources, asked "What can the man do, that cometh after the king?" A yet weightier question occurs, in the face of what we are considering: What can any congress, or council, or confederation of men accomplish, after the illustrious names by whom God introduced His system of moral and political government, and social order, in the midst of His people Israel?

The prophet Habakkuk gives the counterpart of Solomon's proverb to us, and also the secret of man's present relation to God (in the gospel), when He says," behold his soul which is lifted up not upright in him; but the just shall live by his faith." Independence and self-will destroy uprightness in the soul, and lead to many inventions; whereas confession and self-judgment bring into a closer walk with God in the path which He opens to the faith of His people. Another prophesied in the days when the heart of Israel was lifted up, and they sought out inventions, "woe to them that go down to Egypt for help, and stay on horses, and trust in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen because they are strong; but they look not to the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the Lord." Now the Egyptians are men, and not God, and their horses flesh and not spirit. "When the Lord shall stretch out His hand, both he that helpeth shall fall, and he that is holpen shall fall down together." The force and application of these quotations are obvious upon the supposed advancement of men by social science; and the progress of the world into light and blessing, by means of the fourth beast of Daniel and its ten horns, with the mouth that spoke great things. Do the modern leaders of this movement in the old and new world expect to do better than those men who were so eminently endowed by God, and with whom He wrought in counsel, and where He once dwelt? "Happy art thou, O Israel: who is like unto thee, a people saved by the Lord, the shield of thy help, and who is the sword of thy excellency! and thine enemies shall be found liars unto thee; and thou shalt tread upon their high places." (Dent. xxxiii. 29.)

Have they any one like Moses, who was with the Lord forty days and forty nights, and did neither eat bread nor drink water? Who but him has ever been entrusted with two tables of testimony — the skin of whose face shone so bright that the children of Israel were afraid to come nigh him, the witness from God (and the link with God) upon the formation of Jehovah's delights with His people? Who but Aaron in his garments of glory and beauty, ever was authorized to enter within the veil into the holiest where God was upon the mercy-seat, to obtain by sacrifice and priesthood the remission of Israel's sins, year by year, on the great day of atonement? The same God, who brought in the light of His majesty and truth to the people in the face of Moses, provided for their failures through Aaron the great high priest, in order that the intercourse thus formed with Himself might be unbroken, even by their sins. But besides Moses with the tables on the mount, and Aaron in the sanctuary with the sweet incense and the blood, "king Solomon made a brazen scaffold of five cubits long, and five cubits broad, and three cubits high, in temple times, and upon it he stood, and kneeled down upon his knees before all the congregation of Israel, and spread forth his hands towards heaven. He stood before the altar of the Lord, and said, O Lord God of Israel, there is no God like thee in the heaven nor in the earth; which keepest covenant and showest mercy unto thy servants that walk before thee with all their hearts."

Mediation, priesthood, and kingship, were thus established between Jehovah and His beloved people, and became the channels through which this intimacy, and their social happiness were maintained. In the midst of all this kingdom glory, and closeness of communion with God, the greatest man was the lowliest. Though lifted up and magnified exceedingly, eclipsing all else as he sat upon the throne of Israel, he would not exalt himself, nor rest in the exaltation bestowed upon him; but bless and praise the God of his father David, who had fulfilled His promises. The Lord had done His best in outward prosperity and blessing for the king and the nation, by leading them into rest, and peace, and glory with Himself, in His own city Jerusalem; and there He rejoiced over them with joy and gladness! Solomon with the people are at their height as they ascribe all this blessing (come down to man, where man is) through the covenant which was made with the patriarchs and with David. "And on the three-and-twentieth day of the seventh month, he sent the people away into their tents, glad and merry in heart for the goodness that the Lord had showed unto David, and to Solomon, and to Israel his people." All bids fair to abide, when thus committed to the hands of the wisest and best of men; who, in the deepening sense of human insignificance, thus brought into contact with the majesty and faithfulness of Jehovah, asked, "but will God in very deed dwell with men on the earth? Behold heaven, and the heaven of heavens, cannot contain thee: how much less this house which I have built!" In short, a theocracy was established, in the wisdom and goodness of God, which embraced the moral and social condition of mankind, both in their relations with their fellow men and with the Creator. We have seen how this form of government and worship was set up, and sought to be carried out in unbroken social intercourse, between God and His people in Immanuel's land; as a witness that He had neither left the earth, nor men in it, to their own inventions. "Three times in a year, shall all thy males appear before the Lord thy God, in the place which he shall choose; in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles; and they shall not appear before the Lord empty."

Such was His identification with His people, and His own delight to dwell in their midst — to fill all hearts with gladness, and all hands with plenty. This throne and its king, this temple and its priests, this city and its rulers, the land and its inhabitants, are no more. Costly and perfect institutions, with their costlier services, and their codes of laws, political and religious, have likewise passed away. A theocracy, and an economy suited to it, are behind men; the mournful records that even such helps and encouragements as were introduced could not permanently lift man above himself. On the contrary, all these magnificent and remedial measures were dragged down to the low level upon which they found him and sought his deliverance and welfare. The psalmist of Israel affirms this. "They tempted and provoked the most high God, and kept not his testimonies:" when He heard this, He was wroth and greatly abhorred Israel, and delivered His strength into captivity, and His glory into the enemy's hand; He gave His people also unto the sword, and was wroth with his inheritance." The ministry of all the prophets followed, by which they were besought to "forsake their inventions," and the broken cisterns they had hewn which could hold no water, and to repent of their backslidings in "uprightness of heart," that God might forgive their iniquities. He likewise openly punished them, and drove them away out of His presence into Babylon; and brought them back in His mercy by the decree of Cyrus under Ezra and Nehemiah. Long time suffered He their transgressions, reasoning and saying, "Why should ye be stricken any more? Ye will only revolt more and more; the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint: from the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it, but wounds and bruises and putrefying sores." The highest authoritative power under law, by Moses and a ministration of angels, had only proved the people incompetent to hold the blessing; for they brought themselves under its curses, and forfeited their relations to God, by their iniquity, so that He was compelled to be their Judge. The wisest and most able administration, by which this nation was to have been elevated above all the nations of the earth, collapsed, and only finds its record in the statute book of Deuteronomy, and the early chronicles of David and his greater son. The problem of human advancement, and a nation's progress, as well as the world's prospects by moral means, has been long since brought out and solved, as we have seen. Moreover, that people are made a hissing and a byword before the eyes of the Gentiles to this day. The very best, the brightest, and the fairest that could be done for man, reached their perfection and concentrated themselves in blessing upon Solomon and the throne, as God's centre of earthly prosperity and of unity between Himself and His creatures. At that same moment the responsibility of this illustrious king began, into whose hands all was entrusted, and, like Adam in the paradise of Eden, almost as soon forfeited. Does God repeat this problem — much less ask the learned, the wise, and the scientific to take it in hand in modern days? Will their present systems compare with His past and future? He has postponed this kind of social intercourse with men till the millennium is introduced, when other and heavenly agencies will be employed (at the coming of the Lord, and the outpouring of the Spirit upon Israel) by which His people shall be all righteous, and brought into final blessing in the land under their Messiah through the blood of the new covenant. The pioneers and guides of public opinion may well stop to consider what has been already done, and vanished away like a tale that is told. If they propose far less, and even compromise, yea sacrifice, the rights of God, that they may find their task easier, will He on that account surrender them? If men shut Him out of their schemes, will He consent to be shut out? If they say "let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us, he that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh, the Lord shall have them in derision." Who so fit as the wisest among men, and the central man in all that magnificent system, established between God and His people for His own and their delights, to declare, "lo, this only have I found, that God made man upright, but he has sought out many inventions?" Who so competent as the sweet psalmist of Israel prophetically to say, "be wise now therefore O ye kings, be instructed ye judges of the earth, serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling, kiss the Son lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little?" "Blessed are all they that put their trust in him." "Ichabod" is indelibly written over the departed glory from the temple and the city of the great king, and Immanuel's land, which were once the bright witnesses of the yet brighter intimacy formed and tenderly cultivated between the Lord and His beloved people.

The writings of the Old Testament (which contain these records in full) would be merely historical, did they not likewise hold out to the faith of the nation a bright future, when He who scattered them into the four corners of the earth shall gather them together again; "for this is as the waters of Noah unto me." "For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed, but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall my covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee;" and this is God's order of blessing for the earth. If the wise men and rulers of the nations refuse to take warning from the history of God's favoured people, but think themselves wiser than He — and the Gentiles better than the Jews — if they thus encourage one another — let them listen to the prophet Daniel, as to what is before them. "The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon earth, which shall be diverse from all kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces. And the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise: and another shall arise after them . . . . and he shall speak great words against the most High . . . . and think to change times and laws . . . . But the judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and destroy it unto the end. And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him. Hitherto is the end of the matter. As for me Daniel, my cogitations much troubled me, and my countenance changed in me: but I kept the matter in my heart." (Dan. vii. 23-28.) J. E. Batten.