Christ, the Universal Hope.
by W.W. Fereday
IT is not too much to say that everything under the sun is as wrong as it could well be. Everything is out of joint; in no single created sphere is the will of God being done, nor the divine thought realized.
Take Israel first. When God delivered the people from Egypt, and brought them into relationship with Himself, His purpose was to make them the centre of light and blessing for the world which had sunk into the darkness of idolatry. But in order that this might be, it was necessary that Israel should walk in separation from the nations, with Jehovah and His goodness before their souls. The people were unequal to this. Not realizing their high destiny, they copied the ways of the heathen, falling into such gross evil that the name of God became blasphemed through them (Rom. ii. 24). Like unfaithful Jonah, they have brought trouble, rather than blessing, upon the Gentiles. Accordingly, the chosen people have been given over to judgment, and for long dreary ages, they have been scattered and peeled, a reproach and hissing amongst men.
Take, next, the nations in general. What do we see there? Peace and amity, each nation seeking its neighbour's good? We see nothing of the kind. Instead, we see suspicion, distrust, and envy. The great powers of the earth seem watching for the opportunity to spring at one another's throats. Armaments are being increased to such an extent that the backs of the people seem likely to be broken by their burden. Not yet have men learned to beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Then take the animal creation, and what do we see? The wolf, lying down with the lamb and the lion eating straw like the ox—the whole creation peacefully enjoying the bounty of its Creator God? No such ideal spectacle is to be witnessed. "The whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now" (Rom. viii. 22). The strong devour the weak, and the cruel hand of man oppresses all. From this lower world, there has ascended one long continuous groan to the ears of God, ever since the day of Adam's fall.
Let us now come closer home, and consider----
THE CONDITION OF THE CHURCH OF GOD.
In that most privileged of all circles, what do our eyes behold? The divine will done, the divine ideal realized? Alas! Alas! Nowhere has failure been so deep, so shameful. The Church, according to God's thought, is a company called out of this world to share Christ's glory on high, and to be His witness upon earth meanwhile. The Church belongs to heaven, not to earth. It is at once Christ's body, formed for the display of His glory while absent, and God's habitation, where His presence and power are known. In manifested unity, and in strict separation from the world, the Church should have walked from first to last. Only thus could the Church realize its high destiny as a heavenly witness for Christ its Head. Alas, for every responsibility that God has ever committed to man! The Church, unmindful of its calling, has made terms with the world, its outward unity has been shattered, and the truth, committed as a priceless deposit to its care, has been betrayed.
Such is the present condition of everything "under the sun." In our day, (1911) however, there is a great stirring of thought in every quarter. Men are waking up to the fact that things are not as they should be. But instead of turning humbly to God in lowly acknowledgment that sin is the root-cause of all, men are framing devices of their own for the correction of the things that are amiss. Thus there is a device working in Israel at this time. The seed of Abraham are displaying a restlessness to-day such as they have not displayed since the days of our Lord. We speak of the two tribes (the Jews) of course; for of the whereabouts of the ten tribes we know nothing. The Jews are beginning to ask themselves why they should continue to be the football of the nations, and why their inheritance should remain the prey of the stranger. They look at their numbers (many millions, taking the world through), their wealth, and their ability (representatives of their race standing high in every profession), and the determination has laid hold upon them to become a nation once more amongst the nations of the earth. Not yet are they willing to own their sins—their violation of the Sinai covenant, their murder of the Messiah, and their refusal of the testimony of the Spirit of God. Instead, they have framed their own scheme for the correction of the evils under which they suffer.
ZIONISM----is its name. But what will this really effect? It will be no matter for surprise if in due course the land of Palestine is once more in the hands of the Jewish people. But what then? The Antichrist. It will fall out exactly as the Saviour predicted in John v. 43. "I am come in My Father's Name, and ye receive Me not; if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive." The new state will glory in its able chief, only to find in a short time that a veritable wolf has been welcomed within the fold. Then will ascend cries of anguish from all who fear God.
The nations also have their device. There also men are planning how they can end (or at least mitigate) the unsatisfactory conditions that prevail. But in speaking of the nations, we must distinguish between the rulers and the people. These are drifting further and further apart, and their aims are by no means identical. What then is the device of the rulers? One word expresses it—
Theatres of arbitration are everywhere being arranged, and it is hoped that this principle will ultimately become so generally accepted that war will be rendered almost an impossibility. But, are men really going to get a millennium of peace in this way? Far from it. One word describes the end of men's device—Armageddon. This dread word is already getting on men's nerves, for it crops up again and again in the literature of the present day. It refers to the world's last great smash at the epoch of the Lord's appearing. The people's device may also be expressed in one word—
This growth is not peculiar to any one nation; it is practically universal. The inequalities that now exist, and a host of other evils are judged to be remediable under this device. A socialistic millennium is supposed to be in sight. But are the woes of men really to be healed in this way? Will true Liberty, Equality and Fraternity prevail when Socialism finds itself able to enforce its decrees? Absolutely nothing of the kind. Rev. xiii. 16-17 shews what will really be the issue of it. "He causeth all, small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand or in their foreheads; and that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark—the name of the beast, or the number of his name." It is the day of the Antichrist that is here described. But how galling the tyranny! The language suggests that as the result of revolutionary upheavals, the principle of association or co-operation becomes formally substituted for that of competition. Everything gets into the hands of the state, and rich and poor are treated alike. "Liberty" will then seem further off than ever to the wretched children of men.
Coming now to the professing Church, there also, men's minds are working out a device of their own. Men are waking up to the inconvenience of division; would to God hearts and consciences were alive to the sin of it! The idea has now laid hold of the religious leaders of Christendom, that if all the various ecclesiastical bodies could be drawn together, a great triumph would be achieved.
is the word that expresses the daring scheme. "The Re-union of Christendom" is discussed in pulpit and journal, synod and convention—indeed, everywhere. It is hoped that ere long, a way may be found whereby one vast ecclesiastical machine may be formed out of the many conflicting organizations. What will be the issue of the device? Will it restore to us the original manifested unity of the Church of God, when all that believed were together," and "were of one heart and of one soul?" (Acts ii., xx., iv. 32). Will it give back to us the charming simplicity of the "upper room," and the unworldliness which marked the infant assembly? Alas! no. Rev. xvii. shews the result of men's boasted device. "Babylon the Great, the mother of the harlots and the abominations of the earth." A mighty pretentious system, loaded with wealth and glory, mistress for a time at least of the State, but unutterably sensuous and evil. But from her exalted place, she is cast down, and torn to pieces by the infuriated powers, who are determined to tolerate her arrogance no longer. God be thanked, ere these developments take place, every true believer in Jesus will be translated to the glory of the Father's house. All that God owns as "the Church" will be on high before what man calls "the Church" can reach the zenith of its ambition and pride.
But why do I mention all this? Simply that our minds may be divinely diverted from all human schemes, and set only upon the Christ of God. He is----
THE UNIVERSAL HOPE.
From His holy habitation, God takes notice of the woes of His creatures, and He has a Man in reserve Who is destined to heal them all.
He is Israel's Hope. As Son of David, "He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end" (Luke i. 33). As the Sun of Righteousness, He will shine upon Israel with healing in His wings (Mal. iii. 2). Israel's scattered tribes will then be re-established in the land of their possession, to be cast out no more forever.
He is also the hope of the nations. He will not only minister blessing to Israel; through their means, "all the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto Jehovah" (Ps. xxii. 27). The Sun necessarily shines for all. "His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and His circuit unto the ends of it; and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof" (Ps. xix. 6). When the Son of Man is in power, war will be made to cease, and righteousness and peace will be securely established.
Creation at large will then be set free. Delivered from the bondage of corruption, it shall be brought into the liberty of the glory of the children of God (Rom. viii. 21). Not only men, but also the beasts of the field, the fowls of the air, and the fish of the sea, are destined to enjoy the blessings of His reign (Ps. viii.). John, in Rev. v. 13, represents the whole creation uniting in its tribute of grateful praise to God and the Lamb.
CHRIST IS THE ONLY HOPE OF THE CHURCH.
Human hands have wrought the havoc that our eyes behold, but human hands cannot repair it. But when Christ comes, He will present the Church to Himself glorious, "not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing, but holy and without blemish" (Eph. v. 27). The Church will get its final deliverance before Israel and the nations get theirs. As the Bright Morning Star, the Church will see Him before He reveals Himself as Sun of Righteousness to all (Rev. xxii. 16). The great meeting will take place in the air before His feet again stand upon the Mount of Olives.
And now, what is the result of our meditation? Just this, that nothing will ever again be right with Israel, the nations, creation at large, or the Church, until the Holy hand of Christ is put forth from Heaven. But should this produce a spirit of carelessness in us who are His? Far from it. Granted, that no human skill can unravel the tangle that sin has brought into every sphere, it still remains the responsibility of every individual believer to put himself right with God. Seven times in Rev. ii. & iii., we hear the divine Words: "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches." If the mass will not heed the Voice of the Lord, let me heed it. If the multitude refuse to do His will, let me do it, and that from the heart. The Lord deliver us from the smallest confidence in the schemes of men. May He grant us the grace of looking to Christ, and Christ alone. He will put every wrong thing right in His day.