The Current Scene
Lessons From History
Some years ago we were visiting a country church in East Sussex, England. There were the characteristic markers over the graves of notables of the distant past. The walls, too, were chiselled with names and dates of deceased parish celebrities. One particularly attracted our interest. It commemorated a British Army colonel and gave a list of the battles where he had been a participant. Among them was the bombardment of Baltimore in 1814 and the battle of New Orleans. Both were decisive American victories. The battle of New Orleans in 1815 brought fame to the American general, Andrew Jackson, and became a notable steppingstone to his becoming our seventh President.
The British losses at the battle of New Orleans were appalling as they sought to dislodge the well entrenched Americans. Some 700 British soldiers were killed, and double that number wounded, before they retreated to their ships. Ironically, the engagements took place during Christmas and New Years. Far worse than this was the treaty of peace that was signed in Ghent, Belgium, December 24th, 1814. With no cables or wireless the news did not reach the warring parties.
Unfortunately, there is a prevailing ignorance of the full implications of the great transaction that took place when the Lord Jesus Christ died on the cross. We are plainly told, “And having made peace through the blood of his cross” (Col. 1:20).
Because of the lack of understanding of what this implies, it is not uncommon to hear of people trying to make their peace with God. Such are unaware that they are bankrupt before God and are only attempting the impossible, and that is not necessary. The Lord Jesus has so settled the sin question that all the obstacles in the way of peace with God are removed. Now God offers His peace to us. The only responsibility for the sinner is to accept by faith God’s gracious provision. We are not likely to appreciate this gospel bounty until we discover that our sins have made us enemies of God (Rom. 5:10 and Col. 1:21). This is an essential ingredient toward genuine repentance. It can be likened to appetite, which is certainly not the meal but urges one to eat. So Christ spoke about our eating His flesh and drinking His blood. Figurative language, of course; eating is appropriating the repast. It is taking Christ for all that He offers Himself to be for the sinner. This is indeed the act of saving faith. Unsaved friend, all that is essential for your eternal salvation has been accomplished. The present, therefore, is the acceptable time to claim God’s offer of peace. Tomorrow may be a different matter.
The Gospel Brings “Good News”
Reminded by history and surrounded by the horrendous acts of society, we naturally ask “Whereof does this good news consist?” When the disciples asked the Lord Jesus for a sign of His second coming, He informed them that during His absence the subsequent gospel would not essentially change the world. Rather, wars, earthquakes and famines would continue and, if anything, accelerate prior to His advent. True, some nations have absorbed the byproducts of Christianity — America especially. Still the woes of a fallen humanity persist and catch up with even the most fortunate sooner or later; then comes the end, death. David said, “Unless I had been afflicted I had gone astray.” In other words, what would mankind be without the shocks and scorns our flesh is heir to? Then, too, government plays an important role in containing humanity within certain lines. When General Wolfe was on his way to his great military victory at Quebec, and to his death, he had some premonition of this as he quoted from Gray’s “Elegy,” especially the stanza that ends with — “The paths of glory lead but to the grave.”
This jaundiced look at life is most common among the world’s philosophers and they have no solutions. The average citizen enjoys life while he can. Man’s discoveries in science and medicine constitute his good news, but still sin and death are the ultimate conquerors. Amidst this scene of mixed sorrow and creature delight are to be heard the words of Saint Paul, “And we declare unto you glad tidings — in that He has raised up Jesus again” (Acts 13:32-33). This disappoints most hearers because its main application is the joy of knowing it is well with one’s soul for time and eternity. Yet it is often true to experience that the man who values his Scriptural assurance of “the blessed hope” is a good candidate for life here. God honors them that honour Him. “Something lives in every hue Christless eyes have never seen.” Actually Christianity has no solutions for world problems such as nuclear arms treaty, over-population or what is the best kind of government. The world’s cry has ever been “we have no king but Caesar.” So God, with reservations, has allowed the world’s choice which is to grapple with its many problems.
Here the Christian is to obey magistrates and honor their respective world positions. He is instructed how to care for his family and lovingly maintain the marriage tie and keep his children under control. No instructions are given as to how kings and magistrates are to behave. Implying that Christians mindful of their “heavenly calling” (Heb. 3:1) are not likely to be found as world masters. “Ye men of God arise, be done with lesser things.”
We are informed that between 1950 and 1979 serious crimes such as rape, murder and robbery committed by children have increased by 11,000 percent. The philosophy behind this is to let the child do his thing with discipline at a minimal. This has occasioned the thinking: Don’t introduce the child to religion; let him without any influence come to his own conclusions. On the other hand, the Bible teaches much about child training. “Train up a child in the way he should go; when he is old he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6). Parents are to teach the Scriptures. This will be a delightful duty to those who have experientially discovered that God’s Word is truth. Wise parents would never conclude not to teach a child practical hygiene like brushing his teeth, but let him alone to find out the results. Well, we are reaping the harvest of child permissiveness. Schools are often bedlam; streets are unsafe from wild children.
This spills over into the colleges. Some years ago the well known literary character Malcolm Muggeridge resigned as rector of Edinburgh University in Scotland. This articulate social critic now in his later years looks more like an exponent of orthodoxy. The students were demanding freedom to use pot and pills. In giving his reason for resignation he addressed 2,000. He remarked, “How sad, how macabre and funny it is, that all they put forward should be a demand for pot and pills.” He went on to say, “I have no wish to check any fulfillment of your life. But whatever life is or is not about, it is not to be expressed in terms of drugs, stupefaction or casual sexual relationships. The road to the future is not on the plastic wings of Playboy magazine or in psychedelic fantasies.” We wonder subsequently how the university took to heart that soul-searching address.
While the many are alarmed over the threat of an atomic war, fewer fear the results of the moral decline so evident today. Gibbon in his five-volume history of Rome’s decline reveals how the Empire was weakened internally by ease, luxury and corruption. God says, “Righteousness exalteth a nation; but sin is a reproach to any people” (Prov. 14:34). God informed Abraham that the iniquity of “the Amorites is not yet full,” but when that happened they would be conquered and dispossessed. Joshua’s invasion fulfilled this. The Bible speaks of the mystery of iniquity already at work and eventually to come to its full fruition and headed up in “the man of sin” (2 Thess. 2). Our Lord said what characterized the days of Noah and Lot would be duplicated in the world at His second coming. Our Lord added “iniquity shall abound” (Matt. 24:12). It is not hard for some of us to equate the present day as galloping toward sin’s tragic finality.