The Current Scene
We hear it said that for every six workers in the private sector, there is one employed by our government (U.S.) or dependent upon welfare. In England the proportion of public employees is even greater. Here we get an idea of how crippling on the economy such a disparity is. The scramble for Civil Service jobs is understandable; an almost guarantee of security in every sector of life. Often the work is minimal. For the ambitious the seniority system of promotion must be frustrating. However, some two million persons are happy with the situation. Now that Civil Service employees are unionized, their wages and benefits outdo most who must work for private enterprise. The lack of challenge and desire of reward for exceptional work can have a debilitating effect; a sort of punch-the-clock complex. When released from work, many appear so constituted that they welcome what affords to them excitement … some form of escapism, sports, gambling and liquor.
Many Christians have no other choice but to live with this situation. Often, we suppose, the car driving to and from work consumes more energy than the hours put in on the job. This cheerless stint with the time clock could eventually undermine a person’s potential. These reflections were stimulated when reading Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic book, The Scarlet Letter. His first chapter deals mostly with his three years’ experience as a Customs House officer. Although his work appeared active and versatile, especially in meeting so many shipping veterans, he nevertheless entertained thoughts of resigning. This was settled for him by the election of President Taylor, since his position was a political appointment.
Hawthorne felt that his ejection was a blessing in disguise. He refers to “Uncle Sam’s Gold” having “a quality of enchantment, a bargain to go hard against him, involving if not his soul, many of its better attributes, its sturdy force, its courage and constancy, its truth, its self-reliance, and all that gives emphasis to manly character.” In a further observation he wrote, “An effect… which I believe to be observable more or less, in every individual who has occupied the position … is, while he leans on the mighty arm of the Republic, his own proper strength departs from him. He loses, to an extent proportioned to the weakness or force of his original nature, the capability of self-support.” Thus this great writer of wholesome fiction brought himself to the comfortable conclusion “that everything was for the best; and, making an investment in ink, paper and steel pens, had opened his disused writing desk, and was a literary man.”
Christians, too, should find themselves something to challenge them, if their occupation fails to do so. The Lord’s service is a splendid outlet. Here we have an expression of the “Puritan Ethic” that gendered old-time “Americanism.” It is anathema among the intellectuals of today; a putting of the clock back. Say what critics will, it has built a nation of wealth and prosperity that is the wonder and envy of the rest of the world. This recipe to greatness had its source in the Bible. True, America never was a Christian nation, but a lot of Christianity’s by-products heavily contributed to the system. Indeed, most of the present generosities of welfarism are made possible by the momentum built up by free enterprise.
America is now on another course that undermines the work ethic, that flouts Biblical morality and disregards fiscal responsibility. We are told the latter forestalls economic depression. Actually, it only holds off the evil day of reckoning, even as we read in Proverbs 1:30 & 31: “They would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof. Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices.”
To this observer, the Roman Catholic Church has been playing a comparatively low-key since Vatican II. The iron voice behind her dogmas has not been so loud. Then some of her saints have been demoted and the Mass celebrated in the local vernacular of the country where the church happens to be. Some have found it hard to adjust and rebel bishops insist on maintaining the old paths. A few of her theologians have raised the voice of dissent, even questioning the citadel of that church’s strength; namely, the Mass and Papal authority. However, if this mistress of Christendom has lately made some concessions and minor retreats, she has in no way disadvantaged herself that the lost ground cannot be easily recaptured.
Last October the present Pope celebrated his 80th birthday. One hundred thousand had gathered in St. Peter’s Square and Pope Paul VI was borne into St. Peter’s Basilica seated on a golden throne carried along on human shoulders. He was greeted by the arrangement of a 10,000-voice choir. The aged Pontiff, and very frail, spoke briefly. The otherwise bright occasion was sombered with the Pope’s doleful words, “We feel the fragility of human life.” He also added, “The fear of God’s judgment at the moment of death is always present and full of mystery.” In this he is certainly a poor successor to the Apostle Paul, whose name he chose for himself. The one true Church is blessed with the inspired words of Saint Paul just prior to his martyrdom. They are found in 2 Timothy. Lest we raise the excuse that Paul was singularly blessed because of his apostleship, he is careful to add that the blessings of a blissful and even crowning hereafter were “not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing” (2 Tim. 4:8).
The Pontiff, along with the 710 million other Roman Catholics, are leaning heavily on “the means of grace”; namely, the benefits of the seven sacraments. Such do not convey the assurance of salvation and are in sharp contrast to what the Scripture teaches on the subject. The souls that are trusting the Lord Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross are assured that they “shall not come into judgment, but are passed from death unto life” (John 5:24). Saint Paul further corroborates this when he writes, “There is therefore now no judgment to them who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1).
Turning to a secular source, Charles Wesley states what can only be gathered from Holy Writ:
God will not twice demand
Judgment from my bleeding Surety’s hand,
And then again at mine.
Then, too, there are found among the Apostle Paul’s last words: “Who has saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, but is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Tim. 1:9-10). The words of Peter are just as assuring: “To Him give all the prophets witness, that through His name whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins” (Acts 10:43). Nor should it be overlooked that we have the departing words of those two other apostles in their second epistles. Therein we find not the slightest hint of so-called “apostolic succession.” Both assert the sufficiency and inspiration of the Holy Scriptures for future ages.
Since the Protestant Reformation, the Papacy has set its house in order at least morally. The preceding two centuries to the Reformation defied all attempts to do this. Indeed, Catholicism to this present day is on its best behavior in Protestant lands. Competition among organized churches results in some benefits. The Reformers, not without some strong grounds, interpreted the Papacy as the “man of sin” and the first “beast” of Revelation 13. The behavior of the Pontiffs that was fresh in their memories also gave plenty of credence to their conclusion. With our hindsight and deeper studies into prophecy, we see the Roman Catholic Church of the Middle Ages playing but a faint role of what is to be her part during the Great Tribulation when she fulfils the symbol of “the great whore” of Revelation 17. At this time her departed daughters, all of Christendom, will be reunited to their “mother.” Then, for some dizzy moments, Rome will have achieved her long-sought goal, “to sit a queen, and am no widow” (Rev. 18:7). What happened in the French Revolution and the Bolshevik uprising in miniature (i.e., the church expropriated by the secular power) will be repeated in finality on the eve of the Second Coming of Christ to this earth to reign (Rev. 17:15-18).