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What part is the church to play in the world of today, that it may make the world of tomorrow? Shall the church make no contribution to that world, has it no message, can it give no prophetic leadership, can it not sound the divine message, “This is the way, walk ye in it?” Great multi
, tudes pass the church by today, as if it were an outgrown appendix. Many in the church, by a blind insistence on certain inherited attitudes, give much ground for the condemnation of the church as a useless force of society today.
There was another era, when the world was a seething cauldron. Christianity was in the potent era of its babyhood. Persecution was being visited upon the infant church everywhere. By this time the worship of the Roman emperor had been established at various places about the Eastern Mediterranean and certain zealous officials of the cult discovered that Christians would neither confess the lordship of Cæsar, nor offer incense before his image. The author of the book of Revelation who styles himself simply “ John your brother and fellow partaker in tribulations” was among the suspected. He had either fled or been banished to the lonely island of Patmos. One Lord's day, while reflecting upon the troubled state of affairs, John had a remarkable experience. He seemed to hear a mighty voice speaking to him, and to see wonderful visions in heaven, disclosing the secrets of God's purposes in history. This type of experience was not an entirely novel thing. It had already been
depicted in numerous Jewish Apocalypses, with some of which John was, no doubt, familiar. The stress of his own times, the memory of similar periods of tribulation in the history of the Jews and his own ecstatic temperament, all combined to produce that exalted and confident state of mind which enabled him to portray, with absolute assurance, the speady advent of Christ to bring an end to the present world.
In the Revelation, John uses cryptic terms and terminologies to describe the political powers of his own day, who are the agents of Satan. Rome is Babylon the great. Cæsar is anti-Christ, a great beast with four horns. The return of Christ to destroy the power of Satan, and to establish the Millennium Interregnum was to be looked for immediately. John is convinced that his own visions are God's means of showing unto His servants the things which must shortly come to pass. The book is not to be sealed up for use in some distant day, it is designed for immediate application to the then present condition of Christians. “For the time is at hand,” he says. This is the interpretation given by Doctor Shirley Jackson Case, in his valuable book just from the press, entitled the “Millennial Hope."
In the great crisis for the Christian churches about the Mediterranean at the close of the first one hundred years of Christian history, in his vision hour, John addressed a remarkable series of messages. These he introduced with the commanding injunction, "Hear what the spirit saith to the churches." He urges greater earnestness and purity of life upon the church at Ephesus, which had left its first love and had followed after its own self-esteem. He gave hope to the little church at Smyrna and appropriate messages to the churches at Pergamum and Philadelphia and Thyatira. He was speaking the message of the living Christ. Would that we could hear the message of the living Christ today, proclaiming " what the spirit saith to the churches.” In a spirit of devotion, we shall undertake this task.
We proclaim that the spirit saith to the churches today, to gird themselves for the mighty work that lies before. Christ has a great part, for His Church to play in the world of today.
In a foreword to the book above referred to, Dr. Case writes, “ The primary purpose of this book is to answer the question, are the ills of society to be righted by an early and sudden destruction of the present world, or is permanent relief to be secured only by a gradual process of strenuous endeavour covering a long period of years."
He continues, “The stirring events of recent times have given new point to this question. Vigorous propagandists have been urging belief in a speedy end of the world, and the hopelessness of any remedial measures for effecting permanent improvement in present conditions. In the name of religion, it is maintained that human efforts to make the present world a safer and better place in which to live, are wholly misguided. On the contrary, God is said to will that conditions shall grow constantly worse as the hour of impending doom approaches.
“At the present time, this pessimistic view of the world is especially pernicious. In principle it strikes at the very heart of all democratic ideals. According to its fundamental teaching, God is regarded as an almighty potentate, who has foreordained to failure all the efforts of men to establish improved forms of government. This type of teaching, which is being vigorously inculcated in many circles, readily plays into the hands of all enemies of social and political reform.”
With the author of this book, we believe that the present world crisis does not mean that the final smash-up of all things is to come to pass in the immediate future. There have been too many like occasions in the past two thousand years. It is not for you to know, said the Master, the times or the seasons, only your Father in heaven knows. It is for the church to realize His promise, “ Lo, I am with you always,” and to go forward to conquest.
The spirit saith to the churches, the evangelistic church is the church for today. Jesus Christ began his mission with a recognition of the evangelistic call. He made it known in His first sermon at Nazareth, when He took for His text, “ The spirit of the Lord is upon me, for He hath anointed me to preach good tidings to the poor." Evangelistic means the telling of the good story. The living church today must be the church which has a consciousness that it has a God-given mes
sage, and that its first concern is the telling of that message to the multitude of those that know it not. How can a church expect to win others to her banners, if those marching beneath her colours are dull and dead, as if they had nothing that did them good? Because the church long ago passed its initial period of having something new, it has lost much power of compulsion. The Christian Scientists are yet in the new era. They have the splendid enthusiasm of the man who has discovered the ten commandments for the first time. That very sense of possessing a message deemed new and vital, gives them the power of a magnetic enthusiasm.
The Christian church has been entrusted with a God-given message. The world is waiting for the telling of that message. The church must proclaim the Lord Jesus Christ as the Lord of life. She has the most winning, the most conquering secret in all the world. She knows the secret of the light of God in the soul of man.
The church has a secret which can make men right-about-face and leave their old way of selfishness and sin. Harold Begbie, in his book, "Broken Earthenware," tells the story of a series of present-day miracles. “He tells of the work done by a beautiful, delicate young girl, a Salvation Army lassie who threw herself into the very wickedest part of London, among the roughs and toughs to lay before her Master. He tells one instance in regard to a man called 'the puncher.' He was a prize fighter by profession. He had dropped about as low as a human being could pos