Great revivals have usually come in connection with or following periods of war. The Reformation was born when the Turk was threatening all Europe. The larger Pietist movement followed the Thirty Years' War. It was after the fall of the Papacy and the great struggle of the French Revolution that the Bible Societies were organized, and the foreign mission movement was launched that was to extend over all the world. It was a little later, but within the same period, that men were led to study those Bible prophecies which foretold the birth of the advent movement. And it was after the Civil War in America that the great revivals of Moody and others stirred this nation from coast to coast.
There are, likewise, conditions and omens in Europe today which indicate very clearly that we are already in the beginning of the largest religious awakening Europe has ever known. We see it, for example, in Russia. We hear a great deal of the evils there. Some of these reports are true and some are false. Russia today is in the midst of a turmoil that has caused millions of the people to turn away from God, while on the other hand millions are being led to seek after God. Thomas D. Campbell, one of the most extensive farmers in America, and who wrote "Russia—Market or Menace," spent some time there a few months ago. He said he found that the people everywhere realized that if they are to save themselves they must get back to God. The Baptists report in a reliable yet conservative way that in the last few years they have baptized over two million new members in. Russia.
Our day is called the day of the Lord's preparation. The expression, "Prepare ye the way of the Lord," found in Isaiah 40:3, is given again, in a little different form, in Isaiah 62: 10: "Prepare ye way of the people." So in order that we may prepare the way of the Lord, there is something, some movement, that will prepare the way of the people. Every mountain (every government that is haughty and proud) will be brought low, we are told, and every valley (the lowly and humble) will be exalted, and there will be a highway for our God. No believer can read that scripture without thinking of the advent movement.
The great progress in our work in Europe since the World War was made possible by the war. Before that great conflict, over eighty-five million people in Central and Southern Europe lived under conditions where there was no freedom. The people were spiritless, and apparently there was no longing to hear the gospel; but today all is different. These nations are building up centers of commerce and education, and developing in a very progressive way. Where would we be in the progress of the message today if the war had not come? If this world had jogged on in the same sleepy, indifferent way that had been its wont up to 1914, we would still be preaching sermons about the signs that happened a century ago. But the war created an entirely new situation, and has brought in a state of things that is most favorable to the propagation of the third angel's message.
And what would have been our situation if the great financial depression had not come? Times are hard in America, but they are harder over in Europe. We talk about unemployment here; but there are thirty million unemployed over there. And it is these conditions that are preparing the hearts of men and women to receive, and to be willing to receive, the message.
In one sense, and in a very vital one, there are millions today who are preaching certain aspects of the advent message, but they do not realize it. They are saying everywhere: We are going from chaos into catastrophe; the downfall of the world is unavoidable; modern society is irretrievably lost. All this is a large factor in preparing the minds of men to turn to the living God.
Sir Arthur Gibbs, one of the foremost writers in Europe, recently said, "The nations of Europe are sick nigh unto death, shamed with the sense of impending ruin, and filled with dreadful anxiety for the future. Without some miraculous spiritual regeneration, the civilization of the continent of Europe is doomed." Such is his conclusion.
Think for a moment of the situation in Europe, and of how God is manifesting His hand among the nations. I believe God is working through leading statesmen today just as He used Cyrus, Nebuchadnezzar, and others in the past. An entirely different atmosphere has been created. Europe today is anxious that a good understanding be brought about among the nations, as this is recognized to be the guaranty of peace. And yet the certainty of future war is ever with us. We know that it will come; we see the evidences of it on every hand. The Disarmament Conference was destined to failure before it began; no one says anything about it anymore. All these considerations have produced a state of mind, a mentality,—for after all the question is one of psychology,—that is leading millions to seek after God as the only remedy. And this is our supreme hour of opportunity.
But right in the midst of all this, Rome is posing as the great protector of faith and morals. The Roman Catholic Archbishop Downer, of Liverpool, recently said that today we seem to be standing at the parting of the ways, at the juncture of the two roads of authority and destruction. He asserted that there is not an intelligent man who fails to see the situation of great conflict. And truly, all around us, in every country in the civilized world, the forces of disruption are at work. Everywhere there is more or less open revolt against established law and order. The reason the archbishop came out with that statement —and Catholic leaders are making similar statements elsewhere—is that the Roman Church claims to offer the only salvation from evil, in a social and political sense, for the modern world. We know, on the other hand, that the great cause of disruption, anarchy, and immorality is really Rome. And the only remedy and help for Europe and the world is the message that God has committed to us.
I know of one territory in Europe where five years ago the great majority of the people had turned to communism or some form of socialism. They were preaching it, thinking it, believing it, as the only remedy and panacea for all the ills of mankind. At that time the churches were empty, and we could not get a hearing. Today all the Protestant churches, especially the Methodist and Adventist, are crowded to the doors with people who want the "good news." They admit that communism is a failure. They point to what it has done in Russia. They acknowledge that we must return to the old standards of right and wrong, that we must turn to the faith of our fathers, and to the living God that rules.
And what we see in that section is more or less true in all Europe. The various branches of the Methodist Church, or Wesleyans as they call themselves in England, recently had union meetings representing more than a million constituents. The several groups came together and joined hands as one great Methodist body. The largest daily in London commented on the action and was glad it had happened, though it expressed some fears. But the paper said in substance: What we want at this time when the Methodists are joining hands as they are in organization and in finance and in education, is to throw out a challenge to Wesleyan Methodism in England, and that challenge is, Give us another Wesley. Unite or not; work as you will; but give us another Wesley. This journal went on to say that what is needed today in the British Isles is a man that can revive faith in God, revive the sense of the sinfulness of sin, and store our hearts with thoughts of eternal loss, of eternal hope,—something that will lead us to a living faith in a personal God.
Not long ago a man in a speech before the British Parliament said: "We need today the ideals and the faith, and the spirit of sacrifice and helpfulness of former decades. We had grown materially wealthy, and now we are growing materially poor; but the great source of our troubles is that we have a godless society." He pleaded most earnestly for a religious revival. And this is the feeling of many in every country.
This is the day of our opportunity. Men are turning their eyes upon Adventism. We are a people who believe in God, who believe in the Bible, and have light on the meaning of all these things. In the stirring. on religious things in Europe there is a great conflict on concerning the advent message. We have too often preached in a negative way. Our message is a positive proclamation of the greatest, most glorious triumph of right over wrong the world has ever known. We hold forth the only remedy for a sin-sick generation. All over our division the doctrine of the second advent is stirring the hearts of men and women as never before, and people are aligning themselves either with or against the beautiful advent message and hope.
We are seeing in our field today some things that lead us to understand that the word of God has begun to work in mighty power. Never before have we seen such eagerness to hear the message, such willingness to accept it, as exists today, not only in Europe but in far-away Africa. We have certainly come into a day when Africa is stretching out her hands toward God. In Nigeria we are having the largest revival in heathen lands that this movement has thus far known. Not only hundreds but thousands are coming to us; and they are converted and . love God.
God has marvelously prepared the way of the people, made ready everywhere the minds and hearts of men. They are waiting. Conditions are such that we could give the message to all the world, almost in a few months, or years at most; but we, as I think of it, are altogether too indifferent, too nearly half asleep. We need to bestir ourselves and join hands with God to finish the work.
*This abstract of a devotional hour address at the Battle Creek Autumn Council gives an intimate glimpse into conditions in Europe that will be inspiring to all our workers. Presented from the angle of one who, since 1920, has been in resident leadership and continuous observation in Europe, it is the more authoritative and valuable.—Editors.