In the earlier decades of this movement, comparatively trifling events—small wars, limited famines, circumscribed pestilences, localized fears between nations and peoples, and minor and sporadic strikes—were looked upon as fulfillments of the prophesied signs of the last times. They were, in a way ; but they were only the precursors of the dread things to come of greater magnitude and frequency. They were fulfillments, but only preliminary harbingers of world-sweeping catastrophes such as mankind has never before known.
It took world-shaking World Wars I and II to really fulfill the inspired predictions of battle carnage and continent-wide, devastating destruction, with their dread accomplices, famine and pestilence. Never before have these searing scourges assumed such magnitude, intensity, and global extent. They are marked by appalling figures, staggering losses, and unprecedented wastage of life, property, and moral values. Never has fear so gripped the heart of all mankind—fearfulness of coming catastrophes that will threaten the collapse of civilization and bring the destruction of the human race. We hear it; we read it on every side.
And in the social, labor, and industrial realms past clashes between workmen and employers now appear trivial as compared with the nation-rocking succession of strikes, walkouts, lockouts, and tie-ups now on. America has felt the massed weight of the great organizations of labor and corporations of capital at grips in the most titanic industrial conflict of all time. Whole nations have gone dominantly socialist or communist, and the end is nowhere in sight.
Fearfulness concerning the future has taken possession of mankind. Sharply restrictive food measures are recognized as imperative if millions are to be saved from starvation, desperation, and consequent violence. Distress of nations is a present reality. Radical philosophies are spawning. Suspicion and fear are driving statesmen on to find a workable solution to the baffling situation. The UN offers to such the one hope of peace, security, and abundance. But no sooner is one quarrel quieted within its ranks than others break out with threatening potentialities.
The world is drifting or driving on toward seeming catastrophe. The prospect is truly a gloomy one, from the human viewpoint. Only the incurable optimist would declare it to be otherwise. Commentators iterate and reiterate it; statesmen solemnly assert it. Man's fond hopes and aspirations seem crushed beneath the greedy ambitions of the strong. And we know that there is no real or abiding peace ahead. There is no genuine hope beyond, save through divine intervention and supernatural deliverance inherent in the promised second coming of Christ.
World peace talk is neutralized by warlike acts and encroachments. Industrial peace efforts are stymied by radical philosophies and maneuverings for controlling power and position. Selfish determination to dominate and to crush all opposition bodes ill for those who would live and work at peace with all men. It is the violent tempo of the time. James 5 is unrolling like a scroll before our eyes.
We cannot change the world situation. It is not within our power. We can only point out to distracted humanity the one way of deliverance and hope offered and provided by God Himself. We are noncombatants in the world's industrial strife, just as verily as in its martial conflicts, seeking to save life, to rescue souls, to prepare all who will hear and heed to meet God. Ours is a tremendous but glorious task. It is a difficult but challenging commission, destined to be misunderstood and maligned.
We shall find ourselves increasingly out of step in the march of mankind. We shall be in the way, charged with creating confusion and difficulty through lifting the warning voice, and issuing a discordant call in the midst of the ecumenical summons to world peace and unification, to which men will cling with the desperation of an only chance. A world unity of religion and a world state to save humanity and to usher in the kingdom of God will be the order of the day. Altruism and the banishing of all national, credal, and other separating barriers will be the imperious demand of the hour. We shall constitute the discordant minority that must somehow be brought under control.
Through it all we must hold steady and keep our vision and our heads. It is a tremendous time in which to live. It will take courage, vision, and fidelity to survive. It will take the spirit of the martyr and the daring of the crusader for God. But it is a glorious, challenging time in which to live and witness, as we step into God's appointed place for us. We shall finish our commissioned task amid the unprecedented scenes of the last, last days, when flashes of divine glory will light up the brooding darkness and tinge the storm clouds of the remnant hour.
L. E. F.