We are living in a day when history is being made as never before. Before us lies an account from the Chicago Times-Herald, stating that at a meeting of the Chicago City Federation, recently, the secretary of the Bureau of the Associated Charities of that city declared that there are 8,000 families in Chicago actually starving to death; and that the President of the South Chicago Relief and Aid Society says, "There is greater poverty here than there was in 1893, for we are less able to care for the poor now than we were then." The pastor of the First Congregational Church declares also that "at every turn one finds an object of misery. People crowd to our services and beg for food for their children. This is the hardest winter we have had. We can get no work for the men."
Another account is from Louisiana, of which Congressman Boatman declares that there are one hundred thousand destitute people in the Northern part of that State on account of the failure of crops in that vicinity.
The London Chronicle sums up a total of eighty-four millions of the population of India affected by the famine, and says, "We are only at the beginning of the existing scarcity, which must now under any circumstances go on increasing until June next." And the famine has recently been supplemented by the Bubonic plague, which is making terrible ravages.
Before us also are accounts of the now celebrated Bradley-Martin dress ball, at which about eight hundred of the elite of New York City, and indeed contingents from various parts of the world were present in silks, satins, velvets and broadclothboth men and women ablaze with jewels. The newspaper accounts tell us that this was the grandest affair of the kind ever witnessed on this continent; that the ladies and gentlemen who participated were dressed to represent kings, princes, queens and noble ladies of the 15th, 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, and that the entertainment as a whole cost $223,000.
The Rev. Dr. Rainsford, in whose congregation are quite a number of millionaires, found it his duty to warn his hearers that it would be very unwise to attend this ball, giving as the reason that at the present time there are many people in New York city who are in very straitened circumstance and that such a display of luxury and extravagance would surely excite and strengthen the envy and hatred already felt by many of the poor against the wealthy and aristocratic. This started quite a hubbub, and the opinions of many of the prominent ministers were sought and published in the daily press. Some agreed with Dr. Rainsford; some were fearful to express an opinion if they had one; and some took an opposite view, claiming that the expenditure of the money would be a benefit to the poor, etc. The Rev. Thos. Dickson, Jr., was one of the most pronounced in his difference of view, declaring, according to the public press, "If I had millions, would I spend all in charity? No! Why, the position is nonsensical. If I had millions I would build a boat that could go around the world and would spend solid years of my life in rounding out my education. If I should have one million of dollars, and if the public should dictate to me how I should spend it, I would say as did a certain member of the Vanderbilt family, 'The public be d__________d.'"
In these conflicting views respecting the responsibilities of wealth and the proper uses to be made of it, we perceive the grand confusion into which nominal Christianity has fallen, which unbalances its reason [R2105 : page 48] upon every subject. The continued failure in judgment upon such subjects arises from the fact that the Bible lays down certain lines and conditions of Christian responsibility which do not fit a merely nominal Christianity, hence the misfit in attempting to apply the terms and conditions of true cross-bearers to those who bear none other than diamond crosseshowever polite, refined and educated the latter may be. Our opinion of those who patronize such extravagant displays is, that they are Christians merely in nameafter the manner of the man who, when asked, Are you a Christian, sir? replied, "Well, I am not a Jew nor heathen; I presume, therefore, I must be a Christian."
Let us learn to distinguish in our minds between nominal Christians and those who bear about in their person the marks of the Lord Jesus,who are fully consecrated to him; whose will is to do the will of the Father in heaven, and to finish his work. Such being fully consecrated to the Lord will have neither time, nor influence, nor money to spend in such extravagant displays as this bal-masque. The restraining influence upon such will not be the point chiefly suggested by Dr. Rainsfordlest the display excite the cupidity and envy of the poor;nor will it be merely to parsimoniously save money in the hand, where it will do no person very much good; but the object will be to spend the time and the means in some better channel, calculated to bring greater and more permanent blessings and happiness, both to others and to themselves.
But those who have this consecration of heart, whether they have much or whether they have little, need not feel envious of the rich; nor indeed should they seek or expect to force "the children of this world," who are not actuated by the same motives of consecration to the Lord's service and appreciation of divine things, present and future, to act as they act in such matters. Let the worldly who have wealth spend it in luxury, and in any manner not immoral. This will not only circulate the money amongst the people, better than if it were hoarded in banks, but it will help to manifest more clearly than ever the difference between the consecrated and unconsecrated condition of heart and conduct of life, and thus it will make wider the breach between the true Church and the worldly class which falsely under deception of false teaching bears the name of Christ but is none of his.
Dr. Abbott, of the Plymouth pulpit, Brooklyn, continues to lead along the paths of "higher criticism." In some lectures on "The Bible Literature," recently, he provoked his congregation to laughter by the amusing manner in which he made reference to the story of Jonah and the great fish, which he termed a "fiction,""the Pickwick papers of the Bible." The worldly-minded newspaper reporters could see through the absurdity of a man pretending to be a Christian minister and yet thus making light of the very basis of Christian faiththe Bible. The reports in the New York papers put the matter in its true light, and in consequence the Manhattan Ministers' Association took it up at its meeting and strongly rebuked the language. We [R2106 : page 48] are not to forget, however, that probably a large majority of the ministers in New York City, and in all large cities, are already in full agreement with Dr. Abbott along the lines of "higher criticism" and, so far as faith in the inspiration of the Bible is concerned, might be termed rationalists, agnostics or even infidels: there are good reasons for such convictions. We must therefore suppose that the Manhattan Ministers Association were not so much in opposition to Dr. Abbott's agnosticism, called "higher criticism," as to the public statement of this agnosticism in Dr. Abbott's mirthful vein. As a minister of this city once said to the writer, "It is very well for us ministers to study these subjects, but it is not prudent to tell them to the people."
Dr. Abbott, noting the criticism, made two very significant remarks: (1) "No minister should criticize another minister in public;" and (2) "I have every reason to believe the Plymouth Church is an absolute unit in supporting its pastor." The latter statement shows to what an extent this modern infidelity called "higher criticism" has already taken root and born fruit among the people, the "laity." The former statement shows how ministerial etiquette is expected to intimidate and seal the lips of any disposed to obey the Word of the Lord and lift up their voice like a trumpet to show God's people their sins and dangers. Only those who fear to offend God rather than men will escape this influence which the prophet declares will make the majority like "dumb dogs, they cannot bark"Isa. 56:10,11.
Meantime, the Rev. J. H. Barrows, D.D., famed as the president of the Chicago Parliament of Religions, of similarly broad and indefinite ideas of the Bible and Christianity, is now lecturing in India, having for his topic, "The Harmony of Religions." Surely, it is these people who have repudiated the Bible, and incidentally all of Christianity except civilization and refinement, who probably see no reason why they should not as truly fellowship the deluded believers in the creeds of the Orient, as that they should fellowship those of us whom they believe to be the deluded believers in the Bible.
Another bold man who denies the faith and is yet "worse than an infidel" in that he still masquerades [R2106 : page 49] as a minister of the Gospel of Christ, while doing all in his power to undermine that gospel, is the Rev. M. J. Savage, pastor of the "Church of the Messiah," New York City. One would think that few except those "of the synagogue of Satan" (Rev. 2:9) would enjoy or support such preaching. From his recent sermon, as reported in the New York Sun we clip the following malodorous morsel as a sample. He said:
"Archaeology has established that man has been on earth not for a thousand years or ten thousand, but for at least two hundred thousand. Evolution, as developed by Herbert Spencer, and biology, the province worked out by Darwin, are no longer the subjects for debate by educated and intelligent people, though prominent theologians, who show that they don't know what they are talking about by the first words that they utter, will discuss it. Man was not created in the garden of Eden or anywhere else, but began in the ooze of far-off primeval seas. What we know, then, means that there has never been any fall of man, but a continuous ascent. This one fact compels the complete reconstruction of all the theological theories of the past."
It is time that all who have faith in the Word of God and its message of a fall and a redemption by our Savior's precious blood should be no less outspoken than are the enemies of the truth. Whoever denies the fall into sin, denies the redemption from sin and its penalty and such are no more Christians than are Hottentots or Mohammedans or other unbelievers.
We pointed out in 1879, in this journal, that the great "falling away" from the faith predicted of the close of this age would come along this line;the denial of the need and of the fact of the ransom. The cross of Christ (the great ransom-sacrifice) is to the Jew a stumbling block and to the Greeks (the worldly wise) foolishness, but to us who believe it is the power of God and the wisdom of God.1 Cor. 1:18-24.
The true light, the true plan of God, is now clearly manifested for the succor of all who are truly his people. The true "sheep," as they realize the confusion, will turn attentively and humbly to the great Shepherd to listen to his voice to guide them. Such only will be guided and kept in his way, led to the green pastures and still waters of present truth. These will be delivered from the great delusions of this evil day, which, if it were possible, would deceive the very elect. All others we may expect will be more or less deluded or blinded. Only a remnant will escape the blinding influence now as in the end of the Jewish age.
Along the same lines of "union" with anything and everything that will help to support our present social arrangement is a prominent article in the New York Evangelist which after giving a number of reasons for federation and cooperation among Protestants includes also Roman Catholics, and urges peace and fraternity with them, saying:
"We differ from them in some points, but we cannot deny that they hold the main truths of our religion. [It is, alas! too true that Protestants hold still to many of Papacy's perversions of the truth.EDITOR.] ...There is another reason why we should have a care how we disparage the Catholic priests, namely, that some day, not so far off in the next century, we may have to call upon them for help against political and social dangers. The late Professor Roswell D. Hitchcock has often said to me that the time might come when the Roman Catholic Church would prove the greatest bulwark and safeguard against the Socialism and Communism which have been imported into our country from abroad. That is what all Europe is afraid of at this momenta cataclysm, not from above, but from beneath: an earthquake that will yawn so wide and so deep as to swallow up civilization itself. If such destruction sweeps over the Old World, it will not be long in crossing the ocean to the New. Let us be on our guard that we do not break down any strong barrier against it."
Thus we see how one error leads to another, and helps still further to blind and prejudice the mind. How many Protestants there are who are totally unable to see in the Papal system the fulfilment of the prophesied Antichrist,the result of the great "falling away" from the faith; because, having unscriptural views of the present social economy, they are drawn toward Papacy or anything else which will help to sustain the social structure with which all that they have and are is intimately associated;their spiritual interests, the nominal Church institutions and their temporal interests. Can we wonder that under the lead of "higher criticism" and under the pressure of the supposed necessity for the continuance of the present social order, the majority of the nominal Church are drifting further and further away from the Bible and from its teachingsrespecting Romanism as Antichrist; respecting the Babylon-confusion of sectarianism; respecting the social change to be inaugurated by the fall of present institutions and the erection in their stead and upon their ruins of the Kingdom of God's dear Son? We cannot wonder at the tendency to fall away from "the faith once delivered to the saints." We find a general tendency to lose faith in the Bible and to rely upon human wisdom and the light of conscience merely, except among those who in some manner or degree are looking for the second coming of Christ and the establishment of his Kingdom.
A Federation of Churches and Christian Workers has been formed in New York City, including educational and charitable institutions. The New York Journal says, "One hundred and forty churches and eleven such institutions are now included in the membership, and it is expected that the number will be doubled this winter."
The New York Independent publishes a lengthy account of what is termed the progress of Christianity during the past year, which makes an extremely favorable showing so far as denominationalism is concerned; but all familiar with such matters know that such reports are quite unreliable, that the lists of nearly every congregation contain names of many who are dead physically and of many others who have departed from all spiritual life and interest and who have not attended meetings for years.
"In a recent issue of your paper I saw an article from a contributor which stated that there were over three thousand churches in the Congregational and Presbyterian bodies of this country that did not report a single member added by profession of faith last year.
"If this is the case with these two large denominations, what must be the condition of the others also? Are we all going to sit still and let this thing continue? Shall our religious newspapers and our pulpits keep [R2107 : page 50] their mouths closed like 'dumb dogs that cannot bark' to warn people of approaching danger? Should we not lift up our voice like a trumpet about this matter? What must the Son of God think of such a result of our labor as this? What must an unbelieving world think about a Christianity that cannot bring forth any more fruit? And have we no care for the multitude of souls going down to perdition every year while we all sit and look on? And this country of ours, where will it be in the next ten years, if we don't awake out of sleep?
"I wish some of you editors of the influential papers, who are in close touch with the ministers and churches, would tell us what the matter is. Is this the result of what they call the 'Modern Criticism' of the Bible? Is this a specimen of the better times, when we get rid of the old stories about Moses writing the Pentateuch, and the sun and moon standing still, and the fish swallowing Jonah? How much of all this is owing to the politics our ministers have been preaching lately, and the talks on the labor question, and the stereopticon shows on Sunday evenings, and all these other things that have been driving out the blessed gospel of Jesus Christ? When ministers go into preludes on current topics, how can they expect any afterludes of conversions?"
Bro. Moody gives evidence of being awake to the real situation; but all the more, his expressions are thorny to the average minister and Church member, and many are crying out against him. Like some of old they say, "Prophesy unto us good things!" or "Let us alone!"
It would appear that the theological colleges are becoming the very hot-beds of unbelief and repudiation of the Scriptures, under what is termed "modern exegesis" and "higher criticism." Professor S. I. Curtis, of the Congregational Seminary of Chicago, is the latest who has made himself a name and fame by some published articles in which he endeavors to refute the application of the so-called Messianic prophecies to Christ;thus repudiating the interpretations of those prophecies given by our Lord and the apostles as recorded in the New Testament. Professor Curtis simply gives the Jewish interpretation of these prophecies; namely, that they referred to God's dealings with the nation of Israel. The Interior (Presbyterian), criticising Professor Curtis and defending the interpretations of prophecy given us by our Lord and the apostles, says:
"The situation then is this: It is admitted by this new school of scholarship that the New Testament writers were all of the 'old school of exegetes,' that they all gave the weight of their authority to the exegesis which finds in the Old Testament specific, particular and personal descriptions of our Lord, his deity, his birth, history, sufferings, death and the divine purpose in his incarnation and vicarious sacrificeand that the authority of our Lord and of the New Testament writers, in affirming this fact, has universally prevailed for nearly 1,900 years, but is now set aside as 'not in accordance with modern views.'
"They admit that what they denominate the 'old school of exegetes' included our Lord himself and his evangelists and apostles. But they say this exegesis did not originate with our Lord and the writers of the Gospels who found it prevailing among the Jews of their times, and were not able to free themselves from it. Besides, it was to the interest of our Lord and of the New Testament writers to employ the false exegesis which they found in the public mind.
"Thus are the Scriptures plowed, harrowed and sown with the salt of perpetual desolation. But let us remember that salt-plains and bitter waters are found only in arid lands. Where the rains fall and the white snows drift there are none. The showers of spiritual blessing, falling upon the church of God, dissolve and wash away these alkaline destroyers of spiritual life, and leave her fountains of water pure, her trees laden with fruit, and her vales waving with corn."
Since the so-called higher criticism of the Bible began in Germany, it is interesting to notice its progress there. Reliable authorities inform us that, "In all the faculties of the twenty Protestant Theological Universities of Germany, there is not a single representative of the 'older views' and traditional teachings of [R2107 : page 51] the Church, in reference to the Mosaic origin of the Pentateuch, the integrity of the book of Isaiah, etc."
The Old Testament criticism is raging now with more intensity than ever before. The contending parties are the liberal or advanced and the conservative. The differences between these two schools of thought have as a consequence become sharply defined, and in some cases quite bitter, and the interest in the struggle is widening. Outsiders also are beginning to appreciate the fact that great issues are at stake; that the new views practically remove from the sacred books of the Old Testament the basis of revealed religion, the historic faith-foundation upon which the Church has rested for more than eighteen centuries. The Church in general is realizing the destructive consequences of the critical teachings of the Wellhausen-Kuenen school of thought. What began as a controversy respecting the Pentateuch twenty years ago has now become a contest of radical criticism covering the entire Old Testament, and a question of principle for the life of the Church. The professor adds that the defendants of the "old views" are found in the ranks of the ministry only, and none of them amongst the university men.
Likewise the American college professors are leading in this attack upon the Scriptures. They seem to realize that they might live and die comparatively unknown, except as they may come into prominence by attacking the Bible. Professor Paul Haupt of Baltimore has begun a translation of the Bible in conjunction with certain other professors of this country and Europe.
These gentlemen make such bold statements that not only the world but modest and moderate humble-minded Christians are inclined to suppose that they must have found some very positive information upon which to rest such wonderful and positive claims. They even attempt to indicate when and which certain words, sentences and sometimes paragraphs were added, here and there, at various times and by various persons.
These gentlemen, of course, profess to be more wise as well as more honest than any who have ever undertaken such work before. Their edition of the Bible, they inform us, will be printed in various shades of color and thereby indicate different features of the text. Of course, the world is ready and waiting for any and every thing that would cast discredit upon the Book which has successfully withstood the assaults of its enemies for many centuries. Consequently, it is not surprising that the world-pleasing and success-seeking publishers of New York journals are very willing to advertise such works as these freely. Thus a New York Sunday paper of January 31st illustrates what the new Bible is to be, giving selections from Genesis, showing the coloring of the text as it will appear, heading the whole thus:
Few of those who read the bald and brazen claims of these modern wise men and their advertisers have any conception of the character of the information possessed by these schoolmen, which authorized their division of Genesis and other Bible Books into "patchwork." Have these gentlemen found the original manuscript of Genesis, and there seen the various additions they claim, in various styles of handwriting, some with more and some with less faded inks? Is it upon such evidences as these that they base their strong statements? No! They never saw the original manuscripts, nor has any one else now living seen them. Critics have access to nothing to which other men have not access to-day. Upon what, then, do they base their conclusions which they state with such positiveness? may be asked. We answer, They merely fancy that they notice a little change in the phraseology here and there. They find that certain words are used in one paragraph or section freely and that those words do not occur in another paragraph or at least are not so freely used. And on the strength of this flimsy foundation they decide, and declare with great positiveness, and unholy boldness, that the two paragraphs were written by different persons. They not only undertake to say about what time they were written, but presumably men of such keen discernment could almost tell what the men looked like who wrote the different passages.
The Scriptures do not declare that Moses was the author of the Book of Genesis in the sense that he wrote it of his own personal knowledge. It is to be presumed that since much of it was history, covering the two thousand years preceding Moses' day, the record may have been kept and handed down from father to son, some of it from Adam and Seth and Enoch, Methuselah, Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. All that [R2108 : page 51] is claimed for the Book of Genesis is, that Moses was its editor and that he as a servant of God was granted a superior wisdom and grace in bringing together into proper form, thus, the items of past history and of divine revelation which God designed for his people"That the man of God might be thoroughly furnished."
It is quite sufficient for those who have learned of the wisdom of God's Book from its internal evidences and harmonies, to know that the records of Genesis [R2108 : page 52] are in complete harmony with the entire Word of God; and that it was one of the Books of the Scriptures at the time our Lord prayed, "Sanctify them through thy truth: thy Word is truth;" that various of its items were referred to by our Lord and by all the inspired apostles, without the slightest suggestion that either the whole or part of it was unreliable or a "mere human patchwork." Anyone who will compare the account of Creation as given in Genesis with any account of Creation given in any of the so-called sacred books of heathendom will be convinced that it is as far in advance of them all as the daylight is brighter than midnight. And we hold that the account of Creation in Genesis, rightly understood, is in full accord with all that science has been able to prove; although it disagrees with some things which science claims without a sufficiency of evidence. The harmony between the Bible account and the proved positions of science was shown in a series of articles by T. J. Conant which appeared in our issues of Jan. 1, Feb. 1, and Feb. 15, '94.