THERE can be no more important question for the Church than that of her proper attitude towards the world. This is, of course, a question that must be answered by the Word of God.
From the example of the Church to-day however, it might be concluded that the inspired Word gives no instructions upon this question which apply to the present time. For it is certain that the Church’s attitude to-day, as indicated by her efforts to acquire political power and authority, and her hopes for the future in this respect, is not sanctioned by a wisdom higher than her own.
But the Scriptures of divine truth are not silent concerning the duties of the Church and of individual Christians in the midst of their worldly environment to-day. When Christian speakers and writers lament the awful depravity which civilization is unable to hide, and exhort the civil authorities to adopt measures for grappling with the moral emergencies of the times, it is not because all this iniquity was not foreseen and foretold by the Author of holy writ, and instructions given by Him for the guidance of the Church in the most critical hours of moral darkness.
The Scripture likens this period of the reign of sin and evil, to a night. Such indeed it is, with the light of righteousness so nearly obscured as it is by the black shadows of sin. But the Scriptures are full of predictions of a coming day: and even here a light shines upon the pathway of the Christian, in which he is exhorted to walk. “Thy word,” says the psalmist, “is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” Psalm 119:105.
The night is not passed by the Church of God in slumber. Watchmen are upon the walls of Zion, to warn of lurking dangers and to herald the long-looked for dawn. In the prophecy of Isaiah an occasion comes when the inquiry is made from Zion, “Wachman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night?” And the answer is returned, “The morning cometh, and also the night,“—the morning of an eternal day for the righteous and of eternal night for the finally impenitent.
The Apostle Paul exhorts Christians to act as becomes those who have the light of divine revelation. The Church is to know the approach of the coming day. “Ye, brethren,” he writes, “are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.”
It is the night of sin, and the drunkenness and revelings of those who are of the night, that we see around us to-day. The terrible depravity that is seen in society at the present time is natural enough to those who are “drunken in the night.” It is only such a feature as the reign of carnality may be expected to develop before the night is ended. That night seems now to have reached it [sic.] darkest hour; but the darkest hour comes just before the dawn.
The Church cannot help the fact that it is night. She cannot turn the night into day. She cannot take possession of the world, and eliminate the sin and evil which have brought night upon it. The divine Word which is her guide, nowhere instructs her to attempt such a thing. But she herself has light—the light of the Word, “that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn” (1 Peter 1:19),—and she is to reflect the light upon the pathway of those in darkness. The divine message now comes to her, “Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people, but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.” Isaiah 60:1-3.
This is a glorious privilege. It is one which the Church should eagerly embrace. But what is the Church doing? Is she appalled at the “gross darkness” which to-day covers the people? Then let her not appeal to the arm of flesh in the vain fancy that this darkness can be dispelled by civil enactments; but let her arise and flash forth the divine glory from the throne of God. That, and that alone, can dispel the darkness from the way of those who will turn and heed it.