FROM 1120 B.C. to 800 B.C. a mighty empire was built up by the kings of Assyria. Many nations were overrun, plundered, and laid under tribute. Thus vast sums of treasure were brought into the coffers of the kings of Assyria and into the hands of the Assyrians, especially in the capital city of Nineveh.
This long-continued flow of wealth carried in its train corresponding luxury. With luxury came love ease. With luxury and love of ease inevitably came vice. And at last their wickedness became so great that it reached heaven and deserved vengeance. The Lord sent Jonah to warn them of the coming destruction. “And Jonah begun to enter the city a day’s journey, and cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.”
And in that proud city—the leading city of the world—wicked as it was, and though the word came to the king upon the throne, Jonah was not accused of disturbing the peace; he was not put in the lock-up; he was not taken to the station-house; he was not accused of inciting insurrection; he was not charged with being an enemy of the country.
Instead of any such thing is that, “the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them unto the least of them. For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And  he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything: let them not feed, nor drink water: but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn everyone from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands. Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not.”
And nobody has ever charged that in this procedure Jonah was taking part in politics, nor that he was speaking against the government, nor that he was in any way disrespectful to the authorities. And if anybody had ever charged him with any of this, it would have been false; and by it the one making the charge would have shown that he did not know any distinction between religion and politics: and in that he would have shown that he did not know anything in reality of religion, but politics only.
In the course of empire Assyria was followed by Babylon. It was, too, the course of conquest, wealth, luxury, ease, and vice, even to the danger of ruin that Babylon followed. One day a man walked into the broad streets of Babylon and took position on the bank of the Euphrates which flowed through the midst of the city, and there as the vast crowds of the busy and pleasure-loving city passed and repassed he read with a loud voice a long arraignment of Babylon for her pride, her oppression, and her great wickedness; and also the doom of destruction that certainly would come. When he had read the whole account, he tied a stone to the scroll of what he had read and plunged it into the river, and exclaimed, “Thus shall Babylon sink, and shall not rise from the evil that I will bring upon her.”
And in that proudest and wickedest of cities the man was not arrested or charged with any disturbing practises nor mischievous intent.
But, unlike Nineveh, Babylon paid no attention to the warning. In a few years her doom came. In the midst of a drunken and lascivious feast the judgment was written, and spoken, “God hath numbered thy kingdom and finished it. Thou art weighed in the balances and art found wanting. Thy kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.” And before the judgment was spoken, he who interpreted it said the king, citing the example of the king’s grandfather, how he was taught “till he knew that the most high God ruleth in the kingdom of men and appointeth over it whomsoever he will. And now, his son, O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this; but hast lifted up thyself against the Lord of heaven … and the God in whose hand thy breath is and whose are all thy ways, hast thou not glorified: then was the part of the hand sent from him; and this writing was written.”
And instead of that man being punished as a disturber of the peace, or as an inciter to insurrection, or charged with meddling in politics, he was rewarded with the highest honors a king could possibly bestow. The Lord Jesus himself came and lived among his own people and sought to bring them to God. They rejected his counsel and would not receive his message. He knew that national ruin could be the only result. And he told them so: woes that would reduce them to ruins and bring them even down to hell, proclaimed against Capernaum, Chorazin, and Bethsaida. He declared that Jerusalem should be compassed with armies, she should be laid low even in the dust, and her children within her, and the temples which were their pride and their trust should be so ruined that not one stone would be left on another.
He was charged with high treason. In the condemnation proceedings, his saying that the temple should be ruined was produced against him and perverted by a false witness into the charge that he had said that he would destroy the temple. Yet at the time everybody knew, and ever since everybody has known, that the charge of high treason or treason of any other kind was false, as well as every other charge was false. And these charges of treason, although made by the chief religionists, were in reality made only by the chief politicians: which is to say that their religion was only politics.
His disciples went everywhere preaching the word of the gospel. Paul reasoned with the people out of the Scriptures, “opening and alleging that Jesus must needs have suffered and risen again from the dead, and that this Jesus who I preach to you is Christ.” And in so doing he told them of certain ruin of the Roman Empire, the establishment of ten new kingdoms in its place, then the coming up of another that should destroy three of the ten and establish itself “the man of sin, the son of perdition,” “the mystery of iniquity;” and in the time of this one and of the remaining seven of the ten, Christ should come the second time and the world should end.
And when Christianity had been spread throughout the Roman Empire the Christians were always expecting the fall of Rome and were talking of it, and were prepared for it when it came.
It is true that the early Christians and the later Christians in the Roman Empire were charged with undermining the state, and like Jesus were condemned and put to death upon the charge of high treason. But everybody knows that all such charges against them were false; that all these things that the Christians said were true; and that to be faithful to their trust in the world and to their fellow-men, the Christians must say these things.
And God’s Word stands to-day with instruction and warning to the nations of to-day, as truly as it ever did to Assyria, Babylon, Judea, and Rome. That word will be spoken to the nations of to-day as really as it ever was to those of old. It is true that the politicians, even of the professed brethren of the understanding ones, will  charge “disrespect of authority,” “treason,” etc., even as they did against Jesus in Judea, and the early and the later Christians in the Roman Empire. Nevertheless the truth of God will be spoken and the people will be warned.
Yet there is a striking contrast between the treatment of the messengers in Nineveh and in Babylon, and those in Judea and Rome and the United States. The world is not better than it was, nor is it getting better.
A. T. J.