"Behold, I stand at the door and knock!" says the Master, addressing himself to the present or Laodicean stage of the Church nominal. Yet she is "rich and increased in goods" (in supposed world-converting machinery, as well as temporally prosperous), self-complacent and feeling no need for the second coming of the Lord and the establishment of his Kingdom to put down all enemies of righteousness, and to cause the knowledge of the Lord to fill the whole earth. She is so satisfied with the present machinery that she believes that she can do all this of herself, and would rather dislike to have the second advent occur now, to spoil her plans and her "many wonderful works." (Rev. 3:14-20; Matt. 7:22.) Hence she hears not the knockings which from time to time declare that he has already come—that he is even now present, doing his work, his great work [overthrowing the nations], and bringing to pass his act, his [to them] strange act [of spewing "Laodicea" out of his mouth], rejecting the nominal Church systems and casting all but the faithful into the outer darkness of the world, relative to his plans and doings, letting them have a full share in the vexatious time of trouble already begun.—Isa. 28:21,22.
Several loud raps have recently been given, so loud that even the worldly begin to inquire what they mean. Within the past two months, one loud, long knock came at Homestead and generally in the vicinity of Pittsburg. Another was heard in the Rocky Mountain mines. Another was heard in the coal-mining towns of Tennessee; another along the railroad lines in New York state; another in labor circles in France; another in the cholera plague visiting Europe.
Not that the Lord directly caused or approves of the rioting or bloodshed; but that these things are related to the day of his presence, the "day of trouble," with which the Gospel age will close and the Millennial age be ushered in—a day of distress and perplexity upon men, upon nations, and upon the Laodicean church—a day of vengeance and righteous retribution.
But whilst men's hearts are "failing them for fear and for looking after [forward to] those things coming upon the earth," of which present rumblings are but premonitions, an excellent opportunity is afforded, for those who understand the situation, to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom to all who have an ear for the message. These rumblings mean the breaking in pieces of the powers that be, the Gentile governments, which for now nearly 2500 years have, under Satan's blinding and by God's permit, ruled the world under the law of selfishness. The Scriptures have foretold the utter dissolution of society as at present organized, and the reconstruction of it upon principles of righteousness and love, under the great Prince Immanuel—upon whose reign all the gracious prophecies of peace and blessing and good will toward men depend; and for whose kingdom to come the whole creation (although ignorantly) is "groaning and travailing in pain together, waiting for the manifestation of the [R1439 : page 260] sons of God" [the Church—the Christ, head and body], in the power and glory of the Kingdom promised.
Let each of us who is informed through the Lord's Word be on the alert to invent and to wisely use the many opportunities now, thus afforded for preaching the good tidings of great joy which shall be unto all people. But great prudence is needed, and wisdom from on high should be sought, else the results may be injurious rather than beneficial. The right words at the right time will surely do good; while ill-chosen words or an inopportune time may prejudice the mind so as to hinder some from seeing the beauty of the Lord's plan for years to come. Our Lord's words, "Be ye wise as serpents and harmless as doves," should never be forgotten.
Sometimes, and with some people, the loan of a "Dawn" or of an Old Theology Tract, [R1440 : page 260] with very few words, is the wise course. At other times the words introducing the reading matter are all-important. And the true, earnest minister (servant) of the truth will lose sight of self, and all disposition to vaunt his knowledge of the Lord's word and plan, and will seek merely the glory of God and the blessing of his hearers.
Tell the story as simply, as kindly and as truthfully as possible. Overstatements harm the cause they would advance. Do justice to all concerned. "Let your moderation be known unto all men"—whichever side of the question they may take and however partisan they may be. Let your counsel and influence always stand for peace and right and order, however you may seek to make apology for blinded law-breakers on either side of any question. A poor law is better than no law. Lawlessness has no sanction in God's book, nor in the example of any held up to us by it as worthy of emulation; but the reverse: God is a God of order and of law, and all who have his spirit will be friends of order. True, all law and order will be overthrown in this day of trouble, and that by divine permission; but so long as there is any law, all who are God's people should respect it. When the Apostle said that we should "be subject to the powers that be," he did not add so long as the laws are perfectly just and equal. No: he knew, as we know, that laws made by imperfect men cannot be perfect laws. Our only question about obeying the laws must be if they conflict with our duty toward the divine law of love to God and to our fellow men. And very few, if any, human laws demand of us a violation of this, our supreme law.
While using present labor-troubles, etc., as a starting point for conversation, always remember that it is to be but an introduction to the Gospel of the Kingdom. We are not commissioned to teach other matters than the one Gospel; but we may and shall use every other subject to introduce the good plan of God to the attention of all "the meek" (Isa. 61:1)—especially to those who confess to be God's people. Remember that this is your one work, if you are of the consecrated body of Christ, the Church. To this end you eat and drink and sleep and labor at your earthly tasks—that you may have time and strength and opportunity to make known the gracious plan of our God, the foundation of which was laid in the ransom-sacrifice for all given eighteen centuries ago by the man Christ Jesus, and which is about to have a glorious consummation at his hands and at the hands of the Church, in the setting up of the Kingdom for which so long we have prayed, "Thy Kingdom Come!"