"The whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now,...waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God" in Kingdom power; for which we [the sons of God who are to be manifested for the blessing of all the families of the earth] also groan, praying, "Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as in heaven."—Rom. 8:22,23,19; Matt. 6:10.
NO one can be indifferent to the phenomenal times in which we are living; for although the rush and crush of business and pleasure continue, and even increasingly, there is, deep down in men's hearts, even at the theaters and sporting grounds, a feeling of unrest which cannot be better described than by the prophetic words of our Master,—"Men's hearts failing them for fear and for looking after [toward] those things coming upon the earth."
We who know what is coming are relieved from anxiety; for, although we see near us a dark night of intense trouble, such as has not been since there was a nation, we see also the glorious beyond—the Millennial day, which "lights the gloom with healing ray." We can wait patiently, although not without interest and deep concern, for the development of God's great Plan of the Ages, now so near its consummation.
It is interesting to look back and note the accuracy of the fulfilment of God's Word, so that our hearts may be established with the greater confidence respecting the future,—the things coming upon the earth. For instance, as we look back and note that the Scriptures marked 1873 as the end of six thousand years from Adam to the beginning of the seventh thousand, and the fall of 1874 as the beginning of the forty-year harvest of the Gospel age and day of wrath for the overthrow of all the institutions of "this present evil world [or order of affairs],"* we can see that facts have well borne out those predictions of Scripture. We see that the present world-wide distress had its beginning there; that it has been progressing with increasing momentum every year since; and that, as the Apostle Paul declared it would be, so it has been, and so it is—"As travail upon a woman with child." Each spasm of pain is more intense; and so it evidently will continue to be until the death of the present order of things and the birth of the new.
It might be presumed that all this would seem plain to us who have been so preaching and writing for nearly twenty years on these lines; but it will be interesting to our readers to note that now, twenty years after, others who have no knowledge of our writings, or of the prophecies upon which our expectations were and are based, are calling public attention to these very dates. Rev. Josiah Strong, D.D., a man of world-wide reputation as a thinker, calls attention to the year 1873, as laying the foundation of present troubles, saying:—
"Profound economic changes have attended the transition of the world's methods of production and distribution which has taken place during this century and more especially during [R1675 : page 228] the past twenty-five or thirty years. It is to this source we must look for some of the principle causes of popular discontent which has been pronounced ever since the commencement of the industrial depression which began in 1873 and affected all classes."
Even more widely known is Mr. Powderly, for years at the head of one of the chief labor organizations of this country: he places the date of the beginning of present labor disturbances as 1874—just following the financial strain of 1873 noted by Mr. Strong. Thus both gentlemen and both of their dates agree with the Scriptures. Mr. Powderly says: "Go back twenty years [to 1874], and you will find that the employer and employee had interests in common."
T. V. Powderly, ex-General Master Workman of the Knights of Labor, spoke at Prohibition Park, Staten Island, yesterday, on the railroad strike and the coal strike of Pennsylvania. He carried the strain of total abstinence throughout his remarks.
"You all probably have made up your minds that I am a very terrible sort of a man. You have read of the hundreds of strikes that I have ordered, strikes that have paralyzed the business of the country, and carried want into tens of thousands of homes. Standing here before you and before my God, I can say that I never ordered a strike in my life. All the strikes that I have been credited with ordering have been precipitated before I knew anything of them; and then I have, as leader, simply made the best of what I have always regarded as a very bad situation.
"We are all now intensely interested as to the outcome of the strike in the West. Every strike that takes place upon a line of railroad is a strike against the whole country. Our railroads [R1676 : page 228] are so closely identified with the life of the nation that when you stop any one of these arteries through which the life blood of the nation's prosperity flows you injure those whom you least expect to injure and whom you would least desire to harm.
"There is now a great feeling of unrest in this land. Go back twenty years and you will find that the employer and the employee had interests in common. But machinery, that Juggernaut which for good or for ill has crushed millions in its march of progress, has made men merely subordinates to it. Then, too, money has become centralized, and unheard-of fortunes are in the hands of individuals. There are twenty-four men in America to-day who possess more money than there was in the whole world when this country had the revolution which gave us a name and a flag.
"Taken altogether the brotherhood of man seems to be a long way off. Is it any wonder that men who are working for wages that will barely sustain life should take desperate measures to undo a wrong? There is a cause for all these labor demonstrations, whether they be right or wrong, and the cause is not of to-day or of yesterday, but one that has grown with the century.
"The great national highways, the railways, are as much the property of our Government to-day as were the old coach roads. There are many who believe that these railroad strikes, which during the past twelve years have become more extensive, will continue, doing more injury each time, and that there will be less chance of controlling them in the future, until we adopt a plan of national co-operation and run the railroads under the supervision of the United States Government, by and for the whole people.
"If all the railroads could be nationalized, then all strikes upon them would be at an end, for every man, whether he be an employee of the railroad or not, would be an equal owner in it and equally interested in the system and equally anxious for its well being.
"These great labor problems will not be solved by the laboring men alone, however. Men and women not directly engaged in labor must act and vote so that they will be a power between what are now called the opposing forces."
After demonstrating the ridiculously low wages that the anthracite coal miners of Pennsylvania have been reduced to, Mr. Powderly said: "Place yourselves in their places. Ask yourselves whether you would go down into the mines every day to slave and toil for the purpose of supplying others with coal, when by your labor you could not supply your own household with the common necessities of life.
"Do you believe that God intended that six men sitting here in New York should dictate as to whether all the people should or should not have coal—whether they should be kept warm or cold; whether they should have their meat cooked or raw: by fixing prices to suit themselves? If I thought so, I would be a rank infidel.
"This may sound like Socialism. Well, there are Socialists, and there are men who think they are Socialists. I believe that at heart most of the people are Socialists to-day, for any man who believes that the social conditions need improvement is a Socialist."
All speak of the present world-wide troubles as "strikes;" but this name is not appropriate to present disturbances. Strikes are revolts against employers, because of real or fancied grievances, or for better pay, shorter hours, etc.; but recent uprisings such as that of the dock-men and coal-miners in England, a year ago, the recent general combination of coal-miners throughout the bituminous coal regions of the United States, and the present uprising of railway employees which is disturbing the comfort and welfare of millions, are not strikes,—they are more, they are incipient revolutions. They do not express dissatisfaction with employers or wages; for between the employers and the so-called striking employees in many instances there is respect, if not friendship;—but they do represent a rebellion against the present social system. They are "sympathy strikes," the employees often declaring that they have no grievances, but want to show sympathy with others whom they believe have grievances.
Laborers, mechanics and employees in general are beginning to realize what we pointed out twenty years ago (but what was then scoffed at), that machinery and invention, with the natural increase of the human family, would soon [under present social and financial arrangements] show an over-supply of humanity, because the power of profitable employment would be centralized in the hands of the few, who, operating under the general law of self-interest, would always employ the cheapest competent service; and thus the masses of humanity, being thrown into competition for the necessities of life, would soon become the slaves of the few—their very living necessities depending upon the charity of their employers in providing work. This is what we see in many parts of the old world;—e.g., millions in China and India barely subsisting upon a wage of four cents per day.
This is the meaning of the "sympathy strikes:" the masses are realizing that their cause is one, and that if something be not done to alter the present social condition and its tendencies, they will become the chattel slaves of corporate wealth. They feel that what is done must be done soon, too; because each year the pinch becomes tighter and they fear that the time may come when they as a class will be too poor to strike or to offer any resistance to oppression; for already they feel as poor, with a wage of one dollar a day, as the East Indiaman does with four cents per day.
Can we wonder, then, at "sympathy strikes," no matter how unreasonable they may appear on the surface? Surely not: to those engaged it seems to be a question of life or death, socially. To them the future looks not only dark, but black, and without a ray of hope except through the methods now being pursued. And others, in other departments of life, equally hopeless, are only restrained from joining a general revolution by the well-grounded fear that the results would be worse than the present condition, and by the undefined and baseless hope that somehow matters will right themselves. Surely such conditions call for sympathy on all sides. And the people of God, who have gained the good hope of the Gospel of God's Word, can sympathize heartily with these hopeless ones, and should point them to the only real remedy, the Kingdom of God, and earnestly continue to pray, "Thy Kingdom come."
And then can we not also sympathize with the rich and those who employ labor? Surely this is their day of trouble in an especial degree, as said the Prophet and the Apostle. (Zeph. 1:14-18; Jas. 5:1-6.) Present conditions are not, as is sometimes claimed, the result of special legislation secured in their favor, but the result of increased knowledge, and with it, increased ambition. (Dan. 12:4.) The case is like that of an outgrown shoe: once it was a comfortable fit and a desirable shoe; but now it pinches;—not because the shoe has grown narrower and shorter, but because the foot has grown larger. So the metes and bounds of the present social order, that once were easy and favorable, now pinch;—not because they are being contracted, for the reverse is the case: they are being stretched in every direction. They can never again prove easy, however, but will prove more and more distressing, because the general increase of knowledge daily increases the desires and discontents of the masses.
Evidently the rich men are not to be blamed for this, even though they be blameworthy for not recognizing the changed conditions and adapting themselves thereto. Indeed, only millionaires [R1676 : page 230] could do anything out of the current of social and financial custom. Others are powerless: the average mine-operator, storekeeper, and manufacturer is so beset with competition and with maturing debts that even an attempt to change from the rut of present custom would mean financial suicide—the wreck of his own business and that of others more or less dependent upon its prosperity. Indeed, we may safely say that the majority of this influential class of busy brain-workers recognize the situation and would rejoice if they could see any feasible method of bringing about a moderate change. And yet in times of strikes and riots, when their business is most disturbed, and when they feel themselves close to the brink of financial ruin, these men cannot call out for public sympathy as can the laborers and strikers; they cannot tell their distress, because to do so would be to spoil their credit and only hasten their ruin. And these men also deserve the sympathy of all who "look not every man upon his own things [troubles and interests], but also upon the things of others."—Phil. 2:4.
But, as selfishness is the basis of the present social system, so love must be the basis of the new and better order; and that radical change can only come about by the sound conversion of the majority of the people to God and his plan (which is not supposable under present conditions), or the interposition of divine power and law,—the very thing which the Scriptures predict. What can we advise? To all the "brethren" we say, "Have patience, brethren;" "avenge not yourselves;" they that take to the sword will suffer therefrom the more themselves. [R1677 : page 230] Trust in the Lord, wait patiently for him, and he will bring to pass in his due time and way (the best time and way) all the gracious promises of his Word—including the blessing of all the families of earth.
We see the various inequalities and wrongs of the present system of society more clearly than others, because we see them from the standpoint of the Lord's Word; but we can see also that, if it were within our power to suddenly revolutionize matters, that would be undesirable: it would produce a condition far worse than the present. Far better the present social system than none; and far better, while the present system continues, that the power remain in the hands of men of judgment and moderation than that the lever of power be suddenly transferred into the hands of the rash and inexperienced masses, unused to weighty responsibilities, and mere novices and experimenters upon all questions, social and financial. A thousand times better is a social system in the hands of education and experience, even though selfish, than no social system, or an experimental one in the hands of novices equally selfish, but not equally moderate. We much prefer then to stay as long as we can where we are than to change to any other arrangement that men can originate, or assist in any way to precipitate the trouble which sooner or later must inevitably involve all nations and all individuals.
Better, far better, wait on the Lord,—wait until his time for establishing his Kingdom and have it come about in his way. He will eventually restrain the forces of evil and selfishness in both rich and poor and bring in equity and everlasting righteousness.
So, then, although we know that the revolution and anarchy and trouble are surely coming, let us, "brethren" of Christ, do nothing to promote or hasten it. Let our advice be to the contrary, to any of our friends who seek our counsel. Especially let us improve the opportunity for pointing out to them the true and only remedy for present distress—Christ's Kingdom and its new social order under the law of Love. And, to all who have ears to hear, preach Christ the Redeemer, soon, as the Great Physician, to be the Restorer of all who cheerfully obey him. Point him out as now our Savior, your Savior. Tell them of the joy and peace and blessing which he gives and which he promises shall abide with us in every condition. Tell them that it is for this reason that "We will not fear though the earth [society] be removed; though the mountains [governments] be removed and carried into the midst of the sea [the ungovernable masses]; though the waters [the people] thereof roar and be troubled; though the mountains [governments] shake with the swellings [riots, tumults, etc.] thereof."
And if they become interested and willing, lead them to the Lamb of God and the streams of truth that make glad the true people of God,—and if they be converted to God, seal them in the forehead (mind, intellect) with the wonderful present truth with which God has caused us to be sealed.—Rev. 7:3.
Remember that now is the time to be active co-workers with God in doing this sealing work, and that the disturbing winds are being held back until the sealing work is done. Therefore, when the present disturbances pass away and another season of comparative calm follows, continue earnest and zealous in the sealing work, knowing that the time is short and that "the night [the darker period] cometh when no man can work." We must labor while it is called day, and cannot hope for a more favorable opportunity than the present. "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life," is the promise.