IN VIEW of our interpretation of James 5:1-9 * and in view, further, of the present prosperous times amongst farmers and others in the United States and Canada, some are inquiring when and how we should now expect the fulfilment of James' prophecy. We answer that we are not sorry the American farmers are not pinched, but prosperous. No one of noble heart could take delight at the distress of others. We account for the delay of the pinch and the cries, here, as follows:—
(1) The Spanish war, the Boer war, the Philippine war, the China war and several small wars and preparations for war, in Abyssinia, Hayti, Colombia, Argentine, Peru, and Chili, and the immense naval expenditures of Japan, Great Britain, Germany and the United States, have put thousands of millions of dollars into circulation during the past five years; and the effect could not be other than to bring great prosperity in manufacturing lines.
(2) The famines in India and Russia and China, and crop shortages in Europe and South America, and the drouth in Australia, have all conspired to make a great demand for all the cattle and crops of this country, and at good prices.
(3) The deficiency of money (decreased by the demonetization of silver) would surely have hindered this wave of prosperity from rising as it has risen, were it not for the shrewdness of the American bankers who have much more than made up for the loss of silver by organizing immense corporations and trusts whose stocks, like railway shares, are given a money value in all banks. The bankers thus make interest on loans represented by those shares, and at the same time have a firmer inside hold upon all the industries of the world. It is to their interest to have just as little money afloat as possible—they can the more easily control the financial keys of the world's business. If there were no money, the bankers' credits would be the substitute. The manufacturer would then deposit deeds or mortgages or stocks with his banker and secure credit and be permitted to issue bank checks against that credit; and those bank checks, or representations of credit, would pass current instead of money, and the bankers would have the entire control of the credit and charge interest, or toll, on all the business of the earth. Conditions are approximating this at present in that probably nine-tenths of the world's business is done on interest-bearing credits, while actual money suffices merely for small retail transactions.
But what is the difference so long as we have prosperity? The difference is that the treating of stock shares as money is bringing fabulous wealth to a numerous class; but since many of these stocks are over-valued, over-capitalized, it follows that as war-expenditures decrease a panic will occur the like of which the world has never known. "The mighty man shall weep then bitterly"—the rich shall "weep and howl." That will be a time of general loss of confidence when bankers' credits will be at their ebb. Under the new conditions, and with the money and the money-making property in the hands of the bankers, it would be unwise to attempt to outline or to particularize the character of events that will ultimately lead the reapers to cry out; but we have confidence in the correctness of the prediction and believe that the demonetizing of silver and the consequent decrease of the world's money will be seen to be at the bottom of that trouble, directly or indirectly precipitating it.
Even at present prices of agricultural products, the farmers of Germany, contending with poorer soil and smaller farms, are "crying out" that they can no longer compete with American products, and demanding tariff protection. The Government (the Emperor) is not averse to the tariff, but fears that even a small rise in the price of food necessities would pinch the mechanics and laborers of the cities, and necessitate a raise of wages which, in turn, would further hinder the industries of Germany, which have been much depressed for over a year. The Agrarian party in the German Parliament has hitherto been the Government's standby; but now the Agrarians freely hint that if they do not get tariff protection they will oppose voting public moneys for the building of new warships, and otherwise endeavor to thwart the Emperor's will until the tariff is granted.
The Emperor, who is thus without his regular supporters, sees the Socialist party increasing in numbers and influence yearly; and now notes the threats of the Agrarians, and that many of them favor affiliation with their former opponents (the Socialists). The Emperor is thus forced to conciliate more and more the third party, the Centrists (the Roman Catholic party), who are apparently ready and willing to trade every other measure in the interest of their church. Thus the Pope, through this party, is likely to dominate the Emperor very thoroughly: indeed under the circumstances it is no wonder the Emperor is reputed to have a leaning toward Catholicism. His first conviction is that he reigns by "divine right," "by the grace of God." His second conviction is that those who favor him must be right.
Present conditions favor Catholicism in Germany more than at any time since the days of the Reformation; but we are not to look for a religious war; rather we may expect a greater equality of all systems, with Romanism taking a leading part. Let it not be forgotten that this religious fraternization, or federation, is to come before the worst of the trouble comes: and this evidently is several years future even in these days of rapid transformations and aggregations.
"Rev. Hemenway preached an eloquent and able sermon. The address was a plea for the appreciation of spiritual truth, a call to Christians to live more deeply in the heart of religious truth. The text was taken from Luke 18:8: 'Nevertheless, when the Son of Man cometh shall he find faith on the earth?'
"The speaker said in beginning his address: At no time during the present generation has it been so easy to be a pessimist, so difficult to be an optimist. Whether the interests be political or industrial, sociological or spiritual, the same general conditions everywhere prevail,—a state of doubt and unrest and fear. For such a time assuredly was asked the ambiguous question of our Lord of his disciples: Nevertheless, when the Son of Man cometh, shall he find faith on earth?
"I do not profess to be able to interpret with confidence this searching question of Jesus. I can not feel sure of his mind in this conversation. Was it a warning to his believers not be lacking in faith as a guard against worldly influences, the power of which we now perhaps can realize more fully than those to whom Jesus was speaking? Was it a declaration that the time would come when faith would become weak and small in the hearts and lives of men? Or was it the pleading voice of a loving Master who would win our loyalty by suggesting the possibility of our failing in devotion,—as once he said when men were deserting him, Will ye also go away? Disclaiming any dogmatic zeal in the interpretation of this difficult conclusion to a not less difficult parable I feel confident that the underlying thought of every possible interpretation of this sentence is peculiarly applicable to the times in which we now live. Whether it be a plea for faith, or a warning not to be wanting in faith, or an announcement of a loss of faith, in every case there are significant and responsive aspects and characteristics of the meaning to be found in the religious world today. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth? If the Son of Man should come to the world of this twentieth century would he find faith on the earth? If he were to visit the church universal, which bears his name throughout our land and the world, would he find faith on the earth? Answering neither for the optimist nor the pessimist, and turning from the theoretical to the practical, I ask your serious consideration of some of the aspects of modern social and religious life most seriously significant of this inquiry of Jesus.
"Perhaps I can express my fundamental thought this evening most clearly by quoting from a report of a sermon by President Charles Cuthbert Hall in Highgate Congregational Church, London. He was speaking on 'The Appreciation of Spiritual Truth as a Primary Duty of the Church,' and was reported as saying, that the conventionalism of life today creates a strong temptation to be more interested in what we do than in what we believe, and to get away from the responsibility of thinking for ourselves. 'We need, he says, to live more deeply in the heart of religious truth, and to have a growing appreciation of the beauty and nobleness of the fundamental ideas of our religion.'
"Is there not here a clear and profound statement of the religious condition of our time? Are we not more interested in what we do than what we believe; and have we a worthy appreciation of the beauty and nobleness of the fundamental ideas of our religion?
"With all our zeal and all our activity,—building [R3118 : page 373] churches in beauty, like this in which we gather tonight,—pushing on the agencies of the church with treasuries unburdened with debt; revising and improving our creed statements,—with all our zeal and activity, are we searching deep into the nature of the things of the kingdom of God for a better understanding of the fundamental verities of our faith? While in science, in biology and chemistry and physics and electricity,—men are studying deep into the nature of material things, is not the church of God, in the main, dealing with superficials and satisfied to live on the surface of spiritual things? The call to the revision of our creed (a voice which I am not to condemn tonight), is a voice to which we may all, perhaps, respond Amen; but is the call to revision sounding through our great church, out of a new and profounder research into the eternal verities of our faith than the studies of an Edwards or a Calvin? or is the call rather out of a desire to adjust our creed to the times in which we live?
"Far more important than the mere question of revision may be the inquiry as to its cause. Far more significant to you and to me may be the real spiritual condition of the church seeking a revision of its creed statements, than the mere question of a verbal statement to be desired. We shall never grow strong by mere excision or even by addition; but only by securing deeper and surer foundations.
"Rev. Hemenway showed how and why the question of Jesus which formed his text, was addressed to our day and generation, and showed different reasons. First: Within the church: Instead of the wonders of creation, the consequence of the fall of man, or the mysteries of redemption exciting the interest or inquiry, the question of the inspiration, accuracy and authority of the Bible—in a word, the higher criticism—holds the attention.
"Third: The ways of the church; Rev. Hemenway made an earnest plea for the old hymns, such as 'My faith looks up to thee,' 'All hail the power of Jesus' name,' and others, as better than the popular gospel hymn. He said that much of the modern religious poetry is set to music that stirs the feet more than the soul.
"Fourth: The neglect of parents to bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. One of the best evidences, Rev. Hemenway thinks, that parents do not teach their children religion as once they did, is that the candidates for the ministry in 1899 were 1433; in 1902 only 810.
"For reasons without the church: The speaker did not attempt a sharp and close discrimination between the church and the world, but looked for the general evidences of the decadence of faith which, he said, appear almost as frequently in the lives of Christians as those not professing Christ. He gave as first among the causes of this: the character of the present strife for wealth. He said, While unscrupulous means for acquiring riches have been employed for ages, the power of passion for wealth over all is new and of our time. We need to turn from the subject of the saloon on the Sunday to that of the office on the Sunday. The second commandment means no more to the community in its struggle for wealth than the excise laws to the man of appetite. He said the motive for obtaining wealth has changed, and quoted:
'Gold! Gold! Gold! Gold!
Bright and yellow, hard and cold;
Molten, carven, hammered, rolled;
Heavy to get and light to hold;
Hoarded, bartered, bought and sold;
Stolen, borrowed, squandered, doled;
Spurned by the young, but hugged by the old
To the very verge of the churchyard mold;
Price of many a crime untold;
Gold! Gold! Gold! Gold!'
Rev. Hillis, successor to Henry Ward Beecher now sees some of the things pointed out in the WATCH TOWER for the past twenty-three years. The public press reports the following from his discourse of October 19th:—
"Just now our country is entering upon a crisis that is to strain its institutions to the last point before breaking. For a generation the tide of illiteracy, intellectual and moral, has been slowly rising, until the better social element is being submerged by the worse. This social deterioration has been progressive. A century ago the great figures in the community were the magistrate and the minister. In the middle of the last century the statesman and the politician were the contrasting figures, representing weight of intellect. Those were the days of Daniel Webster and Henry Clay. Then came an era, about five years ago, when the statesman was submerged by the multi-millionaire.
"Wealth, riches, the love of gold and power, control our statesmen now. Individuals representing hundreds of millions cause the politician to pass under an eclipse. This Croesus who can own his private car, his private yacht, owns also his private Governor, his private Representative, and last summer his private Congress. These men, whose millions have enabled them to form the trusts, control our Congress and used this legislative body to pull their chestnuts out of the fire.
"Men who would solemnly pledge themselves to give certain rights to Cuba were forbidden by their political masters to fulfil their obligation. Men have the authority today who don't have any offices. Men rule as Governor who haven't been elected.
"The next stage is the multi-millionaire's submergence by the numbers of his workmen acting under the control of a single will. But the rule of the many because they have the votes needed by the Governor [R3119 : page 374] who seeks re-election, is a rule of peril that threatens every institution that we love. A mob is always controlled by the most ignorant and vicious element. Put a thousand men in a group; the one man who can control the thousand men in the mob is the man who can strike the chord to which all will respond. The man who has the last fact in the case is nature's uncrowned king, who alone has the right to rule.
"Fortunately, in a democracy, when the people make a mistake, it is the people who suffer, so that the follies and sins of the Republic cure themselves, as Wendell Phillips once said, and this fact makes and keeps up optimists."
A ripple of surprise went over his congregation when Dr. Hillis, discussing the percentage of great men in America who owe their splendid qualities to the clergymen in their ancestry, said: "Henry Clay, Wendell Phillips, Daniel Webster, Robert Ingersoll and Henry Ward Beecher, five great inspirational orators, got their early education and principles of life from the clergymen from whom they sprung."
That Dr. Hillis should mention the names of Robert Ingersoll and Henry Ward Beecher in the same breath, speaking in the church that was occupied by the latter, caused expressions of indignation among his hearers.
The Methodist General Conference recently held in Winnipeg, Man., near the close of its session passed resolutions looking toward a union of all the "evangelical" denominations of Canada. It appointed an influential committee to confer first and specially with Presbyterians and Congregationalists. The Methodists of Canada number 847,765; the Presbyterians 755,326; the Congregationalists 28,157. Commenting upon this the Outlook says:—
"This comprehensive and far-reaching proposition was adopted with practical unanimity by the Conference, only two or three delegates voting against it. This forward movement acquires additional significance from the fact that the Methodist and Presbyterian churches in Canada are themselves the result of the integration of several minor divisions, which has been signally marked with the seal of the divine approval. It was further emphasized by the cordial greetings of representatives of the Presbyterian Church—the Rev. Dr. Bryce, moderator of its General Assembly, Prof. Kilpatrick, of Manitoba College, and the Rev. C. W. Gordon, better known as 'Ralph Connor,' author of 'The Sky Pilot,' and the 'The Man from Glengarry.' Union sentiment was strongly reciprocated also by the Rev. Messrs. Silcox and Hamilton, representatives of the Congregational Union."
"Were the leading denominational body of the Presbyterian, Congregational or Methodist Churches in this country to appoint a committee on organic union with the other two, the news of it would be put by the daily papers in the earthquake column. Yet the Methodist General Conference in Canada has done precisely that—named a commission of its most prominent men to invite the Presbyterians and Congregationalists to come in and talk union. We should not, indeed, like to believe that there is any more actual antagonism among denominations in the Republic than in the Dominion; we are certainly learning here in the United States to be mighty good friends and mighty neighborly neighbors across the old sectarian chasms; but of union, other than within the lines of our different 'families' of churches, we have scarcely thought at all—it hardly seemed possible. But certainly these advancing Canadian folks are going to make us think about it, and we shall all be watching intently from this country to see how they succeed."
The struggle between the Russian agriculturists and the bureaucracy still continues. The members of the Zemstvos or local Councils ask for greater liberty of speech, and sometimes when this is refused resign in a body. They demand also, as a first instalment of reform, a revision of the system of taxation, which, they say, presses unduly upon the agriculturists. The reactionaries are furiously angry at the demand for more freedom of speech, and we can understand their fear of publicity if the horrible story told to the correspondent of the Times is as well founded as he believes. In one district of Kharkov some peasants were being tried for resisting authority, when their counsel asked permission to give evidence as to the conduct of the soldiers, who had not only flogged the peasants but outraged a great number of their women. It was pleaded that they had therefore been punished enough; but permission to give evidence was refused, and the peasants were sentenced to fines or short terms of imprisonment. There had been, in fact, a Dragonnade of the locality, and there is no redress.—London Spectator.