The Second Advent

Rom. 13:12.---' The night is far spent, the day is at hand.'

When the Apostle wrote these words he was nearing the end, not of an ordinary letter, but of a carefully-thought-out argument for faith in Christ. In writing to the Christians of the imperial city of Rome, he urged that Christ died and lived again that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living. He sought to explain the nature of the Kingdom of God which Christ came to set up; it was, he finely concluded, 'righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.' Neither the then state of the world, nor even that of the Christian community at Rome, seemed to confirm the Apostle's message. But just because in the fullness of time Jesus, the Christ of God, had come, the Apostle was confident that the dawn was approaching: 'The night is far spent, and the day is at hand.' St. Paul knew full well that humanity's troubled past, with its bitter perplexities, its struggles within and without, was naturally expressed by the simile of darkness. The endeavor of Christ's early followers to walk in their Master's footsteps was only too obviously like the attempt of a man to keep to a difficult path at night time. The Roman converts were tempted by sins, some as insidious as, and others even more gross than, those to which we all tend to yield. The Apostle had heard of dissensions among the converts. He knew their moral weakness. Like a wise man, he learned without surprise that among them there was strife and jealousy, reveling and drunkenness---the vices of the paganism in which they had lived before they accepted the gospel of Christ. Yet he was also sure that there were signs of better things. There was, he had heard, in the newly formed community a loyal desire to serve Christ, and a love for the Savior which was showing itself in spiritual growth. So he was led to say confidently, 'Salvation is nearer to us than when we first believed.' The power of the gospel was being revealed in the life of each sincere follower of the Lord; and thus of each one it was in some sense true that 'the night is far spent, and the day is at hand.'

Probably, however, these words also refer directly to the Second Coming of Christ. The night of Christ's absence is nearly over and the day---dawn of His appearance---is at hand. Our perfect salvation is to be brought when He appears, and in this lies the call to alertness and expectation.

Whatever view we take of Christ's Second Coming, it must not be allowed to fall into the background of our thoughts. There are at least two reasons why we cannot afford to give it up.

First, there is nothing in the New Testament and nothing in our knowledge of history to encourage the view that this world is ever likely to become, by means of enlightened human effort, an ideal dwelling-place for human beings.

Secondly, experience does not tend to show that men are necessarily made good by improving the outside of life. There is greater capacity for wealth production in the modern world than the ancients ever dreamed of, but men are as selfish as ever in their manner of using it, and as ruthless in their material rivalries. No, more, we have reached a point at which it must be honestly confessed that we have succeeded in acquiring a greater mastery of natural forces than we are morally fit to be entrusted with, and no greater danger threatens our civilization.

What are we making of life? The answer to this question is that faith in Christ implies aiming at a new quality of life and in a new power. What came to the world in Jesus of Nazareth around two thousand years ago has to be worked out in ourselves and expressed in all our relationships. We know not how or when God will intervene to deliver us from our present bondage, but we know that He will do so, for this is His world, and He cannot forsake it. Our salvation may be nearer than we think, and no follower of Christ should be so faithless as to cease to look and labor for it. The truth is always other than merely what appearances proclaim; Christ is always coming in the hearts and lives of men. He cannot be stayed, and He shall yet be manifest---perhaps more speedily and overwhelmingly than most of us dare to hope---in an invincible uprising of the latent good that slumbers in the human soul, sweeping away before it the nightmare of universal dread, and bearing on its wings to the uttermost corners of the earth a new and joyous confidence in the reign of universal fraternity and goodwill. If we believe this we must act on it. Not even omnipotence can deliver us from our ills in spite of ourselves. Spiritual ends are attained by spiritual means, and the one force that can save and lift humanity is the Spirit of Christ operating through the consecrated wills of the men and women who really believe in Him and are prepared to dare everything for His sake.

I do sometimes dream dreams, and I see a vision of what the world will be when the spirit of love and sacrifice, which has actuated some noble spirits in all ages, and which shone with the glory of full perfection in the life and example of Jesus of Nazareth, shall animate all men. I see this sordid struggle for a material existence superseded by a social order in which men seek the gratification of their natural ambitions not by the amount of tribute they levy on their fellows, but by the greatness of the service they can render to them . . . . I see everywhere a change come over the face of the landscape; every meadow smiles with plenty, every valley blossoms as the rose, every hill is green with the glory of Lebanon. I see a revived art and a revived literature; I see a people, healthy, happy, cultured, contented, whose wealth is life, full and free, whose ways are ways of pleasantness, whose paths are paths of peace. And my vision extends beyond the confines of my own dear land, and I see this spirit of brotherhood among the nations has broken down international barriers and international hatred is no more; the sword is beaten into a ploughshare, the spear into a pruning-hook, and the peoples of all lands are one, each freely sharing of its special bounties to add to the comforts of all. Is this but a vision, or is it a prophecy of a day that shall yet dawn on a world ransomed by love and sacrifice?

There is one special task to which the church of Christ is urgently called at the present time. It is that of moralizing the group mind. We shall have to master and train the herd instinct so that it shall become something worthier than a mere cooperation of material interests; we must purify and ennoble the group consciousness, whether that of the nation or that of the class; and this will be a very difficult thing to do, because the group consciousness is so largely sub-rational.

'Righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.' What we would not stoop to do in the case of our next-door neighbor becomes no more reputable because done by the community as a whole and to another people. Once see this clearly, and it will make all the difference in the relations of one class with another or one people with another.

There are dark hours in every individual life when all that once was bright and blessed in our experience seems to us to have perished for ever without hope of growth. The danger is not what we think it is; it is not that we may continue in darkness for ever, but that we may prove unfaithful to the call of the morning. 'The night is far spent, the day is at hand.' The worst part of any dark experience is the feeling that it will never end. But this is sheer delusion; it is not the will of God that any soul should abide in the prison cell of sorrow and sin, and the two are more often found in conjunction than is commonly supposed. 'Unto you that fear my name, saith the Lord, shall the sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings.' Every day is a new advent of Christ, every morning the refreshing beams of His love shine anew upon our waking eyes. Rise up to meet Him; shake off the deadly deceits which accompany loss of vision; put on the whole armor of God, and go forth into the light.

In Christ, timothy. maranatha