A Transformed World

Is.2:1.---' The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.'

Isaiah was a prophet interpreting the mind of God. He was a statesman with a keen and comprehensive outlook on human affairs. He was also a poet bringing to human problems the illuminating imagination of the seer. His were days of international strife and convulsion, days witnessing vast world movements in which empires were seen at their birth, and empires were seen in withering decline and death. Isaiah was a man whose thought was distinguished by breadth and depth and length. He saw things broadly, he saw things deeply, and he also saw things which gleaned afar. And, as he looked out upon the world, to his vision the troubled and chaotic day merged into a reconstituted order of active concord and peace. Isaiah was a confirmed optimist. He had a keen sense of the future. He felt the days before him. He could scent the waving harvest while yet the snow was on the ground. And looking out over the dark scene of convulsion and disaster, and amid the rude and brutal clamor of international strife, he sang this song of the morning---'They shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.' If we are purposing to rebuild the fallen ideals of our own day, and so reconstruct our common life, can we do better than stand near this man for guidance and inspiration?

How, then, does he say that the golden dream is to be realized? Through what preparatory stages are we to pass before we reach the shining consummation?

Isaiah declares that the fulfillment of the dream is to begin with the enthronement of religion. 'It shall come to pass in the last days that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains.' It may seem like self-interest for religion to talk in that way, but it has the support of history, and it is the mind of Christ. 'Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.' The Kingdom of God is first spiritual, and then it is material in the widest possible sense. Our Lord confirmed the prophetic order: first a converted people, and then converted weapons of war and converted conditions of living. Every human good begins with the enthronement of God, 'in the top of the mountains,' as the prophet put it in his figurative and arresting way. The will of God on the top of all our interests; the pre-eminence of His Kingdom above every other concern.

The mountain here is predominant over all mere hills. It is established in the place of authority, a High Altar not made with hands, to which the nations will bring the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. Such is the imagery of the prophet. And indeed it is an impressive sight to see a mountain overtopping even the mountains themselves. Between the capital and the Pacific coasts of Columbia the traveler must cross the Quindo pass, traversing the Central Cordillera of the Andes. The winding path leads over the hills, not far from the extinct volcano, Tolima. All around, the summits, although 10,000 to 12,000 feet in height, are covered with grass and pastureland. But when the clouds part and a glimpse is caught of Tolima, with some 18,000 feet of altitude, a different thing is seen. This beautiful peak dwells in the realms of perpetual snow. There is none immediately at hand to rival it. Its perfect conical form makes it as fair a sight as can be seen in the extension of the Andes. Where others abide the question it is free to dwell apart, clothed in its mantle of virgin white. Its supremacy is unquestioned, its predominance without competitor. For it reigns by right of its spotless purity.

When our Lord pressed for the pre-eminence of God in the affairs of human life, He was only enforcing His own practice upon the lives of men and women. He made the will of God supreme in His own experience. He gave it undisputed sway, even when that will seemed to crush Him to the earth and nail Him to the torturing Cross. He was tried to the upmost, but He believed in the will of God to the uttermost, and because it was working, as it ever does, for the good of the world. He laid His life on its holy altar, so that we might have comfort by His sorrow and life by His death.

It is not enough to say that the universe means intensely and means good! That is too impersonal. Christ affirms that God means intensely and means good. And when we are willing 'to prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God,' by making it the sovereign aim of the world's conduct and policy, we shall find the way to the better state of which men dreamed even while they missed the road. Christ is the one sure guide to the golden goal.

Today as never before, Jesus stands out as the moral leader of humanity. The principles which He laid down have been vindicated through the bitter experiences of the last few years, and men of all opinions are now agreed that the society of the future can be securely built on no other foundation.

When the Kingdom of God holds the premier place in the concerns of mankind, certain results are assured. New kinships are established. 'All nations shall flow into it, and many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, and he will teach us of his ways and we will walk in his paths.' Human nature will require to be greatly transformed before there can be this spontaneous agreement about a common policy. But the prophet rests his forecast on a sure foundation---the accepted supremacy of the will of God in the whole field of human interest and pursuit.

There is an elemental unity in this, 'God made of one blood all nations of men to dwell upon the earth.' We all bear the imprint of our making and of our Maker. But there is something deeper than this common material origin. There are common instincts and intuitions, cravings, longings, hopes and fears that hold us together. The essentially religious nature of mankind holds the brightest possibility of world kinship. Paul found at Athens an altar 'To the Unknown God,' a significant creation and a significant confession. So strong is the instinct to worship, so incontrovertible the wisdom and necessity of worship, that the substance and form of worship were preserved even when the object worshipped was unknown. It is Christ who draws that human nature to Himself, cleanses its faults, purifies its life, harmonizes its relationships, and makes it apparent that every redeemed life assists the redemption of the whole world. All varieties of age, all diversities of temperament, all distinctions of color, all degrees of culture, all grades of development of race and of experience may be redeemed and reconciled in Him. To Him the nations will give consent; 'He will teach us of his ways and we will walk in his paths.'

The universality of Jesus' appeal is shattering. it is non-ethnic, non-national, non-organizable, non-exclusive. Within it every people, and tongue, and tribe, find ample room. It is with a finishing end with humanity. It is the only set of ideas and impulses that has yet been discovered, upon the basis of which humanity can get together.

Thus it is natural to have this further point---the transformations that characterize the Kingdom of God. 'They shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.' The nations shall bring their cases to the arbitration's of Zion, where they shall be peacefully settled in the atmosphere and impartiality of God's righteous rule. Men have a long way to go before these arbitration's become possible. In the last days! said the prophet. But Jesus introduced no time element. He hoped it might be sooner rather than later!

If swords are to be beaten into ploughshares and spears into pruning-hooks, where must that work begin? It must begin in the individual heart. We are never going to get the swords out of the nations until we have got them out of the hearts. There is a sword in every national heart, and that sword has got to be transformed before the material sword can become a ploughshare of the field! We are all familiar with our own swords; perhaps we ought to say, we are all acquainted with one anothers swords. There is the sword of ill-will. There is the spear of deadly gossip. There is the sword of evil prejudice. There is the spear of petty spite and contempt. The transformation of the world must begin in the conversion of people like ourselves. There is no other way. When our own militaristic weapons are changed---malice changed into good-will, suspicion into enlightened understanding, cynicism into genial and gracious esteem, and hatred into Christ's own strong and fruitful love---then we are bringing the day nearer of which the herald angels sang, when there shall be 'peace on earth and good-will among men.'

Peace is not a thing which can be secured by itself alone. In order to obtain it, you must get something larger that includes it---something of which peace is a by-product. That larger thing is the Christ-spirit in the hearts of men. As long as hearts are filled with jealousy and suspicion and rival ambitions, we must have strife between individuals, clashes between classes, and war between nations. Only as the thoughts and deeds of men are controlled by a spirit of unselfishness and good-will, can we hope for a substantial and abiding peace.

In Christ, timothy. maranatha