World-Winning – The Coming Victory
Failure Swallowed by Victory
But God’s failures are only for a while. They are real. There is the tragic element in them. There is the deep, sad tinge of disappointment running throughout this old Book of God. Yet the failures are only for a time. Sometimes it seems a very long time, especially if you are living through some of it. But the time reaches eagerly to an end. Victory comes. And God’s victory will be so great as to make us completely forget the failures that marred the road.
The Eden plan was more than a plan. It was a prophecy of the final outcome. The Book of God begins with failure, but it ends with a glowing picture of great victory, painted with rose colors. Every feature of beauty and of good in Eden has grown greatly in John’s Revelation climax. The garden of Genesis becomes a garden-city. All the simplicity and purity of garden life, and all the development and power represented by city life, are brought together. There is now a river of life, and the tree of life has grown into a grove.
And God isn’t through with that nation of Israel yet. The Jew can’t be lost. In every nation under heaven he can be found to-day, a walking reminder of God’s plan. Every Jew, in whatever ghetto he may be found, is an unconscious prophecy of a coming fulfilment of God’s purpose. The strange racial immortality of the Jew is a puzzle from every standpoint, except God’s. He can’t be killed off; though men have never ceased trying to kill him off. The Jew looms up bigger to-day than for many generations.
The present strange restless Jewish longing for national existence again, that will not down, spells out the coming victory of God’s plan after centuries of failure. And even though the present tide may run out toward ebb, it will be to gather force for a new and fuller flood. When God’s plan works out the world will have a wholly new idea of national life, and of a world-power without army or navy or any show of force, touching all men, and touching them only to bless.
And though King Saul failed, there was already the ruddy David, out among the sheep, waiting the anointing oil, and carrying about in his person his nation’s greatest king.
Jesus’ Judas failed to realize the promise of his earlier days. He struck the record note for baseness. But Paul was being prepared by blood inheritance and scholarly training. Under the touch of the Master’s own hand he became the Church’s greatest leader in its life-mission. If Judas struck the lowest note, Paul rang the changes on the highest note of personal loyalty to Jesus and to His world-wide passion and purpose.
And the Church has waked up. I said, you remember, last evening, that if you look over the whole history of the Church since its birthday on Pentecost, you are pained by the sore fact that the chief mission entrusted to it has been for the most part forgotten. There has been more forgetting of it, and neglecting it, than fulfilling it.
Yet always, be it keenly noted, in every generation of these centuries there have been those whose vision of Olivet never dimmed. There have always been those who have tried faithfully to carry out the Church’s great mission. The darkest days have never been without some of the brightest light, made all the brighter by the surrounding night.
The Revised Missionary Motto
But there’s a new chapter of the Church’s life being written as we talk together. Its writing began in the closing twilight of the eighteenth century. That chapter isn’t finished yet. Some of its best pages are now being written, with more and better clearly coming.
Its first lines were written by a very common pen. Carey’s English cobbler-shop became a sounding-board whose insistent, ringing messages began to waken the Church. The Church is waking up, and shaking itself, and tightening on its clothes, for the greatest work yet to be done in fulfilling the life-mission entrusted to it.
A hundred years ago the fire of God found fresh kindling stuff in the hearts and brains of a few young college fellows in an old New England village. The sore need of the world crowded in upon them by night and by day. But they were few, and young, and unknown. And the task was stupendous. The rain-storm of a Sabbath afternoon drove them to the shelter of a hay-stack. And the storm of the world’s need drove them to the shelter of prayer, and then to the shelter of a great purpose. With simple faith in God, and strong devotion to the great neglected task, they spoke out to the Church the thrilling words, “We can do it if we will”.
And on that same spot a hundred years later the Church gathered. Those intense words had been heard. The Church had waked up. Men of long service in far-away lands stood with those of the home circle. They talked of the past, but far more of the present and future. They revised the century-old motto. No group of scholars in the Jerusalem Chamber of Westminster Abbey ever did finer revision work. They said, “We can do it, and we will”. No greater tribute to the memory of the faithful little hay-stack group was ever made than in that changed motto.
The young collegians’ bold cry had sounded out throughout the Church. And the Church heard and roused up. The modern missionary movement of the Church is the most marked development of the past century of church history. It can be said that the Church of our day in its missionary activity far exceeds the early Church. That is to say, in certain particulars we have exceeded.
It is common to refer to the missionary zeal of the first centuries. Fresh from the Master’s touch, the early Church was chiefly a missionary church. One great purpose gripped it, and that was to take the news of Jesus everywhere. And they went everywhere. We know most about Paul’s journeys in the Grecian and Roman worlds. But there is good evidence that there is another “Acts of Apostles” beside the one bound up in this Bible. Out to the farthest reaches of the earth they seemed to have gone in those early days, preaching and winning men and establishing church societies.
The bulk of the modern movement is without doubt greatly in excess of the early movement. The number of men out in various fields, the amount of money being given annually by the Church in America and Great Britain and the Continental countries is so much greater as to leave comparison practically out.
In the thoroughness of organization, the elements of permanency, the great variety of means used such as hospitals, schools, literature, and industrial helps, the present probably exceeds by far the early movement. The statesmanlike study by church leaders of the whole world-field, the steadiness of movement year after year, in spite of difficulties and discouragements, the careful systematic effort to inform and arouse the home church–these are marked features of the present foreign-mission campaign. They are such as to awaken the deepest admiration of any thoughtful onlooker. In all of this the modern Church is making a wholly new record.
Ahead, But Behind
Yet, while all this is true, it can be said just as truly that the Church, as a whole, is so far behind the primitive Church as, again, practically to leave comparison out of the question. They were so far ahead in the mass of their movement that we are scarcely in the lists at all. Then the whole Church was an active missionary society. Every one went and preached. The nearest approach to it in modern times probably is the movement of the native Church of Korea. This foreign people seems to have caught the early spirit. Our heathen brothers are taking their place as pace-setters for the Church.
By contrast with that, the modern activity has been by a minority, really a small minority, though a steadily growing one. The leaders have struggled heroically against enormous odds in the backward pull of the majority.
Then they went everywhere. That is, they went everywhere that they could, so far as open doors, or doors that could be pried open, let them. We have gone actually farther, and to more places probably, but we haven’t begun to go everywhere that we could.
Our ability to go, and the urgent requests for us to come, would carry us to thousands of places not yet touched. If we began to do things as the early Church people did, it would stand out as one of the greatest movements in the history of the race. If a small minority of us have made such enormous strides what could the whole of us do if we would!
In a Swift Current
The momentum of the present missionary movement has been startling. It suggests that we are on the eve of an advance undreamed of by the most enthusiastic. The last twenty-odd years have seen progress clear outstripping that of the previous hundred, though all built upon the foundations so well laid by the earlier leaders of the century.
In answer to the earnest persistent prayer of a few, the Spirit of God found new stuff ready for His kindling fires among the colleges. The story of the prayer of a few that preceded the forming of the Student Volunteer Movement is thrilling. That great movement was literally conceived and brought forth in the travail of prayer. Its wide-spread influence upon the colleges, and then upon the churches; its early campaigning, its remarkable leaders, its great conventions, the steadiness of its growing influence through more than twenty years, and the distinct mark it has made upon the whole mission propaganda abroad, make up one of the most thrilling chapters of church history, ancient or modern. To-day its influence encircles the earth. Its volunteers are found everywhere.
Its reflex influence upon that other movement, the Young Men’s Christian Association, has been no small part of its work. The two have been interwoven from the beginning, each contributing immeasurably to the other. The practical power of the Young Men’s Christian Association on foreign soil is recognized by the Church, and by foreign governments, as of a value clear beyond calculation or statement.
It has come to be one of the great expressions of the unifying spirit of the Church on foreign-mission soil. Our churches at home may go their separate ways, largely. But the pressure of the sore need of the foreign world has been welding the churches there together remarkably. The Christian Associations, both of young men and young women, belonging to all the Church and representing all, have held a strategic position in action, and been of inestimable service to the Church in its missionary propaganda.
The Young People’s Missionary Movement, whose long, warm fingers are reaching throughout the whole Church, and the newer Laymen’s Missionary Movement with its aggressive campaigning, are both remarkable expressions of the new uprising.
The women of the Church were forehanded in their earnest working and praying. They were up at dawn of day. Their influence is mighty, clear beyond any words to express. And now at last the men are waking up, and the new life is showing itself anew within organic church lines. Men’s missionary conventions, with great attendances, are swinging into line, and revealing the awakeness of the Church.
Power of Leadership
The enormous power of personal influence and of devoted leadership has been most marked. In the throng of strong men that lead in all this activity there are two men that by common consent stand out big in the group. Young men they are, both of them, not yet in the full prime of their powers. One has a genius for organization probably never surpassed, if equalled, by military general, or Jesuit chief, or modern captain of industry. The other has mental grasp, keenness of thought, and power of persuasive speech not surpassed by any, if equalled. Both are marked by a singularly deep, tender spirituality, a rare gift of leadership, a poise of judgment, and a devotion to the Church’s great mission as true and steady as the polar star.
Around these two young men has grouped up in no small measure this later missionary activity. And it is probably quite within the mark to say that no stronger, abler men can be found in any of the great activities of life to-day in either of these two great English-speaking peoples. It is surely significant that the modern missionary movement rallies around such giants.
It is worthy of special note, too, that the body of men to whom is entrusted the administration of this vast network of foreign service, the foreign-board members and secretaries of the Church, have developed such remarkable power and skill. No body of men has problems more intricate and exacting and difficult. And no body of men in any sphere of activity has shown greater diplomacy and astuteness, hard sound sense, and untiring devotion.
Some good friends are sometimes disposed to be critical of methods and management. They think the affair could be conducted better in some details which they think important. Well, it would be surprising if it were not so. The same criticisms are made of every governmental and great industrial enterprise. Everything human seems to make progress by correcting and improving. But the thing for you and me to keep a critically keen eye upon is this: that no such detail be allowed to affect by so much as a hair’s weight the steadfast ardor of our support.
No strong man in the thick of the great driving purpose of his life is turned aside or stopped by the biting or buzzing of a few insects. If even they can’t be brushed aside, let them buzz and bite, but don’t let the great passion of a life be affected by them. Indeed, they will be clean forgot, even while they are remembered, by the man who has been caught and swept by the fire of his Master’s passion for a world.
A Minority Movement
Yet, be it keenly marked, these great strides have been made by a minority, who have followed the strong leaders. The whole Church is not yet awake. Many protest strenuously against being waked up. The alarm-clocks bother them. Sometimes one is inclined to think that the foreign boards are peculiarly placed between a refrigerator and a furnace.
Missionaries come back home fresh from the front fairly aflame with the fervor of their enthusiasm. Their convictions of what could be done, and should be done, are apt to be spoken out with great positiveness. They seem to some to suggest in an uncomfortable way the thought of a glowing furnace. And many in the home churches seem able to listen with such indifference as to suggest to these returned men and women the chilling air of an ice-box. In between the two sits the Church board engaging in the difficult task of trying to equalize the temperature. But that’s merely a detail in passing.
The great fact to mark is that never has the missionary movement bulked so large. And never have such broad statesmanlike plans, such aggressiveness of spirit, coupled with deep devotion, marked the Church in its great life-mission.
One morning at a popular summer resort on the Long Island Sound coast thousands of bathers were enjoying the surf-bathing. The life-saving crew were stationed for duty, on the lookout for any accident. A gentleman standing by one of the crew asked him how he could tell if help were needed. There were thousands of bathers, and a perfect babel of noises. The weather-beaten man, bronzed and toughened and trained to keenness in his work by years of service, said, “I can always hear a cry of distress, no matter how great the noise and confusion. There never yet has been a cry of need I haven’t heard.”
For a long time the confusion of noises bothered the Church ears. But now the cry of distress from over the wide seas is being heard again distinctly, and is being responded to splendidly. The very earnestness of response and effort is a forerunner of sure victory.
A Great World-chorus
I recall vividly a scene in Albert Hall in London nearly fifteen years ago. A remarkable gathering from all parts of the world had come together to celebrate the jubilee of the Young Men’s Christian Association. About two thousand men had come from the ends of the earth. It was a world-gathering. There were sturdy Englishmen, cosmopolitan Americans, canny Scots, quick-witted Irishmen, sweet-voiced, fervid-spirited Welshmen, and courtly, suave Frenchmen.
Fair-haired, blue-eyed Scandinavians mingled with olive-skinned, black-eyed sons of Italy. The steady-going Hollander and the intense German mingled their deep gutturals with the songs of praise and the discussions. A few turbaned heads, inscrutably quiet almond-eyes, and others of energetic step and speech brought to mind the Great Orient, India and China and Japan. Men won up out of the savagery of Africa sat with Islanders from the Pacific.
They came from many communions and represented many creeds, and spoke as many tongues as the Jerusalem crowds on the day of Pentecost. But they were drawn together not by their attractive diversity, but because of their oneness. The drawing-power of Jesus was the magnet that drew them. It was the music of His Name that made all their tongues and languages blend and chord in sweet harmony.
This night I speak of they had gathered in the great oval-shaped Albert Hall opposite Hyde Park. With the Londoners, probably, fully ten thousand persons were present. And I think I shall never forget the vast volume of sound, as, led by a chorus of Scandinavian students, they all united in singing, “All hail the power of Jesus’ Name.”
They didn’t sing it to our American tune of “Coronation,” but to the old English “Miles Lane.” That tune, you remember, repeats over four times the words, “Crown Him,” in the last line, gradually increasing in volume, and the fourth time touched with a bit of quieting awe.
I can close my eyes now, and see that great world-gathering and hear again the sweet rhythmic thunder of their singing:
“And crown Him, Crown Him, CROWN HIM, Crown Him, Lord of all.” No one can tell to another the thrill and thrall of such a sight and sound. It was all unconsciously a bit of prophecy acted out, faint but distinct, of the great day of victory that is coming.
The Oratorio of Victory
Have you ever noticed the Oratorio of Revelation? Lovers of music should study the book of the Revelation of Saint John, for its mighty choruses. It is striking just now to notice the double key-note of that closing climactic book of this old Bible. It is this: Satan chained, and Christ crowned. But note for a moment the oratorio sounding its music through these pages.
It opens with a solo in the first chapter. John begins writing with steady pen until he seems to get a glimpse of Jesus. Then his pen drops the story, and he begins singing:
“Unto Him that loveth us, And loosed us from our sin by His own blood; And hath made us a kingdom, Priests unto His God and Father; To Him the glory and the dominion Forever and ever.” In chapter four comes a quartette. The four living creatures round about the throne take up the refrain of John’s solo. And, as they sing, their song is caught up by a sextuple quartette, twenty-four white-robed, crowned men before the throne.
In chapter five the Angel Chorus swings in. They are grouped round about the quartette, and the twenty-four elders. John begins to count them. Then his figures give out. His knowledge of mathematics is too limited. There were ten thousand times ten thousand, and unnumbered thousands of thousands. As far as his eye could reach, to left and right, before and behind, was one vast sea of angel faces.
And John listened enraptured and awed, as their wondrous volume of rhythm rang and thundered out. Sweet sopranos and mellow contraltos; ringing tenors and deep basses; first one, then the other, back and forth responding to each other, then all together; marvellous music it must have been.
Then the refrain of their song is caught up by the Creation Chorus. Every living creature in heaven and on the earth and under the earth, as though unable to resist the contagious sweep, catch up the music and add their own to it. We don’t commonly associate music with the animal creation, nor with nature. It has been said that all the sounds of nature are keyed in the minor, as though some suffering had affected them. We talk of the sighing of the wind, the moaning of the sea-waves, and the mourning of the doves. Though the singing-birds must be excepted. They seem to have caught and kept some of the upper strains.
But evidently something has occurred to strike a new key-note. For now they take up the refrain of the joyous song of the others, and increase the mighty song by their own.
In chapter seven the music has ceased or softened down and is taken up afresh by the Martyr Chorus. Again John’s figures give out. He declares that nobody could count the multitudes that make up this chorus. It is a polyglot chorus. They sing in many different languages, but all blend into full rhythm. It’s a scarred chorus, too. These have been through great tribulation. Their scars tell the mute story of the fierceness of the fight, and the steadiness of their faith.
Through their singing runs a distinct strain of the minor. Its strangely sweet cadence, learned in many an hour of pain, runs as an under-chording through the song of triumph that now fills their hearts and mouths. And as they sing, the angel chorus and the quartette drop to their knees, and swell the wondrous refrain.
In chapter fourteen comes the music of the Chorus of Pure Ones. They are gathered close about the person of Jesus. They sing to the accompaniment of a great company of harpers. They sing with a peculiar clearness in their tones. Theirs is a new song. Purity always makes a music of its own, unapproachable for sweetness and clearness.
The Victors’ Chorus rings out its song in chapter fifteen. These have been in the thickest of the fighting. The smoke of the battle has tanned their faces. They have struggled with the enemy at close range, hip and thigh, nip and tuck, close parry and hard thrust. And they have come off victors. The ring of triumph resounds in their voices, as to the sound of their own harps, harps of God, they add their tribute of song to all the others.
And at the last comes the great Hallelujah Chorus, in chapter nineteen. In response to the precentor’s call, they all join their voices in one vast melody. The Quartette, the Sextuples, the Angels, the Creation, the Martyrs, the Pure-Ones, the Victors–all sing their song together.
John tries to tell what it was like. His mind went quickly back to earlier days in his home city, Jerusalem, when thousands of pilgrims crowded the temple areas and narrow streets, and spread out over the hills. The unceasing sound of their voices in speech and in their pilgrim songs of praise comes back to him. He says it was like that.
But that isn’t satisfactory. It is so much more. He thinks of how the ocean-waves keep pounding, with cannon-roar, on the rocky beach of his Patmos prison isle. So he said it was like that. But still more is needed to give an idea of the vast volume of sound. And he remembers how sometimes the thunders crashed and boomed and roared above him as he lay in his solitude on that lonely bit of sea-girt land. It was like that. It was like all of these together.
And what is it they are singing? Well, there’s a variety in the wording of their song, as well as in their voices. But through all runs a refrain that brings back to me the great London chorus. It is this–
“And crown Him! Crown Him!! CROWN HIM!!! Yes, Crown Him Lord of all.” It is the rehearsal of the great Oratorio of Victory that we are all to join in singing.