"THE MASTER PAINTED"
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"THE MASTER PAINTER"
When I see a picture upon a wall of some home or in some art gallery, I usually think first of the picture itself-it's beauty, the lesson it teaches, and the artist who painted it. Then I think about whether or not it would be possible for someone else either to reproduce it or paint a better one. When I think of the various artists of national and international fame and the beautiful pictures they have painted, I cannot help thinking of the Master Painter of them all-Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who with one gentle stroke, weaves the beautiful colors of the rainbow into a gorgeous scarf, and casts it on the drooping shoulders of the drifting storm cloud. Whether with words, in nature or in life, men paint beautiful pictures, surely Jesus of Nazareth is the Master of them all.
Four Kinds of Pictures
We usually think of an artist as one who paints a picture of some kind or another in oils or water colors upon a canvas, and while this kind of a person can truly be called an artist, we should remember that such a person is not the only artist, for there are many people who have never been classed by the general public as artists, but who are artists just the same. There are the artists who paint with oils; the artists who paint beautiful pictures with words, and the artists who paint pictures by the lives they live. In other words, there are four kinds of pictures which I desire to discuss: pictures in oils, pictures with
words, pictures of nature, and pictures of life, or living pictures.
When one splashes paint about on a canvas until he has produced the picture of a sail boat riding upon a calm and placid sea, or a huge steamer fighting the angry waves of a rough and tempestuous, storm-tossed ocean, it is a picture in oils. When you draw back the curtain from your window pane and behold the dew of the dawn sparkling like so many jewels on every blade of grass, or stand on the sea-kissed shore and watch the bursting whitecaps, or gaze into the west and, awe-inspired, behold the sun's last glow reaching up through majestic peaks and fading into the canopies of heaven, you are seeing a picture of nature, but when you stand by the side of the highway of life and watch the race of men passing by, and see what a traveler on the way of life DOES, you see a picture of life, or a living picture.
An eloquent speaker with his gift of oratory and powerful flow of language can paint beautiful word pictures of things he has seen, and I enjoy them, but like the man who refused to listen to another imitate the nightingale because he had heard the nightingale itself, I had rather see the thing described itself than to hear the description of the thing. Yes, I prefer usually a picture of nature above either word pictures or oil paintings, but more than any of these, I prefer pictures of life-living pictures. When Jesus said: "Behold the lilies of the field, they toil not, neither do they spin, yet Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these" he presented a beautiful picture in words, but I had rather see the lilies than simply hear them described. Of course, the lesson contained in this particular language is of greater importance. Mr. Guest said:
A Model Needed
If an artist wants to paint a picture of a beautiful lake nestled down at the foot of a
lofty plateau, or a murmuring brook winding its way to the sea, he takes his easel, paints and brushes and then goes out where he can find such a scene, then he studies the scene or model before him and paints a little on the canvas. Then he studies it a little more and paints a little more, and so on, until finally the picture is made. Whether the artist is attempting to reproduce a mountain scene or a prima donna he always studies his model carefully as he paints. A few years ago I was visiting Vice-President John Nance Garner in his home in Uvalde, Texas, and there was an artist sketching Mr. Garner on a canvas, and I noticed that he would study Mr. Garner very carefully and closely and then sketch a little, then study him some more, and I was impressed with the fact that he never attempted to work on the sketch while the model (Mr. Garner) was out of the room. The process of study a little and then paint a little must go on until the picture is complete.
Painting Life Pictures
Now, every man, woman, boy and girl in this wonderful world of ours is an artist-painter. We may not be able to paint with oils, but we all can and DO paint pictures of life, and are, therefore, artists. Each thing we think, say or do is a picture of life, which, if not visible to man, is visible to God. The kind of a picture or pictures that we paint as the artists of our own lives depends upon us and the model or models that we use. For instance, if we choose to associate with the evil and wicked people, we naturally have them as our models and are apt to become more and more like them as we continue our association with them. In such cases the Devil is our model and the picture of life will be poor indeed and terrible to look upon. It would not be fit to be
If Jesus Christ is the "Master Painter," he knows more about being an artist than any and all others, and we should take our lessons from Him. We should choose Him as our model, but before we discuss more fully the model, let us notice just how we go about painting the pictures of our lives.
It has been said, "Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit and reap a life," and from that quite true saying I might say that the things we think-our thoughts-are the paints we choose; the things we say and do are the application of the paints on the canvas of time. Day by day we are adding to the pictures of our lives (some of which may be good and some bad, but let us hope they are good and do our best to make sure that they are good.)
Realizing that it would be impossible through thousands of sermons to discuss each picture of life, I have decided to place them in three groups and discuss three pictures of life. Some of us may be in one group and some in another, but I do believe that all of us can be placed in one of the three pictures which I shall attempt to discuss.
The Satisfied Man
The first picture for our consideration is the picture of the SATISFIED man. The satisfied man is the kind of a man who really makes no choice as to his model, his paints or his application of the paint. He sees nothing
to do, does nothing and doesn't care. He has reached his zenith, he has finished, he is through. He is the kind of a citizen who can walk down the street and pass a dozen vacant lots filled with tin cans and weeds and never be disturbed, for he is satisfied with everything as it is and therefore never grows, never builds, never increases and is like a dead limb on a tree. And a dead limb always is the first to be blown away in a storm. As a citizen he belongs to the "spit and whittle club" and sits around town in front of the Piggly Wiggly store and passes his time in idle gossip or empty conversation. He isn't worth a dime to himself, his family or his country. He is the kind of a Christian, so called, who can walk into the church building on Sunday morning and, if the building is dirty, untidy, and the ceiling full of cobwebs, can sit down in the midst of it all perfectly satisfied. If the song books are old and worn and ragged, it doesn't bother him. If the crowd is small, he makes no effort to get others to come, because he is satisfied, regardless of many or few. If the collection is only a few cents, he doesn't try to increase it by giving more himself; he doesn't care-he is satisfied. He is like one who has just finished eating all he can hold and feels he will never need to eat again. It is sufficient to say that one who paints the picture of a satisfied Christian as the picture of his or her life certainly has not used Jesus as his or her model, and is NOT really a Christian and has NO promise of eternal life in the world to come. You might as well try to find hot ice and cold fire as to try to find a SATISFIED CHRISTIAN.
How many church members have you seen who boast of what they "have done" in the past and seem to be perfectly satisfied with standing on "past accomplishments" and are therefore doing nothing at "the present" and
have no plans for the "future"? I go somewhere to preach and I meet up with Bro. A., who immediately starts a conversation something like this: "Bro. Welch, were you ever in Anytown?" "Yes, I have been there, a time or two." "Well, did you ever preach there, or attend church there?" "Yes, once." "Well, you know that building there-I built that church 25 years ago-yes, sir, when I went there, there wasn't any church there, just a few members met down at Bro. B's house for communion, and I got them together and I raised the money myself to build that church building. And, Bro. Welch, I gave $150.00 on that building myself-yes, if it hadn't been for me, I don't suppose there would have been a church there. I was the first elder there, and was the senior elder there for more than 20 years." And then Bro. A rears back, puts his thumbs in his vest, and smilingly awaits my compliments! I check around and find that Bro. A hasn't done a thing for years. Satisfied, he is resting on, and living in the past, bragging about what he HAS done! It is fine that he has done something worth while; but, brother or sister, if you are that kind of person, let me say that I am much more interested in what you ARE doing and what you PLAN to do than I am in what you HAVE dune in the past. The accomplishments of yesterday will not suffice for today. This old stuff of, "I have done my part, so I am just sitting back and letting the others take care of things now," is sickening and is an unchristian attitude; brother, sister, the scriptures say: "Be thou faithful unto DEATH."
The Dissatisfied Man
Our next picture, unlike that of the satisfied man, is that of the DISSATISFIED fellow who, when walking down the street, sees
the same vacant lots filled with the same tin cans and weeds that the satisfied man saw, but instead of not even being disturbed; he growls, howls and complains about the ugly sight and is very much dissatisfied with it, but does nothing to see that these lots are converted into beauty spots. As a so-called Christian he is very much displeased with the small crowd at church, but never bothers to do something to get larger crowds. He fusses about the old and worn song books, but never offers to dig down into his pocket and help buy some new ones. He complains about the cobwebs on the ceiling, but does not offer to get the broom and sweep them down. The dissatisfied Christian, or citizen, is the type of person who sees all the bad, but never the good. He sees all the wrongs, but does nothing to right them; he sees all error, but does nothing to bring about a correction. He formulates no noble work, but rather searches for flaws and imperfections in nobler men and spends his time in querulous complaint. He is never constructive, but destructive and confusing. If you ever saw a vulture flying about in the sky with his eyes looking down on the earth seeking carrion with which to satisfy his depraved appetite, or reveling in filth from which nobler birds turn away in disgust, you have a fair picture of the dissatisfied man: As has been said, he is an iconoclast, a misanthropist, a cynic.
He borders his spirit with black
Such a person cannot be well pleasing unto God. Strife, confusion, and even division, is caused by DISSATISFIED Christians. One who strives to live in harmony with God's divine will, will never paint a picture of this kind, for it is all right whatever one's station or lot in life may be to "therewith be content," but it is nothing short of tragedy to be either SATISFIED or DISSATISFIED. The first is like some inanimate object and the second like a poisonous reptile, and neither picture is worth the painting. We should not be found in either of these groups, but if we will just stop to think, I feel sure that we can recall having met entirely too many, even church members, who belong to one or the other of the groups.
The Unsatisfied Man
Now let us notice the third picture of life, the UNSATISFIED man. Here we get what should be the true picture of life. Col. Charles A. Lindberg achieved a fair degree of success flying an aeroplane about over the United States of America, and had he been like the first picture we discussed, that of the satisfied man, he would have said, "Well, I have accomplished enough; I am famous enough, so I will just rest on my oars." But he was not satisfied with what he had done, for he realized there were many mountains, virgin soils, and oceans over which man had never flown, and he was not satisfied to rest on his laurels as long as there were greater things to do. He was UNSATISFIED, and this unsatisfied spirit led him to Paris and fame.
Richard E. Byrd is another shining example of the unsatisfied man. He flew across the north pole and dropped the Stars and Stripes of "Old Glory" there in the frozen north, and then flew across the Atlantic ocean and could have bragged the rest of his
life about his achievements, but he possessed the spirit of the unsatisfied person, and therefore realized there were still other virgin soils to explore, greater things yet to be accomplished, and that spirit led him on to the Antarctic and Little America. The greatest example, however, is that of the Apostle Paul, who said in writing to the Philippians in Phil. 3:13: "Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, FORGETTING those things which are BEHIND, and reaching forth unto those things which are BEFORE, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." Paul had done a great work, and made many notable sacrifices, but instead of standing about bragging about them, he realized there still were many other things to be done, a greater work, greater sacrifices to be made and greater heights to be reached. So he said, "I will not stand in retrospection, but I will turn my face to the front; I will forget the past and press toward the mark or the goal set before me." We should always strive to do a little better today than we did yesterday.
When Paul said in 2 Tim. 2:15, "Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman
that needeth not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth," he taught plainly that
our lives are like pictures hanging on the wall. People see them; they look upon us and we
present a picture to them, hence-"study to
on these things." Not only should we be careful with our thoughts, for "as a man thinketh in his heart so is he," but we should learn to be skillful in the application of the paint. We should use Jesus as our model, and be characterized by the spirit, not of the SATISFIED or the DISSATISFIED, but of the UNSATISFIED, and press on "toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."
Characteristics of Divine Model
In using Jesus as our model, let us notice the things which appear in the picture of His life. Let us remember that the Bible is the canvas which contains this picture. Jesus was obedient. In Heb. 5:8 Paul says, "Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered." Now, if in painting the picture of my life, I use Jesus as my model and attempt to reproduce the Christ life in mine, the picture of my life must contain the things painted into the picture God gave us of His Son and, therefore, must be obedient. Sacrifice has its part as we shall see later, but nothing, not even sacrifice, can take the place of obedience. "Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice." It is impossible for one to become a Christian, or remain a Christian, and not he obedient. You must he Christ-like; and to be Christ-like you must he obedient. (That is one reason why one cannot be a Christian without baptism, because the Bible commands us to be baptized, and unless we are obedient, we are not Christ-like. The term Christian means Christ-like.) Jesus once said, "Lo, in the volume of the book it is written of me, I came to do thy will, 0 God." For one to be a true Christian then, he must have as his very purpose in life, the desire to DO the will of GOD, and not the will of man.
In Matt. 9:27-30 we find a very touching story of compassion on the part of our Lord. He was moved with compassion. Are we compassionate? Are our hearts touched when we see misfortunates about us? Do we move with "compassion" and render aid when we can? Even while Jesus was suspended on the old rugged cross suffering and bleeding, the heaven darkened and the earth trembling, he prayed God to forgive the ones responsible for his death, and thereby manifested the greatest spirit of forgiveness ever known, as well as establishing himself as the most gracious one to ever place a foot on God's green earth. Now if we follow the model, we will be both forgiving and gracious. Yes, if we will follow the model, Christ, even to the end of the way, we shall some sweet day be able to plant our feet on the celestial shores of that evergreen land, and enter in through the gates into that beautiful city, whose builder and maker is God.
Dear friend, if you are not a member of the church of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, or if you belong to some sect, will you not look over the canvas of your life and compare it with the picture found on the sparkling pages of inspiration? I see Jesus walking some seventy miles over a dusty road to be baptized. I find he was obedient, gracious, sacrificing and faithful in all things. How about you? The picture in the Bible of baptism is a burial-if you have been baptized was it true to the model-A burial? Paul in
Rom. 6:4 says "buried with him by baptism into death." When you were baptized, was it for the remission of sins? Peter says in Acts 2:38, "Repent, and be baptized, everyone of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins." After you have heard the gospel, which is the "power of God unto salvation" (Rom. 1:16), you must believe, for "he that believeth not shall be condemned," repent, for in Lk. 13:3, we find that unless we repent we shall "all likewise perish," and then confess, not that God has, for Christ's sake, pardoned our sins, but that "Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God," as recorded in Acts 8:37, then be baptized "for the remission of sins." After you have rendered this obedience to the gospel, live a faithful and devoted Christian life, and heaven will be your home.
In conclusion, may I say that if there is anything on the canvas of your life that should not be there, and other things which should be there that have been left out, the blood of Christ is the only eraser that can remove the stains and make your canvas white and clean, in order that you may start anew to paint the kind of a picture you should paint, and the kind that will be pleasing unto God. Through faith, repentance, confession and baptism you may come in contact with the blood of Jesus and be made clean and pure. If you have rendered obedience to the gospel and then spoiled your picture, you may start over by repentance, confession and prayer.
My friends, why not so live that, in the words of Mr. Edgar A. Guest, you can say:
Not a few modern preachers of the sensational variety, taking advantage of the troubled and unsettled state of mind growing out of the present world crisis, are preaching on such topics as: "The End of the World Is Near," "The Second Coming of Christ at Hand," "Is Hitler the Beast of Prophecy?" "The World Dictator Approaches," "The Whole World Turns to Satan," etc. In these sermons they bemoan the degeneracy and corruption of our times-the widespread disrespect for law and order, the fearful bloodshed of a world war, the destruction of the American home and other evils-real and imaginary-of our age.
Ancient Constantinople vs. Modern City
If we look about us in this frame of mind, we are inclined to agree that our world may soon expect any kind of catastrophe. But let me read you a scholarly reflection on the times: "Our earth is degenerate in these latter days. There are signs that the world is speedily coming to an end. Bribery and corruption are common. Children no longer obey their parents. Every man wants to write a book, and the end of the world is evidently approaching."
Do you say: "This describes the age as I see it." Perhaps so, but to what age do you refer? "Why the present age," you say. Then it might be interesting to know that the quotation I have just given was written some forty-eight hundred years ago, in 2800 B. C. Dr. John Luke Gehman in his, "The Ceaseless
Circle," tells of seeing this doleful lament inscribed on a tablet in Constantinople.
"Earth degenerates in these latter days-world speedily coming to an end-bribery and corruption common-children no longer obey parents." Sounds very modern, doesn't it? In a popular magazine of recent date, I read something like this: "Our world has never experienced such fearful times. It would seem that we are about to destroy ourselves. Following the awful war, if any nation survives, it will he blasted by such evils as to make life near unbearable. Immorality, licentiousness, disrespect for orderly government, disintegration of home life-these must and will follow World War II to such a degree as they have never before been witnessed."
In 1920, Dr. Will Durant, describing the period following World War I, said: "Hope faded away; the generation which had lived through the war could no longer believe in anything; a wave of apathy and cynicism engulfed all but the youngest and least experienced souls. The idea of progress seemed now to be one of the shallowest delusions that has ever mocked man's misery, or lifted him up to a vain idealism and a monstrous futility. ("Is Progress a Delusion"-Harper's, November 1926.) In 1925, bishops of the Episcopal Church in convention in New Orleans, deplored "the spirit of lawlessness" of our generation and the "startling increase in crime, especially the increase in the number of youthful criminals" (Literary Digest, November 14, 1925). In the same year, President Calvin Coolidge said: "The functions of parenthood are breaking down." And Hon. William G. McAdoo, then Chief Magistrate of New York City, said: "Great masses of young fellows in the twenties are practically all of our criminals in the outlaw class. They have no
emotions of pity, love, friendship, gratitude or sense of responsibility. They despise their parents, hate the law and are in open war with its officers" (New York World, 1925).
Thus, we see that "inscribers" on ancient Constantinople tablets and modern preachers are not the only "prophets of doom." These statements are from outstanding world leaders of somewhat modern times. The preachers of 1926 joined in the refrain of "a decaying world." Dean W. R. Inge of St. Paul's Cathedral lamented "the death of outstanding preachers whose reputations can be compared with Liddon, Magee, Phillip Brooks and Farrar" (Spectator, London, 1925). And the Archbishop of Canterbury insisted that "there is no doubt at all that the average preaching of today is less thoughtful and less painstaking than in our fathers' day" (New York Times, 1925).
"Nothing New Under The Sun"
The similarity between the sentiment of twenty centuries after Christ, and that of twenty centuries before Christ, only emphasizes the truth of a statement made by King Solomon some three thousand years ago. He said: "The thing that hath been, is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done; and there is no new thing under the sun" (Ecclesiastes 1:9). Each age is inclined to describe itself as different from all other ages. Our pessimists-like those of every other age-describe us as having fallen to the very lowest level of degeneracy.
But for fear I might be accused of selecting an isolated expression of ancient pessimism, I give you another quotation. Here it is: "In the good old days every man's son born in wedlock was brought up, not in the chamber
of some hired nurse, but in his mother's lap, and at her knee, and that mother could have no higher praise than that she managed the house, and gave herself to her children. Nowadays, on the other hand, our children are handed over at their birth to some silly little servant maid with a male slave, who may be anyone, to help her, quite frequently the most worthless member of the whole establishment, incompetent for any serious service. Yes, and the parents themselves make no effort to train their little ones in goodness and self-control. They grow up in an atmosphere of laxness and pertness in which they come gradually to lose all sense of shame and all respect, both for themselves and other people. Again, there are the peculiar and characteristic vices of this metropolis of ours takes on, as it seems to me, almost in the mother's womb, the passion for play actors, and the mind for gladiatorial shows and horse racing. When the mind is engrossed in such occupations, what room is left for higher pursuits?"
Omit the word "slave" and substitute "night clubs," or "motion pictures" for "gladiatorial shows," and this might be a quotation from a serious writer, or preacher of modern times. Yet, it was the historian Tacitus who wrote this, some nineteen centuries ago! It would seem that nineteen centuries have not relieved us of the criticism of the present and the woeful predictions of the future.
Now vs. A Generation Past
Do I hear someone saying: "I do not know anything about the times nineteen or forty-eight centuries ago, but I do know that the younger generation is worse than young people were a generation ago?" And perhaps you will point to the drunkenness and debauchery found in some of our modern cities; and who
will say that there is not plenty to he found? Before we go further, let me quote from a news story appearing in a great daily newspaper. See if it doesn't just exactly describe the youngsters of our age, who are so rapidly "going to the dogs." Here is the quotation: "A wholesale business was going on this morning before His Honor in the Mayor's Court. Thirteen customers, including men, women and children, were brought to answer for the various charges alleged against them. Four of the fairer sex, charged with drunkenness and disorderly conduct, were sent to Mount Airy. Six old and young gentlemen, for being intoxicated, were permitted to rusticate a few days at the hill to regain their former health. Three, for vagrancy, were sent to the hill for thirty days each." Have you ever read such news? If you live in one of our modem cities, you may have read such a story in your daily newspaper this morning. But this story didn't come from today's paper, nor yesterday's paper. It is a quotation from a great newspaper, "The Pittsburgh Post," but the date of the paper is March 4, 1846!
Please be assured that no one laments the prevalence of the drink evil of our day more than does your radio preacher, and I am sure that no one is more vitally concerned with the welfare of our young people than I am,
and none can more deeply feel the sting of the truth that many of our young people-and old people-are living unwholesome lives; that a great many youngsters are engaging in questionable practices; that many are criminals and that a goodly number are inmates of our penal institutions; but the point is: This situation is nothing new.
"Your Life," August, 1942, under the heading, "It Is Foolish to Doubt the Future." quotes several great statesmen of the nineteenth century.
In 1801, Wilberforce declared: "I dare not marry, the future is so unsettled."
In 1806, William Pitt said: "There is scarcely anything longer but ruins and despair."
In 1848, Lord Shaftesbury said: "Nothing can save the British Empire from shipwreck."
In 1849, Disraeli declared: "In industry, commerce and agriculture there is no hope."
In 1852, the dying Wellington declared: "Thank God I shall be spared from seeing the consummation of ruin that is going on about us."
"The Atlantic Monthly" of December, 1926, carried an article by Archer Butler Hulbert entitled, "The Habit of Going to the Devil." Mr. Hulbert presented quotations from publications appearing between 1827 and 1857. Most any of these quotations might have been taken from any of our great modern newspapers or magazines.
I give you one published in 1831. Discussing the young people of that day, some writer said: "Large numbers of these youngsters belong to organized gangs of thieves and cutthroats, and are in the regular employ of old
criminals who teach them the tricks of the trade. Many such have no homes. Some cannot even return to the gang's headquarters, unless the day's profit amounts to a stipulated sum. From these, thousands of young desperadoes, the chief mass of hardened criminals is recruited. Half the number of persons actually convicted of crime are youths who have not reached the age of discretion. Of 256 convicts in Massachusetts State Prison, 45 were thieves at sixteen years of age and 127 had, at that age, become habitual drinkers."
In 1827 some wise scribe said: "A glance at our country, and its present moral condition, fills the mind with alarming apprehensions. The moral desolation and flood-tide of wickedness threatens to sweep away not only the blessing of religion, but the boasted freedom of our republican institutions as well." Conditions were no better in 1828. For, said one: "Due to the lack of moral restraint, the very freedom which we enjoy hastens this degrading process. Today the virtuous public sentiment does not frown down upon the criminal to shame him into secrecy." In this same year, it was complained that at a certain great university, "the few students who profess religion stand, as it were, alone; to attempt to stem the torrent of vice and immorality there would be considered a freakish innovation."
The good year of our Lord 1833 seems to have shown no improvement. In that year a writer complained that "youthful gambling, accompanied with a most degrading language as in the game of shooting craps, begins almost at infancy. A gentleman passing along the streets of Boston recently overheard a gang of boys shooting craps. The language issuing from their young lips might well have come from hell, and even there would have shocked the Satanic proprietor himself."
By 1843, if we are to believe the mournful prophets of that age, conditions in our country had become almost unbearable. One of them said: "It is clear that, instead of the masses of our people improving, they are sadly deteriorating. Murders, robberies, rapes, suicides and perjuries are as common as marriages and deaths. Killing appears to have become contagious. No day passes without an attempt somewhere in our country. Lawlessness has so increased that the expense of watching our army of criminals, of tracking and arresting them and of maintaining them in prison (together with the high costs of their felonies) is immeasurable." In the same year an article told of the arrest of a man in Boston for "fast driving," and complained that the "disastrous consequences of fast driving frequently follow carelessness in observing the traffic ordinances." This writer also observed that there was a general "disregard for all laws."
Nothing New in Styles
It seems that by the fateful year 1843, the ladies had, in the matter of their dress, offended the gentlemen almost as much as has Miss 1942! One writer--I am sure he was a man-complained of women's "extravagance in dress," and said that "silk stockings, curiously wrought with quirks and clocks about the ankles and interwoven with gold or silver threads, are all the rage."
In this connection it may shock some of our modern ladies of fashion to know that there are few articles in their make-up that cannot he traced back for many generations. A lady of the time of Caesar, whose statue still exists, had her hair waved very much as that of the modern lady. Antonia had her hair shingled. Nero's mother is described as having often had her hair "crinkled", as though she
might have just received a modern "permanent." Excavations in recent years of Egyptian tombs have revealed that the ancient Egyptian lady wore rouge. When Emperor Severus sent an expedition into Britain, it is said that he found the ladies dying their hair, and that yellow was the popular shade. It seems that it is no new thing that "gentlemen prefer blondes!"
What Generation Worst?
Are we to decide that our generation is so much worse than generations past, or that, any one of the generations from whose literature we have been quoting was worse than any other preceding generation? I think not. Many old people of any generation think of the present generation as being degenerate. Youth experiences wonderful days that make lasting impressions. Things are beautiful to youthful eyes. I remember a snow storm during my boyhood days in New Mexico. I am afraid I may have sometimes exaggerated the depth of the snow, for it measured high on a boy's legs! I am sure they never have any such snow storms now! Food is delicious to the healthful tastes of the young. I remember hearing my grandfather say, after he had passed his eightieth milestone: "They don't grow as good watermelons as they did when I was a boy." The young in every generation live on thrills. They are imaginative and hopeful. To the older people of every generation, the world is decaying; they live in the past, when everything was wonderful! In reality, however, there is very little difference in the past and the present. "The good old days" are largely a matter of exaggerated reminiscences. The advice of wise old King Solomon will again serve us well. He said: "Say not thou, what is the cause that the former days were
better than these'? For thou dost not inquire wisely concerning this" (Eccl. 7:10).
Horrors of War Not New
If we pessimistically point to the terrible conditions existing today in many European countries-the blood-curdling brutality of invaders and the heart-rending suffering of the invaded countries-we need not think these things peculiar to our age. We have an ancient sample of such conditions in Jerusalem in A.D. 70, when that city was invaded by a Roman army, under Titus. The historian Josephus tells us that "the famine began to extend its progress, and devour the people by whole houses and families. The upper rooms were full of women and children that were dying from famine, and the lanes of the city were full of the dead bodies of the aged. The children also, and the young men, wandered about the market-places like shadows, all swelled with the famine, and fell dead, wheresoever their misery found them. As for burying them, those that were sick were not able, and those that were well were deterred from doing it by the great multitude of those dead bodies, and by the uncertainly as to how soon they would die themselves. For many died as they were burying others, and many went to their coffins before that fatal hour was come." Of the Roman invaders, the historian says: "They brake open those houses which were no others than graves of dead bodies and plundered them of what they had, carrying off the coverings of their bodies, went out laughing, and tried the points of their swords in their dead bodies; and in order to prove what metal they were made of, they thrust some of those through that still lay alive upon the ground" (Wars of the Jews, Book 5. Chapter 12). This historian tells us that the hunger in Jerusalem
became so great that mothers ate their own children.
What Generation Best?
Shall we go to the other extreme, and think that our age is so much better than any preceding age? There are those who seem to think that all past ages were but periods of practice, while the world was getting ready to reach its summit of perfection in us! But our age is not alone in its optimism, any more than in its pessimism. In the fifteenth century Pierre de la Ramee wrote: "In one century we have seen a greater progress in men and works of learning than our ancestors had seen in the whole course of the previous fourteen centuries" (quoted by Will Durant, in Harper's, November, 1926).
In 1857, Buckle, in his "History of Civilization," predicted that the spread of knowledge would mitigate all human ills (Ibid).
Condrocet, a disciple of Voltaire, after escaping in 1793 from Robespierre, wrote one of the most optimistic books ever written "Sketch of a Tableau of the Progress of the Human Spirit." This was a beautiful prophecy of the coming glory of mankind. However, after finishing the book, the author had to flee from Paris, and was captured at a village inn and confined in the village jail. During the night he committed suicide.
I am persuaded that neither the past nor the present is vastly superior. When everything is considered, men are about the same from age to age. "The thing that hath been, is that which shall be, and that which is done, is that which shall be done, and there is no new thing under the sun."
There have been wars in the past; there is war at present, and from the lessons of history and the predictions of Jesus, it appears that future generations will also have their "wars and rumors of wars." With the inspired statement of Solomon, a modern philosopher agrees. In 1920, Will Durant said: "The hour glass of Aeons will turn itself around and pour out the unaltering past into an empty and delusively novel present. There is nothing new under the sun. All is vanity and a chasing after the wind" (Harper's, November, 1926).
Not Different from Fathers
Lest we become overly optimistic and too egotistic, we should learn the lesson of the prophet Elijah, who said: "I am not better than my fathers" (I Kings 19:4).
That there is much wickedness in the age in which we are living is not being denied, and possibly our world may be worse in some respects than in some past age, but probably
there are other respects in which improvements have been made. In every age we have had the reprobate, but in every age we have also had the righteous. Were my time not so limited, I think I could prove by history that we have always had myriads of good people who have never "bowed the knee to Baal."
In 1863, Fontenelle wrote his "Dialogue of the Dead," in which he pictured Socrates and Montaigne, in the spirit world, discussing progress on the earth. Socrates is anxious to learn of the advances mankind has made. Montaigne assures him that the world has degenerated; that there are no longer such powerful types as Pericles, Aristides or Socrates, himself. The old philosopher shrugs his shoulders and says: "In our days, we esteemed our ancestors more than they deserved, and now our posterity esteems us more than we deserve. There is really no difference between our ancestors, ourselves and our posterity." "The motto of history," says Schopenhauer, should be, "Cadem, sed aliter" - the same theme, but with variations.
Is Religion Failing?
In the somewhat recent past, some were deeply concerned about a widespread spirit of indifference toward religion. But that was nothing new. A well-known scholar of the eighteenth century said: "I have lived to see the final crisis, when religion hath lost its hold on the minds of the people." In the last century Dr. Arnold exclaimed: "The church as it now stands, no human power can save."
There seems now to be a trend toward what a recent writer describes as "The War Boom in Religion" (The American, November, 1942) It is pointed out that during the year that ended June 30, 1941, nearly twelve million soldiers
attended religious services, and that the 1943 figures will be much larger; that in certain army camps, during the hot month of August, from 85 to 90 per cent of the soldiers attended church services. During the twelve months preceding June 1, the American Bible Society had contributed nearly one million copies of the Scriptures among our armed forces. At present, this society is printing Testaments for army and navy use at the rate of 9,000 per day, and the Gideon Society has launched a plan to furnish twenty-five thousand copies of the Scriptures each week; while the Government, itself, has published three editions of the Scriptures for army use. Prior to 1940, there were only seventeen chapels on all of the army's 160 posts. In March, 1941, the War Department authorized the building of 604 chapels. All of these, and about 200 more, are completed, and many more are under construction.
These and many other indications of our time look favorable to the cause of religion. But let us remember that the history of mankind reveals a circuitous route. Man has turned from God into sin, then back to God and then back into sin-around and around, up and down, in and out!
The Perspective of Time
The reason we cannot properly judge the year 1942 is that we lack a proper point of vantage. We are too close for an appropriate appraisal. Our environment is in too close proximity to furnish a correct perspective. We do not get the best view of a great painting from its very base. We must have the proper perspective to appreciate art. We do not most clearly hear the tower chimes while in the tower.
When Christ established His church upon the earth, men flocked into it by the thousands --three thousand on one day and five thousand on another day, "and the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved" (Acts 2:47). But the generation that saw the launching of our Lord's religion had not passed until "the mystery of iniquity" began to work, and men departed from the faith and turned to heathen darkness. And so religion continued its downward trend until there came a period so blackened by apostasy that it is known as "The Dark Ages." But out of the darkness there finally arose the reformers, to give us the age of "The Protestant Reformation." Then many of the reforms of the reformers went awry, and the maze of Protestant confusion came to be little better than the darkness from which the reformers had emerged. After a while, however, out of the confusion of sectarianism there came a few restorers, urging a restoration of the light of New Testament truth.
Among the people who have been seeking to restore the glorious religion of New Testament days, there have arisen bickerings, strifes and divisions. But let us not be too pessimistic. If we were able to view the church of our time with proper perspective, we should probably see, here and there, a gleam of light, which gleam, though now somewhat faint, may some day combine in a glorious flood of Christian light that shall illuminate the paths of all honest seekers after truth.
While man is fickle and undependable, we need to remember that Jesus Christ is "the same yesterday, today and forever," and that to those who "observe all things whatsoever' he has commanded," he has promised, "And lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world" (Matt. 18:20). So the question of whether "the end of the world" be millenniums in the future, or at our very door, should not be our chief concern. It is, however, most vital that we know that we are among the number who have the promise of the Lord's presence to the end of the way.