The times which are to precede the coming of the Lord are to contain an abundance of evidence that He near. There are to be signs in the heavens—the darkening of the sun and moon and the falling of the stars. There are to be signs on the earth—sin, wickedness, and unbelief in a marked degree. Vast preparing for battle are to tell that the nations are angry. From all these things we are to understand that wrath is soon to be poured out.
Excessive militarism accents the nearness of Christ’s return
Of the nations the Lord has said they shall have “distress” with “perplexity”. A glance at the peoples of the earth will make it appear to everyone that such a condition prevails, and that the statesmen of the world are greatly troubled to know what to do to alleviate the distress. One of the causes of this condition of things is the militarism which prevails causing distress in two ways: First, by withdrawing so many men from peaceful pursuits, and putting their labor upon women, while the men lie idle in the camp; secondly, because of the enormous taxation by which the immense armies of the world are maintained. Every nation Europe groans under these two closely allied burdens. This excessive militarism, and the consequent enormous burden of taxation, dates from the Franco- Prussian war of 1870-71. France had been the first military power in, but in measuring swords with Prussia was defeated. Prussia thus suddenly becoming great and powerful, there is constant fear of a conflict.
Alliances and vast armies necessitated increased taxation
The rapidity with which the nation recovered from defeat of that terrible war the world. Germany, increased her army. France increased hers, the race began. Germany Austria an ally. Then the triple alliance was formed Germany, Austria-Hungary, Italy. By the terms of this these powers were pledged to up vast armies. France, isolated threatened by all her immediate finally
formed an alliance with Russia. So, the armies of all these powers, and the taxation necessary to support it goes on. Other nations, seeing the inevitable conflict coming, and the necessity of being prepared, have increased their armies, and thus added to their taxation. The statesmen of these nations, knowing that war with such armies and weapons as are now used means less than wholesome destruction, exert themselves to prevent war, but still the expectation of it is so widespread that from the king’s palace to the peasant’s of government, or the way the laws are
Distrust of one another and dissatisfaction of government are other causes of distress among nations
Another phase of the distress of the nations lies in the fact that those powers which are in alliance distrust one another, each suspecting the others of contracting secret alliances. The feeling of
the nations one toward another is well expressed in the words of the poet describing Fitz James and Red Murdock, his guide, as they went up the mountain together: –
“Jealous and sullen, on they fared, Each silent, each upon his guard.”
Such a strained condition of affairs cannot but lead to distress of nations. Another cause of distress closely connected with the preceding is the dissatisfaction of vast masses of the peoples of Europe, and also, to some extent, of all the world, either with .their present systems
Submitting to the king and the priest was the sole duty of the common people
Before the American Revolution, the idea that the common people had any rights was confined to a few advanced thinkers. To submit the body to the exactions of the king and the soul to the priest was the supreme and only duty of the common people. In 1776 a new age—an age of the people, dawned. Liberty, driven by persecution from the Old World, fled to the wilds of America, and there undertook to defend the rights of the common people. She claimed the right to erect a church without a pope and a state without a king. Europe felt the reaction from this movement, and the French Revolution, the greatest event of modern history, was helped forward by it. Since that time the spirit of liberty, though often cast down and crushed, has been gaining ground in Europe. At times, as in 1848, it has swept kings from their thrones and popes from their altars. At the present time, kings and priests are endeavoring to tighten their grip on the people, and
the result is a spirit of opposition to the present conditions. The nihilists of Russia, the communists and anarchists 4 Our Firm Foundation of France, Spain, and Italy, are parts of a dissatisfied public, which sometimes honorably, and sometimes in the worst possible way, strives to bring about a new order of things. The better class of these agitators aim in their parliaments, and in other legitimate ways, to bring about greater liberty; the worst of them use the dagger and dynamite to terrorize kings to gain what they desire.
This feeling of unrest has crossed the Atlantic and is being widely diffused throughout this country.
Happy is he whose hopes are withdrawn from this troubled world and placed upon Christ
The marvelous aggregations of capital, popularly known as “trusts”, by which business and the profits of business being gathered more and more into the hands of a few, necessarily ruin thousands of men of smaller means. The laboring people do not believe that the rewards of toil and honest endeavor are equally distributed. Thinking men, who have studied history in a
way to understand its philosophy, hold that the times are similar to the years immediately preceding the French Revolution; hence they look for some terrible outbreak in the near future. Unrest is certainly a precursor of revolution. With the nations joined in alliance, burdened with debt, and still, by enormous preparations for war, adding debt to debt; with universal jealousy pervading all nations; with statesmen at their wits end to know how to guide their ships of state past the rocks that threaten to crush them in pieces; and with a restless, dissatisfied, and often rebellious people, the nations of the earth at the present day are full of the “distress” which was predicted by our Lord as one of the evidences of His soon coming. In such days as these, happy is he whose hopes being withdrawn from this troubled world are placed upon Christ and His kingdom, which soon will take the place of all earthly kingdoms.
Editor’s Note: When this was written by James Edson White, Ellen White and others thought that Christ’s coming was near, but it was delayed because God’s people were not ready. See COL 69. Many of the conditions that existed then exist again today; are we ready? Are we reaching out to others? What about our own lives? “Christ is waiting with longing desire for the anifestations of Himself in His church. When the character of Christ shall be perfectly reproduced in His people, then He will come to claim them as His own. “It is the privilege of every Christian not only to look for but to hasten the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Were all who profess His name bearing fruit to His glory, how quickly the whole world would be sown with the seed of the gospel. Quickly the last great harvest would be ripened, and Christ would come to gather the precious grain.”