THE FADING OF BRITAIN
I love Britain, but how pitiful she is today! She has been stripped of almost everything. She has lost most of Ireland. Her islands, which formerly were beautiful gardens, have had to become farms to feed her people. Her colonies around the globe without sunset, which were the farms supplying her people with abundance, are gone. Spiritually speaking, too, she has become poverty-stricken. Last century scores of spiritual books—weighty, enlightening, life-imparting—appeared. What book of spiritual weight has come forth from her in recent years?
God did use Britain. She was raised up for advancing God’s purpose. She was His instrument to put down the previous world power, Catholic Spain. However, she was proud, mistreating weaker peoples. All men are made in God’s image, regardless of their skin color. In the early days of the church, five prophets and teachers are mentioned in Antioch. One of these, Niger, was a black, judging from his name (Acts 13:1). It offends God when people are despised because of their skin color. Pride was a problem with the spiritual ones in Britain too. I believe that pride has been a factor in the fading of Britain.
THE DECLINE OF CHRISTIANITY
As for the church, the Brethren were much used by God to bless the church with the knowledge of the Bible. But, Satan came in to use this very knowledge to ruin the assemblies. What God uses to bless, Satan uses to ruin. The Brethren were divided into at least a thousand different sects by this matter of doctrine. They split hairs not mainly over matters of truth, but over fine doctrinal points. We must be on the alert to profit from their failure. This is why I do not like to talk to you about doctrines. If we have doctrinal debates, we are sectarian already.
In the last century and the beginning of this one many spiritual books containing new light came out in English. Besides the great teachers among the Brethren, there were evangelists like C. H. Spurgeon, Charles Finney, D. L. Moody, and R. A. Torrey who were outside the Brethren. There were teachers like Andrew Murray, Mrs. Penn-Lewis, A. B. Simpson, T. Austin-Sparks, G. Campbell Morgan, and the Keswick speakers. W. H. Griffith Thomas and Frederick Lewis Godet were two of the expositors. All this spiritual output has largely ceased. Who today is a man of God with some spiritual weight? In the twenty years that I have been in this country, from what I have observed, not one book of spiritual significance has been published.
THE KERNEL OF THE BIBLE NEGLECTED
If you read church history and the biographies of spiritual men of the past, you will see that three things have been accomplished. The gospel is being preached, the Bible is being taught for the edification of the saints, and the scriptural way of meeting is being practiced. Even though there is much confusion and mixture throughout Christianity, these things at least are known and followed in some measure. However, the very kernel of the Bible, the focus of God’s economy, has been neglected throughout the centuries.
The Bible teaching of the Brethren is the best, and they meet according to the Bible. And Brother Nee’s book, The Normal Christian Church Life, makes the matter of how to meet even clearer than the Brethren teachings. The Brethren preach the gospel, as do the other evangelicals. These three things are not sufficient, however. The Apostle Paul’s completing ministry is missing. There is the need to have Christ as our life, as the real contents of the church. The reality of the church is more than a meeting of the saints. It is not merely a collection of seeking saints. It is Christ realized, experienced, enjoyed, lived out, and expressed. A people in this experience are the reality of the Body of Christ. They are a golden lampstand.
THE RECOVERY OF THE CENTRAL VISION
The Lord used the Roman Empire to form and spread the gospel. He used Germany to support the Reformation. He used Great Britain for the preaching of the gospel and the spreading of the truth to the uttermost part of the earth. There is still one matter which the Lord has not worked out. According to my understanding, the Lord has preserved one part of the globe, the United States, for this very thing to be accomplished.
On the American continent over two hundred years ago the Lord used a group of men to form a country democratic and constitutional, where people would have the full freedom to speak what they believe. Do you not believe that the Lord has sovereignly raised up and preserved this country where we can speak so freely what we see from the Bible? As long as we are law-abiding citizens, this freedom is ours. Hallelujah for such a country!
Surely the position and condition of the United States are not an accident. Acts 17:26 says that God “determined the times before appointed, the bounds of their habitation.” The time was appointed by our God; the boundaries were drawn by Him. As He prepared the Roman Empire, Germany, and Great Britain in times gone by, so He has prepared the United States. For what purpose? It was not merely for the preaching of the gospel, the teaching of the truth, and the scriptural way of meeting. These things have been practiced for centuries. Yes, we must continue these practices. We must preach the gospel adequately. We must teach the Bible and seek to bring others to the full knowledge of the truth; for this we need to respect and know God’s Word. We must also come together according to the Bible to have a proper church life.
These three things, however, are not sufficient. We must be for the central vision of God’s economy. We must live Christ, be filled with Him, and have Him as our daily living and as the practical, actual contents of the church life that we may be His living Body to express Him. Then every local church will be a golden lampstand, and the bride will be prepared for the Bridegroom.
(The World Situation and God's Move, Chapter 2, by Witness Lee)