R2056-255 View From The Tower

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WE are asked to give some expression on the “Eastern Question”—the persecution of Armenian Christians, etc., over which the civilized world has for some time been agitated. We have avoided the topic hitherto because we have seen nothing therein specially related to prophecy; and because we aim to review only such features of worldly news as are directly or indirectly related to prophecy.

By many students of prophecy (especially Second Adventists) Turkey’s extinction has long been looked for as the great event incident to the collapse of the present order of things: it has been expected and predicted repeatedly during the past fifty years. Every commotion in Turkey revives these expectations in the minds of some.

Our chief interest in Turkey centers in the fact that she holds control of Palestine and at present does not permit its re-settlement by Jews. This embargo must be broken before the severity of the great time of trouble, to permit the return of great numbers of Jews, and with considerable wealth, out of all nations. (Ezek. 38:8-12-16.) This seems to us to indicate that Palestine will be released from Turkish oppression and that the Jews will be persecuted and driven out of various countries before the great climax of trouble; and hence our expectation is a further dismemberment of Turkey, shortly, and not an immediate general European war.

That Turkey occupies an important place in European politics is very true and very apparent; and that the settlement of her affairs is likely eventually to involve serious consequences to the peace of Europe and the general “balance of power” is also evident. But, expecting that the crisis of this world’s affairs will not be reached before 1910, we are not looking for anything phenomenal in or from Turkey, at present. Whatever, therefore, may be done by the European powers to restore order and to protect the Armenians, it will not, we believe, immediately involve Europe in the much feared general war.

The true situation is understood by few except the statesmen of Europe, and their patriotism, as well as the proprieties of their positions, prevent them explaining the true situation to the people. Indeed, the British are the only people whose rulers need to, or do, take the sentiments of the people much into account; and the British public are controlled, more than they are generally aware, through the leading journals. Diplomatic and financial questions are admittedly abstruse; even great journals take their theories and policies from a very few leaders of thought; and public sentiment is “waked up” for effect, or “quieted,” according to the exigencies of the case as seen by the leaders to be valuable or injurious to their foreign policy.

European national politics are like a game of chess in which each nation is a player for its own interests, which, if not directly involved in the present move, would at least be affected by it and involved in the next move. To the casual observer Turkey is an effete, rotten, semi-barbarous kingdom in whose destruction all civilized nations should rejoice. But statesmen look beyond and ask, What shall be instead of Turkey? If the land could be submerged and made part of the sea it would solve the difficulty. But as this cannot be

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done, some other government must take the place of the Ottoman. The people of Turkey are not superior to their present government, and a republic would be impossible;—it would also be objectionable to autocracy. But a government of some kind it must have; and that is the difficult problem with statesmen; for the governments they represent have conflicting ideas and selfish interests to be served.

For many years Russia has coveted Turkey—particularly because of its remarkable seaport at Constantinople; which probably is the finest in the world. But Great Britain and all the powers of Europe have for years feared their great Northeastern neighbor under autocratic sway, and have been more or less anxious to cooperate for his restraint. Thus the Crimean war was the intervention of the English, French and Sardinian combined forces to protect Turkey from Russia;—not for love of Turkey, but from fear and jealousy of Russia. The resultant treaty stipulations prohibited Russia’s maintenance of a fleet in the Black sea, and hence crippled her influence in the Mediterranean. Again, when Turkish atrocities against the Bulgarian Christians offered Russia in 1877 a favorable pretext for attacking Turkey, Great Britain encouraged the war for the cause of humanity and Christianity; but when, after a year’s war at cost of life and treasure, Russia triumphed and her army invested Constantinople, the British government threatened war, moved her fleets and the Indian army, and, supported by Austria, compelled the Treaty of Berlin, at which Lord Beaconsfield presided and dictated the terms.

Now, the whole situation is different. France, Germany and Austria begin to see that in times past they served as cat’s paws for England, whose chief interest has been the protection of her empire in India. They see that she has purchased the Suez Canal and taken possession of Egypt in pursuance of this policy. They see, now, what English statesmen saw long ago, that the great war most to be feared is an industrial war of nations, and that England has seized for colonies and commercial or trade feeders the most valuable centers of the uncivilized world. Now, so far from putting themselves under English leadership, the other nations are more jealous of England than fearful of Russia; and they would be glad to see England undertake to chastise Turkey, while they would improve the opportunity to extend their spheres of influence in Africa.

English statesmen are amongst the shrewdest in the world and are well aware that a war with Turkey would be a long and expensive one, which they dare not close except in victory, and that when victory had been gained the other nations would see that it was as fruitless and unprofitable to England as the war of 1877 and 1878 was to Russia. And, meantime, Russia would advance upon India, France upon Egypt, and Germany would establish an African colony in conjunction with the Dutch in the Transvaal.

Russia and Austria could easily settle the Turkish question by taking possession and dividing her territory, although the Turks could and would make a stout resistance; but meantime England might succeed in exciting France as well as Italy to jealousy and repeat the threat of war at the last moment. This is probably the only reason why Russia and Austria do not take possession of Turkey at once.

It will be claimed, perhaps, that the leading English journals express the desire that Russia should take possession, and declare that England would not only not oppose but would disinterestedly approve such a step for humanity’s sake. This is true; but the Czar well knows that the English journals and the English government are not the same; and we are quite sure that he will receive no such assurances from the government. But why not? Ah! that is the weighty factor in this Turkish business that is always secreted by the English government;—”Shylock” has a word to say in all British governmental matters. Like all pawnbrokers he has a dark back office; but from that back office the outward moves are very generally directed. “Shylock” remembers that “the unspeakable Turk” owes him a national debt of over seven hundred millions of dollars ($700,000,000), and that, however badly he may abuse Christians, he pays a heavy interest and with considerable promptness; and he reasons that if the “sick man” dies, the interest and debt will both become a total loss. “Shylock” will not let this come to pass except as a last resort. And he has immense influence with British statesmen—although he must remain out of sight to the public, who, if they knew that he is the adviser and shaper of public policy, would not be so easily controlled by their statesmen.

That Russia and Great Britain are likely to come into conflict before the full end of Gentile Times we believe; and that their struggle is noted in Scripture we think probable. Possibly it will yet be seen to be somehow associated with the prophecy of Ezekiel 39th chapter. Russia is great and powerful numerically, by location and because of her autocracy. England is great intellectually and financially. As liberty-lovers, as civilized beings, and above all as Christians, our sympathies must be closer to England than to despotic Russia, although we cannot close our eyes to England’s faults, nor deny that the root of many of them is selfishness. “The love of money is a root of all evil.”

Russia’s rise to influence has been phenomenal. She is to-day the leading power of Europe, and under her leadership are Germany, France and Austria. The

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four at the four corners of Europe, so to speak, seem to give a better temporary guarantee for a few year’s peace than Europe has had for some time. Meantime, realizing that the time is short and the work given us to do important, according to the King’s command, let us be found using present opportunities with diligence, knowing that the “night” of trouble, wherein no man can work, hasteth greatly. “Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin that doth so easily beset, and run with patience the race set before us.”

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The Roman Catholics and Greek Catholics are not very fully in accord nor much disposed to unite, judging from the following telegram to the press:—

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“St. Petersburg, Oct. 25.—Father Tolstoi, of the Greek Church, recently deposed from the priest’s functions because he refused to clear himself of an accusation that he had been converted to Catholicism, has been arrested at Moscow and taken to Nijni, where he was condemned by a church tribunal to seven years’ banishment from St. Petersburg and Moscow and was forbidden to hold any state office for twenty years.”


— November 1, 1896 —