E-text prepared by Al Haines
THE MARK OF THE BEAST
Author of "In the Twinkling of An Eye"; "Scarlet and Purple"
New York Fleming H. Revell Company London and Edinburgh Copyright, 1918, by Bible Institute of Los Angeles Copyright, 1933, by Fleming H. Revell Company
After the Lord's Second Coming, what will happen to those left behind? What will the Tribulation period be like? What will happen during the reign of the Antichrist? What is meant by "The Mark of the Beast"? What will be the fate of those who refuse to bear this mark?
All of these questions and many others connected with the mark of the beast, are answered in this realistic, startling, awe-inspiring story.
Although entirely fictional, the author has based his narrative on just what the Bible teaches concerning the Great Tribulation—that awful period of distress and woe that is coming upon this earth during the time when the Anti-christ will rule with unhindered sway. It is a story you will never forget—a story that has been used of God in the salvation of souls, and in awakening careless Christians to the need of a closer walk with Jesus in their daily lives. This volume deserves a wide reading. It should be in every Sunday School Library and in every home.
TO THAT CHAMPION OF "THE WORD OF GOD,"
REV. G. CAMPBELL MORGAN, D.D.
THIS BOOK IS
(BY HIS PERMISSION) HUMBLY
IN RECOGNITION OF THE SPIRITUAL HELP,
AND A DEEP QUICKENING
TO BIBLE STUDY RECEIVED BY THE
I. TWENTY FIVE YEARS LATER II. A "SUPER MAN" III. "TO THE WORLD, THE FLESH, AND THE DEVIL" IV. FORESHADOWINGS V. CRUEL AS THE GRAVE! VI. "A REED LIKE A ROD" VII. "THE MARK OF THE BEAST" VIII. THE INVESTITURE IX. THE DEDICATION X. A LEBANON ROSE XI. HERO WORSHIP XII. ANTI-"WE-ISM" XIII. "THE ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION" XIV. DEATH OF THE "TWO WITNESSES" XV. FLIGHT! PURSUIT! XVI. MARTYRED XVII. A GATHERING UP
The Mark of the Beast
The great acceptance with which the Author's previous volume "In the Twinkling of an Eye" was received, when published in Oct. 1910, together with the many records of blessing resulting from the perusal, leads him to hope that the present volume may prove equally useful.
The subjects treated in this volume are possibly less known, (even among some who hold the truth of the Lord's Near Return in joyful Hope) than the subjects handled "In the Twinkling of an Eye," but they certainly should have as much interest as the earlier truths, and should lead (those hitherto unacquainted with them) to a careful, prayerful searching of "The Word."
The Author would here mark his indebtedness to Dr. Joseph A. Seiss, and Dr. Campbell Morgan, for the inceptive thoughts re Judas Iscariot, and The Antichrist. Dr. Campbell Morgan's very remarkable sermon on "Christ and Judas"—under date December 18, 1908—while being profoundly interesting and illuminating, it has proved to the Author to be the only sound theory of explanation of that perplexing personality—Judas Iscariot—he has ever met.
While cleaving close to Scripture, at the same time it has settled the life-long perplexity of the writer of this book, as to the difficulties surrounding "The Traitor."
The fictional form has again been adopted in this volume, for the same reasons that obtained in the writing of "In the Twinkling of an Eye." The use of the fictional style for the presentment of sacred subjects is ever a moot-point with some people. Yet, every parable, allegory, etc., (not excepting Bunyan's Master-piece) is fictional form. So that the moot-point really becomes one of degree and not of principle—if Bunyan, Milton, and Dante, be allowed to be right. Certain it is that many thousands have read, and have been awakened, quickened, even converted, by reading "In the Twinkling of an Eye," "Long Odds," "He's coming To-morrow," (Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe) who would never have looked at an ordinary pamphlet or book upon the subject. One of the truest and most noted leaders (in the "Church") on our great convention platforms, himself an authority, and voluminous writer on the pre-milleniarian view of our Lord's near Return, (a perfect stranger, personally, to the writer) wrote within a week or two of the issue of "In the Twinkling of an Eye," saying:
"I have just finished reading your wonderful book "In the Twinkling of an Eye." It has solemnised me very greatly—more than anything for a long time . . . . May the Lord use your book to STARTLE the careless, ill-taught professing Christians . . . Please send me 24 copies, etc., etc."
The desire of the author of "The Mark of the Beast" has been to further "startle" and awaken "careless, ill-taught professing Christians," by giving some faint view of the fate of those professors who will be "left behind" to go through the horrors of The Tribulation.
To be true to his subject, and to his convictions, the author has had to approach one or two delicate subjects. These he has sought to touch in a veiled, a guarded way. Each reader, if desirous of pursuing more minutely the study of those special parts, can do so by referring to other Christian author's works.
That there is a growing interest in the whole subject of "The Lord's Coming," is very apparent in many ways. The intense interest and quickening that has accompanied the Author's many series of Bible Readings on "The Near Return of our Lord," during the past twelve months especially, would have proved the revived interest in the subject—if proof had been needed.
"The Firs," Vernham Dean, Hungerford, Berks.
April 24th, 1911.
THE MARK OF THE BEAST
It was late August. The year 18— no matter the exact date, except that the century was growing old. A small house-party was gathered under the sixteenth century roof of that fine old Warwickshire house, "The Antlers."
"Very old famerly, very old!" the head coachman was fond of saying to sight-seers, and others. "Come over with William of Normandy, the first Duerdon did. Famerly allus kept 'emselves very eleck, cream-del-al-cream, as the saying is in hupper cirkles."
The coachman's estimate of the Duerdon House will serve all the purpose we need here, and enable us to move among the guests of the house-party though we have little to do save with two of them—the most striking female personality in the house, Judith Montmarte, and the latest society lion, Colonel Youlter, the Thibet explorer.
Judith Montmarte, as her name suggests, was a Jewess. She was tall—it is curious that the nineteen centuries of Semitic persecution should have left the Jewess taller, in proportion, than the Jew—Judith Montmarte was tall, with a full figure. The contour of her face suggested Spanish blood. Her hair—what a wealth of it there was—was blue-black, finer than such hair usually is, and with a sheen on it like unto a raven's wing. Her eyes were large, black, and melting in their fullness. Her lips were full, and rich in their crimson.
The face was extraordinarily beautiful, in a general way. But though the lips and eyes would be accounted lovely, yet a true student of faces would have read cruelty in the ruby lips, and a shade of hell lurking in the melting black eyes. A millionairess, several times over, (if report could be trusted) she was known and felt to be a powerful personage. There was not a continental or oriental court where she was not well-known—and feared, because of her power. A much-travelled woman, a wide reader—especially in the matter of the occult; a superb musician; a Patti and a Lind rolled into one, made her the most wonderful songster of the day.
In character—chameleon is the only word that can in anyway describe her. As regarded her appearances in society, her acceptance of invitations, etc., she was usually regarded as capricious, to a fault. But this was as it appeared to those with whom she had to do. She had been known to refuse a banquet at the table of a prince, yet eat a dish of macaroni with a peasant, or boiled chestnuts with a forest charcoal burner. What the world did not know, did not realize, was that, in these things, she was not capricious, but simply serving some deep purpose of her life.
She had accepted the Duerdon invitation because she specially desired to meet Colonel Youlter.
To-night, the pair had met for the first time, just five minutes before the gong had sounded for dinner. Colonel Youlter had taken her down to the dining-room.
Just at first she had spoken but little, and the Colonel had thought her fatigued, for he had caught one glimpse of the dreamy languor in her great liquid eyes.
An almost chance remark of his, towards the end of the meal, anent the mysticism, the spiritism of the East, and the growing cult of the same order in the West, appeared to suddenly wake her from her dreaminess. Her dark eyes were turned quickly up to his, a new and eager light flashed in them.
"Do you know," she said, her tone low enough to be caught only by him, "that it was only the expectation of meeting you, and hearing you talk of the occult, of that wondrous mysticism of the East, that made me accept the invitation to this house—that is, I should add, at this particular time, for I had arranged to go to my glorious Hungarian hills this week."
Colonel Youlter searched her face eagerly. Had she spoken the tongue of flattery, or of the mere conventional? He saw she had not, and he began to regard her with something more than the mere curiosity with which he had anticipated meeting her.
In his callow days he had been romantic to a degree. Even now his heart was younger than his years, for while he had never wed, because of a love-tragedy thirty years before, he had preserved a rare, a very tender chivalry towards women. He knew he would never love again, as he had once loved, though, at times, he told himself that he might yet love in a soberer fashion, and even wed.
"You are interested in the occult, Miss Montmarte?" he replied.
She smiled up into his face, as she said:
"'Interested,' Colonel Youlter? interested is no word for it, for I might almost say that it is a passion with me, for very little else in life really holds me long, compared with my love for it."
She glanced swiftly to right and left, and across the table to see if she was being watched, or listened to. Everyone seemed absorbed with either their plates or their companions.
Bending towards the man at her side, she said, "You know what an evening is like at such times as this. We women will adjourn to the Drawing Room, you men will presently join us, there will be a buzzing of voices, talk—'cackle' one of America's representatives used to term it, and it was a good name, only that the hen has done something to cackle about, she has fulfilled the purpose for which she came into existence, and women—the average Society women, at least—do not. Then there'll be singing, of a sort, and—but you know, Colonel, all the usual rigmarole. Now I want a long, long talk with you about the subject you have just broached. We could not talk, as we would, in the crowd that will be in the drawing-room presently, so I wonder if you would give me an hour in the library, tomorrow morning after breakfast. I suggest the library because I find it is the one room in the house into which no one ever seems to go. Of course, Colonel Youlter, if you have something else you must needs do in the forenoon, pray don't regard my suggestion. Or, if you would prefer that we walked and talked, I will gladly accommodate myself to your time and your conveniences."
He assured her that he had made no plans for the morrow, and that he would be delighted to meet her in the library, for a good long 'confab' over the subject that evidently possessed a mutual attraction for them.
Mentally, while he studied her, he decided that her chief charm, in his eyes, was her absolute naturalness and unconventionality. "But to some men," he mused "what a danger zone she would prove. Allied to her great beauty, her wealth, and her gifts, there is a way with her that would make her almost absolutely irresistible if she had set her heart on anything!"
An hour later that opinion deepened within him as he listened to her singing in the drawing-room. She had been known to bluntly, flatly refuse an Emperor who had asked her to sing, and yet to take a little Sicillian street singer's tambourine from her hand, and sing the coppers and silver out of the pockets of the folk who had crowded the market-place at the first liquid notes of her song. She rarely sang in the houses of her hosts and hostesses. Tonight she had voluntarily gone to the piano, accompanying herself.
She sang in Hungarian, a folk-song, and a love song of the people of her own land. Yearning and wistful, full of that curious mystical melancholy, that always appealed to her own soul, and which characterizes some of the oldest of the Hungarian folk-songs.
Her second song finished, amid the profoundest hush, she rose as suddenly from the piano as she had seated herself. A little later she was missed from the company. She had slipped away to her room, after a quiet good-night to her table-companion, Colonel Youlter.
* * * * * *
At ten-thirty, next morning, Judith Montmarte entered the library. The Colonel was there already. He rose to meet her, saying, "Where will you sit? Where will you be most comfortable."
There was a decidedly "comfo" air about the luxuriously-furnished room. The eyes of the beautiful woman—she was twenty-eight—swept the apartment and, finally, resting upon a delightful vis-a-vis, she laughed merrily, as she said:
"Fancy finding a vis-a-vis, and of this luxurious type, too, in a library. I always think it is a mistake to have the library of the house so stiff, sometimes the library is positively forbidding."
She laughed lightly again, as she said. "I'm going off into a disquisition on interiors, so—shall we sit here?"
She dropped into one of the curves of the vis-a-vis, and he took the other.
For half-an-hour their talk on their pet subject was more or less general, then he startled her by asking:
"Do you know the Christian New Testament, at all?"
"The Gospels, I have read," she replied, "and am fairly well familiar with them. I have read, too, the final book, "The Revelation," which though a sealed book to me, as far as knowledge of its meaning goes, yet has, I confess, a perennial attraction for me."
She lifted her great eyes to his, a little quizzical expression in them, as she added:
"You are surprised that I, a Jewess, should speak thus of the Gentile scriptures!"
Then, without giving him time to reply, she went on:
"But why did you ask whether I knew anything of the New Testament?"
"Because, apropos of what I said a moment ago, anent the repetition of History, the Christ of the New Testament declared that "as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be."
She nodded her beautiful head, as though she would assent to the correctness of his quotation.
"Now I make no profession of being ultra-Christian," he went on, "but I know the letter of the Bible quite as well as most Teachers of Christianity, and without intending any egotism I am sure I dare to say that I know it infinitely better than the average Christian. And if I was a teacher or preacher of the Christian faith I would raise my voice most vehemently against the wilful, sinful ignorance of the Bible on the part of the professed Christians. Members of the various so-called 'churches,' seem to know everything except their Bibles. Mention a passage in Spenser, William Wordsworth, Whittier, Longfellow, Tennyson, Browning, or even Swinburne, William Watson, Charles Fox, Carleton, or Lowell, and they can pick the volume off the shelf in an instant, and the next instant, they have the book open at your quotation. But quote Jude or Enoch, or Job on salt with our eggs, and they go fumbling about in the mazes of Leviticus, or the Minor Prophets."
He laughed, not maliciously, but with a certain pitying contempt, as he said:
"The average professing Christian is about as much like the New Testament model of what he should be, as is the straw-stuffed scarecrow in the field, in the pockets of the costume of which the birds conceive it to be the latest joke to build. But I am digressing, I was beginning about the 'days of Noah' and their near future repetition on the earth."
"'Near repetition?' How do you mean, Colonel?" Judith Montmarte leaned a little eagerly toward him. In the ordinary way, alone with a man of his type she would have played the coquette. To-day she thought nothing of such trifling. There was something so different in his manner, as he spoke of the things that were engaging them, to even the ordinary preacher.
The pair were as utterly alone as though they had been on the wide, wide sea together in an open boat. She had said truly, over-night, "no one ever comes near the library."
"I mean," he said, replying to her question, "that the seven chief causes of the apostasy which brought down God's wrath upon the Antediluvians, have already begun to manifest themselves upon the earth, in such a measure as to warrant one's saying that 'as it was in the days of Noah, so it is again today,' and if the New Testament is true in every letter—we may expect the Return of the Christ at any moment."
She was staring amazedly at him—enquiring, eager, but evidently puzzled. But she made no sound or sign of interruption, and he went on:
"The first element of the Antediluvian apostasy was the worship of God as Creator and Benefactor, and not as the Jehovah-God of Covenant and Mercy. And surely that is what we find everywhere to-day. People acknowledge a Supreme Being, and accept Christ as a model man, but they flatly deny the Fall, Hereditary Sin, the need of an Atonement, and all else that is connected with the Great Evangel. The Second cause of Antediluvian apostasy was the disregard of the original law of marriage, and the increased prominence of the female sex."
Judith Montmarte smiled back into his face, as she said:
"Oh that you would propound that in a convention of New Women! And yet—yet—yes, you are right, as to your fact, as regards life, to-day."
The pair had a merry, friendly spar for a moment or two, then, at her request, he resumed his subject, and, for a full half hour, he amazed her with his comparisons of the Antediluvian age with the present time. He was an interesting speaker and she enjoyed the time immensely. But, presently, when he came to his seventh and last likeness between the two ages, since it had to do with a curious phase of Spiritism, she became more intensely interested.
"There seems to me," he said, "but one correct way of interpreting that historical item of those strange, Antediluvian days: 'The sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose.' The superficial rendering of this, sometimes given, that it signifies nothing more than the intermarriage of Cainites and Sethites, will not suffice when a deeper examination is made in the original languages. The term 'Sons of God' does not appear to have any other meaning in the Old Testament, than that of angels.
"Some of the angels, with Lucifer, fell from their high estate in Heaven, and were banished from Heaven. Scripture clearly proves in many places that these fallen ones took up their abode 'in the air,' the Devil becoming, even as the Christ Himself said: 'Prince of the power of the air.'
"Now both Peter and Jude, in their epistles allude to certain of these fallen, air-dwelling angels, leaving their first estate, and the mention of their second fall is sufficiently clear to indicate their sin—intermarriage with the fairest of the daughters of men. Their name as given in the old Testament, 'Nephilim' means 'fallen ones.' In their original condition, as angels in Heaven, they 'neither married nor were given in marriage.' It is too big a subject, Miss Judith ——."
Hurriedly, eagerly, for she wanted him to continue his topic, she said:
"Call me Ju, or Judith, or Judy, Colonel, and drop the 'Miss,' and do please go on with this very wonderful subject."
"Thank you, Ju," he laughed, then continuing his talk, he said:
"It is far too big a subject, Ju, in all its details, to talk of here and now, but, broadly, the fact seems to me to remain, that fallen angels assumed human shape, or in some way held illicit intercourse with the women of the day, a race of giant-like beings resulting. For this foul sin God would seem to have condemned these doubly sinning fallen angels to Tartarus, to be reserved unto Judgment.
"'Now as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be in the coming of the Son of Man,' and——"
Judith Montmarte caught her breath sharply, and, in an unconscious movement of eager wonder, let her beautiful hand drop upon his wrist, as she gasped "you don't think—you don't mean—er—er—, tell me, Colonel, do you mean to say that—"
"I do mean," he replied, "that I am firmly convinced that so far has demonology increased—the door being opened by modern spiritualism—that I believe this poor old world of ours is beginning to experience a return of this association between fallen spirits and the daughters of men. Of course, I cannot enter into minute detail with you, Ju, but let me register my firm conviction, that I believe from some such demoniacal association, there will spring the 'Man of Sin'—'The Antichrist.'"
At that instant, to the utter amaze of both of them, the first luncheon gong sounded. They had been talking for nearly three hours. With the request from Judith, and a promise from him to resume the subject at the first favourable opportunity, they parted.
Intensely, almost feverishly excited, Judith went to her room. Beautiful in face and form as she was, she was fouler than a Lucretia Borgia, in soul, in thought. And now, as a foul, wild, mad thought surged through her brain, she murmured, half-aloud:
"Demon or man, what matters! If I thought I could be the Mother of The Antichrist, I would—so much do I hate the Nazarene, the Christ—."
She spat through the open window as she uttered the precious, though to her the hated name of the Son of God.
TWENTY-FIVE YEARS LATER.
The huge London church was crowded in every part, and men had been standing in the aisles from the first moment that the service began. The preacher who had attracted so huge a crowd at two-thirty on a weekday afternoon, was one of the very youngest of the "coming men" of the English church. Tall, thin, with a magnificent head crowned by a mane of hair that was fast becoming prematurely grey, and a face so intense in its cast, and set with eyes so piercing, that strangers, not knowing who he was, would almost inevitably turn to look at him when they passed him on the street. His career had been a strange one. Ordained at quite an early age, he had been offered a living within six months of his ordination. He entered upon his charge, preached but once only, then met with an accident that laid him low for seven years. The seven years were fruitful years, since, shut up with God and His word, he had become almost the most remarkable spiritually-minded Bible student of his time.
The day came, at length, when once more he was strong enough to do public service, and though without a living, from the moment that he had preached his first sermon, after his recovery, he found himself in constant request on every hand. He lived in close communion with God, and his soul burned within him as he delivered—not an address, not a sermon, but the message of God. The music of the voluntary was filling all the church, while the offering was being taken. Then, as the last well-filled plate was piled on the step of the communion rail, the voluntary died away in a soft whisper. Amid a tense hush, he rose to give out the hymn before the sermon. Clear, bell-like, his voice rang out:
"When I survey the wondrous cross."
The hymn sung, he gave out his text: "Did not I choose you the twelve, and one of you is a demon."
"You will note," he began "that I have changed the word devil to demon. There is but one devil in the universe, but there are myriads of demons, fallen angels like their master, the Devil, only they were angels of lesser rank."
He paused for one moment, and his eagle eyes swept the sea of faces. Then in quiet, calm, but incisive tones he asked:
"Who,—what, was Judas Iscariot? Was he human, was he man, as I am, as you are? or, was he a demon? Jesus Christ our Lord, who knew as God, as well as man, declared that Judas was a demon—a fallen angel."
The silence was awesome in its tenseness. Every eye was fixed on the preacher, necks were strained forward, lips were parted—the people held their breath.
Again that clear, rich bell-like voice rang out in the repeated question: "Who, I repeat, was Judas Iscariot? Was he a man, in the usual acceptance of the term, or was he a demon incarnated? What does the Bible say about him? In considering this I ask you each to put from your mind, as far as it is possible for you to do so, all preconceived ideas, all that you have been accustomed to think about this flame of evil in the story of Christ.
"And first let me say what my own feeling, my own strong personal conviction is regarding Judas Iscariot. I believe him to have been a demon incarnated by the power of the Devil, whose intent was to frustrate God's plans. In all his foul work of destruction and confusion, the Devil, from the time of the Fall in Eden, has ever been busy counterfeiting all that God has wrought out for the salvation of the human race, and as the time approaches for his own utter defeat so the more cunning will his devices of evil become.
"In the foulness of his thoughts to frustrate God's purposes of salvation, I believe that when he knew that the Christ had been born, that God had Himself become incarnate, so that He might deliver man—for we must never forget that 'God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself—that he, the Devil, incarnated one of his demons, who afterwards became known as Judas Iscariot, the Betrayer of Christ."
For one instant the preacher paused, for the awed and listening mass of people who had been literally holding their breath, were compelled to inbreathe, and the catch of breath was heard through all the place.
"To use a twentieth century expression," he went on, "I may seem to have 'given myself away' by this statement of my own conviction. But I am not concerned with the effect, I am concerned only with a great and important truth, as it seems to me, and a truth which will, I believe, be curiously, fatefully emphasized in the days near to come, when our Lord shall have taken away His church at His coming in the air.
"Now let me invite your attention to the actual Scriptures which speak of Judas Iscariot. But before doing so let me acknowledge my indebtedness for the inceptive thought of all I have said, and shall say, to Dr. Joseph A. Seiss, of Philadelphia, in his wondrous lectures on 'The Revelation.'
"We will turn first again to my text, to the 6th of John, the 70th verse, 'Did I not choose you the twelve, and one of you is a devil—a demon? He spake of Judas Iscariot.' The second text I want us to note is in John 17, verse 12, and again it is Jesus who makes the solemn declaration: 'Those whom Thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the Son of Perdition.' The third text I would draw your attention to is in the 25th verse of Acts 1. It is Peter who is speaking, at the time of the choosing of another as apostle in Judas's place; he says: 'Judas, by transgression, fell, that he might go to his own place.'"
In spite of their intentness in the wondrous personality of the messenger, and the extraordinary character of his message, not a few found time to marvel at the facile ease and certainty of touch with which he handled his little pocket Bible, and turned to the desired places. As he finished reading the third passage, and laid the open book down upon the desk, the old hush deepened upon the people.
"Link those three passages together;" he went on, "and you will instantly see what I meant when I said just now, that I believe Judas Iscariot to have been an incarnated demon, and incarnated by the Devil for the one fell purpose of frustrating God's designs for the World's Salvation through Jesus Christ.
"There is not a single recorded good thought, word, or deed that ever Judas thought, said, or did. And do please remember that Christ was never once deceived by him, for in the 64th verse of that 6th of John, we read 'For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray Him.' And knowing everything, he said of the Betrayer, 'I have chosen—he is a demon.' If our Lord had said 'one of you has a demon,' the whole statement would have been different, for many, in Christ's days, we find, were possessed by demons, and He, by His divine power cast out the demons. But in Judas we have something different, not a human man in whom a demon has taken up his abode, but a demon who has had a body given him in which to pass among men as a man.
"Christ's statement that he was a 'Son of Perdition,' is equally damning as to the real nature of Judas Iscariot. He is called the 'son of Simon,' as regards the human side of his life, as Jesus was called 'Joseph's son,'—more especially Mary's son.
"But, though, nominally, 'Simon's son,' Judas Iscariot was ever 'a Son of Perdition.' And because he was this—'a demon,' a Son of Perdition, Peter, at Pentecost time, speaking in the Holy Ghost, was able to say that he, Judas, 'went to his own place.' We need spend no time in any detailed arguments as to whether this 'place' to which he went in the under-world, was Tartarus or elsewhere, it was 'his own place,' the place of imprisoned demons, the place where other demons who kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation are reserved in chains.' Neither Tartarus or Hell were ever 'prepared' for lost human souls, 'but for demons, and, as a demon, Judas went to his own place.'"
He paused a moment. His tall, thin form became rigid in the intensity of his service. In the silence, that deepened, the ticking of the clock in the front of the gallery, could be heard plainly in every part of the building.
Slowly he bent his lithe form forward until he leaned far over the Reading Desk. Then stretching out his arm, the long index finger pointing forward, he said:
"Listen, friends! Receive this next part of the message, if you will, if you can. I believe that 'The Man of Sin,' 'The Antichrist,' when he shall be revealed, will be Judas re-incarnated.
"There can be no doubt, I think, but that any one studying Daniel's description of the Anti-christ will realize that, in his human personation, he will necessarily be a Jew, for otherwise, the Jews (who will have largely returned to their own land, and will have built their Temple, and resumed their Mosaic service,) would not accept him as their leader, and make their seven years' covenant with him.
"Now, beloved, my last word is a very solemn one. It is this, our Lord's Return for His Bride, the Church, is very near,—'He is even at our doors.' Any day, any hour he may return. We, here, may never reach the point of the 'Benediction' at the arranged close of this service, for Jesus may come and call up to Himself everyone of His own in this place. Then what of you here who are not His? For you, there will remain nothing but the horrors of the Tribulation, (should you seek and find God after the Translation of the church.)
"Will you be among the Martyrs of the Tribulation, or of the final impenitent, rebels who shall be cast into the Hell reserved for the Devil, for Anti-christ, for the demons; or, blessed thought, will you here and now yield to Christ, and become the saved of the Lord?"
Amid the most intense hush, he added: "Somewhere, even as I have preached of him, and as you have listened, there is, I believe, a young man, of noble stature, exceedingly attractive, wealthy, fascinating,—bewitching, in fact, since 'all the world will wonder after him'—yes, somewhere in the world, perhaps in this very city where we are now gathered, is the young man who, presently, when our Lord has come, when the Church, and the Holy Spirit are gone, will manifest himself as the Anti-christ. May God save everyone of us from his reign, for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen!"
A gasping cry of amazed wonder broke from the thousand or more throats. They bowed, as one man, under the silent request of his spread hands, they heard the old, old "Benediction" as they had never heard it before: "May the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God, and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit, all unite in leading us into the Peace of God which passeth all understanding, Amen."
Silent, awed, in many cases speechless, the great congregation passed out of the several exits of the church. Among them was the woman we know as Judith Montmarte, and her son.
In spite of their pre-occupation, many of the outgoing congregation turned to gaze with wondering eyes upon the handsome young fellow who walked with such a regal air beside his mother, Judith Montmarte. Like Saul, in Israel, he stood a head and shoulders above the tallest of the crowd. And he was magnificently proportioned.
On the continent, and in New York and Chicago, Lucien Apleon, was well-known, but only in certain of the English circles was he known. Those who knew him, whether men or women, fairly idolized him, in spite of the impenetrable mystery that enveloped his birth.
For a full year Judith Montmarte had disappeared from the ken of the world. Where she went, what she did, what happened to her, none ever knew.
On her re-appearance in her Hungarian home, she called herself Madame Apleon, and her child was Lucien Apleon. No one ever heard of a husband, no one knew the history of that year of disappearance.
Lucien Apleon was now about twenty-five years of age, but with the maturity of face and character of a much older man. He was accounted, by all who knew him, to be the most accomplished man in everything, that the world had ever known. The greatest scientists were babes before him. As artist, sculptor, poet, musician, he could not be approached by any living being. And there appeared an almost creative power in all he did, since works of every kind of art grew under his hand.
Among those who had been in that service, and who turned to look at Lucien Apleon, was Ralph Bastin. It was his last day in London, previous to those years of wandering recorded in "The Twinkling of an Eye."
Often during those years of adventurous wanderings the memory of Ralph Bastin had recalled that wonderful service. One special moment of its recall was during that fateful, sacrificial cave scene in that Carribean Island.
London was still in its first throes of wonder, speculation, and, in some cases, fearsome dread, at the ever increasing discovery that a number of its citizens had mysteriously disappeared.
"And the most curious part of the whole affair," a prominent London philanthropist had remarked to an informal gathering of the Committee of one of the Great Societies, "is this, that whether we look at the gaps in our own committee, or of any other committee, or of any church—as far as I have been able to gather, the story is the same, the missing people are in almost every case those whom, when they were with us, were least understood by us."
Some such thought had been filling the mind of Ralph Bastin, as he sat in his Editor's chair in the office of the "Courier." Allied to this thought there came another—an almost necessary corollary of the first—namely the new atmosphere of evil, of lawlessness, of wantonness that pervaded the city.
With a jerk, his mind darted backward over the years to that remarkable sermon on Judas and the Antichrist.
"It is true, too true," he murmured, "'the mystery of iniquity' that has long been working undermining the foundations of all true social and religious safety and solidity, is now to be openly manifested and perfected. The real Christians, the Church of God, which is the Bride of Christ, has been silently, secretly caught up to her Lord in the air. She was 'the salt of the earth,' she kept it from the open putrefaction that has already, now, begun to work. Then, too, that wondrous, silent, but mighty influence of restraint upon evil.—The Holy Spirit, Himself, has left the earth, and now, what? All restraint gone, the world everywhere open to believe the Antichrist lie, the delusion. The whole tendency of the teaching, from a myriad pulpits, during the last few years, has been to prepare the world to receive the Devil's lie."
For a moment or two he sat in deep thought. Suddenly glancing at the clock, he murmured:
"I wonder what the other papers are saying this evening."
He rang up his messenger boy on his office phone. The lad came promptly. Bastin handed him half-a-crown, saying:
"Get me a copy of the last edition of all the chief evening papers, Charley, and be smart about it, and perhaps you will keep the change for your smartness."
In six minutes the lad was back with a sheaf of papers. Bastin just glanced at them separately, noting the several times of their issue, then with a "Good boy, Charley! Keep the change," he unfolded one of the papers.
The boy stood hesitatingly, a moment, then said:
"Beg yer pardin', Mr. Bastin, sir, but wot's yer fink as people's sayin' 'bout the 'Translation o' the Saints,' as it's called?"
"I can't say, I am sure, Charley. The careless, and godless have already said some very foolish things relative to the stupendous event that has just taken place, and I think, for a few days, they are likely to say even more foolish things. What is the special one that you have heard?"
"Why they sez, sir—its in one o' the heving peepers, they sez—that the people wot's missin' hev been carted off in aeroplanes by some o' the other religionists wot wanted to git rid o' them, an' that the crank religiouses is all gone to——"
"Where?" smiled Bastin.
"I don't think anybody knows where, sir!"
"I do, Charley, and many others to-day, who have been left behind from that great Translation know—they have been 'caught up' into the air where Jesus Christ had come from Heaven to summon them to Himself.
"Mr. Hammond is there, Charley, and that sweet little adopted daughter of mine, whom you once asked me whether 'angels could be more beautiful than she was!'"
"Ah, yus, sir, I recollecks, sir, she wur too bootiful fur words, she wur."
There was one moment's pause, then the boy, with a hurried, "it's all dreadful confuzellin," slipped from the room.
Ralph Bastin opened paper after paper, glanced with the swift, comprehensive eye of the practised journalist at here and there a column or paragraph, and was on the point of tossing the last news-sheet down with the others, on the floor, when his eye caught the words, "Joyce, Journalist."
The paragraph recorded the finding of the body of the drunken scoundrel. "From the position of the body," the account read, "and from the nature of the wounds, it would almost seem as though some infernal power had hurled him, head on, against the wall of the room. Whether we believe, or disbelieve the statements concerning the taking away, by some mysterious Translation process, of a number of persons from our midst, yet the fact remains that each hour is marked by the finding of some poor dead creature, under circumstances quite as tragically mysterious as this case of Joyce the reporter."
For a time Ralph Bastin sat deep in thought. He had not yet written the article for to-morrow's issue "From the Prophet's chair." He felt his insufficiency, he realized the need of being God's true witness in this hour that was ushering in the awful reign of The Antichrist. He did the best thing, he knelt in prayer, crying:
"O God, I am so ignorant, teach me, give me Thy wisdom in this momentous hour. If those who cleave to Thee amid this awful time must seal their witness with death, must face martyrdom, then let me be counted worthy to die for Thee. In the old days, before yesterday's great event, all prayer had to be offered to Thee through Jesus Christ. I know no other way, please then hear my prayer, and accept it, for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen."
Rising from his knees, with a sense of solemn calm pervading all his soul, he presently took his pen and began to write rapidly, his mind seeming, to him, to be consciously under the domination of the divine.
Embodying the various items over which he had so recently mused, as to the awfulness of the development of evil that would increasingly mark the near coming days, now that all restraints were taken away, he went on to show that now that the Devil, who had, for ages, been the Prince of the Power of the air, with all his foul following of demons, had been cast down out of that upper realm, where Christ and his translated saints had taken up their abode, the forces of evil upon the earth would be magnified and multiplied a million-fold.
"Christ and the Devil," he went on, "never can dwell in the same realm, hence the coming of Christ into the air meant the descent to earth, of the Devil and, with him all the invisible hosts of evil. The wildest, weirdest imagination could not conceive all the horrors that must come upon those who presently will refuse to wear the 'Mark of the Beast' and bow to worship him."
Suddenly, at this point in his writing, a curious sense of some presence, other than his own, came over him, and slowly, almost reluctantly he looked up.
He started visibly, for, seated in the chair on the opposite side of his desk, was a visitor. The man was the most magnificent specimen of the human race he had ever seen, a giant, almost, in stature, handsome to a degree, and with a certain regal air about him.
Bastin had involuntarily leaped to his feet, and now stammered:
"I—er—beg pardon, but I did not hear you come in."
Even as he spoke two things happened. His mind swept backward over the years to the day of that wonderful Judas sermon he had heard, and with this recalled memory there came the recollection of his turning to look into the face of that magnificent looking young man who had been the cynosure of all eyes as he left the church with his mother. He was conscious also of a strange uncanny sense that this smiling handsome man, with mocking, dancing light in his eyes, was no ordinary man.
In that same instant, too, Ralph Bastin knew who his visitor was, since he had become familiarized by the illustrated papers and magazines, with the features of "The Genius of the Age"—as he was often styled—Lucien Apleon.
"My name," said the smiling visitor, "is Lucien Apleon. As editor of a great journal like the 'Courier,' you know who I am when you know my name, even though we have never met before. You were so busy, so absorbed, when I came in that I did not so much as cough to announce my presence."
Ralph longed to ask him if he came through the door, or how, since he had heard no sound. But he did not put his question, but replied:
"Who has not heard and read of Lucien Apleon, 'The Genius of the Age,' sage, savant, artist, sculptor, poet, novelist, a giant in intellect, the Napoleon of commercial capacity, the croesus for wealth, and master of all courts and diplomacy. But I had not heard that you were in England, the last news par' of you which I read, gave you as at that wonderful city, the New Babylon, more wonderful, I hear, than any of the former cities of its name and site."
Ralph had talked more than he needed to have done, but he wanted time to recover his mental balance, for his nerves had been considerably startled by the suddenness, the uncanniness of his visitor's appearance.
There was a curious quizzical, mocking look in the eyes of Apleon while Ralph was speaking. The latter noted it and had an uncomfortable consciousness that the mocking-eyed visitor was reading him like a book.
"I only landed to-day," replied Apleon.
"Steamer?" asked Ralph.
"No, by a new aerial type of my own invention," replied Apleon. "It brought me from Babylon to London in about as many minutes as it would have occupied the best aeronaut, days, by the best machines of a year ago."
He laughed. There was a curious sound in the laugh, it was mocking yet musical, it was eerie yet merry. Involuntarily Ralph thought of Grieg's "Dance of the Imps," and Auber's overture "Le Domino Noir."
"But I have not yet explained my object in calling upon you," the visitor went on. "I have, of course, seen this morning's 'Courier,' and have been intensely interested, and, will you mind, if I say it, amused."
"Amused, Mr. Apleon?" cried Ralph.
"Yes, intensely amused," went on the mocking-eyed visitor. "I do not mean with the issue as regards its general contents, it was to the 'Prophet's Chair' column that I alluded."
Ralph, regarding him questioningly, inclined his head, without speaking.
"Do you really believe, Mr. Bastin," went on the visitor, "what you have written in that column? Do you really believe that a certain section of Christians, out of every one of the visible Evangelical churches of this land, and elsewhere, have been translated into the air? That the Holy Spirit of the Christian New Testament, the third Person of the Trinity, whom that same New Testament declares was sent to the earth when the Nazarene Christ went home to His Father—please, note, Mr. Bastin, that I am using the terms of the orthodox Christian, enough I tell you frankly I do not believe a word of the jumble which, for nearly two thousand years, has been accepted as a divinely inspired Revelation to so-called fallen man?"
"Yes," replied Ralph, and his voice rang with a rare assurance, and every line of his face held a wondrous nobility. "Yes, I believe it all. If I had not been a blind, conceited fool of a sinner, a week ago, I should have known that all this, and much more was true, and I should have found my way in penitence and faith to the feet of the Nazarene, of Jesus Christ the World's Redeemer, and, finding pardon for my sin, as I should have done, I should have been made one of the Church of God, as my friend, and Editor-in-chief, Tom Hammond, had done. And, had I listened to him, I should now have been with those blessed translated ones of whom I have written in that article of which you speak, Mr. Apleon.
"I sat in that chair where you now sit," Ralph went en. "Mr. Hammond, in his eagerness to win me to Christ, leant forward over this desk—he was sitting where I am—to lay his hand on my wrist, when, with angry impatience, I leaped to my feet, and declaring that he must be going out of his head, I swung round on my heel.
"Instantly there fell upon the room an eerie stillness. I swung back on my heel to reply to my friend, but his chair was empty, he was gone—gone to the Christ whom he loved, 'caught up in the air' to meet his Lord, where all those other missing saints have been taken.
"Yes, yes, Mr. Apleon, a thousand times yes, to your question, 'do I believe all that I have written there in that article.' Here in this little pamphlet—" He laid his hand, as he spoke, upon a small book that had been Tom Hammond's, which bore the title "THE SECOND COMING OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST. Systematically arranged from passages in the Holy Scriptures, for Students, Teachers, and others. By the Rev. Robert Middleton."
"Here, in this little book," he went on, "there is not only set out with the most luminous clearness, with the actual Bible texts, all that I have written in that article, but also many other truths and texts which have already been literally fulfilled during the last forty-eight hours—even as the book said that they would be."
With the old mocking, quizzical smile, the handsome Apleon interrupted him, asking:
"What do you mean by the real Church of God? The Romish Church, The Greek Church, The Anglican Church or any one of the multitude of dissenting churches?"
It was Ralph's turn to smile now, as he said:
"None of those churches could be called THE CHURCH OF GOD. The true, the real church was composed of true believers, men and women who had been born again by the Spirit of God, and who, numbered among every section of so-called Christians—and some who were wholly unattached—made up in their wide-world entirety the true Church of God, the Bride of Christ."
"And what," asked Apleon, "of the rest, the vast bulk of the worshippers at the various churches? What is their fate to be?"
"God only knows!" replied Bastin. "Some, at least, have already sought, and found God, or believe they have, even as I have sought, and believe that I have found God. But the vast bulk of the people already seem to be rollicking in a curious sense of non-restraint. I remember some years ago, hearing a lady say that visiting the houses of one of the worst streets in Winchester, and speaking to the people as to their eternal welfare, she found one woman particularly hardened. To this woman she said: 'But, my dear sister, think of what it will be to be eternally lost, to be separated from God, and from all that is pure and good, for ever, and in a state and place which the Bible calls Hell.' And the woman laughed, as she said: 'Well, there's one thing, I shall not be lonely there, for I shall have all my neighbours around me, for every one in this street is on the same track as me.'"
A sardonic smile curled the full lips of Apleon, as he said:
"Poor deluded soul! For if there is such a place as that Hell, that underworld of lost souls of which your Bible speaks, and declares that it was prepared for the Devil and his angels, and that woman and her neighbours find themselves there, they will realize that hell, for its lost, is the loneliest spot in the universe, since each soul will hate the other and will live alone, apart in its own hideous realm of anguish and remorse."
Lifting his eyes to his visitor's face, as the latter delivered himself to this strange speech, Bastin was startled to note the expression on the handsome face. The eyes, unutterably sad for one instant, turned suddenly to savage hate, the mouth was as cruel as death, the eyes grew baleful, like the eyes of a snake that is being whipped to death.
He was startled even more by the tones of his voice when he said:
"And what of the Anti-christ of whom you have spoken and written? Do you believe what you have written?"
"I most certainly do," replied Ralph.
Again the sardonic smile filled all Apleon's face as he returned:
"Then if all that you say and write be true, as regards the coming Anti-christ, and you continue to wear the late editor's mantle when you write 'The Prophet's chair' articles, how long do you suppose that that powerful super-man, the Anti-christ of your belief, will let you alone. If he is to be so powerful, and if the devil is to energize him, as you say;—even as you profess to believe that he has called into being—is now actually dwelling on the earth, though invisible, and all his angels (demons, I believe they are called in the Bible) are moving about invisibly among the people on the earth, among the people of this wonderful London, if all this, I say, be so, how long do you suppose you will be allowed, by his Satanic Majesty, to ply your trade of warner of the peoples? Why, man, your life is not worth the snap of a finger?"
Ralph smiled. The smile transfigured his face, even as the same sort of smile transfigured the faces of the martyrs of old time, beginning with Stephen.
"I care not how long I live," he replied. "The only care I have now is to be true to my convictions, true to my God."
The telephone rang at that instant. "Excuse me one moment, Mr. Apleon," he said, turning to the instrument.
There followed a few moments exchanges on the 'phone, then replacing the receiver he turned. But his visitor was gone.
"That's curious!" he muttered. "I did not hear a sound of his going, any more than I did of his coming. Uncanny, eerie, creepy, almost!"
There was a tap at the door. "Come in!" he called. The messenger boy, Charley, entered with a sheaf of proof galleys.
"Did you see that tall gentleman pass out, Charley?" he asked. "Did he go down stairs, or into one of the other offices?"
"Tall gennelman, sir? There aint bin no one come along this way, sir, nobody couldn't pass my little hutch wivout me a seein' on 'em. I ain't been out no wheres, an' I knows no one aint come by—least ways, not this way, not past my place."
"If any tall gentleman does come up, Charley, show him in to me, at once please."
Ralph had had time, during Charley's extended answer, to recover himself from the amaze that the boy's first sentence has produced in him.
"That's all, Charley!" he added, turning to his desk.
The boy gave him a curious, puzzled look, lingered for the fraction of a second, then slowly turned and left the office.
When the door had closed behind him, Ralph, who had felt all that had passed in that moment of the boy's hesitancy, though he had purposely refrained from looking up, lifted his head and glanced around him.
"If I did not know better," he murmured, "I should suppose that the whole incident was but a dream, or hallucination."
A perplexed look filled his face, as he continued:
"What does it all mean?"
Again, in a flash, the memory of that Judas sermon swept back over him, and the startling statement recurred to him "Somewhere, even as I have preached of him, and as you have listened, there is, I believe, a young man of noble stature, exceedingly attractive, wealthy, fascinating, bewitching in fact, since 'all the world will wonder after him'—yes, somewhere in the world, perhaps in this very city where we are now gathered, is the young man who, presently, when our Lord has come, when the Church, and the Holy Spirit are gone, will manifest himself as the Anti-christ."
Coming back at this particular moment, Ralph asked himself: "Is Lucien Apleon the Anti-christ?"
He paused an instant, then, as a sudden startling sense of assurance of the fact swept into his soul he cried:
"He is! I have seen the Anti-christ!"
For nearly an hour he sat on his chair, his mind wrapped in deep thought, and occasionally referring to a book of prophecy which Tom Hammond had evidently deeply studied.
At the end of the hour, he bowed his head upon his hands, and held silent communion with God, seeking wisdom to write and speak and live the Truth.
"TO THE WORLD, THE FLESH, AND THE DEVIL"
The next day was Sunday. It was also the first Sunday of the month. As he bathed and dressed, Ralph found himself wondering whether the churches and chapels would be filled, whether the awe and fear that had fallen upon so many Christian professors during the first hours after the "Rapture," would drive them to the churches.
"The first of the month," he mused. "The Lord's Supper has been the order of the day in most places. I wonder if it will be celebrated to-day?"
"Until He come!" he mused on. "He has come, so that the Lord's Supper, as part of the worship of the churches is concerned, can have no further meaning. Will any attempt be made to celebrate it, to-day, I wonder?"
Every available moment of the fateful week that had just passed he had occupied in deep reading the prophetic scriptures referring to The Coming of the Lord, and the events which follow. He had also studied deeply every book on the subject which he could secure, that was likely to help him to understand the position of affairs. Again and again, he had said to himself: "How could I have been such a fool? a journalist, a bookman, a lover of research, professing to have the open mind which should be the condition of every man of my trade, and yet never to have studied my Bible, never to have sought to know what all the startling events of the past decade, pointed to. Surely, surely, Tom Carlyle was right about we British—'mostly fools.'"
At breakfast he ate and drank only sufficient to satisfy the sense of need. Previous to "The Rapture" he had been a bit of an Epicure, now he scarcely noted what he ate or drank.
Almost directly his meal was finished, he left the house. The journalistic instinct was strong enough within him to make him desire to see what changes, if any, would be apparent in London on this first Sunday after the momentous event that had so recently come upon the world.
Turning out of the quiet square where his lodgings were, he was instantly struck by a new tone in the streets. There was an utter absence of the old-time "Sabbath" sense.
The gutterways were already lined with fruit and other hawkers, their coarse voices, crying their wares, making hideous what should have been a Sunday quiet.
It was barely ten, yet already many of the Tea Rooms were open, and most of them seemed thronged, whole families, and pleasure-parties taking breakfast, evidently.
He passed a large and popular theatre, across the whole front of which was a huge, hand-painted announcement, "Matinee at 2, this afternoon. Performance to-night 7-45. New Topical song entitled "The Rapture," on the great event of the week. Living Pictures at both performances: "The Flight of the Saints."
Ralph, in his amaze, had paused to read the full contents of the announcement. He shuddered as he took in the full import of the blasphemy. Surveying the crowd that stood around the notice, he was struck by the composition of the little mob. It was anything but a low-class crowd. Many of them were evidently of the upper middle class, well-dressed, and often intellectual-looking people.
He was turning to leave the spot, when a horsey-looking young fellow close to him, in a voice loud enough to be heard by the whole crowd—he evidently meant that it should—cried:
"Well, if it's true that all the long-faced puritans have been carted off, vamoused, kidnapped, "Rapturized," as they call it, and that now there's to be no Theatre Censor, and every one can do as they like, well then, good riddance to the kill-joys, I say."
"And so say all of us," sang a voice, almost everyone present joining in the song.
When twenty yards off Ralph could hear the blasphemy ringing out "The Devil's a jolly good fellow, and so say all of us!"
"What will London be like in a month's time!" he mused.
He moved on quickly, but even as he went the thought thrust itself upon him, that half London, for some reason or the other, was abroad in the streets unusually early. His own objective was a great Nonconformist church, where one of London's most popular and remarkable preachers had ministered. He had been one of the comparatively few whose ministry had been characterized by a close adherence to the Word of God, and an occasional solemn word of expository warning and exhortation anent the "Coming of the Lord."
Ralph was within a stone's throw of the great building when the squeaking tones of Punchinello, reached his ears, while a deep roar of many laughing voices accompanied the squeakings. A moment more and he was abreast of a crowd of many hundreds of people gathered around the Punch and Judy show.
Sick in soul at all that told of open blasphemy everywhere around him, he hurried on, not so much as casting an eye at the show, though it was impossible for him to miss the question and answer that rang out from the show.
"Now, now Mr. Punch, where's your poor wife? Have you done away with her?"
"No," screamed the hook-nosed puppet, "Not me, I aint done away with her, she done away with herself, she's gone and got 'Rapturized.'"
Then, above the ribald laughter of the crowd, the squeaking puppet sang:
"Oh, p'raps she is, p'raps she aint, An' p'raps she's gone to sea, Or p'raps she's gone to Brigham Young A Mormonite to be."
Ralph shivered as with chill, as he went up the steps of the great church to which he had been aiming. It was filling fast. Five minutes after he entered, the doors had to be closed, there was not even standing room.
He swept the huge densely-packed building with his keen eyes. Many present were evidently accustomed to gather there, though the bulk were curious strangers. A strange hush was upon the people, a half-frightened look upon many faces, and a general air of suspense.
Once, someone in the gallery cracked a nut. The sound was almost as startling as a pistol shot, and hundreds of faces were turned in the direction of the sound.
Ralph noticed that the Communion table, on the lower platform under the rostrum was covered with white, and evidently arranged as for the Lord's Supper.
Exactly at eleven, someone emerged from a vestry and passed up the rostrum stairs. A moment later the man was standing at the desk. Many instantly recognized him. It was the Secretary of the Church.
A dead hush fell upon the people.
The face of the man was deathly pale, his eyes were dull and sunken. Twice his lips parted and he essayed to speak, but no sound escaped him. The hush deepened.
Then, at last, low and husky came the words "My dear friends—for I recognize some who have been wont to gather here on the Sundays, though the majority are strangers, I think."
His eyes slowly swept the great congregation. "We have, I believe, many of us, gathered here this morning more by a new, strange, common instinct, than by mere force of Sunday habit. Yet, I cannot but think that many of us, solemnized by the events that have transpired since last Sunday, have met more in the Spirit of real seeking after God than ever we have done before."
A few voices joined in a murmur of assent, but something like a ripple of mocking laughter came from others. And one voice in the gallery laughed outright—it was the man who had cracked the nut.
Momentarily unnerved by that laughter the speaker paused. Then recovering himself he went on:
"Our pastor has gone; the Puritans (as we were wont to call them) are gone; and we know now—now that it is too late for those of us who are 'left'—that they have been 'caught up' into the air, to be with their Lord forever."
He glanced down at the white-draped communion table, as he continued:
"Our church officer has performed his usual monthly office, and has spread the Table for the Lord's Supper, but it dawns upon us, friends, how useless, how empty is the symbol since it was only ordained 'until He should come.' He has come, and we, the unready, have been left behind."
The expression came angrily, sneeringly from the man in the gallery, the man who cracked that nut, and who had laughed so boisterously a moment ago.
Many eyes were turned up to the man, but no voice of reprimand came, no cry of "shame!" or of "Turn him out," was raised.
All that had happened during the days of the past week, had served to fill many of the people gathered there that morning, with a curious mingling of doubt, hesitancy, fearsomeness, and uncertainty, as well as an unconscious growth of a new strange skepticism, and a carelessness that almost amounted to recklessness.
"As it is with many more here, this morning," the Secretary went on, "some members of my family have gone, been caught up—"
"Aviated!" laughed a ribald voice, and this time it came from another part of the building.
Disregarding the interruption, the secretary went on:
"My wife has gone—" His voice shook with the deep emotion that stirred him, and for a moment he was too moved to speak. Then recovering himself with an effort he continued:
"My daughter, too, who against my wish had offered herself as a Foreign Missionary, has gone. Both wife and daughter lived in the spirit of expectancy of the Coming of Christ into the air. Now they are with Him, to be with Him for ever."
The ribald voice that had last interrupted, again broke into the Secretary's touching words. This time the interrupter roared out a stanza or two of a wretched song:
"Will no one tell me where they're gone, My bursting heart with grief is torn, I wish I never had been born, I've lost, I've lost my vife."
A hundred or more voices roared with laughter. The devil of blasphemy was growing bolder.
But in the silence that immediately followed the laughter, the Secretary went on again:
"I have been a deeply religious man, even as Nicodemus and Paul were, before their conversion. But now that it is too late to share in the bliss of the glorious Translation, I have discovered that Religion, without Christ, without the Regeneration of the New Birth, is evidently useless, otherwise, I, with scores of others in this church, this morning, who have, for years, listened to a full-orbed gospel from our God-filled translated pastor, would be now with those of our loved ones who have 'ascended up on high.'"
He paused for the briefest fraction of a second, a look of keenest anguish filled his face, his eyes grew moist with unshed tears, and were full of appeal, of enquiry, as he swept the great assembly, crying:
"There must be thousands upon thousands left in our land, who, like myself, deceived themselves, and thus, unwittingly deceived others, and in whose souls there rises the cry: 'How can we find God? Who will show us the way?'
"Friends, I have searched my New Testament from end to end. I have been up two whole nights, and I have read the New Testament through from Matthew to Revelation, twice. But I can find no provision for the position I find myself in. I can find no guidance as to how to be saved. The whole situation is too solemn, too awful for any fooling. Does anyone here know? Can anyone here tell us how we may find God, now that the salt of the earth—the real Christians are gone, and now, too, that the Holy Spirit who, of old time—not yet a full week, but it seems an eternity—led souls to God through Christ."
There was something so solemn, so pathetic in the man's manner and utterance, that even the ribald fools who had previously interrupted, were silent.
The hush was intense. The ticking of the clock could be heard distinctly.
Impelled by a power which he could not have defined or described, Ralph Bastin rose to his feet.
The hush deepened. Then a voice broke the silence, crying:
"Bastin, editor of 'The Courier'!"
He was very pale, but the light of a rare courage flashed in his eyes. He acknowledged the recognition of himself by an inclination of the head. Then amid a strange hush he began to speak, his voice husky, at first, rapidly clearing as he went on:
"Friends, I take it that this is the most momentous Sunday that has ever been, since the first one—the day of the resurrection of the Christ. Our friend who has just spoken has surely voiced the question of many hearts here this morning, and many other troubled hearts the wide world over.
"Let me say, right here, that my friend and colleague, Mr. Tom Hammond, the originator and late editor of 'The Courier,' was in the very act of explaining the wonderful, expected return of Christ (expected by him though scoffed at by myself) when he was 'caught up' from my very presence, and then I knew what a fool I had been to neglect God and His salvation."
The nut-cracking interrupter in the gallery, with a burst of laughter, began mockingly to sing the old revival chorus, "Come to Jesus, come to Jesus, come to Jesus, just now, just——"
"Silence! you blasphemous, ribald fool!" The words leaped from the lips of Ralph Bastin, in a tone of command that literally awed the interrupter. The effect, too, upon the hesitating, vacillating mass of people was, for the moment at least, to arouse their sympathy with Ralph, and a little murmur of applause followed.
At the same time a soldier in uniform, a man of giant proportions, who was sitting almost immediately behind the disturber, rose in his seat, and addressing the man in front of him, cried, in a stentorian voice:
"See here, mouthy, we're about fed up with your gas, so if you give us so much as one wag of that cursed red rag of yours, I'll pick you up and snap you in half across my knee, as I would snap a stick."
This time the applause broke out all over the crowded church. When it ceased, Ralph standing straight as a larch, and looking up at the soldier, gave a military salute, as he said: "Thank you, brave soldier."
Coming back to his audience, he went on, as if there had been no interruption:
"I, too, like the gentleman who addressed us just now, have read the whole of the Bible through, and the New Testament twice, and I can find no definite provision or Revelation for those who are left behind—that is as to the how, I mean, of salvation. Yet that there are to be many saved during the next seven years, is evident, since there is to be a great multitude come out of The Great Tribulation, and thousands of these will be martyrs for God, refusing to wear the Mark of the Beast.
"In one of the pamphlets I have been studying on 'The second coming of the Lord,' I have found this statement, that Christ, during His ministry, preached the Gospel of the Kingdom, which is explained as referring to the fact that, as a Jew, as the Messiah, He came to His own people the Jews, the chosen earthly people of God, and that if they would have accepted Him as their Messiah, His Kingdom—with Himself reigning as King—might have been set up there and then. But they rejected Him, yes, even when Peter, at Pentecost, after the Ascension of Christ, made the final offer in those wonderful words of his.
"As a nation, they rejected Him, rejected their Lord and King, and henceforth, until He should come again. (He came last week, as we know, now that it is too late for us to share in the glory of that coming.) Until that coming, as I said, the Gospel to be preached was to be the 'Gospel of the Grace of God,' and not the 'Gospel of the Kingdom.' 'The Gospel of the Grace of God,' included all peoples, Gentile as well as Jew, while 'the Gospel of the Kingdom,' in its first preaching, was especially a message to the Jew.
"Now, friends, since there appears to be no special Revelation left as to how men and women are to be saved, I have been forced to the conclusion that we must go back to the Old Testament word: 'Seek ye the Lord'—'Call upon the Name of the Lord'—'Trust ye in the Lord'—'Come now and let us reason, saith the Lord. Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow, though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.' 'The Lord is nigh unto them who are of broken heart, and saveth such as be of a Contrite spirit.'
"I have taken my own stand upon this, that God, the God of the Old Testament, is the same God, who pities like a father, and that if we confess our sin, and witness a true confession, He will forgive us our sin, and though we can never be part of that wondrous Bride of Christ, whom, last week He caught up to Himself into the Heavenlies, yet we may be eternally saved. And, friends, whether I am right or wrong, I am daily pleading the Name of Jesus Christ in all my approaches to God. I plead the Blood of Jesus Christ, and the power of that Blood, to save me; for, as far as I understand myself, in this matter, my belief, my trust is the same as that which inspired the saints who were translated at the 'Rapture'—as that event has come to be called.
"In my studies during the past week—would God I had been wise, and given myself to all this a month ago, I should then have shared in the glory of that Rapturous event of which all our minds are so full.
"But, as I was saying, in my studies during the past week, I have seen that in Revelation Seven, in the account of those who are to be saved during the seven years of the present dispensation, (and which has just begun) that they 'have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.' So that though I am not able to reduce my standing to an actual theological position—statement—yet I pin my soul, my faith on the Eternal character of God, and on the efficacy of the Blood of Jesus, as shown in Revelation Seven, fourteen."
He paused for an instant, and his eyes swept the great assembly sorrowfully, sadly, as he went on:
"But it is forced upon me that what is done by us, in this matter of seeking God, must be done by us now, at once. Every hour increases the danger of delay because the powers of evil, of the Antichrist, are already growing more and more rampant, more and more pronounced. Presently, friends, we know not but that any hour or even moment now, the awful delusion of the Antichrist lie, may be actually formulated into speech and print, and it will be so almost universally absorbed by mankind, and its influence be so pervading, so saturating, in every class, of society, that it will every hour become harder, more difficult for the individual soul to turn to God."
He paused again for one instant. Then startlingly, suddenly, the words "Great God!" leaped from his lips. They sounded like a mighty sob.
"Great God!" he repeated with an anguish that awed the people. "The great mass of people in London, are already mocking God. They laugh at the notion of there being a God, of there being any Retribution. The great mass of the people are ripe for anything, even for a public, official denial of the very existence of God. Deluded, they will believe any lie, THE FOUL LIE.
"How long is it since, in France, in the Revolution, the leading men, the 'flower' of that capricious nation, carried in triumph in grand procession the most beautiful harlot of Paris, to the Cathedral of Notre Dame, and, unveiling and kissing her before the high altar, proclaimed her as the 'Goddess of Reason,' exhorting the multitude of people to forget all the childish things that they had been taught as to the thunders of the wrath of God, for God was not, and had never been.
"And all that happened while the 'salt of the earth,' was abroad, and while that great, divine restrainer of evil, the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity, was still upon the earth exercising His restraint.
"And, in a week from to-day, I believe it will be absolutely impossible to get a gathering like this. The world, the Flesh, the Devil, the Antichrist, will have almost absolute sway, and if any of us will live to God, we must be prepared to suffer the direst persecution, and all the horrors of the Great Tribulation, with its thousands of martyrs, will be the portion of those who will cleave to God, and flout Antichrist."
A deep, sullen growl, like that of some huge savage beast, rose here and there from a number of dissenters to these predictions.
Ralph lifted his head proudly, and fearlessly for his God, as he cried:
"There rises the first growl of the slumbering demon of Antichrist, which, only too soon, shall possess almost the whole world. Soon, a year, or two, less than that, doubtless. Antichrist will dominate the earth's peoples. None will be able to trade, to buy or sell, unless they bear on their forehead or their right hand, the Mark of the Beast. What will that mark be? I cannot tell. I do not know, no one save Antichrist, and the Devil who has incarnated him, can as yet know, I think."
Again that growl rose from the throats of some of the listeners. This time it was deeper, fuller more voices joined in it, and the savage note was more pronounced.
Suddenly, a mighty roar of thousands of voices, mingled with the blare of brass instruments penetrated into the building from the street. There followed, instantly, a general rising to their feet, and a rush of the people to the exits. The crush at the exits was terrible. Screams of women mingled with the hoarse cursings of men—men who had never uttered an oath before, found their mouth filled with hideous, blasphemous oaths. It was as if the very devil himself had suddenly possessed the crowd.
Ralph found himself alongside the Secretary of the church, the man who had preceded him in speaking. The pair watched and listened for a moment while noisily, slowly, painfully the people passed out of the building.
Involuntarily there sprang to Ralph's lips, and, before he realized it, he was uttering the words:
"The whole herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea, and was choked."
The two men were strangers, yet as they turned and faced each other, by some common impulse they clasped hands. For one instant it looked as though each would have spoken. Then, as though some strange power had tied their tongues, they moved on silently, side by side, down the wide aisle of the church, and passed out through the entrance doors of the now empty building.
The streets were filled with surging masses of people, and there was a glare of ruddy flames, while dense volumes of smoke poured into the upper air from the first of two huge cars drawn by hundreds of excited men, boys, and even women and girls.
In the center of the platform of the first car was a huge, altar-like construction in polished iron or steel. The center of the altar was evidently a deep hollow cauldron, into which a score of men, costumed as satyrs, were pitchforking Bibles. The four sides of the Altar-cauldron had open bars, so that, fanned on every side by the double draught of the car's motion, and the fairly stiff breeze that was blowing, the furnace roared fiercely, fed, as it incessantly was by the copies of God's Word.
Hundreds of wildly-excited men and women—many seemed semi-drunken—attired in every conceivable grotesqueness of costume, and forming a kind of open-air fancy-dress ball, disported themselves shamelessly about the cauldron car, and the triumphal car that followed in its wake.
The latter was a gorgeous structure, finished in gold, purple, and imitation white marble. Its center was a kind of tableaux vivant. On one side was an effigy of a parsonic kind of man, crucified head downwards upon a cross. A second side showed a theatre front with a staring announcement "seven day performances." A third side showed a figure of "Bacchus" crowned with vine-leaves and grape-bunches. A fourth side showed an entrance to a Law Court, with an announcement: "Closed Eternally, for since there is no marriage, there is no divorce."
Above all this was a golden throne, and in a deep purple-plush-covered chair sat a florid, coarsely-beautiful woman, with long hair of golden hue hanging down upon her shoulders and blowing in the breeze. She was literally naked, save for a ruffle of pink muslin about her waist. Upon her head was a crown, in her right hand she held a gilded crozier.
The most wanton, hideous licentiousness was the order of the hour among the mob of fancy-costumed people.
Ralph Bastin and his companion followed in the wake of the foaming, raging sea of semi-mad people.
"The French Revolution business over again," said Ralph—he had to shout into his friend's ear to be heard.
His companion nodded an assent, then bawled back:
"Whither are they bound, I wonder?"
Ralph pointed to a banner bearing the inscription. "To St. Pauls."
The procession swept on, and seven minutes later the cars were rounded up in front of the open space before the Cathedral.
A score of policemen had managed to muster on the upper step of the flight. But the rush of the mob was irresistible. They took entire possession of the steps and all the open space around even to the head of Ludgate Hill.
Ralph had got separated from his companion, and found himself swept close up to the great triumphal car. Above him seated smilingly on her purple throne, in all her shameless nakedness, was the beautiful form of the foul souled harlot. Her gilded crozier was upheld between her naked knees, and now, in her right hand she held a goblet of champagne, just passed up to her.
A bugle sounded for silence. The hush was instantaneous. Then as she held the goblet high aloft, her clear, shrill voice rang out in the toast she gave:
"To the World, the Flesh, and the Devil!"
She drained the sparkling draught, and tossed the goblet down into the upraised hand of a handsome, but dissolute-looking man, who, attired in the theatrical idea of Mephistopheles, appeared to be a kind of Master of Ceremonies.
A mighty roar of applause, mingled with cries of "Dolly Durden! Dear little Dolly Durden!" accompanied the drinking of the toast.
Again the bugle rang out for silence, and amid a hush as before, Mephistopheles shouted:
"The Sunday of the Puritans is dead and damned! Their Bible is burned and a dead letter!"
He pointed, as he uttered the last sentence, to the Satyrs who were piling the last of their stock of Bibles into the fiery furnace of the cauldron-altar.
His blasphemies were greeted with a roar of applause. Then, as he obtained a comparative silence by the raising of his hand, he yelled:
"To Hyde Park."
The band struck up "Good St. Anthony," and the monster procession, swept down Ludgate Hill, hundreds of throats belching out the words of the song, to the music of the band:
"St. Anthony sat on a lowly stool, A large black book he held in his hand, Never his eyes from the page he took, With steadfast soul the page he scanned. The Devil was in his best humour that day, That ever his Highness was known to be in,— That's why he sent out his imps to play With sulphur, and tar, and pitch, and resin: They came to the saint in a motley crew, Twisted and twirl'd themselves about,— Imps of every shape and hue, A devilish, strange, and rum-looking rout. Yet the good St. Anthony kept his eyes So firmly fixed upon his book, Shouts nor laughter, sighs nor cries, Never could win away his look."
Verse after verse belched forth from the now more or less raucous throats of the blasphemous mob, until, with unholy unctiousness, reaching the last verse but one, they screamed laughingly, vilely:
"A thing with horny eyes was there— With horny eyes just like the dead, While fish-bones grew instead of hair Upon his bald and skinless head. Last came an imp—how unlike the rest,— A lovely-looking female form, And while with a whisper his cheek she press'd, Her lips felt downy, soft, and warm; As over his shoulder she bent, the light Of her brilliant eyes upon his page Soon filled his soul with mild delight, And the good old chap forgot his age. And the good St. Anthony boggled his eyes So quickly o'er his old black book,— Ho! Ho! at the corners they 'gan to rise, And he couldn't choose but have a look.
"There are many devils that walk this world, Devils so meagre and devils so stout, Devils that go with their tails uncurl'd, Devils with horns and devils without. Serious devils, laughing devils, Devils black and devils white, Devils uncouth, and devils polite. Devils for churches, devils for revels, Devils with feathers, devils with scales, Devils with blue and warty skins, Devils with claws like iron nails, Devils with fishes' gills and fins; Devils foolish, devils wise, Devils great, and devils small,— But a laughing woman with two bright eyes Proves to be the worst devil of them all."
It was all of Hell, Hellish, and should have proved conclusively, it proof had been desired, that with the translation of the Church, and the flight of the Holy Spirit, the last restraint upon man's natural love of lawlessness had been taken away.
Sweeping westwards, the hideous, blasphemous procession was continually augmented by crowds that swarmed up from side-streets, and fell-in in the rear of the marching throng.
Somewhere on the route, owing to a kind of backwash of the surging people, Ralph Bastin and the Secretary of the Church had become separated. At Picadilly circus they came suddenly face to face again.
"What is this foul, blasphemous movement? What does it mean?" asked the Secretary. "Is this a beginning of organized lawlessness on the part of the Anti-christ?"
"I think not," replied Ralph. "I should rather say that it was a bit of wanton outrage of all the decencies of ordinary life, and arranged by some of the rude fellows—male and female—of the baser sort. You noticed, of course, that most of those immediately connected with the two cars, looked like the drinking, smoking, sporting fellows who are the habitues of the music-halls and the promenades of the theatres."
An uproarious cheering of the mighty throng interrupted Ralph for a moment. Only those well to the front of the procession could know the cause of the cheering, but the whole mass of people joined in it. As the roar died away, Ralph Bastin took up the broken thread of his reply:
"Yet, for all I have just said, I feel it in my bones as Mrs. Beecher Stowe's old negress 'mammy' used to say, that this foul demonstration on this golden Sunday morning, is the unauthorized unofficial beginning of the Anti-christ movement."
There was a couple of hundred yards between the tail of the actual procession, and Ralph and his companion. Hundreds of people thronged the sidewalks, but the road was fairly clear, and along the gutter-way there swept a gang of boys with coarse, raucous laughter, kicking—football fashion—two or three of the half-burned Bibles that had fallen from the cauldron-altar on the car.
The church Secretary visibly shuddered at the sacrilege. A pained look shot into Ralph Bastin's face, as he said:
"Such wanton, open sacrilege as that could only have become possible by the gradual decay of reverence for the word of God, brought about largely by the so-called 'Higher critics' of the last thirty years, the men who broke Spurgeon's heart, the Issachars of the nineteenth and early twentieth century, those 'knowing ones' who, like Issachar, thought that they knew better than God."
The two men walked on together in deep talk. Ralph learned that his companion was Robert J. Baring, principal of the great shipping firm, and of merchants and importers.
Baring was an educated man, and of considerable culture, and Ralph and he found that they had very much in common. But that which perhaps constituted the closest tie between them was the fact that both had lost their nearest and dearest, and were left to face the coming horrors of the Anti-christ reign, and the hideousness of the great Tribulation.
"God grant," Ralph said once, as they talked, "that when the moment comes, as come it will, that we are called upon to stand for God, or die for Him, that we may witness a good confession."
A month had elapsed since the translation of the church. A new order in everything had arisen—Religious, Governmental, Social. The spirit of lawlessness grew fiercer and fouler each day, it is true, yet there was a supreme authority, a governmental restriction, that prevented the fouler, the more destructive passions of the baser kind of men and women, having full scope.
A curious kind of religion had been set up in many of the churches. The services were sensuous to a degree, and were a strange mixture of Romanism, Spiritism (demonology,) Theosophy, Materialism, and other kindred cults. Almost every week some new ode or hymn was produced, every sentiment of which was an applauding of man, for God was utterly ignored, and the key-note of the Harvard college "class Poem," for the year 1908, became the key-note of the Sunday Song of the "worshippers" in the churches:
"No God for a gift God gave us— MANKIND ALONE must save us."
It was a curious situation, since it was "man" worshipping himself. Presently, the centre of worship would shift from man, to The Man of Sin—the Anti-christ.
These religious services were held, as a rule, from twelve-thirty to one-fifteen on the Sunday once a day only, (without any week-night meetings.) They were held at an hour when, in the old-days, the congregations would have been home, or going home, from their services. But this arranged lateness was due to the fact, that there had grown up in all sections of society an ever-increasing lateness of retiring at night, coupled with a growth of indolence caused by every kind of sensual indulgence, not the least of which was gluttony. Music of a sensuous, voluptuous character formed a chief part of the brief Sunday services, and every item was loudly applauded as though the whole affair had been a performance rather than a professedly religious service.
Most of the interior arrangements in many of the old places of worship had been altered. The theatre style of thing—plush-covered tip seats, etc.—had taken the place of the old pews and the wooden seats. In many of these Sunday services, too, people of both sexes smoked at will—for smoking among women had become almost universal.
There were no Bibles, or Hymn books, the odes, etc., were printed on double sheets, after the fashion of theatre programmes, and, like them, contained numerous advertisements of the Sunday matinees and evening performances at the theatres, music-halls, etc.
All this had been brought about much more easily than would at first appear, until we remember one or two factors that had long been working silently, subtly among the attendants—mere church professors—of the various places of worship, such as, the insistance on shorter services, and fewer—for long, before the Rapture, the unspiritual had clamoured for a single service of the week, that of a late Sunday morning one. Then for years, religious services (those of the Sunday) had grown more and more sensuous, unspiritual. Every real spiritual doctrine had first been denied, then expunged from the essay that had largely taken the place of the old-time sermon. Again, all spiritual restraints had now been taken away—the true believers, the Holy Spirit, every spiritually-minded, born-again pastor and clergyman.
The new Religion (it could not be called a Faith) was a universal one. The powers of the Priest-craft had invented a religion of the Flesh, fleshy to a degree. Every type of indulgence was permissible, so that men everywhere gloried in their religion, "having a form—but denying God."
The performances at all theatres, music-halls, etc., had grown rapidly worse and worse, in character,—licentiousness, animalism, voluptuousness, debauchery, these were the main features of the newer type of performances. Salome dances, and even the wildest, obscenest type of the "can-can" of the French, in its most promiscuous lascivious forms, were common fare on the varied English stages.
But if the stage was filthy and indecent, what could be said of the books! There was not a foulness or obscenity and indecency that was not openly, shamelessly treated in the bluntest of phraseology. Thousands of penny, two-penny, and three-penny editions of utter obscenity were issued daily. And the vitiated taste of the great mass of the people grew voraciously by feeding upon them.
Marriage was a thing of the dead past. There had been a growth of foul, subtle, hideous teaching before the translation of the church. Marriage had been taught (in many circles) to be "an unnecessary restraint upon human liberty." "Women"—it had been written, absolved from shame, shall be owners of themselves." "We believe" (the same writer had written) "in the sacredness of the family and the home, the legitimacy of every child, and the inalienable right of every woman to the absolute possession of herself."
All this foul seed-teaching of the days before the Translation of the Church, burst into open blossom and fullest fruit when once the restraint of Christian public opinion had been withdrawn from the earth.
The friendship between Ralph Bastin and Baring had grown with the days, and as they watched the rapid march of events, all heading towards ultimate evil, they talked of the possible finale, while they encouraged themselves in their God.
One evening, when they met, Baring said:
"I suppose there will soon come the time when no one will be able to trade without bearing "the mark of the Beast."
"Some new indication that way?" asked Ralph.
"I think so," Baring returned. "You remember that I told you that previous to the taking away of the Church, the vessels of my firm had been tentatively chartered for the transport of the various parts of the Temple to Jerusalem. To-day, the negotiations have been quashed by those who had previously approached us."
"For what reason?" asked Ralph.
"They gave no reason," Baring went on, "but I have not the slightest doubt, myself, that the real reason is this, that I have, of late, continually spoken warningly against Anti-christ."
"But how could that be known in circles purely Anti-christ?" Ralph's tones were eager; his eyes, too, were filled with a puzzled expression.
"You know," Baring returned, "what we were speaking of the other night, that now that the devil and his angels had been cast down from the air, they are (though invisible) yet actively engaged all about us on the earth?"
Ralph nodded assent.
"I believe, I am sure they are everywhere present." Baring smiled a little sadly, as he added, his eyes sweeping the room in a swift, comprehensive way: "There may be, there probably is, one or more present in this room, at this moment, their object espionage. They have doubtless been present when I have spoken against Anti-christ, and——"
"Yes, but this shipping matter of which you spoke, Bob, is a Jewish affair," interrupted Bastin, adding:
"For I presume, since the cargoes would be composed of the Temple parts, that it would be financed by Jewish capitalists, religionists, or what not? How then would Anti-christ have anything to do with it?"
Slowly, deliberately, almost solemnly Baring replied:
"Lucien Apleon is a Jew!"
Bastin started sharply. Some idea of what his friend meant flashed upon him.
"Lucien Apleon!" he cried hoarsely. "But what——"
Baring broke in with: "I believe that Lucien Apleon will presently be revealed as the Anti-christ, and——"
The conversation had been going on in Ralph's Editorial office. It was now interrupted by a startling call over the tape-wire, and Baring suddenly realizing the hour, took a hurried temporary farewell of his friend.
An hour later Ralph was seated at his table penning the "Prophet's chair" column for the next morning's issue of his paper. It was only natural, under the new order of life and thought that prevailed, that a daily paper, conducted on the lines of the "Courier," should drop heavily in circulation. The "Courier" had so dropped, though it still paid to issue it.
"My enemies, the enemies of God and of righteousness," he murmured, as he took up his "Fountain," (he preferred a pen to a type-writer) "are, I am inclined to believe, the chief purchasers of the paper new, and they only buy it to see what I say from the 'Prophet's Chair.'"
For a moment, as was now his invariable custom, before beginning his daily message, he bowed his head and prayed for wisdom to write God's mind.