By Marlin Maddoux, Reprinted from Freedom Club Report, February, 1998
April 1998 – Is America too corrupt to redeem? This is one of the most frequently asked questions from callers. “Is there any hope for America?” we are asked. “Are we past the point of no return? …Doesn’t prophecy indicate that we’re doomed no matter what?”
Fair questions, but the answer is that there is hope for America. Ample hope.
Yes, we know from Scripture that ultimately the world will be engulfed by evil just prior to the return of Christ, and we know that the trends we see around us point in that direction. But we also know that in each generation God is willing to delay judgment on societies which heed the warnings and repent.
Further, we know that America has already witnessed occasions when periods of callous hostility to Christian beliefs and values were amazingly washed away by the tide of spiritual revival and its accompanying waves of social reformation.
God promises escape
In Jeremiah chapter 18, verse 8, God asserts that “if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it.” This “Jeremiah 18 principle” was demonstrated several times in accounts recorded in the Biblical record.
Take a look at Judah six centuries before Christ. The once spiritual nation had fallen into extreme moral disrepair, probably worse than America today. The Scriptures were so scandalously neglected they had been shuffled to the back shelves of forgotten libraries or were gathering dust in private residences. Any lonely soul who did take God seriously was not well-regarded by the centers of political power and cultural influence.
And religion? Jewish religion had become a wooden formula, not a living reality, with paganism the fastest growing public form of worship. Businesses ripped off consumers, and politicians steered the ship of state toward the rocks of political and economic doom.
God rescues a “hopeless” case
And then the Scriptures were rediscovered. They found their way to the eyes and ears of the head of state. This leader drank in the amazing information springing from the books of God’s law. He saw, for the first time, what God said about religion, about morality, and about government.
He was terrified.
“When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law,” history records, “he tore his robes.” He wept openly. He ruefully exclaimed, “Great is the LORD’s anger that burns against us because our fathers have not obeyed...”
But when 26-year-old Josiah, King of Judah, son of a failed, immoral ruler, was warned by a direct prophecy that God was going to bring destruction on his regime and his people, he not only wept and prayed – he acted. He didn’t head for a remote stronghold or give up hope. The evil was rooted out. The Scriptures were again made the centerpiece of a revived religion. Social reformation began. And for his generation, the nation was spared.
Is this example of the Jeremiah 18 principle confined to the Jewish nation of the Old Testament? No. In fact, it was repeated in the Gentile kingdom of Ninevah under the preaching of the prophet Jonah. God plainly declared He would level Ninevah, yet the “incorrigible” Ninevites repented and their generation was spared.
These case histories display the two elements of what is commonly called “revival.” The first is knowledge – confrontation with God’s written Word, the Bible, especially as it deals with our sinfulness and God’s merciful provision of forgiveness. The second is zeal – heartfelt, burning desire to see God work which is expressed in obedience and prayer.
Eventually both Judah and Ninevah were judged as God promised, but not in the generation of those who repented. Eventually our nation and our world will be judged, but it may be God’s plan that Christians in this generation will be a catalyst for revival and repentance which delays the coming wrath.
It happened to America
This kind of deliverance is open to any society at any time. It is not foreign to the pages of history that at just the point when a society seems about to commit suicide, God steps in to re-ignite the flame of spiritual passion and social reformation. Liberty once again becomes the servant of morality. Commerce once again becomes a vehicle of individual service instead of a target for private vice or government coercion.
The truth is that it happened to America.
Dr. J. Edwin Orr conducted extensive research into the history of Christian revivals. “Not many people realize that in the wake of the American Revolution there was a moral slump,” he has written. “Drunkenness became epidemic. Out of a population of five million, 300,000 were confirmed drunkards: they were burying fifteen thousand of them each year. Profanity was of the most shocking kind. For the first time in the history of the American settlement, women were afraid to go out at night for fear of assault. Bank robberies were a daily occurrence.” If you changed the numbers, many people reading this accountwould shake their heads, thinking it was a fitting description of the America of today!
What about the churches? Orr reports, “The Methodists were losing more members than they were gaining. The Baptists said that they had their most wintry season. The Presbyterians in general assembly deplored the nation’s ungodliness. In a typical Congregational church, the Rev. Samuel Shepherd of Lennox, Massachusetts, in 16 years had not taken one young person into fellowship. The Lutherans were so languishing that they discussed uniting with the Episcopalians who were even worse off.”
Things were so bad tha tthe Episcopal Bishop of New York, Samuel Provost, quit for lack of anything to do! The Chief Justice of the United States, John Marshall, wrote a letter to James Madison lamenting that the Episcopal Church “was too far gone ever to be redeemed.’’
Education was the worst. A poll at Harvard, formerly an evangelical school, revealed not one admitted believer on the entire campus. Similar results were found at other colleges, where believers met in secret
Anti-Christian bigotry was rife – mock communions at Williams College; anti-Christian plays at Dartmouth; a Bible burning in New Jersey. The great historian Kenneth Scott Latourette wrote, “It seemed as if Christianity were about to be ushered out of the affairs of men.” As humanism tightened its stranglehold on France and threatened to spread to the United States, Voltaire suggested that Christianity would be forgotten in three decades.
Of course, we know what happened. An alarmed core of Christians began concerts of desperate prayer. The result was the second Great Awakening in the early 1800s, churches suddenly filled to overflowing with converts bowing under the supernatural conviction of sin, and a whole wave of social reform that helped pave the way for the end of slavery.
In our hour of deepening crisis, if Christians make the conscious decision to turn to prayer, a searching study of the Bible, and obedience to what they find in the Bible’s pages – applying God’s Word to every area of public and private life – there is reason to hope that America will be rescued again.