The redemption of the world is a long, slow process, extending through the centuries, yet surely approaching an appointed goal. We live in the day of advancing victory, although there are many apparent set-backs. As seen from the human viewpoint it often looks as though the forces of evil are about to gain the upper hand. Periods of spiritual advance and prosperity alternate with periods of spiritual decline and depression. But as one age succeeds another there is progress. Looking back across the nearly two thousand years that have passed since the coming of Christ we can see that there has indeed been marvelous progress. This Process ultimately shall be competed, and before Christ comes again we shall see a Christianized world. This does not mean that all sin ever will be eradicated. There always will be some tares among the wheat until the time of harvest-and the harvest, the Lord tells us, is the end of the world. Even the righteous fall, sometimes grievously, into temptation and sin. But it does mean that Christian principles of life and conduct are to become the accepted standards in public and private life.
That a great spiritual advance has been made should be clear to all. Consider, for instance, the awful moral and spiritual conditions that existed on earth before the coming of Christ,-- the world at large groping helplessly in pagan darkness, with slavery, polygamy, the oppressed conditions of women and children, the almost complete lack of political freedom, and the ignorance, poverty, and extremely primitive medical care that was the lot of nearly all except those who belonged to the ruling classes. Today the world at large is on a far higher plane. Christian principles are the accepted standards in many nations even though they are not consistently practiced. Slavery and polygamy have practically disappeared. The status of women and children has been improved immeasurably. Social and economic conditions in almost all nations have reached a new high plateau. A spirit of cooperation is much more manifest among the nations than it has ever been before.
International incidents which only a few years ago would have resulted in wars are now usually settled by arbitration. As an evidence of international good will witness the fact that the United States this fiscal year (July, 1957 to July, 1958) appropriated more than three billion dollars for the foreign aid and mutual security program, and since the end of World War II has given to other nations more than sixty billion dollars for these purposes. Since our population is approximately 170,000,000, this means an average contribution of $350 for every man, woman and child in the United States. And this does not include the other very considerable sums that have been given by individuals, churches and other organizations. This huge amount of goods and services has been given freely by this enlightened and predominantly Protestant nation to nations of other races and religions, with no expectation that it ever will be paid back, an effective expression of unselfishness and international good will. That record has never been even remotely approached before by this or any other nation in all the history of the world.
Recently the London Times, the leading newspaper in England, after commending the wisdom and generosity with which the United States acted, said: "There are other things so obvious to us that we take them for granted. But because silence can be misunderstood it is worth saying once again that no nation has ever come into possession of such power for good or ill, for freedom or tyranny, for friendship or enmity among the peoples of the world, and that no nation in history has used those powers, by and large, with greater vision, restraint, responsibility and courage" (Issue of March 23, 1954).
Today there is much more wealth consecrated to the service of the Church than ever before; and, in spite of the defection toward Modernism in some places, we believe there is far more really earnest evangelistic and missionary activity than at any time in the past. This is indicated by a number of developments. We cite particularly the following. Up until the time of the Reformation the Bible had been a book for priests only. It was written in Latin, and the Roman Church refused to allow it to be translated into the languages of the common people. But when the Reformers came on the scene all that was changed. The Bible was soon translated into all of the vernacular tongues of Europe, and wherever the light of the Reformation went it became the book of the common people. Decrees of popes and church councils gave way to the Word of life. Luther translated the entire Bible into German for the people of his native land, and within 25 years of its appearance one hundred editions of the German Bible came off the press. The same was true in France, Holland, England, and Scotland. Protestant Bible societies now circulate more Bibles each year than were circulated in the fifteen centuries that preceded the Reformation.
Publishers report that more than 8,000,000 copies of the complete Bible were sold in the United States in 1956. Sales were up about 10 per cent from 1955, which was the previous record year. Incidentally, it is interesting to notice that of the above number the King James Version easily held its place as the popular favorite, its total sales being more than 6,000,000 copies. The Revised Standard Version sold nearly 1,000,000 copies; the Douay Version, the standard Bible for American Roman Catholics, about 750,000; Jewish Bibles about 70,000; modern speech translations such as Moffatt, Goodspeed, etc., about 25,000; the American Standard Version of 1901 and others about 150,000. In addition to the above total many millions of copies of the New Testament and of portions of the Bible were sold.
During the last 150 years the Bible has been translated into all of the major languages of the world. According to the report given at the 1957 annual meeting of the American Bible Society the complete Bible, Old and New Testament, is now available in 210 languages and dialects, the complete New Testament is available in 270 more, and at least one book of the Bible, usually one of the gospels, has been translated into 629 more, for a total of 1109 languages and dialects into which the Bible has been translated in whole or in part. (United Press report, Jan. 12, 1957).
Today the Bible is available in whole or in part in the native tongue of 98 per cent of the people of the world. Surely that must be acknowledged as great progress and as a very broad and substantial basis on which to rear the future structure of Christianity. None of the so-called "best seller" books attain more than a small fraction of the number of Bibles sold.