YOUTH BEFORE THE ADVENT
By D. M. PANTON, B.A.
The reign of Solomon, prince of peace - magnificent, warless - is a divine forecast of Messiah’s glorious Reign: David, hunted, battling for the Throne, but laying up enormous hidden wealth for the Temple and the Place, is the Gospel era: the intermediate generation between the two, appearing at the close of David’s epoch, is Absalom, the youthful generation on the threshold of Advent. This striking type explains the curious prominence of Absalom as the embodiment and photograph of an age. For before Absalom there opened a golden vision of limitless possibilities. The son of a praying father, and brought up in a godly home, he possessed all the culture of his day, combined with great natural beauty, a rare gift of winning others to himself, and the immediate succession to the most glorious Kingdom and Temple earth has ever seen. It is the generation inheriting the Christian ages and standing on the threshold of the Advent. Yet the golden vision proved a gigantic mirage. ‘Absalom’ - meaning the ‘father’ or ‘predecessor’ of ‘peace’ - predeceased the peace he never saw; he sought a throne, and found a grave; and the peculiar manner of his death affixed on him the direct Curse of God.
An emphasis is laid on the physical perfection of Absalom
unique in the Bible. “In all
[*Thus a recent writer’s praise of the youth of to-day need not conflict with prophecy. He says:- “I like them for their frankness and humour, their loyal comradeship, their passionate sincerity, their driving energy, and their freshness of outlook. They have no evasions or repressions, they do not dodge difficulties; and are for the most part fearless, honest and adventurous. They are gloriously free from snobbishness.” It is curious that the two girls chosen this year [i.e., in 1930] for supreme beauty- ‘Miss Universe’ (Miss Boldarbeiter) and ‘Miss Europe’ (Miss Simon) - are both Jewesses, that is, actually of Absalom’s blood.]
Now in the roots of Absalom’s life will be found all the tragedy of modern youth. Absalom had a David for a father but a heathen princess for his mother; and under the fatal shadow of this spiritual disunion in the home we search the sacred record in vain for his conversion; and without conversion in every one of us is a slumbering volcano of hell. The only time Absalom is ever recorded (2 Sam. 15: 7) as seeking Jehovah it was as a cloak for seizing his father’s throne. Eighty per cent. of the scholars in our Sunday Schools leave them unconverted. A year ago a youth named Hickman, on the gallows for the foul murder of a girl, revealed the enormity that modern education can produce. Before execution he made this confession:- “During high school I took interest in evolution and atheism and denied the Christian faith. Therefore I became susceptible to worse errors and finally took up crime and murder. I don’t want any young man to study my crime, for all can see where it has led to. My mind was so warped by over-education that I became a fiend incarnate, living without consideration of mercy toward mankind. I decided to kill a human being as a supreme experiment, to test my limitations. I even planned to lead the career of a super-criminal, masking my activities under the guise of a Christian minister. If I had not been caught when I was, I undoubtedly would have committed even greater atrocities than the murder of Marion Parker.”
Now Absalom’s first recorded act, the germ and embryo of his career, and the kernel of modern youth, is both youth’s point of approach and its point of departure. Stung by the intolerable wrong done by his brother Amnon to his sister Tamar, and by the callous lethargy of the King, who ought to have been not alone the fountain of honour but the executor of justice, Absalom murders Amnon. The chivalry is altogether lovable: the lawlessness - for what in David would have been an execution (Lev. 20: 17) is in Absalom a murder - is deadly. To redress lawlessness by lawlessness is only to breed 1awlessness. Modern youth thinks itself emancipated from convention when what it emancipates itself from is the moral law. Last year the Senior Class oration in the Commemoration at Harvard expressed youth’s revolt:- “A new and different generation represents a fundamental change since the War. It has freed itself from old dogma, or, better still, the old ‘cant’; even from can’t, with the apostrophe. It essentially accepts no faith (in the old meaning of the word) and has little, save in the inevitability of progress, and is in no danger of using outworn creeds and methods to cure the evils it has inherited” (Literary Digest, July 14th, 1928).* It is very solemn that the whole hope of the world lies in - Absalom.
[* The lawlessness of youth, of all symptoms the most ominous,
and inevitable when the restraints of religious faith are cast off, is far more
characteristic of our day than any of us has yet realized. American figures - the only ones available -
show that more than 80 per cent. of all crimes, from murder down to petty
misdemeanours, are committed by persons less than 22 years old; that the average
age of burglars has decreased in ten years from 29 to only 21 years; that 51
per cent. of automobile thefts are committed by
persons under 18; and that 42 per cent. of the
unmarried mothers are schoolgirls averaging 16 years of age. Absalom’s public
and shameless immorality (2 Sam. 16: 22),
lawless even in a lawless age, forecasts the sharp moral decadence of an age to
In Absalom there opens a deep and deadly breach between the
generation closing and the generation rising.
His character, from the moment that he takes the wrong turn, develops
with amazing rapidity. A ‘fast’ youth – “Absalom prepared him a chariot and horses, and fifty men to run before him” (2 Sam. 15: 1) - he plots his father’s overthrow,
and his dream of world-Power in his own hands is the epitome of youth’s mirage
to-day. “Oh, that I were made judge in the land, that
any man which hath any suit or cause might come unto me, and I would do him
justice” (2 Sam. 15: 4) - the undying dream of the lawless that they
are the ideal administers of law.
Lawlessness logically culminates in apostasy. Absalom knew perfectly that he struck at the
Lord’s Anointed when the counsel to murder David “pleased
Absalom well.” The Christ must be
dethroned before the coronation of the Antichrist. In
Very moving, unutterably solemn, truly awful is the going down of the sun. The climax is altogether of God. Splendidly built, magnificently moulded, hangs a twisting convulsive figure, with head jammed, and javelins sticking through the heart, his magnificent hair the rope of his own scaffold, on a gallows man never made. By what lawyers call an ‘act of God,’ that is, a providence that has behind it Deity, the generation is executed. in type - for “cursed is everyone that hangeth on a tree” (Gal. 3: 13); and divinely gifted youth, proxime accessit to the Kingdom, its very beauty its halter, summoned (as youth is) for war-like the ten million dead on the plains of Europe - goes down at Armageddon in a slaughter man never made.*
[* Russia has nearly 5,000,000 men trained as soldiers under thirty, part it way be of the hordes to descend on the Holy Land (Ezek. 33.); India’s 50,000 university graduates are “almost solid” for revolt, says the Secretary of the Indian Council of Y.M.C.A.’s; and China’s youth is seething to pour across the Euphrates one day behind the Yellow Kings (Rev. 16: 12).]
Exquisitely does the type present our duty in the modern age. “And David went up the ascent of the
[* Bathsheba’s child, dying in infancy and so covered by Calvary, David says:- “I will go to him” (2 Sam. 12: 23); but in spite of his frantic grief he says no such word of Absalom, a lost soul [in Hades] on the other side of the gulf.]