From Here to Forever

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What Might Have Been

“With the flight of the Huguenots a general decline settled upon France. Flourishing manufacturing cities fell into decay. ... It is estimated that, at the breaking out of the Revolution, two hundred thousand paupers in Paris claimed charity from the hands of the king. The Jesuits alone flourished in the decaying nation.”11 HF 174.1

The gospel would have brought to France the solution of those problems that baffled her clergy, king, and legislators, and finally plunged the nation into ruin. But under Rome the people had lost the Saviour's lessons of self-sacrifice and unselfish love for the good of others. The rich had no rebuke for the oppression of the poor; the poor no help for their degradation. The selfishness of the wealthy and powerful grew more and more oppressive. For centuries, the rich wronged the poor, and the poor hated the rich. HF 174.2

In many provinces the laboring classes were at the mercy of landlords and were forced to submit to exhorbitant demands. The middle and lower classes were heavily taxed by the civil authorities and clergy. “The farmers and the peasants might starve, for aught their oppressors cared. ... The lives of the agricultural laborers were lives of incessant work and unrelieved misery; their complaints ... were treated with insolent contempt. ... Bribes were notoriously accepted by the judges. ... Of the taxes, ... not half ever found its way into the royal or episcopal treasury; the rest was squandered in profligate self-indulgence. And the men who thus impoverished their fellow-subjects were themselves exempt from taxation and entitled by law or custom to all the appointments of the state. ... For their gratification millions were condemned to hopeless and degrading lives.” (See Appendix) HF 174.3

For more than half a century before the Revolution the throne was occupied by Louis XV, distinguished as an indolent, frivolous, and sensual monarch. With the state financially embarrassed and the people exasperated, it needed no prophet's eye to foresee a terrible outbreak. In vain the necessity of reform was urged. The doom awaiting France was pictured in the king's selfish answer, “After me, the deluge!” HF 175.1

Rome had influenced the kings and ruling classes to keep the people in bondage, purposing to fasten both rulers and people in her shackles upon their souls. A thousandfold more terrible than the physical suffering which resulted from her policy was the moral degradation. Deprived of the Bible, and abandoned to selfishness, the people were shrouded in ignorance and sunken in vice, wholly unfitted for self-government. HF 175.2