Dependence on the System Abstract of a Sermon Preached on October 22, 2000
by Glenn Conjurske
The mystery of iniquity has been at work for many centuries, slowly and surely, but modern travel and discovery, modern invention and technology, have given to it a momentum which it never possessed in all the preceding millenniums. We need only take an occasional glance about us to see that the devil has brought his program, in our day, very near its ultimate success. That success will consist of one world religion and one world government, under the direct and acknowledged control of the devil himself.
We read in Revelation 13:1-4, “And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy. And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority. … And all the world wondered after the beast, and they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him?” And in the seventh verse, “And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations.” This is the end toward which the devil works, and the means by which he will bring it to its ultimate success is found in verses 16-17. “And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads, and that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.”
Now it is perfectly plain to us, who live in the present age, how easily such a tactic will gain its end. Men cannot live without buying and selling. But then it is equally plain that never before in the history of the world has this been true. Men could live without buying and selling a century ago, two centuries ago, a millennium ago, and in every other era since the beginning of the world. The present state of things, in which men must buy and sell to live, has been brought about gradually over the centuries, by the working of “the mystery of iniquity,” under the direction of Satan. The devil's end is that all the world should openly worship him. The means by which he sets the stage for this is “the mystery of iniquity,” working gradually behind the scenes, always with the same end in view, and always, of course, professing to be something other than what it is. More on that anon.
Understand, for the devil to be able to successfully gain the avowed allegiance of the whole world, by forbidding them to buy or sell except on that condition, he must first bring about a state of society in which it is necessary for men to buy and sell—-a state of society in which they cannot live without buying and selling. The success of his final stroke is absolutely dependent on this, and to bring this about he has been at work, behind the scenes, for many centuries. We have remarked often before that the devil had almost attained his ends at the tower of Babel, when all the world was of one speech, and all united together in a common “humanitarian” and anti-God enterprise. But God stepped in and confounded their tongues, and scattered them to the ends of the earth, and the devil's program was set back five thousand years. It was not possible for the thirteenth chapter of Revelation to be fulfilled when the Europeans did not know that the Australians or the inhabitants of the Americas existed. The devil must bring the world together, by means of discovery and invention and travel and communication. All this proceeded slowly for centuries, but gained increasing momentum with each new advance in technology, till in the twentieth century, by means of rapid travel and electronic communications, the devil had reduced the world back down to size, and made it manageable for his purposes.
But something more than this was wanted. He must also see the whole world dependent upon commerce in order to live. If the antichrist had come upon the scene a century and a half ago, and demanded that men worship him or forfeit their right to buy and sell, the world could have snubbed him. Men did not need to buy or sell. The mystery of iniquity was making slow but sure progress even in that day. The steamships plied the seas, the iron horses thundered over the rails, the telegraph wires were humming, and international commerce and global consciousness were fast increasing. The world was shrinking in size, and at the same time becoming more and more of a controlling power in the lives of the people.
Yet they could live without it. Read the autobiography of Peter Cartwright. He says, “We killed our meat out of the woods, wild; and beat our meal and hominy with a pestle and mortar. We stretched a deer-skin over a hoop, burned holes in it with the prongs of a fork, sifted our meal, baked our bread, eat it, and it was first-rate eating too. We raised, or gathered out of the woods, our own tea. We had sage, bohea, cross-vine, spice, and sassafras teas, in abundance. As for coffee, I am not sure that I ever smelled it for ten years. We made our sugar out of the water of the maple-tree, and our molasses too. These were great luxuries in those days.
“We raised our own cotton and flax. We water-rotted our flax, broke it by hand, scutched it; picked the seed out of the cotton with our fingers; our mothers and sisters carded, spun, and wove it into cloth, and they cut and made our garments and bed-clothes, etc. …
“Let it be remembered, these were days when we had no stores of dry goods or groceries.”
They needed no stores. They were self-sufficient. And this vast land was filled with families as independent as Peter Cartwright's. They could have scorned the devil's advances. They had no need to buy or sell.
The same has been true with many in more recent times also. When I was preaching in Colorado in 1968, I had a salary of zero dollars per year, faithfully paid by the church, yet I could not live on zero dollars a year, for I had need to buy, if not to sell. I went out to a ranch, therefore, and spent a couple of days throwing bales of hay, in order to make a twenty-dollar bill. I learned that the original owners of that ranch, who had “homesteaded” there, went to Grand Junction, a trip of about seventy-five miles, once a year, and in that yearly trip they did all their buying and selling for the year. They doubtless could have lived well enough without buying or selling at all. Whatever was strictly necessary they could raise themselves, or make themselves. This was less than a century ago.
But the twentieth century has changed all that. Those days are gone for ever. The civilized world can no longer live without buying and selling. The devil has secured this, by making all of us, saints and sinners alike, dependent upon the system. This he has brought about by technology and invention, and all the world has viewed it with great favor, for the devil is wise enough to lead the doomed ox to the slaughter by means of a little corn or hay. The sweat of our brows is unpopular. We must have tractors and machines and power tools and appliances, and for these the whole world has surrendered its independence, and surrendered it in fact to the powers of darkness. Every step in the clandestine working of the mystery of iniquity is called by the name of progress, and the world delights in all of it. It gives us ease, and luxury, and leisure—-it gives us freedom, and pleasure, and wings—-while it makes us ever more and more dependent upon the system, and brings us nearer and nearer to the final triumph of the devil's program.
And mark it well, the system upon which we are dependent is the devil's system. It is the world. The world is a system, a vast and all-embracing organization. The Greek word for “world” means “system,” or “organization,” and it is of course the devil's system. He is the god of it. He is the ruler of it. His is the mind that conceived it, his are the purposes for its existence, and his is the working which has developed it. All its “progress” is progress away from God. It is the progress of the prodigal, in his route to the far country. It is the progress of the mystery of iniquity. And it is perfectly plain to me that any man who has a grain or two of discernment must abhor what the world calls “progress.” If you love “progress,” you love the world.
Those who know anything of the present state of society, and of the purpose and program of the devil, as it is delineated in the Bible, must plainly see that his purpose now goes forward at break-neck speed, and that precious little is wanting for its ultimate triumph. It is modern technology which has given the present momentum to the devil's program, in numerous and various ways, but in nothing more conspicuously than in reducing the whole civilized world to dependence upon the system.
But I must descend to particulars. The most pervasive element in the dependence of modern man upon the system is the use of electricity. Electricity plays a part in almost everything which is done today. I am entirely dependent upon electricity to produce this magazine. Most of the buying and selling in the world is done by electronic means. Scales and cash registers are all run by electricity. The large department stores can't even open and close the doors without electricity, or light their windowless buildings. All our lighting is electric. Our refrigerators and freezers are all electric. Most people cannot heat their homes or cook their food without electricity. They may heat with gas or oil, but the stove will not run without electricity. Most of the world wouldn't know how to make a slice of toast without electricity. Those who do know how do not choose to do so. It is not so easy or convenient as an electric toaster.
The water supply of everybody, in city and country, is dependent upon electric pumps. If our electricity were suddenly and permanently cut off, we would all be without water. Those who have their own wells could remove their electric pumps and put a hand pump in the yard, but they will not do so while the electricity flows, and could not do so if it ceased, for there are not enough hand pumps in existence to supply one percent of the population. We are all dependent upon electricity for the necessities of life. And all this electricity must be bought. We do not produce our own. You can go to your local library and find books on wind generators, or water power, but for the most part nobody uses it. It is too much work, too much trouble. We are all accustomed to ease, we all love ease, and for that ease we have sacrificed our independence. Though it is theoretically possible to maintain a large degree of independence while we depend upon electrical power, hardly one in a million of us will do so. It is a plain matter of fact that the dependence of modern man upon electricity makes him almost entirely dependent on the system.
Another of the most pervasive elements of this dependence is reliance upon oil. The whole civilized world is addicted to running to and fro on the earth, and all this running is done by means of oil. Stop up the supply of oil and gasoline, and the world would be at an immediate stand-still. We have nothing to fall back on. We do not keep horses and buggies, and if we did, they could not replace the automobile. Business and commerce require us to travel too fast and too far to think of doing it with a horse, or a bicycle. Nothing will do but the self-propelled vehicle, and they all run by gasoline. We realize that it is possible to use other fuels, but as things now stand the whole world is dependent upon oil. And if the world's supply of oil runs out before the antichrist comes, and some other fuel is used, the whole world will then be dependent upon that, whatever it is.
And not for travel only, but also for heating and cooking. This is done in most cases by oil or gas, or by electricity produced by burning oil or gas. Meanwhile we may drive down any country highway, or walk in the national, state, or county forests, and see literally tons of good fire wood going to waste everywhere, lying on the ground rotting, and nobody cares anything about it. A saw mill a mile from my house throws away tons of good fire wood every week—-piles it up and sets in on fire. People don't want it. It is too much work to heat with wood. It is too inconvenient. We cannot pipe the wood into the house, set the thermostat, and let the stove run automatically, as we can with gas.
And this brings me to another matter. The more we contemplate all the component parts of this vast system, the more it appears that they all conspire together to set forward the devil's program. Wood stoves require people to stay at home. We cannot set the thermostat, and leave the house for a week, while we run around the country. There must be somebody at home to tend the fire—-at least if we have indoor plumbing. The modern passion to run to and fro on the earth, created by the existence of the automobile, has made electric heat, or electrically controlled heat, a simple necessity. Thus the love of ease and luxury pulls together with the love of running to and fro, and secures and cements the dependence of the whole populace upon the system. Modern man is addicted to ease and luxury, and for these he has sacrificed his independence. You understand, the world was not converted from wood to gas by compulsion, or by an act of the legislature. Every individual changed by his own choice, and it is certain that the reason for that choice in almost all cases was the love of ease and luxury. For that ease and that luxury the whole world, one man at a time, has bartered its independence. Some years ago I talked with a man now deceased, who worked for a girls' camp in 1953, when they took out all the wood cook stoves, and replaced them with gas. Could they sell the wood stoves? No, they couldn't give them away. They broke them up with sledge hammers, and took them to the dump, a whole truck-load of them. Modern man was “cooking with gas”—-an expression which has become proverbial for living in ease and convenience—-and what would he want with a wood stove?
Liberals and “environmentalists” have little use for wood stoves. They would like first to regulate them, and then to eliminate them—-and make us all dependent upon oil. And all the lovers of ease and luxury—-though to me there is no luxury equal to a wood stove—-play into their hands. Ungodly men who love their independence, and resent government control, like to sport some coarse wit on a bumper sticker which says, “My wife yes, my dog maybe, my gun never,” but if they understood the issues a little better, they would sing another tune, and say, “My gun perhaps, my wood stove never.”
But this leads me to another facet of our dependence on the system. A wood stove would be of little use to most of the race today, for where will they get the wood? They must buy that also. A poor man here and there, like myself, can usually get fire wood free, if he is willing to work a little to get it, but if everybody wanted it the supply would soon be gone. Very few of us own enough land to produce our own fire wood. One of the most pernicious effects of modern technology and industry is what is called urbanization. The farms are forsaken, and the people have moved by the droves to the cities. Some still live in the country, of course, but most of them do not farm. They live in the country and work in the cities. I can drive a short distance south on the highway which runs by my house, and see twenty-five or thirty abandoned farms—-the house inhabited, but the land lying fallow, the barn going to ruin, or already collapsed, maybe a horse or two occupying the pasture ground, but no farming. Those who live on these farms have automobiles, and work in the cities. The land they use for recreation. Most of the farms nearer the cities have been converted to shopping malls or apartment complexes. The family farm has almost ceased to exist. They have gone out of business by the thousands. This is due very largely to oppressive government regulation, but also to the fact that men can make more money for less labor by working in the cities. In short, they can make better money producing luxuries than they can raising food.
Now the inevitable result of this widespread forsaking of the family farm has been to put the production of the world's food supply into the hands of fewer and fewer people. I just heard of the death of a dairy farmer in this state. He was 52 years old, and was milking 3000 cows, though he had started with seventeen when he was young. My grandfather milked about twenty. Here then is one man producing the milk which was produced by 150 farmers a generation ago. And this is the trend everywhere. Very few produce even a small portion of their own food today. The result of this is that most of us must buy to eat, and so buy to live. The vast majority of the race have simply bartered their independence for ease and wealth, by forsaking the farms, and seeking easier and more lucrative employment in the cities, and the whole world is now dependent upon a very small segment of the population, which produces all the food.
The devil is no fool, you know, and he knows how to bait the hook. He knows how to lure men to those steps which will advance his own program. His working very much resembles that of a certain panderer of which I once read. He courted a pretty girl, seduced her from morality of course, and then lavished money upon her till she was addicted to a life of luxury, and ensnared with commitments, neither of which she could afford. He then cut off her supplies. When she asked for money, he told her he had none, but he knew where she could get some—-and took her to a house of prostitution. The devil operates in the same way. He has the race so addicted to luxury and ease that they will not live on the farms, and cannot live without electricity and gas and oil. All this brings them into dependence upon his system, and ultimately upon himself. One of the first effects of the travel and exploration of the civilized races was to make the savages in the woods and jungles dependent upon the system. And the same lure was effectual with them as had been so with the civilized races. They wanted ease and luxury. They wanted factory-made fish hooks and knives, they wanted soft clothing and blankets, and for these luxuries they bartered their independence. For these luxuries the South Sea islanders made their coconut oil and gathered their spice wood. For these the American Indians gathered their furs, for these the Africans their ivory. The natives had lived without any factory-made goods for centuries, but as soon as these luxuries became known they became necessary. This process has gone forward in a thousand facets the whole world over, so that now the world is addicted to luxury, and can no more tell the difference between luxury and necessity. Aerosol cans have become a necessity in the eyes of the people, though their grandparents never heard of most of the stuff that comes in them. In a hundred spheres the luxurious has come to stand in the place of the necessary, and men do not choose to reverse that process. Nor could they if they would, for though it was the love of luxury and convenience which brought them into dependence at the first, the devil has secured the matter beyond that, so that men are now dependent upon the system for the very necessities of life.
That dependence has grown to such proportions as to become almost absolute among ourselves, and particularly in everything which concerns buying and selling. We can no longer survive by means of trade and commerce with individuals like ourselves. We cannot live by doing business with our friends and neighbors. The village blacksmith, tailor, miller, turner, weaver, cartwright, wheelwright, waynewright, cooper, and cobbler have all ceased to exist, being all replaced with the factories in the distant cities. The factories and chain stores have put almost all the individual craftsmen out of business. Nobody can compete with a factory. While a man makes one item by hand, the factory makes a hundred or a thousand by machines and mass production, and who will pay a hundred times the price for what the individual can make? Almost everything we use is made by machines, and sold in the sprawling chain stores. It is useless to think of trading with a few neighbors. We must go to the system for everything. Modern industry has put all the craftsmen out of business, and whatever is left in the world of home-made goods consists almost entirely of machine-made materials processed and assembled at home, and this by means of factory-made tools and machines, so that all of us are dependent upon the system for everything.
But more. Not only is the individual craftsman unable to compete with the factories, but most of us have ceased to know how to make anything. When I was in the fourth grade our teacher read us a story. I remember absolutely nothing of the plot or incidents or characters in it, except one thing. The grandmother sent her granddaughter out to the yard to see what time it was. The girl (being used to a clock) returned saying she could not read the sun dial, and her grandmother remarked that “Every time one of these new inventions comes in the door, half our wits fly out the window.” This is true, though “half” is of course to be understood as it is commonly used in forceful speech, and not to be taken technically. The great profusion of modern inventions has left the whole race witless, and modern witlessness has made the whole race dependent upon the system. Very few among us could make a pair of shoes, a quart of paint, a bar of soap, a pair of pliers, or a bucket or kettle or screw or nail, and if we could, we would be almost entirely dependent upon the system for the materials from which to make them. Many among us could not make a loaf of bread, for the modern grocery store has made the women nearly as witless as the factories have made the men. We must go to the system for all.
More still. Since almost all the individual craftsmen have been put out of business, and everything is made by machines in the factories, almost nothing is produced locally. If I were shut up to what is manufactured locally, I would be reduced to paper, popsicle sticks, and drill bits. Lumber is still available from local saw mills, but I do not suppose there is enough food raised here to feed a hundredth part of the population. If one city makes paper, we must go to another, across the country, for a pen or pencil with which to write on it. If one city makes shoes, we must go to another for shirts. If one produces plates and cups, we must go to another for forks and spoons. For almost everything which we use and eat, therefore, we must go to the sprawling department stores and supermarkets, and almost everything which they sell is shipped to them from all the ends of the earth, and we are all dependent upon oil for the shipping.
Thus do all things conspire together in modern industry and commerce to reduce us all to a thorough dependence upon the system, and the system itself to a thorough dependence upon oil and electricity.
And as if that dependence were not secure enough, the liberal environmentalists want also to eliminate all the hydro-electric dams in the country. There is no sense in this. The rivers never cease to flow, being always replenished by evaporation and rain, and men may build numerous hydro-electric plants on a single river. Here is free power, in inexhaustible abundance, as faithful as the law of gravity, never on and off as the wind is, never obscured by clouds and night as the sunshine is, and the use of it does not diminish it. If its power is tapped at one point, or a dozen, still the river flows on, with as much strength as before. And yet liberal politicians want to eliminate the use of it. Why? Because they are led on by Satan, who knows very well what he is about. It is not enough merely to have us all dependent upon electricity. He wants a global dependence, for reliance upon the river which runs through our own county will not secure all his ends.
Observe too that we are dependent upon the system not only for the gas and electricity to operate our luxuries, but also for the parts and the knowledge to maintain them. And this becomes increasingly so as these luxuries become more and more sophisticated, by the use of electronic and computer technology. I can patch a muffler or tail pipe—-have often done so—-but not a computer. I know good automobile mechanics, who have been in the business all their lives, who cannot work on the newer cars.
There are many lesser matters in which men are generally dependent upon the system. One of these is for medical treatment. The family doctor has fared worse than the family farm. There is no family doctor in this town, and I would guess very few of them in the state. For any kind of medical treatment at all we must go to the large clinics or hospitals. These are tightly controlled by the government, and too expensive for anybody but the rich—-or the insurance companies, so that most people are dependent upon the insurance companies also. Modern witlessness adds to the dependence, for most of us know nothing of the home remedies which our grandparents used. We must now run to the clinic, and pay out five hundred or a thousand dollars, for what our forefathers would have treated effectually by drinking water or vinegar. We run to the hospital for a $5000 operation for what could be cured, and cured better, with chamomile tea. The scare tactics commonly used by the modern medical profession serve also to increase the dependence of any who believe in them. My second child was born in the hospital, and we wanted to go home after the birth, but the doctor refused to give his permission, telling us what dire things would likely happen. We lived a mere six blocks from the hospital, but he assured us my wife could bleed to death in six blocks. We went home over his objections, and without his permission, though he was very irate that we would not bow before his tactics of intimidation. Meanwhile, those who trust in the modern medical system are reduced to dependence upon it—-even to bondage to it.
The educational system also controls men. If you go to apply for a job, they do not ask if you are competent to do the work, but if you are a high school or college graduate. You must have such and such degrees to practice (or mis-practice) law or medicine, or to be a police or fire chief.
Most of us are dependent upon the telephone to do our business, and the world wide web is catching many more, and laying them in the clutches of the old Spider whose web it is.
Now the result of all this universal dependence upon the system is that the devil now, for the first time in history, has society in a position where he can bring about the culmination of his program. The thirteenth chapter of Revelation can be fulfilled in our day, though we dare say it never could have been in any other era since it was written. This is “progress,” no doubt. With what delight did the world hail the trans-Atlantic cable, and the transcontinental railroad, but none rejoiced more than the devil when the golden spike was driven.
There still remain some hardy souls who would like to maintain their independence of the system, though we think there is a good deal more talk of it than serious intent. The human race is too soft and effeminate to seriously desire it. But these folks will say, We can be independent. We can buy forty acres in the country, and raise our own meat and grain and potatoes, milk our own cows, gather our own eggs, cut our own fire wood, and make our clothes of deer skins. We won't drive a car. We won't use electricity. We will be self-sufficient, having no need to buy or sell, and no need for money.
And how long will this pleasant dream endure? Just until the property taxes come due, and then the government will confiscate your land and auction it off. The fact is, we cannot live without money. We cannot live without buying and selling. We are, all of us, so dependent upon the system that we cannot live without it. Those who dream of weathering out the reign of antichrist, by stock-piling food and arms and ammunition, had better put their energies to work elsewhere. Do they think to fight off the armies of the world with their little stock of weapons? Do they think to escape the notice of the government, when they fail to pay their property taxes?
What then should we do? The plain fact is, in general, there is nothing we can do. The mystery of iniquity has wrought so effectually that it has the whole world dependent upon the system, and ready for the final stroke. Most of those who have already little by little bartered one liberty after another for security and ease and affluence and pleasure, will submit to the last stroke as tamely as they have to the others. All the world will worship the beast, and the few nonconformists who refuse to do so will be hunted to the death. But I believe the church of God will be caught up in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air, before that final stroke falls. Whatever saints are on the earth at the time will be persecuted to the death. Our text says of the antichirst, “And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them”—-not, certainly, to break down their resistance to his claims and bring them to submission, but to put them to death for refusing. I don't expect to be here then. I expect the rapture of the church before that day. Meanwhile, I don't believe it profitable to spend our energies boycotting the system. Until the final stroke falls, we can use that system for our necessities. But we ought by all means to recognize it for what it is. It is nothing other than the mystery of iniquity. We ought to be thoroughly divorced from it in heart. If we love the system, we love the world, for it is the world. We ought to use it as Jael used the hammer and nail. These were unnatural instruments in a woman's hands, and used for a purpose certainly uncongenial to a woman's heart. She took them up for the necessity then present, and then no doubt gladly laid them down again.
And yet we have great need to be careful in the use of the world, and to walk circumspectly. I suppose that when the antichrist imposes his final test upon the human race, requiring all men to receive the mark of the beast, he will be dealing with a prepared people, who have already compromised in numerous smaller matters. The world is already thoroughly accustomed to yielding tamely to the unreasonable demands of tyrannical governments, and nowhere more so than in the United States of America. If all the petty and oppressive regulations which now dominate the lives of all of us had been enacted at once, a century and a half ago, there would have been a bloody revolution on the spot. Imagine Peter Cartwright being forced to wear a seat belt or hard hat, Davy Crockett paying $160 for a permit to build a privy, or Daniel Boone buying a license to shoot a bear, or getting a permit to burn a brush pile. This was a free country, but little by little tame conformity has been secured, and those who would have fought to the death, had the government proposed to chop off both their arms, have allowed the same operation to be performed a millimeter at a time, and by the time the shoulders were reached, even the protests had ceased. We may yet cut down a tree or plant a garden without a permit, but that may change also. There is tremendous legal and social pressure upon everybody to conform to the system, and I suppose that pressure will become greater as the end approaches. I contend that we have liberty to use the system for our necessities, but we have no liberty to compromise. As the devil tightens his strangle-hold upon the world, we shall no doubt be more and more pressured to compromise, first to maintain our luxuries, and then to secure the necessities of life. At the present time we are generally only enticed to conform, or to compromise, for the sake of monetary advantage, but we shall no doubt see more and more of compulsion. Even now it appears here and there. The Bible plainly teaches us whither all this is tending, and we ought to be on our guard.