A tempest, unprecedented in its violence, unpredictable in its course, catastrophic in its immediate effects, unimaginably glorious in its ultimate consequences, is at present sweeping the face of the earth. Its driving power is remorselessly gaining in range and momentum. Its cleansing force, however much undetected, is increasing with every passing day. Humanity, gripped in the clutches of its devastating power, is smitten by the evidences of its resistless fury. It can neither perceive its origin, nor probe its significance, nor discern its outcome. Bewildered, agonized and helpless, it watches this great and mighty wind of God invading the remotest and fairest regions of the earth, rocking its foundations, deranging its equilibrium, sundering its nations, disrupting the homes of its peoples, wasting its cities, driving into exile its kings, pulling down its bulwarks, uprooting its institutions, dimming its light, and harrowing up the souls of its inhabitants.
“The time for the destruction of the world and its people,” Bahá’u’lláh’s prophetic pen has proclaimed, “hath arrived.” “The hour is approaching,” He specifically affirms, “when the most great convulsion will have appeared.” “The promised day is come, the day when tormenting trials will have surged above your heads, and beneath your feet, saying: ‘Taste ye what your hands have wrought!’” “Soon shall the blasts of His chastisement beat upon you, and the dust of hell enshroud you.” And again: “And when the appointed hour is come, there shall suddenly appear that which shall cause the limbs of mankind to quake.” “The day is approaching when its [civilization’s] flame will devour the cities, when the Tongue of Grandeur will proclaim: ‘The Kingdom is God’s, the Almighty, the All-Praised!’” “The day will soon come,” He, referring to the foolish ones of the earth, has written, “whereon they will cry out for help and receive no answer.” “The day is approaching,” He moreover has prophesied, “when the wrathful anger of the Almighty will have taken hold of them. He, verily, is the Omnipotent, the All-Subduing, the Most Powerful. He shall cleanse the earth from the defilement of their corruption, and shall give it for an heritage unto such of His servants as are nigh unto Him.”
“As to those who deny Him Who is the Sublime Gate of God,” the Báb, for His part, has affirmed in the Qayyúm-i-Asmá’, “for them We have prepared, as justly decreed by God, a sore torment. And He, God, is the Mighty, the Wise.” And further, “O peoples of the earth! I swear by your Lord! Ye shall act as former generations have acted. Warn ye, then, yourselves of the terrible, the most grievous vengeance of God. For God is, verily, potent over all things.” And again: “By My glory! I will make the infidels to taste, with the hands of My power, retributions unknown of anyone except Me, and will waft over the faithful those musk-scented breaths which I have nursed in the midmost heart of My throne.”
Dear friends! The powerful operations of this titanic upheaval are comprehensible to none except such as have recognized the claims of both Bahá’u’lláh and the Báb. Their followers know full well whence it comes, and what it will ultimately lead to. Though ignorant of how far it will reach, they clearly recognize its genesis, are aware of its direction, acknowledge its necessity, observe confidently its mysterious processes, ardently pray for the mitigation of its severity, intelligently labor to assuage its fury, and anticipate, with undimmed vision, the consummation of the fears and the hopes it must necessarily engender.
This judgment of God, as viewed by those who have recognized Bahá’u’lláh as His Mouthpiece and His greatest Messenger on earth, is both a retributory calamity and an act of holy and supreme discipline. It is at once a visitation from God and a cleansing process for all mankind. Its fires punish the perversity of the human race, and weld its component parts into one organic, indivisible, world-embracing community. Mankind, in these fateful years, which at once signalize the passing of the first century of the Bahá’í Era and proclaim the opening of a new one, is, as ordained by Him Who is both the Judge and the Redeemer of the human race, being simultaneously called upon to give account of its past actions, and is being purged and prepared for its future mission. It can neither escape the responsibilities of the past, nor shirk those of the future. God, the Vigilant, the Just, the Loving, the All-Wise Ordainer, can, in this supreme Dispensation, neither allow the sins of an unregenerate humanity, whether of omission or of commission, to go unpunished, nor will He be willing to abandon His children to their fate, and refuse them that culminating and blissful stage in their long, their slow and painful evolution throughout the ages, which is at once their inalienable right and their true destiny.
“Bestir yourselves, O people,” is, on the one hand, the ominous warning sounded by Bahá’u’lláh Himself, “in anticipation of the days of Divine Justice, for the promised hour is now come.” “Abandon that which ye possess, and seize that which God, Who layeth low the necks of men, hath brought. Know ye of a certainty that if ye turn not back from that which ye have committed, chastisement will overtake you on every side, and ye shall behold things more grievous than that which ye beheld aforetime.” And again: “We have fixed a time for you, O people! If ye fail, at the appointed hour, to turn towards God, He, verily, will lay violent hold on you, and will cause grievous afflictions to assail you from every direction. How severe indeed is the chastisement with which your Lord will then chastise you!” And again: “God assuredly dominateth the lives of them that wronged Us, and is well aware of their doings. He will most certainly lay hold on them for their sins. He, verily, is the fiercest of Avengers.” And finally: “O ye peoples of the world! Know verily that an unforeseen calamity is following you and that grievous retribution awaiteth you. Think not the deeds ye have committed have been blotted from My sight. By My Beauty! All your doings hath My pen graven with open characters upon tablets of chrysolite.”
“The whole earth,” Bahá’u’lláh, on the other hand, forecasting the bright future in store for a world now wrapt in darkness, emphatically asserts, “is now in a state of pregnancy. The day is approaching when it will have yielded its noblest fruits, when from it will have sprung forth the loftiest trees, the most enchanting blossoms, the most heavenly blessings.” “The time is approaching when every created thing will have cast its burden. Glorified be God Who hath vouchsafed this grace that encompasseth all things, whether seen or unseen!” “These great oppressions,” He, moreover, foreshadowing humanity’s golden age, has written, “are preparing it for the advent of the Most Great Justice.” This Most Great Justice is indeed the Justice upon which the structure of the Most Great Peace can alone, and must eventually, rest, while the Most Great Peace will, in turn, usher in that Most Great, that World Civilization which shall remain forever associated with Him Who beareth the Most Great Name.
Beloved friends! Well nigh a hundred years have elapsed since the Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh dawned upon the world—a Revelation, the nature of which, as affirmed by Himself, “none among the Manifestations of old, except to a prescribed degree, hath ever completely apprehended.” For a whole century God has respited mankind, that it might acknowledge the Founder of such a Revelation, espouse His Cause, proclaim His greatness, and establish His Order. In a hundred volumes, the repositories of priceless precepts, mighty laws, unique principles, impassioned exhortations, reiterated warnings, amazing prophecies, sublime invocations, and weighty commentaries, the Bearer of such a Message has proclaimed, as no Prophet before Him has done, the Mission with which God had entrusted Him. To emperors, kings, princes and potentates, to rulers, governments, clergy and peoples, whether of the East or of the West, whether Christian, Jew, Muslim, or Zoroastrian, He addressed, for well-nigh fifty years, and in the most tragic circumstances, these priceless pearls of knowledge and wisdom that lay hid within the ocean of His matchless utterance. Forsaking fame and fortune, accepting imprisonment and exile, careless of ostracism and obloquy, submitting to physical indignities and cruel deprivations, He, the Vicegerent of God on earth, suffered Himself to be banished from place to place and from country to country, till at length He, in the Most Great Prison, offered up His martyred son as a ransom for the redemption and unification of all mankind. “We verily,” He Himself has testified, “have not fallen short of Our duty to exhort men, and to deliver that whereunto I was bidden by God, the Almighty, the All-Praised. Had they hearkened unto Me, they would have beheld the earth another earth.” And again: “Is there any excuse left for anyone in this Revelation? No, by God, the Lord of the Mighty Throne! My signs have encompassed the earth, and My power enveloped all mankind, and yet the people are wrapped in a strange sleep!”
How—we may well ask ourselves—has the world, the object of such Divine solicitude, repaid Him Who sacrificed His all for its sake? What manner of welcome did it accord Him, and what response did His call evoke? A clamor, unparalleled in the history of Shí‘ih Islám, greeted, in the land of its birth, the infant light of the Faith, in the midst of a people notorious for its crass ignorance, its fierce fanaticism, its barbaric cruelty, its ingrained prejudices, and the unlimited sway held over the masses by a firmly entrenched ecclesiastical hierarchy. A persecution, kindling a courage which, as attested by no less eminent an authority than the late Lord Curzon of Kedleston, has been unsurpassed by that which the fires of Smithfield evoked, mowed down, with tragic swiftness, no less than twenty thousand of its heroic adherents, who refused to barter their newly born faith for the fleeting honors and security of a mortal life.
To the bodily agonies inflicted upon these sufferers, the charges, so unmerited, of Nihilism, occultism, anarchism, eclecticism, immorality, sectarianism, heresy, political partisanship—each conclusively disproved by the tenets of the Faith itself and by the conduct of its followers—were added, swelling thereby the number of those who, unwittingly or maliciously, were injuring its cause.
Unmitigated indifference on the part of men of eminence and rank; unrelenting hatred shown by the ecclesiastical dignitaries of the Faith from which it had sprung; the scornful derision of the people among whom it was born; the utter contempt which most of those kings and rulers who had been addressed by its Author manifested towards it; the condemnations pronounced, the threats hurled, and the banishments decreed by those under whose sway it arose and first spread; the distortion to which its principles and laws were subjected by the envious and the malicious, in lands and among peoples far beyond the country of its origin—all these are but the evidences of the treatment meted out by a generation sunk in self-content, careless of its God, and oblivious of the omens, prophecies, warnings and admonitions revealed by His Messengers.
The blows so heavily dealt the followers of so precious, so glorious, so potent a Faith failed, however, to assuage the animosity that inflamed its persecutors. Nor did the deliberate and mischievous misrepresentations of its fundamental teachings, its aims and purposes, its hopes and aspirations, its institutions and activities, suffice to stay the hand of the oppressor and the calumniator, who sought by every means in their power to abolish its name and extirpate its system. The hand which had struck down so vast a number of its blameless and humble lovers and servants was now raised to deal its Founders the heaviest and cruelest blows.
The Báb—“the Point,” as affirmed by Bahá’u’lláh, “round Whom the realities of the Prophets and Messengers revolve”—was the One first swept into the maelstrom which engulfed His supporters. Sudden arrest and confinement in the very first year of His short and spectacular career; public affront deliberately inflicted in the presence of the ecclesiastical dignitaries of Shíráz; strict and prolonged incarceration in the bleak fastnesses of the mountains of Ádhirbayján; a contemptuous disregard and a cowardly jealousy evinced respectively by the Chief Magistrate of the realm and the foremost minister of his government; the carefully staged and farcical interrogatory sustained in the presence of the heir to the Throne and the distinguished divines of Tabríz; the shameful infliction of the bastinado in the prayer house, and at the hands of the Shaykhu’l-Islám of that city; and finally suspension in the barrack-square of Tabríz and the discharge of a volley of above seven hundred bullets at His youthful breast under the eyes of a callous multitude of about ten thousand people, culminating in the ignominious exposure of His mangled remains on the edge of the moat without the city gate—these were the progressive stages in the tumultuous and tragic ministry of One Whose age inaugurated the consummation of all ages, and Whose Revelation fulfilled the promise of all Revelations.
“I swear by God!” the Báb Himself in His Tablet to Muḥammad Sháh has written, “Shouldst thou know the things which in the space of these four years have befallen Me at the hands of thy people and thine army, thou wouldst hold thy breath from fear of God.… Alas, alas, for the things which have touched Me!… I swear by the Most Great Lord! Wert thou to be told in what place I dwell, the first person to have mercy on Me would be thyself. In the heart of a mountain is a fortress [Mákú] … the inmates of which are confined to two guards and four dogs. Picture, then, My plight.… In this mountain I have remained alone, and have come to such a pass that none of those gone before Me have suffered what I have suffered, nor any transgressor endured what I have endured!”
“How veiled are ye, O My creatures,” He, speaking with the voice of God, has revealed in the Bayán, “…who, without any right, have consigned Him unto a mountain [Mákú], not one of whose inhabitants is worthy of mention.… With Him, which is with Me, there is no one except him who is one of the Letters of the Living of My Book. In His presence, which is My Presence, there is not at night even a lighted lamp! And yet, in places [of worship] which in varying degrees reach out unto Him, unnumbered lamps are shining! All that is on earth hath been created for Him, and all partake with delight of His benefits, and yet they are so veiled from Him as to refuse Him even a lamp!”
What of Bahá’u’lláh, the germ of Whose Revelation, as attested by the Báb, is endowed with a potency superior to the combined forces of the Bábí Dispensation? Was He not—He for Whom the Báb had suffered and died in such tragic and miraculous circumstances—made, for nearly half a century and under the domination of the two most powerful potentates of the East, the object of a systematic and concerted conspiracy which, in its effects and duration, is scarcely paralleled in the annals of previous religions?
“The cruelties inflicted by My oppressors,” He Himself in His anguish has cried out, “have bowed Me down, and turned My hair white. Shouldst thou present thyself before My throne, thou wouldst fail to recognize the Ancient Beauty, for the freshness of His countenance is altered and its brightness hath faded, by reason of the oppression of the infidels. I swear by God! His heart, His soul, and His vitals are melted!” “Wert thou to hear with Mine ear,” He also declares, “thou wouldst hear how ‘Alí [the Báb] bewaileth Me in the presence of the Glorious Companion, and how Muḥammad weepeth over Me in the all-highest Horizon, and how the Spirit [Jesus] beateth Himself upon the head in the heaven of My decree, by reason of what hath befallen this Wronged One at the hands of every impious sinner.” “Before Me,” He elsewhere has written, “riseth up the Serpent of wrath with jaws stretched to engulf Me, and behind Me stalketh the lion of anger intent on tearing Me in pieces, and above Me, O My Well-Beloved, are the clouds of Thy decree, raining upon Me the showers of tribulations, whilst beneath Me are fixed the spears of misfortune, ready to wound My limbs and My body.” “Couldst thou be told,” He further affirms, “what hath befallen the Ancient Beauty, thou wouldst flee into the wilderness, and weep with a great weeping. In thy grief, thou wouldst smite thyself on the head, and cry out as one stung by the sting of the adder.… By the righteousness of God! Every morning I arose from My bed I discovered the hosts of countless afflictions massed behind My door, and every night when I lay down, lo! My heart was torn with agony at what it had suffered from the fiendish cruelty of its foes. With every piece of bread the Ancient Beauty breaketh is coupled the assault of a fresh affliction, and with every drop He drinketh is mixed the bitterness of the most woeful of trials. He is preceded in every step He taketh by an army of unforeseen calamities, while in His rear follow legions of agonizing sorrows.”
Was it not He Who, at the early age of twenty-seven, spontaneously arose to champion, in the capacity of a mere follower, the nascent Cause of the Báb? Was He not the One Who by assuming the actual leadership of a proscribed and harrassed sect exposed Himself, and His kindred, and His possessions, and His rank, and His reputation to the grave perils, the bloody assaults, the general spoliation and furious defamations of both government and people? Was it not He—the Bearer of a Revelation, Whose day “every Prophet hath announced,” for which “the soul of every Divine Messenger hath thirsted,” and in which “God hath proved the hearts of the entire company of His Messengers and Prophets”—was not the Bearer of such a Revelation, at the instigation of Shí‘ih ecclesiastics and by order of the Sháh himself forced, for no less than four months, to breathe, in utter darkness, whilst in the company of the vilest criminals and freighted down with galling chains, the pestilential air of the vermin-infested subterranean dungeon of Ṭihrán—a place which, as He Himself subsequently declared, was mysteriously converted into the very scene of the annunciation made to Him by God of His Prophethood?
“We were consigned,” He wrote in His “Epistle to the Son of the Wolf,” “for four months to a place foul beyond comparison. As to the dungeon in which this Wronged One and others similarly wronged were confined, a dark and narrow pit were preferable.… The dungeon was wrapped in thick darkness, and Our fellow prisoners numbered nearly a hundred and fifty souls: thieves, assassins, and highwaymen. Though crowded, it had no other outlet than the passage by which We entered. No pen can depict that place, nor any tongue describe its loathsome smell. Most of these men had neither clothes nor bedding to lie on. God alone knoweth what befell Us in that most foul-smelling and gloomy place!” “‘Abdu’l‑Bahá,” writes Dr. J.E. Esslemont, “tells how one day He was allowed to enter the prison-yard to see His beloved Father when He came out for His daily exercise. Bahá’u’lláh was terribly altered, so ill He could hardly walk. His hair and beard unkempt, His neck galled and swollen from the pressure of a heavy steel collar, His body bent by the weight of His chains.” “For three days and three nights,” Nabíl has recorded in his chronicle, “no manner of food or drink was given to Bahá’u’lláh. Rest and sleep were both impossible to Him. The place was infested with vermin, and the stench of that gloomy abode was enough to crush the very spirits of those who were condemned to suffer its horrors.” “Such was the intensity of His suffering that the marks of that cruelty remained imprinted upon His body all the days of His life.”
And what of the other tribulations which, before and immediately after this dreadful episode, touched Him? What of His confinement in the home of one of the kad-khudás of Ṭihrán? What of the savage violence with which He was stoned by the angry people in the neighborhood of the village of Níyálá? What of His incarceration by the emissaries of the army of the Sháh in Mázindarán, and His receiving the bastinado by order, and in the presence, of the assembled siyyids and mujtahids into whose hands He had been delivered by the civil authorities of Ámul? What of the howls of derision and abuse with which a crowd of ruffians subsequently pursued Him? What of the monstrous accusation brought against Him by the Imperial household, the Court and the people, when the attempt was made on the life of Náṣiri’d-Dín Sháh? What of the infamous outrages, the abuse and ridicule heaped on Him when He was arrested by responsible officers of the government, and conducted from Níyávarán “on foot and in chains, with bared head and bare feet,” and exposed to the fierce rays of the midsummer sun, to the Síyáh-Chál of Ṭihrán? What of the avidity with which corrupt officials sacked His house and carried away all His possessions and disposed of His fortune? What of the cruel edict that tore Him from the small band of the Báb’s bewildered, hounded, and shepherdless followers, separated Him from His kinsmen and friends, and banished Him, in the depth of winter, despoiled and defamed, to ‘Iráq?
Severe as were these tribulations which succeeded one another with bewildering rapidity as a result of the premeditated attacks and the systematic machinations of the court, the clergy, the government and the people, they were but the prelude to a harrowing and extensive captivity which that edict had formally initiated. Extending over a period of more than forty years, and carrying Him successively to ‘Iráq, Sulaymáníyyih, Constantinople, Adrianople and finally to the penal colony of ‘Akká, this long banishment was at last ended by His death, at the age of over three score years and ten, terminating a captivity which, in its range, its duration and the diversity and severity of its afflictions, is unexampled in the history of previous Dispensations.
No need to expatiate on the particular episodes which cast a lurid light on the moving annals of those years. No need to dwell on the character and actions of the peoples, rulers and divines who have participated in, and contributed to heighten the poignancy of the scenes of this, the greatest drama in the world’s spiritual history.
To enumerate a few of the outstanding features of this moving drama will suffice to evoke in the reader of these pages, already familiar with the history of the Faith, the memory of those vicissitudes which it has experienced, and which the world has until now viewed with such frigid indifference. The forced and sudden retirement of Bahá’u’lláh to the mountains of Sulaymáníyyih, and the distressing consequences that flowed from His two years’ complete withdrawal; the incessant intrigues indulged in by the exponents of Shí‘ih Islám in Najaf and Karbilá, working in close and constant association with their confederates in Persia; the intensification of the repressive measures decreed by Sulṭán ‘Abdu’l-‘Azíz which brought to a head the defection of certain prominent members of the exiled community; the enforcement of yet another banishment by order of that same Sulṭán, this time to that far off and most desolate of cities, causing such despair as to lead two of the exiles to attempt suicide; the unrelaxing surveillance to which they were subjected upon their arrival in ‘Akká, by hostile officials, and the insufferable imprisonment for two years in the barracks of that town; the interrogatory to which the Turkish páshá subsequently subjected his Prisoner at the headquarters of the government; His confinement for no less than eight years in a humble dwelling surrounded by the befouled air of that city, His sole recreation being confined to pacing the narrow space of His room—these, as well as other tribulations, proclaim, on the one hand, the nature of the ordeal and the indignities He suffered, and point, on the other, the finger of accusation at those mighty ones of the earth who had either so sorely maltreated Him, or deliberately withheld from Him their succor.
No wonder that from the Pen of Him Who bore this anguish with such sublime patience these words should have been revealed: “He Who is the Lord of the seen and unseen is now manifest unto all men. His blessed Self hath been afflicted with such harm that if all the seas, visible and invisible, were turned into ink, and all that dwell in the kingdom into pens, and all that are in the heavens and all that are on earth into scribes, they would, of a certainty, be powerless to record it.” And again: “I have been, most of the days of My life, even as a slave, sitting under a sword hanging on a thread, knowing not whether it would fall soon or late upon him.” “All this generation,” He affirms, “could offer Us were wounds from its darts, and the only cup it proffered to Our lips was the cup of its venom. On Our neck We still bear the scar of chains, and upon Our body are imprinted the evidences of an unyielding cruelty.” “Twenty years have passed, O kings!” He, addressing the kings of Christendom, at the height of His mission, has written, “during which We have, each day, tasted the agony of a fresh tribulation. No one of them that were before Us hath endured the things We have endured. Would that ye could perceive it! They that rose up against Us have put Us to death, have shed Our blood, have plundered Our property, and violated Our honor. Though aware of most of Our afflictions, ye, nevertheless, have failed to stay the hand of the aggressor. For is it not your clear duty to restrain the tyranny of the oppressor, and to deal equitably with your subjects, that your high sense of justice may be fully demonstrated to all mankind?”
Who is the ruler, may it not be confidently asked, whether of the East or of the West, who, at any time since the dawn of so transcendent a Revelation, has been prompted to raise his voice either in its praise or against those who persecuted it? Which people has, in the course of so long a captivity, felt urged to arise and stem the tide of such tribulations? Who is the sovereign, excepting a single woman, shining in solitary glory, who has, in however small a measure, felt impelled to respond to the poignant call of Bahá’u’lláh? Who amongst the great ones of the earth was inclined to extend this infant Faith of God the benefit of his recognition or support? Which one of the multitudes of creeds, sects, races, parties and classes and of the highly diversified schools of human thought, considered it necessary to direct its gaze towards the rising light of the Faith, to contemplate its unfolding system, to ponder its hidden processes, to appraise its weighty message, to acknowledge its regenerative power, to embrace its salutary truth, or to proclaim its eternal verities? Who among the worldly wise and the so-called men of insight and wisdom can justly claim, after the lapse of nearly a century, to have disinterestedly approached its theme, to have considered impartially its claims, to have taken sufficient pains to delve into its literature, to have assiduously striven to separate facts from fiction, or to have accorded its cause the treatment it merits? Where are the preeminent exponents, whether of the arts or sciences, with the exception of a few isolated cases, who have lifted a finger, or whispered a word of commendation, in either the defense or the praise of a Faith that has conferred upon the world so priceless a benefit, that has suffered so long and so grievously, and which enshrines within its shell so enthralling a promise for a world so woefully battered, so manifestly bankrupt?
To the mounting tide of trials which laid low the Báb, to the long-drawn-out calamities which rained on Bahá’u’lláh, to the warnings sounded by both the Herald and the Author of the Bahá’í Revelation, must be added the sufferings which, for no less than seventy years, were endured by ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá, as well as His pleas, and entreaties, uttered in the evening of His life, in connection with the dangers that increasingly threatened the whole of mankind. Born in the very year that witnessed the inception of the Bábí Revelation; baptized with the initial fires of persecution that raged around that nascent Cause; an eyewitness, when a boy of eight, of the violent upheavals that rocked the Faith which His Father had espoused; sharing with Him, the ignominy, the perils, and rigors consequent upon the successive banishments from His native-land to countries far beyond its confines; arrested and forced to support, in a dark cell, the indignity of imprisonment soon after His arrival in ‘Akká; the object of repeated investigations and the target of continual assaults and insults under the despotic rule of Sulṭán ‘Abdu’l-Ḥamíd, and later under the ruthless military dictatorship of the suspicious and merciless Jamál Páshá—He, too, the Center and Pivot of Bahá’u’lláh’s peerless Covenant and the perfect Exemplar of His teachings, was made to taste, at the hands of potentates, ecclesiastics, governments and peoples, the cup of woe which the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh, as well as so many of their followers, had drained.
With the warnings which both His pen and voice have given in countless Tablets and discourses, during an almost lifelong incarceration and in the course of His extended travels in both the European and American continents, they who labor for the spread of His Father’s Faith in the Western world are sufficiently acquainted. How often and how passionately did He appeal to those in authority and to the public at large to examine dispassionately the precepts enunciated by His Father? With what precision and emphasis He unfolded the system of the Faith He was expounding, elucidated its fundamental verities, stressed its distinguishing features, and proclaimed the redemptive character of its principles? How insistently did He foreshadow the impending chaos, the approaching upheavals, the universal conflagration which, in the concluding years of His life, had only begun to reveal the measure of its force and the significance of its impact on human society?
A co-sharer in the woeful trials and momentary frustrations afflicting the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh; reaping a harvest in His lifetime wholly incommensurate to the sublime, the incessant and strenuous efforts He had exerted; experiencing the initial perturbations of the world-shaking catastrophe in store for an unbelieving humanity; bent with age, and with eyes dimmed by the gathering storm which the reception accorded by a faithless generation to His Father’s Cause was raising, and with a heart bleeding over the immediate destiny of God’s wayward children—He, at last, sank beneath a weight of troubles for which they who had imposed them upon Him, and upon those gone before Him, were soon to be summoned to a dire reckoning.
“Hasten, O my God!” He cried, at a time when adversity had sore beset Him, “the days of my ascension unto Thee, and of my coming before Thee, and of my entry into Thy presence, that I may be delivered from the darkness of the cruelty inflicted by them upon me, and may enter the luminous atmosphere of Thy nearness, O my Lord, the All-Glorious, and may rest under the shadow of Thy most great mercy.” “Yá Bahá’u’l-Abhá [O Thou the Glory of Glories]!” He wrote in a Tablet revealed during the last week of His life, “I have renounced the world and the people thereof, and am heartbroken and sorely afflicted because of the unfaithful. In the cage of this world I flutter even as a frightened bird, and yearn every day to take my flight unto Thy Kingdom. Yá Bahá’u’l-Abhá! Make me to drink of the cup of sacrifice, and set me free. Relieve me from these woes and trials, from these afflictions and troubles.”
Dear friends! Alas, a thousand times alas, that a Revelation so incomparably great, so infinitely precious, so mightily potent, so manifestly innocent, should have received, at the hands of a generation so blind and so perverse, so infamous a treatment! “O My servants!” Bahá’u’lláh Himself testifies, “The one true God is My witness! This most great, this fathomless and surging ocean is near, astonishingly near, unto you. Behold it is closer to you than your life vein! Swift as the twinkling of an eye ye can, if ye but wish it, reach and partake of this imperishable favor, this God-given grace, this incorruptible gift, this most potent and unspeakably glorious bounty.”
After a revolution of well nigh one hundred years what is it that the eye encounters as one surveys the international scene and looks back upon the early beginnings of Bahá’í history? A world convulsed by the agonies of contending systems, races and nations, entangled in the mesh of its accumulated falsities, receding farther and farther from Him Who is the sole Author of its destinies, and sinking deeper and deeper into a suicidal carnage which its neglect and persecution of Him Who is its Redeemer have precipitated. A Faith, still proscribed, yet bursting through its chrysalis, emerging from the obscurity of a century-old repression, face to face with the awful evidences of God’s wrathful anger, and destined to arise above the ruins of a smitten civilization. A world spiritually destitute, morally bankrupt, politically disrupted, socially convulsed, economically paralyzed, writhing, bleeding and breaking up beneath the avenging rod of God. A Faith Whose call remained unanswered, Whose claims were rejected, Whose warnings were brushed aside, Whose followers were mowed down, Whose aims and purposes were maligned, Whose summons to the rulers of the earth were ignored, Whose Herald drained the cup of martyrdom, over the head of Whose Author swept a sea of unheard-of tribulations, and Whose Exemplar sank beneath the weight of lifelong sorrows and dire misfortunes. A world that has lost its bearings, in which the bright flame of religion is fast dying out, in which the forces of a blatant nationalism and racialism have usurped the rights and prerogatives of God Himself, in which a flagrant secularism—the direct offspring of irreligion—has raised its triumphant head and is protruding its ugly features, in which the “majesty of kingship” has been disgraced, and they who wore its emblems have, for the most part, been hurled from their thrones, in which the once all-powerful ecclesiastical hierarchies of Islám, and to a lesser extent those of Christianity, have been discredited, and in which the virus of prejudice and corruption is eating into the vitals of an already gravely disordered society. A Faith Whose institutions—the pattern and crowning glory of the age which is to come—have been ignored and in some instances trampled upon and uprooted, Whose unfolding system has been derided and partly suppressed and crippled, Whose rising Order—the sole refuge of a civilization in the embrace of doom—has been spurned and challenged, Whose Mother-Temple has been seized and misappropriated, and Whose “House”—the “cynosure of an adoring world”—has, through a gross miscarriage of justice, as witnessed by the world’s highest tribunal, been delivered into the hands of, and violated by, its implacable enemies.
We are indeed living in an age which, if we would correctly appraise it, should be regarded as one which is witnessing a dual phenomenon. The first signalizes the death pangs of an order, effete and godless, that has stubbornly refused, despite the signs and portents of a century-old Revelation, to attune its processes to the precepts and ideals which that Heaven-sent Faith proffered it. The second proclaims the birth pangs of an Order, divine and redemptive, that will inevitably supplant the former, and within Whose administrative structure an embryonic civilization, incomparable and world-embracing, is imperceptibly maturing. The one is being rolled up, and is crashing in oppression, bloodshed, and ruin. The other opens up vistas of a justice, a unity, a peace, a culture, such as no age has ever seen. The former has spent its force, demonstrated its falsity and barrenness, lost irretrievably its opportunity, and is hurrying to its doom. The latter, virile and unconquerable, is plucking asunder its chains, and is vindicating its title to be the one refuge within which a sore-tried humanity, purged from its dross, can attain its destiny.
“Soon,” Bahá’u’lláh Himself has prophesied, “will the present-day order be rolled up, and a new one spread out in its stead.” And again: “By Myself! The day is approaching when We will have rolled up the world and all that is therein, and spread out a new Order in its stead.” “The day is approaching when God will have raised up a people who will call to remembrance Our days, who will tell the tale of Our trials, who will demand the restitution of Our rights, from them who, without a tittle of evidence, have treated Us with manifest injustice.”
Dear friends! For the trials which have afflicted the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh a responsibility appalling and inescapable rests upon those into whose hands the reins of civil and ecclesiastical authority were delivered. The kings of the earth and the world’s religious leaders alike must primarily bear the brunt of such an awful responsibility. “Everyone well knoweth,” Bahá’u’lláh Himself testifies, “that all the kings have turned aside from Him, and all the religions have opposed Him.” “From time immemorial,” He declares, “they who have been outwardly invested with authority have debarred men from setting their faces towards God. They have disliked that men should gather together around the Most Great Ocean, inasmuch as they have regarded, and still regard, such a gathering as the cause of, and the motive for, the disruption of their sovereignty.” “The kings,” He moreover has written, “have recognized that it was not in their interest to acknowledge Me, as have likewise the ministers and the divines, notwithstanding that My purpose hath been most explicitly revealed in the Divine Books and Tablets, and the True One hath loudly proclaimed that this Most Great Revelation hath appeared for the betterment of the world and the exaltation of the nations.” “Gracious God!” writes the Báb in the Dalá’il-i-Sab‘ih (Seven Proofs) with reference to the “seven powerful sovereigns ruling the world” in His day, “None of them hath been informed of His [the Báb’s] Manifestation, and if informed, none hath believed in Him. Who knoweth, they may leave this world below full of desire, and without having realized that the thing for which they were waiting had come to pass. This is what happened to the monarchs that held fast unto the Gospel. They awaited the coming of the Prophet of God [Muḥammad], and when He did appear, they failed to recognize Him. Behold how great are the sums which these sovereigns expend without even the slightest thought of appointing an official charged with the task of acquainting them in their own realms with the Manifestation of God! They would thereby have fulfilled the purpose for which they have been created. All their desires have been and are still fixed upon leaving behind them traces of their names.” The Báb, moreover, in that same treatise, censuring the failure of the Christian divines to acknowledge the truth of Muḥammad’s mission, makes this illuminating statement: “The blame falleth upon their doctors, for if these had believed, they would have been followed by the mass of their countrymen. Behold then, that which hath come to pass! The learned men of Christendom are held to be learned by virtue of their safeguarding the teaching of Christ, and yet consider how they themselves have been the cause of men’s failure to accept the Faith and attain unto salvation!”
It should not be forgotten that it was the kings of the earth and the world’s religious leaders who, above all other categories of men, were made the direct recipients of the Message proclaimed by both the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh. It was they who were deliberately addressed in numerous and historic Tablets, who were summoned to respond to the Call of God, and to whom were directed, in clear and forcible language, the appeals, the admonitions and warnings of His persecuted Messengers. It was they who, when the Faith was born, and later when its mission was proclaimed, were still, for the most part, wielding unquestioned and absolute civil and ecclesiastical authority over their subjects and followers. It was they who, whether glorying in the pomp and pageantry of a kingship as yet scarcely restricted by constitutional limitations, or entrenched within the strongholds of a seemingly inviolable ecclesiastical power, assumed ultimate responsibility for any wrongs inflicted by those whose immediate destinies they controlled. It would be no exaggeration to say that in most of the countries of the European and Asiatic continents absolutism, on the one hand, and complete subservience to ecclesiastical hierarchies, on the other, were still the outstanding features of the political and religious life of the masses. These, dominated and shackled, were robbed of the necessary freedom that would enable them to either appraise the claims and merits of the Message proffered to them, or to embrace unreservedly its truth.
Small wonder, then, that the Author of the Bahá’í Faith, and to a lesser degree its Herald, should have directed at the world’s supreme rulers and religious leaders the full force of Their Messages, and made them the recipients of some of Their most sublime Tablets, and invited them, in a language at once clear and insistent, to heed Their call. Small wonder that They should have taken the pains to unroll before their eyes the truths of Their respective Revelations, and should have expatiated on Their woes and sufferings. Small wonder that They should have stressed the preciousness of the opportunities which it was in the power of these rulers and leaders to seize, and should have warned them in ominous tones of the grave responsibilities which the rejection of God’s Message would entail, and should have predicted, when rebuffed and refused, the dire consequences which such a rejection involved. Small wonder that He Who is the King of kings and Vicegerent of God Himself should, when abandoned, contemned and persecuted, have uttered this epigrammatic and momentous prophecy: “From two ranks amongst men power hath been seized: kings and ecclesiastics.”
As to the kings and emperors who not only symbolized in their persons the majesty of earthly dominion but who, for the most part, actually held unchallengeable sway over the multitudes of their subjects, their relation to the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh constitutes one of the most illuminating episodes in the history of the Heroic and Formative Ages of that Faith. The Divine summons which embraced within its scope so large a number of the crowned heads of both Europe and Asia; the theme and language of the Messages that brought them into direct contact with the Source of God’s Revelation; the nature of their reaction to so stupendous an impact; and the consequences which ensued and can still be witnessed today are the salient features of a subject upon which I can but inadequately touch, and which will be fully and befittingly treated by future Bahá’í historians.
The Emperor of the French, the most powerful ruler of his day on the European continent, Napoleon III; Pope Pius IX, the supreme head of the highest church in Christendom, and wielder of the scepter of both temporal and spiritual authority; the omnipotent Czar of the vast Russian Empire, Alexander II; the renowned Queen Victoria, whose sovereignty extended over the greatest political combination the world has witnessed; William I, the conqueror of Napoleon III, King of Prussia and the newly acclaimed monarch of a unified Germany; Francis Joseph, the autocratic king-emperor of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, the heir of the far-famed Holy Roman Empire; the tyrannical ‘Abdu’l-‘Azíz, the embodiment of the concentrated power vested in the Sultanate and the Caliphate; the notorious Náṣiri’d-Dín Sháh, the despotic ruler of Persia and the mightiest potentate of Shí‘ih Islám—in a word, most of the preeminent embodiments of power and of sovereignty in His day became, one by one, the object of Bahá’u’lláh’s special attention, and were made to sustain, in varying degrees, the weight of the force communicated by His appeals and warnings.
It should be borne in mind, however, that Bahá’u’lláh has not restricted the delivery of His Message to a few individual sovereigns, however potent the scepters they severally wielded, and however vast the dominions which they ruled. All the kings of the earth have been collectively addressed by His Pen, appealed to, and warned, at a time when the star of His Revelation was mounting its zenith, and whilst He lay a prisoner in the hands, and in the vicinity of the court, of His royal enemy. In a memorable Tablet, designated as the Súriy-i-Mulúk (Súrih of Kings) in which the Sulṭán himself and his ministers, and the kings of Christendom, and the French and Persian Ambassadors accredited to the Sublime Porte, and the Muslim ecclesiastical leaders in Constantinople, and its wise men and its inhabitants, and the people of Persia, and the philosophers of the world have been specifically addressed and admonished, He thus directs His words to the entire company of the monarchs of East and West:
“O kings of the earth! Give ear unto the Voice of God, calling from this sublime, this fruit-laden Tree, that hath sprung out of the Crimson Hill, upon the holy Plain, intoning the words: ‘There is none other God but He, the Mighty, the All-Powerful, the All-Wise.’… Fear God, O concourse of kings, and suffer not yourselves to be deprived of this most sublime grace. Fling away, then, the things ye possess, and take fast hold on the Handle of God, the Exalted, the Great. Set your hearts towards the Face of God, and abandon that which your desires have bidden you to follow, and be not of those who perish. Relate unto them, O servant, the story of ‘Alí [the Báb], when He came unto them with truth, bearing His glorious and weighty Book, and holding in His hands a testimony and proof from God, and holy and blessed tokens from Him. Ye, however, O kings, have failed to heed the Remembrance of God in His days and to be guided by the lights which arose and shone forth above the horizon of a resplendent Heaven. Ye examined not His Cause when so to do would have been better for you than all that the sun shineth upon, could ye but perceive it. Ye remained careless until the divines of Persia—those cruel ones—pronounced judgment against Him, and unjustly slew Him. His spirit ascended unto God, and the eyes of the inmates of Paradise and the angels that are nigh unto Him wept sore by reason of this cruelty. Beware that ye be not careless henceforth as ye have been careless aforetime. Return, then, unto God, your Maker, and be not of the heedless.… My face hath come forth from the veils, and shed its radiance upon all that is in heaven and on earth; and yet, ye turned not towards Him, notwithstanding that ye were created for Him, O concourse of kings! Follow, therefore, that which I speak unto you, and hearken unto it with your hearts, and be not of such as have turned aside. For your glory consisteth not in your sovereignty, but rather in your nearness unto God and your observance of His command as sent down in His holy and preserved Tablets. Should any one of you rule over the whole earth, and over all that lieth within it and upon it, its seas, its lands, its mountains, and its plains, and yet be not remembered by God, all these would profit him not, could ye but know it.… Arise, then, and make steadfast your feet, and make ye amends for that which hath escaped you, and set then yourselves towards His holy Court, on the shore of His mighty Ocean, so that the pearls of knowledge and wisdom, which God hath stored up within the shell of His radiant heart, may be revealed unto you.… Beware lest ye hinder the breeze of God from blowing over your hearts, the breeze through which the hearts of such as have turned unto Him can be quickened.…”
“Lay not aside the fear of God, O kings of the earth,” He, in that same Tablet has revealed, “and beware that ye transgress not the bounds which the Almighty hath fixed. Observe the injunctions laid upon you in His Book, and take good heed not to overstep their limits. Be vigilant, that ye may not do injustice to anyone, be it to the extent of a grain of mustard seed. Tread ye the path of justice, for this, verily, is the straight path. Compose your differences, and reduce your armaments, that the burden of your expenditures may be lightened, and that your minds and hearts may be tranquilized. Heal the dissensions that divide you, and ye will no longer be in need of any armaments except what the protection of your cities and territories demandeth. Fear ye God, and take heed not to outstrip the bounds of moderation, and be numbered among the extravagant. We have learned that you are increasing your outlay every year, and are laying the burden thereof on your subjects. This, verily, is more than they can bear, and is a grievous injustice. Decide justly between men, and be ye the emblems of justice amongst them. This, if ye judge fairly, is the thing that behooveth you, and beseemeth your station.
“Beware not to deal unjustly with anyone that appealeth to you, and entereth beneath your shadow. Walk ye in the fear of God, and be ye of them that lead a godly life. Rest not on your power, your armies, and treasures. Put your whole trust and confidence in God, Who hath created you, and seek ye His help in all your affairs. Succor cometh from Him alone. He succoreth whom He willeth with the hosts of the heavens and of the earth.
“Know ye that the poor are the trust of God in your midst. Watch that ye betray not His trust, that ye deal not unjustly with them and that ye walk not in the ways of the treacherous. Ye will most certainly be called upon to answer for His trust on the day when the Balance of Justice shall be set, the day when unto everyone shall be rendered his due, when the doings of all men, be they rich or poor, shall be weighed.
“If ye pay no heed unto the counsels which, in peerless and unequivocal language, We have revealed in this Tablet, Divine chastisement shall assail you from every direction, and the sentence of His justice shall be pronounced against you. On that day ye shall have no power to resist Him, and shall recognize your own impotence. Have mercy on yourselves and on those beneath you, and judge ye between them according to the precepts prescribed by God in His most holy and exalted Tablet, a Tablet wherein He hath assigned to each and every thing its settled measure, in which He hath given, with distinctness, an explanation of all things, and which is in itself a monition unto them that believe in Him.
“Examine Our Cause, inquire into the things that have befallen Us, and decide justly between Us and Our enemies, and be ye of them that act equitably towards their neighbors. If ye stay not the hand of the oppressor, if ye fail to safeguard the rights of the downtrodden, what right have ye then to vaunt yourselves among men? What is it of which ye can rightly boast? Is it on your food and your drink that ye pride yourselves, on the riches ye lay up in your treasuries, on the diversity and the cost of the ornaments with which ye deck yourselves? If true glory were to consist in the possession of such perishable things, then the earth on which ye walk must needs vaunt itself over you, because it supplieth you, and bestoweth upon you, these very things, by the decree of the Almighty. In its bowels are contained, according to what God hath ordained, all that ye possess. From it, as a sign of His mercy, ye derive your riches. Behold then your state, the thing in which ye glory! Would that ye could perceive it! Nay! By Him Who holdeth in His grasp the kingdom of the entire creation! Nowhere doth your true and abiding glory reside except in your firm adherence unto the precepts of God, your wholehearted observance of His laws, your resolution to see that they do not remain unenforced, and to pursue steadfastly the right course.…”
And again in that same Tablet: “Twenty years have passed, O kings, during which We have, each day, tasted the agony of a fresh tribulation. No one of them that were before Us hath endured the things We have endured. Would that ye could perceive it! They that rose up against Us, have put Us to death, have shed Our blood, have plundered Our property, and violated Our honor. Though aware of most of Our afflictions, ye, nevertheless, have failed to stay the hand of the aggressor. For is it not your clear duty to restrain the tyranny of the oppressor, and to deal equitably with your subjects, that your high sense of justice may be fully demonstrated to all mankind?
“God hath committed into your hands the reins of the government of the people, that ye may rule with justice over them, safeguard the rights of the downtrodden, and punish the wrongdoers. If ye neglect the duty prescribed unto you by God in His Book, your names shall be numbered with those of the unjust in His sight. Grievous, indeed, will be your error. Cleave ye to that which your imaginations have devised, and cast behind your backs the commandments of God, the Most Exalted, the Inaccessible, the All-Compelling, the Almighty? Cast away the things ye possess, and cling to that which God hath bidden you observe. Seek ye His grace, for he that seeketh it treadeth His straight Path.
“Consider the state in which We are, and behold ye the ills and troubles that have tried Us. Neglect Us not, though it be for a moment, and judge ye between Us and Our enemies with equity. This will, surely, be a manifest advantage unto you. Thus do We relate to you Our tale, and recount the things that have befallen Us, that ye might take off Our ills and ease Our burden. Let him who will, relieve Us from Our trouble; and as to him that willeth not, my Lord is assuredly the best of Helpers.
“Warn and acquaint the people, O Servant, with the things We have sent down unto Thee, and let the fear of no one dismay Thee, and be Thou not of them that waver. The day is approaching when God will have exalted His Cause and magnified His testimony in the eyes of all who are in the heavens and all who are on the earth. Place, in all circumstances, Thy whole trust in Thy Lord, and fix Thy gaze upon Him, and turn away from all them that repudiate His truth. Let God, Thy Lord, be Thy sufficing Succorer and Helper. We have pledged Ourself to secure Thy triumph upon earth and to exalt Our Cause above all men, though no king be found who would turn his face towards Thee.…”
In the Kitáb-i-Aqdas (The Most Holy Book), that priceless treasury enshrining for all time the brightest emanations of the mind of Bahá’u’lláh, the Charter of His World Order, the chief repository of His laws, the Harbinger of His Covenant, the Pivotal Work containing some of His noblest exhortations, weightiest pronouncements, and portentous prophecies, and revealed during the full tide of His tribulations, at a time when the rulers of the earth had definitely forsaken Him—in such a Book we read the following:
“O kings of the earth! He Who is the sovereign Lord of all is come. The Kingdom is God’s, the omnipotent Protector, the Self-Subsisting. Worship none but God, and, with radiant hearts, lift up your faces unto your Lord, the Lord of all names. This is a Revelation to which whatever ye possess can never be compared, could ye but know it. We see you rejoicing in that which ye have amassed for others, and shutting out yourselves from the worlds which naught except My Guarded Tablet can reckon. The treasures ye have laid up have drawn you far away from your ultimate objective. This ill beseemeth you, could ye but understand it. Wash your hearts from all earthly defilements, and hasten to enter the Kingdom of your Lord, the Creator of earth and heaven, Who caused the world to tremble, and all its peoples to wail, except them that have renounced all things and clung to that which the Hidden Tablet hath ordained.…”
And further: “O kings of the earth! The Most Great Law hath been revealed in this Spot, this Scene of transcendent splendor. Every hidden thing hath been brought to light, by virtue of the Will of the Supreme Ordainer, He Who hath ushered in the Last Hour, through Whom the Moon hath been cleft, and every irrevocable decree expounded.
“Ye are but vassals, O kings of the earth! He Who is the King of Kings hath appeared, arrayed in His most wondrous glory, and is summoning you unto Himself, the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting. Take heed lest pride deter you from recognizing the Source of Revelation; lest the things of this world shut you out as by a veil from Him Who is the Creator of heaven. Arise, and serve Him Who is the Desire of all nations, Who hath created you through a word from Him, and ordained you to be, for all time, the emblems of His sovereignty.
“By the righteousness of God! It is not Our wish to lay hands on your kingdoms. Our mission is to seize and possess the hearts of men. Upon them the eyes of Bahá are fastened. To this testifieth the Kingdom of Names, could ye but comprehend it. Whoso followeth his Lord, will renounce the world and all that is therein; how much greater, then, must be the detachment of Him Who holdeth so august a station! Forsake your palaces, and haste ye to gain admittance into His Kingdom. This, indeed, will profit you both in this world and in the next. To this testifieth the Lord of the realm on high, did ye but know it.
“How great is the blessedness that awaiteth the king who will arise to aid My Cause in My Kingdom, who will detach himself from all else but Me! Such a king is numbered with the companions of the Crimson Ark, the Ark which God hath prepared for the people of Bahá. All must glorify his name, must reverence his station, and aid him to unlock the cities with the keys of My Name, the omnipotent Protector of all that inhabit the visible and invisible kingdoms. Such a king is the very eye of mankind, the luminous ornament on the brow of creation, the fountainhead of blessings unto the whole world. Offer up, O people of Bahá, your substance, nay your very lives, for his assistance.”
And further, this evident arraignment in that same Book: “We have asked nothing from you. For the sake of God We, verily, exhort you, and will be patient as We have been patient in that which hath befallen Us at your hands, O concourse of kings!”
Moreover, in His Tablet to Queen Victoria Bahá’u’lláh thus addresses all the kings of the earth, summoning them to cleave to the Lesser Peace, as distinct from that Most Great Peace which those who are fully conscious of the power of His Revelation and avowedly profess the tenets of His Faith can alone proclaim and must eventually establish:
“O kings of the earth! We see you increasing every year your expenditures, and laying the burden thereof on your subjects. This, verily, is wholly and grossly unjust. Fear the sighs and tears of this Wronged One, and lay not excessive burdens on your peoples. Do not rob them to rear palaces for yourselves; nay rather choose for them that which ye choose for yourselves. Thus We unfold to your eyes that which profiteth you, if ye but perceive. Your people are your treasures. Beware lest your rule violate the commandments of God, and ye deliver your wards to the hands of the robber. By them ye rule, by their means ye subsist, by their aid ye conquer. Yet, how disdainfully ye look upon them! How strange, how very strange!
“O rulers of the earth! Be reconciled among yourselves, that ye may need no more armaments save in a measure to safeguard your territories and dominions. Beware lest ye disregard the counsel of the All-Knowing, the Faithful.
“Be united, O kings of the earth, for thereby will the tempest of discord be stilled amongst you, and your peoples find rest, if ye be of them that comprehend. Should anyone among you take up arms against another, rise ye all against him, for this is naught but manifest justice.”
“O kings of Christendom! Heard ye not the saying of Jesus, the Spirit of God, ‘I go away, and come again unto you’? Wherefore, then, did ye fail, when He did come again unto you in the clouds of heaven, to draw nigh unto Him, that ye might behold His face, and be of them that attained His Presence? In another passage He saith: ‘When He, the Spirit of Truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth.’ And yet, behold how, when He did bring the truth, ye refused to turn your faces towards Him, and persisted in disporting yourselves with your pastimes and fancies. Ye welcomed Him not, neither did ye seek His Presence, that ye might hear the verses of God from His own mouth, and partake of the manifold wisdom of the Almighty, the All-Glorious, the All-Wise. Ye have, by reason of your failure, hindered the breath of God from being wafted over you, and have withheld from your souls the sweetness of its fragrance. Ye continue roving with delight in the valley of your corrupt desires. Ye and all ye possess shall pass away. Ye shall, most certainly, return to God, and shall be called to account for your doings in the presence of Him Who shall gather together the entire creation.…”
The Báb, moreover, in the Qayyúm-i-Asmá’, His celebrated commentary on the Súrih of Joseph, revealed in the first year of His Mission, and characterized by Bahá’u’lláh as “the first, the greatest, and mightiest of all books” in the Bábí Dispensation, has issued this stirring call to the kings and princes of the earth:
“O concourse of kings and of the sons of kings! Lay aside, one and all, your dominion which belongeth unto God.… Vain indeed is your dominion, for God hath set aside earthly possessions for such as have denied Him.… O concourse of kings! Deliver with truth and in all haste the verses sent down by Us to the peoples of Turkey and of India, and beyond them, with power and with truth, to lands in both the East and the West.… By God! If ye do well, to your own behoof will ye do well; and if ye deny God and His signs, We, in very truth, having God, can well dispense with all creatures and all earthly dominion.”
And again: “Fear ye God, O concourse of kings, lest ye remain afar from Him Who is His Remembrance [the Báb], after the Truth hath come unto you with a Book and signs from God, as spoken through the wondrous tongue of Him Who is His Remembrance. Seek ye grace from God, for God hath ordained for you, after ye have believed in Him, a Garden the vastness of which is as the vastness of the whole of Paradise.”
So much for the epoch-making counsels and warnings collectively addressed by the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh to the sovereigns of the earth, and more particularly directed to the kings of Christendom. I would be failing to do justice to my theme were I to ignore, or even to dismiss briefly, those audacious, fate-laden apostrophes to individual monarchs who, whether as kings or emperors, have either viewed with cold indifference the tribulations, or rejected with contempt the warnings, of the twin Founders of our Faith. I can neither quote as fully as I should from the two thousand and more verses that have streamed from the pen of Bahá’u’lláh and, to a lesser extent, from that of the Báb, addressed to individual monarchs in Europe and Asia, nor is it my purpose to expatiate upon the circumstances that have provoked, or the consequences that have flowed from, those astounding utterances. The historian of the future, viewing more widely and in fuller perspective the momentous happenings of the Apostolic and Formative Ages of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh, will no doubt be able to evaluate accurately and to describe in a circumstantial manner the causes, the implications and the effects of these Divine Messages which, in their scope and effectiveness, have certainly no parallel in the religious annals of mankind.
To the French Emperor, Napoleon III, Bahá’u’lláh addressed these words: “O King of Paris! Tell the priest to ring the bells no longer. By God, the True One! The Most Mighty Bell hath appeared in the form of Him Who is the Most Great Name, and the fingers of the will of thy Lord, the Most Exalted, the Most High, toll it out in the heaven of Immortality, in His Name, the All-Glorious. Thus have the mighty verses of thy Lord been again sent down unto thee, that thou mayest arise to remember God, the Creator of earth and heaven, in these days when all the tribes of the earth have mourned, and the foundations of the cities have trembled, and the dust of irreligion hath enwrapped all men, except such as thy Lord, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise, was pleased to spare.… Give ear, O King, unto the Voice that calleth from the Fire which burneth in this Verdant Tree, upon this Sinai which hath been raised above the hallowed and snow-white Spot, beyond the Everlasting City: ‘Verily, there is none other God but Me, the Ever-Forgiving, the Most Merciful!’ We, in truth, have sent Him Whom We aided with the Holy Spirit [Jesus], that He may announce unto you this Light that hath shone forth from the horizon of the will of your Lord, the Most Exalted, the All-Glorious, and Whose signs have been revealed in the West, that ye may set your faces towards Him [Bahá’u’lláh], on this Day which God hath exalted above all other days, and whereon the All-Merciful hath shed the splendor of His effulgent glory upon all who are in heaven and all who are on earth. Arise thou to serve God and help His Cause. He, verily, will assist thee with the hosts of the seen and unseen, and will set thee king over all that whereon the sun riseth. Thy Lord, in truth, is the All-Powerful, the Almighty.… Attire thy temple with the ornament of My Name, and thy tongue with remembrance of Me, and thine heart with love for Me, the Almighty, the Most High. We have desired for thee naught except that which is better for thee than what thou dost possess and all the treasures of the earth. Thy Lord, verily, is knowing, informed of all.…
“O King! We heard the words thou didst utter in answer to the Czar of Russia, concerning the decision made regarding the war [Crimean War]. Thy Lord, verily, knoweth, is informed of all. Thou didst say: ‘I lay asleep upon my couch, when the cry of the oppressed, who were drowned in the Black Sea, wakened me.’ This is what we heard thee say, and, verily, thy Lord is witness unto what I say. We testify that that which wakened thee was not their cry, but the promptings of thine own passions, for We tested thee, and found thee wanting. Comprehend the meaning of My words, and be thou of the discerning.… Hadst thou been sincere in thy words, thou wouldst have not cast behind thy back the Book of God, when it was sent unto thee by Him Who is the Almighty, the All-Wise. We have proved thee through it, and found thee other than that which thou didst profess. Arise, and make amends for that which escaped thee. Erelong the world and all that thou possessest will perish, and the kingdom will remain unto God, thy Lord and the Lord of thy fathers of old. It behooveth thee not to conduct thine affairs according to the dictates of thy desires. Fear the sighs of this Wronged One, and shield Him from the darts of such as act unjustly. For what thou hast done, thy kingdom shall be thrown into confusion, and thine empire shall pass from thine hands, as a punishment for that which thou hast wrought. Then wilt thou know how thou hast plainly erred. Commotions shall seize all the people in that land, unless thou arisest to help this Cause, and followest Him Who is the Spirit of God [Jesus] in this, the straight Path. Hath thy pomp made thee proud? By My Life! It shall not endure; nay, it shall soon pass away, unless thou holdest fast by this firm Cord. We see abasement hastening after thee, while thou art of the heedless.… Abandon thy palaces to the people of the graves, and thine empire to whosoever desireth it, and turn, then, unto the Kingdom. This, verily, is what God hath chosen for thee, wert thou of them that turn unto Him.… Shouldst thou desire to bear the weight of thy dominion, bear it then to aid the Cause of thy Lord. Glorified be this station which whoever attaineth thereunto hath attained unto all good that proceedeth from Him Who is the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.… Exultest thou over the treasures thou dost possess, knowing they shall perish? Rejoicest thou in that thou rulest a span of earth, when the whole world, in the estimation of the people of Bahá, is worth as much as the black in the eye of a dead ant? Abandon it unto such as have set their affections upon it, and turn thou unto Him Who is the Desire of the world. Whither are gone the proud and their palaces? Gaze thou into their tombs, that thou mayest profit by this example, inasmuch as We made it a lesson unto every beholder. Were the breezes of Revelation to seize thee, thou wouldst flee the world, and turn unto the Kingdom, and wouldst expend all thou possessest, that thou mayest draw nigh unto this sublime Vision.”