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Nothing encourages us more than the excellent letters which daily come to hand in great numbers. It is pleasant to hear from those freshly interested in the truth, as a newly-found treasure long hid, even though we realize that some may be "stony-ground" hearers, who have not much root, and when persecution or distress ariseth, because of the Word, by and by may be offended and wither away as rapidly as they sprung up.
It is specially encouraging to hear of those who are growing both in grace and knowledge, enduring hardness, trials, persecutions; as good soldiers, fighting the good fight of faith, and laying hold on eternal life.
There could be no better evidence of progress and searching for truth than the many orders constantly coming in for the helps to study – a desire to take advantage of the various helps which seem to be providentially provided now.
The character of our Lord Jesus Christ has not only been the admiration of all his true disciples and followers since he passed that wonderful life narrated by the evangelists, but it has often been the theme of wonder and approbation on the part of many who were never ranked among his devoted adherents. It is only our purpose in this brief article to quote some of these expressions of admiration and praise as they have been drawn from different ones in contemplating the divine nature and character of the Son of God.
The oft-quoted and well-known eulogy of Rousseau, shows how he esteemed that perfect personage who is the subject of gospel narrative, as well as what impressions those extraordinary narratives made upon his mind. He says:
"How petty are the books of the philosophers, with all their pomp, compared with the Gospels! Can it be that writings at once so sublime and so simple are the work of men? Can he whose life they tell be himself no more than a man? Is there anything in his character of the enthusiast or the ambitious sectary? What sweetness, what purity in his ways, what touching grace in his teachings! What a loftiness in his maxims; what profound wisdom in his words! What presence of mind, what delicacy and aptness in his replies! What an empire over his passions! Where is the man, where is the sage, who knows how to act, to suffer, and to die without weakness, and without display? My friends, men do not invent like this; and the facts respecting Socrates, which no one doubts, are not so well attested as those about Jesus Christ. These Jews could never have struck this tone, or thought of this morality, and the Gospel has characteristics of truthfulness so grand, so striking, so perfectly inimitable, that their inventors would be even more wonderful than he whom they portray."
On one occasion Napoleon said:
"From first to last Jesus is the same; always the same – majestic and simple, infinitely severe and infinitely gentle. Throughout a life passed under the public eye he never gives occasion to find fault. The prudence of his conduct compels our admiration by its union of force and gentleness. Alike in speech and action, he is enlightened, consistent, and calm. Sublimity is said to be an attribute of divinity: what name then, shall we give him in whose character was united every element of the sublime? I know men, and I tell you Jesus was not a man. Everything in him amazes me. Comparison is impossible between him and any other being in the world. He is truly a being by himself. His ideas and his sentiments, the truth that he announces, his manner of convincing, are all beyond humanity and the natural order of things. His birth, and the story of his life; the profoundness of his doctrine, which overturns all difficulties, and is their most complete solution; his Gospel, the singularity of his mysterious being, his appearance, his empire, his progress through all centuries and kingdoms – all this is to me a prodigy, an unfathomable mystery. I see nothing here of man. Near as I may approach, closely as I may examine, all remains above comprehension – great with greatness that crushes me. It is in vain that I reflect – all remains unaccountable! I defy you to cite another life like that of Christ."– The Restitution.
Humanity seems bent on extreme views; like a pendulum, they are on one extreme or the other till they stop. Men rush to one or the other extreme according to their temperament, till they stop making a way or plan of their own, and accept of God's way – God's plan – then they reach the center of truth.
So on this subject of the Son of God; one class will affirm that he was an imperfect man, born under the curse like all other men, while another class will go to the other extreme, and claim that he was JEHOVAH himself. Both pass the center of truth while reaching the opposite extremes of error.
On the contrary, how guarded are the Scriptures on both these points – guarding us against both extremes and setting forth the truth, both beautiful and harmonious. On the one hand it assures us that there is the one supreme being – Jehovah: "Hear, O Israel, Jehovah our God is one Jehovah" (Deut. 6:4 – Young). To this testimony Jesus and the apostles give assent. Jesus declares, "I came...not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me" – "My Father is greater than I" – at the same time assuring us that he and the Father were one in harmony and interest. The Apostle declares the same thing, saying, "There is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him." (1 Cor. 8:6.)
On the other hand it assures us that he was without spot or blemish – undefiled, separate from the race of sinners – in him was no sin; he was holy [R463 : page 1] from his birth; that he lost not the right to live as do we, through Adam's sin, but that "in him was life," and no cause of death was found in him; and hence his death was a voluntary offering, as a payment of the penalty of our sins.
Yes, it is the plain teaching of the Word that he who had a higher form became a MAN – not an imperfect man, but a MAN – a full, perfect representative of the highest order of earthly beings. "Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honor" (Heb. 2:7,9). Compare, also, Phil. 2:6-11. Dia. When this perfect man consecrated himself at baptism, he was begotten to a new nature, higher than human, higher than angelic, higher than the nature he had laid aside to become a man – the Divine nature – "so much better than angels."
When Jesus was among men, the natural superiority of a perfect man, the natural crown of "glory and honor" – attaching to an unblemished Lord of earth – caused him to shine among men, so that his enemies said, "Never man spake like this man," and the multitudes hung on his words, and, if he had not hindered, would have taken him by force and made him a king. Even as a lad he was able to confound the most learned of his nation. So much, at least, may be said of Jesus as a perfect man. Added to these natural powers were the special gifts of miracles which were given him as attesting that he was owned of God. Yet, it should be remembered, that it was not the miracles which specially marked him as above other men; for miracles, and even raising of the dead, had been done by Prophets centuries before. That which impressed the above writers, and all thinking people, when studying the record of Jesus, is the grand perfection of his being – of his acts and his teachings.
While, then, truth – a right appreciation of our Lord Jesus – is desirable at any cost, we can see more reasonable excuse for that extreme error which would denominate him Jehovah, than for that other extreme which would class him among the sin-cursed, imperfect and depraved race from which Scripture declares he was separate.
Lest some should forget previous expressions on the subject, let us state that we hold that when the sacrifice of the perfect human nature was ended, the Father highly exalted Jesus to the perfection of the Divine nature, far above angels and every other order of creation – next to the Father.
It will be remembered, that in discussing the erroneous teachings of two contemporaries – "Zion's Day Star" and "The World's Hope" – we called attention to the fact that they used the scriptural terms "Ransom," "Redeem," "Bought with a Price," etc., dishonestly. We proposed to test them before their readers by putting a few straight forward questions, which, in answering, we had hoped their true position would have been manifested.
Both Journals have had abundant opportunity, and neither has attempted an answer. We, therefore, propose to answer them for them – no, not for them, but for their reader's benefit. This we could have done before, but preferred to give them first an opportunity to state themselves, lest some should think we misjudged or misunderstood them. It must now be manifest to all, that, as we claimed, they have been practicing a deception upon their readers – putting their own private interpretation upon the words and ideas referred to, when they quoted them. Is not this deception? and is not a religious deception the worst species of fraud?
To bring the question before you, we quote from our February issue as follows:
"If this contemporary plainly stated itself as numbers of others do, we should have no special need to single it out among others for criticism. But it does not. It covertly attempts to steal the hearts of God's children and engraft this "damnable heresy" (2 Pet. 2:1) upon their minds, by quoting freely enough of the passages which contain [R463 : page 2] the words "bought with a price," "redeemed," "ransom," etc., disclaiming, without attempting to disprove their meaning, or deny their genuineness.
It insinuates and argues in such a way as to rob these words of their correct import in the mind of those who possess no English Dictionary, or are too careless to use it; or who presume that the English words may have a different significance from the Greek ones which the Apostles used, but which they do not understand.
We have heretofore shown that the Greek words rendered "bought," "ransom," "redeem," etc., in referring to the work of Jesus for men, are no less pointed, but, if possible, more so than their English equivalents. So far, then, from being an exponent of the world's hope, or the church's either, our contemporary is being used by the adversary in a covert, and therefore all the more dangerous way, to undermine the only hope held out for the world in Scripture – the ransom.
To put this matter fairly before its readers, (to most of whom we send a copy of this issue) we shall propose to it the same questions which in our last we propounded to the Day Star, and which it has not answered – probably because it did not wish so plainly to show its real belief. We are well aware that neither of these contemporaries will relish these questions.
Now, fair warning; if our contemporaries do not answer these queries fully and squarely, it can only be construed as moral cowardice, and certainly will substantiate our claim that they are dealing underhandedly with their readers, and "handling the Word of God deceitfully" (2 Cor. 4:2). The questions at issue are not trivial – not such as brethren might honestly differ on; for they are the very foundation of Christianity, without which the whole doctrinal structure, reared by the Apostles, falls.
But, let it be remembered, that we have nothing but kindly personal feelings toward the Editors of these two papers; with both of whom we are on intimate and friendly terms. It is error and falsity which we oppose, not men. This is true of Mr. Ingersoll also. Personally, we esteem him a polished gentleman, while we cannot but gainsay his infidel teachings. We take the side of inspired record as against every phase of infidelity; but we cannot but admire most, those opponents who honestly differ, and honestly state their differences, instead of using a Scriptural form of words and denying the power and meaning thereof.
To answer these queries, let us take them in order. We state the import of the teachings of these papers which are in harmony on this question, whatever difference there may be between them on other less vital points.
Their answer: Because he was an imperfect man, and hence as liable to death as any other member of the Adamic race, and "death passed upon all." (See Rom. 5:12.)
We object and answer, "that no cause of death was in him" – "in him was life" and not death. In him was no sin, hence on him the punishment of sin – death – could have no power. His death was a free-will sacrifice as our redemption price. He could have sustained life as a perfect and sinless man forever, but he "gave his life a ransom for many."
Paul substantiates our position, saying: "Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures" (1 Cor. 15:3.)
Their answer: It has no direct effect upon our sins. We die for our own sins and thus pay our own penalty. Jesus died for himself and thus paid for his imperfection (which they do not care to openly call sin). The indirect effect of his death was, that he furnished us an example, or illustration of fortitude and endurance, etc., and thus his death was valuable to us only as an example of how we should suffer and die for truth and right.
We object and answer, that while it is true that Jesus' life and death were valuable examples, yet they were more – much more than this, or else scores of Scriptures are meaningless and false. The prophets, who, because of their witness for and loyalty to truth, were sawn asunder, stoned to death, etc., and the Apostles, who were crucified and beheaded, etc., these all were valiant for truth, and full of faith, and are all good examples, and are so recognized in Scripture (Phil. 3:17). But where is it claimed that by their examples they [R464 : page 2] redeemed or ransomed or bought us with their blood?
The penalty of our sin was death, and we could never have been freed from that great prison-house – we could never have had a resurrection to life had not some one done more than set us an example. The question would still be, "Oh, wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" And the answer points out only the one able to deliver from the condemnation of death. "Thanks be to God who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." "For to this end Christ both died, rose, and revived that he might be Lord [Master – or have authority over] the living and the dead" (1 Cor. 15:57 and Rom. 14:9). We answer this question then: "He bore our sins in his own body on the tree" (1 Pet. 2:24).
We object, that Moses and the prophets had taught men to abstain from sin; hence, if Jesus put away sin only by precept and example, he did no more than others. And, if it is true, that "In him was no sin," how could he be an example of how to put away what he did not have? But note, the question is a quotation from Paul (Heb. 9:26), and it reads that he put away sin, not by precept and example of his life, but "by the sacrifice of himself." Read the connections, and try to view the matter from the Apostle's inspired standpoint, and unless you think, as one of these contemporaries does, that Paul often made mistakes and misquotations, you should be convinced of his meaning when penning these words.
Remember, too, that when Moses, as a type of Jesus, taught men to abstain from sin, he, too, did more – he typically made a sin offering – a sacrifice for sin. And the antitype not only taught purity, but did more – made himself a sacrifice for sin – the true sacrifice. "The Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world."
To this question they can give no answer except by denying the meaning of the word, which any one may see by reference to Young's Concordance. The significance of the original is very pointed. Jesus not only gave a price for the ransom of the Adamic race, but Paul says he gave an equivalent price. A perfect man had sinned and forfeited all right to life: Jesus, another perfect man, bought back those forfeited rights by giving his unforfeited human existence a ransom – an equivalent price. Read now Paul's argument (Rom. 5:18,19): "Therefore, as by the offence of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so, by the righteousness of one, the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous."
This is another question which they cannot answer. They would like to declare that he was not a satisfaction in this sense, or not a satisfaction in that sense, or not a satisfaction in some other sense; but the question, In what sense was he a "satisfaction for our sins?" they cannot answer.
We answer, that this text is in perfect harmony with all Scripture. The Law of life (obedience) was broken by Adam, and both he and his posterity were condemned as unfit for life. Jesus became our ransom by paying our death penalty, and thus justifying us to life, which in due time comes to all, to be again either accepted or rejected. Yes, we are glad that the claims of the Law upon our race were fully satisfied by our Redeemer.
We object; by such false reasonings the Word of God would be robbed of all its meaning. Words are useless unless they carry some idea. What other meaning is there in the word "bought" than the "commercial idea"? It has no other meaning or idea to it. But Paul was a lawyer, and his teachings, more than any other Apostles', are hard to twist; and in this instance he guards well his statement, by saying, not only that we were "bought," but he says it was with "a price;" and then, lest some one should claim that the price was the ministry and teachings of Jesus, Peter is caused to guard it by adding – "With the precious blood of Christ, as of a Lamb without blemish and without spot." (1 Cor. 6:20; 1 Pet. 1:19).
In conclusion, let us say in a few words, what they do think of the value and preciousness of the death of Christ. They believe and have privately expressed, and it is the covered import of their public teachings, which they do not yet wish to state boldly – not until they get false premises and conclusions engrafted first, as a basis on which to place it, – that Jesus' death no more paid your ransom price than did Paul's or than my death would; nay, put it stronger, that his death was of no value in redeeming us.
The doctrine of the substitution of Jesus, in settlement of the sinner's guilt and punishment, is being scoffed at among the "great preachers"; and the doctrine, so plainly taught by the apostles, that the death of Jesus was the price of our release from death, is falling into discredit and disrepute among the "worldly great," and hence also among some who would like to be of that class.
The reason of this is evident: it is the story of the two extremes over again. Satan had engrafted on the Church the doctrine of eternal torment, and, to be consistent, led on to the thought that Jesus bore eternal torment for every man. This involved eternity of suffering by Jesus. This evidently was untrue; so it was explained, that when in Gethsemane and at Calvary, Jesus suffered as much agony in a few hours as all humanity would have suffered in an eternity of torture. Now, it does not take a very smart man to see that something is surely wrong in such a view of Jesus' substitution. It seems to be Satan's policy now to lead to the opposite extreme and deny substitution entirely. Instead of casting away Satan's libel on our Heavenly Father's government – the doctrine of eternal torment – most men seem to hold on to it and roll it as a sweet morsel under their tongues, and discard the teachings of the Apostles relative to Jesus' death being our ransom price – the price or substitute for our forfeited lives.
Would that all might see the beauties and harmonies of God's Word. Man condemned to death – extinction; Jesus, man's substitute or ransom, died for our sins and thus redeemed or bought us back to life, which redemption will be accomplished by a resurrection to life. Jesus, as a man, is dead eternally; his humanity stayed in death as our ransom, and he arose a new creature – a spiritual instead of a human being – put to death in the flesh, but quickened (made alive) in spirit. "Though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him (so) no more."
Beloved, let us stand firm on the foundation of all hope – the ransom – and now, when the enemy comes in like a flood, be not afraid to act and speak for truth boldly if you would be recognized by him who lifts up a standard for the people (Isa. 59:19).
Man formed by God. – Gen. 1:27.
In God's likeness. – Gen. 1:26.
With all wants supplied. – Gen. 1:29.
With dominion over all earthly things. – Gen. 1:28.
Pronounced very good. – Gen. 1:31.
Made upright. – Eccles. 7:29.
Under law. – Gen. 2:17.
Hearkened to another rather than God. – Gen. 3:17.
Brake God's command by eating. – Gen. 3:6.
Transgression of law is sin. – 1 Jno. 3:4.
Sin by Adam entered the world. – Rom. 5:12.
Adam's posterity in his likeness. – Gen. 5:3.
Many dead by the offence of one. – Rom. 5:15.
Scripture concludes all under sin. – Gal. 3:22.
The wages of sin is death. – Rom. 6:23.
Adam driven from the tree of life. – Gen. 3:24.
Completed his death in 930 years. – Gen. 5:5.
All die in Adam. – 1 Cor. 15:22.
Death as a jailer. – 1 Pet. 3:19.
Death an enemy. – Jer. 31:16.
Death controlled by Satan. – Heb. 2:14.
Help from the Lord. – Isa. 41:14.
God will come to save. – Isa. 35:4.
Redeemer shall come. – Isa. 59:20.
He shall redeem Israel. – Ps. 130:8.
Graves to be opened. – Ezek. 37:12.
Grave to be destroyed. – Hosea 13:14.
Death to be swallowed up. – Isa. 25:8.
Brought by God's own arm. – Isa. 63:5.
A Saviour. Glad tidings to all. – Luke 2:10 and 11.
Christ redeems from the curse. – Gal. 3:13.
Christ's blood cleanseth from all sin. – 1 Jno. 1:7.
A free gift to all men. – Rom. 5:18.
Christ lighteth every man. – Jno. 1:9.
God in Christ reconciling the world. – 2 Cor. 5:19.
Of body. – Rom. 12:1.
Of mind. – Rom. 8:9.
Of influence. – Phil. 3:7.
Of reputation. – Luke 6:22.
Of time. – 1 Peter 4:2.
Of talents. – Rom. 12:6.
Of substance. – 1 Cor. 16:2.
In name. – Acts 15:14.
In power. – 2 Tim. 2:12.
In position. – Rev. 3:21.
In influence. – Rev. 3:12.
In privilege. – Rev. 2:7.
In honor. – 2 Thess. 2:14.
In condition. – 1 Jno. 3:2.
[It will be noticed that the first five of these stages belong to both the Church and the world. The last two apply only to the Church, the world being restored or brought back to the first condition eventually. – ED.]
We have discontinued the sale of "Cruden's Concordance" in consequence of being able to furnish "Young's Analytical Concordance" at so low a price. There is no comparison in values. To the discerning student, who wishes to know the original word and its English meaning (by one of the ablest living scholars), there is no other such work published. page 2
In answer to numerous questions, we would say: The one we furnished recently is not the "Book Exchange" edition, which contains many inaccuracies and is on poorer paper, but is the "students' edition" – the latest revision and most complete edition of the work. Our price is $1.75 by express, or 51 cts. extra, for postage, if by mail.
We procured a few copies of the "Variorum Bible," at a special sale, much below the regular price. We can send them by express at $4.25. The regular price of this work is $7.50. (By mail, 25c extra for postage.) This is the latest "Teachers' Bible" published – by Eyre & Spottiswoode. Its special peculiarity over others is, that it gives the various readings of the ancient Greek and Hebrew MSS., including the valuable Sinaitic of both Old and New Testaments.
To the Potter's house I went down one day,
And watched him while moulding the vessels of clay,
And many a wonderful lesson I drew,
As I noted the process the clay went thro'.
Trampled and broken, down trodden and rolled,
To render more plastic and fit for the mould.
How like to clay that is human, I thought,
When in Heavenly hands to perfection brought;
For Self must be cast as the dust at His feet,
Before it is ready for service made meet.
And Pride must be broken, and self-will lost –
All laid on the altar, whatever the cost;
But lo! by and by, a delicate vase
Of wonderful beauty and exquisite grace.
Was it once the vile clay? Ah, yes; yet how strange,
The Potter has wrought so marvellous a change!
Not a trace of the earth, nor mark of the clay,
The fires of the furnace have burned them away.
Wondrous skill of the Potter – the praise is his due,
In whose hands to perfection and beauty it grew.
Thus with souls lying still, content in God's hand,
That do not His power of working withstand.
They are moulded and fitted, a treasure to hold,
Vile clay now transformed into purest of gold.
The ceremony, as originally instituted, is described in Exod. 12. A lamb without blemish was slain, its blood was sprinkled on the doorposts and lintels of the house, while the family within ate the flesh of the lamb with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. On that night (the fourteenth of the first month, Jewish time), because of the sprinkled blood and the eaten lamb the first-born children of Israel were passed over, or spared from the plague of death which visited the first-born of the Egyptians. On this account, and because on the next day Israel marched out from Egyptian bondage – free – therefore, by God's command (Exod. 12:14), they commemorated it every year on its anniversary.
The Israelite saw only the letter of this ceremony, and not its typical significance. So, too, might we have been in similar darkness had not the Holy Spirit of God given us the key to its meaning by inspiring the Apostle to write the words (1 Corinthians 5:7): "CHRIST OUR PASSOVER IS SACRIFICED FOR US; THEREFORE LET US KEEP THE FEAST."
Our attention being thus called to the matter by the Spirit, we find other Scriptures which clearly show that Jesus, "the Lamb of God," was the antitype of the Passover lamb, and that his death was as essential to the deliverance of "the Church of the first-borns" from death, as was the death of the typical lamb to the first-borns of Israel. Thus, led of the Spirit, we come to the words and acts of Jesus at the last Passover which he ate with his disciples.
God is very exact, and the slaying of the typical lamb, on the fourteenth day of the first month, foreshadowed or typified the fact that in God's plan Jesus was to die at that time. And, it is remarkable, that God so arranged the reckoning of time among the Jews that it was possible for Jesus to commemorate the Passover with the disciples, and himself be slain as the real "Lamb" on the same day. [The Jewish day, instead of reckoning from midnight to midnight as usually reckoned now, commenced at six o'clock in the evening and ended at six the next evening.] Thus Jesus and the disciples, by eating the Passover, probably about eight o'clock, ate it "the same night in which he was betrayed," and the same day in which he died – thus every jot and tittle should be and was fulfilled.
Just five days before his crucifixion Jesus presented himself before them, to be received or rejected – when he rode to the city on the ass, fulfilling the prophecy, "Behold, thy king cometh unto thee" (Matt. 21:5), and fulfilling, at the same time, that feature of the Passover type which provides that the lamb must be received into the houses five days before the time of its killing (Exod. 12:2). Thus Jesus made his last presentation to Israel as a nation, or house, five days before the Passover, as we read: "Then Jesus, six days before the Passover, came to Bethany.... On the next day [five days before] much people that were come to the feast, when they heard Jesus was coming to Jerusalem,...went forth to meet him (John 12:1,12,13). Then it was that their king came unto them – sitting upon an ass's colt." Then it was that he wept over them and declared, "Your house is left unto you desolate." "Ye shall not see me henceforth till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord" (Matt. 23:38,39).
Jesus knew the import of the Passover, but the disciples knew not. He was alone; none could sympathize, none could encourage him. Even had he explained to the disciples, they could not have understood, or appreciated his explanation, because they were not yet begotten of the Spirit. Nor could they be thus begotten until justified from Adamic sin – passed over, or reckoned free from sin by virtue of the slain Lamb, whose shed blood ransomed them from the power of the destroyer – death.
Thus alone – treading the narrow way which none before had trod, and in which he is our Fore-runner and Leader – what wonder that His heart at times was exceeding sorrowful even unto death. When the time had come they sat down to eat the Passover, and Jesus said unto the disciples: "With desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God" (Luke 22:15,16). Doubtless he longed to have them understand how it would BEGIN to be fulfilled, a little later on in that very day, by the slaying of the real Lamb.
Probably one reason he specially desired to eat this Passover with them was, that he there designed breaking the truth of its significance to them to the extent they could receive it; for, "As they did eat, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it, and gave to them, and said, Take (eat), this is my body" (Mark 14:22). "This is my body, which is given for you: THIS DO in remembrance of ME." "And he took the cup and gave thanks and said, Take this and divide it among yourselves. [R466 : page 3] ...This cup is the new covenant, in my blood, which is shed for you" (Luke 22:17-20).
We cannot doubt that the design of the Master was to call their minds from the typical lamb to himself, the antitype, and to show them that it would be no longer proper to observe a feature of the Law which he was about to fulfill. And the bread and wine were to be to them thereafter the elements which, as remembrancers of him, would take the place of the lamb. Thus considered, there is force in his words, "This do in remembrance of ME" – no longer kill a literal lamb in remembrance of a typical deliverance; but, instead, use the bread and wine, representatives of my flesh and life – the basis of the real deliverance – the real passing over. "Hence, let as many as receive me and my words henceforth do THIS in remembrance of me."
Thus our Lord instituted his Supper as the remembrancer of his death, and as a substitute for the Passover as observed by the Jews. Is it asked why Jesus ate of the typical lamb first? We answer that he was born under the dominion of the Law, and must observe its every requirement. Since he made an end of the Law, nailing it to his cross, we are free from Law, as relates to either the Passover or the Lord's Supper – its substitute – but we are of those who esteem it a privilege to celebrate each year the anniversary of our Lord's death; to DO THIS in remembrance of him – "for even Christ our Passover is slain, therefore LET US keep the feast."
It would be difficult to determine just when or why this impressive season for the commemoration of our Lord's death was ignored, but it was, doubtless, as an "expediency." Doubtless zealous teachers thought that the great Teacher had made a mistake, and that it was "expedient" to have it oftener than once a year; and all seem to have understood Paul to teach that it made no difference how often it was observed when he said: "As often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till he come" (1 Cor. 11:26). But a careful study of all Paul said on the subject should convince all that this was not the case. In the context he tells them (verse 23) that he delivered to them that which he also received of the Lord: "That the Lord Jesus, the same night in which he was betrayed, took bread," etc. Here notice not only that the time selected by Jesus seemed the most appropriate, but that it was so appropriate that Paul was informed, by a special revelation from the Lord, that this was instituted the night he was betrayed.
How often could the Church break that bread and drink that cup as a proper memorial of the Lord's death? Surely only on its anniversary. In the same way, when American independence is celebrated, it is on its anniversary – the Fourth of July. It would be considered peculiar, at least, if some should neglect July fourth and celebrate it at sundry inappropriate times. And if speaking of the fourth of July, we should say, as often as ye thus celebrate ye do show forth the nation's birth, who would understand us to mean several times a year? Likewise, also, the Lord's Supper is only properly a celebration on its anniversary.
Some think that they find records in Scripture which indicate that the early Church ate the Lord's Supper every First-day. To this we answer, that if this were true we should have no more to say on the subject; but where is the record? We are referred to Acts 20:7: "Upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them," etc. But is there any evidence that the bread was broken as a remembrancer of the Lord's death? If so, why was it never called the Lord's Supper, and why was the wine omitted? Was the cup not as important an emblem as the bread? Because it is written that Jesus was known to the two disciples at Emmaus (Luke 24:30) in the "breaking of bread," who will claim that that was more than an ordinary meal? Who will claim that they were eating the Lord's Supper? No one.
So far from being an appropriate time for the commemoration of our Lord's death, the first day of the week, or Lord's day, would be most inappropriate. Instead of being set apart or used by the early Church to commemorate Jesus' death and the sorrowful scenes of the Lord's Supper, Gethsemane and Calvary, it was to them a glad day – a day of rejoicing and hosanna's, saying, "THE LORD IS RISEN INDEED." Hence its name and general observance by the Church as a day of worship and praise.
The seeming custom of breaking bread every Lord's day, perhaps had its rise in the fact that disciples were few and came sometimes long distances to meet together on the Lord's day, and socially ate a meal together. Perhaps, too, a blessed association of thought and interest lingered round the breaking of bread on the first day, when they remembered how repeatedly Jesus manifested himself to them on that day – after his resurrection – and how it was while they were eating that he made himself known (Luke 24:35).
Even the faint traces of this once established custom in the Church – of celebrating the anniversary of the Lord's death and resurrection – which the Roman and Episcopal Churches still observe, after an accommodated fashion, on "Good Friday," has been almost lost sight of by the other sects.
It has been the custom of many of the WATCH TOWER readers to DO THIS in remembrance of our Lord's death on its anniversary. Believing that it properly takes the place of the type – the Passover – we reckon it according to Jewish, or lunar time, and hence frequently on a different date from "Good Friday," which is reckoned on solar time. The Passover this year comes on Lord's day, April 22d, at six P.M.; hence the time answering to the hour of Jesus' death would be three o'clock, P.M., of that day, and the time for the eating of the Lord's Supper would be about seven to eight o'clock of the Saturday evening preceding April 21st. It should be remembered that the Lamb was slain the day before the Feast of Passover commenced. It will be celebrated as usual. We should, as heretofore, seek to follow the example of the first Communion service – using unleavened bread* and wine – whilst we talk together of their significance and value.
Of the bread, Jesus said: "It is my flesh" – i.e., it represents his flesh – his humanity which was broken or sacrificed for us. Unless he had sacrificed himself – his humanity for us – we could never have had a resurrection from death – could never have had a future life; as he said, "Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man...ye have no life in you" (John 6:53).
Not only was the breaking of Jesus' body thus the providing of a bread of life, of which if a man eat he shall never die, but it was also the opening of the narrow way to life and the breaking, or unsealing, of truth, as a means of aid to walk the narrow way which leads to life. And thus we see that it was the breaking of him who said, "I am the way, the TRUTH and the LIFE; no man cometh unto the Father but by ME" (John 14:6).
Hence, when we eat of the broken loaf, we should realize that had he not died – been broken for us – we should never have been able to come to the Father, but would have remained forever under the curse of Adamic sin and death, and should never have been made acquainted with the way, the truth, the life, or the Father.
Another thought: the bread was un-leavened – without leaven. [Leaven is corruption, an element of decay or decomposition.] Leaven is a type of sin and the decomposition, decay and death which sin works in mankind; so, then, this type declares that Jesus was free from sin – a lamb without spot or blemish – "holy, harmless, undefiled." Had Jesus been of Adamic stock, had he received the life principle in the usual way from an earthly father, he, too, would have been leavened, as are all other men, by Adamic sin; but his life came direct from God – hence he is called the bread from heaven. (See John 6:41). Let us, then, appreciate the bread as pure, unleavened, and so let us eat of him; eating and digesting truth, and especially this truth; appropriating by faith his righteousness to ourselves by which we realize him as the way and the life.
The Apostle, by divine revelation, communicates to us a further meaning of the bread, and shows that not only did the loaf represent Jesus, individually, as our head, etc., but that, after we have partaken thus of him, we may, by consecration, be associated with him as parts of one loaf (one body) to be broken for, and become food for, the world. (1 Cor. 10:16). This same thought of our privilege as justified believers, sharing now in the sufferings and death of Christ, and thus becoming joint-heirs with him of future glories, and associates in the work of blessing and giving life to all the families of the earth, is expressed by the Apostle repeatedly and under various figures; but when he compares the Church to the loaf now being broken as a whole, as Jesus was individually, it furnishes a striking and forcible illustration of our union and fellowship with our Head.
He says, "Because there is one loaf we, the many [persons] are one body; for we all partake of the one loaf." "The loaf which we break, is it not a participation of the body of the Anointed one?" (1 Cor. 10:16,17 – Diaglott).
The wine represents the life given – the sacrifice – the death. "This is my blood (symbol of LIFE given up in death) of the new covenant, shed for [R467 : page 3] many FOR THE REMISSION of sin;" "Drink ye all of it" (Matt. 26:27,28).
It is by the giving up of his life as a ransom for the life of the Adamic race, [R467 : page 4] which sin had forfeited, that a right to LIFE comes to men. (See Rom. 5:18,19). Jesus' shed blood was the "ransom for all," but his act of handing the cup to the disciples, and asking them to drink of it, was an invitation to them to become partakers of his sufferings, or, as Paul expresses it, to "fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ." (Col. 1:24.) "The cup of blessing, for which we bless God, is it not a participation of the blood [shed blood – death] of the Anointed one?" (1 Cor. 10:16 – Diaglott). Would that all could realize the value of the cup, and could bless God for an opportunity of suffering with Christ that we may be also glorified together." (Rom. 8:17.)
Jesus attaches this significance to the cup elsewhere, indicating that it is the cup of sacrifice, the death of our humanity. For instance, when asked by two disciples a promise of future glory in his throne, He answered them: "Ye know not what ye ask; are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of?" Wine is also a symbol of joy and invigoration: so we will share Jesus' glories, honors and immortality – when we drink it new with him in the kingdom.
Let us then, dearly beloved, as we surround the table to commemorate our Lord's death, call to mind the meaning of what we do, and see to it that we feed on Him; and, when strengthened by the living bread, let us drink with him into his death. "For if we be dead with him we shall live with him; if we suffer we shall also reign with him." (2 Tim. 2:11,12).
Every member of Christ – even one alone with the Master may commemorate – but, so far as possible, all members of the one loaf should meet together. Ceremonious formality would be out of place – but, "Let all things be done decently and in order."
Another thought: while it is proper that we should thus commemorate "Our Passover," or its anniversary, yet it should not be forgotten, that in a sense we eat and drink, and have this sacred fellowship with our Lord every day and every hour. The night in which Israel ate of their Passover lamb, with "bitter herbs," typified the entire Gospel Age; and their deliverance from Egypt followed in the morning. So with us, we eat of our Lamb with the bitter trials and afflictions of evil in the present age – but joy cometh in the morning – our deliverance from earth and the dominion and oppression of evil. The morning already is dawning, let us hasten the more to "fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ."
The Apostle Paul seems to enforce the ideas we have just presented relative to the meaning of this ordinance, and shows the necessity of a proper appreciation of its meaning. He warns (1 Cor. 11:27-30 – Diaglott), that "whoever may eat the bread and drink the cup of the Lord unworthily will be an offender against the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and thus [with an understanding and appreciation of its significance] let him eat of the bread and let him drink of the cup; for he eats and drinks judgment [condemnation] to himself who eats and drinks not discriminating [appreciating] the Lord's body. Through this [lack of a proper appreciation of the true import – that it signifies our sharing in the sufferings and death of Christ – for this reason] many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep."
The truth of Paul's remarks we can each bear witness to. Many in the Church, not only of the nominal Church, but many members of the true Church, "whose names are written in heaven," are weak and sickly, and many have gone asleep entirely, become dead to spiritual things, and, as dead branches, are cut off from the vine – the overcoming Church (John 15:2).
If, then, we would become strong and full of spiritual vigor, and "not sleep as do others," when we annually ratify our covenant, let us examine ourselves, and thus let us partake of the sufferings and the emblems, that in due time we may partake of His glory also.
The editor of a contemporary answers the above question in a very unsatisfactory manner. Rejecting, with undisguised contempt, the doctrine of the "immaculate conception," and laboring to prove unworthy of credence the simple story of the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy relative to it, found in Matthew and Luke, boldly assumes the position that Christ is the natural son of Joseph. But will he accept the legitimate consequences of this position? We shall see.
That Christ is the son of David the Jews, blind as they were, understood perfectly; but, having no faith in his immaculate conception, they were utterly unable to answer the final question: "If David then call him Lord, how is he his son?" Can our contemporary do better than they from the same stand-point?
But Israel's Messiah, the Christ of the Bible, is not only the son of David, but he is the divinely-appointed heir to David's throne. The purpose for which I write is to show from the Scriptures that if Jesus of Nazareth is the natural son of Joseph, he can never sit on David's throne, and, consequently, is not the true Messiah.
If we can believe the Record (and, if not, we know nothing about the matter), Joseph must trace his descent from David, back through that long line of kings beginning with Solomon. This question, then, demands an authoritative answer. Can the real heir to David's throne come in that line? The careful Bible student will learn two things:
1. If Solomon had obeyed God as did David his father, the throne of David would have been established in his line forever; consequently, the deathless heir to that throne would have come of his seed just as certainly as of David's. Proof: "The Lord hath sworn in truth unto David, he will not turn from it, of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne. If thy children will keep my covenant and my testimony that I shall teach them, their children shall also sit upon thy throne forevermore" (Psa. 132:11,12). But in what line? "And of all my sons (for God hath given me many sons), he hath chosen Solomon my son to sit upon the throne of the kingdom of the Lord over Israel....Moreover [beyond all this], I will establish his kingdom forever if he will be constant to do my statutes and my judgments as at this day" (1 Chron. 28:5-7).
2. Had they been thus obedient, the throne of David would not have been overturned, nor his crown profaned "by casting it down to the ground," but there would have been an unbroken line of kings from David to Christ. Proof: "If thy children take heed to their way, to walk before me in truth with all their heart and with all their soul, there shall not fail thee [be cut off from thee, from the throne – margin] (said he) a man on the throne of Israel" (1 Kings 2:4).
It is a principle, the correctness of which few will question, that whatever is clearly promised on condition of obedience is forfeited if that obedience is not rendered. On this ground alone we must conclude that David's throne and kingdom cannot be established forever in Solomon's line. If we are right in this conclusion, the Scriptures will sustain the position. "To the law," then, "and to the testimony": "And thou Solomon, my son, know thou the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart....If thou seek him he will be found of thee, but if thou forsake him he will cast thee off forever." (1 Chron. 28:9). Again, "And the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned from the Lord God of Israel....Wherefore the Lord said unto Solomon, Forasmuch as this is done of thee...I will surely rend the kingdom from thee....Notwithstanding, in thy days I will not do it – for David thy father's sake; but I will rend it out of the hand of thy son. Howbeit, I will not rend away all the kingdom, but will give one tribe to thy son, for David my servant's sake and for Jerusalem's sake, which I have chosen" (1 Kings 11:9-13). Thus, ten out of twelve parts of "the kingdom of the Lord over Israel" was rent away from Solomon's line immediately after his death, and the remaining portion was retained, not for his sake, but for David's and Jerusalem's sake.
Let us now listen while God declares his purpose concerning the two last kings in Solomon's line: "Thus saith the Lord of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, He shall have none to sit upon the throne of David" (Jer. 36:30). Of Jeshoniah, or Coniah as he is sometimes called, we read: "As I live, saith the Lord, though Coniah the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, were the signet upon my right hand, yet would I pluck thee thence.... Is this man Coniah a despised, broken idol? Is he a vessel wherein is no pleasure? Wherefore are they cast out, he and his seed, and are cast into a land which they know not? O earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the Lord: Thus saith the Lord, Write ye this man childless, a man that shall not prosper in his days: for no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting on the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah" (Jer. 22:24-30). [R468 : page 4]
Two things seem very certain: 1. If Christ is the son of Joseph, he came in Solomon's line; and if the kingdom is restored to that line, it was just as really rent away from David, who obeyed God, as from Solomon, who disobeyed him – all his promises and threatenings to the contrary notwithstanding. 2. If he is Joseph's son he not only came in Solomon's line, but he is "this man's" seed; and yet the whole earth is called to hear the solemn declaration, "NO MAN OF HIS SEED SHALL PROSPER, SITTING ON THE THRONE OF DAVID, AND RULING ANY MORE IN JUDAH" (Jer. 22:30).
I think I have fully sustained the position taken at first, that if Jesus of Nazareth is the natural son of Joseph, he can never sit on the throne of his father David, and, consequently, is not the true Messiah. But he is not the son of Joseph; and I am not disposed to leave this subject until I have shown, not only that he did not come in that line, but that it was predicted that he should not so come. But, first, let me quote a prophecy which is very suggestive, coming as it does immediately after the last one named above: "Behold the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper....In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely; and this is the name whereby he shall be called (by), JEHOVAH – OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS." [See Young's translation.] (Jer. 23:6.) Compare these two prophecies and draw your own conclusions. But I wish to make a point here. The editor, before referred to, thinks Matthew's application of Isaiah's prophecy is extremely absurd. "And the fact that Isaiah names the child Immanuel, while the angel names Mary's child Jesus, is proof that the two are entirely different, and bear no relation to each other whatever." Will he also claim that this Branch, raised up unto David, bears no relation to Mary's child, because the latter was named at his birth Jesus, and not "OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS"?
Even the long-suffering of God has a limit, and Solomon's line of kings reached it at last. This is the record of it: "And thou profane, wicked prince of Israel, whose day is come, when iniquity shall have an end. Thus saith the Lord, Remove the diadem and take off the crown: this shall not be the same [how shall it be then?]; exalt him that is low and abase him that is high." Every one must admit that Solomon's royal line is the high branch of the Davidic house. This, then, must be abased, and a low branch exalted, when, after the predicted overturning, the throne, the kingdom and the crown shall be given to him "whose right it is." Mary seemed to catch the inspiration of this truth when she exclaimed: "He hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden; for, from henceforth, all generations shall call me blessed. He hath put down the mighty from their seats and exalted them of low degree." If you will turn to Luke 3:23 and onward, you will find that, while Joseph came of the royal line, as Matthew testifies, Mary came of that obscure one beginning with Nathan.
In conclusion, let me say, that whatever others may do in regard to this question, it is my purpose to "Let God be true," if it makes all men liars.
It will be well for us to learn to speak to individuals singly. "A congregation of one" may be large enough to call forth all our powers in proclaiming the great news of salvation. Often we may save sinners one by one. If you had a bushel of bottles, and wanted to fill them with water, you would not think the quickest way would be to get a fire engine and hose and play over the heap, especially if the corks were all in, but you would be likely to take a single bottle by the neck, extract the cork, and then, by means of a funnel, turn in a little water at a time until it was filled; and then take another and repeat the process. You would get more bottles filled that way than with a hose and fire engine playing upon them. So you may be able to accomplish more by working single-handed than in crowds. You may preach the word by the wayside or by the fireside, for people need the same Gospel indoors as out.
We need to have the peace of God in our own hearts before we can do much good to other people's hearts; and unless we can rule our own spirits we shall not accomplish much in molding the spirits of others. We notice a blacksmith uses a cold hammer to bend a hot iron; and after working with his tools a little while he plunges them into cold water. So, if you are to influence others, you must keep cool yourself; if you get your hammer hot you will not be able to bend the iron. It is useless to undertake to fight the devil with fire....You know the story of the old French general, who, when he had besought the king to spare the Christians from persecution, and had been refused, said: "Sire, God's Church is an anvil that has worn out a great many hammers." Now, if you are filled with the Holy Spirit, you can stand a great deal of hammering, and the world will mock and sneer at you in vain. If you keep near the Lord you will ever triumph in His grace.
The want of moral honesty is the principal impediment to the progress of religious truth now, as in the days of the Nazarene. Many who heard him speak and beheld his prodigies, were convinced of the truth of his claims as a teacher "sent from God"; but his doctrines so conflicted with the popular customs they could not be accepted, only at the cost of social position. The integrity of his hearers was put to the test; and the honest among them made the requisite sacrifice, and publicly accepted his teaching; but those who loved the praise of men more than the approbation of God, suppressed their convictions, and hypocritically adhered to the popular multitude. It is just so now in regard to all attempts to reform the absurd and conflicting creedal systems of our age. A large majority of modern preachers, and of the intelligent lay members of the churches, are as fully convinced of the fallacy of modern theology, and the impotency of modern pulpits in reforming the world, as the writer; but their love of popularity and ease, and lack of trust in God, cause them to remain through life in a false and hypocritical position – their life a continuous lie.
Christ said to his disciples, "Ye are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has lost its savor, it is fit for nothing, but to be cast out and trodden under foot." Here we have the estimate Jesus placed upon those Christians who suppress their convictions for the sake of popularity. He compares them to a man who lights a candle and puts it under a cover to conceal its light. He says, "Woe unto you when all men shall speak well of you; so did their fathers to the false prophets." "Ye are they who justify [R468 : page 5] yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God" (Luke 16:15). But to those who are ostracised for defending the truth he says, "Blessed are ye when men shall hate and revile you, and separate you from their company, and cast out your name as evil for the Son of Man's sake. Rejoice, for great is your reward in heaven."
In Luke 11:1,2 we are told that as Jesus "was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray as John also taught his disciples. And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father who art in heaven."
Before we ever saw the plan of God in the orders of salvation (1 Cor. 15:23), we often found ourselves confused in our manner of addressing the Diety; and, since we saw the plan, it was a long time before we were able to get the subject clear in our mind as to the proper form of address.
We have noticed that others, apparently, have the same difficulty, for we have heard them address the Father and the Son, indiscriminately, in the same prayer. While we recognize the fact that "God hath made this same Jesus...both LORD and Christ" (Acts 2:36), we see the importance of discriminating between the FATHER and the SON, and of addressing a throne of grace, not only in the spirit, but with the understanding also.
Some may think it unimportant, but, if this were so, Jesus would evidently have told the disciples so when they made the request quoted above; but, [R469 : page 5] instead of making such a statement, he answered the question in the manner referred to. We have earnestly desired that God would be pleased to teach us how to address him, for we did not wish to dishonor the Father nor the Son, nor to grieve the Holy Spirit in our addresses at the throne. We hardly think we should have arrived at the conclusion which we have, had it not been for the understanding of the plan. Jesus says, "No man cometh unto the Father but by me" (John 14:6). There is a significance in the words, so often sung, which perhaps are not as often understood: "Come to Jesus." "Come, ye sinners, poor and needy." God (the Father) heareth not sinners (John 9:31), but Jesus does. He says, "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden [with sin], and I will give you rest" (Matt. 11:28).
Then, before justification, while getting a sight of our sin and corruption, we cry unto Jesus – he is our way unto God. The faith of the repentant soul hears him say, "Neither do I condemn thee; go and sin no more." After being justified, but before sanctification (consecration of the justified nature), we are reckoned sons of God on the earthly plane, but candidates for heirship with Christ. Now we are reckoned perfect human beings, like Adam before he sinned, and like Jesus before baptism.
We understand that Jesus was a perfect human being from his birth, having a body "prepared" for him (Heb. 10:5); while we, from the moment of forgiveness, are reckoned so in honor of our faith in the sacrifice which he made, which sacrifice was for the purpose of redeeming the lost race; of placing in the prison house a "representative" – a "substitute" – that the represented might go free, the forfeit being paid, the penalty met in the person of Christ, and the demands of God's holy law vindicated.
Because we have repented of our sins and believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who "taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29), on him who is "the propitiation for our sins" (1 John 2:2), and, as our desire is to be perfect, we are so reckoned on his account, i.e., "for Jesus' sake;" and the beseeching invitation comes to us who are now "brethren" (of Jesus, before his consecration to death) to present our "bodies (plural) a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God" (Rom. 12:1). We are told that if we do this, and "suffer with him, we shall also reign with him," we shall be made possessors of immortality, shall be made like unto Christ's glorious body, be made partakers of the divine nature. And when we make this covenant of death with Jesus, we are reckoned as partaking of the divine nature – "begotten again" (not again spiritually, i.e., twice spiritually, as some have said that we say). We had been begotten of the flesh, now we are begotten again, but this time of the Spirit, adopted into the divine family, legally becoming divine sons, having an "elder brother." He was the "first begotten," and of course at that time the only begotten (God gave his only begotten Son to die for us); but the seed has multiplied, many have believed into him, and with him sacrificed the human, "for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren (Heb. 2:11), but would hardly have called them brethren before, or for any other reason.
We now belong to the royal household, and are permitted to approach God by the ordinary name, "Our Father," "Abba Father," i.e., Father, Father, having been legally justified in the flesh, and, after consecrating it, "received up into glory." Coming by this "new and living way" into the holy place, opened up for us by Jesus, we approach with humble boldness "unto a throne of grace" (Heb. 4:16; 10:20).
While a reckoned son on either plane, we understand that it is proper to address the Father in Jesus' name; "and in that day (when he sees us again [John 16:22] and we see him and are like him) ye shall ask me nothing." "Verily, verily, I say unto you, whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you" (Jno. 16:23.)
Now, the betrothed asks in the name of him to whom she is betrothed; "in that day" she will ask in the same name, but, lo! it will be her name.
"Precious name, O how sweet!
Hope of earth and joy of heaven."
Perhaps some one is ready to ask, "But is that promise (John 16:23) to be fulfilled before the resurrection"?
We think not in its fullness, but is so far as we "ask anything according to his will" (1 John 5:14); but, it is evidently impossible, "seeing through a glass darkly" (1 Cor. 13:12); to always "ask according to his will;" but then, being "like him," there will be no mistake. "Whatsoever ye shall ask" will be granted. "Hitherto ye have asked nothing in my name; ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full" (John 16:24). It is evident that our imperfect prayers now have to be revised by our Advocate (1 John 2:1), and the revised prayer might not always contain all the things asked for, but would contain all that is good for us; but this need not be any cause for discouragement, but rather for encouragement. God help us to pray more, praying "with the Spirit and with the understanding also." (1 Cor. 14:15.)
"Were half the time that's vainly spent,
To heaven in supplication sent;
Our cheerful songs would oftener be,
Hear what the Lord has done for me."
The houses of the common people of Greece and Rome were full of statues of deities; there was not one in a Jewish house in Palestine. That there is a God, that he is one God, that he is a righteous God, and that he rewards the righteous and punishes the wicked, these beliefs were more than a part of the Jewish creed; they were the part of the very fiber of the Jewish character. It is from the land thus educated, through the long discipline of centuries, that have gone forth the influences which have made all other lands theistic, which have successfully banished the idols from the churches and the homes, the licentious gods and goddesses from the imagination, and godless philosophy from the intellect. The Grecian has given the world art, the Roman law, the Anglo-Saxon commerce, the Jew religion. Greece is sacred to the artist, Rome to the statesman, England to the worker, Palestine to man. Its hills and valleys, its lakes and rivers and sea-coast, are indissolubly connected with the history which has exercised a more powerful influence on the destinies of the race than any other province of equal size.– Lyman Abbott.
First, those called Second Adventists, look for Christ's coming, expecting that soon he will appear – a fleshly being – in the sky, when instantly the Church will be caught up into the air above the earth and there remain with him, while fire and brimstone are rained upon the earth, burning it to a cinder. During the time it is burning, and until it cools off (probably thousands of years), Christ and the Church will be waiting in the clouds.
These will then take possession of the earth, which will become as the garden of Eden again. There they expect to "build houses and inhabit them, plant vineyards and eat the fruit of them, and long enjoy the work of their hands." There they expect to reign with Christ as kings and priests – over whom none can tell (unless it be over one another), since all the rest of mankind must have long since perished in the burning earth.
Second, those terming themselves Pre-Millenarians, expect Christ to come unawares and gather the Church, and with them leave the world and go to heaven for a few years. During the absence of Christ and the Church, the world will be full of trouble, distress of nations, pouring out of the vials of wrath (more or less literal), etc. This trouble and distress will destroy or subdue unruly sinners, and then Christ Jesus and his church will return to earth and inhabit a new Jerusalem City which will (literally) descend from the sky.
Christ and his saints – all glorious fleshly beings – [called SPIRITUAL as a compliment to Paul (1 Cor. 15:44-50), though held to be really fleshly] will then reign over the few of the nations [R470 : page 5] which have survived the trouble. This reign will last a thousand years. Then the dead, so unfortunate as not to live during the Millennial age, will be brought out of a "lake of fire" to earth, and arraigned for mock trial and condemnation before Christ Jesus and his Church. All will speedily be condemned and sent back to hell for never ending ages; then Christ and the Church will go to heaven and deliver up the kingdom to God, even the Father, and the world will be set on fire and melted – possibly to become, at some future time, again a stage for combat between new races of men and devils; or possibly to continue to roll through space a blackened cinder, a lasting memorial of the lost cause of man's dominion, and of God's lack of wisdom in undertaking to establish an earthly government of which man should be king. (Psa. 8:6.)
Third, Post-Millenarians, by far the largest class, including nearly all so-called orthodox Christians, claim that the foregoing views are too gross and materialistic. They claim, and with good reason we think, that it would be very absurd to think of the glorious Christ and his Church (spiritual beings) either building houses and planting vineyards and enjoying the work of their hands, or reigning and living in a city in Palestine. They think this would be progress backward and not forward. During this age, say they, the church walks by faith and not by sight. To bring in a new age, in which it would walk by sight, would prove it to be a dispensation on a lower plane and not progression.
They claim that the Millennium, or 1000 years' reign of truth and righteousness, will be marked by no visible manifestation of Christ to men's natural eyes, but that the Church, in her present condition, will stem the tide of evil and cause righteousness to prevail, and that thus God's kingdom – church – (which they claim is now reigning) will conquer the world, and bring about the foretold blessedness and happiness to fill the earth. All this is to be accomplished without Jesus' personal presence here, though they claim that the Church will have special spiritual help and power from him in the great work. When the point is reached where all evil and wrong is subjected to right, the plan ends (i.e., if so aimless a supposition can be called a plan at all), and then Jesus comes and the mock trial and condemnation of the ignorant and unfortunate billions, who lived before the Millennial light had fully blazed forth, are re-consigned to endless woe and the earth destroyed by fire, much as Pre-Millennialists believe.
We cannot find words to express our thankfulness to our Father that we have been led into a much more harmonious and reasonable understanding of his plan than any of these views present. These are the human reasonings on the Word of God before the true light was due. Many still tenaciously hold these ideas of the past, but those who walk in the path, which shines more and more, are led into a more reasonable and harmonious view. We rejoice to be of those free from fetters of human creeds – free to search and believe God's Word – free to be taught of God. Hence, as the Millennial morn is breaking, we are prepared to see light in God's light.
The truth seems to lie between – the last two views being the extremes – Second Adventism being, in our judgment, the grossest and farthest from truth, except on the one point of man's condition in death.
Now, let us state briefly a fourth view of this subject, as seen from ZION'S WATCH TOWER, the scriptural proofs of which have frequently been presented in our columns and hence are now omitted. We ask a careful comparison of it, not only with the three above, but with God's Word as a whole.
Jehovah formed the earth – not to burn it, but "to be inhabited." "He created it not in vain; he formed it to be inhabited" (Isa. 45:18). He created various orders of creatures adapted to the earthly home, of which man was the Chief – Lord – Ruler – King (1 Cor. 15:40; Psa. 8:6).
Man, to be in any degree a likeness of God, must have a free will, and, in order to the proper use of his will, he must have knowledge. This, God could have given him without, but permitted him to gain by, experience. When he sinned by the exercise of his free will, God inflicted a righteous punishment and withdrew the life, and thus death reigned by sin, and man for 6000 years has been experiencing "the exceeding sinfulness of sin" and the bitterness of its fruit.
During all this time Jehovah's plan did not change. Man knew not of it, nor angels, for "angels desired to look into these things," but were not permitted (1 Pet. 1:12). Meanwhile God gave laws, and caused types and shadows of his plan to be enacted in a nation which he chose for this purpose (Israel). These shadows showed the leprous character of sin and pointed to the slain Lamb of God – as the means and agency for its removal – and in the type, too, was presented the blessings to follow its removal.
In due time Christ Jesus came and "gave himself a ransom (equivalent price) for all." Did he come too soon, since sin must reign the full 6000 years? No, our Father had another part of his [R470 : page 6] plan hidden in this plan for earth! It was to select "a peculiar people," "a little flock," "the Bride," who should be lifted out of the human nature entirely and become new creatures – partakers of the Bridegroom's Divine nature. Thus the sacrifice of the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world, was not too soon, but in "due time." All must be bought before any could be selected, and there was just sufficient time for the selection of the Bride before the due time should come for giving the human family a knowledge (experience) of good, and bringing in everlasting righteousness, and restoring to such as would have it – the lost dominion.
We are now in the early dawn of the Millennial day. It is the day of all man's week (7,000 years) the best; the only one in which right will rule and wrong be fully subjected, and man will be restored by natural processes to the perfection once lost by the disobedience of one man, but the right to which has been redeemed by the obedience of the man Christ Jesus (Rom. 5:18).
During this Millennial age Jesus and his Bride, spiritual beings – no longer men – will be personally present, directing and overruling the affairs of earth, but invisible to men, as angels have been in the past. As Satan and his angels (present – invisible – yet ruling among men) have used Rome as so willing an agent that it is scripturally called by his name – the devil and Satan – so this spiritual kingdom of God will operate through restored fleshly Israel, and find in it so willing an agency that it will be properly called also the kingdom of God, and will extend its borders righteously, as the Roman counterfeit has attempted to do unrighteously, until the kingdom shall fill the whole earth. Then shall be fulfilled the prayer of the Master, "Thy kingdom come: Thy will be done in earth as in heaven." And man restored shall plant and build and long enjoy the work of their hands, for "the earth abideth forever." God "made it not in vain; he made it to be inhabited."
When sin and Adamic death are wiped out, and all its traces removed, and the incorrigible destroyed in the second death, then man, being in the condition in which he was first created – an image of his Creator, and possessed of an experimental knowledge of both good and evil – will be in proper condition to receive and rightly use the first dominion. Then the dominion will be delivered up to God, even the Father, by the accountability of men being made thereafter directly to Jehovah, instead of to Jesus as during the Millennial age (John 5:22). During that age the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son, his agent – man's purchaser – Redeemer.
Thus we get a glimpse of God's plan for bringing many sons to glory – some to the glory of the human nature and some to the Divine nature. But the glory of the terrestrial (earthly) is one thing and the glory of the celestial (heavenly) is another thing entirely (1 Cor. 15:40). Surely we can say that it is a plan worthy of our God – full of Wisdom, Love and Power. "Oh, the depths of the riches both of the knowledge and wisdom of God!"
We understand that now we are in the dawn of the glorious day – it is not yet sunrise – (the shining forth of the Church, Matt. 13:43), but the "Day Star" (Jesus) has arisen in our hearts – we know of his presence – and the sunshine will, ere long, dispel the darkness and storm with which this day opens. That this Millennial era commences with a time of trouble, and the pouring out of symbolic plagues and vials, we believe and teach; and we incline to the belief that the trouble and distress will be of a sort at first little appreciated by many. First, the nominal Churches – systems – having filled their mission are due to be destroyed. Secondly, earthly kingdoms, having served their purpose, are vessels of wrath fitted for destruction (Rom. 9:22); and mankind, long held in bonds of ignorance, under oppression and superstition, is to be released and prepared for their experience with good during Messiah's reign.
As this Gospel age is the time for trial of those called to the heavenly nature – the Church – so the Millennial age is to be the time of judgment – trial of mankind – to determine who of them are worthy of human perfection and the dominion of earth. It will be the time of trial of earth's dead, as well as those living, when that age begins.
It would not be difficult to form a tolerably complete dictionary, of the meaning of the Apocalyptic symbols, by placing over-against each, passages of Scripture in which the same symbol is employed in contexts which indicate its meaning; or in historical narratives, ceremonial observances, or legal enactments, which throw light upon it. To search the Scriptures, is to find the solution of many a difficulty in this book, for it is more closely related to the rest of the Bible than would by superficial readers be supposed.
We proceed, however, briefly to examine two of the leading prophecies of the Revelation, a clear understanding of which is, of itself, sufficient to determine its whole scope and character. They are two of the most important symbolizations in the entire series, they occupy several whole chapters, and are alluded to in others; they are closely related to each other, and one of them is divinely interpreted. This is the vision of BABYLON THE GREAT, in the seventeenth chapter of the book, a prophecy which, by its synchronical connection with almost all the other predictions of the Apocalypse, furnishes a most valuable clue to the meaning and application of the whole series of visions. This prophecy has besides, a solemn practical importance, rendering it peculiarly needful that it should be rightly interpreted.
Immediately prior to the fall of Babylon, described in the 18th chapter of Revelation, a voice from heaven cries, "Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, that ye receive not of her plagues; for her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities." Is it not all-important that Christian people should be very clear as to the system thus solemnly denounced by a voice from heaven? And similarly, immediately after the fall of Babylon, "a great voice, as of much people in heaven," is heard saying, with reference to it, "Alleluia; salvation, and glory, and honor, and power, unto the Lord our God; for true and righteous are his judgments: for he hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hand. And again they said Alleluia. And her smoke rose up for ever and ever."...
The depravity attributed to "Babylon the Great," the peculiarly solemn adjuration to God's people to come out of her, and the utter and awful destruction denounced against her, all combine to attach great practical importance to the inquiry, what system is intended by this symbol?
A perusal of the 17th and 18th chapters of the Book of Revelation shows that "Babylon the Great" represents a system which should last long, exert a subtle and extensive influence, and be guilty of exceeding iniquity and cruelty. This system must still be in existence, seeing its destruction takes place simultaneously with "the marriage of the Lamb," an event which we know to be still future; and seeing also that up to the moment of its destruction, or very nearly so, children of God will be found more or less connected with it, so that a need will exist for the urgent call, "Come out of her, my people."
This system is prefigured as a cruelly persecuting one, as one that would "shed the blood of saints and martyrs of Jesus," one on whom the Lord God would "avenge the blood of his servants." The Lord Jesus Christ, who loves his Church, foreseeing the existence and career of this terrible system, forewarned, and thus fore-armed her by this prophecy. He furnishes her with abundant marks whereby the foe may be recognized, and solemnly warns her against making any truce or compromise, while he stimulates and encourages her for the long and bitter conflict by a view of the final result. He would have his people in no perplexity or doubt on so momentous a question, so he has made this prediction peculiarly clear; has placed it in marked and intentional contrast with another prophecy, which makes its meaning still clearer; and he has added besides, an explanation which leaves no room for the candid student to err.
Let the reader note the contrasted features of the two symbolic prefigurations:
"THE WHORE THAT SITTETH
UPON MANY WATERS."
"BABYLON THE GREAT."
"And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet color, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication. And upon her forehead was a name written, Mystery, BABYLON THE GREAT, the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth.
"And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus" (Rev. 17:1-6).
"THE BRIDE, THE LAMB'S
"THE HOLY JERUSALEM."
"And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me" (the bride, the Lamb's wife, under another symbol). (Rev. 21.)
"To her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white; for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints" (Rev. 19:8).
This Bride is described as "THE HOLY JERUSALEM descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God; and her light like unto a stone most precious" (Revelation 21).
The dragon "persecuted the woman," and "the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ" (Rev. 12:13-17). [R472 : page 6]
As to Babylon John adds, "when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration. And the angel said unto me, Wherefore didst thou marvel? I will tell thee the mystery of the woman. ...The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth. The waters are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues....And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth" (Rev. 17:7).
These prophecies present two broadly contrasted women, identified with two broadly contrasted cities, one reality being in each case, doubly represented as a woman, and as a city. The harlot and Babylon are one; the Bride and the heavenly Jerusalem are one.
The two women are contrasted in every particular that is mentioned about them; the one is as pure as purity itself, "made ready" and fit for heaven's unsullied holiness; the other, foul as corruption could make her, fit only for the fires of destruction.
The one is persecuted, pressed hard by the dragon, driven into the wilderness, and well-nigh overwhelmed; the other is drunken with martyr blood, seated on a beast which has received its power from the persecuting dragon.
It is impossible to find in Scripture a contrast more marked; and the conclusion is irresistible, that whatever one may represent, the other must prefigure its opposite. They are not disconnected visions, but a pair – a pair associated, not by likeness, but by contrast.
Now, Scripture leaves us in no doubt as to the signification of the emblematic bride, the Lamb's wife, the heavenly Jerusalem. We read, "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish." "For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones." The purpose of Christ's love, as regards his blood-bought church is, that she should be with him, and be one with him forever; that she should behold and share his glory, being perfectly conformed to his image. Here, in prophetic vision, we see this blessed design accomplished, and the complete and perfectly sanctified church, clad in spotless robes of righteousness, brought to the marriage supper of the Lamb. We see her persecuted like her Lord, and like her Lord and with her Lord, glorified. Beyond all question, the New Jerusalem bride represents the true church of Christ.
What then must the contrasted symbol, the Babylonian harlot, represent? Surely some false and apostate church, some church which, while professing to belong to Christ, is in reality given up to fellowship with the world, and linked in closest union with the kings of the earth; a worldly church, which has left her first love, forgotten her heavenly calling, sunk into carnality and sin, and proved shamelessly and glaringly faithless to her Lord.
Be it observed, that these symbols, a woman and a city, prefigure definite systems, corporate bodies, not merely a multitude of similar but disconnected individuals. The tares of a wheat-field, the bad fish in the net, may represent such; but here we have neither true Christians nor worldly professors, as individuals, but two corporations, two definite bodies. The true church of Christ is a body; its members are united in the closest union to their Head and to each other; one life animates them: "Because I live, ye shall live also;" one spirit dwells in them; they are one habitation of God. The link that unites them is, however, a spiritual one; the body is consequently visible as such. A false church can have no such spiritual link. The bond that unites it must therefore be carnal, outward, visible; the church represented by Babylon must be a visible church, an earthly corporation, and as such capable of being discerned and recognized.... The woman and the city are one – if we can discover the name of the city, we shall be able to identify the church intended.
The last words of the angel to John seem to leave no possibility of mistake as to the city. "The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sitteth....And the woman which thou sawest is that great city which reigneth over the kings of the earth." What city was that? There was but one great city which, in John's day, reigned over the kings of the earth. It was ROME: and Rome is the only city that was great then, has been great – in one way or other ever since, and is so still. And Rome was seated on seven hills – "the seven mountains on which the woman sitteth." Her common name with the classic writers of St. John's age, is "the seven hilled city;" an annual festival used to be held in honor of the "seven hilled city;" every Latin poet of note, during a period of five hundred years, alludes to Rome's seven hills. The medals and coins of the day represent Rome as a woman sitting on seven hills; and her titles show, with sufficient clearness, how thoroughly she reigned. She was styled "the royal Rome;" "the mistress of the world;" "the queen of [R472 : page 7] nations." Her sway was all but universal. She was the metropolis of that fourth great empire which Daniel had foretold would break in pieces and subdue all things, "dreadful and terrible and strong exceedingly;" and, at the time of the Apocalyptic visions, her power was at its height. Rome, and no other city, can be intended here; the woman is in some way identified with Rome. We previously saw that she must represent a church; now we know what church. The harlot is the Church of Rome; for simple minds there seems no escape from this conclusion. "The woman which thou sawest is that great city" "which reigneth over the kings of the earth."
The question, however, naturally suggests itself, If the woman be identified in some way with ROME, why is her brow emblazoned with the name of BABYLON? The answer is evident; the Apocalypse is a book of mysteries; things are represented by signs; realities are veiled; and it would have been altogether inconsistent with the whole style of this prophecy to have written ROME on the harlot's brow. The woman is a figure of the church, a corrupt, idolatrous church; that is, the symbol seen by John was suggestive of something widely different from itself; so the name with which the symbol was stamped, was also suggestive of something widely different from itself, though mysteriously similar. The harlot is "Mystery, Babylon the Great."
Names were formerly given as expressions of character or work; as, for instance, Mary was commanded to call her child's name Jesus, which means deliverer or saviour, because he should save his people from their sins. The name Babylon, applied by the Spirit to the Church of Rome, expresses her character for Babylon means mixture – confusion (see Lev. 18:23). This union of the woman (church) with the beast (empire) constitutes the spiritual harlotry of which she is guilty.
But the same (Babylon) applies to her entire family; her daughters inherit both her nature and name, for she is a "mother of harlots," and her works they do. Some of her daughters have followed very closely in her footsteps, in mixing Church and State. Such are "The Church of England" and other State Churches. And such would other daughters be, also, if they could find empires willing to support them.
The same spirit of confusion – the Church walking in unlawful union with the world – is seen on every hand. The Church (nominal) and the world walk hand in hand, unite their interests, and make merry together. It is the worldly element and its wealth that is sought by every sect to support and sustain the Church in the degree of luxury she wishes to enjoy. Alas, the name Babylon is emblazoned on the brow of every sectarian system the world over! Yet they all, like the mother system, hold forth "a golden cup (the Word of God) full of abomination for (Greek, kai.) the filthiness of their fornication," without a blush for their shame, and, in fact, ignorant of the fact that it condemns them.
But the cup of Divine indignation is now full. The Lord will have pity and patience no longer, and though, until this harvest time, he permitted wheat and tares to grow together, the imperative command now is, "Come out of her, my people." The magnet of truth is gathering out the Jewels, and the reproaches of the world and the nominal Church are refining and fitting them for [R473 : page 7] the Master's use.
He is thus seeking out the "little flock" – the true Church – whose names are written in heaven, who, during his absence, have waited for him, searched carefully every letter of his, which would inform them of his coming and glory, and of his will concerning them; those who have made and performed the sacrifice of earthly interests, to secure with him the higher and more enduring pleasures and honors than any which the world can offer. Yes, "They shall be mine, saith the Lord, in that day when I make up my jewels" (Mal. 3:16,17).
Cyrus, who conquered the typical Babylon, and set free the typical Israel in bondage in her, is undoubtedly a type of Christ. In the overthrow of the type, not only was the capitol city (Babylon) overthrown, but the empire with all its provinces and cities. So, too, Babylon here is to fall, and it implies not merely the great city – the capitol and leading system of the apostate Church (the Roman Church) – but all under the rule of the world – all of the mixture, all of the confusion – mother and daughters.
It is Babylon that falls and is dashed in pieces in this day of the Lord, but the true and faithful virgin shall be gathered and made perfect, and, as the Bride and joint-heir, shall share Christ's glory.
"Dear is this Church to God,
Her walls before him stand;
Dear as the apple of his eye,
And graven on his hand."
Some of the Lord's dear children, sorely pressed by the adversary and longing for the glorious consummation of our hope, anxiously inquire how long must we tarry here, and in what manner shall we go? For these, and for refreshing the memory of all, we briefly review what the Scriptures teach on this subject.
It has been an old and cherished idea with Christian people, and ourselves among others, based on a misunderstanding of some scriptures, and an overlooking of others, that those who remain unto the coming of the Lord should not pass through the ordeal of physical death. We took more interest in this thought than other Christians, because we had learned that we were living in the day of the Lord's presence. We never claimed this as new truth, however; it was simply an old idea applied to the time in which we learned we were living, which idea we had not discovered to be erroneous until a little over a year ago.
The scriptures upon which that idea has been based, when critically considered, do not (in our judgment) support the thought; and other scriptures seem to teach positively that all who will be members of the body – Christ – must like their head, example, forerunner, die physically. Carefully examine the subject in the light of the following remarks on texts usually regarded as the basis of the idea that some will be exempted from physical death:
In 1 Thes. 4:15,17, we read: "That we which are alive and remain unto the coming (parousia – presence) of the Lord shall not prevent [precede] them which are asleep. For the Lord... shall descend...and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together [or also] with [or to] them, &c."
Now we do not claim that anything here mentioned indicates that the saints, as new creatures, who remain over to this time of the Lord's presence will die; but we do claim that nothing in this text teaches that their human bodies will not die. This scripture does not mention what change they will undergo before being joined to the Lord; in fact the change is not mentioned here at all. But the same apostle elsewhere informs us that a change must take place, because "flesh and blood" cannot inherit the kingdom of God – we must all be "changed" to spiritual bodies.
Let us next look at 1 Cor. 15:51, for it mentions the change particularly, and let us notice carefully whether Paul says we shall be changed without dying, as we have always supposed he does. We read: "Behold I show you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye;...the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed." We received the impression that our earthly body would not die, from the above statement regarding sleep, but the human body might be dissolved and we – the new creatures – be delivered from it so quickly, clothed upon with our spiritual body, that not a moment for sleep would intervene. If time should intervene between the dissolution of our earthly house (human nature) and the receiving of our spiritual body, we should be obliged to sleep, as the apostles and "all who sleep in Jesus." But that sleep has always been an undesirable thing; therefore with the Apostle we can say that we are anxious, not to be unclothed (asleep without either human or spiritual body), but we prefer, if the will of God be such, that we should be of the class alive when the Lord has come, so that, instead of being even for a moment in the unclothed (or sleep) condition, we might be clothed upon, or receive the spiritual at the same moment we part with the old human house. And this in substance Paul here states – all will not sleep, for to some the change will be in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.
One thing is sure, we must leave the flesh sometime, and whenever or however it may be, it will be the death or dissolution and end of the human to all who become full recipients of the divine nature.
Now, notice the words of Jesus concerning John. John, we have long since seen to be a type or representative of the last part of the church – those who are alive and remain unto the presence of the Lord and who shall be changed. Jesus said of our representative, John: "If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee, Peter? Then went that saying abroad among the disciples, that that disciple should not die; howbeit, Jesus said not that he should not die, but if I will that he tarry till I come," &c. (John 21:22). Just so, dear brethren, it has been with the company typified by John; the saying has gone abroad and has been generally received that this part of the church will not die. Howbeit, when we examine the evidences, we find that neither Jesus nor the apostles said we should not die, but that we would tarry till the Master's presence and be changed in a moment and not sleep.
Now, notice the positive teaching that all of "the body" will die, and then mark the necessity of death. It was no less an authority than Paul who said: If we be dead with him we shall also live with him; and if we have been planted in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection, therefore we are to be made conformable unto his death.
Does some one object that these words are applicable to the daily life of Paul and of us and suggest that we are to be "living sacrifices?" Very true, but while our dying commences at our consecration, it does not end there. As in the case of our "Captain," it does not end until the human is dead. While we begin, as "living sacrifices," yet, when the sacrifice is finished, all that is human is dead. The thing that dies at once is the human will, and when this is accomplished we reckon ourselves dead; but the death actually is in progress day by day until the sacrifice is complete. We cannot receive the spiritual mind unless we surrender the human mind or will, so also we cannot receive our spiritual body unless the earthly body is surrendered. Remember that Jesus said to all the churches: "Be thou faithful unto death and I will give thee a crown of life."
It is in harmony with these thoughts that we understand the words of Jesus (John 11:26): "Whosoever liveth (at this time) and believeth in me [or is one of the faith-ful] shall never die." The class referred to are reckoned dead to the human will, nature, hope, etc., and are alive toward God as new creatures. Such new creatures who are now living will not sleep – will not die – but immediately, in the twinkling of an eye, will be transferred to their new body like unto Christ's spiritual body. What matters it to us, if the earthly house of this building be dissolved in death, we shall not be unclothed but clothed upon with an heavenly one.
Now, as we have seen, that in Jesus' case the human was surrendered to death forever, (He was "put to death in the flesh but quickened in spirit"), and that, had he taken back the human nature, it would have been taking back our ransom price, so we have seen that it is a privilege granted to us as his body, to fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ – to share in the world's redemption, with him who loved us and bought us with his own precious blood – to suffer with him, being made conformable unto his death. In a word, if Jesus must needs be obedient even unto death, and if he says to us: "Be thou faithful unto death," then it is clear that the dissolution or death of the human being is necessary.
But we find still more positive teaching on this point. Turning to Psa. 82:6, we read: "I – I (Jehovah) have said God's ye are, and sons of the Most High all of you; but as man ye die, and as one of the heads ye fall" (Young's Trans).
Our high calling is so great, so much above the comprehension of men, that they think we are guilty of blasphemy [R474 : page 7] when we speak of being "new creatures" – "partakers of the divine nature." When we claim, on the scriptural warrant, that we are begotten to a divine nature and that Jehovah is thus our father, it is claiming that we are divine beings – hence all such are Gods. True, we are only in the embryo condition, now spiritually minded, but by-and-by we shall be perfected. Thus there is a family of Gods, Jehovah being our father, and all his sons on the divine plane, being brethren and joint-heirs: Jesus being the chief or first-born.
Nor should we wonder that so few discern this grand relationship, into the full membership of which we so soon hope to come. The apostle tells us that "the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God... neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Cor. 2:14). Just so it was when our great Head and Lord was among men. Having consecrated the human at 30 years of age, he was begotten of the spirit, and became a part-taker of the divine nature. When Jesus said he was a son of God the Jews were about to stone him, reasoning thus, that if a son of God, he was making himself to be also a God, or of the God family. [Just what we claim: "Beloved, now are we the sons of God" – "The God and father of our Lord Jesus hath begotten us."] (1 John 3:2 and 1 Pet. 1:3.)
Jesus does not deny that when he said he was a son, he implied that he was of the divine nature, but he quotes to them the above passage from the Psalms as being good authority, and it seems as though it satisfied them, for they did not stone him. Jesus said, "Is it not written in your law, I said ye are Gods?" Then he proceeds to show that the "Gods" there mentioned, are the ones who receive obediently his words and example, and concludes his argument by asking whether if God calls such ones as receive his (Jesus') teachings, Gods, whether they think that he, the teacher, whom the Father had specially set apart as the head of those Gods, could be properly said to blaspheme, when he claimed the same relationship as a son of God (John 10:35).
These sons of God, like him from whom they heard the word of truth by which they are begotten, are yet in disguise; the world knoweth us not for the same reason that it knew him not. Our Father puts no outward badge or mark of our high relationship, but leaves each to walk by faith and not by sight all through the earthly pilgrimage – down into death. His favor and love and the glory and honor which belong to our station, we can now see by the eye of faith; but soon it will be realized in fact. Now we appear like men, and as men all die, even as others; but in the resurrection we will rise in our true character as Gods – partakers of the Divine nature (2 Peter 1:4).
"It doth not yet appear
How great we shall be made;
But when we see him as he is,
We shall be like our Head."
Then the whole Christ – head and body – are addressed as one, as they [R474 : page 8] will be under Christ their head, saying: "Arise, O God, judge [rule, bless] the earth; for thou shalt inherit all nations."
We, as new creatures, who are living in this favored time of the Lord's presence, expect to be translated, or changed to our own spiritual condition, but we expect the change to take place at the moment of the death of the "earthen vessel" – we will not be obliged to sleep as did the new creature Paul and others, but will be "changed in a moment."
Of this favored time Jesus told us in words never understood until due, saying: "Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; but their works follow with them" (Rev. 14:13 – E.D.).
Uniformly throughout the Bible, except in this one instance, death is represented as a dreadful disaster, a terrible enemy, a devouring monster, and the grave as a great prison, permitted of our loving Heavenly Father, only because men had become sinners and must be destroyed. And the great hope held out before the world has been, that Christ, having given himself a ransom for the sinners – having "tasted death for every man – the just for the unjust – will soon commence the great work of destroying death by restoring all mankind to life. Thus will he "swallow up death in victory." (1 Cor. 15:54).
When he has exalted his church to the glory of kingdom (symbol, mountain,) power, then he will spread before all people a great feast, and, through this kingdom, (mountain) he will destroy the vail of ignorance and the covering of death – i.e., "He will swallow up death in victory" (Isa. 25:6-8). Then he will break open and abolish the great prison-house of death and set at liberty all the captives. Of this deliverance to the captives and opening of the prison doors to them that are bound, Jesus preached, saying, The day is coming in the which all that are in their graves shall hear the voice of the Son of man and come forth (John 5:28).
Paul recognizes death as the greatest of all enemies, and, speaking of Christ's Millennial reign, he says: "He must reign till he hath put all enemies under his feet: The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death (1 Cor. 15:25,26). It is the same Apostle who, speaking of the object of Jesus' coming into the world and dying for our sins, says that he took the human nature, that "through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil" (Heb. 2:14). It is also affirmed that he will open the prison doors of them that are bound (captives of death) and proclaim liberty to the captives (Isa. 61:1).
In view of the general expression of enmity to death in the Scriptures, the above solitary text, speaking of it as a blessing, is rather peculiar, until we notice, that the application is limited by the word "henceforth." Not always, but henceforth, death may be a blessing. But, notice another limitation. It will not henceforth be a blessing to all mankind, but only to those "in the Lord" – members in particular of the body of Christ, the little flock, to whom it is the Father's good pleasure to give the kingdom – to all others death will continue to be an enemy until its final destruction in the Millennial reign (Hos. 13:14).
Again, it is unusual to speak of those already dead as dying; but the Spirit uses this seemingly incongruous expression, evidently desiring to limit the application of the death blessing to a certain class: "Blessed are the dead [those dead to the world – crucified with Christ – "Ye are dead and your life is hid with Christ in God,"] henceforth who die in the Lord."
Now, we are full of interest to know when, from what time forward, will it be blessed, for the special class mentioned, to die. These words were written for our edification, and we should be able to know when they apply, especially if we are in the Lord and dead to the world; for it was part of our Master's promise that the Spirit should guide us into an understanding of the truth, and show us things to come (John 16:13). If, as we believe, the last members of the body of Christ are now living – "The feet of him" – it is time that we had an understanding of this passage, which clearly refers to the feet.
We look backward at the context to ascertain if possible when this blessing is due. The seven preceding verses give, we think, very clear testimony on the subject. They mention three specific messages which must be proclaimed in the church (symbol, heaven) which, we believe, have been in process during the first seven years of harvest just ended, from 1874 to 1881. The first message embodies not only the agelasting good news (Gospel) but also the time element. "The HOUR of his judgment is come." This is precisely what was preached by quite a goodly number of us, viz.: that the glad tidings of great joy should yet be unto all people, and that the "harvest," or time of trial, (judgment) commenced with 1874, and would last for forty years – the first seven years being specially devoted to the church for the harvesting of the first-fruits.
You will recall that up to 1878, though Restitution was the key note, and entire consecration was always urged, yet the time element was one of the most prominent features always. Since 1878, however, though the same time element is recognized in all our preaching and teaching, and is repeatedly referred to as a proof of our position, yet the direct teaching of time has almost stopped among all the preaching brethren – and this, too, without any preconcerted arrangement, and without any other reason than that other elements of truth came into greater prominence.
It was in the spring of 1879 that, seeing clearly the parallelism between the nominal Jewish church and the nominal Gospel church, we were enabled to know just where the latter was finally rejected of the Lord and spued out of his mouth (Rev. 3:10), no longer to be his mouthpiece. We saw that this was due in 1878, as the parallel of the rejection of the Jewish church, when Jesus, just prior to his crucifixion, wept over them and said: "Your house is left unto you desolate." The Jewish church was there likewise cast off, or spued from his mouth.
We were led to see very clearly that the nominal church of the Gospel Age is Babylon, (the confused, mixed condition of worldly-mindedness and lukewarm Christianity), described in Rev. 18:2-4.
This spuing out, or casting off, of the nominal church as an organization [R475 : page 8] in 1878, we then understood, and still proclaim, to be the date of the commencement of Babylon's fall, as recorded there. And since then we feel ourselves led of the Spirit, through the unfolding of this portion of the word of truth, to say, in the name of the Lord, to all God's true children in Babylon: "Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins and receive not of her plagues" (verse 4). This seems to accord wonderfully with the second message, "Babylon is fallen" (Rev. 14:8).
The third message (14:9-11), was that concerning the worshipers of the Beast and his Image – showing the nominal church in the colors in which the Word of God paints it, pointing out how all who remain in her, either in spirit or name, in opposition to the Word of God, saying, "Come out of her," will be subject to torment and vexation so long as they are worshiping creeds and doctrines and organizations of men, the remembrance of which distress (smoke of torment) will never be forgotten.
As with the preceding two, so with this third message – it could not have been more accurately fulfilled than it was. [And here we would remark, that the resemblance of the teachings of our company, to the messages here given, was only noticed after they had been proclaimed]. All three of these messages yet continue, and will doubtless continue to be repeated by others so long as they contain truth due to the Lord's children; but, as special messages in the sense referred to in the prediction of the Revelator, they had all been given before the fall of 1881, and this was the time which corresponded with the end of the seventieth week of Daniel's prophecy. Since then we are in the time of patient waiting for our "change" described in verse 12. And here it was in the fall of 1881 that, for the first time, we were able to read understandingly the words, "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from henceforth." Evidently the blessing is to the members of the Christ now living.
But, we inquire, in what respect will death be a blessing to us now? We answer, that now we shall not sleep, but we will be instantly invested with our heavenly (spiritual) bodies, being changed in a moment, dropping all that is human and earthly, and being clothed upon with our heavenly condition. In the case of Jesus, there were nearly three days of sleep – the unclothed, unconscious, dead condition between the times when the earthly body was resigned and the heavenly body was received. Paul and others have been nearly two thousand years waiting "unclothed," or "asleep in Jesus," and this is one of the principal reasons why death was undesirable even to Christians. We don't wish to be unclothed, even for a moment, but we do desire to be clothed upon, or to have the change an instantaneous one (1 Cor. 15:52).
Herein consists the blessing to those of the body now taken. Death to the human will be instantaneous with the perfecting of the divine nature, hence it will be a blessed "change." "Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; but their works follow with them."
To the class thus "blessed," there will be no interruption of work. Already dead to the world and alive toward God, their work is in harmony with the kingdom work now going on, and they merely step to their higher plane of "divine" perfection and power, and there continue the same work. It is only the labor (toil,) incident to the mortal body – the frail "earthen vessel" which ceases. Not so highly favored in this regard was the lot of any of the members of "the body" which preceded us. Quite a period elapsed in Paul's case between sufferings and glory. When he had fought a good fight and finished his course he looked forward, not to a change in a moment, but to a sleep from which he would be awakened to receive his reward in the kingdom. So he expresses his hope. "Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of life which the Lord, the Righteous Judge, shall give me at that day" (2 Tim. 4:8).
"How beautiful are the feet of Him," how many favors and blessings are for us. Truly, "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors and their works follow with them." Rejoice and be exceeding glad – but
"Ne'er think the victory won,
Nor once at ease sit down;
Thine arduous task will not be done,
Till thou hast gained thy crown."
The human must be entirely sacrificed before the divine is perfected – "Be thou faithful unto death and I will give thee a crown of life," are the words of our Lord and Forerunner in whose footsteps on the narrow way, we must follow, to gain the prize of our high calling – "Glory, Honor and Immortality."
Now abideth faith, hope, and charity. – 1 Cor. 13:13.
Behold this string of pearls, the coronet of diamonds. Each pearl sparkles with the luster of its own individuality. Of the three it is written, "Now abideth faith, hope, love." Of love it is declared, "But the greatest of these is charity." Love the most brilliant of the group; more exalted than her companions: yet Faith, Hope, Love, all essential to vital godliness. There can be no religious experience without these. One cannot be substituted for the other. Like a railroad permit, or passport, they are not transferable. These three graces have their places in the experience of every child of God.
Notice the order. Faith is foundational. Hope and Love resultant. This is the Divine arrangement, this God's order. A man is according to his Faith. It is the root of this tree of experience; the vehicle God uses to reveal himself by his Spirit to man's interior nature. "According to your Faith be it unto you." "Without Faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him."
Simple as Faith is in the abstract, yet God has been pleased to honor it with results which are glorious. A little girl was asked once the question, "What is Faith?" to which she replied, "Trusting God and asking no questions." That simple, brief answer gives a correct idea of the simplicity of Faith, and, when exercised, brings results. A Scripture or two: "Therefore, being justified by Faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ; by whom, also, we have access by Faith unto this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also, knowing that tribulation worketh patience: and patience experience, and experience hope, and hope maketh not ashamed because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us." (Rom. 5:1,5). The apostle Paul prayed for a certain church that their faith fail not. He knew if their Faith was gone, all would be gone. The apostle Peter regarded Faith as the basis of character, and the unit in spiritual addition, and besides this, giving all diligence, "add to your faith virtue, and to virtue (courage) knowledge, and to knowledge temperance, and to temperance patience, and to patience godliness, and to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 1:5-8). How needed the injunction of holy writ, "Have faith in God." Hope springs from faith, and waits for the accomplishment of faith's object. "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." Hope comes by experience. A man without hope is like a world without the sun. Hope flings a bow upon the stormiest cloud, kindles a fire in the coldest bosom, and blooms in every soil. While I breathe I hope – is the motto of the race. To expect, when circumstances are at their worst, that they will become better – aye, and better at their best – is as natural as to breathe. The object of the hope referred to in this wonderful group is the appearing of Christ to receive his bride, and transform them into his likeness. "Looking for that blessed hope and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." (Titus 2:13-14).
"O what a blessed hope is ours,
While here on earth we stay,
We more than taste the heavenly powers,
And ante-date that day,
We feel the resurrection near,
Our life in Christ concealed,
And with his glorious presence here,
Our earthen vessels filled."
"WHEN a false theory for salvation has been endorsed for some time is it not best to part with it and make way for the truth, even if the separation hurts or even kills the old carnal nature?"