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This paper will be sent free to any of the Lord's poor who will send a card yearly requesting it. Freely we have received and freely we would give the truth. "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters; and he that hath no money, come ye, buy and eat – yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price." And you that have it – "Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labor for that which satisfieth not? Hearken diligently – and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness." – ISAIAH 55:1,2.
We wish it distinctly understood that no arrow from this TOWER is aimed at the Lord's children; neither at the weak, nor at the strong. God forbid that we should at all wrestle with flesh and blood – especially that we should fight against our own kindred, the family of God.
Our arrows, are aimed at errors not men; at systems, not individuals. We wrestle against princedoms and powers in exalted positions of influence (Eph. 6:12), chief over which is Satan.
We write thus because a letter from one of the readers recently, suggests the thought that our words have been somewhat misunderstood. This brother points us to the success, influence, charities, and missions as now witnesses of God's favor to the various sects, and warns us against saying anything against God's children therein.
To this we reply as above, that against God's children we have said nothing, but against the errors which have divided them and which keep them divided into sects contrary to the word and Spirit of the Lord. We have said something and by the grace of God assisting, we will say more, and say on, until the last of God's children shall be freed from her enchantments and bondage, and regain the liberty wherewith Christ hath made them free.
A casual glance, or even a steady gaze if from a worldly standpoint of view, would show the various daughters of the harlot as creatures of grace and beauty; would grasp only the outward marks of prosperity, and not notice the inward dearth of the true Spirit of Christ. Outwardly whited and garnished, inwardly full of pride and corruption.
We have already seen that the Jewish Church at the first advent is a likeness of the Gospel Church at the second advent. Then, the scribes and Pharisees represented "orthodoxy" so-called, as Jesus testified: "The scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. (Matt. 23:2.) That was a time of great prosperity in the Jewish Church. Never before had it been more prosperous outwardly. The Temple was more grand than the one Solomon built; their charity was noted of the Lord; they gave a tenth of all their possessions, even to the smallest items of their harvest. (Matt. 23:23.) They gave much alms in a way to be seen of men; they prayed much and long and were not ashamed to do it publicly; they sent missionaries throughout all the civilized world, and had missions in all the principal cities of the earth. Jesus testified to this also, saying, "Ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte" – convert. (Matt. 23:15.)
Had our Lord joined the Pharisees and been "orthodox" (?), we cannot doubt that his life would have been quite different from what it was. That path would have led to honor and praise of men, but not to Calvary, and the praise of God. To have done so, would have been hypocritical as he testifies that they were. He shows that their hypocrisy consisted in pretending to do for God's glory what was really for their own honor among men. (Doubtless in some measure self-deceived while deceiving others). Is not this much the case with the nominally "orthodox" sects of to-day? That their donations and labors and sacrifices are more for their sect than for God's Church, few will deny. Each sect worships, serves, honors and advances itself, hence it is hypocrisy of the worst form – an attempt to deceive God as well as men.
We honor the spirit of sacrifice wherever we find it, whether among Protestants, Roman Catholics, Mohammedans or Infidels; but when it is remembered that the hospitals, schools, churches, etc., are still retained as the exclusive properties of the sects, we wonder whether the name charity is applicable to a gift made to one's self.
We are much pleased at the spirit which publishes Bibles by the million and scatters the surplus profits in cheap copies among the very poor, even though it is more zealous in printing than in believing or teaching its doctrines.
We are in close sympathy with the missionary spirit, but not with missionary effort as at present operated by the nominal church. Ours is in the fullest sense a missionary work. We admire the sacrifice, especially of early missionaries, who went abroad without guarantee of every comfort and luxury and of good salaries. We should esteem it a great privilege to co-operate with such now, if we knew of any who as they went preached the "GLAD TIDINGS of great joy, which shall be unto all people." But we cannot countenance present missionary labor, for the same reason that our Master could not approve of that of the Pharisees. The poor heathen will be better off to hear nothing in this age and wait for the age to come to spread true knowledge of God, than to be confused and prejudiced against God by the usual misrepresentations of his character and plans.
Neither should numbers deceive us – "Two or three assembled in Christ's name in a small room are as much a church as a cathedral with as many thousands, and they are more likely to have their table furnished with living bread. If numbers are an evidence of God's blessing, then Jesus had not much success as a preacher. If numbers prove anything in this age when the prince of darkness reigns, it usually means his favor and smile, for error and errorists abound and predominate as shown in the October diagram. Think not of numbers, better is the communion of two or three saints, than the emptiness and formality of a gathering of the worldly minded.
We want to suggest that those who feel hurt at such a statement as this, are we fear closely related to some of the systems denounced; perhaps partakers of her sins and therefore sharers in her pain. The seven thousand in Israel in Elijah's day, who had not bowed the knee to Baal, did not – could not feel hurt at the prophet's words against Baal. Israelites indeed, in Jesus' day did not or should not have been hurt by his sharp reproof of those blind leaders who were leading the blind people. It is as much the duty of the body of Christ now, to point out present hindrances to growth in grace and knowledge – the teaching and theories and mighty influences of the nominal church – as it was the duty of our head to point out [R560 : page 1] that the Church in his day would neither enter, nor permit others to enter the kingdom. (Matt. 23:13.) The Lord help us each to see clearly the truth on this subject and to do his will fearlessly. But may we be preserved from any spirit of bitterness and malice so that "Speaking the truth in love, we may grow up into Him in all things which is the head – even Christ. (Eph. 4:15.) page 1
DEAR SIR: – Last week ZION'S WATCH TOWER was sent to me, and I find it just the paper I want. Brought up in the strictest sect of United Presbyterians, I find this new message is like cold water to my thirsty soul, and I wish to learn more of the glad tidings. Enclosed find one dollar for one year's subscription and for the rest send me as many copies of the October number as you can, I want to send them to my friends to whom it will prove glorious news.
I am studying my Bible with new interest and it is wonderful that I have been so blinded to God's glorious promises all these years. I shall trust to clergymen no longer for I find them small help in time of need.
I am truly grateful to the unknown one who sent me your paper. It is just what I have gone mourning for, for years, not knowing God was preparing "deliverance to the captives." May he bless you in the good work.
DEAR BROTHER: – Your highly esteemed and welcome letter of the 8th inst. was received and read with much pleasure. It gave me so much strength that opposition and persecution seem but trifles. I have received and used the copies and samples of "Food" and "TOWERS" you sent me. My wife and I are working in a private way just now, deeming it better than public work under the present circumstances.
Only a few out of the many seem willing to receive any new light on revealed things, so thick is the veil of prejudice drawn over their mental vision. But as I suggested, there are some who are willing to read and compare spiritual things with spiritual.
I lend the papers rather than give them, and to such as seem to be sincere, those consecrated ones of the household of faith. The papers and books are falling into the hands of even the unregenerated and by them are highly commended. It seems strange to me that such marvelous light should spring up in this our day, presenting truths that I had never dreamed of before. Because they are so startling is one reason why people do not receive them.
May the Lord of heaven bless you in the glorious work. We will help all we can directly and indirectly. We herewith send enclosed four names with subscriptions for the TOWER. You shall hear from us and our work as often as we have anything special to write.
DEAR SIR: – I see by looking over my papers that my subscription has nearly expired, so I hasten to renew it. I do not want to be without it. I watch for it eagerly and enjoy it. I had never heard much of this subject until about a year ago, but as soon as your book, "Food for Thinking Christians" fell into my hands I knew it was just what I wanted. It seemed to me that I only needed to tell my friends who believed, to have them rejoice with me. But I have been chilled and disappointed. A few have seemed to have some light but some of my friends think I am going to extremes.
I have wanted to write and let you know what a comfort your books and papers have been to me, but hesitated knowing that you received so many letters. But during the years I have been trying to serve Christ, I have been led in such a way that it seemed impossible for me to open my heart to any one about me, and for years I struggled through a thick darkness of doubts and fears. I wanted to serve God and to please him, but he seemed so far off. Then I heard the Advent Doctrine, and then came the first ray of light, but for many years after that the light was very dim, but still the Lord led me, and my heart cried out for him constantly, until finally about five years ago he gave me rest. Then I said: "Though he slay me, yet will I trust him." Since that time I have not once doubted him. Every day I have grown nearer to him, until to-day I can look back over my life and thank God for every step of the way he has led me.
The past year has been the richest, most blessed year of my life, although it has been a time of sharp trial. I think it has taken all the faith I had to enable me to endure, but I feel stronger than ever, and I thank God that the light is shining so clearly now; and I thank him that it is shining on me.
I hope I have not written too long a letter, but my heart is full and I longed to open it.
MY BROTHER: – Twice you have responded and sent me of your literature, which I have read; at first with some fears of becoming entangled, but now with a confidence of being led in the right direction: and having a craving desire to study with you God's Word, I page 2 subscribe for the ZION'S WATCH TOWER one year.
Very Truly yours,
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL: – The late number of ZION'S WATCH TOWER containing the Diagram illustrating the population of the earth, in the religious divisions, I saw first in a paper from Mr. Guinness, of Harley House, London, where young men are trained for the mission field. It is one of the most striking evidences of the failure of human power with all its enlightenment, to convert the world, and to increase the desire and prayer of the believer in Jesus, that he may "come quickly" to "make all things new." The signs of the times are ominous that a great crisis is not remote. The persecution of the Jews in Europe seems like an evidence of the truth taught by the Saviour in the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. "Dead" and "buried" as a nation, they are suffering now, more than ordinary, the "torments" predicted by the Saviour.
In a late letter received from England, I see that the Society of which Earl Shaftesbury is President – the "Syrian Colonization Fund," designed to aid the Jews desiring to settle in Palestine to escape the cruelty of their persecutors, has met with difficulties, arising from political causes. A number of Jews intending to settle in Palestine or Syria were not allowed by the Turkish government to enter the promised land, but obtained permission from the British government to settle in the island Cyprus. In the letter, to which I allude, the writer says: "Our Jewish colonists find that the land which the governments has granted is of excellent quality and in a healthy situation. They are clearing the ground and digging their wells; also doing needful work in road making. We have not yet raised enough to establish them, but the funds are coming in, and we are encouraged to hope that the effort will prove successful. As to Syria and Palestine the case stands thus: Until lately the Sultan and his government were friendly to Jews, and would have encouraged their settlement in Syria, but political intrigues on the part of foreigners has been exerted. The Sultan has been led to think that England is endeavoring to get hold of Syria by means of the Jews; and thus, at the beginning of this year, the Turkish authorities discouraged Jewish immigration or settlement. Jewish pilgrims coming to die in Jerusalem were allowed to land. But then even these were for a while prohibited. This state of things can scarcely last. There are numbers of Jews in the Holy Land, and the most of them are in extreme poverty," (as Lazarus had been in the parable.) To these relief is being sent according to the means that are received.
The foregoing information cannot fail to be of interest to believers: The Diagram of the six classes of religionists in the world which appeared in the last number of the WATCH TOWER, is one of the best means of exhibiting the hopelessness of the world's conversion to God, [by human agency] when up to the latter part of the 19th century only 116 millions of nominal Protestants stand up out of the 1424 millions of the population.
I am desirous to use the Diagram to awaken interest in the coming of the Lord among professing Christians. In Toronto the ministers of religion generally stand opposed to this doctrine. In "McMaster Hall," the theological hall of the Baptists, not one of the Faculty believed in the Lord's coming to reign upon the earth. This was evolved by a student who believed the doctrine, at a meeting specially called to consider it.
May the Lord greatly bless your labor of love.
I am Yours fraternally,
MY DEAR BROTHER IN CHRIST: – Nearly a year ago I happened upon a copy of ZION'S WATCH TOWER. How it came to be in this out-of-the-way place I know not, but I saw in it light on many things on which I had pondered much and had inquired much about, among the leaders of all sects, without being satisfied. Many of those things I wished to know more about. I was poor and afflicted and I was and am hard pushed to feed my family; but seeing your offer to send it to any of the Lord's poor who would write for it, I wrote and requested it, hoping to be able some day to pay for it. I have since passed through much sickness and write this upon a bed of sickness. Whether I will now be restored to health or not I cannot tell, but God knoweth best what is good for me. I know I am unworthy of the least of His favors and whether He decrees that I shall or shall not live to receive more of the light that he is bestowing upon His children I can but say, His will be done. And how I wish I could be assured in this dark day of all others, while I lie here and watch the dark clouds that reach from the ocean to the gulf, and while time passeth so heavily, that I have an interest in your prayers. I feel it would do my soul good to know or learn personally that those who have caused me so much comfort in affliction had indeed made an afflicted and unknown brother a special subject of prayer. I have written now more than I thought to write, but not the half of what I could write if my strength permitted. Would I be intruding upon your kindness to ask of you to send me a few more copies of the October number of the TOWER? Will you please continue to send it to me? Perhaps it will not be long till I can do something for the cause, and if so, I will, surely.
Yours in deep affliction,
DEAR BRO: – I herewith enclose my subscription for the dear Watch Tower. I cannot tell you how I appreciate its monthly visits with its deep living truth from God's word. How it warms and cheers the heart and strengthens and encourages us in our pilgrimage, unfolding God's plan of salvation and the presence of Jesus. I feel thankful to my Heavenly Father for the privilege of feasting on these glorious truths for it is by his favor that I am what I am. May our Father's richest blessings rest on all those loved ones who are feeding the household of faith.
I know your time is limited and therefore I do not expect you to correspond, but I never forget you at the throne of grace, and may the blessing of the Lord rest on you all, is the sincere prayer of your sister in Christ.
We desire to ask the attention of the readers of ZION'S WATCH TOWER to some considerations bearing on the authenticity of the New Testament Scriptures. It is claimed that the Roman Catholic Church, the "Mother of Harlots," having had in her possession exclusively, for a length of time, the original manuscripts, corrupted those manuscripts by interpolations and additions, in order to give an appearance of divine sanction to her corrupt doctrines and teachings. It is admitted, of course, that there are several passages in the New Testament which are marked as doubtful, and some, known to be spurious, have been rejected altogether; but it is not shown that those passages originated with a design to corrupt the original text. The explanation is offered (and there is nothing better, so far as we are aware), that those passages first appeared probably in the shape of marginal notes, and that ultimately, in the process of copying, either through carelessness, ignorance, or possible dishonesty, they were finally embodied in the text. But, be that as it may, we propose to show, by various considerations, how incredible, almost impossible, it is that any such attempts as claimed could have been made to corrupt the original text.
You are aware that the Roman Church teaches that Mary is "ever a virgin." It is one of her "infallible" dogmas that Jesus was her "only son." And, yet, with surprising carelessness, the manuscript doctors have allowed the text to read: "She brought forth her first-born son," implying, of course, that she brought forth other sons afterward. And, as if that were not enough, and to put caviling at rest forever, they permit the original text to tell about "his mother and brothers, and sisters." (See Matt. 1:25; Luke 2:7; Mark 3:31; 6:3.) All this, rendered into plain English, goes before the world, while the infallible dogma of the Church is never so much as hinted in any part of the Book.
Again, the "infallible" Church teaches the doctrine of the Trinity. A recent writer said in his paper, endeavoring to show how she had corrupted the Word of God, "Where else than in the New Testament did she get her doctrine of the Trinity?" That writer ought to have known (for he has sufficient intelligence) that the doctrine of the Trinity is not to be found in the New Testament, that spurious passage in 1 John 5:7 not even directly affirming it, and that is the only text which has the faintest semblance of teaching the doctrine. But in view of the fact that those crafty manuscript corrupters took in hand to make the original text teach their dogma, what inconceivable blindness, on their part, to have allowed Jesus to say: "The Son is not able of himself to do anything!" (John 5:19), and "My Father is greater than I." (14:28.) And how could they have suffered an Apostle to testify that "he is the first-born of all creation," (Col. 1:15), and the Revelator to say, "he is the beginning, or chief, of the creation of God." Not to have stated their own dogma with any degree of clearness, and at the same time to allow such positive testimony in condemnation of their dogma to go out from under their hands was, certainly, bad work for the "doctors," wasn't it?
The Roman Church teaches the doctrine of "purgatory," but when they were tinkering the manuscripts they must have forgotten to put that in – the passage in 1 Pet. 3:18,19, read in the light of common sense, not giving the least countenance to such a notion.
Then, again, the old Mother teaches "eternal torment." But is it not wonderfully strange that when she was "corrupting the manuscripts" she should have left out so completely the very foundation doctrines of her system? For while she teaches eternal torment (not from the Scriptures of truth, but from tradition, and by unwarrantable interpretation of certain texts,) these very manuscripts which she is said to have corrupted, are allowed to testify in the most unqualified terms that "death is the wages of sin;" and that the final punishment will be "everlasting destruction." (Matt. 10:28; Rom. 6:23; 2 Thess. 1:9.) So, also, her dogma of the immortality of the soul. Why did she not put that in manuscripts when she was "doctoring" them to suit her false teachings? You know as well as I know – and I know to an absolute certainty – that that pet doctrine of Romanism is not so much as named in the Scriptures, neither in Hebrew, Greek nor English: and yet we are asked to believe that that corrupt Church has so extensively tampered with the original manuscripts, in order to sustain her abominable system of falsehood, that it is usually unsafe to trust them; that they cannot be relied on at all to tell the truth! However, while she teaches that immortality is inherent in all men, they teach that immortality is a glorious prize to be sought for, and to be obtained only by the elect of God through Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 2:7; 6:23; 1 John 5:11,12; John 10:27,28.)
"The Church" prays to saints, while the manuscripts testify against her – "I, Jesus, am the way – no man cometh to the Father but by me;" (John 14:6) and "there is one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." (1 Tim. 2:5.) So, also, in her teaching of the merit of works, the testimony of those manuscripts is directly against her. She teaches that the faithful, by their good works, may merit the favor of God, while they teach that works are entirely excluded, and men are "justified by faith." (Rom. 3:27,28; 4:1-8; Eph. 2:9.)
Illustrations might be multiplied. But from those already noted, it seems fair to conclude that, inasmuch as the "doctors" did not corrupt the text in those places which teach doctrines exactly contrary to their own teachings, the passages which are known to be spurious must be accounted for on some other hypothesis than a deliberate design to corrupt the original text.
It is certainly true that the teachings of the Scriptures in what are usually regarded as "fundamental" truths are in direct contradiction of the dogmas of the Roman Church, as well, also, as those of the Protestant sects. And it is no less certain that the teachings of the Scriptures are in full harmony with themselves throughout, from first to last. Take, for example, the story of the miraculous conception and birth of Jesus, which some in these days find so hard to believe. Compare the case of Sarah, (Gen. 18:9-14) [Is anything too hard? – wonderful – for Jehovah?] of Hannah, (1 Sam. 1:5-27,) of the Shunamite, (2 Kings 4:14-17,) of Elizabeth, (Luke 1:18,20,24.) In all of these cases there is the miraculous interposition of divine power, quickening the natural forces, where they had been dormant and inoperative, or entirely suspended; and it seems to us the miracle is not less notable in these cases than in that of Mary, where the same divine power attains its object, by its own energy directly applied, regardless of the usual operation of natural law. For, surely, He who established nature's laws, is able to act in any given case by other means, if he should see fit so to do. And that He did do so, is, as we have said, the testimony of the Book, in harmony with itself.
A young telegraph operator in a provincial town was anxious about his soul. But he could not have guessed that a message would reach him as it did. He had been sleepless all night, thinking of his need of a Saviour, and in the morning he went to his work with his heart uttering the publican's prayer. The sunny weather and beauty of summer scenery did not engage him, for he was longing for that peace of God which the Christian feels.
Absorbed with his desire, he continued to pray, "God be merciful to me a sinner," and was constantly repeating the words, when the click of the signal told him that his office was called. He took his place at the instrument, and quickly and with unusual emotion spelled his message, from "Herbert," at Windermore, to "J.B.," at Warworth: "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world." "In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace."
Such a telegram as that the young man had never known to pass the wires before. It was sent to a servant girl who, in her distress of mind, had written a letter to her brother, "Herbert," but it proved a double blessing, for it came to the operator as a direct reply from heaven to his prayer. He accepted it as such, and his faith saw and rested in the Lamb of God.– Selected.
Some one has said that the fruit of the Spirit is all in one word – "love." It speaks in Galatians about love, the fruit of the Spirit being love, joy, peace, gentleness, long-suffering, meekness and temperance. The way this writer has put it – and I think it is very beautiful – is, that joy is love exultant, peace is love in repose, and long-suffering is love enduring. It is all love, you see, and gentleness is love in society, and goodness is love in action, and faith is love on the battle-field, and meekness is love at school, and temperance is love in training.– Moody.
In our last issue we stated that DAY DAWN [the work mentioned in "Food"] was out of print, since which we find that there are still some copies remaining. Though we advise waiting on "Millennial Day Dawn," we would say that if you desire the former we can still supply a few copies. Price 50 cents.
Though a cloud of pain and sorrow
Sometimes hide thy face from me;
Though my steps are slow and weary,
Father, still I trust in thee.
If my way is dark and lonely,
And no stars above me shine,
Through the darkness that surrounds me
Still I whisper, I am thine.
When in hours of grief and trouble
Tears have almost dimmed my sight,
When the tempter tries his weapon
Sometimes in a robe of light –
If I lift my eyes to heaven
Yet I see thy love divine,
Like a sunbeam through the shadows,
And I feel that I am thine.
So my Father, earthly sufferings
Cannot veil thy love from me,
And if worldly joy and pleasures
Try to win my heart from thee,
Then I look beyond the shadows
To the crown that shall be mine,
And I see the day is dawning,
When I'll be forever thine.
The subject of ancient chronology is confessedly a very difficult one. Of many early and important events there are no reliable dates; of others, different authors assign widely different periods. As we search backward, the further we go the less reliable is the history, until – outside of the Scriptures – we finally reach the fabulous age, where all is myth and imagination.
Between one and two hundred different systems of chronology have been formed; most of them, too, by men of learning and research; so that it is not wise to become dogmatic over the date of ancient events which rest on profane, and therefore possibly unreliable history. Much less does it become a professed Christian to attempt to undermine the Scriptures by combatting them with data which are acknowledged to be only approximate.
The date of the birth of Christ is one which has been in dispute. In the 6th century it was proposed that Christians should use that date as an epoch from which to reckon time. As it was still less than 500 years from the days of the apostles, the date should have been placed with tolerable accuracy.
In the beginning of the seventh century an event occurred which led to doubt concerning the accepted date. In December, 1603, a conjunction of the planets Saturn and Jupiter took place, and, about a year after, a new and bright star appeared, which shone above a year and then disappeared. The conjunction was not strange, as it occurs regularly every few years, but the new and evanescent star was rather unusual. To a famous astronomer then living, it occurred that if such an event had happened just before the birth of Jesus, it would have been noticed by a people that believed in astrology, and that IF the men who came from the East, seeking for the King of the Jews, had been of this class they might have thought something unusual was going to occur, and IF a new star happened to appear at that time also (a very unlikely thing) they might have supposed it to be – etc., etc.
How such a star could travel before them from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, and then stand still over the place where the babe was, does not appear; nor why such a star should appear at each and every recurrence of the meeting of the two planets; but it so happened that one of the conjunctions was found to have taken place in B.C. 4, and the conclusion was jumped at that PERHAPS a new star also appeared at that time and acted in the very unstarlike manner suggested. Believers have been and still are anxious to have the events noted in Scripture verified by external evidence, but an attempt to prove more than is warranted may do more harm than good.
Canon Farrar, in his "Life of Christ," has the following to say on the subject, after explaining the argument: "The appearance and disappearance of new stars is a phenomenon by no means so rare as to admit of any possible doubt. The fact that St. Matthew speaks of such a star within two or three years [note the indefiniteness] at the utmost of a time when we know that there was this remarkable planetary conjunction, and the fact that there was such a star 1,600 years afterwards, at the time of a similar conjunction can only be regarded as a curious coincidence...We are, in fact, driven to the conclusion, that the astronomical researches which have proved the reality of this remarkable conjunction are only valuable as showing the possibility that it may have prepared the Magi for the early occurrence of some great event. And this confident expectation may have led to their journey to Palestine on the subsequent appearance of an evanescent star."
We accept the conclusion so far, but must believe that the star was purely supernatural, prepared for the occasion and circumstances; and, therefore, not dependent on the planetary conjunction. If so, it might have occurred the same year or a dozen years afterward, and astronomy could not help us place it.
Some, who could not accept the star theory supposed that the movements of the planets themselves might have led the Magi, but this theory requires more faith [?] than to accept the miraculous appearance of a star, or, what the Magi supposed was a star.
While these notions prevailed, and the early date (B.C. 4) was accepted, historical events and dates were bent to harmonize, and other events were hunted up in support of the theory. Among the latter was an eclipse of the moon, said by Josephus to have occurred a short time before the death of Herod the Great – the monster who, as a drop in the ocean of his atrocities, slew the babes at Bethlehem.
All we know of the eclipse is as follows: Herod had placed a large golden eagle over the gate of the temple. Two illustrious Jews, named Matthias and Judas, persuaded the young men to pull it down. They did so, and some were arrested and executed. To make the matter clear, Josephus relates that there was another Matthias who was at that time high priest, but was not directly concerned in the sedition. He then says: "But Herod deprived this Matthias of the high priesthood, and burnt the other Matthias, who had raised the sedition, with his companions, alive, and that very night there was an eclipse of the moon."
Now as there occur from one to four eclipses of the moon every year, it is evident that except, under peculiar circumstances, the record of an occurrence proves nothing. Where the time of the year, the time of night, and the amount of obscurity are all given, as has been done in several instances, the record is of the greatest value in fixing dates. In the case under consideration there is nothing of the kind, therefore the record proves absolutely nothing as far as chronology is concerned. Josephus does speak of a fast as having been kept before the event, but what fast or how long before, is not stated.
As it happens there was only one eclipse of the moon in B.C. 4, while in B.C. 1, there were three. The eclipse of B.C. 4 was only partial (six digits, or only half of the moon being hidden) while it is rather remarkable that all three in B.C. 1 were total eclipses, that is, the entire moon was obscured, and of course for a longer time; causing the event to be much more likely to be noticed.
Of those who follow the early date, some suppose an eclipse that occurred in the fall of B.C. 5 to be the one recorded; others give B.C. 3 and 2 and still later, according to their understanding of Josephus and other historians.
Josephus gives the age of Herod at some important periods in his history, and the date of some of the events but they are not considered trustworthy. Some of them certainly seem to teach that Herod died as early as B.C. 4, but others cannot be reconciled with that date.
For instance, he is said by Josephus to have died at the age of 70. He was made governor of Galilee in B.C. 47. Josephus says (Ant. 14.9:2) that at that time he was 25 years of age. This would place his birth in B.C. 72. (47 + 25). His death at 70 would then be in B.C. 2.
It is well to note that Fausset, in his Bible Cyclopaedia, gives his age when made governor at about 20 years. Chamber's Cyclopaedian and Smith's Bible Dictionary (See article Herod,) give his age at 15, which is certainly too young. The first would bring his death in A.D. 2, and the latter two would thus place his death in A.D. 6.
Herod was but the usurper of the kingdom of Judea, a comparatively insignificant province of Rome. We have a chronology that is based on a greater man and event. The death of Augustus Caesar, the Emperor of Rome, and who made Rome the glory of the world, is what might be called established as occurring in A.D. 14. His successor was Tiberias Caesar. Now Luke tells us, chap. 3, that in the fifteenth year of his reign John the Baptist began to preach. John evidently baptized for six months before Jesus met him at the Jordan. Jesus then was about 30 years of age – the age also of John when he began – [R562 : page 3] according to Jewish law and custom. (Num. 4:3.) Fifteen years, added to A.D. 14, bring us to A.D. 29, in the spring of which, evidently, John began his ministry. His work is recorded in Mark 1:5. In the autumn Jesus was baptized; and he had gathered some disciples about him before the Passover of the following spring, as recorded in John 1 and 2. After that, Jesus preached three years; or three and a half years from his baptism; and was crucified on the Passover in A.D. 33, "in the midst of the week," (Dan. 9:27,) aged about thirty-three years and six months.
Look now in the margins of your Bibles at the last chapters of each of the evangelists, and you will find A.D. 33 the correct time, yet if you look at the time of Jesus' baptism you will find them dated two years too early, and at his birth four years too early. The reason is this: The B.C. theory compelled the editors of our translation to assume that Jesus preached for six or seven years – a theory without support, and now entirely discarded.
The marginal dates at the two ends of the first three Gospels do not agree. The B.C. 4 theory has made all the confusion – discard it, and we have harmony. The birth, then, should be placed B.C. 1, the baptism A.D. 29, and the crucifixion where it is, A.D. 33.
[We hold that the reckoning of time commonly used is substantially correct, as shown above. The difference which we claim as between it and the true date calculated from Jesus' birth is about three months. "Christmas day," which is reckoned the anniversary of Jesus' birth (January 1 representing the date of his circumcision eight days after) is mid-winter, and evidently does not comport well with the account of the shepherds being out with their flocks (Luke 2:8.) It is supposed by some to have been placed December 25 in order to the better take the place of and transform an old heathen festival at that date, into a Christ-commemorating one – at about the time so-called Christianity becoming popular with emperors, was embraced by thousands of the heathen people.
Our method of reckoning the day of Jesus' birth is based upon Scripture, and is as follows: According to the law and custom Jesus could not begin his public ministry until the age of thirty; and we may reasonably suppose that his desire to be about his "Father's business" would induce him to commence his work as soon as he was thirty years old; hence we shall suppose that he was baptized on his birthday. The period of seven years onward from his baptism is distinctly marked in prophecy – the seventieth week, in the midst or middle of which he should die or "be cut off" from life. (Danl. 9:27.)
His death, then, on the fifteenth day of the Jewish month Ab, was on a day just six months from his birthday, which consequently would be about October 2d – about the beginning of the Jewish year – or about three months earlier than A.D. 1 is usually reckoned. – EDITOR.]
Nowhere do we find more striking and forcible figures and similes than in Jehovah's words through the prophets. We here consider some statements of Isaiah 28th and 29th chapters relating to the church nominal. It is described under various figures – Ariel, Jerusalem, Babylon, Ephraim, Zion, etc. – each representing some special feature.
Here the Prophet's illustration is Ephraim, probably because like Ephraim the Nominal Gospel Church was to increase in number and influence, and become proud and corrupt. The name Ephraim came to be applied to the ten tribes who revolted against the kingdom of the Lord and established a different mode of worship. So the prophet very aptly uses it here as an illustration. He recognizes the fact that it has what is considered a glory and beauty, and fruitfulness, but shows that their glory is really their shame, and that their proud and haughty spirit must have a fall.
The nominal church is represented as crowned with pride and overcome with wine – intoxicated with the spirit of the world and its pleasures. They are not on the mountain or hill top enjoying their privilege of communion with God, but they are down reveling in the fatness of the valley, the pleasures of the world. And Jeremiah says: "Wherefore gloriest thou in the valleys, thy flowing valley, O backsliding daughter? that trusted in her treasures. (Jer. 49:4.) But says the Lord, Woe to the crown of pride, to the drunkards of Ephraim. The crown of pride the drunkards of Ephraim shall be trodden under feet. vs. 1,3.
"And the glorious beauty which is on the head of the fat valley, shall be a fading flower, and as the hasty fruit before the summer; which when he that looketh upon it seeth, while it is yet in his hand he eateth it up. vs. 4.
The glory of the nominal church is in numbers, wealth and worldly prosperity. She has been more anxious to have a show of growth, prosperity and fruitfulness before the world, than to have fruit acceptable and well pleasing to God. God's plans work out slowly, and come to maturity not by sudden spasmodic efforts, but by slow and steady development,
"The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower."
But the nominal church was not satisfied with God's plans, and in her haste she has discarded his and adopted plans and theories of her own. The result [R562 : page 4] has been great fruitfulness of a certain kind. Moral and philanthropic enterprises have been undertaken on a gigantic scale and the church has rapidly grown to immense proportions, and has gained a most prominent and influential position and name among men. Seeing this hasty fruit and regarding it good, the world with its spirit of pride has greedily swallowed it. The spirit of the world has swallowed up all the benevolent enterprises and stamped them all with pride and boastfulness. And so also its fruit in numbers, is swallowed up by the spirit of the world.
Again he says (vs. 7.) "The priest and the prophet have erred through strong drink; they also have erred through wine, and through strong drink are out of the way, they are swallowed up of wine, they are out of the way through strong drink, they err in vision, they stumble in judgment."
What a picture of the present condition of things: Not only are the people of the Church intoxicated with the spirit of the world, but the priests, the clergy also. And because of this intoxication they err in vision and are unable to discern the truth; and they stumble over the plain statements and marked fulfillments of God's Word.
This condition of things is true of the whole nominal church of every denomination, so that "All tables are full of vomit and filthiness so that there is no place clean." v. 8. The tables, which should be laden with the bread of truth, are instead, covered with a repulsive mass of mingled traditions and abominable errors.
The Lord has permitted the unfaithful stewards for a long time to pursue their own plans and accomplish their own desires, but it shall not always be so, for the Prophet declares: "Behold the Lord hath a mighty and strong one which as a tempest of hail and a destroying storm, as a flood of mighty waters overflowing, shall cast down to the earth with the hand. The crown of pride, the drunkards of Ephraim, shall be trodden under foot." (vs. 2,3.)
The Lord has mighty agencies preparing for and already beginning this very work, as we have seen, for the nominal church is already being cast down. But while calamity and destruction awaits the great nominal church; and while their pride is to be humbled in the dust, it is not to be so with the little flock of faithful ones to whom the Lord has called, "Come out of her my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins and that ye receive not of her plagues."
Of these he says: In that day – the very day of Babylon's fall – shall the Lord of hosts be for a crown of glory, and for a diadem of beauty to the RESIDUE of his people. (verse 5.) And not only so, but the Lord will be "for a spirit of judgment to him that sitteth in judgment, and for strength to them that turn the battle to the gate." He will give judgment, discretion, to those of his children who are endeavoring to judge, to discern between the right and the wrong, the truth and the error, and who bring all things new and old to the test of his Word. His strength also will be furnished to all who battle against the forces of error.
If such is the condition into which the Church has fallen; if the priest and the prophet and the people are all thus intoxicated and out of the way, Isaiah raises the question, "Whom shall he [God] teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine?" and answers, them that are weaned from the milk and drawn from the breast." v. 9.
Here the illustration of an infant is used, which Paul so forcibly applied to newly consecrated saints, whom he terms babes in Christ. (1 Cor. 3:1.) And Peter also says that such should as new born babes, desire the sincere milk of the word that they may grow thereby. 1 Pet. 2:2.
These testimonies agree then, that while the doctrines or revelations of God are for his children, yet until they have passed the infant stage, and appropriated [R563 : page 4] the milk of first principles, they cannot be taught of him the deeper things. Alas! how few to-day make such use of the first principles as to grow thereby; and how applicable to many are the Apostle's words – "When for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles [doctrines] of God; and are become such as have need of milk and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use, have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil."
We find that for this very reason, because they do not grow but continue babes, many are so weak and helpless that in the day of the Lord they will have great distress in their inability to understand the Lord's dealings.
"For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little and there a little." (v. 10.)
Because God deals with us as a wise parent, with his children knowing that we need our food little by little, and the lighter diet before the strong meat, therefore his truth is so arranged as to meet our necessities: A little of the truth on any subject is placed here and a little more there; and as we take these littles and put them together we gain strength and are able to appreciate the whole of it. As we deal with children, so God deals with us, giving us line upon line, and precept upon precept – the same truths repeated over and over from different standpoints, thus enforcing his teachings.
"For with stammering [despised or scorned] lips and another tongue will he speak to this people – to whom he said, This is the rest wherewith ye shall cause the weary to rest, and this is the refreshing; yet they would not hear. But the word of the Lord was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little and there a little – so that they go and have stumbled backward, and been broken and snared and captured." vs. 11-13. [Young.]
Though the word of the Lord has been thus plain and sufficient for the instruction and growth of his children, they have disregarded it and gone backward, substituting their own theories in its place, and in their attempt to substantiate their own theories by a reckless and often deceitful handling of the Word of God, they have wrested the Scriptures, and so stumble over its plain and harmonious teaching. The Lord had said, This plan for the redemption, restitution, and blessing of mankind, as revealed in my Word, is the comfort wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest. But the nominal church has refused to hear, and priest and people are alike deaf. Therefore the whole church nominal has gone backward, is taken in the snare of the adversary and must fall and be broken.
But though the great system of religious organization must fall, we rejoice to know that the saints who are blinded and deceived by it, shall be delivered by its fall. Though the false teachers whom they have heaped to themselves, having itching ears for worldly praise (2 Tim. 4:3) saying peace, peace, when there is no peace, (Jer. 6:14) have misused their office, the Lord will raise up other servants who will faithfully proclaim his truth. They will not seek to please the ear with soft words, nor to lull the drowsy, but will proclaim the unvarnished truth exposing hypocrisy and deception. With stammering [despised or scorned] lips and another tongue will he speak to this people. He will not choose the most approved and pleasing instruments to human fancy, but the scorned instruments in his hand shall be mighty in exposing the error and proclaiming the truth.
The great rock of truth on which both the houses of Israel fall, is Christ as the world's Redeemer. This was the rock over which the typical Jewish house did fall, and true to the type, we find the Gospel house (nominal) ready to stumble over the very same rock. No small number of the influential in the church nominal have already declared, and boldly teach that Christ was not our ransom or substitute, bearing our death penalty for us, in our room and stead. But notwithstanding all the deceptive sophistry that men may use to establish their theories, the plain simple statement of God's Word is that "The wages of sin is death" – not everlasting dying but everlasting deprivation of life – and that "God sent his Son to be the propitiation [satisfaction] for our sins...and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world" (1 John 2:2 and 4:10); that by his paying our penalty we might be released from death – have a right to life – to a resurrection.
This is the only foundation of the rest wherewith we may cause the weary to rest, and whosoever accepts of the ransom through the precious blood of Christ, may securely rest in full assurance of hope: Jesus said, "Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest."
But as with the Jew, so now, men object to God's way and desire a way of their own; and the plainest statements of Scripture and experiences of life are twisted and mystified, and the church is found bolstering up Satan's lie – "Thou shalt not surely die." Their belief concerning the future condition of the righteous and wicked is expressed in the following verses and many others of similar import:
"It is not death to bear
The wrench that sets us free,
From dungeon chain to breath the air
Of boundless liberty."
"What to be banished from the Lord
And yet forbid to die,
To linger in eternal pain,
And death forever fly."
The cross of Christ loses its power and value in their sight as soon as they begin to reason and mix the truth with their false traditions. The ransom was to the Jew a stumbling block, and to the worldly wise of to-day it is foolishness; but to us who believe, it is precious, and in its merits we rest. With such a belief they are unprepared to see that Jesus' death as a man was the settlement of the indebtedness of mankind incurred by Adam's sin; and error on this point blinds to every other doctrine of Scripture built upon it. This is the very first principle of the Gospel and to those who are unskillful in this, how can God teach his doctrines or plans based on this? It is because they fail to use his lines and precepts that they fail to grow, and are weak against the besetments of the adversary in this day of the Lord. Who shall be able to stand? (Mal. 3:2.) We find the great mass of our beloved fellow-Christians in just the position described where they shall be ensnared and captivated by error; hence we cry aloud and spare not.
It is not God's fault that such stumble and are ensnared by the adversary. The Scriptures abound with testimony as to the reality of death and the necessity and value of our ransom. The blood marks may be traced from Genesis to Revelation. By Apostles, Prophets, and types, the Lord has shown that, "without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins"; and those who stumble on this subject are without excuse.
As soon as the spirit of inquiry which is abroad, forces them to think, they will see the dilemma in which they are placed between the doctrine of ransom and the theory of eternal torment. And so tenaciously do they hold to the latter, that they will prefer to deny the former when pressed for a reason for their belief.
To the unfaithful teachers of to-day, Isaiah calls, "Wherefore hear the Word of the Lord ye scornful men that rule this people which is in Jerusalem, [another symbol of the church] because ye have said, We have made a covenant with death and with hell [sheol – the tomb] we are at agreement, when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us; for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves." Verse 15.
"Therefore, thus saith the Lord God, Behold I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner-stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste." V. 16. Other foundation can no man lay than that which God laid – Jesus Christ, who died for our sins – the just for the unjust. There is no other real foundation, and faith built upon any other is not recognized nor owned of God. They who build upon their own works, and they who build their faith on the changeableness of the unchangeable God and suppose that he who once condemned man as unfit to live, will reverse his decision and bring him to life again, build upon the sand and have no foundation; for God lays but the one foundation – Christ, [R564 : page 4] who by the favor of God tasted death for every man.
Some in their "haste" pass by the ransom and its legitimate fruit the resurrection – restitution. This is too slow a process for them. They have a speedier way by which that which God terms "the last enemy" – DEATH – becomes a near and hasty road to glory. But he that believeth God's testimony "shall not make haste;" such, taking God's plan instead of hastily constructing theories of their own, are resting on the sure foundation. They await in hope and trust the time when the value of the ransom will be shown in the release from death of all for whom Christ died – every man. Such find it as the Lord promised: "This is the rest wherewith ye shall cause the weary to rest and this is the refreshing."
"Judgment also will I lay to the line and righteousness to the plummet; and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding place." For centuries God has permitted the God of this world, Satan, to blind men and to mystify and obscure the truth. He has permitted good to be called evil, and evil good. He has permitted his own character and plans to be misrepresented. But now comes the time when woe will be unto them which call evil good and good evil and pervert the way and word of the Lord. He will mark out clearly and definitely with line and plummet, the right and wrong, the crooked and the straight. Everything wrong must be overthrown and the crooked made straight. The more firmly error is rooted the greater will be the shock. This will apply to truth and error on every subject and especially in the greatest of all – religion. Already the shock begins to be felt both by the church and the world, but more especially by the former.
Water symbolizes truth and hail represents hard, cold forcible truths, or truths put in a forcible way, as judgments. Thus we are shown that when God's time comes, all error and deceit, every refuge of lies will be swept away and destroyed, for God will have all men to come to the knowledge of the truth, that they may avail themselves of its advantages.
The burning up of all the hay, wood and stubble, errors of those building on the rock of Jesus the ransom, is shown by Paul, (1 Cor. 3:12.) and the overthrow of all systems which reject the only foundation is well illustrated by Jesus in his simile. (Luke 6:48.) The difference between building on the rock, and building in the sand alongside the rock is very great when the floods come and beat upon such a faith.
"And your covenant with death shall be disannulled and your agreement with hell [sheol, the tomb] shall not stand; when the overflowing scourge [whip, rod – chastisement] shall pass through [in the Day of the Lord], then ye shall be trodden down [oppressed] by it. [R564 : page 5] From the time that it goeth forth [in its very commencement] it shall take you; for morning by morning shall it pass over by day and by night; and it shall be a vexation [distress, perplexity] only until he shall make you to understand doctrine." [See margin.] Verses 18,19.
Because the church is so largely composed of babes uninstructed in the word of the Lord, and therefore unable to understand his dealings, therefore in this time of judgment – testing and sifting such will be discouraged, vexed, and much troubled as they shall witness the overthrow of many things which they had deemed essential to the progress of God's cause in the world. They do not see that the separation of wheat and tares, and of the ripe and unripe wheat is now due. They do not see that those building on the sand must be manifested and distinguished from those who build upon the foundation which God hath laid, hence their distress as their wood, hay and stubble faith is consumed, and when they see the "refuge of lies" which they mistook for truth, entirely swept away. But this overthrow and destruction of venerated theories shall be a vexation to them until they are made to understand the true doctrine revealed in God's word. When thus liberated they will rejoice in the overthrow of every form of error and its replacement with truth.
"For the bed is shorter than that a man can stretch himself on it." A bed is a place for rest and refreshment and symbolizes a faith – a creed. God provides the good and suitable resting place or faith in his word; saying, "This is the rest wherewith ye shall cause the weary to rest and this is the refreshing." Rejecting his, they have made beds to suit themselves – sectarian creeds – but God condemns them; they are so short and contracted that only babes can stretch themselves therein – those who are more developed – men ("In understanding be ye men." 1 Cor. 14:20) being cramped and uncomfortable, can find no rest in such, and are getting out of them.
"And the covering is narrower than that he can wrap himself in it." The assurances offered by the nominal Church are so vague and unsatisfactory that those in such beds find it difficult to cover or assure themselves. Their knowledge of God is so narrow and meager that they know not the meaning of "full [wide; ample] assurance of faith." (Heb. 10:22.) The uncovered, shivering and doubting condition of the great majority is expressed in some of the familiar hymns from which we give some extracts:
"Tis a point I long to know,
Oft it causes anxious thought;
Do I love the Lord or no,
Am I his, or am I not."
"When thou my righteous Judge shall come,
To take thy ransomed people home,
Shall I among them stand?"
"But can I bear the piercing thought
What if my name should be left out,
When thou for them shalt call?"
"Thy pardoning voice O let me hear,
To still my unbelieving fear,
Nor let me fall I pray."
God declares – "Their fear toward me is taught by the precepts of men." (Isa. 29:13.) The nominal church in its "haste" to convert the world has exaggerated and wrested parables and symbols in using them to threaten the world, and to frighten them into their beds for promised rest; but their unlawful "haste" has worked to their own unrest, for they have so convinced themselves of God's injustice that they find it difficult to satisfy themselves of their own security, fearing lest by some thoughtless word or act they should endure eternal torture. Hence saints who have grown so as to discover the shortness of the bed and the narrowness of the covering cry out:
"A point of time a moments space
Removes me to that heavenly place,
Or shuts me up in hell."
"A half-awakened child of man
An heir of bliss or pain,
A worm of earth, I cry" –
"Eternal things impress!
Give me to feel their solemn weight
And tremble on the brink of fate."
"What after death for me remains?
Celestial joys or hellish pains
To all eternity!
"How then ought I to live on earth?"
"My sole concern, my single care,
To watch, to tremble and prepare
Against that fatal day."
Our hearts are full of pity for these whose fear and distress is caused by their short beds and narrow covering, and we urge them to come out into the broad place, and to rest with us in the testimonies of God alone.
Those who rest in God's word are described in Psalm 149. While the others are in anguish and fear, these "Sing aloud upon their beds." The high praises of Jehovah are in their mouths – the new song; and their security, his word is in their hands – the sword of the spirit.
"For the Lord shall rise up as in Mount Perazim, he shall be wroth as in the valley of Gibeon, that he may do his work, his strange work, and bring to pass his act, his strange act." (v. 21.) The cases mentioned as illustrations of the destruction of this day are remarkable. At Perazim the idol-worshipers who came against God's newly anointed king, David, to oppose the establishment of his kingdom, met the power of Jehovah whom he represented. (2 Sam. 5:20,21.) At Gibeah there was a great slaughter by the Lord with hailstones from heaven of those who attempted to interfere with Joshua and Israel in taking possession of the promised land. (Josh. 10:10,11.)
The Lord warns that those who oppose the establishment of his anointed in the real Canaan, shall similarly bring upon themselves destruction. "Now, therefore, be ye not mockers lest your bands be made strong; for I have heard from the Lord of hosts a consumption [R565 : page 5] even determined upon the whole earth." (v. 22.)
Some seem inclined to treat lightly the predictions of overthrow or consumption of the present order of things and the introduction of the new order. Such feel so confident as they look at the perfection of Babylon's ramparts of defence, and as they look at the formidable armament of nations, that they need the caution of the Lord's words, "Be ye not mockers." To take a position of opposition is to make the fall so much the more severe when it comes. Those who reject and mock at the truth are more tightly bound by Babylon's cord of influence and prejudice – their bands are made strong. The consumption or destruction of hoary and venerated systems of error both civil and religious, is "the act – the strange act," which the Lord will shortly bring to pass. It is a strange act to all those not instructed from his word, and who so highly esteem these false systems which are doomed to destruction.
Water is water, wherever it is found; but there is a great difference between water which is drawn from the fountain, and water dipped from a stagnant pool. The one refreshes, the other nauseates; the one is life giving, the other brings poison and death.
The Word of God is a fountain of living water, but how often this water becomes stale, adulterated, and defiled, in passing through the various channels of fallen humanity. There are sermons which have many of the thoughts of man, and few of the thoughts of God. Multitudes of men content themselves with a second-hand gospel, which is stale, flat and unprofitable. They do not search the Scriptures, they do not study the living Word, but they depend on commentaries, sermons, interpretations and misquotations, and thus are led into gross errors, and are deprived of the freshness and vitality which resides in that Word which liveth and abideth forever. The Word of God is living and powerful. We are to be cleansed "by the washing of water by the Word;" but that water must be living water. No stagnant pool of human tradition, no turbid current of doctrinal controversy, can refresh and cleanse the souls that thirst and pant for the living streams which flow from the throne.
Those who would have living water must learn the way to the living fountain – the Word of God itself. A writer tells of two wells of the Doge of Venice: the water of one of them is brought in barges from a distance, and few care to taste the insipid draught; the other is a delicious natural well, cool and refreshing, and the people strive to obtain water from this fountain.
Ministers of the gospel, who long to be of use in this world, must not content themselves with being mere sponges to absorb and then give out the thoughts and ideas of others; they must, on the contrary, draw water for themselves out of the wells of salvation, and know the virtue of those streams that make glad the city of our God. Let us turn away from the turbid waters which men have fouled and defiled, and let us learn to drink from the living fountain, that which shall be in us a well of water springing up into everlasting life.– Sel.
Of all the empty people, there are few more pitiable than those who are filled with self. Who has not seen persons who seemed to know nothing but self, and whose first ambition on meeting strangers, seems to be to inform them where they had been and what they had done, and how much they knew. Good old John Bunyan tells us of a man named Ignorance who came "from the country of conceit;" and surely this country has furnished a very large emigration of self-filled egotists.
We never shall amount to much in this world or the next so long as we are filled with self. If we think that we are the central figures in the universe, and that everybody is interested in hearing our talk and of our exploits, we shall win the pity of the judicious, and the contempt of the less considerate. Who has not seen grave, godly, intelligent men and women sit in painful silence and listen to the empty rattle of some conceited person, who could only talk of himself and of things which personally concerned him. He who has only himself to talk about, may very properly question whether he had best talk at all, and may find that, much as he values the privilege of speech, his reputation would be enhanced by judicious bursts of silence; which would allow people to collect their thoughts, and listen to those who might have something to say worth hearing.
There is a tract that all men read – that tract, dear Christian reader, is yourself – you are an epistle "KNOWN AND READ OF ALL MEN." If you are washed in the blood of Jesus, and sealed with the Holy Spirit, the life of Christ becomes your life; you have to go forth into the world, bearing witness to the truth, by your word and by your life. You have, by God's grace, so to reflect the image of Jesus, that those who refuse to receive your word, may, by beholding your heavenly life, be led to glorify your Father which is in heaven.
What harm is done with inconsistencies in a Christian's life, by thoughtless conduct, foolish conversation, levity of manner! We know how the sun goes on shining, and the world goes hurrying on around it. Daily it exerts an influence for good, by its light and warmth, and few take any notice of it. But only let a spot appear upon the sun, at once every eye and finger is towards it, and people are writing to the newspapers to say there is a spot on the sun. It is just so with the Christian; the world is hurrying on about him, and as it passes, though few take any notice of him, he can exert his influence for good. But only let him stumble – let him show any inconsistency of conduct, and then the world will point and scoff at him, and his influence for good is hindered. Think of this, my dear Christian brother or sister.
You can do something for your Saviour's glory. Do what you can by word, but above all, live as those who are washed in the blood of Jesus, and keep yourselves unspotted from the world. So shall men see that the life which you now live in the flesh you live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved you and gave Himself for you.
"Take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. For as a snare shall it come upon all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch ye, therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man."
These are the words of Jesus as recorded by Luke 21:34,35,36.
One would suppose that words so full of warning, and of such deep significance, spoken by Jesus to his disciples, for the benefit of those who should be living in the trying time of which he speaks, would be kept constantly in mind and not for a moment forgotten by those who are running for the "prize of the high calling."
One of the strongest evidences which we have of the truth of the prophecies spoken in connection with these words is, that at the very time when they are being fulfilled by rapidly succeeding events, at the very time when his people should be lifting up their heads knowing that their "redemption draweth nigh," at the very point where expectation should be on tip-toe, we find many who have been enlightened, so busied with a multitude of other things that they cannot attend to preparation for the coming kingdom.
To the lover of Jesus, and who expects to be everlastingly and intimately associated with and united to him, there is, perhaps, no more deeply interesting scriptures than the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew, the thirteenth of Mark, and the twenty-first of Luke. The more deeply interesting because they define more particularly, the events which are to immediately precede the coming of him in whom their "soul [R566 : page 5] delighteth," and so mark more clearly the time when the bridegroom and bride shall be united, and introduce the glorious reign of righteousness and truth.
We find they are the liability of being deceived. Four times in the thirteenth of Mark we find Jesus saying, "TAKE HEED!" His first caution is, take heed lest any one deceive you, 5th ver.; next, take heed to yourselves, be careful what you do and say, be circumspect, 9th ver.; again, take heed to what I have told you, 23d ver.; and last, take heed, watch and pray, 33d ver.
While there is a similarity in the general narration, as given in these three chapters, yet each narrator gives some points more prominence than the others; and so we find here, in the text quoted, more explicit directions given regarding ourselves. Take heed lest your hearts be overcharged."
There are three things here mentioned with which the heart is especially liable to become overcharged – surfeiting, drunkenness, and cares of this life. Perhaps some who read these pages may think they are not troubled with the first two. If there are any let them take heed and see if they are among the number spoken of by Isaiah 29:9-14. But many, no doubt, feel the force of the last, and are exerting themselves to overcome; while still many more, who are really "overcharged," are not fully conscious of it; but the words of Jesus are very peculiar if we will notice them. He does not simply say you will have a great deal of worldly care, but says, "Take heed that your HEARTS be not overcharged with the cares of this life." Now, it is possible for a man to have a great deal of worldly care requiring his attention, and yet not have his heart much affected or influenced by it. He may have just all he can attend to, and yet his heart be quite free from the [R566 : page 6] burden. Why? Because his heart is not in it as much as his head. If he is doing all as unto the Lord, there will not be much danger of his heart being overcharged. We need right here to "take heed" and not delude ourselves with the idea that our hearts are with the Lord, and that we are in full sympathy with him and his work, if we do not find, or make, or take time to commune with him and feast upon his word, and partake of his Spirit. So it is the heart that is in danger. This being the case, what are the methods most likely to be made use of by the enemy to load down our hearts to the extent of being "overcharged"? We may be sure that he will not for a moment think of inducing us to be recreant to our trust. O no, not at all; he would be the last one to suggest anything like unfaithfulness; he would have us "diligent in business, fervent in spirit, serving (?) the Lord." If we were likely to forget that passage he would quote it to us, but not with as much stress upon the last part as up on the first.
O yes, we must be diligent in business so that we can provide for our own families, for he who provides not for his own house has denied the faith and is worse than an infidel. (1 Tim. 5:8.)
O yes, provide for your own house, certainly, and see that your family have a good house, and a large one; see that it is full as good as your neighbors; no matter if it is a little better, let no one get the idea that you are not providing well for your own house.
Now, if we were to picture the whole truth to the life, and show to what an extent the enemy is leading many who mean to be the Lord's children, it would look absurd enough. In accord with our desire to be faithful, the adversary is crowding overmuch work upon us, all of which is claimed to be duty, though the demands are so numerous that we have insufficient time for the accomplishment of them all. This crowding upon us more than we can possibly do, is evidently the enemy, and is intended to keep us from the most important of all work, the study of God's word, through which we are enabled to grow in grace and in the knowledge of the truth, and by which we are thoroughly furnished unto every good word and work. Are we not, in our over-burdened condition, forgetting to "seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness"? There is manifestly no work so important as to keep the love of God burning brightly upon the altar of our hearts, and no means so likely to accomplish this as the study of the word of God, and prayer. Of course we do not mean that these shall be done to the exclusion of good works, but we do mean that good works should not be allowed to exclude these.
We verily believe that just now the enemy is more than usually active in his efforts to keep all classes of Christians so busy that they shall not have time to look after the truth and watch for the sign of the presence of the Son of man. (See Matt. 24:3 – Diaglott.)
Some who could not be induced nor pressed into worldliness, he will keep busy looking after the welfare of others, to the exclusion of their own growth in the knowledge of the truth. Some casting out devils; some relieving the distressed, and all engaged more or less in doing "many wonderful works"; but while doing wonderful works they are leaving undone that which is of greater importance, i.e., fitting themselves for union with Christ, and for efficient service in the world's great seed time and harvest in the age to come.
So-called revival work has to be repeated. Not that we are opposed to revivals, in the true import of the term, but the work done in the way it is done, has to be done over and over; devils cast out do not stay out; souls converted have to be re-converted, "reclaimed" as it is called, until the wonderful part of the "wonderful works" is, that there is as much demand for the "shoddy" as there is, though the demand for it is less in proportion as people come to understand God's word.
We do not question the sincerity of those engaged in such work to the neglect of the Lord's work in their own souls, for in their sincerity they will say to the judge, "Have we not prophesied in thy name and in thy name cast out devils, and in thy name done many wonderful works?" But they will find that such works will be no more appreciated then than they are getting to be now.
They will find that their wonders were performed under the influence of a zeal without knowledge. Love of the truth would lead to the exposure and rejection of every religious sham, and there would be no demand for the superficial. Love of the truth would lead us more and more into the truth, would make business cares and anxieties give place and stand aside while we take a sufficient amount of time to study God's word and worship him in spirit and in truth.
When we are in any doubt about the amount of time we should take for the purpose of feeding upon the bread of life, let us put into one scale all our worldly cares and worldly demands upon our time, and into the other these words: "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness." "How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?"
But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak. For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love, which ye have showed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister. – Heb. 6:9,10.
This expression refers us back to the preceding verses of this chapter and the latter part of the fifth. Paul was disappointed in those he addressed, in finding less growth in grace and knowledge than he had reason to expect. They were still merely at the "first principles" of the doctrine of Christ, and not even very firmly rooted in them. And with his characteristic plainness of speech, Paul told them that for the time they had spent, as pupils in the school of Christ, they ought now to be teachers, but instead they needed some one to teach them again which be the first principles of the doctrine. They were still babes, having need of milk, and unable to receive the strong meat. For strong meat (advanced truth) belongs not to babes, but it is necessary to those more matured.
Paul then exhorts them to leave the first principles and go on unto perfection, and not to be forever laying the foundation of Christian character by repentance and faith in the plan of God for their redemption, and renewing their consecration; this they had done long ago, and now their faith should rest in the ransom – the foundation (provided) of God which standeth sure. (2 Tim. 2:19.) And they should diligently proceed in the work of building up a symmetrical Christian faith and character on this sure foundation. He proceeds to show the hopeless condition of those who FALL AWAY after having once been enlightened on these first principles – having tasted of the heavenly gift (justification through the precious blood of Christ) and being made partakers of the Holy Spirit of adoption as spiritual sons of God, and as such brought to a knowledge (an understanding) of the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, or God's plan and power [R567 : page 6] in the coming age. "If they fall away – reject the truth from its very foundation – "it is impossible to renew them again unto repentance, seeing they crucify unto themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame; having thus, by open profession, been marked as sons of God and representatives of Christ in the world.
In chap. 10:29, Paul terms this esteeming the blood of the covenant, by which we are sanctified, a common or unsacred thing – an insult to the Spirit of favor. And who could otherwise regard it? Much as we might desire to reclaim such, Paul says: It is impossible to renew them again; and we are of those who believe that Paul was inspired to write, and made no mistake in this matter. And since he says "it is impossible," the stubborn facts may be expected to corroborate this statement. All sin has its hardening effect, and we cannot tamper with it with impunity. No sin is so hardening as that which is wilfully committed in the face of clear knowledge. The favor of God in Christ, our propitiation, once received, its necessity seen, its justification and other benefits accepted and partially enjoyed, seems to make an after rejection of these first principles inexcusable.
These having had such a clear experience as well as plain instruction on the subject, are reckoned guilty of ignoring the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world. And having once professed him, this is rightly called putting him to an open shame. Thus they cast from them the favor of God, even their part in the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.
Pride and ambition harden the heart and darken reason, and leave no room for a wedge of truth to effect an entrance. Where pride and ambition have progressed to the extent here mentioned, in the very nature of the case recovery would seem "impossible," and when a reasonable amount of time, and patient, studious effort has been expended to recover out of the snare of the adversary those who seem to be stumbling into this sin; if they still wilfully pursue their course, we can but leave them where they place themselves – in the hands of a just God, unsheltered by the precious blood of Christ, in whom alone is redemption. (See Ex. 12:13,22,23.)
Thank God we have no fear of an eternity of torture for such, nor for any. No, to be eternally deprived of life and its blessed privileges is the final punishment of the disobedient. But O that all would esteem this favor of God, in the gift of his Son, and live. Paul says it is a fearful thing, thus out of Christ, to fall into the hands of the living God. The punishment of those who violated Moses' law was death, but from that death there was deliverance through the ransom; but of how much sorer punishment shall he be thought worthy who hath trodden under foot the Son of God and esteemed as a common thing the blood of the covenant, and insulted the Spirit of favor. This sorer punishment is the second death, from which there is no resurrection; for there remaineth no more a sacrifice for sins. Heb. 10:26,29.
With reference to this sin unto death, we think that many make a great mistake. It is supposed by very many, that open, bold infidels, who blaspheme, and reject, and ridicule the Word of God entire, have come about the nearest of any to committing the sin unto death; but, by reading carefully Paul's description, we see that it does not at all apply to such, nor does it apply to what are often termed backsliding Christians. Very few Christians, even, have ever tasted much of the good word of God; they have had considerable of the perverted word of God, but Paul does not mention that. Very few know anything about the powers of the world (age) to come – God's plan in that age. No, it is not the weak and erring ones, partially overcome by the world, the flesh and the devil, and many of whom sin contrary to their will, that it is impossible to reclaim. God still loves and pities such, and will discipline them in the furnace of affliction, or however he thinks best. These have not knowingly and wilfully insulted the Spirit of favor, and for these there is good hope of recovery.
But while showing the necessity of a firm establishment on first principles, and the impossibility of reclaiming such as had left them entirely, the Apostle assured the church that he believed they had not rejected the favor of God, for he says: "We are persuaded better things of you, though we thus speak."
These words were to guard them on a dangerous point, and to show them the uselessness of constantly disputing with rejecters of first principles. It is useless to spend valuable time and effort in the fruitless attempt to reclaim such. Therefore, having these things once established, settled, made plain, they should go on unto perfection: Not that we should fail to give first principles or milk to babes, or to help a weak or stumbling brother by re-enforcing him with the power of truth, which he may have let slip, for that should be our constant aim and effort: but that is quite different from wasting valuable time and effort in fruitless attempts to reclaim wilful rejecters mentioned by Paul, which it is "impossible" to reclaim.
All should make sure that the first principles are correct, and firmly established by the word of God; but if we go no further, we will never reach perfection. If a man, after laying a foundation for a building, should always be digging it up and turning it over and trying to fit the stones in some other way, how soon would the building be completed? There must come a time, and that before we begin to build, when we feel sure that the foundation is good and properly laid; and, in full confidence in that foundation, we may proceed with our building – go on unto perfection.
In the few verses following, Paul shows that the hope of the High Calling depends on our works – built, of course, on the finished work of Christ, the sure foundation. For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love." Is it possible, we sometimes say, that God will thus esteem our poor, imperfect works? And what are they? They seem so small that we feel ashamed to mention them; and yet it is our little all; rendered with carefulness according to our covenant, and though imperfect, it is rendered acceptable through him whose imputed righteousness makes up all the deficiency.
Our small influence is all cast on the side of truth, both by word and example; our little reputation we gladly part with in our effort to advance the truth and obey it; our few talents for preaching the truth, we use to the best advantage, according to our best judgment; perhaps some of us have no ability to tell the blessed story straight ourselves, but such can read it to others, or give it to them to read; and all can show its moulding and transforming effects in daily walk and conversation; we may have very little money, possibly no more than what will meet the bare necessities of life for ourselves and those dependent on us, and leave but a mite for the spread of the truth; yet if our all is consecrated to the Lord, and used with an eye single to his glory, it is acceptable and well-pleasing to him – "in the beloved."
Paul here mentions specially their labors of love in ministering to the saints. Many Christians seemingly fail to appreciate their privilege in this direction, and spend their principal effort for the world, forgetting the injunction: "Do good unto all men as you have opportunity, especially to the household of faith." The time is coming, and is not far distant, when there will be abundant opportunity to do good to the world; but the opportunity to do good to the saints, the body, the bride of Christ, will not long continue. Soon they will be glorified and no longer need your ministrations.
Remember the Master's words: A poor woman had brought a box of very precious ointment and poured it on his head as he sat at meat; and when his disciples saw it they said, "To what purpose is this waste? For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor." But Jesus answered, "The poor ye have always with you, but me ye have not always; she hath wrought a good work upon me." (Matt. 26:7-13.)
So, the body of Christ will not always be here to be ministered unto. Whatever we can do now for our fellow members of the body of Christ, the Head will reckon as done unto him. And our Father will not forget our labor of love in ministering to the saints. It is needless for us to suggest that as God is not unjust to forget labors of love for the saints, neither is he unjust to credit us with them, if we have done no labors for such – if we have not ministered. Paul urges that we continue to be very diligent in this labor of love, and suggests [R567 : page 7] that continued diligence will give the full assurance of hope.
O, how great is the inheritance which our little insignificant labor of love secures, when supplemented by the all-sufficient merit of our Lord! Let us appreciate our privilege of ministering to the saints in whatever way we find it possible, whether in temporal or spiritual things. In the language of our beloved brother Paul: "We desire that every one of you do show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end." Since our covenant is to sacrifice and spend ourselves completely, full assurance of receiving the reward can only come by diligence in self-sacrifice – ministering.
Let us see to it that we have a right faith, rooted and grounded in the infallible word of God; and being thus assured, let us leave the firmly established first principles of the doctrine of Christ, and go on to perfection – work out our salvation as new creatures – rendering the justified human in exchange for the promised divine nature.
Violent persecution of Jews in Christian countries has again broken out. The newspapers daily report fresh outrages – here the burning down of a Jewish village – there the destruction by a furious mob of the Jewish quarter of a large town; in another place, a mere village, an attack made by twenty peasants armed with hatchets, cudgels, and scythes, upon an old man, very poor, whom they murdered, driving the women of the family into the fields. Well is it said that "nothing short of madness seems to have seized upon the people of Hungary and of South Russia," the ignorant peasantry who not only rob and murder, but destroy, wholesale, the property of villages, towns and districts.
It was estimated by Russian Government authorities that during the anti-Jewish riots of 1881-1882, above twenty-two million pounds' worth of property had been destroyed, and now the same insane work is being revived in Russia, and carried on in Hungary. Millions worth of property is annihilated; life is sacrificed in a thousand ways by the mob, and in Russia the State – the Government itself – is helping forward the work of destruction by closing to the Jews industry after industry; here ruining by one stroke of the pen 20,000 Jewish agriculturists by abolishing their leases; there driving thousands of manufacturers into bankruptcy by a sudden edict commanding them to dismiss all their Christian employees. Because "the employment of Christians by Jews proved, on the one hand, to be opposed to the national spirit of the Russians; and on the other hand, a lengthy intercourse between Christian employees and Jewish employers is found to be subversive of the religious feelings of the workmen, who become indifferent to religious ceremonials, and are even found to absent themselves from church on Saints' days and festivals!" This is a quotation from the official Russian document.
During the whole of last year, riot and plunder, massacre and expulsion, were brought to bear upon sixteen out of eighty-six districts in Russia, where alone Jews may dwell. In one town 6,000 persons were driven out during an outbreak lasting only a few days; in another large city 20,000 Jews were systematically expelled, and so on, until it became wearisome to read the repetition of similar occurrences in hundreds of places, large and small. The last twelve months have been remarkable for the promulgation of new and grinding edicts, which multiply tenfold the disabilities under which Jews have hitherto existed. And now the acute symptoms of persecution with violence have reappeared. There is one most grave feature now to be observed in South Russia and in Hungary. Special agitators are going about stirring up the ignorant people and leading the mob against the Jews. In Hungary bands of peasants, from 100 to 1,000 strong, have appeared in various parts of the country, usually led by some one who, though dressed as a peasant and wearing a mask, betrays himself by his style of language and deportment as belonging to the better classes. There is good reason to believe that the money and the emissaries who act thus are provided by the German Anti-Semitic Party, who have long been preaching an active crusade against the Jews. Shall we say, as some do, that the Jews have brought all this upon themselves by their usury, their greed, and their fraud, goading to madness those whom they have oppressed?
Long acquaintance with the Jewish people, and acquaintance with their habits, convinces me that in these matters they have been unjustly accused. It is well to remember that neither race-hatred, religious fanaticism, brutish ignorance of the masses, nor all of these combined, can account for what is now going on. Not only in barbarous Russia and uncivilized Hungary, but in enlightened Protestant Germany, are to be found thousands who hate Jews with a blind, unreasoning hatred, and combine to do them harm.
We feel that the causes lie deeper than those alleged in the newspapers of the day. The hand of Divine Providence can be traced in the convulsions which are shaking the Jews out of the lands of their dispersion, and preparing them, even by the sufferings which they are enduring, for return to their own land.
To succor those ready to perish is a Christian duty. "Relief of persecuted Jews in token of Christian sympathy," is felt to be one means of softening the hearts of the sufferers towards Christianity. Amid all the distressing accounts of cruelties inflicted by Christians it is comforting to turn to the record of Christian effort to relieve, to hear of the refugees placed in safety in Cyprus, even though but a few families; and that a beginning has been made, and that under British protection Jewish hands are at this moment at work upon the land granted to them at the instance of Lord Shaftesbury, that they have begun to dig their wells, and to prepare for sowing their seed in that island – known to us chiefly by its New Testament history.
Christians everywhere pray "Thy will be done." All Christians must acquiesce in his will and yield a ready and full submission to the will of God. But it is quite an advance from that passive submission TO WILL, with all the strength and power of our souls and the energy of our lives to do his will and see to it as much as in us lies, by all the effort of which we are capable that others also do his will. It is his will that all men come to the knowledge of the truth. It must also be our will, not only passively but we should by every means in our power, be constantly WILLING to bring about this glorious consummation.
Prosecuting our study of the teaching of Scripture regarding the second coming of Christ and its object; we call attention to the harmonious statements of David and Paul: David says, "He cometh to judge the earth," (Psa. 96:13.) And Paul says, that "God...hath appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained" – Jesus Christ. (Acts 17:30,31.) And again, "The Lord Jesus Christ, shall judge the quick (living) and dead at his appearing and kingdom." (2 Tim. 4:1.)
The view generally entertained regarding the day of judgment has been, that Christ will come seated upon a great white throne, and will summon before him saint and sinner to be judged, while all nature is convulsed with earthquakes, opening graves, rending rocks, and falling mountains. The trembling sinner will be brought from the depths of everlasting woe to hear his sins rehearsed, and be again remanded to his eternal and merciless doom; and the saints are brought from heaven to witness the misery and despair of the condemned, and to hear again the decision of their own case. All according to the prevailing theory, received their sentence and reward at death, and the general judgment is merely a repetition of it, but for no conceivable purpose. The whole time occupied for this work is thought to be a literal twenty-four hour day.*
The term day in the Bible, as elsewhere, is frequently used to cover a long but, definite period of time, as we would say this or that event occurred in Martin Luther's day. Thus, we read of "the day" in which "Jehovah God made the earth and the heavens" (Gen. 2:4): and the forty year day of temptation in the wilderness. (Heb. 3:8.) No one familiar with the number and variety of events which the Scriptures teach are to transpire in the day of the Lord, or judgment day, could possibly believe it to be a twenty-four hour day. Much more reasonable is Peter's explanation that a day with the Lord is as a thousand years with men, and a thousand years with men as one day with the Lord. (2 Pet. 3:8.) This agrees also with Jesus' statement to John (Rev. 20:4) that his day or reign is a thousand years – at the end of which day Paul says he will deliver up the kingdom to God the Father. (1 Cor. 15:24,25.)
Quite as vague and indefinite an idea also prevails in regard to the term judgment. The word judgment signifies more than simply sentencing, or the execution of a sentence: It includes the idea of trial, and a righteous decision based on that trial. Thus Moses judged the people, (Ex. 18:13); Samuel judged Israel forty years, (1 Sam. 7:6); and Paul appealed to Caesar's judgment [R569 : page 7] seat to have his case tried before Caesar. (Acts 25:10.) Just so all both quick and dead will have their case tried before Christ, the great Judge, in due time. (Rom. 14:10.)
A righteous judge is something greatly to be desired by all, since the mission of such a one is to deliver from wrong and oppression and to bring liberty, peace and happiness to the oppressed. All mankind have been oppressed by sin and the great deceiver, Satan, but we read that Christ comes to give liberty to Satan's captives, to let the oppressed go free, and to destroy Satan. (Isa. 61:1; Heb. 2:14.) He is the righteous judge before whom all will have a fair and impartial trial. He shall not fail nor be discouraged till he have set judgment (justice) in the earth. (Isa. 42:4.) The world and the church, (nominal) deceived by unscriptural theories, think of the day of Christ's presence and judgment as something to be dreaded; but we get a very different idea from the expressions of the inspired Psalmist. He says:
"Let the Heavens be gladLet the sea roar and the fulness thereof: Let the fields rejoice, and all that are therein; Then shall the trees of the wood sing aloud
And let the earth rejoice:
And let men say among the nations,
The Lord reigneth.
At the presence of the Lord,
Because he cometh
To judge the earth.
O give thanks unto the Lord,
For he is good;
For his mercy endureth forever."
For this blessed day of righteous judgment Paul says the whole creation groaneth (Rom. 8:22); yet ignorantly, for as yet they know not the righteous and merciful Judge who redeemed them with his own precious blood, and is, therefore, soon to claim his purchased possession.
Since this coming judgment day is the day of the world's trial for everlasting life, it is evident that the mass of the world are not now on trial. But while the Scriptures plainly teach that the thousand year day of Christ's reign, will be the world's great judgment day, they also teach that the judgment or trial of the Church is now in progress, and will be completed during this Gospel Age, before the world's trial begins.
Judgment began with the church eighteen hundred years ago, as Peter said: "The time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God" – church – "whose house are we?" (1 Pet. 4:17; Heb. 3:6.) During the Gospel Age the church's trial progresses, and at its end the overcomers receive the reward offered during this age. The judgment, trial, began with the Head of this "house of God" – Christ Jesus – who was tempted (tried) in all points like as we are. So Paul, Peter, and all the church have been tried and some have not yet finished their course. This is why the Lord's children suffer now, while evil doers prosper. During this age Satan is permitted to be the Prince of the world – to rule as he will; therefore it is the ungodly that now prosper in the world, and increase in riches. (Psa. 73:12.) But "all that will live godly shall suffer persecution." (2 Tim. 3:12.)
O, how often have the Lord's children wondered why this was so: but all is made plain when we learn that the trial of our faith and patient endurance now, is to result in "praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ" (1 Pet. 1:7); that it is now our Judgment Day, and that we are being judged now, in order that we may not be judged with the world in the next age. (1 Cor. 11:32.) The great reward of those who finish their course successfully during this age is, that they, joined with Jesus their head, are to be the kings and priests who are to reign during the next age. And to be thus joined in dominion and heirship with Jesus, we are to partake of his divine, immortal nature, being raised spiritual bodies like unto Christ's glorious body. 2 Pet. 1:4; Phil. 3:21.
Peter urges, then, that we think not strange concerning the fiery trial that is to try us as though some strange thing had happened unto us (1 Pet. 4:12); and Paul says, "Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. (Heb. 12:6.) It is a wonderful privilege which the church now enjoys, to have their trial in this age that they may enjoy the exceeding great and precious reward in store for the faithful overcomers "at the appearing of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ." We do not believe, according to the prevailing theory of the nominal church, that each member of the body or church of Christ receives his reward at death, else Paul should certainly have received his there, but with him we believe, that from the time that each one successfully finished his course in death, from that time, there was "laid up" for such, a crown which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give them at that day – the day of his appearing. (2 Tim. 4:6-8.) Trial, then, is what the church should expect now, and for their strengthening they should continually bear in mind that the trials of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us – at his appearing. (Rom. 8:18; 1 Pet. 1:7.)
It is the mistaken idea of some that great calamities, such as earthquakes, famine, pestilence, etc., are judgments of God visited upon the world. We do not so regard them; Jesus corrected this false impression among the Jews when they told him of some of the Gallileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices; "and Jesus answering, said unto them, suppose ye that these Gallileans were sinners above all the Gallileans because they suffered such things? I tell you nay... or those eighteen upon whom the tower of Siloam fell and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you nay." (Luke 13:1-5.)
It is very seldom, indeed, that God visits punishment upon the world in the present time. It is still true, and will be so long as Satan is the prince of this world, that the wicked spreadeth himself like a green bay tree. Their eyes stand out with fatness, they have more than heart could wish. Widows and orphans cry, but oppressors flourish. But "The Lord knoweth how to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished." (Psa. 37:35; 73:7; 2 Pet. 2:9.) And Paul says: "Therefore, judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who will bring to light the hidden things of darkness and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts." (1 Cor. 4:5.) Yes, God hath appointed a day in which he will judge the world by Jesus Christ.
Our next inquiry naturally is, Will there be forgiveness of sins in that judgment age? Jesus answers, "All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men; but the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man it shall be forgiven him; but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, (Gr. aion age) neither in the world (age) to come." (Matt. 12:31,32.) Jesus' teaching was, that "unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required." (Luke 12:48.) And the opposite is also true – that where little is given, little is required. During this age the world does not possess the full knowledge of the truth; and only a small proportion of the world have as yet received any of the light; therefore they are not on trial, and the sins which they now commit through ignorance and inherited weakness, shall be forgiven, because of the ransom through the precious blood of Christ. And during the next age, as knowledge will be acquired and strength developed gradually, all imperfections and shortcomings will still be forgiven because of the redemption through Christ, until men reach perfection.
The world when on trial will be affected by their present life just to the extent that they had light, and used, neglected or misused that light. Jesus said: "I am come a light into the world," and since then "Ye (the church) are the light of the world." Men are responsible in proportion as they have knowledge – as they see the light; but "This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men love darkness rather than light." The punishment will be – "They that sin with much light will receive many stripes," with little light, "few stripes" – "a just recompense."
The greater the light rejected, the more will be the stripes received. In harmony with this statement is that saying of Jesus, that it would be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for those who would not receive the Lord's disciples – the bearers of greater light than Sodom and Gomorrah enjoyed. (Matt. 10:15.) And again, "It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment than for you (Capernaum) ...for if the mighty works, [R570 : page 8] which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for thee." (Matt. 11:22-24.)..."The men of Nineveh shall rise up in judgment with the Jews and condemn them, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and a greater than Jonah is here – more light, more stripes; the Queen of Sheba will be there, and, by her anxiety to obtain wisdom, put to shame the Jews who attended not to the wisdom and words of a greater than Solomon. The Jew with more light has greater sin and sorer punishment.
But not only will every evil deed, committed against light, receive its just punishment – stripes – but every good deed will also be correspondingly rewarded. Every one is to receive stripes or favor "according to that he hath done, whether good or bad." (2 Cor. 5:10.) Many worldly men believe little of God's word and make no profession of being his children; yet have large hearts full of pity for the weak, poor, and helpless, and take delight in giving a cup of cold water or more to a disciple of Christ. He is as sure of a reward for these good deeds as of punishment for the evil ones. Jesus particularly states and illustrates this, saying: "When thou makest a dinner call not thy friends and rich neighbors, but the poor, maimed, blind, etc.; they cannot recompense thee. Thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just." (Luke 14:14.) Not that those works will justify any, but being then justified by faith in the ransom, then made so clearly manifest, these shall be rewarded for those good deeds done before the light of truth was made so clear – for the improvement they made according to the measure of light they had.
Though in the next age full faith in and reliance upon the redemption through the precious blood of Christ will be required of all, yet works according to ability will be the ground of reward. Under the favorable circumstances of that age, it will be possible for mankind to do God's will more perfectly than we now can, in our present imperfect and oppressed condition, therefore more perfect works will be required and duly rewarded; whereas now, with our limited ability to do God's will, our faith in the ransom and our effort and purpose to do that will is counted to us for righteousness, and accordingly rewarded.
But Jesus states that there is one sin that shall not be forgiven, viz., the sin against the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit, whether manifested in the acts of Jesus or his followers, is the great enlightener – of the church now, and of the world in the age to come.
In Luke 12:47, Jesus explains that willful sinners against a measure of light, shall be punished, not forgiven. "That servant which knew his Lord's will and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes." This punishment is not destruction, and all other punishment, is designed to be corrective. But if this sin against the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit be continued, to the extent of willfully rejecting the redemption provided through Christ's sacrifice, when the Spirit has made that truth plain, this willful sin is unto death – the second death – for having rejected the one Saviour in whom alone there is redemption, "there remaineth no more a sacrifice for sin." (Heb. 6:4-6, and 10:26-29.)
But this sin, which is unto death, cannot be committed without full and sufficient enlightenment of the Spirit, which neither the world nor many Christians have yet received. Therefore, though many of the worldly have committed sins which cannot be forgiven, and which are therefore unto stripes, yet we know that none of them have committed the sin which is unto death, because none of the world are yet fully enlightened by the Spirit.
Thus will the world be tried, and judged in the age to come – their judgment day. And the same principle applies to the Church in this, our judgment day. To whomsoever much is given, of them is much required. A faithful following in the light of the Spirit's leading will bring us to perfection as new creatures, and in the resurrection we shall be in the likeness of our Lord, "fashioned like unto his glorious body." If, because of inherited weakness, we fail to do perfectly what, as new creatures, we desire to do – the will of God – we are forgiven through the redemption provided in Christ Jesus. And if we become measurably willful, not fully submitting ourselves to the Lord's will according to our covenant, as his children, we are now chastened with few or many stripes as may be found necessary to reclaim us.
But if we, the Church, being enlightened by and made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and having tasted of the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, should now willfully reject the truth thus received, even to the ignoring of the ransom through the precious blood of Christ, counting the blood of the covenant wherewith we are sanctified a common or unsacred thing, (Heb. 10:29), we should thus become subject to the second death – since "Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins," and there remaineth no more a sacrifice for those who reject that once provided. This sin is not simply a falling back into a condition of lukewarmness, though that is a dangerous condition, nor is it a sudden relapse under great temptation, but it is open and deliberate apostacy – a willful rejection of the only foundation of hope.
The church's judgment day is now almost ended, and the trial of faith and endurance shall soon bring its rich reward to the faithful, and the beginning of the world's judgment day will immediately follow the reward and exultation of the saints.
While looking at the judgment of the world, let us not forget that ours is still progressing, and let us remember that though we are now part of the Church, we may never "sit with him in his throne" – but that high position is open to any of us, and we may make our calling and election sure. That which is most apt to clog and interfere with us in this race, is mentioned by our Master as a warning to us: "Take heed lest your hearts be overcharged with the cares of this life." Let us then "lay aside every weight and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and run with patience the race set before us."
"Ne'er think the victory won,
Nor once at ease sit down,
Thine arduous work will not be done
Till thou hast gained thy crown."
Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection; on such the second death hath no power; but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years. (Rev. 20:6.)
The Rev. Dr. Gatty recently preached at Sheffield, England, to the members of the British Medical Association, during the annual meeting. We give the following suggestive extract from his discourse upon the appropriate text: "They that are whole need not a physician, but they that are sick."
"Some of the smaller philosophers of our own time regard the Bible as the sacred book common to all forms of religion, and so far to be respected, but only to be trusted when it does not clash with their own deductions. That man should have come perfectly formed, by an act of creation, from the hand of his Maker, is to them less credible than that he should be the slow result of a process of evolution, no satisfactory traces of which can be shown, while all palpable experience contradicts the doctrine. I do not know where science gives a more reliable history of the generation of man than is to be found in the 139th Psalm.
So far as the records of the bygone world extend, they exhibit man, both intellectually and physically, as quite equal to his descendants at the present day. Moses was at least as great a law-giver as the first Napoleon. The biography of Joseph and his family, written more than three thousand years ago, has literary merit, surpassing in its own style of simplicity and pathos any authorship of any other age or country. David has shown us in his Psalms that he knew human thoughts and feelings quite as profoundly as Shakespeare himself; and if the sermon on the mount and the parables of Christ are not unique and supreme in sublimity of expression as well as doctrine, I want to know why all the religious teachers of the world have failed to produce what we can listen to with the same life-long attention? Is there, nevertheless, a fossil still deeply hidden, but not beyond the final reach of discovery, which will prove that grapes once grew on thorns, and figs on thistles; or, in other words, that man, by some internal effort, protracted through ages, released himself from the form and nature of a lower brute, and has since advanced to the position of being able to tell the history of their own origin? There is, however, one degrading vice peculiar to man, and at the present time a national disgrace, which is certainly no inheritance from any lower animal. The drunkard is only to be found in the ranks of humanity, and this terrible moral stain brings to the candid mind an assurance that what revelation tells us must be true – that God made men upright, but they sought out many inventions, by which the noblest handiwork of the Creator has become damaged and debased."
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 scholars), there is no other such work published.
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. A great conflict has existed for some months between the American and English publishers of "Young's Concordance," on account of which we were enabled to offer one of them (the American) at the low price heretofore mentioned, $1.75; but now the English firm has bought the electro plates of the American edition and destroyed them, thus giving the control of the trade to the English edition called The Author's Edition, because this edition is the only one sanctioned by the author, Prof. Young, D.D.
The plan now is understood to be to put this valuable and large work at its proper value, $5 – this will doubtless be done soon. As a precaution we have procured a lot of the Author's Edition, which we can furnish you at $2.00 by express, or 51 cts. extra, for postage, if by mail.
We again have a full supply of this very valuable work. For the benefit of new readers we would state that it is a Greek Testament, having under each Greek word the corresponding English word, and is thus the most literal translation of the New Testament. Besides this, it has in another column alongside a very clear and emphatic translation, showing the emphasis of the Greek, which is generally lost to the English reader.
Knowing beforehand of the advance, we have made such preparation as enables us to offer about 100 copies to our subscribers at $2.25 each. If sent my mail, the postage should be added, viz.: 54c., and 10c. additional if you wish it "registered." This is the latest revision. – "THE AUTHOR'S EDITION."
This work is at once a Greek and Hebrew Lexicon giving the meaning of the original terms in English, and also a Concordance giving each word of Scripture and the words which they translate. The value of the work is becoming more apparent daily, as theorists attempt to palm off a private interpretation under a guise of "a better definition of the original."
A similar work, "Englishman's Greek and Hebrew Concordance" (3 vols.) sold at $22, in cloth binding, only seven years ago, and usually reached only the hands of scholars; but the present work, by one of the ripest scholars of the age (Prof. Young, of Edinburgh, Scotland), has been printed in immense quantities, and its present price brings it within the reach of almost all self-sacrificing students. Indeed, it seems providential that it should be provided so cheaply at a time when it can be of so great service to truth-seekers. No Bible student can afford to be without a copy. It is of more value than two years' study of the Greek and Hebrew languages.
The place of meeting has been changed and is no longer at "Curry Institute Hall," but has removed to the "Grand Army Hall," No. 101 Federal street, Allegheny City, just across the river. Readers and friends will be warmly welcomed at our new and more comfortable hall. Preaching every Lord's day afternoon at 3.30 o'clock, and Bible Class at 2 o'clock of the same day.