The Editor recognizes a responsibility to the Master, relative to what shall appear in these columns, which he cannot and does not cast aside; yet he should not be understood as endorsing every expression of correspondents, or of articles selected from other periodicals.
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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.
There is nothing special to report. The outlook is much the same as at last writing, hence we shall give the more space to extracts from letters, as they furnish news from various pickets of the Lord's camp, of the welfare of the "little flock."
In the TOWER office every spare hour is being devoted to the promised "Millennial Day Dawn"; but such a work, to be comprehensive and clear, must not be too much hurried. We know your need for it, and many inquires show your desire for it; and we are doing all, that the necessities of other features of the work will permit, to hasten it.
The following extracts from correspondents will cheer and encourage you, we trust: page 1
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL: – The three numbers of "ZION'S WATCH TOWER" have long since been received, and several times read with much interest, for which I thank you heartily. I also received the "FOOD." This I have studied carefully, I think for about four months. Its doctrines and teachings I fully endorse. With the aid obtained from it, the study of the Scriptures is more interesting, its teachings plainer, and its truths perfectly harmonious. In its doctrines, however, I meet with opposition from ministers and nominal Church lights; but they, in every instance, fail – while maintaining their creeds – to harmonize the Scriptures.
I have been trying to preach the Gospel for some time, but have not been able to preach this year except by the fireside, but I hope, God willing, to commence soon to preach the doctrine and views taught in the Scriptures as shown in the "TOWER" and "FOOD."
Yours in the work, with brotherly affection,
DEAR BROTHER: – Through a good brother, I have been reading "ZION'S WATCH TOWER" for nearly a year. I am so much edified that I cannot think of doing without it. I am nearly seventy-eight years old, and have been in the service of the Lord for fifty years; and, through misfortunes, I am one of the Lord's poor, but I rejoice that you have made me welcome to light and truth through the WATCH TOWER. If you will send as many copies for distribution as you can see proper, I will do what I can in this way.
C. T. RUSSELL: – Dear Sir and Bro: I am a Baptist minister, young, comparatively, "in the cause;" have been preaching about three years. Yesterday, at meeting, a friend handed me a couple of copies of "ZION'S WATCH TOWER." I brought them home and have been reading them. I am amazed! I am delighted! Can such, indeed, be true? Yet you have Scripture to sustain you.
Please send me right away "FOOD FOR THINKING CHRISTIANS," and any other reading matter. I want to investigate. I am not satisfied with so-called orthodoxy. I pray constantly for light, and it seems to me my prayer is about to be answered. I am astonished to find some things in your paper which I have been preaching, it seemed to me, alone by myself, with none to sustain me but God's Word. I am poor, very poor, but I must have your valuable paper. If you can, you can send it now, and in a short time I'll send you the money. Surely, surely, you must be right.
DEAR BRO. RUSSELL: – I send you another list of names for the TOWER. In my work last week I was called upon to explain the teachings of Z.W.T. publicly. After doing so, a lady remarked that the plan was so very plain that she feared to accept it, thinking that God's plan must be more obscure than the "Chart of the Ages" in "Food" teaches.
I explained to them, that there are two reasons why many of God's children are not able to accept the truth. First, early training; and second, denominational pride and fear. Had their parents been Roman Catholics, and taught them in that faith, in nine cases out of ten they would have been Roman Catholics. For the same reason, many cling to the Baptist and Methodist sects and the thousand isms of to-day. When we come to any of these sects and present a truth from God, the first thing they do is to inquire if it is the teaching of their church. When they are satisfied that it is not, as a general thing they at once stop their ears and determine not to heed it.
In a meeting, just a short time ago, after I was through preaching, one of the leaders of the people exclaimed, "I'd rather go to hell than not be a Methodist." Surely he was very zealous – For the Bible, or the truth of its teachings? No; he was zealous for Methodism. See what denominational pride and fear is driving people to do in these days. They only know each other by their colors, not by the spirit of the Master displayed in each other.
Jesus Christ only established one Church – one body. The Church of 1800 years ago was not known as Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, etc. Our Lord gave us our creed and discipline – the Bible – which is profitable for doctrine, for correction, for reproof, etc. But it is in these closing days of the Gospel Age, as it was in the last days of the Jewish Age, the mass of the nominal Church reject the commandments of God that they may keep their own traditions. Now, when we read from the Bible that the world's resurrection will take place when our Lord Jesus comes, as foretold by all the holy prophets, and, by turning to the prophet Ezekiel, we read that he will bring Sodom and her daughters to their former estate, whom God took away as he saw good; if, in view of these plain statements, we stop our ears to the fact, we are not worthy of so great salvation.
Thank God some were convinced and persuaded to walk in the Lord's footsteps and not with a worldly church. O Bro. Russell, if the dear Lord has only used your pen to bring me into light, it is worth ten thousand worlds to me. You are dear to me. I am running for the prize. It is hard work for me. Pray for me that I might crucify myself and keep humble.
Your brother in Christ,
DEAR BRO. RUSSELL: – By a kind Providence a number of the "WATCH TOWER" fell into my hands, and it met my views so well that I sent for it for one year. Then you sent me "FOOD FOR THINKING CHRISTIANS," and it was very rich food indeed. I have read it through three or four times, and it seems richer every time. I cannot express the thankfulness I feel. I am now sixty-three years of age. For some time I was a minister of the Protestant Methodist Church, but the study of the Scriptures led me farther from their creed. I finally withdrew, and for the last eighteen years I have stood outside of the nominal Churches. They have desired me to unite again, but I could not join with any sectarian organization. I felt and still feel called upon to come out from among them and be separate.
I can't think of parting with the WATCH TOWER. There are a number here who are waking up to the truth. If I had sample copies to distribute among them, I think it would do good. My heart is filled with strong desire to spread the good news.
Yours in patient waiting for the full development of Christ's kingdom and glory,
DEAR SIR: – It seems to be the work of kind providence which has put into my hands both of your pamphlets, "Food" and "Tabernacle," and two numbers of the TOWER, from all of which I obtained some of the most beautiful explanations of Scripture that I ever met with. The system of God's plans as therein presented is grand and sublime indeed; yet in some respects I think it to disagree with my Bible.
First. Your system of interpretation appears destitute of reasons for sinners to "flee from the wrath to come."... We find in the Bible a beautiful equilibrium and balancing, of God's love and mercy on the one hand, and His holiness and justice on the other. "Felix trembled" – God "will in no wise clear the guilty," etc. These statements your system of interpretation seems to ignore and render impracticable.
Second. The Bible positively declares a second apostasy, or falling away (Rev. 20:7-9), after the Millennium; this your system of interpretation ignores and would render impossible.
Third. Scripture positively places the general resurrection, not only after the Millennium, but even after the second apostasy, while the harmony of your teachings demands it during the Millennial age.
If in those three points (so far as I have now noticed) your system could be shown to be in harmony with the Bible, I should joyfully embrace your teachings as a grand advance in theology, and, according to my opportunity and ability, I should preach it, the balance of my days.
Hoping soon to see the requisite explanation of these matters from your pen, either by letter or through the TOWER, I remain,
It gives us pleasure to answer the queries of those whose letters savor so much of the Spirit of Christ, and believing that this communication may be of interest to others, we answer through the TOWER. To save space we will not repeat the questions. Please keep them well in mind.
In reply to your first proposition, we assure you that we do preach a "wrath to come," and more than that, we preach that the "Day of vengeance of our God" has already come. We refer you to "Food for Thinking Christians," Part IV.; also pages 51-53, 72-74 and 120-124. We very much question if this subject of wrath and trouble, coming upon the nominal Church and the world, is referred to half as often in any other publications. But you mean, Why do we not teach, as the mass of Christians do, an eternity of pain and agony to all except the saints? We answer, because God's Word does not teach it. We teach "a just recompense of reward"; but the difficulty is, that under the heathenish doctrines which, during the dark ages, became engrafted upon Christianity, a just punishment for sin has been lost sight of, and the Church has coined out of the symbols and figures of Revelation and some of the parables and dark sayings of Jesus, such a fiendish doctrine on this subject, and have so constantly held this libel on the character of God and his Word before the mind, that it takes some time for a thoroughly indoctrinated person to be able to come back, to a proper appreciation of justice and to scriptural ideas concerning the nature of the wrath to come.
It is exactly our teaching that God "will in no wise clear the guilty." In harmony with his condemnation, "DEATH passed upon all men" [but not eternal LIFE in torment]. In this was manifested the justice of God, and that holiness which could not permit an imperfect thing to exist. His love for his creature was there, also, but was not yet manifested. Four thousand years later – in the fullness of time – the love of God was manifest in the gift of his Son, who paid our penalty (DEATH), and all men are thereby justified to live again, and he tells us that in his due time "all they that are in their graves suffering the penalty pronounced – DEATH – [but not torment] shall hear his voice and come forth, some to life [perfect life, having [R500 : page 2] been justified by faith and passed their trial or judgment in this present life] and some to judgment [krisis – TRIAL].
"Felix trembled," but not from any recorded words of Paul relative to eternal torment. No, we claim that Paul taught, as we are teaching, that the time is coming in which every wicked act and every good act will receive a JUST recompense of reward. Felix knew, doubtless, of crimes and injustice of which he had been guilty, and he therefore trembled.
But another thing should be borne in mind when judging of our teachings: It is that we are living in a peculiar time, when some of the special features of the gospel are properly made more prominent than others, by all the faithful and wise servants whom our Lord has appointed to give to His household "Meat in due season" (Matt. 24:45). We stand where the severity of God has been made too much of, and His goodness and love almost overlooked; hence it is that our teachings have seemed to some at first sight, to show only the love of God. A reference to the present issue of the TOWER and previous ones under the head of "The Plagues," etc., will show that we give evidence [R501 : page 2] also of the severity of God. But a correct understanding of the just severity of God gives no indication of the fiendish character ascribed to him by the current theology of the various sects. We find in his word, and therefore teach, that God's punishments are designed as corrective, and that only the finally incorrigible will be destroyed with the Second Death.
Again, from our standpoint we see that the special work of separating from the world and from mere believers a "peculiar people" to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, and thus to become joint-sacrifices and joint-heirs with Him, is ended; and it only remains to encourage and assist the living members of this peculiar people, to persevere in the fulfilment of their consecration vows: and to testify to the world, to all that will hear, the breadth and scope of this great salvation for ALL mankind; that the Kingdom of Heaven is indeed at hand, not in its incipient stage, as was the case in the beginning of this age, but in its actual completeness and glory, it is even now coming into power. This special work now, finds its parallel in the special work of Jesus at the close of the Jewish age. His ministry did not aim to present the penalties of the Law, since he was about to bear that for them, but to introduce and prepare his followers to receive the blessings and favors of the Gospel age.
Your Second proposition is, we think, an unintentional misstatement of our position. We do believe, in what you term the apostasy of Rev. 20:7-9, though quite likely we do not teach it as you have been inclined to look at it, owing to the bias you have received from current theology. We now refer you to "Food," page 124, lines three to eight from top. We give that Scripture the less mention because we believe that none whom we address will be there.
Your Third point is a very general error, we think, and arises from a misunderstanding of the symbols and general arrangement of the Book of Revelation. Commencing with chapter 20:1, and continuing to chapter 22:5, we believe to be six different views or presentations of the same period of time – the Millennial age. All these views are valuable, as they present different sides or phases of the same glorious kingdom of God. The first shows the restraining of evil for a thousand years, and its little season of permitted triumph at its close (Rev. 20:1-3). The second view (Rev. 20:4-10) shows the exaltation of the saints, their reign of a thousand years, and the destruction of the incorrigible at its close.
The third view (Rev. 20:11-15) is a representation of the trial of the world before the white or pure judgment seat. It is at the establishment of justice and right in the earth that the present (symbolic) heavens and earth flee away, giving place to new heavens (governments) and new earth (society). Then the books (Scriptures) will be opened, made plain, so that a "wayfaring man, though a fool, need not err therein"; and the knowledge of the Lord shall fill the whole earth as the waters cover the sea; then the world will have its trial – being "judged according to their works" instead of by the standard of the Church's trial, now in progress – "according to your faith." Here another "Book of Life" is opened – the one now being filled – with the names of the heirs of GLORY, HONOR and IMMORTALITY; and the new Book of Life is the record of those of the world, who, during their trial, will be accounted worthy of perfect human existence everlastingly, all others being cut off in the second death, symbolically termed the lake of fire.
The fourth view (Rev. 21:1-8) represents the blessedness of the Millennial age when the New Jerusalem (the glorified Church – the Bride) will be among men as their government and God's representative: to remove their sorrows, pains and troubles by making all things new, resulting in the giving of the water of life to the obedient, and second death to the disobedient, as in the preceding views.
The fifth view (Rev. 21:9-27) shows this glorified church more especially; and the fact that the light (truth) which shines from it will be the guide of the nations (v. 24), the sequel to this view being that those improving the opportunity will come into, or become associated, in the Kingdom of God – the earthly phase of it – while workers of iniquity are destroyed, as in the other views – their second death.
The sixth view (Rev. 22:1-5) shows, under the symbol river, that the blessing of the Lord is to be through the spread of truth to mankind during that Millennial age. It will proceed from the City of God – the glorified Church – and results in the complete blotting out of the curse and the restoring of mankind to communion with God.
In conclusion, we would refer you to Prov. 2:4,5. "If thou seekest truth as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures, then shalt thou...find the knowledge of God."
The Lord will bless every real truth-seeker – every Israelite indeed – for such alone truth was written, and to such alone it will be revealed. May you know the truth – be filled with its spirit, and be made free by it; then, indeed, you will be a minister of it, both now and in the ages to come.
Rev. 20:5, first clause, which reads, "But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished," is the subject of dispute. We showed conclusively that the above text has no support from any authority older than "the middle of the fifth century." It is not found in any of the older MSS. – it is not in the Syriac – and the confessedly oldest, most complete and best of all Greek MSS. of the New Testament – the Sinaitic – does not contain those words. It is wanting, too, in several of the more recent MSS., among which is the Vatican, No. 1160, a MS. of special clearness and harmony with the most ancient ones.
An exchange calls attention to the fact that Prof. Tischendorf, the finder of the Sinaitic MS., while admitting that the clause is not found in it, says that he thinks its omission accidental, "a mere error" of the scribe in copying. Our exchange thinks this all-sufficient – we should accept of that clause because Prof. T. thinks – guesses – that its omission was a mistake.
But we must inform our friends that we cannot accept of Prof. T.'s guess on such a matter; he may guess for himself, but, in our opinion, the finder of a MS. written nearly sixteen hundred years ago has no better opportunity of judging what it should contain than anybody else. The favor which Prof. T. has conferred on Bible students consists in the finding and publishing of this wonderfully correct MS., and not in guessing something into it. The wonderful and uniform correctness of this MS. of itself casts great discredit on Prof. T.'s guess, which would imply great negligence in the copying.
Let us have the very oldest manuscripts of the Bible, and if they throw out and omit manifest errors, let us not hold on to those errors and guess that they should be in, and that their omission was a mere error. To do so would be to make the finding of such ancient MSS. useless; each party in whose favor an error had been made in copying, either by accident or intention, would be at liberty to claim that the omission of such clauses was "a mere error." It is God's Word that we want, and we thank Him for the valuable Sinaitic MS. furnished through Prof. T. But we will not permit the esteemed Professor to doctor it for us. We cannot admit his authority to "add to the words of the prophecy of this book."
We regret to have it to note that the justly celebrated Variorum Bible and Testaments (with which we have supplied many of our readers), when attempting to give the readings of the Sinaitic MS., has in the case of this clause taken the word of a fallible man as being infallible – It fails to show that the Sinaitic MS. does not contain the clause in question.
In view, however, of the full meaning of the word anastasis (resurrection) set forth in our issue of June, 1882, this clause, EVEN IF GENUINE, would be in harmony with our general teaching – that all men will come forth from the tomb and have a trial (judgment) during the thousand years (millennium) mentioned in verses 3,4,6,7 of this same chapter (Rev. 20). We there showed that to come out of the tomb, as in Lazarus' case, is not resurrection (anastasis) – not a raising up to perfect life. The condition of life enjoyed by Adam before sin, none of his posterity have ever possessed. We have all been in death – "in the valley of the shadow of death" – and to enjoy an anastasis, or lifting up to life, as Adam had it, includes not only the coming forth from the tomb, but all that process of restitution which will be in operation during that reign of Christ. And since perfection – the full attainment, of the full measure of life – will not be reached by the world until the end of the millennium, it would be in harmony to say: The rest of the dead lived not again [did not fully return to perfect life] until the thousand years were finished.
But we stand by the record, and claim that this clause fits the truth rather by accident than inspiration, as shown by the foregoing evidence. This interpolation, doubtless, occurred by some scribe of the fifth century making a marginal note on his MSS. of his thought on the subject.
"Thank God for the great improvement in Bible study which has followed the introduction of the uniform lesson system! Seven millions of youth of North America looking into the same passage of scripture each week! What a volume of study! How majestically strong is God's truth, to stand such investigation and not disappoint, not fail, a single soul."
The above is from an exchange. We wish it were true. But, alas! like many other of Satan's delusions by which he deceives, it is false – a gilded bubble – outwardly bright and good, but really a form full of emptiness. The spread of intelligence and thought has led to the necessity of presenting more than sectarian creeds; some authority higher than man's words must be offered. There is nothing to offer but the Bible, and neither Papacy, Protestantism, nor Satan could expect to hold control of man without recognizing to some extent this demand.
To meet this demand, yet to keep people from independent study of the Scriptures, seems to be the object of all parties. They well know that their systems would soon fall to pieces if the people would study the Bible independently. To meet this popular demand for authority on religious subjects, each prominent sect prints "Lessons Leaves" with questions and answers to suit its own creed, and at the same time, by mutual agreement, the same verses constitute the lesson among all denominations, thus giving the impression to many, and especially to the children, that Christian union is very strong and that all denominations are agreed as to the import of the lesson taught.
The writer has served in the capacity both of teacher and superintendent in the Sunday-school and long since became convinced that all the good there is to this system is on the surface. Who that has ever been connected with the Sunday-school in recent years, does not know that it is a grand system of exercises and not of Bible study? Singing, calling the roll, giving reward tickets, returning and selecting library books and Sunday-school papers, taking up collections and talking about the Christmas treat; or the next picnic, or a summer vacation, takes up almost all the session until the bell rings for closing exercises and putting on wraps. Now, what a fraud to call this "a great improvement in Bible study!" What a delusion for that unconverted young woman who has taught (entertained) such a class, to suppose that she has been serving Christ and teaching his religion by such exercise! I tell you, nay; she is hardening her own heart by the deception, and convincing herself and her pupils that religion is an empty sham. Instead of seven millions of youth in North America being Bible students, they are – especially the boys – taking first lessons in religious shams, which beget in them doubts concerning the Bible as well as of Christianity. This is the great evil; and our experience leads us to believe that fully one-half the boys in the Sunday-schools are young infidels, largely made so by the shams of sectarianism and its false representation of the Bible; while to the girls, the Sunday-school has become the nursery of pride, love of display in dress, and an increasing desire for amusement.
But this system of uniform lessons serves Satan and the sects still better in another way. There was a time when thoughtful Bible class teachers met their adult classes every Lord's day to study the Bible and to learn of its teachings. The teacher and class selected the subjects of interest for study, and even though bound by denominational yokes and prejudices, there was some opportunity for the Word of God to be heard, and for truth to shine forth: and sometimes considerable truth was thus fed to a thinking class. But this would never do, it would soon break up the Babylon systems if such Bible study were permitted; those who studied would soon be far beyond those who relied on creeds of the fifteenth century, and would leap the sectarian fences for the green pastures of God's Word and the liberty wherewith Christ had made them free. Hence the necessity you see of uniform lessons, to hold back such classes and teachers, giving them such questions about the geography of Palestine, the manners, customs, dress, etc., of the people, mixed with a few simple questions on morality, such as could open up no general discussion, could lead to no appreciation of truth or error, but merely keep in the beaten path of the traditions of the elders, especially of the elders of their church.
What a delusion and a snare is thrown about these adult classes, which leads them to believe that the twenty minutes thus spent each Lord's day is a compliance with the Great Teacher's Word: "Search the Scriptures." They are able to make thee wise, but the traditions of men will blind thee. "Come out of her, my people," partake not of her sins and receive not of her plagues.
LET us guard against the negative form of evil-speaking, generally the most thoughtless. Absalom was an example of this. Who could quote any actual evil-speaking against his royal father? Who could charge him with speaking evil of dignities? And yet by insinuations, by his way of putting things, by his very manner, he wrought a thousand-fold more cruel harm than any amount of evil-speaking out could have possibly done. Oh to be watchful as to such omissions to speak well, as amount to speaking evil? Watchful as to the eloquence of even a hesitation, watchful as to the forcible language of feature and eye.
"That they may all be one." – John 17:21.
In vain ye say, "Let sects and systems fall,
And Jesus' precious name be all in all";
In vain ye say, "By His blest name alone
His members should, while here on earth, be known";
Yet cling to what that gracious Jesus pains –
Sectarian union and sectarian names.
And can it be that "Baptist" sweeter sounds
Than the dear name which each believer owns?
Does "Independent" tell of Jesus' love,
Or efficacious in conversions prove?
Is "Bible Christian" God's appointed term
By which He'd have mankind His own discern?
Or does the spirit in "the Word" insist
Their being known by "Friend" or "Methodist"?
That word is silent – not one single name
Of all the multitudes which now obtain,
Is sanctioned there, but His, whose precious blood.
Has sanctified the family of God.
Say not, "How otherwise shall we be known?"
Did Paul or Peter such distinctions own?
Say not, "Names nothing mean"; alas! we see
How oft they move the heart to jealousy.
Say not "they're harmless," for too well we know
How under them what fierce contentions grow.
They gather to their standard – not the Lord:
Enforce their own enactments – not "the Word."
Just think of heaven, where happy oneness reigns,
A gathering place for parties, sects and names!
Ah, no! 'twould dim the glory of that place,
'Twould throw a cloud o'er every saved one's face.
One name ALONE the heavenly hosts adore;
Nor is there space or room in heaven for more.
Jesus is there, – His name alone is sung,
His blessed name's the theme of every tongue,
Jesus is there – no other name they know;
Why should we hear of other names below?
Survey the vast profession of the day;
How many men – how few the Lord obey!
Men's systems, rules, and principles abound,
While cleaving to "the Word" how few are found.
"Our cause" now takes the place of Jesus's fold,
"Our church" the place of church of God of old,
"Our pastor" now is bound by space and time,
And paid accordingly – is that divine?
Oft fills his place in priestly robes arrayed,
Spurning alike the vulgar dress and trade,
Before his name the prefix "Reverend" stands,
Which God, in Scripture, for himself demands;
Usurping thus the title due alone
To him who sits on the eternal throne!
(O how unlike the noble few of old,
Whose labors were for souls, and not for gold;
Distinguished by their spirit, not their dress,
Patterns of godlike, holy loveliness!)
For these majestic edifices rise
Of every character, and shape, and size;
Gorgeous in their structure, costly in their plan,
Majestic 'mentoes of the pride of man!
These buildings reared are called "the saints' abode,"
The "sanctuary" and the "house of God";
The "place of worship," and the "temple" too.
Names so applied, the Apostles never knew.
Alas! 'tis earthly worship that they teach,
And hinder souls that would beyond it reach;
Keeping at distance those love bids draw near,
To worship in their priestly character,
Within the temple pitched by heavenly hands,
Where Christ, our Great High Priest, our surety stands.
There is the only proper "saints' abode";
The purchased Church, the only "house of God";
Where Jesus is, our joy it is to know,
Our "place of worship" is, and not below.
No grand conception of the builder's mind –
No taste or elegance, howe'er refined
No lofty eloquence, that charmeth so –
No sounds harmonious that from organs flow –
No "dim religious light" – no high degrees,
Nor gorgeous vestments – can the Father please,
Ah, no! man looketh to the outward part,
But God surveys the secret of the heart;
And that, by man esteemed perfection's height
Is but abomination in His sight.
No man's invention can adorn the cross;
'Tis all abomination in His sight.
Christian, go search the Word of God, and see,
How far the statements here with them agree,
Let not these things unheeded be, I pray,
I speak as to the wise, judge what I say.
For He is our peace who made both one and the middle wall of the enclosure broke down; the enmity, in his flesh [even] the law of the commandments in decrees bringing to nought; that the two he might create in him into one man of new mould, making peace; and might fully reconcile them both in one body unto God, through the cross – slaying the enmity thereby. – EPH. 2:14-16. (Rotherham's translation.)
The Apostle is addressing Christians – converts from heathen nations – Gentiles, and is showing that the difference, in God's estimation, between Jew and Gentile, has now ceased. The Jew once had special favor, brought about by the typical sin offerings, though it was only typical of the real favor with God, which the gospel church enjoys – brought about by the better sacrifice (which needeth not to be repeated year by year) and the better covenant than the law. This contrast of their former condition as Gentiles, from the former condition of Jews, is referred to in vs. 11-13. But now, in Christ Jesus, ye who at one time were afar off [from God's favor] are made nigh by the blood of Christ.
This shows how the Gentiles were brought into favor and communion with God – "by the blood of Christ." Now, the Apostle proceeds to show how the Jew got a blessing through the same "blood" of Christ – they who had been favored by the Law ordained to life. [The favor under the Law covenant was, that if any Jew could keep the Law he should have a right to life, and should never die. Rom. 10:5. Gal. 3:12.] But that Law which seemed a promise or covenant by which they could have life – hence regarded a blessing – was found to be of no advantage, but rather a curse, because it did not give life to a single one of them. This was not because of faultiness of the Law, for the Law was holy and just and good. (Rom. 7:12.) The fault was in the Jew who, because of sinful propensities and imperfect organism, inherited through the fall of Adam, could not keep the Law, and hence could not claim the life promised under that Law covenant. Thus, it will be seen, that the Law which was to bless them was found to curse or condemn the Jew, and was for this reason reckoned his enemy – called "the enmity," or OPPOSITION, or CONDEMNATION.
What advantage had the Jew, then, do you ask? He had the first opportunity of the Gospel high calling, and will have the first call under the restitution. Then, too, some out of that people were developed into fitness for the spiritual kingdom, and some for the earthly kingdom.
The Apostle having shown, as already explained, that those who had been Gentiles, without the Law, received their adoption and favor through the blood of Christ, now shows that the Jew had received an equally great blessing from the same one sacrifice, saying, "He is OUR peace." He settled the curse or condemnation of the Law which was upon us Jews. Not only did he settle fully the original claims of the Law violated by Adam, which condemned both Jew and Gentile, but he did even more for us Jews; he removed from us the galling yoke of the Law covenant under which we could never have attained life, and has offered us life as a gift or favor. Thus both the original curse or enmity between God and us Jews, as well as the secondary enmity or curse of our Law, which, as a partition, formerly separated us from you Gentiles; this was all taken away, so that both you and we may now have access to God through him who, by his blood – by his cross – destroyed all curse or enmity.
The design is, that ultimately there shall be not Jew and heathen, but that all men shall be made new – re-created of a new mould. The old Adamic mould was spoiled by sin in the very outstart, but through Christ mankind is to be perfectly restored – re-moulded.
Let it be noticed that the enmity or opposition was of God and toward men; men did not condemn God; but God did condemn men on account of sin. It was not Adam who became angry and offended with Jehovah and left the Garden of Eden. It was God who said, Cursed is the ground for thy sake, and who condemned (cursed) both man and woman to labor, sorrow, pain and ultimate death. Hence the enmity or curse which Jesus destroyed by tasting death for every man, was the enmity or curse which was the penalty of the broken law. When, therefore, we are justified to freedom from that condemnation or curse of death, by our ransom, it follows that we are justified to life, happiness, etc., such as was possessed before the curse came. And as surely as Jesus bought all, so surely will he in due time provide a deliverance for all by a resurrection.
In this connection, it is well that all should remember that the Bible presents God to us in various characters. He is the FATHER that pittieth his children, and also the JUDGE of all the earth who will do right, and by no means clear the guilty. It is in the aspect of a Judge that God is represented in the matter of sin and its penalty.
Now, a righteous judge must decide a case according to the law; and, where law is violated, he must condemn the violator according to the penalty mentioned in the law, no matter who the culprit may be, whether a near relative or the judge himself. [In Pennsylvania this really happened last month. A judge unwittingly violated a State law, condemned and fined himself according to the prescribed penalty.] Thus with Jehovah, when his loved child and creature Adam violated law, he must condemn him. Since the law was, "In the day that thou eatest thereof dying, thou shalt DIE," the Judge must execute the penalty, and sent the cherubim, drove the condemned ones from the garden of life-sustaining trees into the barren land outside, (where they would be unable to sustain life and must die), the sterile and unprepared earth; left in that cursed or barren condition because God foreknew its necessity as the prison or work-house in which man should exhaust his condemned life and realize the bitterness and evil of violating God's law.
The prisoner who is guilty, and who hears his sentence uttered by the judge, may often think of the judge as his pitiless ENEMY and may seldom know of the sympathy and love of the man existing behind the stern look of the magistrate who represents THE LAW. So, too, some who appreciate not the love element in the character of the Judge of all the earth, and see not the wise provision of the Law which cuts off from life the disobedient, and will not permit them to live forever in sin, such think of God only as the unbending and severe Judge. It is only those who have caught a glimpse of God's plan for the liberating of the guilty prisoner whom He himself had justly condemned – only these can realize the great love wherewith the Judge loved us while we were yet sinners, while he was condemning us, and while he was permitting our deliverance into the great prison-house of death.
The Judge did not show much of His love for quite a while, but merely thundered forth the disapproval of Law against sin and its penalty, against sinners, sternly declaring that the Law cursed all such – was at enmity or opposition to them. Thus did the Judge convince all of the exceeding sinfulness of sin, and then in due time He showed His love for the prisoners by himself providing the ransom. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, [R504 : page 3] because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him (1 John 4:9). Now, all may see that this causes the character of the Judge to shine out the brighter. His great love and pity is seen the more clearly as we mount it upon the background of unbending justice, which could in "no wise clear the guilty," even though pitied and loved.
This furnishes the key to an appreciation of the statement: "If when we were enemies [convicts before the Judge] we were reconciled to God [our penalty paid] by the death of His Son; much more being reconciled [guiltless – acquitted by the Judge who once condemned us] we shall be saved by His life" (Rom. 5:10). He who paid our ransom for us will bring us out of the prison-house of death, and the Judge will not object, but approve of our liberty.
Again, speaking of his confidence, that his condemnation had given place to approval and justification, Paul introduces this same judgment scene, and shows that there need be, can be, no mistake about it. He asks: "What shall we then say to these things?" [He has been arguing justification as a basis or step to glory and heirship] "If God be for us, who can be against us?" [If the Judge who once condemned us says our ransom price has fully met the demands of the Law against us, why should we be in doubt about it? There could be no better evidence.] "He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is GOD that justifieth." [There could be no higher court to which to appeal, and the Judge pronounces us justified – freed from the condemnation of all inherited weakness and sin.] "Who is he that condemneth?" [Dare anyone claim that I am still guilty? If so, he must be ignorant of the ransom paid, ignorant that our substitute tasted death for every man. It should be a sufficient answer to such a one to tell him that] "It is Christ that died; yea, rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us" (Rom. 8:31-34).
This same subject – the sinfulness of all, God their condemning Judge, Himself also their deliverer by providing a ransom, and the CONSEQUENT righteousness of God in cancelling the sin – is forcibly set forth in Rom. 3:22-26: "For there is no difference [between Jew and Gentile], for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. Being justified [cleared of guilt] freely by His grace [favor] through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God [the Judge] hath set forth to be a propitiation [satisfaction – for Adamic sin] through faith in his blood. To declare His [the Judge's] righteousness for [in] the remission of sins that are passed through the forbearance of God." [i.e., the Judge sent his Son and paid the claim against the condemned race, in order that he might set them at liberty without violating his own laws]. "To declare, I say, at this time His righteousness: that he might be JUST and [also] the justifier of [sinners] him which believeth in Jesus" (Rom. 3:22-26). So then, that which was "enmity," which once hindered approach to God, which once condemned, was removed by virtue of the blood of the cross, and now all may come unto God realizing that our ransom settled the claims of justice once and forever. Indeed, since Jesus became the propitiation for our sins, instead of refusing to receive or commune with the condemned, the Judge and Father is sending out messengers during this gospel age, and will continue the same during the next – to inform them of his reconciliation, as we read: "Now, then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us; we pray you, in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God" (2 Cor. 5:20).
"To the messenger of the congregation in Philadelphia write." The meaning of this name is well known – "Love of a brother." This stage in the church's history evidently began at the great Reformation; and there are many still living who possess the characteristics described.
We may understand the message better if we recall the condition of Rome when the Reformation began. She claimed to be the only holy and true. She claimed to have the sure mercies of David, the throne of the kingdom of the Lord; with power to bind or loose; to open or shut the gates of heaven; to be the only true synagogue; the only true recipient of the favor and love of God; to be the city of God; the only one having a right to bear his name. "These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shall shut; and shutteth, and no man shall open."
He who speaks has not given his prerogatives to fallible men. He lent the keys to Peter to open the doors to both Jew and Gentile. Peter preached the opening sermon to the Jew on Pentecost, and to the Gentiles in Ceasarea probably three and a half years after. (Acts 2:10.) But Peter fell asleep and [R504 : page 4] the Master holds the keys. He it is who shall unlock the gates of hades and of death and shall free the long bound captives. No "successor of St. Peter" ever has or even can. If they had the power they would have tried it long ago.
"I know thy works." It is a brief mention but emphatic, and carries with it this encouragement: "Behold, I have set before thee an open door, which no man can shut." There is considerable similarity between the work begun on the day of Pentecost and the work of Luther and his friends. The Reformation was, in a sense, the beginning of a new era; a dawning of light where all had been darkness; the separation of the true from the false and a new start in the way of truth and life. It was the beginning of a mighty work. No doubt all the powers of Satan and his human allies were exerted to close that door – we know they tried hard; but "He that is true" had said – "which no man can shut." The "little flock" of reformers had but "a little strength" compared with the mighty hosts of their enemies; but they knew they had the truth, and fully trusted the Giver. Thus the Master could say, thou "hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name." Luther's declaration at the Diet at Worms, as he stood alone before the princes of Germany and the stern emperor Charles V., are worthy of a Paul, and illustrative of the text. "Unless," said he, "I shall be convinced by Scriptures, (for I can put no faith in popes and councils, as it is evident that they have frequently erred, and even contradicted each other); unless my conscience shall be convinced by the Word of God, I neither will, or can recant, since it is unworthy of an honest man to act contrary to his own conviction. Here I stand; it is impossible for me to act otherwise – so help me God."
We do not understand that this symbolic period is restricted to those early days. That was the beginning. The conflict is not over. The proud and boastful churches of to-day are persecuting and would fain "wipe out" those still living of the Philadelphian band. The work is the Lord's, he will take care of it, and man cannot hinder it. "Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee."
This is very plain language regarding the opposers of the truth, who claim to be the church of God. They would say we were calling them dreadful hard names if we were to use language half as expressive. When "the hour of trial, that which is to come upon the whole world, to try them that dwell upon the earth," has humbled their pride, they will learn who were the chosen, and come and render obeisance at their feet. The faithful ones will be kept from the power of this great trial; and the reason is given, "Because thou didst keep the word of my endurance." (Rotherham.)
Those who have been disciplined, and have been wholly consecrated, and are in a crucified condition when this trial comes, will be far above its power. "A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee. Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked" (Ps. 91; Luke 21:34-36). "I come quickly; hold fast that which thou hast, that no one take thy crown."
Numbers have believed for many years that we have been living in the "quickly" time; but failing to recognize the manner of his coming and the condition of his presence, they still look for him, and congratulate themselves on their patient waiting and watching for his return. They say, "When he comes, we expect to know it." When asked how, they triumphantly quote: "This same Jesus" – failing to appreciate the fact that the same Jesus was not recognized after his resurrection by those who had seen him daily for years. Mary and his disciples might talk to him and mistake him for a stranger, but these will recognize him instantly – miles away.
Since he ascended he has been glorified. He allowed Saul of Tarsus to catch a glimpse of him in his new condition. It took him three days to get over it, and even then his sight was only restored by a miracle. Not until we are like him shall we be able to see him as he is (1 John 3:2). [R505 : page 4]
Let those who thus cling to the fleshly, lest, fear while still looking for him in an earthly condition, he may come as the thief cometh, silently, and in a spiritual – therefore unseen – body, and, in his distribution of rewards, give the crown to another (ver. 11). "Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out; and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the New Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God; and my own new name."
In the Philadelphia period, especially during the first and last phases of it, the faithful have either been obliged to come out of the nominal temple to find liberty, or they have been "cast out" for their straight testimony.
The reward is that they will be, not simply an unimportant piece, but a vital part – a pillar in the true and eternal temple – a part that cannot be taken away or cast out while the structure exists. During their trial, their names were cast out as evil; they were branded as infidels and heretics; they were not recognized as children of God, as citizens of the heavenly country, as Christians. All this is to be reversed. The Lord knoweth them that are his, and in due time will fully and eternally acknowledge them.
"Unto the messenger of the congregation in Laodicea write." Laodicea is interpreted as "a tried, or judged people." The description shows us that they were tried and found wanting. "These things saith the Amen." This is the word so often translated "verily" in the gospels, and used by our Lord as a kind of affirmation or solemn prefix to some important announcement.
"The beginning of the creation of God." If we understand Christ's meaning here this message is sent particularly to those who profess his name but deny the truth he here himself presents. Let those who do so, read with special care this special message.
"What think ye of the Christ? Whose Son is he?" (Matt. 22:42) is a question that has had many answers. More Bible and less hymn-book theology would have made the subject clearer to all. The doctrine of the trinity is totally opposed to Scripture, and has not a single reasonable text to support it when the well-known interpretation of 1 John 5:7 is discarded and John 1:1 is understood. We suggest that any one who does not see this subject clearly should read carefully and prayerfully John 17.
Another class – Unitarians, etc. – take away from the dignity and honor of our Lord, beside contradicting much Scripture, by denying that he had an existence before his conception in Mary. We ask such, to compare the following texts: Matt. 22:45; John 1:14-15; 3:13; 8:58; 2 Cor. 8:9 – Col. 1:15-17; Phil. 2:6-7. "I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot. I would thou wert cold or hot. So then, because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth."
Here is a picture of the nominal Church of to-day as our Lord sees her. They are not cold in one sense; they have a good deal of zeal; but it is not according to knowledge. They have, with much labor on the part of some, organized their armies, developed their machinery, and multiplied their stores; but yet the enemy does not fall before them. They claim that their principal object and aim is to convert sinners; to (spiritually) beget children. The prophet puts these words in their mouth when they awake to a knowledge of the situation: "Like as a woman with child, that draweth near the time of her delivery, is in pain, and crieth out in her pangs; so have we been in thy PRESENCE, O Lord. We have been with child, we have been in pain, we have, as it were, brought forth wind; we have not wrought any deliverance in the earth; neither have the inhabitants of the earth come to (spiritual) life." This is said after they have realized the presence of the Lord.
To be a minister or priest in the nominal Church of to-day, one must bring with him a plentiful store of that which Paul despised and left behind, namely, human wisdom (1 Cor. 1:17; 2:16). There is a wisdom learned by the mature, "even the hidden," "which the Spirit teacheth." This is not taught "in the schools," neither can it be learned there, but it is "freely given to us of God." Ministers are no more called of God with them. They are made as newspapers are made. Blank paper (sometimes very blank) is put into a machine, impressions are made on it, and it comes out finished. It is wrapped and stamped and is ready to be sent away. We may search the Scriptures in vain for an instance of God's sending through such a channel.
He hath raised up a new mouthpiece. He sheds increasing light to a little flock who are willing to receive it, and spread it abroad without fear. To those who humbly and prayerfully search for the truth; having but one aim, the glory of God; one desire, to do his will; one hope, to share that glory – according to his promises.
We should not look for light where little remains but the fading reflections of a former glory. That sickly hue which now appears is but the smoke illuminated by the piercing rays from the part of a hand which, high on the wall, is writing, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN. "Because thou sayest I am rich, and have gotten riches, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art the wretched one, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked."
"I am rich." I have all the spiritual light that exists in the world. I have gotten riches; have still more enriched myself; have much goods laid up for many years. All others are too poor to add to my store. I have all that is worth having, and need no more. "I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall in nowise see mourning." Of course she cannot recognize her own picture, she is "blind." "And knowest not that thou art the wretched one," etc. Just as the Jewish house fell, because they knew not the time of their visitation (Luke 19:44) so, must their counterpart of this dispensation. The visitation (presence) of the Lord is as a stone of stumbling and rock of offence to both the houses of Israel (Isa. 8:14 and Heb. 3:5-6). The fleshly house failed to recognize his presence in the flesh; the spiritual house refuse to acknowledge his presence in a spiritual body. Just as he could be seen by the eye of flesh in his first visitation, so he must be recognized in this only by the eyes of our understanding – the only spiritual eyesight we now possess. When we are made like him, bye and bye we shall see him as he is.
If she is so blind that she cannot recognize her own condition and location, how can it be expected that she should see his. When she has learned his, she will realize her own, and it will be "pitiable, and poor, and naked." "I counsel thee to buy of me gold, tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eye-salve, that thou mayest see."
Some may say, How can this be a description of the Church of God? Is it not founded upon the Rock, Christ? We answer, the majority of those who compose the Churches of to-day know nothing about that Rock. Moreover, those who are founded upon Christ, if they refuse to do his bidding, must suffer the consequences. His call is, "Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, that ye receive not of her plagues."
Even though we are built on Christ, yet, if instead of building with gold, silver and precious stones, we daub together wood, hay and stubble, we shall suffer loss; for the fire (of his jealousy – Zeph. 1:18) shall try every man's work; and such "shall be saved, yet so as by fire" (1 Cor. 3:11-15).
The words translated rebuke and chasten, are in the Greek much more forcible than here appears. The first means reproach, disgrace; put to shame, dishonor. The latter, to train or educate like a child or youth. What a call! No wonder that the proud and conceited teachers of popular churches cannot hear the call. No wonder that some who have seen and heard refuse, to follow "the path their leader trod." "As many as I love, I disgrace and train: be zealous, therefore, and repent.
"What poor despised company"Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." [R506 : page 4]
Of travelers are these,
Who walk in yonder narrow way
Along the rugged maze?
Ah, these are of a royal line,
All children of a King!
Heirs of immortal crowns divine,
And lo! for joy they sing."
Unknown to the Laodicean Church, the Lord has returned. He stands at the door. He could not do this if he were not present. He has not been always there as some think. To Sardis he said, "I will come"; to Philadelphia, "I come quickly"; to Laodicea, it is rap, rap, rap. Awake; let me come in. Do they hear? Solomon's Song 5:3, gives the answer.
Why has this little company had such a continuous feast of truth? Why does the light and glory stream down upon us in ever increasing brightness? It is because the Master has come in, and has girded himself, and made us sit down, and has himself served us. It is because the Sun of Righteousness has arisen, and those on the mountain and on the house-tops are already bathed in its glorious beams, for
"The glory of the sunlight
Of the bright Millennial day,
Scatters all the powers of darkness;
Lights the gloom with healing ray."
"If any man hear my voice." There is nothing here said about being deaf. If they had been awake they would surely have heard. Jesus clearly foretold that he would come as a thief, but did not tell them the hour. His orders were simply, "Watch." They failed, and fell. "If the master of the house had known in what watch the thief was coming, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken through." He slept on guard.
While the nominal Church is still seemingly in power, while the old glory still hangs about her, while it is still respectable and honorable to be a church member (it will not be so long, in the eyes of many), the little flock of truth-seekers are despised and rejected. They are covered with reproach because they dare to point out the faults of a worldly church. They are looked down upon by her who sits as a proud queen, lifted up that she may have the greater fall.
The nominal Church has a vague [R506 : page 5] idea of a kind of throne (composed principally of white cloud) somewhere, beyond the bounds of time and space, in the third heaven (counting upwards) where they shall sit forever; principally engaged in making music, and reigning (?) over their own passions (their passions being buried out of sight with their bodies). Strange work for eternity. God's agents, as far as we can see, are always in activity.
Christ does not always sit on the Father's throne; he has one of his own. He will occupy it. And those who have followed him, by the way of the cross, shall share it with him. "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches."
"He said to Jesus, Remember me when thou comest in thy kingdom. And he [Jesus] said to him, Indeed I say to thee this day, thou shalt be with me in Paradise." – LUKE 23:42,43. – Diaglott.
Those who consider salvation to be an escape from everlasting torture to a paradise of pleasure, and dependent only on accidental circumstances of favor, see in this narrative the doctrine of election exemplified – Jesus, being pleased by the consoling words of the one thief, elected him to heaven, and equally elected that the other should roast to all eternity, unpitied, unrelieved. Truly if God has made salvation such a lottery, such a chance thing, those who believe it to be such, should have little to say against church lotteries, and less against worldly ones.
Jesus had just been condemned, and was now being executed on the charge of treason to Caesar's government, in saying that He was a king; though he had told them that his kingdom was "not of this world." There upon the cross above his head was the inscription of his charged crime, written in three languages: "THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS." All knew of his claims and derided him, except one of the thieves crucified with him. Doubtless he had heard of Jesus and of his wonderful character, and said in his heart: This is truly a strange and wonderful man; who can know that there is no foundation to his claims? He certainly lives close to God; I will speak to him in sympathy; it can do no harm. Then he rebuked his companion, mentioning the innocence of Jesus, and, turning to Jesus, the conversation noted above took place.
We cannot suppose that this thief had any correct or definite idea of Jesus – nothing more than a mere feeling that he was about to die, and a straw of hope was better than nothing. To give him credit for more would be to place him in faith ahead of all Apostles and followers of Jesus, who at this time had left him and fled, and who three days after said: "We [had] trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel."
We can have no doubt as to the import of his petition; he meant that whenever Jesus reached his kingdom power he desired favor. Now, note Jesus' answer. He does not say that he has no kingdom, but, on the contrary, by his response he indicates that the thief's request was proper. The word translated "verily," or "indeed," is the Greek word "amen," and signifies "so be it," as you have asked: "I say to thee this day [this dark day, when it seems as though I am an impostor and about to die as a felon], thou shalt be with me in Paradise."
Now, the substance of this is, that when the Lord has established his kingdom, the thief will be remembered and be in Paradise. Notice that we have changed the comma from before to after to-day. This makes it perfectly clear and reasonable. Jesus might have told the thief more if he had chosen. He might have told him that the reason he should be privileged to come to Paradise was because he was paying his ransom then and there – dying for his sins. He might have told him further, that he was dying for and ransoming also the other thief, as well as the whole gaping and deriding multitude before him; as well as the millions yet unborn and millions then entombed. We know this, because we know that "Jesus Christ, by the grace of God, tasted death for every man," and that as in Adam, or on his account, all die, even so in Christ, or on his account, shall all be made alive and be privileged to come back to that Edenic condition forfeited by the first man's sin, redeemed for men by Christ's righteous sacrifice.
As already shown, the garden of Eden was but an illustration of the perfect and beautiful earth when fully released from the curse. The word Paradise is of Arabic origin, not Greek – it signifies a garden. The Septuagint renders Gen. 2:8 thus: "God planted a paradise in Eden." When Jesus has established his kingdom, bound evil, etc., this earth will become a paradise, and the two thieves and all that are in their graves shall come into it. And by becoming obedient to its laws they may live forever in it. We doubt not, however, that the kind words spoken in that dark hour to the Lord of glory, will no more lose a suitable reward than the gift of a cup of cold water, or other small kindnesses done to those whom this King is "not ashamed to call his brethren."
But have we the right to change the comma? Certainly, the punctuation of the Bible is not inspired. The writers of the Bible used no punctuation. It was invented about four hundred years ago. It is merely a modern convenience, and should be so used as to bring out sense and harmony with all other Scriptures. This harmony and sense is obtained only by the punctuation we have given above. To read it as usually punctuated, it would teach that Jesus and the thief went away somewhere that day, which is contrary to the following scriptures, which read carefully: Luke 24:46; John 20:17; John 3:13. In the latter text note that the words, "which is in heaven," are an interpolation as shown by the oldest MSS.
"One, whom we may call brother, has brought the language down to us, and knowing our language, is able to teach it to us. How short his earthly life! How infinite its results! The everliving, irrepressible Word, worked out a fitter abode and re-ascended to God ENRICHED BY THE POSSESSION OF MANHOOD."
This statement is almost too absurd to criticize. If it were true, why should not angels be thus enriched? Nay, if it so enriched the Son of God, why should not the Father also thus enrich himself? Truly our exchange has a higher estimate of manhood, and a lower estimate of spiritual nature, than we can find taught in Scripture. We read that a perfect manhood, as illustrated in Adam and again in Jesus (See Psa. 8:5, and Heb. 2:9), is a little lower than the nature of angels, though they are the lowest order on the spiritual plane.
But again, notice the reason given for Jesus becoming a man – that he might become acquainted with our language and teach us of heavenly things. Now, it is true, that Jesus did teach some [R507 : page 5] heavenly things, though very little, as he said: "If I have told you earthly things and ye believe not, how shall ye believe IF I tell you of heavenly things?" (John 3:12). The fact is that the revelation of heavenly or spiritual things dates from Pentecost, after he was gone, as it is written: "It is expedient for you that I go away, for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you....I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now; howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come he will guide you into all truth." (John 16:7,12,13).
It follows, then, that the writer of the above is not only in error about Jesus being enriched with manhood, but is in error also as to why he became a man. He could and did teach us heavenly things while he was in heaven; hence the object of his becoming a man must be something else.
Let us inquire of Paul on this matter, and let us remember that a little Scripture is better than a great deal of theory, whether it be the old musty theories expressed in the fifteenth century creeds or in modern theorizings such as the above. The Apostle says that Jesus humbled himself in becoming a man, and that the object of so doing was to redeem men, to give himself a ransom for all, to taste death for every man. This being accomplished he was exalted again to the spiritual plane, yea to the highest grade on that plane of being – He has been made a partaker of the Divine nature. (1 Tim. 1:15; Matt. 20:28; 1 Tim. 2:6; Acts 20:28).
He was "put to death in the flesh, but quickened in spirit." And "Though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him [so] no more." (1 Pet. 3:18; 2 Cor. 5:16). His humanity was all dropped, and so must ours be, for "Flesh" and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God." (1 Cor. 15:50.) Therefore we must be changed to his likeness, which is not human, but "The express image of the Father's person." Let us keep natures separate, and remember that apples, potatoes and peas cannot be blended: nor can horses, dogs and fish; because they are of different natures. So the human and the divine natures cannot be blended because they are different natures. See Paul's definition of the distinctness of natures – "There is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds." 1 Cor. 15:38-41,48.
But in this same exchange the editor asks, "Why will any contemporary hold the editor responsible for expressions of correspondents?" Now we should say that the above expression is not editorial matter, but what of it? We do not criticize the editor's writings only, but the statements of the PAPER. It is the paper which goes forth as a Teacher. Unless said editor endorses the above expression of nonsense he has no right to publish it. Is there no responsibility to either the Church or the head of the Church connected with his position of editor?
During the Jewish age Jehovah was Israel's king, the Most Holy apartment of the Tabernacle, and afterward of the Temple, representing his throne, from which he delivered his rulings through the priesthood. This arrangement was, doubtless, typical of the arrangement for the coming age of restitution.
But we read that the people murmured, and desired a king like the heathen nations about them; and God complied with their wish, giving Saul, David, etc. But while appointing these, God merely allowed them to represent him, as we read: "Solomon sat on the throne of Jehovah as king instead of David his father." (1 Chron. 29:23.) Because of sin, God removed his throne from them (Ezek. 21:26), but promised that Messiah should come as the true King for Jehovah's kingdom, not only over Israel, but over the whole world. When he came to his own they, as a nation, received him not, as foretold. He then gave them up and turned from them to take out a cabinet of official assistants for the kingdom from among the other nations of earth whom they called Gentiles.
These who are called out of the Gentiles are to be the Bride, the Lamb's wife, and joint-heir in His kingdom, but are told that now they cannot reign, but, instead, must suffer and be cast out and despised for their Lord's sake, and be subject to, or under the power of, the earthly authorities; UNTIL the "time comes for the saints to take the kingdom," when "the kingdom under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High." (Dan. 7:27.) But this may not be, until the Lord takes to himself his great power and reigns. His kingdom shall break in pieces and consume all these present evil governments. As the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers. (See Dan. 2:44; Rev. 2:27; Psa. 2:1-9-12.)
For awhile these governments persecuted the church – the saints – as Jesus had foretold should be the case, saying, "Whosoever will live godly [as God directs] shall suffer persecution." But some thought to improve on God's plan, and, instead of suffering, got the church into a reigning position; so, by a combination with earthly empires, they succeeded, and as a result Papacy was exalted and became the "MISTRESS and Queen of nations" (Rev. 17:5 and 18:8).
Results show, how much wiser was God's plan than man's. Everything was changed; instead of suffering came honor; instead of humility came pride; instead of truth came error; instead of being persecuted she became the persecutor of all who condemned her new and illegal honors. Soon she began to invent sophistries and theories to justify her course, first deceiving herself, and then the nations, into the belief that the promised Millennial reign of Christ had come, and that her Popes were His representatives.
It was but another step to declare the Church infallible, and but another step to claim that the Pope, as the head of the Church, Christ's vice-gerent, must be infallible also. Thus, for centuries, she continued to add to her claims and to invent theories of tortures, purgatories, etc., to add to her influence and to give support to her authority, until "She made all nations drunk" with her erroneous doctrines. (Rev. 17:2.) She succeeded in convincing, for the time, the whole world of the truthfulness of her false claims. Then the kings of earth could not accept of a crown without her permission, unless her ministers performed the ceremony, and thus gave it her sanction. Thus she crowned the kings of Europe, and her head, the Pope, blasphemously claimed the proud title of "King of kings and Lord of lords" – the infallible.
When Protestantism sprang up it protested against many of her vices, and spurned her indulgences, disregarded her anathemas, but the right to rule over and appoint kings, and thus reign, was too sweet a pleasure to be cast aside. It proved a snare which hindered the Reformers from seeing that it was one of Papacy's boastful assumptions, hence they clung to this among other marks of the Beast. Protestantism soon began to sanction and appoint earthly potentates in the name of God, thus continuing and countenancing this invention and assumption of Papacy. Following the example of the mother's unlawful union with the world, the Protestant sects were also termed harlots. (Rev. 17:5.)
The recent crowning of the Czar of Russia by the authority, and as the head of the Greek Catholic Church, is an illustration of this principle. Every crowned head in Europe reigns by sanction of some religious system. Indeed, since none object to the principle, it follows that present rulers and their claims are sanctioned by every prominent sect.
What are their claims? Blasphemies! They claim that they reign "by the grace of God" – that God's favor to the nation is shown by His appointment of these to rule their respective States. In the name of God wicked men are often raised to power; in His name they both make and break covenants; in His name they declare war against each other, slaughter thousands, and fill thousands of homes with misery. In God's name they attempt to overthrow each other, whom they admit were appointed of God as much as themselves.
We complain not at their appointment, we interfere not in their exercise of their power, remembering that now we are commanded to be subject to the powers that be, which God has permitted. But say not "By the grace of God," – countenance not in the name of Christianity those whose appointment comes direct from the prince of this world – SATAN – and whose interests they advance. (John 14:30.) [R507 : page 6]
This grand fraud, practiced in the name of Christianity, goes almost unquestioned among Christians, and puts their interests and sympathies on the side of oppression, rather than on the side of human freedom. But the question cannot long lie dormant; the irreligious will soon begin to use their reasoning powers on this question and others, and will act out their convictions so much the more as they realize the imposition practiced by religionists in the name of the Prince of Peace and God of Justice.
As an evidence of the development of thought on this subject, we quote the following from the N.Y. Post of recent date. It says: "Among all the strange beliefs of the race, there is none stranger than that which made God Almighty select with care some of the most ordinary members of the species, often sickly, stupid and vicious, to reign over great communities under his special [R508 : page 6] protection – as His representatives on earth."
To see this evil, or other evils, and not to expose them, is to be partaker in the evil deeds, for silence is CONSENT. We well know that some would counsel prudence, for FEAR of evil results from any change. Yes, fear is a great snare. True, it is the beginning of wisdom to fear the Lord, but even this soon gives way when we come into harmony with Him; for "perfect love casteth out fear." As for prudence, as generally exercised by the world, it has greatly hindered the truth always. It is better termed policy; we want none of it; for we read that God hides His wisdom from the wise and prudent, and reveals it unto those who will utter it unreservedly. (Luke 10:21.)
As for a change, that must come, for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it. We could not prevent it if we would, and those who really appreciate the blessedness of the change, from the dominion of the prince of darkness to that of the Sun of Righteousness, can only desire it.
"For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt." – MARK 9:49.
There are few, if any, words in the Bible that have a wider range of symbolism than the word salt. It is used as a symbol for fidelity, friendship, incorruption, barrenness, perpetual desolation, preservation, etc.
Most every one knows that salt will quickly penetrate vegetable and animal matter; it has the remarkable quality of diffusing itself through the mass, and prevents animal matter from becoming putrid and offensive to the smell.
If we were obliged to consider the above Scripture from an orthodox standpoint, we should rather let it alone than to have anything to say about it; but considered in connection and in harmony with the rules of the "high calling of God in Christ Jesus," as seen by the light of the rising sun, we see that which is intensely interesting, and which should engage our careful thought and earnest attention, and which should incite us to the greatest diligence to make our calling and election sure.
In order to get the connection of the subject complete we must go back to the 43d verse. We there find that Jesus had been teaching the disciples the necessity of separating themselves from everything which should hinder them from meeting the requirements of the law of life, no matter how dear or valuable that object might be. We need only refer to these verses for the connection, as Bro. Smith in the May TOWER, under the head "Eternal Torment," very interestingly treats these verses, to which we refer the readers of this article.
Jesus is not now speaking to the multitude, but to the little company, to those whom he had chosen, for he says, "He that is not against us is on our part, for whosoever shall give you a cup of cold water to drink in my name," etc. Now, these are the same persons referred to by the words "thy hand, thy foot," etc., (verses 43,45 and 47). It is better to cut off half of the offending powers which these organs symbolize, than to retain twice the number to make your destruction complete (for we understand Gehenna, translated hell here, to symbolize complete destruction); "for every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt."
We must not fail to notice the intimate connection between the 49th verse and the former verses by the little word "for," which shows the relation of the statements to each other.
We then read thus: "And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off": "For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt." As God will not accept of a divided heart, nor of divided service, if a part of your powers, symbolized by "hand," "foot," etc., cause you to offend (see margin and R.V.), it would be much better for you to cut it off and to have a single one (for they must be one as to harmony) to enter into life with, than to have two working in opposition, and resulting in utter destruction. "For every one shall be salted with fire."
That this expression is used to describe the condition of the one who should obey the injunction here, to cut off and separate from all offending things, is evident, not only from the connection of the passage to what precedes it, but from a kindred passage in Luke 14:34. In this passage several of the oldest and best manuscripts (among which are the Sinaitic and Vatican) insert after the word salt, the word then. With this thought in mind, let us read the 34th and 35th verses of the 14th chapter of Luke. "So, likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple. Salt, then, is good; but if the salt have lost its savor, wherewith shall it be seasoned?"
This "forsaking all," in order to be a disciple of Christ, we understand to be the salt of fiery trial and separation with which "every one," especially those who will be disciples of Christ, who will follow him fully, "shall be salted"; but it "is good," if the salt have not lost its savor, its strength.
If you are clinging to the world, and worldly ways, and worldly thoughts, and worldly associations, or to a worldly church organization, or to anything that is foreign to the word and spirit of Christ, if such things are at all pleasing to you so that you feel an affinity for them, feel as though you would like to abide there, that you feel more at home there, then the salt is losing, if it has not already lost, its savor.
The Master was so salted, and "it is enough that the disciple be as his Master." It is as though he had said, every one who will follow me, must go through the fiery trial of amputation, must have the dross of base desire consumed, must allow the separating work of the Word to have its course with him, even though it "pierce to the dividing asunder of the soul and spirit (separating worldly life from divine life), of the joints and marrow." If you lose your worldly and sectarian life, if they are bound up together, you have lost that which is gain, for "he who will save his life, shall lose it."
If there is a single ligament or nerve through which affinity with the world, with falsities or evil of any sort, is kept up, let "the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God," divide asunder; and while this painful work is going on, "Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing had happened unto you, but rejoice, inasmuch as (in so far as) ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings."
You are not undergoing these as a means of your reconciliation to God, for you were reconciled, to God by the death of his Son" (not sons); but after "being reconciled, you are saved by his life," which lives and thrives in you after the offending part has been (legally) cut off.
Now, after this obnoxious and corrupting part has been separated and taken away, let us observe the Apostle's exhortation, and "present our bodies (now reckoned, perfect human) a living sacrifice"; but when presenting them, let us remember that in the type, SALT was required to be offered with the sacrifice. "With all thine offerings thou shalt offer salt" (Lev. 2:13). Here it is, doubtless, used as a type of, and in the text under consideration, as the symbol of fidelity, loyalty and incorruption.
When we present our bodies as a sacrifice, though it be a living sacrifice, it is understood that it is consecrated to death; it is thenceforth counted ("reckoned") dead indeed unto the world. Let, then, the salt of fidelity and loyalty be sprinkled well over it and diffused well through it; let that fidelity keep watch over it; that no unclean birds of prey may swoop down upon it, nor wild beasts of passion carry it off. Let it lay there before God, so well salted that it shall not become corrupt before him and a stench in his nostrils. While it is so kept, it is a "holy" sacrifice. It is not a lame lamb, nor a blind one, that we are offering by faith unto him, but it is one that meets the requirements of his holy law, and is holy and acceptable unto God.
Christ Jesus gave himself for us "an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savor." It was sweet-smelling, because it was well salted with fidelity, he being "faithful to him that appointed him." Let us also be faithful to him that appointed us.
But if we become careless and neglect the salt, the sacrifice, which otherwise would have been acceptable, will become offensive unto him on account of corruption (unfaithfulness), then, instead of receiving a blessing, we should receive a curse (Mal. 1:14).
Let us be glad that we are permitted to see the radiant symbolism of God's Word; and may we not only submit to, but volunteer to be "salted with fire," then we shall be prepared to offer an acceptable sacrifice that shall be "salted with salt."
Thus saith the Lord, "I will bring the third part (not necessarily one-third) through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried; they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, it is my people; and they shall say, the Lord is my God (Zech. 13:9).
EDITOR WATCH TOWER: – I read your article in the April number upon "The Passover," and am well pleased with it. I believe the Lord's Supper is the Christian's substitute for the Jewish Passover, and should be observed annually; but upon one point you did not speak out. I refer to the kind of wine to be used in this Supper. You suggested that "unleavened bread" be used, which I think is perfectly correct, but I ask, What kind of wine should be used? You teach correctly, I think, that leaven is the type of sin, etc., and therefore not a fit type of Christ's purity. I think the same of fermented, or leavened wine. It is not pure, and therefore not a fit emblem of Christ's blood! But you did not teach us that we ought to use fresh, pure wine instead of the kind that "biteth like a serpent and stingeth like an adder."
Can any substance be a proper emblem of Christ's pure and precious blood after that substance has fermented and becomes poisonous? I conclude that good wine is just as important to a proper celebration of the Lord's Supper as unleavened bread. Hoping you will think and speak of these things, I am yours truly.
In our desire to do nothing to hinder the cause of Total Abstinence, with which we sympathize, we have heretofore refrained from commenting specially on the subject mentioned above, but a number of inquiries, recently, show that the subject is active and needs a reply.
We remark first, that there are many things about our climate and the restless, excited methods of our day, which almost inevitably lead men to excessive use of intoxicating liquors when once its use is commenced. Not only so, but it seems evident that most of the intoxicating liquors, manufactured at the present time, are drugged and adulterated in a manner that greatly increases the dangers and evils resulting from their use.
For these reasons we give the Prohibitionists our sympathy, either in the enforcement of the present laws against those who adulterate liquors, or we should rejoice if they be able (which we doubt) to procure the enactment of new laws which would entirely stop its manufacture and sale. But this, we think, will not be accomplished until the prince of this world – Satan – is bound.
But notwithstanding our sympathy – notwithstanding also our knowledge of the fact that the sympathies and prejudices, too, of a majority of our readers is on the side of Total Abstinence – yet, if we speak, it must be what we consider truth – truth, no matter whose idol is broken or whose theories suffer; and here it is:
The claim is often repeated by zealous temperance advocates, that the Bible never countenances the use of intoxicating wine. They say that the wine Jesus made and drank was simply grape juice and not wine, and that a different Greek word is used when referring to these different liquors. We answer that this is a mistake. The Greek word gleukos, which means grape juice or "new wine," occurs but once in the New Testament (Acts 2:13), and its use there indicates that, if used to excess, it would confuse the mind. The word from which wine is translated, in every other instance in the New Testament, is oinos, and signifies grape wine of the usual sort, which always intoxicates when used to excess.
But, it is suggested, that if wine contains the elements of leaven it would prove that it was not what Jesus used in instituting "the Supper." We will admit, that if this were so, it would prove what is claimed; but it is not so. Temperance orators may and do, make this statement, doubtless often ignorantly, but scientific men recognize quite a difference between alcoholic or vinous fermentation and putrefactive fermentation. The result of the former process is to cast out impurities and produce a sweet and pleasant liquid as in wine, while the other process produces sourness and ultimately rottenness. This last process is employed in leavening bread, the decay or fungus growth being arrested in its very early development by baking.
So far as the Jewish custom is concerned, it disproves instead of proves the claim that wine contains the leaven quality, for the Jews use wine at the Passover and put away leaven. They use the REAL wine. The claim that unfermented grape-juice was what the Lord used, we can see to be incorrect in another way: The vintage season in Palestine was September and October, and the Passover was about six months later. The wine made in October would of necessity be fermented before April.
The testimony of Jesus is that old wine is better than new (Luke 5:39; John 2:10); and the fact that the wine they used did ferment, is shown by the parable concerning the putting of new wine (in which alcoholic fermentation was not finished) into old bottles [skins] which had been used before, and, having lost their elasticity, would burst under the expansion of gasses caused by the ferment.
But, as before remarked, the circumstances, climate, etc., here, as well as the purity of the liquors, differ much from those of Jesus and the Apostles; and if any one should feel himself endangered by tasting wine at the remembrance of our Lord's death, we would [R509 : page 7] recommend that such a one should use raisin-juice instead, which, though not wine, is certainly a "fruit of the vine." We provide the raisin-juice every year, but it was used by only one person at our last celebration of the Supper.
And the fifth poured out his bowl on the THRONE of the BEAST and his KINGDOM was DARKENED, and they bit their tongues because of the pain, and blasphemed the God of heaven on account of their pains ["and their ulcers" is omitted by Sinaitic MS.] and they reformed not ["from their works" is omitted by Sinaitic MS.] – Rev. 16:10,11.
This pictures to us trouble coming upon Papacy (the Beast); not so much upon the masses of Romanists as upon those in authority, its rulers – the throne power – their clergy. Papacy's walls are higher, its claims are stronger, and its claims to divine authority and infallibility of longer standing than those of the Protestant system – her daughters; therefore she the longer escapes the increasing light of this "Day of the Lord," and hence the longer escapes the trouble consequent to her errors.
But she shall not escape the trouble. It comes on the throne or ruling class, and their kingdom is filled with darkness – uncertainty – absence of former unity and harmony, and in their trouble the pain will be increased by tongue-biting. The tongues of Papacy are its decrees and utterances, past and future. To bite, then, in pain, implies contradiction and denial of former utterances. Whether this signifies a contradiction and reversal of previous utterances of the Papal hierarchy, or whether it means controversy and differences between the living rulers of the Church, we may not decide, but it will probably include both of these difficulties, and in their attempt to justify their contradictory teachings, God's character will be further dishonored, misrepresented, or blasphemed.
As an illustration of this symbol, "biting their tongues," we note Papacy's present humiliating concessions and contradiction of her former teachings, in her present recognition of the Protestant governments of Europe, which Papacy not only did not create, but actually cursed, and encouraged her faithful to use every means to destroy. This biting is occasioned by the pain and humbled condition in which Papacy finds herself. She has lost all temporal power, and to maintain long her spiritual influence, feels that she must not antagonize the governments which she can no longer claim the right to control.
When we remember that it was this same Papal system which in its prosperity had "a mouth speaking great things" (Dan. 7:8-25; Rev. 13:5), making boastful claims, it should not surprise us that God should ordain as part of its reward that it should eat its own words.
Literal Babylon was built upon the river Euphrates. Its wealth, supplies and sustenance came largely from this source. It had immense walls and strong gates over the river. Within the city, in bondage, were Israelites, God's covenant people, and to overthrow Babylon and deliver these God appointed Cyrus the Median General. (Isa. 45:1-5; Dan. 5:30,31.) He, coming to this strong city, did not attack it directly, but, by digging another channel for the waters of the river, he dried up the old [R510 : page 7] channel, through which he marched his army under the gates and captured the city.
That this historic fact is used as the basis of a symbol in Revelation, none can question. Babylon and her fall are frequently mentioned, and here the drying up of the Euphrates adds to the correspondence. While "Babylon" is used as a general name for the entire nominal Church, it is used and is specially applicable to that portion of it called "the mother of HARLOTS." This sixth plague, or form of evil, is upon Babylon, the mother, and while other systems have channels, or rivers, her system is built upon the "GREAT RIVER." "And in her forehead was the name written BABYLON THE GREAT, the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth." (Rev. 17:5.) Following the literal, and applying it to the symbol, we reason that the waters of this great river represent the people who, by their influence and money, support Papacy – from which Babylon the great draws her revenues. And to this agrees the explanation by the angel: "The waters which thou sawest where the harlot sitteth are peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues." (Rev. 17:15.) The millions of Papacy's subjects are of every tongue and clime, and this symbol shows that a disaffection is to spring up between the subjects and the church authorities which will turn aside her support and "dry up" her revenues, and thus speedily lead to Babylon's complete destruction. "The drying up" will probably require years for its accomplishment.
The direct cause of the drying will be the relationship existing between Papacy and the kingdoms of earth. Papacy, under the claim that it was Christ's vice-gerent – His representative – in the days of her prosperity claimed the right to appoint the kings of earth, and did so; and subjects had a right TO REBEL against any government or king not thus recognized by Papacy. Since she has lost her power over the kingdoms of earth, she does not press this old claim, but would rather conciliate all the kingdoms; both those which she appointed and those appointed and sanctioned by other daughter churches. In this she is arraying herself directly on the side of these kingdoms, and in opposition to the increasing desire and effort of the people for liberty. Therefore, when present tendencies have produced a closer affiliation of religion and State than has existed for some time, it will result in leading the masses to throw off the yoke of the Church as well as the State, since both will be leagued against their cherished ideas of liberty and equality. The support of the people – the waters of the Euphrates – being thus withdrawn, the Babylon Church organization will become weak and helpless, by reason of the drying up of the waters from its channel.
A hint in this direction is furnished in the history of the past month. Though the rulership of Great Britain is not of Papacy's appointment, and in fact was created in violation of her laws and claims, yet the Pope has issued a "bull" or edict to its faithful in Ireland commanding both priests and people to desist from hostility toward the laws and government of England. Not to speak of the merits of the question, this action is certainly contrary to the previous claims and theories of this Church; and from their words it is evident that some of the Irish people are not slow to see this. At a public meeting held to consider the Pope's edict, a famous orator among them (Charles O'Brien) said, "The Irish people will neither be ruled by Rome nor Westminster." [The Protestant Irish are mostly Presbyterian, ruled by the principles of the "Westminster Confession of Faith."] And among the masses it was freely proposed to "Boycott the Pope" by refusing to pay "Peter's pence" (a regular collection among Romanists, the world over, for the support of the Pope). Does not this look like a beginning of the turning away or drying up of one of the tributaries of that "great river"? As surely as God has given the symbol, so surely will it be fulfilled, and even now it hasteth greatly.
The "drying up" is "to prepare the way of the kings from the Sun-rising." These kings we understand to be the saints – those who, with Christ, will be "kings and priests" to reign over the earth. (Rev. 10:5.[Rev. 20:6? - site Editor]) They come, not to the Sun-rising, but from the Sun-rising. They come bringing light with them. This is a beautiful symbol of how "the righteous shall shine forth as the Sun in the kingdom of their Father." They bring with them light, liberty and joy to the groaning creation, for "The Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in his wings." The object of all these changes is to prepare mankind for the rule of righteousness – the kingdom really of God's appointment which is to take the place of these which Anti-christ has attempted to authorize. "And I saw out of the MOUTH of the DRAGON, and out of the MOUTH of the BEAST, and out of the MOUTH of the FALSE PROPHET, three impure spirits like frogs" (verse 13). The DRAGON, as before explained, symbolizes civil government (especially that which once constituted civil Rome). The BEAST still and always, means Papacy. The FALSE PROPHET is a new symbol, and takes the place of both the "two-horned beast" and "the image of the beast," and, we believe, is a still more comprehensive symbol, representing all systems teaching error – those called "orthodox" as well as many considered heterodox. These three classes will all give forth one kind of teaching, called symbolically unclean spirits (impure, erroneous teaching), like frogs.
This harmonious teaching in which these can all unite, we believe to be the dogmas of "the divine right of kings," the "authority of the clergy," and the claim that mankind is bound to submit to these and be controlled by them. Many of these – kings and clergy – and many of those who will recognize their claims, will doubtless be honest, but will be thus in opposition to God, because they know not that they are in the hour of his judgment, and that the time for the displacement of these Anti-christs, and the governments of their appointing, has come. It is a blessed fact that these beastly governments will eventually give place to the kingdom of God; that the times of the Gentiles will END by being FULL-filled; and while this is now due to be understood and appreciated by the saints – those entirely consecrated to God's word and will – yet "none of the wicked shall understand": hence they will be found fighting against God and his arrangements.
Frogs have a very wise look, large mouths, are much puffed up, and utter only croakings. These doctrines, called spirits in symbol, which are to be common to these three classes, frog-like – much puffed up – are proclaimed with great swelling words, with a show of superior wisdom – wise look – and with much croaking.
In brief, this indicates that when these systems give forth these unclean spirits or doctrines of the divine rights of kings and clergy and submission of the people as to God, it will be with boastfulness, an attempt to overawe with dignity, superior wisdom and ability, and with continual allusion to the disasters which must attend any change of present arrangements. This croaking, already beginning, as this darkness of trouble draws on, will increase with it. It will be heard from every mouthpiece, large and small, religious and political, officers and press. In fear they will be uttering warnings and threats, and few will be the independents to plead the cause of right, or to show that the time for the reign of righteousness has come, and hence the conflict.
These are the "spirits of demons, working signs," i.e., doctrines of devils – the devils' theory relative to present evil governments, indirectly of Satan's appointment, through his agencies. These doctrines show signs in proof of their authority. They will give evidences and seemingly plausible reasons for the rights of kings and clergy; chief among these will doubtless be God's appointment of kings and priests over fleshly Israel – which, however, was typical of the church and not of worldly systems (1 Peter 2:9).
These unclean spirits, erroneous doctrines, "go forth to the kings of the whole habitable earth, to gather them together for the war [conflict between right and wrong] of the great day of the omnipotent God." (verse 14.) The kings of the whole world may properly be supposed, in symbol, to include not only kings, but princes, generals, also those termed financial kings and merchant princes, and the GREAT ONES among religious teachers. These classes influence and encourage each other with this impure doctrine of Satan – hence they gather or unite them all together on the one side of the conflict already drawing nigh. Were it not for this harmony and unity inspired by this teaching, each of these classes of kings and rulers would have felt the weakness and erroneousness of their claims, and truth might have prevailed more easily against them; but in their union they find strength and hope for success in retaining their hold upon the people.
"And THEY gathered them together into THAT PLACE which is called in Hebrew ARMAGEDDON" (verse 16). Armageddon means mount of DESTRUCTION; and this describes what will be the result of this doctrine. It will unite all these systems in one cause as against the masses of the people and their liberties, and the result will be the total destruction of all those erroneous systems of Church and State. They shall fall.
The fifteenth verse is abruptly thrown in as a parenthesis. It reads literally thus: "Lo, I come AS A THIEF! Blessed the one WATCHING and keeping the garments of himself; so that not naked HE may walk, and they see the shame of HIM." This is very significant. It declares that at the time when this evil doctrine will be apparently uniting all upon the side of law and order – upon the side of kings and clergy – our Lord will then be PRESENT, but secretly and unknown except to the watching ones. [R511 : page 7] Only those who are truly his and watching in the light of his Word will not be deceived by this impure teaching, but will realize his presence and the necessity of the foretold fall of all these things, because the rightful king is present to remove these out of the way of his kingdom.
Seven is often used as the symbol of completeness; so this seventh plague completes the trouble coming, and will result in the complete unveiling of Satan's deceptions and the binding or destruction of his power and influence. The result of this trouble brings conviction to some. This is shown by the great voice from the Temple, saying, "It HAS been done!" (Literal translation.) When last we saw the temple, or the nominal church, it was filling with smoke and casting out the faithful messengers of truth, saying, "Go your ways; pour out the plagues; do all you can" (Rev. 15:8; 16:1). Boastfully relying on internal strength; but now, when the seventh has been poured out, we hear this nominal temple saying, "It has been done"; we are now convinced of the truths uttered by the faithful messengers whom, in our ignorance and pride, we cast out from us: Who told us that we were in darkness and great distress was coming upon us, and that our systems, which we so fondly cherished, were to crumble into dust. It has been done even as they declared; Babylon is utterly destroyed; as a great millstone cast into the sea, she shall rise no more.
This temple class, which finally recognizes God's dealings when these systems are entirely destroyed, is the same which we have found elsewhere mentioned in Scripture, and which we have designated the second company, who, though losing the prize promised to overcomers of the Beast, etc. (Rev. 20:4), are "saved so as by fire [these severe judgments] in the day of the Lord Jesus." This blessed result upon this second company gives us an intense interest in and longing for the destruction of the enslaving systems mentioned [R511 : page 8] in succeeding verses as the result of this seventh trouble.
"And there were lightnings and thunders and voices." This describes the general effect on mankind; lightnings signifies diffusion of knowledge. "His lightnings enlightened the world" (Psa. 97:4). Voices signify proclamations and general discussion of subjects by those being enlightened. Thunderings signify tumults accompanying the increased enlightenment.
"And there was a great EARTHQUAKE; such as was not since a man was on the earth, such an earthquake – so great. And the GREAT CITY became three parts, and the city [Sinaitic reading] of the nations fell down" (v. 18).
An earthquake would symbolize a revolution, and here brings to our attention the greatest revolution which ever has or ever will take place on earth. This is the great revolution mentioned by the Prophet, in which every mountain and hill (the high ones) should be brought low, and the valleys (humble ones) be exalted, bringing all humanity to a common level as a preparation for the righteous reign of the Lord's Anointed. Each of the previous plagues has tended toward this end, and this last results in the utter overthrow of the triple alliance or association between the Beast (Papacy), the False Prophet (other religious systems teaching error), and the Dragon (civil power), shown under the sixth plague.
The Great City here evidently represents these united three elements which attempted in union to rule over or control the world. This union and power will continue for awhile, but, as here shown, they will again separate – be divided into three parts. Seeing that their alliance and mutual support has failed to control and keep subject the restless and turbulent masses, each will attempt to adopt an individual policy in their effort to adjust and settle society. But their efforts will be fruitless, and will only hasten the crisis of the hour. As a consequence, we read: "The city of the nations fell down."
But, though the kingdoms shall fall, the religious element of the union shall not escape. Under the name Babylon they all seem to be included (as elsewhere), saying, "Babylon the great was remembered before God, to have given her the cup of the wine of the indignation of the wrath" (verse 19). This signifies that the fiercest of the trouble – the wine or extract of the wrath – will be upon the Babylon systems more than upon the political division.
"And every ISLAND fled and no MOUNTAINS were found." (verse 20.) [Islands seem to symbolize Republican governments – organizations of people slightly above the "sea" level.] This would be the natural result of the overthrow of monarchies or kingdoms, symbolically called mountains, as indicated in Psa. 97:5. "The hills (literal, mountains) melted and flowed down like wax at the PRESENCE OF THE LORD, at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth." This is a grandly expressive illustration of the passing away of earth's dominion. In this day of the Lord – the day of His presence, the day of the establishment of his kingdom in the earth – some of the mountains [kingdoms] will melt, or gradually come down to the level of the people, by the fire and great heat, caused by increase of truth and knowledge, while others remaining firm will be overwhelmed – by the "sea" – in revolutions. This last form is described in Psalm 46, which seems to give a complete picture of this seventh plague. It reads thus: "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble; therefore will we not fear though the earth [society] be removed, and though the mountains [kingdoms] be carried into the midst of the sea [overthrown by the ungovernable masses]: Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled [in great commotion], though the mountains shake with the swellings thereof." Then follows a more literal statement of the same things. (verse 6.) "The heathen [lit. Gentiles] raged, the kingdoms were moved; he uttered his voice, the earth melted."
While kingdoms [mountains] shall give place to republics, [islands] so the islands in due time shall also flee away, as we find it here recorded. (Rev. 16:20.) That is, the spirit of liberty will overleap all bounds and order, and end in anarchy. But notice that when the republics are swept away, it will be after kingdoms have all been overturned, as indicated by the expression – "No mountains were found."
It is in a similar manner that the Master speaks of the "sea and waves roaring" as the beginning of trouble and cause of fear. And Peter refers to this time of trouble, which shall burn as an oven, as the time when the earth and all earthly elements shall be consumed and give place to a new earth [society] and new heavens [government], then there shall be no more sea [people not religiously restrained]. "And a great HAIL, as if weighing a talent, comes down from heaven on men; and men blasphemed God on account of the plague of the hail, because the plague of it is exceedingly great." (Verse 21.)
Hail is solidified water. If water or rain, causing fruitfulness and refreshing to earth, be a symbol of truth, refreshing and causing gracious fruits in humanity, then hail must signify truth delivered in such a way as to be dangerously destructive to things with which it comes in conflict. These will be heavy – a talent each – about the weight of a man – sufficient to break down everything before it. This recalls the symbolic use of this same word by Isaiah "And the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies and the waters (truth) shall overflow the hiding place." (Isa. 28:17). Untruth – error – falsity, is the bane of the world, and the time of trouble would be incomplete, and the world still unprepared for the reign of righteousness, were it not for this hail. Recalling a similar plague which came literally upon Egypt, we find that it injured only those Egyptians who had not respect to the words of Jehovah (See Exod. 9:19-21); and we may safely reckon the same of this symbolic hail; it will smite down and subdue only those who are in opposition to it, and that for their good.
We need not suppose that this hail comes last, for in giving an account something must be mentioned last if all occurred simultaneously. These various things described will occur, or be in process at once – voices, thunderings, hail and lightning among the people, causing the earthquake, fall of Babylon, and mountains, etc. This is more than hinted at, in the fact that these same events, mentioned under the seventh seal and seventh trumpet, are mentioned indiscriminately as one event.
The hail, be it remembered, "comes down from heaven": heaven, as already defined, symbolizes spiritual powers, but not any longer corrupt and vitiated spiritual powers, for these have passed away. Babylon has been cast as a millstone into the "sea" to rise no more. This is the new "heavens" which shall gradually take the place of the old, which is to "pass away with a great noise" or tumult – voices, thunderings, &c. Yes, thank God, he that in verse 15 announces his presence as a thief will have not only broken down the kingdoms of the present, but will also have set up that kingdom for which our Lord taught us to pray: Thy kingdom come; thy will be done on earth as in heaven. "Sing unto the Lord, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness; for his anger endureth but a moment; in his favor is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning." (Psa. 30:4,5).
During the session of the Ninety-Fifth General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of the United States, held recently at Saratoga, Dr. Herrick Johnson, of Chicago, in his opening address, speaking of the peril within the Presbyterian body, said:
"The Church is rapidly approaching calamity. It is threatened with a famine of preachers. Our Church numbers 5,741 congregations, and by no possible figuring can ministers be made to match churches. Take in every stated supply and retired minister, and still 500 churches are pastorless. When the taper burns at both ends look out for darkness. There are no grounds of hoped-for relief in the colleges and theological seminaries to supply the demand. The trend is continually the wrong way. Of the students in twelve colleges in the last decade, only nineteen per cent entered or proposed to enter the ministry. The loss has gone too far not to injure the Church. Unless it be retrieved, disaster follows."
This is indeed, a gloomy outlook, and we do not wonder that the Moderator of the Assembly views it with alarm. This is the more reasonable when we consider that the Presbyterian body within the past few years has not grown to any extent numerically stronger. It indicates a growing apathy among its members to take an active interest in the teaching and propagation of the Presbyterian tenets. But this apathy, this lack of vocations to the ministry is not confined to the Presbyterian body; the same wail of grief comes from the other denominations in the Protestant fold. The young men who enter their course of studies ostensibly for the purpose of becoming the exponents of the particular tenets of their respective creeds, are drawn away by the attractions of the world and embrace other avocations. While this dearth in the ministry exists, medicine, law and other professions are overcrowded, and while the aspirants to worldly honors are nominally members of the Protestant congregations, they, as a rule, take no interest in church affairs beyond attending service when it suits them and contributing liberally to the support of their pastors and their Church institutions.– Catholic Mirror.
While men are absorbed in their little cares, alternately moved by hopes and fears, the grand and stately march of human events progress onward and irresistibly to completion in the fulfillment of an inevitable law which controls all human action. Men here and there raise their puny voices as if to stay this tide of advancement, arrest this fiat of the Eternal. As well might they attempt to stay the law which governs the universe. Races have as fixed a course to run as have the stars that dazzle in the blue vault above us, and the race of Israel is the bright fixed star amongst them. In all its wanderings it has been true to its course. Its mission has been foreseen and foretold and its final restoration to the Holy Land prophesied. That this prophecy is being fulfilled the signs of the times indicate. It is being accomplished so quietly and so gradually that only those who have given the subject attention realize the importance of the work done. Our readers are to-day presented with a comprehensive statement of acts, facts and opinions in regard to this historic enterprise which cannot fail to interest all thoughtful minds. The picture presented has in it the essence of romance. It is at once real and ideal. Aside from the prophetic features of the subject, the political importance is of the deepest significance.
Palestine is a political necessity to the Jewish race. The founding of a nation in the Holy Land once more, means an exaltation of all Israel. It places her as a nation amongst the nations of the earth. It gives to the Jew that political power and sovereign right which means protection. It makes him a citizen of his country, and gives him a passport amongst the nations of the earth.... This may look impracticable to the man in the counting-room absorbed in his books, to the man in his store absorbed in figuring up his profits and losses, to the man steeped in the bliss of social pleasures, but it is as clear as the noonday's sun to whoever makes a study of the political horoscope.
The political autonomy realized, the Jews scattered throughout the world will not flock to Palestine in a body. There are 300,000 Jews in Asia, 400,000 in Africa, and 5,000,000 live in Europe. It is from these that Palestine will draw its life of restoration. The American-born Jew will undoubtedly remain an American, and if he should ever visit the Holy Land it would be for pleasure and travel and to see a land so famous as the chief birthplace of his heroic race.
It may be said that geographically speaking Palestine is too small to exert much influence as a political, intellectual or moral power among the nations of the earth. We reply that in ancient times Greece was a power, and that in modern times the little island of Britain is a power. Geographically speaking, what are they? It is intellect, moral force and pride of nationality that make nations great, and not extent of territory. It is intellect and moral power that will make Israel renowned among nations.– Jewish Messenger.
This is a trying period for those to whom the light comes. Satan seems to use every art to hinder a thorough investigation of the truth. Some he crowds with business. To some he opens up what would seem like good chances to success. Others he crowds with household duties and cares. He draws many into small reforms, and urges them to give more and more of their time and energies to the seemingly noble work. He fills up the spare time of others with social enjoyments or little recreations or relaxations. Anything and everything to keep us from giving ourselves wholly to the most important work that any have ever had the privilege of doing. To keep up with advancing light will require much study. We need to test every call upon our time by the questions, Will it be more to the glory of God that I do this than to study his Word? If it is necessary, How can I best hasten it so as to leave more time to devote to his work?
"A young man, unmarried, in Priest's Orders, energetic worker, vigorous preacher, and who can say or sing and celebrate in a Catholic manner the Offices of the Church, wishes to become the Rector of a Parish, or an Assistant. Address," etc.
You pay your money and you take your choice, whether you will have him "say" those Offices in a Protestant manner or "sing and celebrate them in a Catholic manner."– Independent.