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.
Foreign Postage being higher, our terms to foreign subscribers will be 65 cents a year. Please send us no foreign money or postage stamps, as we can make no use of them. Remittances may be made by Foreign Postal Money Orders.
This paper will be sent free to any of the Lord's poor who will send a card yearly requesting it. Freely we have received and freely we would give the truth. "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters; and he that hath no money, come ye, buy and eat – yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price." And you that have it – "Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labor for that which satisfieth not? Hearken diligently – and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness." – ISAIAH 55:1,2.
WE have many questions from correspondents which may be found answered in back numbers of Z.W.T. "Food" and "Tabernacle Teachings," which we do not therefore answer again in Z.W.T. Please consult these before sending questions, that the questions may be of fresh and general interest to all the readers.
ADVICE TO LETTER WRITERS: – (1) Write plainly. (2) Give date, name and address in full. (3) Make each letter complete in itself, as we cannot always recall particulars of former letters. (4) Write orders on separate slip from the letter. (5) When desiring your address changed, give the old as well as the new address.
Compliance with the above suggestions will greatly facilitate our office work and save much valuable time. Quite frequently parties forget to sign their names, and addresses must be guessed at from a blurred post mark, which sometimes cannot be done.
If time would permit, we would gladly give more attention to private correspondence with the many whose welcome letters daily reach our office. We do all we can in this direction, and wherein we may appear to be delinquent, we trust the charity of our correspondents will be duly exercised.
Many interesting letters from various parts, both across the waters and in our own country, give evidence of the fact that though iniquity abounds and the love of many waxes cold, still the Lord has a people consecrated and endeavoring to carry out that consecration in their daily life.
It is comforting to those who stand isolated in their own neighborhood to realize this. There are many such isolated ones, and all have much the same experience – in the world, tribulation; in Christ, peace. It is also a source of encouragement to learn that while we realize that the harvest is great the laborers are being multiplied, and that so far as we can learn, the saints are realizing their call to make known the glad tidings, and that though their talents be many or few they are not to be folded away in a napkin. We have learned that there are as many ways to preach the Gospel as there are talents among the saints.
We rejoice with all these that we have been so enabled to comprehend the Gospel as to find that out of the abundance of the heart our mouth must speak; that the love of Christ and the knowledge of his glorious truth constraineth us.
But while we thus rejoice together, we can but rejoice with trembling as we realize the secret, subtle, and persevering efforts of the Prince of this world to overcome the saints. No artifice or effort is left untried: Opposition, ridicule, rejection, flattery, false reasoning to disprove the truth, cares of this world, bribery with the good things of this world, and allurements of various kinds, are all used as the necessities of the individual cases may require.
This being the case, how important that we give heed to the Apostle's instruction: "Take unto you the whole armor of God that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day." (Eph. 6:13.) Our prayers for ourselves and each other should be constant. To him that overcometh, is the glory that follows. May grace divine enable us to endure hardness as good soldiers.
MY DEAR BROTHER: – The enclosed has been waiting the opportunity of my writing for some days past. I wanted to write a long note, but you will at any rate be saved the trouble of reading and answering a lengthy epistle, as I have not time to say all or ask all I should like, and I should not be surprised if, among so many, I had by this time slipped out of your memory altogether. However this may be, I have been diligently studying and searching the Scriptures.
I was most unwilling to give up the old belief, but I am not anything less than forced to do so. Every day's reading and study convinces me that you have the truth on your side. Indeed I am astonished at the amount of light shining and showing up the old sparkling diamonds among the accumulated rubbish of so many centuries. God's word is more sweet and precious now than it ever has been. Am doing my work in a quiet sort of way. Am no orator or speaker, but I can talk privately with thinking and sincere Christians. The real Bible students I can get along with best. The nominal Christian cannot argue from the Word; he can only say, "Well, I believe this and that," simply because others have done the same. Of course it is not worth while giving the time to such, but the more thoughtful will hear you again. I am more convinced every day that the time is very near when the musty dogmas must go down, and the truth as it is in Jesus prevail.
Very faithfully yours,
DEAR BROTHER: – You may have wondered why I have not written you more often. It is not that I have felt no interest in the ZION'S WATCH TOWER and its teachings; on the contrary, I have been much enlightened through its instructions. Since my first acquaintance with the TOWER I have felt its magnetism of truth so powerfully that whenever it comes I can hardly lay it down until I have read it through and through. No paper of my life has given me such thirsting for Bible truth, and respect for it, as the TOWER. I held a connection with the Methodist Episcopal Church for over forty years. While there is much in it worthy of respect and imitation, yet I much regret the errors into which I have fallen through her teachings and doctrines. To-day she, in my estimation, sustains very much the same character as the Jewish church at Christ's first advent. My observations of her practice and teaching (though professing faith in Christ) compares with the Jewish quite well. True, she openly declares for Christ, but makes void much truth through her traditions. How millions of those who have died through Adamic taint are to come to a knowledge of the truth by the mode indicated in their teaching is what I can't comprehend. I have had many conversations with members of various denominations, nearly all expressing much surprise at what I say to them. While some are inclined to accept the truth, others shake the head and move on in ignorance. While I do not as yet feel that my knowledge is complete, still under the TOWER light I am able to see much more clearly than heretofore. Many passages with my former training meaningless are made plain and harmonious by the TOWER light. In a sense, I feel cut off from associations of Christians, since I find myself alone in my views, and the TOWER becomes my only companion and associate. I regret that I do not have some one to talk with personally who is in sympathy with us. I am fighting alone and single-handed, and thus far have met none sufficiently qualified to overthrow what to me seems clearly the truth. I see much in others good, and much that needs correction, and as I am subject to good and evil influences myself, and a partaker in common with others of their effects, my sympathies go to all suffering conditions of humanity. The thought that some powerful agency in its correction will be used, strongly impresses me. Since the nominal church is faulty and can exercise but a feeble power for good, and that she is the Image of the Beast, and the Babylon of Scripture, that some other agency must and will be used to bring about the needed reform, seems clear. How many in the days of Noah, before the flood, recognized the gathering storm? How many in the Jewish age recognized that their house was left desolate? How many in the Christian age realize a gathering storm? How many houses are now on a rock foundation? How many will stand the coming tempest? I see the gathering storm, and hear the muttering thunder. The forces are organizing for the conflict, and I must set my house in order. In Christian fellowship,
MR. C. T. RUSSELL: – Dear Sir: – Some of your papers and a little book ("Food for Thinking Christians") have fallen into my hands. I find them decidedly interesting and instructive indeed, throwing light on hitherto seemingly unfathomable mysteries. I desire to further consult them because I have not yet seen enough of your views to indiscriminately endorse them, but I must say, how plain! how very reasonable your explanation of the Scriptures! Calvinism teaches that God is a tyrant. That everything is transpiring according to an eternal and fixed decree. In short, it might be called eternal fatality, while Arminianism teaches that God is trying to save the world, but can't do so without our help, and can only partially succeed with it; that he is neither all-powerful nor allwise. Each seems to leave out a link in the golden chain of truth, for a God that is not possessed of all these attributes in connection with others is not fit to be worshiped. They call your doctrine a "new doctrine," yet I'm persuaded that it is not entirely new to non-sectarian Bible students. I think I can distribute a dozen or so of each of your tracts to advantage. Of course I could distribute many more, but they will do the prejudiced no good, for they have a fixed opinion, and you know there is no use in "casting pearls before swine."
DEAR BRO.: – Please find enclosed $1, for which please continue to send the TOWER, by which I have been so blessed in knowledge of the Lord's doing. It seems to me that at the rate the clouds of darkness are drifting from off the pages of that great book, the Bible will stand clear of every questioning point. Well, I am doing the best I can to spread the true Gospel, and to help others to see the light. Must say a word of praise in regard to the article on the flood in the June number, showing that God had an object in the flood besides furnishing an example to all who would live afterwards, the crooks are being made straight.
DEAR SIR: – About twelve months ago your pamphlet entitled Food for Thinking Christians came into my possession. It has been rich food to me and to others to whom we explain the truths contained therein. There are some who accept the truth and their faces lighten with joy at the perfect plan of salvation which is to all people; others reject it and me, like a pestilence. This we can bear for Jesus' sake. In my estimation the little book is next to my Bible. It has shown the grace of God in a clearer light, and with greater beauty than we ever saw it before. On the last page of food, there is the promise of more to follow, if we ask for it. We claim the promise and ask. Will you please send two or three copies of the Tabernacle and its teachings, for which we shall wait, with great desire, to be fed with more food from our Master's table. Will you please send also another copy of Food, because the one that we have is getting so much worn, that we have to paste some of it together. If we had many copies of it we could page 2 judiciously give them away. We pray that the Lord will bless you more abundantly.
Though strangers in the flesh, we can say we are one in the bonds of the Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL: – I herewith send 50 cents, for which please send the TOWER to __________. This brother has been reading your publications the past year, and he says he has learned more real theology from them than he ever found before. He stands firm for the truth whenever opportunity offers. He and I are quietly working to scatter light, not without some hope of success. The ignorance of the masses of even the nominal church is truly surprising.
DEAR MRS. RUSSELL: – Your card is at hand. Thank you for your kind wishes, and remembrance of me before God, for I am sorely persecuted by my best friends; yet I have a sweet, deep peace beyond all comprehension, feeling nothing but pity for the blind and deaf. I am told that I am taking slow poison; that on peril of my soul I must burn all your papers; but I would burn my daily bread sooner. How much that sounds like Catholicism! I have been one of those who worked without ceasing in the nominal church, hence they are determined to try to bring me to my senses. The deacon has refused to take my name from the church; but I have written a second time telling him from henceforth I stand with you and your company. Since I have taken a stand for the truth, God has revealed to me plainer than ever that this is the way in which I should walk. I feel at times like a rock, and as though my life were the forfeit. I will not dissemble in spite of all opposition. The seed is taking root in Kansas, my former home. I expect to return in about one year, then I hope by the grace of God to be able to lead some out of bondage, and strengthen the weak. I must not let what talents are entrusted to me rust out.
"I charge thee before God and the Lord Jesus Christ...preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine....Be thou sober in all things; suffer bad treatment; perform an evangelist's work; fully accomplish thy service." (2 Tim. 4:1,2,5, Diaglott and Common Tran.)
We have heretofore seen that the commission to preach the good tidings comes to all the anointed company – the body of Christ – and that for this very purpose we have received the anointing. That which was true of the Head is also true of the whole body – "The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord hath anointed me to preach." (Isa. 61:1.)
But while we who are consecrated and anointed realize that we are thus called of God to preach, it is of very great importance that we consider well what, when, how, where, and to whom, we may preach.
It is a great mistake, and yet a very common one, to go out to preach before being sent. Such, of course, cannot and do not preach the good tidings. Some presume that because Paul said, reprove, rebuke, and exhort, that must be the bulk and substance of their preaching, forgetting that he also said, "With all long-suffering (patience) and doctrine." Reproof or rebuke may sometimes be necessary, but it should never be administered merely according to our own whims or imaginations, but should in every instance be "with doctrine" – with sound and scriptural reasoning – that it may be recognized as a reproof from the Lord, though administered through the agency of a brother with brotherly patience, and not with an arrogance which forgets that we are subject to similar temptations.
Exhortation may also be necessary, but should never degenerate into mere coaxing without sound reason or doctrine. Exhortation without sound reasoning and the strong support of the inspired Word is weak and is not lasting in its effects. This is the method of preaching most common at the present day, but was never indulged in by our Lord. Of him it was said, "He shall not cry nor call aloud, nor cause his voice to be heard in the streets." Isa. 42:2 – Leeser. His preaching, and that of his disciples, was reasonable, doctrinal, and was delivered with the dignity and meekness becoming to Jehovah's ambassadors.
Paul answers, "Preach the Word," and Isaiah and Jesus call it "good tidings." Before we begin to preach, therefore, we should first be acquainted with the Word and have a clear, definite understanding of its "good tidings." Although as soon as we were anointed, we were called to preach, the Lord would not have us engage in such service until first we have received sufficient instruction. The first duty, then, of every one who would obey the call to preach is to become an earnest, faithful, diligent student of God's Word, that he may be able to minister grace to the hearer, having his speech seasoned with salt." (Eph. 4:29; Col. 4:6.)
You may be called to preach some time before you are sent out into active service. Jesus was "anointed to preach" at the time of his baptism, but he was not sent out until after he had endured the wilderness temptation. The early disciples were called, but were told to tarry until endued with power. For a special purpose in the introduction of the gospel, the power came upon the early church suddenly and miraculously as soon as they received the anointing, but this has not been the case with the church since then. Power in presenting the truth comes now to the anointed as the reward of diligent study of the Word.
To many study is distasteful; they have not been accustomed to it, and are not willing to give it the necessary time and labor, yet they want to obey the call to preach, and so they go forth to add to the general confusion of unintelligible preaching, and their work brings reproach and dishonor both upon themselves and upon the cause of Christ. The bearing of such reproach may be for Christ's sake, but it is not to Christ's glory, and the loss is the result of imprudence, and of not heeding the injunction, "Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." 2 Tim. 2:15.
Truth, rightly divided, and fairly presented, commands the respect even of its opponents. Its symmetry and beauty will irresistibly stamp itself upon the mind. Thus it was in the case of Jesus' preaching, when the very men that were commissioned to lay hands on him and deliver him to death returned, saying, "Never man spake like this man." (John 7:46.) So also Festus said to Paul, "Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad." "No," said Paul, with becoming dignity and due deference to the powers that be, "I am not mad, most noble Festus, but speak forth the words of truth and soberness. For the king knoweth of these things before whom I speak freely.... King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest. Then Agrippa said unto Paul, 'Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.' And Paul said, I would to God that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost and altogether such as I am, except these bonds." And the verdict of these unbelievers, in Paul's case, was, "This man doeth nothing worthy of death or of bonds." (Acts 26:24-31.)
Paul's eloquence was the eloquence of truth – the result of a thorough understanding and conviction of the truth, which carried force and commanded the respect of even its enemies. He was a diligent student as well as a preacher, and his hearers could not say, Paul, you don't know what you are talking about, nor turn with disgust from the sound of empty words.
When Jesus our great example went out to preach – to teach – the people listened with astonishment, and said "Whence hath this man this wisdom?" (Matt. 13:54.) And thus it is to some extent with all who follow in his footsteps. Acts 4:13.
Some zealous brother or sister may ask, How long must I tarry for preparation? and how shall I know when the Lord sends me out? To this we reply that when the Lord sends you out you will be sure to know it. You will be so filled with the knowledge of the truth, and so inspired by it that out of the abundance of your heart your mouth must speak. The good tidings will be too good to keep. You will not have all the truth God intends for you before you are sent out, but you will have a clear, definite outline at least. Just how long a time of preparation you will require will depend on circumstances – the amount of time you can devote to study, the degree of effort with which you undertake it, the faith and simplicity in which you receive it, etc. Some may be ready for active service sooner than others, but all require a considerable time for previous preparation.
But even when permitted to engage in active service, we should bear in mind the fact that we are to be constant students. To preach the Word, the good tidings, is our commission, and which of us can yet say, we have sounded all its depths, and measured all its heights, and have therefore nothing more to learn? To have a general outline of God's plan mapped out in our minds is very good, but we should have its various features so clearly fixed as to be able to show it to another; therefore review is very necessary.
When thus prepared and sent out to preach (and be assured you are not yet sent if you are not prepared,) Paul says, "Be instant in season" and "out of season." Does he mean to have us pay no attention to fitting and appropriate times? No, for that would be contrary to the Lord's teaching – "Be ye wise as serpents [R647 : page 2] and harmless as doves" – as well as to his own example. He must mean, then, to have no regard to our own convenience or inconvenience, but to be always ready to preach when we find fitting opportunity.
Injudicious breaking in upon the plans of others to teach them what we deem to be of importance, but which they do not yet so recognize, is almost sure to defeat our purpose and to engender prejudice and opposition which is not soon nor easily overcome.
Paul further enjoins that we be sober in all things; that is, that we handle the truth with becoming reverence and humility, living as examples of its influence, not carried away with excitement or self-exaltation, and that we patiently suffer bad treatment, which we should expect from those who love darkness rather than light, although measurably they secretly recognize the light we bring.
In view of the preparation necessary, none need be discouraged or despair of ever being sent out to preach. You may never be sent to speak to a public audience. God uses us according to the human talent we possess. Paul, Peter and others could preach publicly, but Aquila and Priscilla unable to preach in a public way to the many, could invite an Apollos to their home and explain to him the way of God more perfectly. And the devoted and eloquent Apollos, thus more perfectly prepared, went out to declare it publicly. (Acts 18:2,26.) Had Aquila and Priscilla not been students of the truth, what an opportunity they would have lost.
May the Lord's blessing rest upon all the preachers of the good tidings, whether in a wide or in a seeming narrow sphere; but let us not forget the fitting counsel, "Study to show thyself a workman approved unto God rightly dividing the word of truth." And be assured that when prepared, you will surely be sent to preach it to at least some one.
"If we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son, cleanseth us from all sin." – 1 John 1:7.
True fellowship implies love, sympathy, a mutual sharing of good or ill, common principles, common interests, and a common aim. It may exist between parties on equal footing, or between those whose conditions are widely different. Where the latter is the case, benevolence on the part of the superior is shown in acts of favor and blessing, and on the part of the inferior, in gratitude and such returns in action as are possible.
Than such fellowship there is nothing more desirable and more helpful to the saints in the narrow and difficult way they are called to tread. But while we should ever seek and cultivate such fellowship, we need to be very careful to see that our fellowship one with another, is based upon correct principles, else that which was designed as a blessing, will be found to our great disadvantage.
Realizing this, the Apostle Paul admonishes us, saying: "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers, for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness... or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?" (2 Cor. 6:14,15.) "How can two walk together except they be agreed?" It is impossible. Let us see to it, then, that our fellowship is based upon the sure foundation referred to in this text – the blood of Jesus Christ that cleanseth us from all sin – and that our rejoicing and communion be of the increasing light as we walk together.
And this great blessing, the Apostle John tells us, it is our privilege to have. He says we may have fellowship with our Father, and with his Son, and also with other saints who are walking in the light – the truth.
"This then," says John, "is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all." The truth is all clear and plain in God's sight, and he, by his Spirit, through his Word, will lead all of his children into light (truth) in its due season, if they are in actual fellowship with him. John states this very emphatically, saying, "If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth." (Ver. 6.)
Ah, John, says some brother, I think you are too severe; I know many very good Christians who say they are entirely consecrated to God, and only want to know and do his will, and truly they do many wonderful works, and yet they walk in darkness, knowing nothing of the blessed truths now made so plain to us. And not only so, but they refuse to hear it and do not want it. Yet they claim to have fellowship with God; how is it? John's answer is very plain and may seem to many, severe, yet we apprehend it is the severity of truth. He says, "They lie, and do not the truth." They don't want to know it, because they don't want to do it.
God speaks to his children through his Word, and he is acquainted with all our circumstances and hears our prayers, but it is a great mistake to imagine that we have communion and fellowship with God, when we only speak to him in prayer, and never examine the Word to hear him speak to us. We may speak and then listen, but we need to hear much more than we say. Thus we have communion, interchange of thought, fellowship. None can thus commune with God without becoming acquainted in some measure with his truth, and if they are in harmony and fellowship with him, his plans and purposes will become theirs. If they do not desire to obey the truth, they will deceive themselves in an endeavor to disbelieve it, and to substitute something else in its place. And while doing this many hold to the form of sound words while denying their import.
But if as children of the light we walk in the light, not only shall we have fellowship with our Father and our Lord, but we shall also have fellowship with other saints who are walking in the same narrow way.
In the secret of His presence
How my soul delights to hide:
Oh, how precious are the lessons
Which I learn at Jesus' side.
Earthly cares can never vex me,
Neither trials lay me low,
If when Satan comes to tempt me,
To the secret place I go.
When my soul is faint and thirsty,
'Neath the shadow of His wing
There is cool and pleasant shelter,
And a fresh and crystal spring,
And my Saviour rests beside me,
As we hold communion sweet;
If I tried, I could not utter
What he says, when thus we meet.
Only this, I know, I tell Him
All my doubts, and griefs, and fears;
Oh, how patiently He listens,
And my drooping heart he cheers.
Do you think he ne'er reproves me?
What a false friend He would be,
If he never, never told me
Of the sins which he must see.
Do you think that I could love Him
Half so well, or as I ought,
If He did not plainly tell me
Of each sinful word and thought?
No! for He is very faithful,
And that makes me trust Him more,
For I know that He does love me,
Though sometimes he wounds me sore.
Would you like to know the sweetness,
Of that secret of the Lord?
Go and hide beneath His shadow,
This shall then be your reward.
And whene'er you leave the silence
Of that happy meeting-place,
You must mind and bear the image
Of your Master in your face.
"The wages of sin is death." – Rom. 6:23.
"He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death." – Rev. 2:11.
Many are the ingenious devices of our great adversary for overthrowing the faith of the saints in the foundation principles of the Gospel of Christ. Among them is the widely accepted notion that death is really part of an evolution by which mankind must reach perfection. The thought is clearly expressed in the following lines of a popular hymn:
"Death is the angel God hath sent
To bear us to the sky."
Out of this theory, as a starting point, many grievous errors have grown. The fact that death is the penalty of sin is ignored, and the necessity of a ransom is denied by many; and even the second death, notwithstanding the plain Scriptural teachings and warnings with reference to it, is represented as a blessing.
In harmony with this error is the idea now prominently advanced, that the first, or Adamic death, is merely a death to righteousness, and that the second death is a death to sin. Thus it is said, Adam and all mankind died to righteousness and became alive to sin; and that a man's conversion is the second death – a death to sin and a becoming alive to righteousness.
On this unscriptural hypothesis a theory is built which, to the undiscerning, has an appearance of plausibility; and it is a sad fact that only the few search the Scriptures, and still fewer "try the spirits" (doctrines) by comparing scripture with scripture, and therefore, error has always found it expedient to quote the Scriptures in its support.
In our Lord's temptation in the wilderness the same deception was attempted: Satan quoted, saying, "It is written..."; but Jesus answered, "It is also written...." So should the disciple be as his Lord, and endeavor to rightly divide the word of God – to apply it as the Spirit designed, and not as every wind of doctrine might twist it out of harmony with its context.
Before proceeding to examine any theory the careful student will first inquire, How strong is the foundation on which it rests? for if the foundation of the theory be wrong, all that can be built upon it must be wrong. This is a short, sure, and safe test; the theory must stand or fall with its foundation.
In carefully examining the foundation of this view, it will be found first, that it has no Scriptural basis; and secondly that it is directly opposed to the clearly expressed statements of the Scriptures on the subject. The Scripture quoted above shows that death is always the wages of sin; but this theory would make it sometimes the reward of righteousness, when it claims that to become righteous is to die to sin. This alone is clear proof that the theory is based upon an interpretation of death out of harmony with the Scriptures, and hence unworthy of further consideration.
The passage relied on to prove the position, is Rom. 6:10 – "In that he [Jesus] died, he died unto sin." And as he was our example, therefore it is argued, that all mankind must likewise die unto sin and become alive unto God, or become righteous. But let us see if the harmony of the Scriptures will warrant such an interpretation of this passage. First we ask, Can that which is not alive be said to die? Certainly not. Then unless Jesus was alive to sin, that is, a person living in sin, he could not in that sense die unto sin. And just here we call to mind the question of Jesus himself, "Which of you convinceth me of sin?"
If those Scriptures are true which say that Jesus was holy, harmless, undefiled and separate from sinners, and knew no sin, does it not prove that the theory which makes this passage teach that Jesus died unto, or ceased from sin, is a false application of the passage, since he could not cease from that which he never began, never knew, but was always separate from?
That this is a misapplication of this Scripture is made positive by a glance at the preceding verse, which refers clearly and pointedly to the actual death of Jesus, and his actual resurrection – "Christ being raised from the dead, dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him."
But let us see how this text may be interpreted in harmony with the context. In this verse the word unto expresses the idea much less clearly than the word "by," as given in the Diaglott translation. The thought is that Jesus died by or on account of sin once. His death was "the wages of sin" as all death is, but not by reason of, nor on account of, nor as the wages of sin which he committed; but as elsewhere stated, "Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures" and "Jehovah hath laid upon him the iniquity of us all." (Isa. 53:6, and 1 Cor. 15:3.)
The Apostles' reasoning in verse 11, can only be grasped by one who has clearly in mind his reasoning preceding, as presented in the fore part of the Epistle. Chapter 1 begins the subject away back before the Deluge, when men knew God but glorified him not, but yielded to their own vain imaginings and their foolish heart became darkened. (ver. 21.) Chap. 2:1 shows that all men have come into some measure of the same darkness, and that the Jews as well as the Gentiles, are all worthy of condemnation, and are all condemned, because "There is none righteous, no not one." (Rom. 3:9,10,19,20.)
Having thus proved that "all the world" has "become guilty before God," Paul introduces the work of Christ as the remedy for all this guilt; for though "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God," he has JUSTIFIED them freely by his favor, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood [the life he gave to redeem ours], to manifest God's righteousness in condemning to death, and to accomplish a remission of sins. vs. 24,26.
In chapter 4., the Apostle continues to further emphasize the justification from sin and death, to life and a condition of righteousness, accomplished as he has shown by Jesus' death, saying, "Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin" (vs. 7,8), and repeats his testimony that the forgiveness and covering of our sins was through him "who was delivered FOR OUR OFFENCES and raised again for our justification. (v. 25.) Chapter 5. carries the topic further and shows the result of justification, that it brings the condemned sinners back to a standing where they can have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (v. 1). And yet more, not only are we justified, but through Christ and through the justification which he accomplished for us, we have access into a still further favor of God – access into this favor wherein we stand and rejoice, in hope of the glory of God. (vs. 1,2.) Not only then was our human nature justified, and a right to the glory of manhood restored, but a door was thereby opened to us by which we may have a hope of reaching the glory of God – the Divine nature.
And not only have we obtained a hope of future glory, which causes rejoicing, but as we realize that that "glory of God" is promised as a reward for the sacrifice of the justified human nature, it enables us to rejoice in the tribulations by which alone that heavenly glory can be obtained. (v. 3.)
After showing that the sacrifice of Christ was a full settlement of all condemnation and imperfection resulting directly and indirectly from Adam's transgression (vs. 15-21), he inquires (chap. 6:1) What shall we say then? If the sin of Adam has brought forth so much favor from God, shall we continue to sin in hope that still further favor would be manifested on our behalf? – and answers: God forbid. How shall we who have died by sin live any longer therein?
The we here mentioned is the same class mentioned in Chap. 5:2,3, and 1:7 a class of saints who not only have been justified by faith in Jesus, the Redeemer, but have obtained by consecration, sacrifice, access into "THIS GRACE" – the begetting and promises of the divine nature – "the glory of God." This class had died, that is, had consecrated to death, and now reckoned themselves dead indeed. This was as a payment for sin, as death always is the wages of sin. But in this case it was not a payment of the wages of their own sin. No; they had been justified from their own sin by the death of Jesus, and had afterward consecrated to death, and that death was to apply for the sin of others just as Jesus had died, not for sin of his own, for he had none, but "for our sins." So these saints consecrated to die, not for their own sins, for they had none, since justified from all sin by Jesus death.
We answer, the merit of Jesus is the only merit which cancels the sin of the whole world; but whether that merit is applied directly to the world, or indirectly through "the Church, which is his body," is the question. This is the favor which is specially offered to the Gospel Church, viz.: to share with Jesus in making the sacrifice for sins, being first ourselves justified through HIS SACRIFICE. This is the Apostle's teaching when he speaks of filling up that which is BEHIND of the afflictions of Christ, (Col. 1:24,) and it was the teaching of Jesus when he said to the disciples: "Ye shall drink indeed of my cup [suffering] and be baptised with the baptism that I [R649 : page 3] am baptised with" [death] (Matt. 20:23.) And that the Apostle is carrying out this same line of thought in the epistle we are now considering, is evident. How [with what consistency] can we that have died [consecrated to death] by sin [on account of or as sin sacrifices], how could we consistently live any longer in sin, or have any fellowship with that which we are dying to destroy or remove. "Know ye not that so many of us as were baptized INTO Jesus Christ [into membership in that body of which He is the head] were baptized [plunged, swallowed up, buried] into HIS DEATH?" His death was not Adamic death, but a ransom or substitution for it, and we share in his death, and hence share in the results of his death – the putting away of the sins of the whole world.
"We have therefore been entombed with him by the immersion into that DEATH [in order], that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so also we should walk in a new life." Our condition is a reckoned one, and if we reckon ourselves justified by Christ and then dead with Christ, we should go yet further and reckon ourselves as though we had been resurrected and were now actually spiritual beings, as Jesus now is, and we should act accordingly, abstaining from sin and rejoicing in communion and glory, as though we had been made already perfect as spiritual beings. "For [this is the reason why we should so reckon] if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death [or, in the like kind of death – sacrificial], certainly we shall be also in that of his resurrection" [we shall share a like resurrection; that is, a resurrection to spiritual perfection]. "Knowing this [remembering in this connection], that our OLD man [our departed, sin-inclined selves, when under condemnation] was crucified with [more properly "in"] him [that is, was represented in Jesus when he was crucified], so that the body of sin might be destroyed [Jesus in his own person represented sin as a whole, and as such he was "made a curse for sin"], that we may no longer be enslaved to sin; for he who died [and only he who died thus representatively in Jesus death, that is, who accepts of the divine statement that Christ died for his sins, only such an one] has been justified from sin" (vs. 6,7).
"And if [after being thus as sinners represented in Jesus' sacrifice, and justified thereby] we [as justified persons] died with him, we believe that we shall also live with him; knowing that Christ being raised from the dead, dies no more; death no longer lords it over him. For the death which he died, he died by sin [our sin imputed to him], but the life which he lives he lives by [the favor and reward of] God. Thus do you account yourselves dead indeed unto sin [as sharers with Jesus of the penalty of the world's sin], but [as] living by [the favor or reward of] God in the anointed Jesus." (vs. 8-11 – Diaglott.)
In view of these facts, "Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey its desires; neither present your members to sin as instruments of iniquity; but [according to your consecration, and in the carrying out of that death which you already reckon accomplished] present yourselves to God as if alive from the dead [just as though you were risen actually, and possessed your promised immortal, spiritual body complete], and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness" that you may be used of him as his agents and mouthpieces.
From the foregoing it will be seen that the death of the saints as a sacrifice with Christ, as members of his body sharing his death, is their second death. It was reckoned that our death as sinners in Adam was accomplished in the crucifixion of Jesus, and our resurrection as justified men, as accomplished in Jesus' resurrection, as shown above. One death was therefore in the past, hence when we, as justified persons, presented ourselves as living sacrifices, to be baptized with Jesus' baptism of death and to fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ, we then and there were covenanting a second death, and day by day, if obedient to our covenant, we are dying, and soon the second death shall have swallowed up this justified human nature.
But will it be a great loss? It would be a sad and irreparable loss of our existence forever, were it not that the Father, who highly exalted Jesus, our Head, to the divine nature, has covenanted similarly to exalt all the members of his body – "So many of us as were baptised into Christ," "baptised into his death."
These, who during this age follow in the footsteps of the Forerunner, are the overcomers of the world mentioned in our Lord's promise – "He that conquers, in no wise shall be injured IN CONSEQUENCE of the second death." (Rev. 2:11 – Rotherham's translation.)
Shall we conclude then that the second death would injure no one? Nay; death is everywhere presented as the destruction of whatever it is applied to. It is the wages of sin always; the first or Adamic death which passed upon all men was the penalty of one man's disobedience entailed upon all whom he represented in trial, and it is because Adamic death is to be removed through Christ, that any could die again. But [R649 : page 4] the second death shall not be a continuance of the first, a dying on account of Adam's sin, but it will be the result of an individual and deliberate act of each one who suffers it. It shall no more be a proverb, "The fathers ate a sour grape [sin] and the children's teeth are set on edge"; but then, every man that dieth the second death will die only for his own wilful sin, against full light and power to do otherwise. "The soul that sinneth, IT shall die." (Ezek. 18:2-4; Jer. 31:29,30.) And not a single reference of Scripture, in which the second death is mentioned, ever refers it to any but a class of wilful sinners, who, in spite of knowledge and ability, love sin and hate righteousness, except this one, which hastens to assure us that though this class will suffer death aside from the Adamic, and, therefore, the second, they will not be injured in consequence. The unavoidable inference is, that all others than this class – the overcomers of the Gospel church – will be greatly injured by the second death.
Since each one who dies the second death will have had a full individual trial, it follows, that to recover them from death would require the death of a Redeemer for each. And not only are we told that Jesus dies only once for sin, and will die "no more," but we can see that a ransom from the second death would be useless, since there could be no more favorable opportunity presented than that which they shall have experienced under the Millennial reign, before being condemned to the second death.
As the first death, or wages of Adam's sin, was not torture, but a destruction of being, (Psa. 90:3,) so also the second death, the wages of wilful, individual sin, is a destruction or blotting out of being forever, but is not torture. As Adamic death would have been everlasting in duration without a ransom and resurrection, so the second death will be everlasting because of no ransom and no resurrection from it. "The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is ETERNAL LIFE through Jesus Christ our Lord."
The notion of a special light [beyond or different from that contained in the Scripture, is evidently the brother's meaning. – Ed.] being vouchsafed to the prayerful reader of Scripture, is as destructive of the divine record itself, as it is of man's responsibility in rejecting it; for if God, by his Spirit, communicates directly with the minds of men now, as an Interpreter,* such communications will assuredly control any words given to mortals eighteen hundred years ago.
So men who hold to this sort of divine aid, are already beginning to reason: "Are we," it is now said – not by skeptics only, but by evangelical teachers, – "to bring down the word inspiration to a use merely narrow and technical, asserting it only of prophecy and other Scripture writings, and carefully excluding from it all participation by ourselves, in whatever sense it might be taken?' Are we to 'become a class unprivileged, differing from the anointed men of Scripture and Scripture times – shut down to a kind of second-hand life, feeding on their words?' Is it to be believed that they were inspired, while we in no sense can be? If so, there is no relief for us, but in a recoil against inspiration itself, even that of the Holy Scriptures; for who will credit that men were inspired long ages ago, when now any such thing is incredible?" [Rev. Horace Bushnell, D.D.] [R650 : page 4]
The recoil thus spoken of as inevitable, finds its expression in those later forms of criticism which are now issuing from the great seats of learning, according to which the inspiration of the first century, is to bow before that of the nineteenth; the miraculous is to be expurgated; and if, as a necessary consequence, the Bible loses its authority, the result may be regretted, but it must be considered as inseparable from progress.
The root of these terrible errors, is the notion that the Holy Spirit enlightens the mind by other means than by the purification of the nature. This is evident from the ground taken by Dr. Rowland Williams, who boldly asserts, not only that inspiration is a permanent power in the Church, but that the Bible always supposed in its readers, "an illumination kindred to its own." In explaining what he means, he quotes as an authority, St. Basil, who speaks of the Holy Spirit as an intellectual light, affording illumination to every rational faculty in the investigation of truth; the light which clears mental perplexities, and the secret energy through which every organ discharges its functions aright.
But what follows? Why, of course this: that as the Comforter at present acts within the bounds of our capacities, leaving us liable to error and the shortcomings of our generation, so [the deduction would be] it is in harmony with the Divine dealings to suppose that while Apostles and Prophets enjoyed a larger measure of illumination, they, too, were left liable to shortcomings in knowledge or humanity in reasoning. The argument culminates in the question, What then is the authority of the Scriptures apart from what good men approve, and from what fair historians think credible? The answer implied is, Nothing at all.
But this is not the doctrine of Scripture. The "illumination" there supposed is a spiritual, not an intellectual gift. It is light proceeding from love. It is moral sympathy leading to the recognition of the Divine Word. It is, in short, reason, enlightened and sanctified by the Holy Spirit, and thus made capable of appreciating divine truth when it is presented to the mind.
The contrary view, however spiritual or consoling it may seem, destroys all tangible distinctions between inspired and uninspired communications; favors mysticism; lowers the authority of the written Word: and justifies, so far as anything can do, the most fanatical interpretation of Scripture. For it is evident that if a man's understanding of Holy Writ depends on anything else than the right use of the faculties God has given him (which of course implies their non-perversion by dislike or prejudice) it must be interpreted by a light, which, try to explain it as we may, can never be more or less than a personal inspiration, in which case, such personal teachings must be supreme.
It is both curious and instructive to observe how error changes its form without changing its nature. It would really seem as if Protestants, like Romanists, believed that A DIVINE REVELATION without an INFALLIBLE INTERPRETER was no revelation at all. Dr. Whately has well shown that this craving for infallibility, than which there is no more powerful principle in human nature, not only predisposes men towards the pretensions of a supposed unerring Church, or of those who claim or who promise immediate inspiration, but becomes the parent of no small amount of infidelity.
It is an error that falls in at once with men's wishes, and with their conjectures; it presents itself to them in the guise of a virtuous humility; and they readily and firmly believe it, not only without evidence, but against all evidence.
Vain, however, is it to hope that by any such means, we can evade our responsibility. What we really want is that blessed indwelling of the Holy Spirit – the only influence we are authorized to seek and to pray for – which is not intellectual, but moral; which is inseparable from candor, love of truth, and obedience generally; which manifests itself in growing sympathy with the divine character; and which therefore involves clearer perceptions of, and a deeper insight into, the divine mind and will as exhibited in the Bible, than can be obtained in any other way: For saith the Lord himself, "If thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light."
"Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters." – Isa. 55:1.
In all of God's dealings with his creatures, one principle is marked and prominent, and that is the dignity with which he maintains his own prerogatives while granting freedom to his creatures, in the exercise of their God-given powers. Thus having made man in his own likeness – with reason, will, judgment, etc. – he does not afterward deface or ignore that image, but, on the contrary, he honors it.
God never demands of man a course of action out of harmony with his reason, at the sacrifice of his judgment, and in opposition to his will; but in every case he satisfies reason, appeals to the judgment, and leaves the decision subject to a free will, enlightened by an understanding of the inevitable final results in either case. He sets before us inducements or rewards to righteousness, and punishments for unrighteousness, but does not compel either course. With dignity and patience he awaits a sufficient time for our enlightened decision, and then carries out his own purpose with reference to us, in the event of that decision.
In accordance with this principle, is the above invitation through the Prophet Isaiah – "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters" (truth). Water is unwelcome except to the thirsty, and food produces loathing if forced upon one who is not hungry; so truth is obnoxious to those who prefer error. Therefore, God only gives his good things where they are desired, and never compels the acceptance of his favors. But blessed is the man that hungereth and thirsteth, for his soul shall be satisfied through the Divine bounty.
"Ah!" say some anxious Christians, "but there are so many who have no thirst whatever for the truth, and if we don't compel them to hear and accept it we fear they will never get it;" and so they attempt to force the truth upon them at unseasonable times and in obtrusive ways, and sometimes the anxiety to enforce one truth, or supposed truth, leads to a sacrifice and darkening of other truth. But the result is always the same – more harm than good. A loathing of truth is generally the result.
It will relieve such of much anxiety to call to mind what they have recently learned – that God's plan is so broad and generous that its gracious provisions cover all the interests of every creature. None are so small, or so degraded, or so mean, as to be left out. If at present they are so filled with the husks of human traditions, and the muddy waters of human philosophy, there is little use in trying to fill them with anything better. By and by (in the time of trouble) God will furnish them such an emetic that thereafter they will be prepared to receive the truth in its purity and in the love of it. It matters not, as we now clearly see, even if death should intervene, for all shall be brought to a knowledge of the truth under the favorable circumstances of the millennial reign of Christ, and have full opportunity to secure everlasting life.
While we may thus rest in faith upon the sure promises of God with reference to these, it is our privilege to herald the blessed invitation – "Ho, every one THAT THIRSTETH, come ye to the waters." And if they will not come, let them stay away until they are ready to come. In time they will be thirsty enough. A similar invitation is repeated in Rev. 22:17, as applying during the millennial age, after the espoused virgin church [R651 : page 4] has become the Bride of Christ – "Whosoever will [do not compel, but] LET HIM take the water of life freely."
God does not now compel any to accept his great favor to be made the bride of Christ, neither in the age to come will he compel any to accept the favor of everlasting life. But, if when it is offered, they will have it, O, how freely they may have it – "He that hath no money; come ye, buy and eat... without money and without price."
With a full conviction of the love and bountiful provision of God's plan for all mankind, Jesus could, during his ministry, ignore the Gentiles, and devote all his energies to Israel, and particularly to those among them who were anxious to know the truth; and he could tell his disciples to begin at Jerusalem and not to enter into any city of the Samaritans until first the Gospel had been proclaimed to Israel. So now, with equal composure and trust, we can devote ourselves to the work of the present, and carry no care about that part of God's work which lies beyond the present.
Wherever we find a thirsty, hungry soul, a hearing ear, and a meek and quiet spirit, there is our work. The harvest work (in which time we are living) is to seek out and minister to the necessities of such; and it is a work in which the humblest saint may engage. The few or many talents may be carefully utilized. But the love of God must be not only the constraining motive of him who would bear the glad tidings, but it must also be the constraining incentive presented to those whom we would have to receive God's favors. All God's blessings are favors, and will never be forced upon his creatures.
A zeal according to knowledge, will therefore never resort to those unreasonable and undignified proceedings which make religion a by-word, and bring upon the cause of Christ reproach. There is nothing in the religion of Jesus Christ which is out of harmony with the soundest reason and the most refined judgment. Its methods, according to the Scriptures, are not with sounding brass and tinkling cymbals; with extravagant words and actions that bring the children of God down to the level of those they seek to reach; no, its methods are as dignified, ennobling and elevating as are the precious truths it bears. And both the truth and the truth-bearer, who follows in the Master's footsteps, will command the reverence, even though they incur the persecution of men.
Of Jesus it was said: "He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street." (Isa. 42:2.) We are not heard, either by God or men, for our much speaking (Matt. 6:7); therefore let us endeavor to present God's truth in all its native simplicity and beauty, and trust its inherent power to win its way in due time to every heart.
"Now, then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech by us"; therefore, as his faithful servants we should specially study and conform to his methods.
"Ever learning, but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth." – 2 Tim. 3:7.
One of the most serious and dangerous besetments of the adversary is an exaggeration of the truth. It seems to be one of his most successful methods against the saints. Thus faith is exaggerated into credulity, reverence into fear, the wages of sin into torture, and humility into mental listlessness, doubt and uncertainty.
Under the influence of this false humility, how many take pride in saying on nearly all important religious subjects, "I tie to no man's opinion, and have none of my own – I want only the truth." They consider this a saintly humility, which never reaches any conclusion, for fear they should be considered bigoted. They say they are seeking truth, but if so, they never know when they find it, and might as well not have sought. These are covered by the language of our text – "Ever learning, but never able to come to [arrive at] the knowledge of the truth." Such, because not rooted and grounded in faith, are always tossed to and fro – "carried about with every wind of doctrine." (Eph. 4:14.)
But, says one, since I find that so much which I once believed is error, I never believe anything very strongly, and am afraid to become rooted and grounded, lest it be again a rooting into error. Besides, I see so many rooted and grounded in error so firmly, that the truth cannot shake them. Ah yes; it is the same snare of the adversary; in spite of him you have gotten free from some of the error, but he drives to the other extreme to hinder you from ever getting so grounded in truth that you would be able to stand the storm, let alone assist others to stand.
Can you not see the difference between being rooted and grounded in the teachings of a fallible church creed, a set of man-made doctrines and traditions, and, on the other hand, being rooted and grounded in the statements of God's Word, statements too, which do not contradict, but, by their harmony and oneness, support each other, and, by their reasonableness, appeal to your judgment as being the truth?
The expression of some – "I drive no stakes" – is bad. We should drive stakes; the man who will not do so will have his tent of faith overturned by the first windy doctrine the adversary brings upon it. They should be driven in well – "grounded" well – in the firm ground of God's Word. The Word of God certainly calls for faith, strong faith, settled faith, grounded and well rooted, and without such it is impossible to please God. All the Scripture writers had a positive faith and expressed it in a positive manner, and called upon us to receive the same and be established IN THE TRUTH.
But if those who seem to hold at least a measure of what we think Scriptural views, in common, shall differ on the minor details of truth, what then? We answer, that while we are in the flesh our surroundings may be such as to make some of the details of truth appear somewhat differently for a time, but as we each approach closer and closer to God's standpoint in viewing the matter, our ideas of the details will become more distinct and more harmonious.
It is harmony and fixedness on the FUNDAMENTAL features of truth that Scripture demands, with so much harmony on the other features as we can obtain by communion of saints in the study of the Testimony, and we have the promise of full harmony ultimately among all true watchmen in Zion. Our desire and vigilance to ascertain the mind of God on even the details must not be relaxed, else we cease to grow in knowledge, and cease to do our share in bringing the body of Christ as a whole into the perfection of knowledge most beneficial to it and most pleasing to God.
That God has been pleased throughout the entire age to use some members of the body as channels through which to send truth to the body, is unquestionable; and that Satan has adopted much the same plan to deceive and spread error in the Church, is also evident, not only from facts, but from Scripture statements. It would be a serious error, then, to believe anything because a would-be teacher wishes you to. To do so, would be to throw away chart and compass and let your faith drift before the changing winds of prejudice and preference, and would, sooner or later, make ship-wreck of faith.
A teacher is of value only as an instrument of the Spirit of God in bringing all things to your remembrance and notice, whatsoever things were written for our instruction in the Scriptures. Whatsoever is more than this cometh of the evil one and tendeth to evil. The duty and office of a lawyer is not to make laws, but to clearly set forth the law and present to the jury its bearing upon the case discussed; so also, the duty of a minister of the Gospel is not to make truth, but to cite the TESTIMONY, and quote the covenants, and show their bearing upon any subject discussed; and the duty of the Church as of the jury is to decide each for himself what is the mind of the written and established law.
True, this is not the common idea regarding the ministers (servants) of the church. On the contrary, their testimony is taken so implicitly that it takes the place largely of God's testimony, and thus the law of God is made void, and the traditions and theories of the teachers are received instead. It is because you had received and become rooted, and grounded in such teachings of men unsupported by the word of God that you had so much to unlearn and break loose from. We urge, then, that doctrines be received, not because of the teacher, but because tried and found to be the teachings of God's word. "Beloved, believe not every spirit [mind, or doctrine, or theory] but try the spirits [doctrines] whether they are of God." (1 John 4:1.) But mark well, that the Apostles words, Believe not every doctrine gives no support to that FALSE CAUTION which never fully believes anything, and is never grounded; for his other words, "TRY the spirits [doctrines] whether they be of God," shows that it is a duty to DECIDE whether the doctrine is Scriptural or unscriptural. To "prove all things" and to "hold FAST that which is good," is a statement of similar import. But some would rather be always unsettled than go to the necessary labor of "proving" by diligent study of the Scripture what is good and what is erroneous doctrine. Verily, they [R652 : page 5] have their reward. Their indifference will expose them to error, of which the adversary will not be slow to take advantage. If thou searchest for her as men search for silver then shalt thou find the knowledge of God. (Prov. 2:4.) "Light is sown for the righteous." (Psa. 97:11), but for no others; and that heart is not right, and that soul not really truth-hungry, which, knowing the necessity of labor to prove all things, neglects it.
The pathway of the just – of him who proves all things and holds fast that which is good – will shine more and more until perfect day is reached, but it is a sad mistake of some to suppose that they must be ever changing, ever discarding yesterday's light for to-morrow's. The light is added to, but never needs EXCHANGING. If we receive as light nothing which we do not first prove by the Testimony we will have nothing to throw away, but may both hold fast the good and add to the same daily.
"Continue in the faith, grounded and settled and be not moved away from the hope of the Gospel." – Col. 1:23.
This shows that the Apostle thought it necessary to guard the Church against the adversary's beguilements, by which he would have them "move away" their faith-building from the TRUE FOUNDATION. That there was a tendency in that direction, and that some did leave the true Gospel foundation, is evidenced by Paul's words to the Galatians (1:6-12). He here shows also that those teachers who were attempting their removal to "ANOTHER GOSPEL" were making him (Paul) the centre of their attack upon the true glad tidings. It is here that he uses that very positive language, "If any man preach any other gospel [present any other foundation for faith] unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed."
It is evident that the Apostle did not refer to the Galatian Church as having received all truth on all subjects, nor all knowledge of God's revelation, for he always exhorts to study of the Scripture in order to growth in grace and knowledge. While all truth is related, and, therefore, all truth is "glad tidings," or Gospel, yet in the sense in which the Apostle uses the word, it has not so extended a meaning; but he refers it, evidently, to the FOUNDATION upon which all faith and hope must rest and build. Is it not evident, then, that he refers to the Redemption which is in Christ Jesus? the same which he elsewhere states as the sum of all his preaching: "I delivered unto you first of all, that which I also received [first], how that Christ died for OUR SINS according to the Scriptures." (1 Cor. 15:3.)
This is the kernel of all the glad tidings; for had it not been for the redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, nothing else could ever be glad tidings. Hence we should take heed not to be removed from the Gospel – this foundation of all hope and true faith.
We live in a time when the foundation is being attacked by some in the church. It is becoming popular to say I believe that Christ died, but not that he died for our sins. Then the attempt is made to ignore and turn aside those statements of Prophets and Apostles which tell how the Lord laid upon him the iniquity of us all, and that he died the just for the unjust to bring us to God. Meanwhile they will ask you to examine the beauty of another theory – built upon another foundation. They say, instead of the foundation that "Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures, let us substitute another – Christ died only as an example, according to our theory. Then they will proceed to show you how beautiful a theory they can build on this other foundation.
But every saint should answer, Stop! go no further; Before we can examine the theory built upon your foundation; we must be convinced that the Gospel foundation which Paul preached, and which we have received is WRONG. Then we must "prove" your foundation, and after that, if all things prove that the foundation which we have received, and upon which the saints of all ages have built, is faulty, and yours right, then we will be prepared to look at and prove the theory built upon it, but not before. But meantime we will "continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the Gospel" which we "have received" – even redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, UNTIL you shall, piece by piece, examine every one of the many statements of which our foundation is composed, and shall have shown us that these statements are all unreliable or mean the reverse of what they say. We proved these testimonials once, and have been blessed of God in the development of a faith-structure thereupon, and we shall not even need to go back and unsettle faith to prove them again. If you CAN DISPROVE them, let us have that evidence, but none other until then.
Some of the foundation stones upon which the faith of the saints of all ages has been built, and from which we refuse to be "moved away" until these are crushed to powder – which we think will never be – are as follows:
Isaiah says – "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way, and the Lord hath laid on HIM the iniquity of us all....He was cut off out of the land of the living; for the transgression of my people was he stricken. And he let his grave be made with the wicked, and with the (Godless) rich at his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. But the Lord was pleased to crush him through disease: when (now) his soul hath brought the trespass-offering, then shall he see his seed, live many days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. ...Through his knowledge shall my righteous servant bring the many to righteousness, while he will bear their iniquities. Therefore will I divide him (a portion) with the many, and with the strong will he divide the spoil; because he poured out his soul unto death, and with transgressors was he numbered, while he bore the sin of many, and for the transgressors he let (evil) befall him." Isa. 53:6-12, K.J. and Leeser's Translations.
Jesus said: "I lay down my life for the sheep."...No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself." John 10:15,18.
Paul said: "I delivered unto you first of all, that which I also received [first of all], how that Christ died for OUR SINS according to the Scriptures. 1 Cor. 15:3. "Being justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him." Rom. 5:9. "We have redemption through his blood." Eph. 1:7. "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us." Gal. 3:13. "Since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead." 1 Cor. 15:21. "There is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time." 1 Tim. 2:5,6. "When we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. ...For if by one man's offence death reigned by one, much more, they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness, shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ. For, as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one, shall many be made righteous." Rom. 5:6,18,19.
"Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men; for I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. Take heed, therefore, unto yourselves and to all the flock, over which the Holy Spirit hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his blood," Acts 20:26-28.
Peter said: "Ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold...but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot." 1 Pet. 1:18,19. "Christ suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened in the spirit. (3:18).
And the glorified overcoming church exclaims: "Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen." "And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book and to open the seals thereof; for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by the blood out of every kindred and tongue and people and nation." Rev. 1:5,6 and 5:9.
"Pray, pray for light from the Lord, for grace to acknowledge the truth; because this is the only means of attaining to it. Controversy will do no good. In controversy is pride and self-love. People, in controversy, make a parade of their knowledge, of their acuteness, and after all, every one continues to hold his own views. Prayer alone gives light and strength for the acquirement of truth and grace. For God wishes that we should humble ourselves, and he gives his grace to the humble."
Such is the process by which perverts to Rome are multiplied. Is there not something wrong about it? Are the words of Pius, after all, true? We think not. In similar tones and language, [R653 : page 6] many an old Rabbi would, in our Lord's time, have addressed a young disciple of Christ, in order to win him back to the old faith; and, in similar tones, many a self-satisfied religionist still warns and rebukes the inquiring spirit.
But wherein is it wrong? Is it not true that our first duty is to pray for light and grace? Unquestionably it is. Further; is it not true that, for the most part, in controversy there is much pride and self-love? and that men engaged in it often seek rather to display their acuteness than anything else? It cannot be disputed that such is too frequently the case. Wherein, then, lies the error? For if it be an error, it is one that is shared by thousands of Protestants in the present day, who are constantly teaching that all controversy is evil; that doubt is sinful; that free inquiry inevitably leads to skepticism; and that he who would arrive at Truth, must do so by abasing his rational faculties, and by reading his Bible on his knees, rather than in his library; in the light of devotion, rather than in that of research; with the intellect at rest, rather than alert and quickened; with prayer, rather than with careful study.
The error lies in the supposition implied, rather than expressed, that devout submission and intellectual activity are somewhat opposed to each other; that the two cannot, if each be quickened, co-exist, the one being destructive of the other; and that consequently, free inquirers must, as a rule, be a prayerless race. But is it true that the intellect and the devout affections are thus opposed? that research and prayer cannot really go on together?
The answer to the question must depend on the character of the prayer supposed to be offered. If, with some eminent modern divines, he regards the faith for which he entreats to be "a new faculty," "a Divine capacity," imparted only as a sovereign gift, it then follows, of course, that the more passive he is, the better; that creaturely activity, as it is sometimes called, is a hindrance to the reception of the divine blessing; and that prayer stands in direct opposition to the exercise of reason.
This has always been the doctrine of the Church of Rome. It manifests itself most in the most devout of her children. It is the distinguishing characteristic of the quietists and mystics in her communion of all ages; and it has always had a charm for devout Protestants of meditative temperament, who do not perceive the poison that it embodies. Protestants also, believing like the Romanists, that God requires them to pray and wait for a light above and beyond any that they can get by the use of their rational faculties, however much these may be disciplined by labor or purified by a right state of heart, try to lay aside reason, in order that they may passively receive from above "the truth as it is in Jesus." They never consider that, from the course they are taking, they will necessarily be acted upon by forces, which, however divine they may deem them, are really as human as any by which they are in other ways affected.
But let us suppose another case. Let us suppose that the praying man expects his answer from God in another form; that he has not the slightest expectation of obtaining light apart from the vigorous use of his faculties; that as, when he asks God for daily bread, he only expects to receive it in the form of a blessing on his industry, his skill, his perseverance, and his trust in God; so, in spiritual things, if, when he prays that the eyes of his understanding may be opened, he expects his answer only in the form of that eye-salve (humility) with which the eye must be anointed, if it would see (Rev. 3:18,) – in the form of purification from the various phases of evil that darken and becloud the faculties of a sinful man; if he bear in mind the words of his Lord – "If thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light;" if he look, therefore, for his answer in growing freedom from prejudice, in a greater breadth of charity, in a more loving appreciation of truth and goodness; and consequently (a necessary consequence,) through the reception of these "fruits of the Spirit," to have a clearer intellect, a sounder judgment, a better balanced mind; the reverse of all we have stated then becomes true. Prayer and intellectual activity go on together, and as on the first supposition, they could not co-exist, so, on this, they cannot be separated.
The Jews came to Christ with their doubts. What was his reply? Pray? No! It was, Search the Scriptures: they are they which testify of me. (John 5:39.) Again he said to them, "I am come in my Father's name, and ye receive me not. Why? Because ye do not pray? No! The cause of unbelief is thus stated, "How can ye believe, which receive honor one of another, and seek not the honor which cometh from God," (v. 44.) "To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice, (John 18:37.)
Paul, at Thessalonica, when dealing with unbelievers, does not call upon them to pray; but "as his manner was, went in unto them and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the Scriptures," (Acts 17:2.) So, again, at Corinth, "he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath day, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks," (18:4.) Again at Ephesus, we are told "he entered into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews." And so before Felix, he "reasoned of righteousness, temperance and judgment to come" till "Felix trembled." (24:25.)
Nor was his method different with believers. Complaining of some, that, when they "ought to have been teachers," it was needful to teach them "which be the first principles of the oracles of God," he adds, "Strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who, by reason of use, have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil," (Heb. 5:14;) i.e., their faculties exercised by practice in the distinguishing of truth from error.
How different in this particular was the conduct of the Apostle before his conversion. He then prayed and persecuted; while Stephen and other Christians, though ever living in the atmosphere of prayer, reasoned out of the Scriptures. Saul and the priests, like the popes, supplicated God and threatened man. Stephen the martyr studied, and quoted and followed the written Word. The persecutor would have nothing to do with controversy.
After his conversion, Paul, as we all know, became a great controversialist. Some of his epistles – that to the Galatians for example – are almost wholly controversial. Before his great change, we look in vain for a single argument against heresy; for then, like the Papal chief, he only "breathed out threatenings and slaughter." It was not till he became a Christian that he felt the necessity of giving "a reason for the hope that was in him," (Acts 17:2,17.)
Nowhere in Scripture, either from the lips of Christ or his Apostles, is prayer set before us as the medium by and through which divine light [truth] is to be obtained. Everywhere we are taught to pray for a right state of heart, for pardon, for purity, for temporal and eternal good, for friends, for enemies, for all men, for a blessing from above on faithful teachers of the Gospel; but nowhere for a new faculty, or that which amounts to the same thing. No such petition occurs in the prayer Jesus taught his disciples. Would we know God's will we are to be babes, as distinguished from the wise and prudent of this world; we are to be obedient children; to seek for a renewed nature; for a wise and understanding heart; for a single eye; for the fear of God; and for strength and assistance in the fulfillment of every duty.
Far be it from us to deny that, in one sense – the true and scriptural sense – light from heaven is essential to all of us. Our ignorance is often felt to be oppressive, our perplexities so harassing, that it would be crushing indeed to one's spirit to feel that we were forbidden to pray for light. But not in the Pope's sense can we rightly do so. The light we need, and the light God warrants us to expect, is that of love and purity, freedom from pride, prejudice, self-interest, and sin – in short, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
In the Old Testament we are taught to "cry after knowledge, and to lift up our voice for understanding, but it is in connection with seeking after it as the miner seeks for silver, by long and unwearied toil.
[Instructed by a careful study of the Word, light will come in by the removal of obstacles, and by increasing faith in God's promises. Thus, the eyes of our understanding being opened, we may comprehend with all saints more of the height and depth, the length and breadth of God's love as exhibited in his plan and Word. – Ed.]
Paul prayed for his converts, that the word of Christ might dwell in them richly, (Col. 3:16;) that they might hold fast [R654 : page 6] that which is good, (1 Thes. 5:21;) that they might be filled with the knowledge of God's will, (Col. 1:9,10;) but all these petitions are but so many forms of desire for their sanctification, for increase of grace, and for the planting within them of holy principles and dispositions. In not a single instance does he direct them to pray for such blessings as direct gifts from heaven; but always to watch, to search, to be faithful to duty, to love truth, and to follow it at all risks, not doubting but that in this path they would find it.
We have said nothing as to the danger of praying over the Bible, with the unconscious desire to find ourselves right. Yet nothing is more common; and it is certain that he who does so, will generally succeed in obtaining the object of his wishes. It is the same with Philosophy. If you have a strong wish to find phenomena such as to confirm the conjectures you have formed, and allow that wish to bias your examination, you are ill-fitted for interrogating nature. So it is with the Bible. Revelation is to be interrogated not as a witness but as an instructor.
What, then, do we learn from the whole? We learn that in the acquisition of truth, prayer occupies precisely the same position that it does in relation to the acquisition of bread; that as God now showers not bread from heaven as he did in the wilderness, so he showers not truth upon our minds as he did upon the Apostles. And in each case for the same reason, because it is not requisite. The laborer has now what the Israelite in the desert had not, – the opportunity of gaining his bread by the sweat of his face; and the Christian has now what the Christian in apostolic days had not – a complete revelation of the will of God in his hand, and nothing to hinder his understanding of it as it becomes due, save his worldliness, selfishness, and sin.
For the removal of these hindrances let us pray and labor earnestly, assured that only so far as they are supplanted by the Holy Spirit of God shall we be able to discern wondrous things in the Divine Law.
It has been truly said, that order is heaven's first law; yet few, we think, have realized how emphatically this is true. In glancing back over the plan of the ages, there is nothing which gives such conclusive evidence of a Divine Director as the order observed in all its parts.
As we have seen, God has had definite and stated times and seasons for every part of his work; and in the end of each of these seasons there was a finishing up of that work and a clearing off of the rubbish, preparatory to the beginning of the new work of the dispensation to follow. Thus in the end of the first dispensation (from creation to the flood), which, as we have seen, was placed under the control of the angels, there was a finishing work – an exhortation through Noah to forsake sin and turn to righteousness, and a warning of certain retribution. And when the full end of the time allotted for that dispensation had come, there was a selection and saving of all that was worth saving and a clean sweeping destruction of all the refuse; and with that which remained a new dispensation began.
In the end of the Jewish dispensation the same thing is observed – a harvesting and complete separation of the wheat class from the chaff, and an entire rejection of the latter class from God's favor. With the few judged worthy in the end of that age, a new dispensation began; and now we find ourselves amidst the closing scenes (the harvest) of this Gospel dispensation. The wheat and tares which have grown together during this age are being separated. And with the former class, of which Jesus is the head, a new dispensation is about to be inaugurated, and these are to reign as kings and priests in that new dispensation, while the tare element is judged as utterly unworthy of that favor.
As a skilled mechanic or artisan puts on the finishing touches and brushes away the refuse materials from one part of his work preparatory to the beginning of another part, so God has made a full end of each dispensation, preserving the finished work and casting off the refuse.
While observing this order with reference to the dispensations past and the one just closing, our Lord informs us through the parable under consideration, that the same order will be observed with reference to the dispensation to follow this.
The harvest of the Jewish age was likened to the separation of wheat from chaff; the harvest of this age to the separation of wheat from tares; and the harvest of the Millennial age to the separation of sheep from goats.
That this parable refers to the Millennial age is clearly indicated in verses 31 and 32 – "When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, THEN shall he sit upon the throne of his glory, and before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats." As in the present age, every act of those on trial (the Church) goes to make a part of that character which, in due time, will determine the final decision of the Judge in our case, so will it be with the world (the nations) in the age to come. As in the present age, the trial of the majority of the individual members of the church ends, and the decision of their case is reached long before the end of the age (2 Tim. 4:7,8); so under the Millennial reign, the decision of some individual cases will be reached long before the end of the age (Isa. 65:20); but in both ages there is a harvest or general separation time in the end of the age.
In the dawn of the Millennial age, after the "time of trouble," there will be a gathering of the living nations before Christ, and in their appointed time and order, the dead of all nations shall be called to appear before the judgment seat of Christ – not to receive an immediate sentence, but to receive a fair and impartial trial, under the most favorable circumstances, the result of which trial will be a final sentence, as worthy or unworthy of everlasting life.
The scene of this parable, then, is laid after the time of trouble and after the exaltation of the "little flock" to the throne, when the nations have been subdued, Satan bound (Rev. 20:2) and the authority of Christ's kingdom established. The Bride of Christ, ere this, will have been seated with him in his throne, and will have taken part in executing the judgments of the great day of wrath. Now the Son of man appears (is made manifest) to the world "in his glory," and together Jesus and his Bride "shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father." (Matt. 13:43.)
Here is the New Jerusalem as John saw it, (Rev. 21,) "that holy city [symbol of government]...coming down from God out of heaven." During all the time of trouble it was coming down, and now it has touched the earth. This is the stone cut out of the mountains (kingdoms of earth) without hands, (but by the power of God,) and now it has become a great mountain, (kingdom,) and has filled the whole earth, (Dan. 2:35,) its coming having broken to pieces (Dan. 2:34,35) the evil kingdoms of the Prince of darkness.
Here is that glorious city, (government,) [R654 : page 7] prepared as a bride adorned for her husband, (Rev. 21:2,) and the nations are beginning to walk in the light of it. (ver. 24.) These may bring their glory and honor into it, but there shall in no wise enter into it (or become a part of it) anything that defileth," etc. (ver. 27.) Here, from the midst of the throne, proceeds a pure river of water of life, (truth unmixed with error,) and the Spirit and the Bride say, come, and take it freely. (Rev. 22:17.) Here begins the world's probation, the world's great judgment day – a thousand years.
But even in this favored time of blessing and healing of the nations, when Satan is bound, evil restrained, mankind released from the grasp of death, and when the knowledge of the Lord fills the earth, two classes will be developed, which Jesus, in this parable, likens to sheep and goats. These, he tells us, he will separate. The sheep class – those who are meek, teachable and willing to be led, shall, during the age, be gathered at the Judge's right hand – symbol of the Judge's approval; but the goat class, self-willed and stubborn, always climbing on the rocks – seeking prominence and approval among men – and feeding on miserable refuse, while the sheep graze in the rich pastures of truth furnished by the Good Shepherd, these are gathered to the Judge's left hand opposite the position of favor – as subjects of his disfavor and condemnation.
In the end of the Millennial age, in the final adjustment of human affairs, Jesus thus addresses his sheep: "Come ye blessed...inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." What kingdom? Was not the kingdom under the whole heavens given to the saints? (Dan. 7:22.)
Yes, as we have heretofore seen, a "little flock," "the saints," the overcoming "sheep" of the Gospel age, having followed the Lamb (Jesus) whithersoever he went, through evil and through good report, even to the sacrificing of the human life, with him have been exalted to the divine nature, and to the throne of the spiritual, unseen kingdom, and He (the Christ, head and body) must reign, till he has put all enemies under his feet, (1 Cor. 15:25.) The saints shall reign with Christ a thousand years. (Rev. 20:6.) [R655 : page 7]
Jesus calls believers of the Gospel age who know and obey his voice, his sheep. But he says, "Other sheep I have which are not of this fold (referring to those who should become his followers in the Millennial age,) them also I must lead (into truth and righteousness during that age,) and there shall be one fold and one shepherd. Jesus and the "little flock," the Bride, united as one, will be the Good Shepherd, who will lead mankind into the one fold of safety – harmony with God.
This gradual work of separating sheep and goats will require all of the Millennial age for its accomplishment. During that age, each individual as he comes gradually to a knowledge of God and his will, by conforming or not conforming thereto, takes his place at the right hand of favor, or the left hand of disfavor according as he improves or misimproves the opportunities of that golden age. By the end of that age, all the world of mankind (not the present Church) will have arranged themselves, as shown in the parable, into two classes. As in nature, sheep are far more numerous than goats, so we doubt not that with the perfect knowledge then possessed, the sheep company will far outnumber the goats.
With the end of that age is the end of the world's trial, or judgment, and final disposition is made of the two classes. The goats who have not developed the element of love – the law of God's being and kingdom – are not counted worthy of life, and must be destroyed, while the sheep who have developed, and by deeds exhibited God-likeness (love) are to be installed as the rulers of earth for future ages.
The work of restitution will not be quite complete until the great mass of mankind, having been restored to the perfect condition, is re-invested with the dominion of earth as possessed by Adam before sin entered, as God had said, "After our likeness let him have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, over the cattle and over all the earth,...and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth" – a ruler over earth, like as God is ruler over all things. And the Psalmist expresses the same idea, saying, Thou hast made man a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honor; thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands. (Ps. 8:5-8.) The dominion is not to be over each other, for when the law of love controls human hearts, there will be no necessity for dominion over one another, though by mutual consent, prompted by love, regulations may be made among themselves for the common good and blessing of all.
This, then, is the kingdom that has been preparing for MANKIND from the foundation of the world. It was expedient that man should suffer six thousand years under the dominion of evil, to learn its inevitable results, misery and death, and in order by contrast to prove the justice, wisdom and goodness of God's law – love. Then it requires the seventh thousand years under the reign of Christ, to restore him from ruin and death, to the perfect condition, thereby fitting him to inherit the kingdom prepared for him from the foundation of the world.
This kingdom in which all are kings, will really be a GRAND REPUBLIC, whose stability and blessed influence will be assured, by the perfection of every member, which result now so much desired is almost an impossibility. The kingdom of the saints is on the contrary a Theocracy which will rule the world (during the period of its imperfection and restoration) without regard to their consent or approval.
But the righteous will inquire why they are crowned with such glory, honor and dominion. And the Lord replies: "I was hungry, and you fed me; thirsty, and you gave me drink; I was a stranger, and you took me in; naked, and you clothed me; I was sick, and you visited me; in prison, and you came unto me."
"Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee hungry, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?" "And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."
Let us notice who these are that Jesus calls his brethren, and in what sense the evils here named may be true of them. We observe, first, that Jesus is addressing all the sheep or the righteous class, in the end of the Millennial age. Then all of that class will have had opportunity to minister to the necessities of the Lord's brethren. Jesus calls the Church of the Gospel age his brethren (Matt. 12:49,50,) but all of the sheep class then addressed, will not have had opportunity to minister to those brethren. Millions of the sheep class will be of those who lived before the Gospel Church had an existence; and others will have been born during the Millennial age, after the Gospel Church has been exalted and no longer needs their ministry.
The brethren of the Gospel Church then are not the only brethren of Christ. All who at that time will have been restored to perfection, will be recognized as sons of God; sons in the same sense that Adam was a son of God. (Luke 3:38) – human sons. And all of God's sons whether on the human, the angelic, or the divine planes, are BRETHREN. Jesus' love for these, his brethren, is here expressed. As the world will now have opportunity to minister to those who are shortly to be the divine sons of God, and brethren of Christ, so they will have abundant opportunity during the age to come to minister to (each other) the human brethren.
The dead nations when again brought into existence will need food, and raiment, and shelter. However great may have been their possessions in this life, death will have brought all to a common level; the infant and the man of maturer years, the millionaire and the pauper, the learned and the unlearned, the cultured and the ignorant and degraded, and all will have an abundant opportunity for the exercise of benevolence, and thus they will be privileged to be co-workers with God. We are here reminded of the illustration given in the case of Lazarus: Jesus only awakened him from death, and then permitted the rejoicing friends to loose him from his grave clothes and clothe him and feed him.
Further, these are said to be "sick and in prison," (more properly, under ward or watch.) The grave is the great prison where the millions of humanity have been held in unconscious captivity; but when released from the grave, the restoration to perfection is not an instantaneous work. Being not yet perfect, they may properly be termed sick and under ward. They are not dead, neither are they yet perfect; and any condition between those two is properly called sick. And they will continue to be under watch or ward until made well – physically, mentally, and morally perfect. During that time there will be abundant opportunity for mutual helpfulness, sympathy, instruction and encouragement.
Since mankind will not all be raised at once, but in separate ranks or orders (1 Cor. 15:23) during the thousand years, each new rank will find an army of helpers in those who will have preceded them. The love and benevolence which men will then show to each other (the brethren of Christ) the King will count as shown to him. No great deeds are assigned as the ground for the honors and favors conferred upon the righteous; they have simply come into harmony with God's law – love – and proved it by their works. "Love is the fulfilling of the law" (Rom. 13:10), and "God is love," so, when man is restored again to the image of God – "very good" – man also will be love.
Then follows the message to those on the left – "Depart from me ye cursed (condemned)" – condemned, as unfit vessels for the glory and honor of life, who would not yield to the moulding and shaping influences of divine love. When these my brethren were hungry, and thirsty, naked, sick, and in prison, ye ministered not to their necessities, thus continually proving yourselves out of harmony with the heavenly city (kingdom) for "there shall in no case enter into it anything that defileth." The decision and sentence regarding this class is, "Depart from me into everlasting fire [symbol of destruction] prepared for the devil and his angels." Elsewhere (Heb. 2:14) we read in plain language that Christ "will destroy...him that has the power of death that is the devil." And the lake of fire is defined to be the second death (Rev. 20:14).
"And these" [the goats] "go away into everlasting punishment" [cutting off – Diaglott – cutting off from life] "but the righteous into life eternal." The punishment is as lasting as the reward. The reward is everlasting life; the punishment is to be forever cut off from life – everlasting death; a death from which there will be no redemption, no resurrection.
To the sheep it is said, "Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." But though God give it to man at first, and designs restoring it to him when he has prepared him for the great trust, we are not to suppose that God intends man to rule it except as under or in harmony with his supreme law. "Thy will be done in earth as it is done in heaven," must forever be the rule.
Man henceforth will rule his dominion in harmony with the law of heaven – delighting continually to do his will "in whose favor is life, and at whose right hand [condition of favor] there are pleasures forevermore." (Ps. 16:11.) O who would not say, "Haste thee along ages of glory," and give glory and honor to him whose loving plans are blossoming into such fullness of blessing.
We clip from papers of recent date the following suggestive items, which give fresh evidence of the general unrest and forebodings of evil to come. Again and again we are reminded of the prediction of our Lord, that the powers of the heavens shall be shaken, and that men's hearts shall fail them for fear, and for looking after those things that are coming on the earth.
The problems of the present hour baffle the wisdom and skill of statesmen, and with an increasing emphasis demand their attention. Divine wisdom alone can adjust the tangled problem of human affairs. But we rejoice to know that after the storm shall have reached its climax and spent its force, men will be prepared for a better order of things, and then they shall recognize the Son of man coming in power and great glory; and will be prepared to submit to his rightful authority.
"Just how long the questions raised by American socialists and so-called land reformers of the Henry George stripe can be kept out of politics is more than can be told, yet it would be foolish to ignore their existence or keep ignorant of their nature. Socialism is a subject that has received very little attention from our students or legislators. Its aims are illy understood. The popular eye has seen little more than a discontented lot of fierce sans-culottes and the ear heard only their wild and incoherent ravings. About all that is known of them is that socialists would tear the present order of things to pieces if they only had the power. Sunday's Globe-Democrat contains an interview with T. V. Powderly, General Master Workman of the Knights of Labor, an organization of workingmen that bears 900,000 on its rolls, and has an active membership of full 600,000. 'Do you think that labor now enjoys the rights that belong to it?' questioned the reporter. We quote the reply:
'We do not. The condition of the working classes is truly deplorable in many respects, and I very much fear there is trouble ahead. Capital must learn to respect the claims of labor, and that soon. If not we shall have revolution. It is no use to be mealy-mouthed about the situation. Talk of communism! That amounts to nothing. The relations between the capitalists and the workingmen are all wrong, and they must be righted. It is our mission to do as much to this end as we can. When Gen. Grant came back to this country after going abroad, he spoke of the asphaltum pavement. That he said was what was needed – that and Gatling guns, and then they could adjust these differences of capital and labor. Why asphaltum pavements? Because they can not be torn up and made into barricades."
The speaker's eyes flashed and his voice took on the lower tones as he continued: 'But we have a counter-irritant now. Dynamite! That will offset their pavement and their guns. We hope it will not come to this. There are other ways of settling differences, and our order is devoting itself to a peaceful and a rational solution of the problem.'
That all sounds like idle bravado, yet it may be the inner thought of a million workers. Men must have worked themselves to a considerable frenzy, when they even talk of dynamite as a means of avenging their supposed wrongs.
On the same day, in Chicago, there was a gathering of working men, and their theme was 'Socialists, What they Want, and How they want it.' This very comprehensive subject was discussed by Alexander Jonas, editor of the New York Volks Zeitung, Paul Grottkau of the Arbeiter Zeitung (Workingman's Paper), and a T. J. Morgan. Mr. Jonas is said to be very moderate in his views as compared with other apostles of Socialism, yet they contrived to say:
The object of socialists was that each man should be free to work as much as he thought he owed to the world, and take in return as much as he needed. He did not care for art and science as [R656 : page 8] long as millions were starving and in misery. Socialists did not want charity, but justice, and it was the duty of workingmen who were enlightened as to the aims of socialism to canvass their fellow-laborers actively and impart their own intelligence and knowledge to them. It had been asked why in Cincinnati the workingmen who all had rifles at home did not turn out and shoot. The reason was simply that they did not know enough yet. But the day would come when intelligent workingmen, formed into armed battalions, would turn out, and then, would capitalists and landlords see who was the strongest of the two! [Terrific applause.]
Morgan, who spoke in English, did not have a good show to unload himself, but said in substance that socialists demanded that their condition be measured by the possibilities that surrounded them. They were dissatisfied with the existing condition of affairs. At one end of the social system was Vanderbilt, and at the other the tramp. Both must be done away with, and to accomplish this, land, railroads, manufacturers, tools and machinery should be made the common property of the people, and not be controlled by a few.
This was entirely too tame a statement to arouse enthusiasm among the revolutionists, but he was followed by Grottkau, who pleased them better. In his opinion, socialists should attain their ends by a physical revolution, and should do so at once. He was opposed to their taking a part in politics, but wanted a revolution, pure and simple, with plenty of dynamite and gunpowder. Alexander Kempke believed in educating the working people in the principles of socialism, and in their participating in politics. A revolution must surely come about, but they were not prepared for it at present.
These are samples of teachings and expressions that are being inculcated and find utterance in most of our large cities. There certainly ought to be some definite information in the hands of the authorities as to the extent to which these sentiments are entertained among workingmen. We have an unfortunate habit of letting things run until they are practically beyond control.
The city of New York did so with the Boss Tweed Ring. The nation did the same with the propagation of States Rights doctrines, and it resulted in the most tremendous war of modern times. We have done the same with Mormonism, till now it is fairly entrenched in the heart of the continent, and is able to bid defiance to the Legislature and moral forces of the Republic. With these examples before us, it is certainly unwise to continue the laissez faire system with so active, seductive and dangerous a thing as socialism."
LONDON, June 22. – The Irish leaders in London just now seem to be anxiously awaiting some expected development of an extraordinary character. The fact that the Parnellities seem to be in a state of constant apprehension would indicate that they have a good reason to know that the 'Force Party' are on the eve of attempting to carry out some well-planned scheme of terrorism. The police are nervously active. London was never so thoroughly patrolled. Strangers arriving at any of the Metropolitan entrepots are closely scrutinized, and in many cases "shadowed" until proved beyond suspicion. All the Ministers are guarded by detectives to and from Parliament and the public offices. The entire detective force has been put on double duty alternately. When Parliament is in session visitors are discouraged from attendance and strangers are not allowed in the building at all. Before each sitting the Parliament buildings are searched by the police from cellar to roof, and immediately after each rising all people are ejected from the palace yard and the gates are locked and placed under guard. All the Ministers and a majority of the Troy leaders have adopted the custom of leaving Parliament in cabs, the Ministers making their exits through the private entrances. During each recess all the corridors and vaults of the Parliament buildings are constantly patrolled by special sentries.
The Thames Embankment has been placed under the care of special appointed watchmen. Nearly all the well-known Invincibles who recently were conspicuous in London have either disappeared or suddenly become quiet. Peter Tynan, long regarded as the mysterious "Number One," recently left London, leaving word that he was going to America. It has been ascertained that he went straight to Paris, and it is asserted that he was seen in the French capital recently. Capt. McCafferty is known to be there. It is generally feared that the leaders of the Invincibles are in secret session in Paris for the purpose of directing from there the expected developments which are awaited with a fear bordering upon panic."
"Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you that in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven." – Matt. 18:10.
Some of the disciples had come to Jesus desiring to know who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven; and Jesus called a little child to him, and setting him in the midst of them said, "Verily I say unto you, except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter the kingdom of heaven." What a charm there is in childhood's simplicity, faith, love, hope and its meek teachable spirit. It confidently takes your hand to be led where you please, and you may write upon its blank pages whatever you will.
Just so God would have men be, but it takes very thorough converting to bring them back to the simplicity of childhood. As they have grown to years of maturity hope has so often been blighted, faith so often betrayed, and love rebuffed, that the simplicity and meekness of childhood has been displaced by the art, the selfishness and the proud, haughty spirit which despises instruction.
But God comes with abundant proof of his love, and with promises to inspire hope and faith, and requires of us a return to childhood's simple faith, not in men, but in God who will never betray it. Those who have thus come to childlike faith and obedience to God, he calls his "little ones." And like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth his little ones that love him. (Psa. 103:13.) He has pity and patience for all their weak, imperfect efforts to do his will, and his special care is over all his little ones, whether young or old in years.
God's special care and love for these is strongly expressed in the above words of our Lord. "Their angels do always behold the face of my Father." God has given his angels special charge of these. "Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister to them who shall be heirs of salvation?" (Heb. 1:14.) And these unseen ministers of the saints always have access to our Father. O how little we realize the wondrous care that is over us. Even "the very hairs of your head are all numbered (Matt. 10:30); an innumerable company of angels who have constant access to our Father watch over us continually, and no good thing will he withhold, while every seeming ill shall be made to work together for our good. Does poverty, sickness, loss of friends or any other ill distress you? ever remember and be comforted by the blessed assurance that none of these things can separate us from the love of God. (Rom. 8:35.)
Neither should any of these things separate God's children from one another. If they do, it is a sure indication that those so influenced are losing the spirit of God and turning back to the spirit of the world. Jesus specially warns us on this point, saying, that if God and all the heavenly hosts of superior beings so love, and esteem it a privilege to serve these little ones, see that ye despise them not.
We believe that there are many of these "little ones" yet in the nominal church who, because of adverse worldly circumstances, are despised and unnoticed by the proud professors of Christianity who occupy the prominent positions in Babylon. We would suggest to the many who have asked, What can I do in the Lord's service? that here is a wide field of usefulness open to the average talent.
There are doubtless those in every locality who are hungry for Christian sympathy and help. You can make it your business to seek them out and feed them with the precious truth which has so nourished you. If you have no ability to preach in a public way, how freely you can tell the blessed story in your own way, when heart to heart you can meet with some of the Lord's little ones. Many of them have become so accustomed to being despised and indifferently passed by, that your genial sympathy and help would be greatly appreciated.
A little special effort, or, perhaps, more than a little, may make you acquainted with many such, and you will find abundant opportunity for the use of your talents right in your own locality. We should not be too quick to decide that all who are in Babylon are of Babylon, else all effort will be paralyzed, and many precious opportunities of service lost. It should be our constant endeavor to be co-workers with God and with all his unseen hosts of ministering spirits.
But in all our efforts, let us remember the instruction to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves, not giving strong meat to those who are babes in Christ, but first the sincere milk of the word, and afterward stronger truth as they are able to bear it.
Question. Please harmonize if you can Prov. 17:15 with Rom. 4:5. The first reads: "He that justifieth the wicked and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the Lord." The second is: "But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness."
Answer. Strictly speaking, no man can justify another, i.e., to make or truthfully pronounce him conformable to God's law. Yet it is quite a common thing for men to pronounce that right which is wrong, and thus they attempt to justify evil and evil doers. And the same disposition which leads them to do this, leads them also to condemn the just. Because they prefer evil, they attempt to deceive themselves and others into the idea that wrong is right and right is wrong. This is an abomination to the Lord.
But while God condemns man's attempt to thus justify the wicked, the second text shows that he can and does justify the wicked. How? Certainly not in the same way he has just condemned – by excusing wickedness, or attempting to make it appear right, and remitting the penalty which he had justly pronounced against it. No, but God devised a way by which he could be just, and yet the justifier of sinners who believe in Jesus (Rom. 3:26), viz.: By giving his only begotten Son who "for the joy set before him," became our willing substitute. Our sins having been laid upon or imputed to him (Isa. 53:6) if we believe on him, his righteousness will be imputed to us; and thus we are justified. Sin having been cancelled by the Redeemer, the sinner will in due time be made actually perfect.
Question. Was the prize of the high calling ever presented as an incentive to entire consecration? Is it not rather a spiritual truth revealed to the newly begotten creature – a truth which the natural man cannot receive?
Answer. We so regard it. Paul urges consecration to God on account of the mercies of God as displayed in their justification (Rom. 12:1). When the natural man out of gratitude and love surrenders his whole being to God, he does not understand that the will of God is the complete surrender of his humanity, nor does he understand how the new creature develops into his Lord's likeness. Truth relative to his high calling is unfolded to him by degrees.
"AS THE sunlight tints the flower and colors the rock; as it alternately sparkles in the dew-drop and shines in the broad ocean; so the true religious spirit should be present in the humblest bargain and the lowliest acts of life as much as in the great songs of Hebrew bards and the profound teachings of Paul."
"THE sentiment that it matters not what a man believes, so that he is sincere, is as unscriptural as it is absurd. Sincerity in belief has no more effect in warding off evil in the spiritual than in the natural kingdom. If the teachings and persuasions of a reputed chemist should prevail on you to believe that arsenic is harmless, would it therefore be harmless? Could you mix it with your bread, and eat it without injury. Oh, no; neither will the sincerity of your belief save you from the consequences of error in religious faith. Right belief – truth, God's truth, my brethren, is the only foundation on which you can safely rest your hopes."