The Editor recognizes a responsibility to the Master, relative to what shall appear in these columns, which he cannot and does not cast aside; yet he should not be understood as endorsing every expression of correspondents, or of articles selected from other periodicals.
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This paper will be sent free to any of the Lord's poor who will send a card yearly requesting it. Freely we have received and freely we would give the truth. "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters; and he that hath no money, come ye, buy and eat – yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price." And you that have it – "Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labor for that which satisfieth not? Hearken diligently – and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness." – ISAIAH 55:1,2.
The "lenten season" as observed especially by the Roman Catholic and the Episcopal Churches, is upon us, and despite the extravagant excesses practiced by these ceremonious friends, the season calls before the memory of all thoughtful saints, pictures of the last days of Jesus. One thing is certain, the remembrance of that time and of our Lord's sufferings and death are not calculated to overthrow faith in the ransom, nor to lead men to deny that the Lord bought them.
It was the custom of the early Church to celebrate the Lord's Supper and death on the anniversary of the same, every year, and the observance yet of "Good Friday," by some, is what yet lingers of the original custom of the Church.
We can but recognize the appropriateness of celebrating any event on its anniversary, and for several years past we have enjoyed the privilege of thus commemorating the antitypical Passover Sacrifice – the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.
The appropriateness of the time has always heightened the interest and rendered it more impressively, solemn and real. As we partake of the emblems of his shed blood and broken body, it impresses upon us the words and scenes of the first Supper, and of the sacrifice for sins which it illustrated, and gives us to realize more fully the value of the "precious blood" that cleanseth from all sin.
The Lord's Supper is a reminder of his death, as the Passover was a type of it. Jesus fulfilled the latter and instituted the former in the same night in which he was betrayed, and told his disciples that hence forth they should DO THIS in remembrance of him – not now in remembrance of the typical Lamb's death and its results, but in remembrance of ME – the true Lamb of God whose sacrifice procures still a greater passover and deliverence for the Church of the first-born.
We purpose commemorating the Lord's Supper on its anniversary this year also; and suggest to the saints everywhere observance of the Master's words – "THIS DO in remembrance of me" (Luke 22:12). We can assure you it will be a blessed season of communion to all the household of faith, and especially to those who are of the "first born" class. Around that hour the memories of the year will cluster while the heart sings:
"Sweet the moments rich in blessing
Which before the cross I spend,
Life and health and peace possessing
From the sinners dying Friend."
The Jewish "Feast of Passover" commenced on the fifteenth day of their month Nisan (answering this year to our April 9th) and lasted seven days. This we do not commemorate, but the acts of a day preceding it – the killing of the lamb on the 14th of Nisan, which beginning at six o'clock Tuesday evening April 8th, will end with six o'clock Wednesday evening April 9th, 1884.
The church at Pittsburgh will meet at 7:30 P.M. Tuesday evening in the upper room of No. 101 Federal Street, Allegheny City, and break the bread and drink the fruit of the vine in remembrance of our Lord and Redeemer, and go forth remembering Gethsemane, and Pilate's court, and Herod's soldiers and Calvary, where the sacrifice was "FINISHED" at three o'clock P.M. following (April 9th) over eighteen hundred years ago.
For a more detailed account of our view of this matter we refer you to the TOWER of April last year. We trust to hear of the enjoyment of this season by the ones and twos and tens scattered everywhere, for "even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us" (1 Cor. 5:7).
DEAR BRO. RUSSELL: – I am always thirsting for the literature of the TOWER before it comes to me every month. Having been excluded from the nominal Church about eight months ago for endorsing the doctrines as advocated by you, my comfort is in reading the Bible with the helps published by yourself.
As a young minister of the Baptist Church, my preaching was very acceptable until I saw the glorious doctrine of restoration, and preached it, when I was excluded from the Church which I was serving. I pray earnestly, "Thy kingdom come." May God bless you (as part of the new mouth-piece, the old being spewed out) in your effort to spread the glad tidings of great joy which shall be to all people. I get a very clear view of the glorious teachings of the shadowy service, believing its glories. "The Tabernacle" tract is unsurpassed as an explanation of the Bible on that subject. Still I have doubts of my being among the priesthood – the way is so exceedingly narrow. Yet I often rejoice when my doubts temporarily remove with joy inexpressible and full of glory. I think I love my Bible better since the light of the "due time" begins to shine on its sacred pages, than ever before.
My humble prayer and burning desire is that I may be among that immortal band. I praise the name of God for the possibility of such.
Yours in brotherly love, __________.
DEAR FRIENDS: – Having picked up one of your little books on the street, called "Food for Thinking Christians," and "Why Evil was Permitted," I became deeply interested in it. It seems very good for thinking sinners as well as Christians. I am a reformed man now, having been down in the gutter many a time through intoxicating drink, though I have not tasted any now for over a year, may God help me to keep from it. Having just read the little book, I see that you will send others, and by so doing you will oblige me. I would like to lead a better life, and become a Christian. I cannot see fully into the reality of religion, but may the Lord open my heart and eyes to the great love he has for them that fear him. I will try to make good use of anything you send.
DEAR SIR AND BROTHER: – I thank you for sending me the TOWER. It has given me much light and comfort. I presume my time for reading will soon close, as I have entered my eighty-fifth year; but if you will be kind enough still to send it, I shall be much pleased, and will pray for God's blessing to attend you in your labors of love.
I would gladly circulate tracts or leaflets that you may have on hand if sent, as I have not much to do at present, and would like to work a little in the Lord's vineyard while here, by circulating that light which is so freely offered. If you have any tracts on hand, I should like much to get a few. I have lent and given away all that I had to parties that will make good use of them, and there are others that I should like to have read them. I always use caution "not to cast pearls before swine" to trample on or destroy.
I am, dear sir, yours truly, in the bonds of Christian love.
DEAR BROTHER: – I feel very thankful to God for the light of the truth I received from the TOWER and FOOD you sent me. I bless God I can rejoice in the truth, but we had a struggle to go through. I had been a Methodist for forty years, and my wife and daughter members of the Baptist Church. We have withdrawn our names from them, and are now forming a little true church in our own family. The Baptist minister came to see us, and denounced it as all wrong. I gave him my "Food" to look at. He said he wanted to get some points out of it. Some of my Methodist friends will not speak to me since I withdrew. I do thank God for the comfort I feel. I have been for many years trying to live wholly to glorify God, but I can now feel an assurance I never knew before. My companion is happy in the truth. I shall from henceforth work to bring other bound ones out into the large pastures. Pray for us, and may God bless you, and make you the means of setting many free.
DEAR SIR: – I am rather late in ordering the TOWER for another year. The reason is, we have had sickness and death in the house, and I have been almost dead myself. You may reckon that I am dead, when you cease to hear from me once a year. But I hope some of my friends would let you know in that case for I should wish to thank you at the last minute for all the light and joy and comfort I have received through you, and those who have helped you.
If I gave up the "Tower" views I should also let you know that and the reason why, but I am still so interested in it that I always pray for its safe arrival, and not one has missed in two years, and each one has brought some fresh light. Since I prayed at all, I have always prayed that I might understand the Scriptures, and now the windows of heaven are opened and there is such a blessing being poured out that I have not room to receive it. He said "prove me now herewith," and I say it is actually a fact.
I have gained the attention of two young men, who live near me, and they visit me two or three evenings a week, to enquire "what is truth?" One comes oftener than the other and makes more progress. He goes and spreads the good news as a steward of the manifold grace of God. These two enclose subscriptions with me for the TOWER.
Some time ago I heard read in my presence in a most solemn manner 2d Pet. 2:1, in condemnation of "Food for thinking Christians." If I had not seen the TOWER explanation of the "image of the beast" I should have been frightened out of my wits.
Your publications have removed more difficulties from my mind than any thing else has done. I never could understand why some Christians had no appetite for spiritual things, and didn't want to know any more truth than that Jesus died for sinners, and why to deny themselves for the truth sake, or love a Christian because he was a Christian, seemed to be out of the question. I thought if we all fare alike in the end, we are "fools for Christ's sake" indeed, and got nothing for it. But now it is as clear as daylight.
Your brother in Christ,
DEAR FRIENDS: – I hope to find in some of the papers that you send, when our Passover anniversary will occur this year. I expect to keep it all by myself. The wine I can buy, and I can make unleavened bread myself.
I am very lonesome sometimes when I cannot find any one to converse with me about the glorious news proclaimed in the Bible and made plain in ZION'S WATCH TOWER through the Holy Spirit. Pray for me, that I may be ready when the Lord gathers his jewels. Sometimes a fear fills my heart lest I might be left, but I love the Lord, and he will not forget me.
MY DEAR SIR AND BROTHER: – We have taken the WATCH TOWER during the past year, and I am glad to tell you that it has been to us meat in due season. I value it more, very much more, than all the preaching and reading I get from any other source. No paper or book is read by me so carefully and repeatedly as it is. Nothing I read seems to satisfy like it and the "Diaglott." I am compelled to believe its teachings in the main, although I cannot grasp fully all it contains. How often do we (myself and wife) wish we could hear such things from the pulpit! I often read from the TOWER or DAY DAWN, and hunt up the references, instead of going to church, and I am sure we are blessed in so doing.
How easy it is, to see the true condition page 2 of the Church with the light as it now shines! I am trying to understand what it is to be a truly consecrated Christian. I earnestly desire to belong to the body of my blessed Lord. I am watching and hoping; but, oh! the promises are so great! the reward so glorious! I fear I can never reach it, so unworthy and so unfaithful have I been all these years. The battles of life have been hard to fight, many of them. But if my beloved Master will give me the very lowest place in his kingdom, the reward will be exceedingly great and glorious. I pray to be kept humbly watching and waiting for the time when he shall call me.
I often see the answers to questions I would ask, having been asked by others. Please make me a subscriber for another year. I would not be without the paper for ten times its cost. Enclosed please find $5 to help to spread the glad tidings.
Yours in Christ, watching and waiting,
DEAR BRO. RUSSELL: – I have been reading the WATCH TOWER about one year. I believed some of its doctrines before I read, and I have adopted some since; but it advocates some that I am not fully prepared to accept.
I am a Baptist preacher, and live in a Baptist community. I have been circulating specimen copies of the TOWER and "Food" among thinking Christians, with a request to take the Bible for the standard of truth. Many have done so – two are Baptist preachers – and they are all astonished at the new revelations of the Bible. With this class I have no trouble; they are sincere Bible students. But there is another class among us who are so certain that they are right, and that these teachings are wrong, that they will not examine the Bible. This class is in the majority here, and is troublesome. I am alone, or have been almost alone, for one or two years past, but the Lord has helped me very recently by opening the understanding of a few of my brethren. I was once blinded with denominational prejudices, but I think I am clear of that now. I am determined to seek for the truth, and follow it whithersoever it leads me.
Will you please continue to send the WATCH TOWER to me, or anything else that you may think proper? May the Lord bless you and guide you in your work.
We quote from The Catholic of this city, its reply to the editorial under the above caption in the Century Magazine which we noticed in our columns last month. Truly the gathering storm is bringing to the Nominal Church fearful apprehensions of danger and utter wreck. The loud boastings of both these hoary headed and decaying systems of error, are only the efforts of each to conceal their unrest and to guard against what the fearful forbodings of some term "a religious panic."
"Protestantism, – which was and is, a revolt against the divinely established authority of the Catholic Church, is seriously alarmed by the revolt of one of its own very legitimate children – Materialism, Agnosticism, Infidelity, or whatever else the thing may be known by – against itself. Having sown the wind it is at last reaping the whirlwind. Thoughtful minds are beginning to see and recognize the dimensions of the coming storm, and are anxious to save themselves from its strength and fury, by an alliance offensive and defensive, with the Catholic Church. In the February number of the Century Magazine, there is a very suggestive article in the editorial department, discussing the possibilities and probabilities of "a reunion in the future between the Roman Catholic and Protestant bodies. There is a peculiar significance in the discussion of such a subject in a periodical, which though secular in tone, yet has for its original editor, Dr. Holland, a strict Calvinist; and its present chief owner and manager, Mr. Roswell Smith, we understand, is a prominent and pronounced Presbyterian.
We can forgive the "Century" writer, because of his earnestness and honesty [R597 : page 2] of purpose, which can be traced from the beginning to the end of the article, the many serious errors into which his ignorance of Catholic teaching and practice, has doubtless led him.
The four hundredth anniversary of Luther's birth, and the discussions that its celebration called forth, supply the writer with a text. He says that the Lutheran celebration brought to view the fact that "the religious reformation of the last four centuries has not been confined to the Church of the reformers. A constant reformation in discipline, if not in doctrine," he thinks, "has been going on in the Church assailed by the German ex-monk." We need hardly remind our readers of the two very grave errors in this passage. There can be no reform of doctrine in the Catholic Church. Catholic faith is unchangeable, whilst a disciplinary reform is always in order, not only during the last four centuries, but constantly, from the very beginning.
But we are more interested, if possible, in the admissions which the writer makes, and the present tendencies of Protestantism that he notes, than in dealing with the well-meaning mistakes he falls into on the Catholic side of the question. This Protestant exponent shows that the bonds of sympathy are now joining Catholics and Protestants to a degree, which twenty-five years ago, could not have been anticipated. He sees the growth of a feeling that these two bodies of Christians need to be united to resist the encroachments of modern infidelity. Protestantism, twenty-five years ago, was boastful and disdainful of the Catholic Church, to-day it is powerless and helpless, when its own children – modern infidels – are using against itself the very weapons which itself has been using for the last four centuries against the Catholic Church. This makes all the difference in the world, and our Protestant friends are desirous, quite naturally so, of calling to their assistance the aid, sorely needed, of their Catholic neighbors. Hear the language of the "Century" editor: "As the conflict with Materialism and Agnosticism has been waxing hotter and hotter, it must have become evident to intelligent Protestants that they have in the Roman Catholic theologians a strong body of theologians with whom they ought to maintain friendly relations. It is not Protestantism, nor the Papacy, nor Calvinism, nor Trinitarianism, nor any other secondary Christian dogma, that is now on trial," proclaims the writer further on, but "whether there is such thing as religion – whether there is a conscious God and a life beyond the grave, and a free will, and a moral law." For the last four centuries, Catholic theologians and writers have been in vain telling Protestants that their principles would land them exactly here. The early so-called reformers denied free will, and by their doctrine of justification by faith alone, practically discarded a moral law.
The "Century" readily acknowledges and pays a just tribute to the exalted ethical standards of the Catholic Church, and to its courage and consistency in maintaining them against all efforts of compromise. – For instance, it openly lays down that "the Roman Catholic doctrine and practice respecting divorce are much closer to the law of the New Testament than those of the Protestant Churches have been." It also speaks of an "earnest effort, at the present time to bring the practice of the Protestant Churches a little nearer to the Catholic standard." Luther and Henry of England made short work of the New Testament law regulating the marriage contract. And whilst leading Protestant ministers openly countenance and recognize the looseness, not to say, shamelessness, of modern divorce law and practice, there is little reason to hope that the Protestant Churches will be brought any nearer to the Catholic standard.
Whilst we fully recognize the kind disposition and earnestness of the writer, who is, doubtless, alarmed by what he, in common with many others, is daily witnessing in Protestantism and its tendencies, it is simply folly to think of any feasible plan of union between Catholics and Protestants, such as this well-meaning writer would propose. The only union that can be effected, is for our Protestant friends who are desirous to escape from being submerged by the deluge of modern infidelity, to seek safety in the divinely fashioned ark – the Catholic Church. Against this stately, wonderfully, supernaturally constructed vessel, the winds and the waves, and the fierce storms of nineteen eventful centuries have beaten in vain, because of the abiding presence of Him therein, "whom the winds and the sea obey."
Paul says, "Let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another, and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching." Heb. 10:24,25.
The necessity for assembling together for mutual edification, encouragement and strengthening, has been very generally acknowledged among Christians, yet we doubt if this most desirable end is very frequently attained, because we think, in most cases, God is not permitted to speak among them, or if so, he is limited. The assemblings together most frequently take the form of prayer and experience meetings, unless there is one of the number who is able to preach, and then the tendency is to depend upon that one to a greater extent than is profitable. We think that in meetings of Christians, much time should be given to the study of the Scriptures.
The writer attended one of these experience meetings among those professing the higher life, where God was almost shut out, and poor, weak humanity, ignorant of its weakness as it always is, had abundant opportunity to boast itself. At the beginning of the meeting, one text of Scripture was read, the context of which all were ignorant of, and consequently its true application could not be understood. The dear old book was closed and reverently laid aside, and a prayer was offered, after which, one after another told how he or she felt and acted. One told how before rising in the morning she received her morsel of food (a single text of Scripture) on which she fed all day. How many do so – taking a text that happens to be stored in memory, often interpreting it out of all harmony with the context, because they fail to examine it closely, taking a little crumb of comfort when the Lord has spread his bountiful table and invited them to feast at it.
Over an hour passed, and the human spirit had magnified itself greatly, while the Holy Spirit (Godlike mind) of the "new creatures" (for such we believe they were), was almost quenched. A brother seemed to perceive that something was wrong, and said, "What these meetings want is more prayer," and then proceeded to pray for everything he could think of, ignorant of the fact that he asked for many things in direct opposition to God's expressed will. And so the meeting closed without attaining the object for which they met, because God was shut out.
Again it is the aim of some in their undue desire for harmony, to avoid the investigation of any subject which might provoke controversy. This, we think, is manifestly wrong. Shall we sell the truth to purchase harmony? and are we so puffed up as to be offended if God's word should overthrow our former convictions? Or shall we limit God to five or ten minutes, and take the remainder of two hours to listen to each others experiences, which in nine cases out of ten would be better untold? Why not open the doors wide, and let the blessed Master come in and lead our meetings?
It matters not whether there is any one learned or talented among you. Let each one bring his own Bible, paper and pencil, and avail yourselves of as many helps in the way of a Concordance, Em. Diaglott, old and new versions of the New Testament, etc., as possible. Choose your subject; ask for the Spirit's guidance in the understanding of it; then read, think, compare scripture with scripture, and you will assuredly be guided into truth. "And the truth shall make you free" – free from error, superstition, and the corruption of our perverse nature, and the Holy Spirit (mind of God and Christ) if entertained will liberate you from formality as well as from self-exaltation.
Our prayers need not be long or vain repetitions of the same thing, since we are not heard for our much speaking. In few and simple words we can make known our wants as far as we can estimate them; but God has so much more to tell us than we have to tell him. Let him speak much and long and often through his Word. "Sanctify them through thy truth," thy word is truth, was Jesus' prayer; and his admonition, "Search the Scriptures, for these are they that testify of me." (John 17:17, and 5:39.) So will we learn to delight ourselves in God's Law; it will be our meditation by night and by day. (Ps. 119:97.) So, also, will he work in us to will and to do of his good pleasure. (Phil. 2:13.)
Poor, fainting spirit, still hold on thy way –
The dawn is near!
True, thou art weary; but yon brighter ray
Becomes more clear.
Bear up a little longer; wait for rest:
Yield not to slumber, though with toil oppressed.
The night of life is mournful, but look on –
The dawn is near!
Soon will earth's shadowy scenes and forms be gone;
Yield not to fear!
The mountain's summit will, ere long, be gained,
And the bright world of joy and peace attained.
"Joyful through hope," thy motto still must be –
The dawn is near!
What glories will that dawn unfold to thee!
Be of good cheer!
Gird up thy loins; bind sandals on thy feet:
The way is dark and long; the end is sweet.
In our last two discourses we think we proved scripturally that our Lord's second coming will be of such a character that at first it will not be recognized by the world. They will eat, drink, build, marry, etc., as usual, and will not know that the day of the Lord has come. Since his presence is that of a spiritual body invisible to human eyes, he cannot be discovered by the sight of the eye. And to guard against the deceptions of antichrist, Jesus warned the Church not to expect him in any such way, saying, "Wherefore, if they shall say unto you, Behold he is in the desert; go not forth: behold he is in the secret chamber, believe it not," because he does not so come. How important to bear in mind the manner of his coming, as we considered it last Lord's day.
At the first advent he did meet with them in the secret chamber and in the wilderness; he was then the word made flesh; he was then in the form of a servant for the suffering of death. But at the second advent he comes in the glory of his Father (a spiritual body) which no man hath seen, nor can see. (1 Tim. 6:16).
Jesus said, "As the lightning, so shall the Son of Man be in his day." (Matt. 24:27; Luke 17:24). Man can see by the destruction it leaves, where the lightning has been: so, in the day of the Lord, men will come to recognize by the national trouble and overturning that the great day of his wrath is come.
But while the world moves on in ignorance of the fact that the Lord is again present, should we expect the Church of Christ to be in the same darkness with reference to a fact of such interest to them? Certainly not. We should expect, however, that the great mass of those claiming to be of the Church, yet unfaithful to God, would be under the same veil of ignorance that covers the world. Those who are faithfully watching unto the "sure word of prophecy" will know of his presence. "Ye brethren are not in darkness that that day should come upon you as a thief." (1 Thes. 5:1-5).
We have already answered objections against inquiring into the time of Christ's coming; and merely remark now that whereas neither Christ's disciples, nor angels, "neither the Son," knew of the time of his coming when Christ spoke those words, yet, when "he comes, with all his holy angels," those angels will know, Christ himself will know, and all of the Church who are not in darkness, shall know. But, "if thou shalt not watch, thou shalt not know." The Christian who does not watch will be overtaken of that day just as the world is overtaken.
The prophets foretold things which they did not themselves understand; for instance, Daniel, having seen a vision reaching away into the future, upon making inquiry as to the time, was told: "Go thy way, Daniel, for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end;" then knowledge shall be increased, and the wise shall understand, but none of the wicked shall understand." (Dan. 12:9; 4:10); neither shall the unwatching servant and the unwise Virgins, adds our Lord. (Matt. 25). Peter speaks of this, and said that the prophets inquired and searched diligently as to what time, or what manner of time the Spirit did signify [i.e., whether the time given them was literal or symbolic time], unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us [the Gospel Church] they did minister. (1 Pet. 1:10,12). They were used as God's mouth-pieces simply, and laid up treasures of wisdom and knowledge which are developed and made manifest during the Gospel age, a little at a time, as "meat in due season", by the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven, whose office is to guide the faithful Church into all truth."
Our God is a God of order. Everything that God does is in accordance with a definitely pre-arranged plan, and the times and seasons are no insignificant part of that plan. Notice that Christ was born on time – "In the fulness of time" God sent his only-begotten Son. (Gal. 4:4). Not before, nor after, but just when the time was full. Christ's first sermon was on time. He came preaching and saying, the time is fulfilled ...repent and believe the Gospel." (Mark 1:15). "In due time, Christ died." (Rom. 5:6). He rose again the third day, according to the Scriptures." (1 Cor. 15:4). During his ministry they frequently sought to take him, but could not "because his hour was not yet come." And just as sure as there is a due time for the Second Advent, and if now be the due time, the Spirit will guide God's faithful children into the truth on this subject. First, however, as we shall go largely to the Old Testament Scriptures, we stop for a moment to inquire: Have we anything to do with these Scriptures, or are we to derive all our instruction from the New Testament? I am almost ashamed to raise such a question, and would not, but that I am satisfied that many Christian people hold this opinion. One of the pastors of this city, a few days since, reproved a member of the flock for quoting as of any force a statement of the prophets. For shame! O, for shame!! To what did Jesus refer, when he said, "Search the Scriptures." Surely to the Old Testament, since not one word of the New was then written. What Scriptures did the Bereans search daily? The Old Testament. What Scripture did Christ explain to the disciples going to Emmaus when their hearts burned within them while he opened unto them the Scriptures? The Old Testament. In which was "Apollos mighty," and of which did Paul say to Timothy, "From a child thou hast known the Holy Scriptures." And again, "All Scripture, given by inspiration of God, is profitable; that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good work." And one reason why some men of God are so imperfectly furnished is that they lay aside more than two-thirds of God's word, the Old Testament, which Paul says would be profitable to them. So highly did Peter esteem the prophecy of the Old Testament, that he considered it better evidence than his own sight; and after telling of Christ's transfiguration "on the holy mount," and that it was given him as an evidence of the coming kingdom of Christ, he says, (2 Pet. 1:19) "We have a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn."
Peter corroborates Paul's statement that it is profitable; and informs us that it will continue to be useful "until the day dawn." The Old Testament is a great treasure-house in which God has locked up and sealed items of great interest and value to his children, and the New Testament is the key by which we gain access to them. Let us now examine what the sure word of prophecy says on the time of Christ's coming. There are several prophetic claims to which I desire to call your attention – one shows the length of the Gospel dispensation; but not directly; it does not read right out, the Gospel dispensation will close in A.D. – . No, that would not have been "sealed up" at all, and not only wise and watching, but all could understand that without difficulty.
God has linked together the history of the Jewish and Gospel Churches by the peculiar tie of type and anti-type; and this typical character of the Jewish dispensation was frequently referred to by the Apostles under the direction of the Holy Spirit.
From them we learn that it was typical in all its features – its laws (Heb. 10:1), its ceremonies (Heb. 9:9), its sacrifices (Heb. 10:11), its sacred days, its times and seasons (Col. 2:16,17), and also the exact length of its duration, as we shall see. [R599 : page 3]
If God has thus, in the Jewish dispensation, given us an exact pattern of the Gospel dispensation, that pattern is itself a prophecy. And what a clear revelation of truth should it be to us, who stand amid the closing scenes of the Gospel age, when nearly all of that prophecy has passed into history! With the keys furnished in the New Testament, the faithful student may now clearly read the times and seasons indicated.
Paul shows that the blind, cast-off condition of Israel is to continue until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in (Rom. 11:25). Their casting off from God's favor, and consequent blindness, began at the end of the Jewish age, and will terminate at the end of the Gospel age. So if we find the time of returning favor to fleshly Israel clearly indicated, we may know that the fulness of the Gentiles has been gathered in. [Into what or where will be a question for future consideration.] In other words, the end of the Gospel age will have been reached.
We have already seen the teaching of the word of God to be that in the next, commonly called the Millennial age, Israel is to be restored, Jerusalem rebuilt and reinhabited, and that the Jewish nation is to become the chief nation, and "Jerusalem a praise in the whole earth." When will this be? Do the prophets tell? Yes. The prophets teach that Israel, once God's specially favored people, who had "much advantage every way, to whom were committed the oracles [O.T.] of God," would reject Christ, and, in consequence, would become outcasts from God's favor as a chastisement for their national sin, and for the same length of time that they had had his special favor; after which time they should again return to God's favor and forgiveness. Now let us briefly glance at their history and then I will refer you to the prophecy which so predicts.
The nation began its existence at the death of Jacob, in Egypt. While he lived they were not counted a nation, but a family, and in his dying blessing for the first time they are called tribes. The promise of national blessing and favor was given through Judah. "The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a law-giver from between his feet, until Shiloh [Christ] come." This God fulfilled, and though He often chastised them, and allowed them to go into captivity for their sins; yet he always showed them favor, brought them back, and preserved their national existence through Judah, as he had promised, and did not utterly cast them off from him until they had rejected and crucified the Lord of glory, a period of 1,845 years. Since that time, as they themselves say bitterly, God has shown them no favor; they have been outcasts "a reproach and a hissing among all people." (Jer. 29:18). Since their chastisement was to be of the same length, as the favor previously shown, it will be 1,845 years. It began with the crucifixion of Christ, A.D. 33, and the 1,845 years of their punishment, consequently ended in 1878. But we must not expect too much in a day. As they were 37 years in falling nationally – from A.D. 33, to A.D. 70, when their national existence terminated: so their rising again to favor and national prominence will require the same length of time, and will therefore not be complete until 37 years after 1878, or until the close of 1914. We also find another and distinctly separate line of prophecy (which we will give at another time), teaching that they will not obtain full control, of Palestine until A.D. 1914, which gives a period of 37 years for their rising, or a parallel to the time of their falling. Where is the Scripture which proves that their chastisement is equal to the favor that they once enjoyed? you ask. Turn with me to Jer. 16:13-18 and read: "Therefore [because of sins before mentioned], will I cast you out of this land into a land that ye know not, neither ye nor your fathers; and there ye shall serve other gods [rulers] day and night; where I will not show you favor." This was not the Babylonian captivity, for Abraham came from Ur of the Chaldees. Neither could the Syrian captivity be thus referred to, for Jacob was a Syrian (Deut. 26:5), and this was to be "a land that ye know not, neither do ye nor your fathers." This was to be their punishment: They were to receive no favor from God, but were to be driven out of their own land, and, as the next verse shows, were to become exiles in every land, just as we now find them.
They have always looked back to their deliverance from Egypt as a great and marvelous sign of God's favor to them; but their deliverance, now soon to be consummated, will be so much greater, that it will quite eclipse the former one. Let us read – "Therefore, behold the days come, saith the Lord, that it shall no more be said, The Lord liveth that brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; but the Lord liveth, that brought up the children of Israel from the land of the North [Russia, where the greatest number of them are found], and from all the lands whither He had driven them: and I will bring them again into their land, that I gave unto their fathers; and first (before I so bring them back) I will recompense their iniquity and their sin DOUBLE" – verse 18.
The word here translated double is the Hebrew word mishneh and signifies, a repetition. The repetition can refer to nothing else than the time. It was not a repetition of the same method of dealing with them; for he just states that he will deal differently – he will cast them off and show them NO favor, etc. And it is now a fact of history that the time of their cast-off condition has been an exact repetition in length of their time of favor, that is 1,845 years ending in 1878. They had 1,845 years favor and 37 years fall. They have had 1,845 years without favor, and will have 37 years of rising. But, some may think we base a great deal upon that one prophetic statement, and inquire, Are there other evidences? Yes, there are; but I dare to trust to one statement, of one prophet; for he is a mouthpiece of God, who cannot lie.
Let us hear Zechariah (9:9), he will tell us the very day they were cast off. Just five days before his crucifixion, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on an ass in fulfillment of this prophecy. "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: Behold, thy King cometh unto thee: He is just, and having salvation; lowly and riding upon an ass and upon a colt the foal of an ass." Nationally, they did not receive Him with shouts of rejoicing; but the multitude shouted, Hosannah! for "if these should hold their peace, the very stones would cry out." The prophecy demanded shouting and must be fulfilled. "Turn you to your stronghold, ye prisoners of hope:" Christ was their stronghold, had they but received Him; but they rejected Him, and therefore comes the denunciation. "Even to-day do I declare that I will render double unto thee." [Literal – The other half.] This agrees with Jeremiah, and tells us the very day the favor toward them ended. Yes, says Paul, "because of unbelief they were blinded." Jesus wept over them, and said "If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong to thy peace, but now they are hid from thine eyes." This was their blindness. Then he begins to foretell the trouble coming. (Luke 19:41-44). But another prophet has a message on this subject – Isaiah 40:1. Here are the three principal prophets, all explaining to us about Israel, but they take different standpoints of observation. Jeremiah says, looking down future, "I will cast you out, etc." Zachariah's standpoint of prophecy was beside Jesus on the colt, and he says, "Even to-day." Isaiah [R599 : page 4] takes his stand away down here, where you and I live, after they have had their equal time of punishment. Hear him: "Comfort ye, comfort ye my people saith your God; speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her that her appointed time [margin], is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the Lord's hand double for all her sins."
"Believest thou the prophets?" I do. And when Jeremiah foretells that because of sin and iniquity they would have double, and Isaiah that that double having been ended the sin and iniquity is pardoned, I cannot help believing it. But let us inquire whether 1878 brought any outward sign of God's returning favor? I answer yes. The fig tree, which was withered up from the roots (Israel), is beginning to "put forth leaves." The year 1878 witnessed an end of Turkish oppression in Palestine, and by the treaty of Berlin a Hebrew, as Prime Minister of one of the greatest of nations, assumes its protection and guarantees its peace. And recently the statement is published that the Rothchilds, Sir Montefiore, and other wealthy Hebrews, have arranged for the purchase and colonization of Palestine. And Russian persecutions are now driving many thither. Truly, favor seems to be returning.
But where is the measure of the Gospel dispensation? Paul furnishes us the key for this in the text before mentioned (Rom. 11:25): "I would not brethren that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in" – that is, Israel will remain blinded until the full company of the Gospel Church – the Bride, being taken out from the Gentiles for His name – have been selected, or have come into covenant relation with him, and thereby separated from the world. To express the same thought differently: while the Jews were cast off as a people for 1845 years, from A.D. 33 to A.D. 1878, was the time appointed for the selecting of all who will be part of the Bride of Christ.
But as favor continued to individual Israelites, after that house as a whole was rejected, so after the rejection of the Gospel house (the nominal Church) as a whole, special favor to individual saints is still continued. The Apostles and early disciples, the "remnant" of Israel (Rom. 9:27) received the increase of knowledge and high privileges then due to the Gospel age, while all the rest of Israel were blind to them. So here, the [R600 : page 4] same class, the meek and faithful of the Gospel house, receive the increase of knowledge due in the dawn of the Millennial Age, and by means of this clear apprehension of the truth are being completed and perfected for their place in the glorious kingdom shortly to be made manifest.
The law was a shadow of good things to come, and in the Gospel dispensation we find the substance which cast those shadows. We must bear in mind also that the shadow is not the substance, but that it has strongly marked features of similarity.
The Jewish house was a house of servants – "Moses was faithful in all his house as a servant." The Gospel house is a house of sons – "Christ as a son over his own house, whose house are we." (Heb. 3:5,6.) The founder of the typical house was Jacob, surnamed Israel; the founder of the anti-typical house was Christ, the true Israel of God. The typical house was founded on the twelve sons of Jacob, the anti-typical on the twelve Apostles.
In worship also they are pattern and reality. The pattern had a tabernacle into which the typical High Priest went every year to make a typical atonement. We have the true tabernacle, into which the true High Priest has entered for us. (Heb. 6:20.) And, as in due time the typical High Priest came out to bless the people typically, so the real High Priest will in due time come out to bless all the world.
There were under-priests there, who wore bonnets to indicate that they were not the head, or High Priest, while Aaron, their head, wore none. So we are told that the true Church, the body or bride of Christ, is likewise a priesthood, and that Christ Jesus is the head or High Priest of our profession. (Heb. 3:1.) As they offered typical sacrifices, so we may offer up spiritual sacrifices, holy, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. 1 Pet. 2:5.
They had circumcision of the flesh; we, says Paul, have circumcision of the heart. (Rom. 2:29.) They had a temple in which God's presence was represented; and Paul tells us that we, the Church, are built together a holy temple for the indwelling of God through the Spirit. (Eph. 2:22.) In fact everything that they had was a type of what we have on the higher spiritual plane.
Their dispensation ended with a harvest, in which harvest-time Jesus was present in the flesh as Lord of the harvest, and the faithful disciples who followed in his footprints were privileged to be co-workers with him in reaping the fleshly house and gathering the ripened grain into the Gospel garner – into the privileged condition of the Gospel saints. In the beginning of that harvest Jesus said to his disciples, "Lift up your eyes and look on the fields, for they are white already to harvest. I send you to reap," etc. John 4:35-38.
Just so the anti-typical or Gospel dispensation ends with a harvest, at which time Jesus is again due to be present, not now as then in the flesh, but in glory, a spiritual being, invisible to human eyes. Say not now that there are yet many years and then cometh harvest; but, ye faithful children of God, lift up your eyes and look on the fields now, for they are white already to harvest. And every faithful disciple who now follows in the Master's footprints has the privilege now of being a co-worker with him in reaping this harvest. Such are the angels or messengers referred to in Matt. 13:39, who are reaping under his direction. And he directs them through the Word by opening their understanding to discern the times and seasons there indicated, and the work to be accomplished therein.
Their harvest was a period of seven years, beginning with our Lord's ministry; and up to the time of his death (a period of three and a half years) special effort was made to enlighten the Jewish house, as a whole, with reference to its high privilege. But as a people their ears were dull of hearing, and they "knew not the time of their visitation." Though this was true of that house as a whole, yet there were scattered individuals here and there among them who were ready to believe and follow the Master as soon as the truth could be made clear to them. To this class the remaining three and a half years of harvest work was devoted. The sickle of truth presented to them separated them from the rejected and blinded Jewish house, and brought them under the Gospel dispensation of favor.
This seven years is the "seventieth week" of Danl. 9. Seventy weeks (symbolic time, weeks of years instead of days,) or 490 years, were set apart or determined upon Daniel's people, the Jews. Sixty-nine of these reach to Messiah, the prince. (Christ came as the Messiah at the time of his baptism, when he began his ministry, being thirty years old.) "In the midst of the week [the seventieth] Messiah shall be cut off [die] but not for himself." ("He was wounded for our transgressions.") But, though cut off, and though their Church was left desolate, yet, as the prophet had predicted, "He shall confirm the covenant [seventy weeks' agreement] with many for one week," i.e., until the full limit of the promised seventy. Accordingly, Jesus charges his disciples to "begin at Jerusalem" with the Gospel message, and it was confined to them until the seventieth week ended – three and a half years after Jesus' death.
So the Gospel dispensation is the anti-type of all this. Its harvest also is seven years, plus thirty-three, beginning in 1874, where another line of Scripture proves Christ's presence to be due, and continuing seven years, in which the ripe wheat is being garnered and separated from tares, and thirty-three of consuming and removing the nominal system. The fullness (the elect number and membership) of the Gospel Church was due to come into covenant relation with God in 1878, when Israel's time of favor was due to begin; and yet, although the nominal Church was then cast off, and that house left desolate, the chosen vessels yet in that house must be separated and gathered into the barn, a position of safety and security, above the trouble which is coming on the Church nominal. That favor, ending in the fall of 1881, found all true wheat separated, at least in spirit, from the rejected, lukewarm, fallen, nominal Church. And all such gathered into this separate condition, will be ready to separate from it in name and person as they discover this to be the Lord's will.
The time of trouble coming on the Church nominal is for the purpose of gathering out of his kingdom (Church) all things that offend. (Matt. 13:41.) They shall be swept out by the incoming flood of infidelity, overthrown by the winds of false doctrine, and finally burnt up by the scathing reproach of the world when it comes to fully discover Babylon's hypocrisy. Blessed is the man who has built his house upon the rock with the gold and silver and precious stones of truth. The floods may come and the winds may blow and beat upon that house, and the fire may test it, but it shall stand. Thus shall long-established and corrupt systems, claiming to be the Church of Christ, go down in complete wreck, and above its ruins the real, the true and faithful Church – a "little flock" – shall with Christ their head establish the glorious reign of righteousness.
If these things are so, we are living in an important time, and upon our present decisions and actions the weighty interests of our future hinge. It behooves us, then, to take heed lest our hearts be overcharged with the cares of this life. Let us lay aside every weight and run with patience. And seeing we look for such things, what manner of persons ought we to be in all holy conversation and godliness – as the prospective bride of Christ making herself ready.
It is a part of the economy of God, as well as of all right-thinking men, to seek to accomplish desired ends with the smallest possible outlay of expense. While in God, and in all his perfect creatures, there is a beautiful balancing of this principle with that of justice and benevolence, in fallen man it has generally overleaped the bounds of love and justice.
But in the proper use of this principle of our nature, it is right to inquire, Is there any use or necessity for this or that course? Recognizing this principle, God does not call upon us to do anything that is useless. Though we may not always be able to discover the design of his commands, it is a sufficient guarantee of their necessity and good to know that he commands. If then, he has called us into his service, it is because he has a definite purpose to accomplish through us. Since there is actual service to be accomplished, and God has chosen to use human instrumentalities in accomplishing it, there is then actual need of faithful service, though God's resources are by no means exhausted when you or I refuse the privilege. In that case the loss is ours, not his. When the toil and weariness and sacrifice are ended, we will have no need to say, I have labored in vain; I have spent my strength for naught.
Because there is need for actual service, we are exhorted to be faithful, diligent, obedient servants, always abounding in the work of the Lord, to make full proof of our own ministry, to so invest our one or many talents as to secure the greatest possible advantage to the Master's cause. It was because Paul [R601 : page 4] and others of similar mould realized the necessity and privilege of such service, that they so boldly undertook the great work of stemming the popular tide, and proclaiming the glorious Gospel at the risk of life and every earthly good.
Ah, says one, that is placing too high an estimate upon human effort. God is able to accomplish his work if I never touch it. Yes, that is very true; but, if you do not touch it, some one else will, and you will lose the privilege. Did you ever think of that? Beware! Let no man take thy crown! O, how easy it is just here to fall short of overcoming!
One will say, Well, I have only this one talent, and I have need to use that for myself. It would not bring a very large interest if I should invest it for the Lord. If, like some other brother or sister, I had many talents, it would seem to be of some use, and I would heartily invest nearly all for the Lord. Another, with more talents, will cheerfully render much, but hold back part of that which he covenanted to give, which was his all. Ah, say they, the Lord has no need of that little; he is rich, and can accomplish his work without it. Well, that is true with reference to others, but without your full and complete sacrifice of all, he cannot accomplish the work of bringing you to the glory to which you are called. And so far as others are concerned, he will raise up some other human agency through which to minister to them.
It is his purpose to accomplish the great work in hand, largely through human agents, under the direction and leading of his Spirit. And if one human instrument withdraws from the service, another will fill the gap. Whether the Lord could have accomplished his work through other means is not for us to surmise; but since this is the method that infinite wisdom chose, who are we that we could devise a better? Let us see to it then that we work in harmony with his plans, faithfully utilizing every available talent in his service. "Blessed is that servant whom his Lord when he cometh shall find him so doing." Matt. 24:46.
A confederacy is a league or covenant, a compact or alliance for mutual support or common action. "In union there is strength," is everywhere the expressed sentiment of to-day. Confederacy – Union – is the watchword in civil, social, and religious circles. This sentiment now so common, has grown out of the felt necessities of the times, and the fear of coming trouble and danger.
The prince of this world (John 12:31) sees the approaching storm. He believes and trembles at the sure word of prophecy which indicates the overthrow of his power; but with characteristic genius, energy and presumption, he arrays himself to oppose, and if possible to thwart the plans of the Almighty. At present and for some time past he has been actively engaged in planning, organizing and arranging his unconscious forces. We are glad in one sense to say unconscious, for to be the conscious and willing servants of Satan would imply a fearful state of depravity. And yet we would that men were not so blinded as to be unconsciously led by their wily and deceptive foe.
Leagues or confederacies are forming all over the world. The kingdoms are forming alliances for mutual protection against the increasing independence and power of their subjects, while communism or socialism is secretly plotting and forming its world-wide confederacy to resist enthroned power. Capitalists are forming alliances with each other to protect their interests, while the laboring classes are also combining their forces for self-protection.
In religious circles we see the same policy pursued. The two great classes most bitterly opposed to one another are so-called Orthodoxy and Infidelity. Each is struggling for supremacy and power. On the orthodox side are Papacy and Protestantism, while the non-religious world stands in opposition. All the various sects of Protestantism have formed a confederacy – "The Evangelical Alliance" – for mutual support and common action, agreeing to [R601 : page 5] almost entirely ignore doctrine, and to preach simply morality, and the necessity of union with them, in order to be saved. And now friendly relations and proposals of union are beginning to be thought of even between Papacy and Protestantism. The latter is losing all sight of doctrine and sees no special hindrance to union in a lower standard of morality, while the former is not slow to speak of itself as one of the Christian denominations, and of others as their "Methodist and Presbyterian friends, etc.," while both agree and unite in branding as Infidel all who oppose their system, no matter how firmly their faith may be rooted and grounded in the word of God. Infidels are also uniting forming liberal leagues, and banding themselves together to resist superstition and to advocate morality and benevolence on a basis of common sense and expediency.
While all this seems expedient and necessary to these various classes in the world, while human reason says, Surely in Union there is strength, shall we as Christians who are by no means less interested in the final issues than others, act contrary to such reason, and battle singly and alone with the mighty powers of darkness? In this as in all matters, we look to the Word of God for instruction. And that instruction is given plainly and clearly – "For," says the Prophet, taking his standpoint down here in our time, "the Lord spake thus to me with a strong hand, and instructed me that I should not walk in the way of this people, saying, Say ye not, A confederacy to all them to whom this people shall say, a confederacy; neither fear ye their fear nor be afraid. Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. And he shall be for a sanctuary." Isa. 8:14.
Thus instructed we should have nothing to do with these confederacies either civil, social or religious. We are to walk separate from all these, joined only to the Lord and loyal to the kingdom of God as yet unrecognized by the world. We are to have no confederacy, no union with any other. The Lord's Prophet speaks most emphatically concerning the outcome of all these confederacies.
Thus we read (Isa. 8:9,10) "Associate yourselves, O, ye people, and ye shall be broken in pieces; and give ear, all ye of far countries; gird yourselves and ye shall be broken in pieces. Take counsel together and it shall come to naught; speak the word and it shall not stand." How plain and forcible these expressions! They need no comment; and only the unbelief in the word of God – the spirit of infidelity – in the church nominal, prevents them from understanding their import.
In the Lord of hosts alone is our sanctuary, our defence, and all who would walk with him must walk separate from the world. Those who thus walk with the Lord are so led into the knowledge of his plans, that those things which cause fear and trembling to others, are to them but the indications of the development of God's glorious plan.
"Behind his frowning providence
They see his smiling face."
While the Lord is thus our defence and rejoicing, he is a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel – Israel after the flesh and the nominal gospel church. "And many among them shall stumble and fall, and be broken, and be snared and be taken." They stumble and fall over the truth and are taken in the snare of the adversary, their faith shattered and broken; and the great flood of infidelity will engulf the church nominal.
But the Prophet continues, "Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples." This is equivalent to Daniel's prophecy "The wise shall understand" (Dan. 12:10); and David's – "They shall walk O Lord in the light of thy countenance" (Psa. 89:15); and Paul's-"Ye brethren are not in darkness." (1 Thes. 5:4.) Yes, to those consecrated ones who walk with God separate from the world and worldly alliances, the law and the testimony is precious – a constantly unfolding treasure-house of blessed promises, inspiring such with glorious and blessed hopes which dispel all fearful apprehensions. But it is bound up and sealed among these, and none of the unfaithful shall understand their glorious import.
"Praise God from whom all blessings flow."
There are already evidences of consternation and forebodings of disaster in the nominal Church, because of the general apathy and indifference of her membership and the falling off of attendance at her services. We hear reports far reaching of flocks without pastors, and pastors with rapidly diminishing flocks, and this state of things exists not only in this country, but also in Europe and elsewhere, as the following clipping from the New York Herald of January 6th will show:
"Much is printed in the religious newspapers on the other side of the Atlantic regarding the scarcity of ministers in the United States and Canada. It appears that the disease complained of – pastorless flocks – is not confined to this continent alone. From a recent publication giving some religious statistics for France it is gathered that not less than 60,000 Protestants – nearly one-tenth of the whole Protestant population of the country – belong to churches which are without pastors. One of their churches has been without regular pastoral superintendence for twelve years. Eighteen churches have been deprived of their pastors during the year just ended. There is surely room for improvement here."
Not many months ago it was stated in the WATCH TOWER, as quoted from some other publication, that the Presbyterian Church was 500 ministers short, and from the Cleveland Leader of Oct. 25, 1883, we quote the following report of the P.E. Conference: "There are now in the United States 48 dioceses and 15 missionary jurisdictions, 67 bishops, 2,500 other clergy, 3,000 organized parishes, and more than 353,000 communicants: the report referred to the inadequate number of candidates for holy orders." This report shows the number of bishops to exceed the number of dioceses and missionary jurisdictions, while the number of pastors to parishes shows a deficiency of at least five hundred.
That there has been a much larger decrease in membership and attendance at services, we believe, but these cannot be arrived at by figures: Observation, however, and the statements of ministers and others go far to prove it to be in a very demoralized condition. The Rev. Dr. Collyer evidently thinks we are on the verge of a religious panic. We quote from his sermon preached on Feb. 3d, and published in the New York Herald of Feb. 4:
"I notice," said the Rev. Dr. Collyer, in his sermon yesterday morning in the Church of the Messiah, "that when I talk with those who watch the world's great markets, they say that when there is an ever growing fever in the centres of business, if this continues we are going to have a panic. And I answer 'God forbid,' for I know of but few things in this world and life of ours so cruel and ruthless as a panic, or that take the manhood so completely out of men, leaving only a mob of poltroons and monsters. It makes no matter what form the evil and ugly thing may take, in a public hall or a theatre, or in a church where men go to worship God, or in Wall street; and it is no matter what our conduct may have been down to the day when we were confronted in a moment by this last and most terrible test of our manhood. If we have lost on that day the quality Herbert Spencer insists on as one of the choicest blessings we can possess – "the supremacy of self-control" – it is all over with us the rest of our lives.
I notice that my brethren in their conferences deplore the deadness in their churches. I do not wonder at this, but I do wonder a little that they should even by inference lay the blame on God and talk sometimes as if they believed with the priests of Baal that he was asleep in his heavens or had gone on a journey. Because if they only look deeper they will see that the whole trouble lies with the Christians themselves. I venture to observe, but with no mean spirit, God knows, that the most cruel and ruthless blows ever struck against our common faith have been made, not by men like Robert Ingersoll, but by deacons of good standing in their churches, and prominent persons in Christian associations. Where men I will not name do things I will not name under the mask of religion – the safest mask I know of – it is no wonder so many should go apart and say, if this is the fruit I do not believe in the tree. No wonder that so many should leave the churches and that we should have what we may call a religious panic. And when this panic occurs no words of mine or of any one else can estimate the damage it does to the world; for it means that men throw aside all religion, all morality, all that is really precious in this life. But such panics and desertions from religion will invariably take place when we see unworthy men who have no real religious life in them assume the high places in Christian councils."
The Rev. Wm. Loyd in a sermon (which we quote below) preached on the same day and published in the New York Herald, Feb. 4, takes a different and wider view of the situation: he regards, we think truthfully, the misrepresentation or malrepresentation of God in the horrible dogmatic theology of the dark ages, as the chief cause of all that is now transpiring within the walls of that "great city, Babylon."
"Rev. Wm. Loyd, in the pulpit of the Central Congregational church, spoke with more than his ordinary vigor. His congregation was a large one, for it had been announced that the pastor was to talk very plainly upon the position of the Church and its relation to the public at large. Christianity, he declared, had not made the progress which it ought to have shown. To-day, after nearly twenty centuries of existence, the Christian Church had failed to make more than the slightest impression upon the world. The vast majority of the inhabitants of the globe were strangers to it, and even in countries where Christ was officially recognized fully seven-eighths of the people were not connected with the Christian Church. The intellectual and cultured classes had withdrawn almost wholly from the Church, and those who kept without its pale were not people to whose immoral habits and tendencies the teachings of the gospel were obnoxious, but people of the most blameless lives. These people refused to accept the assertion of the Church that Christ was really the Son of God, and that through Him there was salvation. They accepted the teachings of morality, but rejected all that was of real pith in fixing the divinity of our God and Saviour. The thinkers of the age, here and abroad, have in almost every instance held to these sceptical views, and now, in place of writing their views only for the few who read books of philosophy and obstruct thinking, these thoughts were embodied in the popular novel and through the current works of fiction, strongly put and attractively worded. There is no failure of Christianity in itself, but there is a failure of Christianity to get a secure hold upon the popular heart and become a guide and mentor in the daily life of the people.
In conclusion Rev. Mr. Lloyd considered the causes which had brought about this state of affairs. They were, he said, to be found within the Church itself. God had been malrepresented. In place of the forgiving Father for all, he had been held up in the frightful dogmatic theology of the past centuries as a Creator of countless millions of human beings who were from birth doomed to an eternity of suffering and woe. Christianity had suffered, too, from the secularization of the Church and from Church quarrels. One such dispute did more to hinder the progress of Christianity than a thousand sceptical tracts scattered abroad over the land."
Infidelity, skepticism and apathy to religion are but natural results of the bad representation of God by the nominal Church, notwithstanding that God has little by little, "line upon line," made known his true character as exemplified in a great and grand plan for the redemption of all his human creatures from the consequences of Adam's transgression. The different sects, Protestant and Romanist, have so distorted and falsified it at every stage that God, whom they say is all-wise, is made to appear unwise; and, though they proclaim him a God of love, they make his acts appear those of a cruel and vindictive monster, to be feared rather than to be loved.
This, together with the gathering unto her, as into a cage, every "unclean and hateful bird," and the love for and conformity to the world of her members, in church matters and in social life, have caused the Lord to spue her out of his mouth, and to leave her desolate. She is unfit to be any longer his mouth-piece. In her conformity to the world, and departure from the narrow way, she has sought out many inventions – many questionable modes for raising money, ostensibly to pay the Lord's bills, but really to gratify worldly pride in erecting costly edifices, fine organs, and in general display. Her ministers delight in high-sounding titles, contrary to the express command of Him who only is the Head of the Church – "Neither be ye called masters, for one is your master, even Christ." Had these men whose significant remarks we have quoted, taken heed unto the words of the Master, they would have been able to discern the signs of the times, and would not be walking now as blind men. "They shall look unto the earth and behold trouble and darkness, dimness of anguish; and they shall be driven to darkness." (Isa. 8:22.) "And he shall be for a sanctuary [to the sheep that hear his voice], but for a stone of stumbling and rock of offence to both the houses [Jewish and Gospel] of Israel." (Verse 14.) [R603 : page 5]
Jesus said the tares, the children of the wicked one, and the wheat, the children of the kingdom, would grow together until the harvest, and he explained that the harvest is the end of the age – consummation of the age (Revised version). And Paul says: "In the last days perilous times shall come; for men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters,...high-minded, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying the power;...evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived." (2 Tim. 1:5-13.) And again he says "the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but will heap to themselves teachers having itching ears," i.e., teachers who would have pleasure in hearing the praise of men.
Peter, referring to this same time, says, "And there shall come in the last days scoffers, in scoffing walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is promise of his presence?" (2 Peter 3:4, Sinaiatic MSS.) We have here the testimony of Jesus, Paul and Peter as to what would be the condition of the nominal Church in the harvest, or last days, and we find this inspired testimony to exactly correspond with its present condition. And added to this we have the words of Jesus (Matt. 24:14) literally fulfilled now: "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world, for a witness unto all nations then shall the end come," i.e., the end of the Gospel age. Every nation under heaven has heard the Gospel, and it was so declared by the Bible societies as far back as 1866. That the nations have not received the Gospel testimony is true, but witnessing to nations is not witnessing to individuals – not one in a thousand have heard, and most of those who have heard have not accepted it.
The nominal Church, in looking for the conversion of the world before Jesus comes, is totally at variance with the Scriptures. This falsification of the truth, and adulteration of that which should be the children's meat, has brought her to her present condition of barrenness and confusion. "Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird....The merchants [symbolic – the clergy] of the earth shall weep and mourn over her; for [shortly] no man buyeth their merchandise any more:... the light of a candle [lamp – the Word] shall shine no more at all in thee; and the voice of the bridegroom [Jesus] and of the bride [the Lamb's wife] shall be heard no more at all in thee." Rev. 18:2,11,23. These are not our words, but God's denunciation – the final doom of a false system.
For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost. – LUKE 19:10.
Nearly two thousand years ago Jesus, then present, affirmed this to be his mission; but as yet no visible evidence of its accomplishment appears. The world moves on in its downward course now, as then. Sin and misery triumph still, and century after century plunges successive generations into death. Have we failed to understand the import of the Master's words? or has he been unable to accomplish his purpose? or may it be that his purpose is so far-reaching as to be of future fulfillment? With these queries in view, let us consider the subject before us.
The words lost and saved have a common significance known to all: A thing lost is a thing once possessed, and a [R603 : page 6] thing saved is a thing once possessed and then lost and finally recovered. Jesus said the thing he came to save was the thing that men had lost; and the implication is, that since he had come to save the thing lost, men were unable to save it for themselves, which experience and many scriptures clearly prove. Now if we can determine just what man lost, we will know just what Jesus came to save. Man could not lose what he never had. Adam, who stood as the representative of our race, had a perfect human organism, and a right to everlasting continuance of life, on condition of obedience to God. He was privileged to enjoy all the delights of his Eden home, and the communion and blessings of God; in short, all the privileges that everlasting life under perfect human conditions is capable of enjoying and looking forward to.
All this Adam lost through sin, both for himself and his posterity. Home, happiness, communion with God, health, and life itself, were lost. Consequently, mankind lies in utter wreck and ruin, dead and dying. In having lost his right to life he fell under the dominion of death, whose successive steps of misery, depravity, sickness and pain, end in total extinction of being, from which he can never recover himself.
Jesus came then to save and restore that which was lost; to restore man to his original (human) perfection, and to communion with God, to give him back his paradise restored, and all the pleasing prospects of future blessings that accumulating ages can bestow, and that the powers of perfect humanity will be capable of enjoying. What! does some one say, Is so much implied in those words of our Lord? Yes; this is one way in which our Lord foretold the restitution of all things. All this is implied in the word saved. Think of it; could the words mean less than this? Certainly not; and, from this and many other scriptures, we have learned to trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe. (1 Tim. 4:10). There is a special salvation for some, as well as a general salvation for all men, as Paul here intimates, but we are not considering the special salvation now.
In the above text Jesus was speaking of the general salvation of all men – the saving of that which was lost. For God "will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth." (1 Tim. 2:4.) When men are actually saved, their restored existence will be as at first, dependent on obedience for its continuance, which obedience will be easy and productive of constant happiness when evil and temptation are fully removed, and the great deceiver and tempter is bound and finally destroyed, and when the law of God is written in their hearts. (Jer. 31:33).
But, we might inquire, when does our text indicate that Jesus would thus save the lost? However crude and indefinite the ideas of the Jews and the early disciples at first were concerning the promised salvation, they had learned both from the prophets and from Jesus' teaching, that it would be accomplished when the kingdom of God should come. And when Jesus stated that he had now come to save the lost, they at once concluded that the kingdom of God should immediately appear.
Because they had drawn this inference, and, to correct their false impression, Jesus spoke a certain parable, the import of which was, that he must first go away and receive for himself the kingdom, and return; and that they, in the meantime, should, as faithful servants, occupy till he would come, using the talents entrusted to them according to his directions, and in the interest of his cause and of his coming kingdom, patiently waiting for their reward at his coming.
But Jesus implied that in some sense he came at that time, to save the lost – "The Son of Man is come," etc. And in one sense it was true, for he then purchased them with his own precious blood, and though not yet liberated from the prison of death, they may be truly reckoned as saved ever since their ransom was paid, for their raising out of death was from that moment made sure. Just as you might say of a pardoned criminal that he is a saved man, although even he himself may not yet know of his pardon nor have yet experienced a release.
Though no one is actually saved now, yet the Scriptures speak of believers as now saved by hope, that is, by accepting of God's promises as unquestionably sure, they may reckon themselves as already fully saved; not as merely awakened from death, but as saved from the last vestige of death and sin – as made perfect. "We are saved by hope; but hope that is seen is not hope, for what a man seeth why doth he yet hope for?" We do not see our salvation yet, except by faith. "But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it." (Rom. 8:24,25.) Our hope and faith would indeed be vain unless salvation means much more than we now enjoy.
The Apostle's statements that "God is the Saviour of all men, especially of those that [now] believe," and that God "will have all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth," as well as many other scriptures, prove to us that all men are to be saved by Christ from the degradation, misery and death now upon all through Adam's disobedience. And yet they show us two classes of saved ones – all mankind and the Church. While all are saved, one class is specially saved. That is, by special arrangement, some (all believers of the gospel age) are reckoned saved in season to run for the prize offered during this age. One class is not more saved than the other; both the Church and the world are and will be completely saved from sin and its penalty: and the mass of the world will realize this in due time in their restoration to perfect human life, while those reckoned saved now, as though they had already received the perfect human life, are privileged to relinquish their new claim and title to it, presenting it as a sacrifice to God, holy and acceptable to him when offered in the acceptable time (the gospel age). And being thus sacrificed with Christ, they will be privileged to partake with him of a new nature. (2 Pet. 1:4.) These will receive glory, honor and immortality [R604 : page 6] – the divine nature; while the world in general will receive the glory, honor and blessedness of the perfect human nature, which is an image of the divine. (Gen. 1:27.) The former class is thus specially saved, severely disciplined and highly exalted that through them the blessings of restitution may flow to all the world when God's due time shall come.
We see, then, that while the full import of our Lord's words has not been understood by many, and while many believe that he is unable to save the lost as he promised to do, that the fact is that his plan was so far-reaching that short-sighted, dying men could not measure or comprehend it. As now seen, the truth uttered in those few words required nearly three thousand years for its full accomplishment. At his first advent Jesus gave himself a ransom to save all (1 Tim. 2:6); during the centuries since, he has been developing the class who have in this time followed him in sacrifice, and who are to share with him in the work of saving or restoring all things, and within the coming thousand years the work of saving men will be completed. "If," then, "when we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more being reconciled we shall be saved by his life." (Rom. 5:10.)
Because in God's order men could only be saved by a payment of their penalty which would be the BASIS of their reconciliation and atonement with God, therefore, as a means to an end, we see that Jesus' mission at his first advent was to save in the sense of redeeming, while his second advent will complete the work by restoring to perfection all the redeemed – all for whom Christ died, and by the grace of God he tasted death [sin's penalty] for every man. (Heb. 2:9.)
There is one other thought of special importance in this text. It is that the Son of Man came to seek that which was lost. Now we inquire, Is there any evidence of very earnest seeking of lost ones on the part of our Lord? Some would think not. All men were lost, and this text implies, while John 12:47 clearly declares his purpose to save all; but he said, "I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel." (Matt. 15:24.) He did not seek out any of the lost Gentiles, and charged his disciples not to do so for some years. But Jesus did seek out a certain class – the meek – who were waiting for the promised salvation; and it was his purpose to begin with Jerusalem, to save such as would believe, and to give to those of the seed of Abraham who believed, the first offer of the high calling. And during the centuries since, he has only been seeking out and saving (reckoning saved) the same class (the meek) among the Gentiles, and making to such believing ones the same offer of the divine nature – a heavenly calling.
But a grander time of seeking is yet to come, for all the millions that are completely lost in death are yet to be sought out and saved. And where shall they be found? Notwithstanding the theories of men to the contrary, the Scriptures plainly teach that in death man's being is dissolved, that he is destroyed, blotted out of existence, that he is nowhere to be found. And with this fact in mind we might inquire with the Prophet Job, "If a man die shall he live again?" With men such a thing seems quite impossible, but "Why should it be thought a thing incredible that God should raise the dead?" (Acts 26:8.) He that was able to create is also able to re-create those once completely destroyed. And through the Prophet Isaiah the Lord speaks of the restitution as a new creation, saying, "Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth" – not the physical earth, for that abideth forever – but the world of mankind is to be re-created. And the Lord says: "Be ye glad and rejoice forever in that which I create." (Isa. 65:17,18.) That the restored or re-created being will recognize himself and also his neighbors of former acquaintance, is unquestionably proven by many scriptures (Ezek. 16:61,63; 20:43; 36:31; Zech. 12:10; Psa. 22:27), and illustrated in the few cases where the dead have been measurably restored, as Lazarus and others.
Job answers our question very clearly when he says (chap. 7:21), "Now shall I sleep in the dust; and thou shalt seek me in the morning, [the morning of the resurrection or restitution] BUT I SHALL NOT BE" – I shall be destroyed, blotted out of existence. But nevertheless, though thus destroyed, he says, "Thou shalt call and I will answer thee." (Job 14:15.) Like Lazarus, at the call of Jesus, earth's dead millions shall again spring into existence. David declares the same truth when he says, "Thou turnest man to destruction and [then] sayest, return, ye children of men." And with him we must say, "Bless the Lord, O my soul; who redeemeth thy life from destruction?" (Psa. 90:3; 103:1,4.) O that all the world could now realize the glorious import of those words of our Lord, "The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost." It was a glorious truth to realize at his first advent, that the plan of God had so far developed that the promised Messiah had actually come to save men by the sacrifice of himself. But it is still more glorious now to realize that our Lord has come the second time, to apply the benefits of that sacrifice, to claim and restore his purchased possessions, to actually and completely save that which was lost.
Perhaps the reader already sees that he has nothing to do. All that was necessary to procure your salvation was done long ago, before you were born; and in consequence of the redemption provided, all mankind, whether they ever knew it, or believed it or not, are going to be brought to life again, are going to be saved from the Adamic death. God will have all men to be saved; and though they may never have known him before, to be then brought to a knowledge of the truth.
Well, we seem to hear some one say, that is a strange answer. I thought you would tell me to pray or to get some Christian friends to pray for me, that I must try to realize that I am the chief of sinners, that I must kneel at a mourner's bench, or something of the kind, but you have not even told me to repent or believe. You simply say that I am saved, and that I have had, and can have nothing to do with it.
No, friend, we do not say that you are saved, but that you will be saved; and that you have had, and can have nothing to do with the means which procured your salvation. It is a free gift of God, in consequence of which you will be saved in the coming age; but you are in no sense saved now unless you have come to believe in Christ as your Redeemer. If you do believe this Bible truth, then you may through that faith reckon yourself as saved now – saved by hope; but you must wait for the actual salvation until God's due time. (2 Thes. 3:5.) Of course faith in and reliance on Christ as your Redeemer implies a realization of your need of a Redeemer, and a repentance and turning from sin. You may have been one of the very chief of sinners, or you may not have been so bad as some others; however, you were bad enough to merit the just condemnation of God's law, for he who offends in one point is guilty of all. (James 2:10.) He is a violator of the law, and as a consequence is under condemnation. If you have always lived just as morally and as carefully as you could, you have fallen short of perfection, because of the weakness of your nature, inherited through Adam's fall. (Rom. 5:12.) But though nothing that you have done or could do could save you from death, that which Christ has done procures your release from it.
Paul said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved." This is the condition on which we receive the reckoned salvation now, and it will also be the condition on which the world will receive their actual full salvation in the ages to come. We must bear in mind that the awakening of men from death is only the beginning of their salvation. Not until they have, under the discipline of the next age, reached perfection, are they fully saved. Although we might truly say men are saved when first awakened from death, they are not "saved to the uttermost" until brought to full perfection of being. But none will be thus "saved to the uttermost" who do not accept of their release from death as the direct result of the sacrifice of Christ. And realizing this, they must repent of past sins and turn to God. Otherwise they die the second death, from which there is no release.
Well, says our inquirer, this seems true and Scriptural, but what advantage is to be gained by being reckoned saved now? Would it not be as well to wait and give ourselves no concern about it, but let God's plan take its course? O no, we answer, there is an advantage, a great advantage to be gained by prompt faith and obedience as soon as we can gain sufficient knowledge on which to base our faith and obedience.
The special privilege of those justified by faith (or reckoned saved) during the gospel age, has been their right to present themselves as acceptable sacrifices to God – joint-sacrifices with Jesus Christ, and thereby to become joint-heirs with him of all things. That privilege, we believe, began with the day of Pentecost and ended in October, 1881.* While this special privilege was not offered to any before or since that time, another special privilege was granted to believers before this age, and we see no reason why a similar privilege may not be granted to believers since the gospel age ended.
Those justified by faith in past ages will have no need of trial and discipline in the next age, for their judgment is past; and consequently in the instant of [R605 : page 7] their resurrection they will be raised to perfect human existence.
A similar blessing, we believe, is in store for those of the world who now repent of sin, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as their Redeemer and rightful Lord, and wholly turn to God. As heretofore frequently shown, we find that we are now living in the Day of the Lord, in the beginning of the Millennial Age – the Times of Restitution. And since our Lord is present for the very purpose of restoring life and all things, we think it possible for such to remain without ever passing into death. It is just as easy when God's due time comes to keep men from going into death as it is to raise them out of it. This is not possible in the case of those who are to change their nature and become "new creatures"; it applies only to those justified ones who never started for the high calling. Therefore we should expect that such should in answer to prayer be healed from sickness, etc., but they cannot be brought to full perfection until the saints are first glorified; for "They without us shall not be made perfect." (Heb. 11:40.)
Probably very few will come to realize their privilege now. The tendency of the world is more and more towards skepticism, and few can claim this privilege; nevertheless; we believe it to be the privilege of any such who have faith to claim it.
In answer, then, to the question, What must I do to be saved? we would say, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved." Your salvation may begin now, and progress until you are restored to the perfection of your being – saved to the uttermost. For he (Christ) is able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him." (Heb. 7:25.)
Question. Please explain Mark 16:15-20.
Answer. It is very important to observe the times and seasons indicated in the Scriptures. This commission was given in the spring-time of the Gospel Age, when the all-important work of the Church was seed sowing. The commission, Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature," indicated that it was no longer confined to the Jew.
The spring-time and the summer of the Gospel Age are both past, and the autumn with its harvest work is here. "Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields, for they are white already to harvest. And he that reapeth receiveth wages and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together. And herein is that saying true, One soweth and another reapeth," etc.
Jesus spoke these words with reference to the harvest of the Jewish Age, but since that age was a pattern of this, it is as emphatically true here. The principal part of the sowing of this age was done by the early church, while all the reaping is our special privilege. But when the golden grain is all gathered in the faithful sower and the faithful reaper, who diligently observed the times and seasons, shall rejoice together.
Paul's counsel, "Do good to all men as you have opportunity, especially to the household of faith," should be continually borne in mind. While about our special business of reaping in presenting advanced truth to consecrated saints, we should improve every opportunity for dropping some seeds of truth among others with whom we come in contact.
But we should not make the mistake of expecting this new seed to flourish and come to maturity in this age. There are a thousand years ahead of us for this work, and it will be the special work after this harvest is ended. But it is consecrated believers only who may be developed and perfected now. He that believeth and is baptized with the baptism that Christ was baptized with – into death – shall be saved now to the high calling offered in this age. But he that believeth not shall be damned (condemned) as utterly unfit for the high office to which those saved in this age are called. But though thus condemned now, they will have abundant evidence for faith, and ample opportunity to be saved and brought to human perfection in the coming age, when the blind eyes shall be opened and the deaf ears shall be unstopped.
Verses 17 and 18 mention certain signs which should accompany believers, and verse 20 shows that the Lord did thus work with the early Church, confirming their word with the promised signs. But Paul shows us (1 Cor. 13:8-10) that when the necessity for such signs is done away they will no longer continue. They were a necessity in the introduction of Christianity, but we have now abundant and substantial evidence on which to rest our faith without them.
Q. Does Matt. 24:6 teach that "wars and rumors of wars" are a sign of the end of the Gospel Age?
A. No; we think not. Wars and rumors of wars have characterized earth's history, with varying frequency and cruelty, ever since the fall of man. But the Scriptures assure us that the time of the end of the Gospel Age, or end of the dominion of the "prince of this world," will witness a more general and wide-spread warfare than was ever known before, involving all the powers of earth. The indications of such an uprising we now see in the rapid and world-wide development of the principles of Communism. Already men's hearts are beginning to fail them for fear of those things that are coming on the earth, and the cloud, which continues to grow darker, is fast overspreading the whole heavens. Before many years the storm will burst in all its fury, "and there shall be a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation." Dan. 12:1.
Jesus tells his disciples that they will hear of many wars and rumors of wars, but tells them not to be troubled about it, for all these things must come to pass. As long as Satan rules the world strife and war and confusion must reign, and you shall be hated and afflicted and killed for my name's sake. But amid all these troubles the saints, knowing that these things must be so for a time, and that "the end is not yet," must patiently endure until "he comes whose right it is" to take the kingdom from the usurper and reward his faithful saints.
So also famines and pestilences and earthquakes are not to be regarded specially as signs of the end. Though they will doubtless be frequent, and perhaps more so in the time of the end, like wars they have been a part of Satan's policy from the first. It is not to be presumed that the prince of darkness will suffer the binding influences of the new Prince, which are now at work to fetter his power without a struggle. Without a doubt his rage will spend its force in distressing mankind in various ways, for he knoweth that he hath but a short time.
A. The Scriptures nowhere state that there will be such equality. They do not teach that the misery of the wicked must tally with the glory and blessedness of the saints. That idea was promulgated by the adversary through Papacy, but has no existence in the Word of God. All other punishments except that of the second death are designed as corrective, and this final punishment shows that God in mercy takes away the being which could only be a source of misery to itself and others. In mercy God will blot such out of existence. But, "As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked." (Ezek. 33:11.)
Q. Please explain 1 Pet. 4:17,18 – "For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the Gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?
A. The term judgment may be properly applied to the process of trial, or to the result of trial – the decision or verdict. In the former sense the judgment of the Church began over eighteen hundred years ago, and has been progressing ever since. But in the latter sense, it is due in the end or harvest of the Gospel Age. Hence the separating of wheat and tares, and also of the ripe and unripe wheat, now going on.
And if the judgment of the Church, as to who is fit or unfit to receive the Gospel prize offered to us, has begun, what shall the end or decision of this judgment be concerning them that obey not the Gospel of God? – not concerning them that never heard, or that had no ears to hear it (Rev. 2:11), but concerning them that had a hearing ear, that did once hear with gladness and appreciate the Gospel, and then, for various reasons, did not obey it – the ungodly, not necessarily vicious and in direct opposition and defiance of God, but those claiming to be his and yet not fully obedient. There are very many such. What shall the end of this judgment be to them?
Let the Psalmist answer: "They are like the chaff which the wind driveth away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous." (Psa. 1:4,5.) Like the chaff they will be carried away by the winds of false doctrine, or the storms of opposition; [R606 : page 7] they will not be able to stand the test, or counted worthy to be gathered with the faithful. But, "blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of [such unfaithful ones] the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of [these] sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night." Though in this judgment a thousand unfaithful shall fall at his side, and ten thousand at his right hand, he shall stand, and in due time will receive the great reward.
Verse 18 shows that the righteous, or those who pass the judgment of this age and win the prize of the high calling, will scarcely, or merely, be saved – that is, with difficulty. It will require all their faith, and all their effort: those who do not exercise faith and put forth all their effort will not be able to stand.
Q. Please compare Luke 6:29,30, with 1 Tim. 5:8, and tell me how both these principles can be carried out. There is a miserly and idle class who would completely strip the frugal and industrious if they would literally obey Luke 6:29,30; and before long we would find the command of 1 Tim. 5:8 impossible, while the class referred to would be encouraged in indolence and improvidence. What is duty?
A. This is a very practical question, and one not unfrequently forced upon many. We think, however, that Luke 6:31 settles the difficulty. It reads: "And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise." Mark, it does not say, as they would have you do to them, but, as you would have them do to you. This makes quite a difference. You, as a true child of God, are controlled by the highest principles of love and justice, and would therefore only desire the same of your neighbor. Love and justice would, if possible, feed and clothe your neighbor if he is unable by industry and economy to do it for himself. But neither love nor justice to him or to yourself would encourage indolence, prodigality or meanness.
Verses 27 to 30 are not in opposition to the principle expressed in the golden rule, but teach what should be our attitude towards our enemies who hate and despitefully use us. Their simple teaching is, Don't strike back or try to get even with them. Show them that you are willing to endure hardness, and even to suffer violence and injustice if need be. Verses 30-36 teach us to show a spirit of liberality that will shame their meanness, and a love and mercy that will win their secret respect even while they openly oppose us. The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence now, but in due time the reward will be realized.
Q. Please explain the following texts: (1) John 3:36 – "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him."
A. It is proper to say that we have a thing either when we are in actual possession of it, or when we have a clear deed or title to it. Thus you might say you have a piece of property in Europe, though you are not there to possess it, but you hold the deed signed and sealed and made out in your name. Just so he that now believeth on the Son of God, the Redeemer who purchased us with his own precious blood, has now everlasting life; not that he is in actual possession of it, but he holds a clear title to it, signed by Jehovah himself and sealed with the precious blood of Christ.
In the next age, when brought to a knowledge of the truth, all the world must likewise recognize Christ as their Redeemer and Lord and trust in and submit to his authority, else they shall never see life in its fullness and perfection; and God does not recognize as life anything short of perfection. The wrath or condemnation of God abideth on all others, and will end in final destruction, if not removed, either in this age or the next. Only a few are yet free from condemnation (1 John 5:19), and many blind eyes must be opened and deaf ears unstopped before the mass of the world can believe, come into harmony with God, and have life everlasting.
Q. (2) "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." Mark 16:16.
A. He that believeth and is baptized in the likeness of Christ's death shall be of the special class saved during this age. The advantage to the class saved during this age is the high exaltation to a new nature – the spiritual. But he that believeth not shall be damned, or condemned, as entirely unfit to receive the favor offered during this age. Nearly all the world is so damned, or condemned, but they are not irrecoverably damned as unfit for any service; for we have seen that God has glorious favors in store for them when they shall have been brought to knowledge, faith and obedience – even restitution.
Q. (3) "And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness." (2 Thes. 2:11,12.)
A. The preceding verses show that the reference here is to the development of the "Man of Sin" – Papacy. But, all who have been deceived by the great Papal system were not of the class who had pleasure in unrighteousness. The deceptions and errors of Papacy, still promulgated through Protestantism, even to-day continue to fetter many of God's children to some extent. But, however sincere were many of the ignorant and deceived ones who afterward formed a part of the Papal system, its "COMING was after the working of Satan, with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness." That is, those who were instrumental in introducing this system were men who, though they knew the truth, received it not in the love of it, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. They sought to pervert the truth for their own selfish ends, and in so doing they found able support in Satan, "the God of this world."
For this cause God left such, as he always does, where they placed themselves, in the hands of the enemy, who strongly deluded them into believing the lies they sought to propagate, that they all might be condemned who had pleasure in unrighteousness. We have often heard it lightly remarked that if one tells an untruth several times he begins to believe it himself. This is indeed a fearful fact, and an evidence of the increasing power of Satan over such. What a fearful condition to be in, especially for any whose judgment is in the present age, and whose trial must be completed in this life. [See article, "The Judgment," in December issue.] Perilous indeed is the condition of those who at any time pervert the truth of God for selfish ends; though they do it [R606 : page 8] at first with trembling and fear, they will shortly do it with boldness, and with a degree of sincerity which gives evidence of their strong and awful delusion.
Q. (4) "Thou believest that there is one God: thou doest well: the devils also believe and tremble." James 2:19.
A. Though it is true that "without faith it is impossible to please God," Paul here shows that faith is not the only thing necessary to please him. To believe that there is a God is well; that is a step in the right direction, but that is not enough. There is no special virtue in believing an evident truth; but it is lying and self-deception to disbelieve any truth of which we have clear evidence. The devils also believe and tremble at the word of the Lord because they know his power. Faith must be accompanied by obedience to God in so far as the imperfect earthen vessel is able to render it. The daily life must give evidence of faith in all God's promises, and of a love and gratitude which humbly and gratefully accepts his favors.
One other thought might be noted here, viz: that the faith of devils can only inspire trembling, dread and fear, for having presumptuously sinned against God in the face of truth and knowledge, so manifest to those dwelling in his actual presence, there remaineth no more opportunity for them. That was their judgment day, and in it they decided their final destiny, which is destruction. And knowing it, they tremble as the time draws near. (Luke 4:34; Matt. 8:29.)
But because of God's gracious promises our faith inspires us with hope and joy; for our judgment day is not yet past. But it is a solemn thought that it is passing with those who have been brought to a knowledge of the truth. And therefore it becomes us, while rejoicing in hope, to "take heed lest we fall."
A. Jesus was going away to the Father, to a higher condition, the divine nature. Had these Pharisees acted differently, they might have followed him to that high exaltation. The privilege of following him was soon to be offered to the meek and lowly of heart. And as a mark of special favor it was to be offered to the Jew first; but these Pharisees, in their pride and unbelief, lost their opportunity. Not having faith in Christ, they were not even justified, and therefore they died in their sins.
But being blinded – at least partially so, as Jesus said they were (Matt. 15:14) – in the coming age their blindness shall be taken away, their pride will be humbled, and then will they seek Him whom they with wicked hands had crucified and slain, and will humbly acknowledge him as both Lord and Christ. And the forgiveness sought in Jesus' dying prayer will be granted; but the opportunity of following Jesus to the divine nature will have forever passed.
Q. (6) "And as many as were ordained to eternal life believed." Acts 13:48.
A. To ordain means "to set in order," "to arrange according to rule." (See [R607 : page 8] Webster.) To ordain, or set in order, for eternal life, is partly our work and partly God's work. God's part of the work was to provide the necessary sacrifice for sin, and to make known to us its efficacy and our privilege of sharing its benefits. Our part of the work is to believe God, to accept these benefits, and act accordingly.
If, when men hear, they are not disposed to be sincere and honest with themselves, but rather love darkness than light because their deeds are evil, they have not taken the first step toward the setting in order for eternal life. If they are not even disposed in favor of truth and righteousness, how can they believe? The sense of the passage, then, is that as many as were disposed, or inclined, toward truth and righteousness, believed. The idea is clearly expressed in Rotherham's translation – "As many as had become disposed for age-abiding life, believed."
Q. Was the promise to Abram, Gen. 13:14-17, ever fulfilled? If so, when – if not, when will it be, and how?
A. In Acts 7:5, we read that God gave to Abram none inheritance in the land of promise; no, not so much as to set his foot on, yet he promised that he would give it to him for a possession, and to his seed after him. And in Heb. 11:13, we read: "These all (Abram and others mentioned) died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth." As heretofore shown, the promise will be literally fulfilled to Abram in the incoming Millennial Age, and will soon be realized; for already the fig-tree begins to put forth whereby we know, even if we had no other evidence, that summer is nigh.
Q. I have read in "FOOD," page 98, the answer to part of a query which arose in my mind while learning of the coming restitution, viz.: Would there be room for them on the earth if the billions of the dead were resurrected? But while that is fully answered, I still query, How would so large a population subsist? A. Even if we could think of no way, it should be no obstacle to reposing faith in the positive promise of God. Remember Abraham, God's promise to him was most improbable (Gen. 18:10, and 22:2; 17:21), yet he "staggered not" at that, but believed God – so should we. But foreseeing this query on our part, our Father has explained how it shall be accomplished, saying, "The earth shall yield her increase"; "the wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad, and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose." "In the wilderness shall waters break out and streams in the desert." (Isa. 35:1-6.) Thus we see that the changes which God has in contemplation, indicate that he has foreseen all the necessities of his plan, and will make provision for the needs of his creatures in what is termed a natural way, and at the same time let us remember that He shall be there to superintend who turned water into wine, and with two loaves fed five thousand.
Q. Since we read that God can "by no means clear the guilty," how shall we harmonize that with other statements of Scripture which show that our sins were imputed to Jesus and he died for them; while his righteousness was imputed to us, and we shall live on that account, or as elsewhere stated by His (Jesus') stripes we are healed?
A. Suppose a man found guilty of some crime is condemned to imprisonment or $1,000 fine. He has no money, and is imprisoned. His friends go to the Governor asking his pardon, and get his reply thus: I cannot and will not pardon any man who is really guilty. If you can show that the law was bad, or that the decision of the court was unjust, that would be a reason why I should do him justice by pardoning him, and setting aside the penalty. But if it is admitted that the "law is good," and the decision and penalty just, then I can by no means clear the guilty – I cannot pardon him.
Suppose, then, that you sold your property, and securing the amount of the fine, went and paid it FOR the guilty one. Would not this illustrate the sinners case? Jehovah does not clear or pardon them, but redeems them by providing the ransom for sin.
A. As you are doubtless aware we understand Scripture to hold out very different promises to the true Church of this age, from those to the world to be fulfilled in the Millennial Age. Hence we answer, your question supposes that you ask concerning the world, which, however, includes many nominal Christians who are in a general way believers in Christ, but who never have sanctified themselves, never consecrated, and who, therefore, are not new creatures, but still of the human nature and heirs with the world of those promises of restitution and blessing which shall flow to the natural man.
Among all these, light, knowledge, truth shall increase and bring attendant blessings and happiness. For a further answer to your first question, we refer you to article entitled "Sanctifying the World," in the TOWER for Feb., 1883.
From your second question we judge that you do not fully appreciate DEATH. Death has passed upon all humanity, and all are in death and under its control, even before the last spark of life becomes extinct. Strictly speaking, everything is in death which is perishing; hence only two men ever were fully alive – Adam through sin brought death. The sentence against him was, "Dying, thou shalt die" (Margin), and as soon as the sin had been committed the penalty began to take effect. And Jesus when he became a man, like Adam before the fall, had neither death nor cause of death (sin) in him, but "in him was life" which he gave as a ransom for ours. All others have been in the dead or dying condition.
Likewise we have seen that resurrection does not merely mean to lift men from the tomb with only a spark of life, but includes this and all the process following it, which brings them up entirely out of the dying condition to the perfection of their human nature.
Thus seen, there will be no occasion for others to enter the tomb when the kingdom of heaven has been fully established in the earth. [Which we understand will be about 1914 A.D.] The Great Physician – the Christ – will then be among men in power and the work of healing and restoring all things, but faintly foreshadowed by Jesus' earthly miracles, will commence. The resurrection work will progress both with those who are in their graves and also those not so far down in the dark "valley of the shadow of death," and all will have the strength and help provided, by which they may regain the mountain top of human perfection and life which Adam lost the right to through sin, but which right was redeemed for all by Christ.
Q. What am I to do? I am a Baptist. I cannot now agree with them, and cannot see how I can consistently remain in the Baptist Church – giving my influence and support to what I now see to be error, even though there are good people in it, and some seeming good moral influence is being exerted by it. Yet there is no Church here holding the views which the WATCH TOWER maintains. Should I withdraw?
A. We can only repeat to you the word of the Lord, quoted and expounded in other issues of the TOWER. If his command, "Come out of her (Babylon) my people," be not sufficient for you, what could we say that would have more weight with you?
We believe the "Baptists" to have as little error as perhaps any of the sects. Back in the days of Bunyan they were evidently very near the Apostolic arrangement of the Church, but it has drifted into the popular sectarian channel with the others – it now has its creed, boundaries and its titled ministry, and ignores the teachings of the Scriptures to teach human tradition, and is now as much a member of the "Image" (Rev. 13:14-17) as any other sect. We can see no other way for you to do than to withdraw your name, influence and support from the institution.
You are probably mistaken about there being no members of the Church of Christ [whose names are written in heaven] in your place; and as a member of that Church to whom God has given greater light, it is your duty, as it should be your joy, to let your light shine, and thereby bless the other members. There may be some of them with you in the Baptist Church, some in the Methodist, Presbyterian, and other sects, who, while really consecrated to the Lord, have been deceived as you were into rendering to sectarianism the service meant for God. Remember that Elijah once thought himself alone, and supposed that all Israel was worshipping Baal's image, but God informed him that there were seven thousand who had not. So it is to-day, the truth is daily seeking out those who are faithful and feeding them. All such will heed God's word, and are willing to face the frown of the popular sentiment of the nominal Church, and confess Christ and his teachings.
It should be our constant endeavor to seek out such. You know not how many starving saints may be hungering for the bread which you can supply. Don't expect to find them among the most popular Christians – the eminently pious – though there may be some such, but as a general thing it is now as it was in Jesus' day, that the poor of this world are the rich in faith. May God bless the humble messengers and receivers of his glorious truth.
Q. In the July issue you say "the Jew...could not keep the Law. Please tell us what portion of it they could not keep? You also mention "the life promised under that Law covenant – but what life was promised under that Law?
A. The Law is one whole law with ten divisions. To keep the Law was to meet the requirements of each of the ten items. The promise of life was to any who could keep the whole perfectly, and he who offended or violated one part was a violator of the Law, and had no claim on the life promised to the obedient. (Jam. 2:10.) The Apostles and Jesus assure us that none but Jesus ever kept that law inviolate, therefore he was the only one who had a right to life, hence it is that the Law did not demand his death, but when he died it was willingly a sacrifice for our sins. (See 1 Pet. 3:18; 1 John 3:5; John 6:51; 10:18.)
A. These two Scriptures are in harmony with our teaching, and with each other. Rom. 6:4,8,11,12,18, and 22, show that the persons addressed were truly consecrated in heart and mind to the Lord. The "presenting" vs. 13 and 19, refers not to consecration, but to the carrying out or fulfilling of the covenant already made. They had covenanted to render, or had presented their minds to the Lord, now they must not forget to spend the life and strength of every member of their bodies in his service.
Q. Please explain Isa. 11:11. "And it shall come to pass in that day that the Lord shall set his hand again, the second time, to recover the remnant of his people which shall be left from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathos, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea."
A. This prophecy of Isaiah seems parallel to that of Jeremiah 16:14-17. "Behold the days come, saith the Lord, that it shall no more be said, The Lord liveth that brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; but the Lord liveth that brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north (Russia, north of Palestine, where the greatest number of that people are now found, and from which they are now being driven by fierce persecution), and from all the lands whither he had driven them; and I will bring them again into their land that I gave unto their fathers." Yes, the deliverance from Egypt of the remnant of Israel, who lived to see it, was a deliverance they never forgot, but that deliverance will seem insignificant when compared to the great deliverance which the Lord will accomplish when he sets his hand again, the second time, to recover the remnant of that people living in the day of the Lord, here referred to. For proof that the day of the Lord is now upon us, see "Food for Thinking Christians," and note that these things are already beginning to come to pass. This day is this Scripture being fulfilled in your ears – whosoever hath an ear, let him hear.