The Editor recognizes a responsibility to the Master, relative to what shall appear in these columns, which he cannot and does not cast aside; yet he should not be understood as endorsing every expression of correspondents, or of articles selected from other periodicals.
Foreign Postage being higher, our terms to foreign subscribers will be 65 cents a year. Please send us no foreign money or postage stamps, as we can make no use of them. Remittances may be made by Foreign Postal Money Orders.
This paper will be sent free to any of the Lord's poor who will send a card yearly requesting it. Freely we have received and freely we would give the truth. "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters; and he that hath no money, come ye, buy and eat – yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price." And you that have it – "Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labor for that which satisfieth not? Hearken diligently – and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness." – ISAIAH 55:1,2.
Every member of the Church (whose names were "written in heaven") in the early times was a preacher. We know this not only because it is recorded that they "went every where preaching the Word" (Acts 8:4), but because we know that no one then or now led of the Spirit of Christ could help being a preacher of the glad tidings. If the anointing of the spirit led Jesus to preach; if the same spirit in Paul led him to feel "woe is unto me if I preach not the gospel" (1 Cor. 9:16), wherever the same mind or spirit of Christ may be, it will have the same general effect, it will make a preacher of the one controlled by it as surely as it did of those referred to above. Of the Church whose names are written in heaven – every member is a preacher. Are you one? Are you faithful to your ministry?
The Greek word rendered "preach" in the above citations is euagg. It signifies – "To tell good news or tidings." – Young. One definition of our English word preach is, "To give earnest advice on moral or religious grounds." – Webster. From this, it will be seen that to confine the use of the word preach to a public discourse, as it usually is, is an error, begotten no doubt of the custom of having a special class do all the expounding of the glad tidings, while others feel themselves relieved from it.
The secret is this: The "glad tidings of great joy" which always did and always will kindle a flame of holy fire, which must find vent through tongue or pen, and to restrain which would be "woe unto me" if I preach not – has been so handled by Satan and his able assistant "Babylon the Great," that the "glad" element has been obscured, and the whole turned into "bad tidings" of great evil to ninety-nine in every hundred of the race.
It is greatly to the credit of the Church, that many have lost interest in the promulgation of the bad news. It makes evident, too, another thing, viz.: that the bad news, called gospel, now preached by those who are paid good salaries for so doing, must be a very different story from that which every member of the early Church preached for nothing. Nay, they got regular wages, but instead of money and titles and respect, they got stripes, imprisonments, and revilings, being accounted the filth and offscourings of the world – driven from their homes, "they that were scattered abroad, went every where preaching the Word." (Acts 8:4.)
Ah, yes! with such exhibitions of self-sacrifice and devotion on the part of the preachers, could we doubt that their message was really "glad tidings of great joy which shall be to all people," and that the humblest of them felt, as Paul expressed it, that he was "not ASHAMED of the gospel of Christ." What wonder, too, that "under such a message" by such preachers – "the number of the disciples was multiplied"? (Acts 6:1.)
And now, when under the providence of God THE CHURCH is getting back to the "good tidings" as originally held by THE CHURCH in the days of the Apostles, and getting rid of the traditions of men under which it had been buried for centuries by contending sects and factions, we find that the real "glad tidings" has to-day the same effect that it had in early times upon all imbued with its spirit of truth. It is now, as then, impossible for anyone to receive the glad tidings and the spirit of it, without becoming a preacher of it, even though by so doing such meet with the same opposition as did their brethren in early times with the same glad tidings of the ransom for all and consequent resurrection hope for all.
Some inquire where are our Bishops, Apostles and preachers? We reply that Jesus is still recognized as the great Bishop (1 Pet. 2:25). And we have under-shepherds or overseers of the flock to-day as Timothy and others were in the early Church. We still have the words and teachings of the genuine Apostles – James, John, Peter, Paul, et al., and, judging from letters received there are not less than two thousand preachers and evangelists, who, being "scattered abroad, go every where preaching the Word," and referring those who "have an ear to hear," to the words of Jesus, Apostles and Prophets.
Beloved fellow-preachers, ministers (dispensers) of the grace of God which is through Jesus Christ our Lord, let us [R671 : page 1] make full proof of our ministry, that we may not be ashamed before the Great Bishop, when giving an account of our stewardship. The more we learn of the "glad tidings of great joy," the more we will feel with Paul that we would be in distress and woe, if you could not tell the joyful message: the more you will feel as Peter and John expressed it: "we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard." (Acts 4:19,20, and 5:29,40,41.)
Your zeal in the spread of this good news is very precious to us and we are sure also, that it is so to our Chief Shepherd. Probably one-half of all the letters received indicate that by one means or another the writers are preaching daily. The majority find their greatest success in preaching, to be by means of a wise circulation of special numbers of the TOWER, with special articles marked, and accompanied by "a word in season" – among those who seem to be "the meek," and to have "an ear to hear."
We repeat what some do not seem to have fully understood heretofore, viz.: that "ZION'S WATCH TOWER TRACT SOCIETY," (whose funds are voluntary donations only) provides reading matter for gratuitous circulation on these precious subjects, to all who will use discretion in circulating it.
During the four years of the Society's existence nearly two hundred million (200,000,000) pages of tract matter has been circulated, and the experience thus obtained is, that greater results proportioned to the outlay, are derived from the use of specially prepared numbers of the TOWER (the last number was one of these) than by any other form of tract. Hence, efforts are at present mainly aimed in that direction, and thousands of papers in English and Swedish are printed and sent forth continually. We mention this that you may know that you have a supply to draw from so long as the Master shall supply the funds. Order as many "sample copies for distribution," as you think you can use to advantage in preaching the "glad tidings of great joy which shall be to all people."
Though you may have a bountiful supply, use it not wastefully; but as wise stewards seek to use each paper or pamphlet according to the value of its message in your appreciation, and as men who shall render an account to a Master.
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL: – Your card received, also June number of the TOWER. I read and re-read the various articles, and compared them with God's Word, and I find it bears the test as far as I can see, and I am building with it upon the old rock; and it seems to be standing all right so far. I have had a few storms, but not a stone has moved, and I am, thank God, still finding plenty of good building material through your assistance from God's Word. I do not want to have to remove any of the building this time, for I am perfectly aware that if I get any of the devil's rubbish in, it will be sure to cause trouble. I wish to be very particular this time.
I may just say, by the way, that I found the good old rock about 14 years ago, and I at once began to raise a building. I continued to build on, up to the time I began to read the WATCH TOWER, and true I had raised a high building. I had gained a good name among most people that I was associated with; but when I through the TOWER was led to view the structure from bottom to top, I found I had made a lot of mistakes, and it did not look near so well in a clearer light; in fact I was ashamed to see it.
This was my mistake, I had put into my building, any kind of material that was presented to me, if it came from a good man. I did not ask the quality of it, but piled away, feeling confident it was genuine, and that if it was fit for these good men to build with, I might rely on it too. Thanks be to God, I see my mistake, and although my structure was standing all right up to this time, I saw from the clearer light, that it was doomed to destruction, and by his help whom I love, I took it all down; and my good name and high esteem, with many other things, is all gone, and I am now raising a new building. My name is Noah, and like Noah of old, I am building an ark to save myself, although laughed at and persecuted and counted a heretic; by God's help I shall go on with it. I feel rather lonely sometimes, having none save my wife that I can talk with freely on these subjects. Some say they would like to have a talk, and others are afraid, and I feel perplexed what to do, and grieved at heart to see the superstition and prejudice that prevails.
I trust that the dear Master may make my path clear, although it may be rough. I hope to be found among his jewels, when he gathers them. My prayer is that the good Shepherd may continue to lead us into green pastures and to living fountains of water. Your brother in Christ,
DEAR BROTHER: – I received the papers you sent me, and am distributing them where I think they will do the most good. I have been a Bible reader – a Methodist – for forty years, and I thought I understood the Bible, and yet I was not satisfied, and was hungry for something that I had not. I made a consecration of myself to God, and promised by his grace to live to his glory; still I was in the dark, and prayed earnestly for light – for truth. It came at last. The first food I got was from a copy of the TOWER, and I began to "see men as trees walking." I continued searching and kept on reading the TOWER in connection with the Word of God, I also read "Food for Thinking Christians"; my eyes again being touched, I see now clearer, and now I am hungry and will search for food until I am filled. I thank God for the TOWER and little book. My wife is one with me, in searching for the bread of life. I am an invalid, have been for nineteen years, was wounded badly in the war. Please send the Tabernacle Tract, or anything you please to give me. I intend to work now for the Master. Your brother,
DEAR BROTHER: – I am no longer young, but have a strong desire to do something in the Lord's vineyard. If I were of middle age, if competent, with the present light I would devote probably most, if not all, my time to making known the glad tidings. I believe, after due reflection, that many years ago I consecrated myself to God, but not understanding it, could not realize it as now. I have made a great deal of money, but have not so much of it now; it has mostly vanished. I never was a worldly man, but a hard worker, much devoted to my profession, which is now secondary. I may have some means to dispose of for the cause of truth, but cannot see clearly how it should be done. I think if your Tract Society had a charter, donations and bequests might be made with more freedom. [R671 : page 2]
Sectarian preaching here is so insipid that I can have no patience to hear it. All seem to be busy worshipping the god of this age – the devil – in some form or other. Pray the Lord of the harvest that he will send more reapers. Please make some suggestions, if you can, and may God bless you in your labor of love.
TO THE PUBLISHER ZION'S WATCH TOWER –
Dear Sir: – While listlessly looking over an old book stall I met with a small pamphlet, published by yourself, "Why is evil permitted," &c. I have read and re-read it, each time with increasing interest and delight. It affords an advantageous standpoint from which to view old truths in a new light, and, as it seems to my mind, puts the natural and unstrained interpretation upon the plain gospel declaration. It now seems difficult to understand why Christendom should for so long a time have distorted the full view by introducing many side lights, all tinged with formulas, creeds and traditions. I write to know where, in this country, I can obtain further publications upon which I and, I am glad to say, not a few friends might follow up the great train of thought which the little book has already been the means of producing. How fully would I bear out the assertion that the more we know of our great Father's plans the more our hearts glow with devotion to him, the more life's burdens seem lightened, the more manfully can we face a scoffing and incredulous world, and the greater our power for influencing for good those enthralled in the chains of sectarianism and those steeped in indifference. The more these views are enunciated the greater the possibility of obtaining ground upon which all who love our Lord in sincerity can meet and, by united efforts, work for the Master, and instead of sectarian strife, so unedifying to themselves and so hindering the influence of the good news to outsiders, they can unitedly press on and win the world for Christ. If you don't mind sending me a line or two about the expense, and also about the medium for getting more light, I shall be grateful to you. With my best respects and every good wish, I am, dear sir,
Your faithful servant,
MR. C. T. RUSSELL: – Dear Sir: – I am more than pleased with the copy of "Food for Thinking Christians" which you so kindly sent me. I wish all my friends here could read this excellent little book. Think I could dispose of half-a-dozen copies to very good advantage if you could spare them. I should also like for myself other reading matter, such as is referred to in the book already sent. Have never seen the way so clearly presented, and shall look for further light.
As you advertise these little works to be sent free, may I not ask, is there not some way in which friends may assist in this good work?
[DEAR BROTHER: As you will see by this number we have a Tract Fund, to which any who may desire are welcome to give. The spirit of your letter – desiring and seeking a way to give is akin to that of the Lord, and is one indication that you partake of the spirit of those for whom the Lord prepared the present feast. As the Master sought the sheep and ransomed them unasked, so those who partake of his Spirit are ever on the lookout for opportunities to do and bear. – ED.] page 2
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL: – Will you be so kind as to send me the WATCH TOWER again? Circumstances have been so hard against me that I am not able to pay yet, but I am still wanting more truth. In my young years I was for a time a student in the Missionary College of Basel, Switzerland. While there I began to see into the inconsistencies of creeds. I therefore grew dissatisfied and studied a great deal. But finally meeting with so many apparent discrepancies, I gave up all study. For many years following I regarded the Bible as a structure of man, adapted to the wants and wishes of all sects and the gratification of one class, the clergy. Pre-election and predestination seemed to be the chief teachings. Yet I had consecrated myself to the Lord, and I would occasionally pray for light and faith. At last Food for thinking Christians arrived and passed through me like an electric current, bringing me to see the glorious harmony of God's plan. Possessing no Bible, I could not study Food and WATCH TOWER by references, but only by the remembering of former reading in German and French text.
Being desirous to do some good, I let my cup of "Food" pass from house to house until I at last lost sight of it. The last person who had it was a Campbelite preacher. I would therefore be very thankful for another one, also the "Tabernacle and Its Teachings." Could also use, say six or eight, to good advantage among inquiring friends. I hope the Lord will bless you and all his people, and enable me to proclaim his name and praise wherever occasion presents, but I am full of fears lest my garments have become so soiled through indifference and neglect that another may be about grasping my crown. But the Lord can extend his helping hand to me as once he did to Peter. Yours in the love of Christ,
ZION'S WATCH TOWER TRACT SOCIETY, though it has already done a great work, and in the hand of God has been a power in publishing the truth, the influence which is being felt already on both sides of the Atlantic, has never yet had legal incorporation. Nor was such incorporation considered necessary by its friends, it having already all the powers necessary for the present work and similar to that of nine-tenths of other small societies.
But a new phase of the question has arisen. It seems tolerably certain that some of the saints will be in the flesh during a great part at least of the "time of trouble," and if so, there will be need of printed matter, tracts, etc., as much then, perhaps, as now, and possibly will be more heeded, for when the judgments of the Lord are "in the earth the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness." (Isa. 26:9.) Should those at present prominently identified with the work not be the last to be "changed," some interruption of the work might result; but this may be obviated by having a legal standing, granted by a State Charter.
Another matter also has been considered: Two or more who had already contributed to the funds of the society, suggested that as age was coming on and opportunities for earning a living decreasing they could not now give more largely without endangering penury and leaving themselves a burden on their friends, which they could not see to be the Lord's will; yet they are desirous that in some way they might be able to put the Lord's money (consecrated to Him) into His work. This naturally suggested the idea that there might be many others similarly situated and with similar ideas. Such moneys or other property donated by "Will" to the society it might be unable to receive or dispose of, unless it had a charter.
From all these considerations it was deemed best to apply for a charter; and this has been done. We expect that it will be granted without delay, and in that event you will learn more concerning the matter in our next issue.
IT was out of the clouds that the deluge came, yet it was upon it that the bow set! The cloud is a thing of darkness, yet God chooses it for the place where he bends the arch of light! Such is the way of our God. He knows that we need the cloud, and that a bright sky, without speck or shadow, would not suit us in our passage to the kingdom. Therefore he draws the cloud above us, not once in a lifetime, but many times. But less the gloom should appall us, he braids the clouds with sunshine; nay, makes it the object which gleams to our eye with the very fairest hues of heaven. – H. Bonar.
The curse with its thorns and thistles, causing labor, weariness, and sweat of face, for the earning of daily bread, has tended to produce selfishness. In the endeavor to obtain the necessities and comforts of this life it seems almost a necessity that we shall endeavor to get as much as possible, in exchange for as little as possible, or in other words, to drive close bargains.
While selfishness is a weed always detestable, it is so common and so deep-seated in the fallen race, that it is to be found in every garden. Often it flourishes most in the heart of the rich and comfortably circumstanced, where its greedy fruit is not needed, whereas it could be measurably excused in the miserably poor.
It is not surprising then, that we find this one of the most difficult weeds to eradicate when we have become princes – children of the King of kings. How great is the inclination even of these to still permit this weed and to eat of its fruit. Would that we all could realize more fully how unbecoming it is in the Royal family. Oh that each of us day by day may become more remarkable in this respect before the world.
The worst form of the evil, however, is that which manifests itself toward God – his truth – his favors. Accustomed to getting as much as possible for the amount paid, or paying as little as possible for the thing secured in daily life, the same disposition often manifests itself in dealing with God for the "Crown of Life," for "Glory, Honor and Immortality." [R672 : page 2]
God covenants with those justified by faith in the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, that if they consecrate and sacrifice themselves wholly to his service, He will give them at once, "exceeding great and precious promises," and in the future the realities.
Our little all is indeed a meagre pittance. How little remains of our threescore-years-and-ten! how little of mental vigor! how little of physical strength! how little of money and influence! and yet that little all, however great or insignificant it is to you, is all that God required in exchange for his great gift.
We confess that it is a great bargain – such exceeding riches and glory for a price so mean as to be not worthy to be compared with it, and yet how many, like Ananias and Sapphira are found endeavoring to keep back part of the price.
According to our covenant we should do our best to use in Jehovah's service "all our mind, all our soul and all our strength," which of course includes the products of these – all our influence, all our money and all our time as well. Yet how apt are we in action to say to the Lord, "I know it is cheap, but can you not take a little less? I think you will. I know you love and think you would not deny me the prize, even though I keep back part of the price."
Thus many desire a crown of life and glory, if they can get it cheap. Some would like to know the truth, if they could know it without the expenditure of much time and trouble in searching for it as hid treasures. Such would hold it very tenaciously, if it brought with it earthly honor and respect, and cost no loss of friends, influence, etc. But for such bargains you seek in vain. If seeking truth, and through it the crown, you must come prepared to pay for them.
In view of all the circumstances, is not selfishness while detestable always, especially so in relation to our covenant relationship to God? Let us rather be very ambitious to increase our capacity that we may thereby increase our service and sacrifice, saying with the Apostle: I count all things but refuse, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,...that I might know him and [experience] the power of HIS RESURRECTION [to spiritual being], and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death: If by any means, I might attain unto THE [emphatic article in Greek – the special or chief] resurrection of the dead, [literal – Out from among the dead.] (Phil. 3:8-11.) "They that are with Him are Called and Chosen and FAITHFUL." (Rev. 17:14.)
Thoughts are a powerful factor, either for good or evil, in our influence upon our fellow beings. Figuratively, we should do our thinking as much as possible in the sunshine. Thoughts which are not regarded as wicked or filthy may yet have a most pernicious effect. Discontented thoughts may make as much misery for him who harbors them, and for his neighbors, as thoughts which are viciously impure. I have never known it to be established beyond doubt that discontent had actually soured the milk in the cellar, but I have seen a great many things in the house decidedly turned by it. Content on the other hand, sweetens and brightens all within its reach. The cheerful look, the happy, winning smile, the loving word and the kindly deed may all be traced to contented thoughts. If we have occasion to speak or write to a friend or brother we should never begin and enumerate our trials, necessities and woes, or bewail our fate, merely for the sake of doing so; better to throw a wet blanket on him at once. Let us rather recount God's mercies and help our friends to do likewise. Then shall we and they be blest with happiness and contentment and glory redound, through our thanksgivings, to the Giver of all good.
It may be asked, Can we control our thoughts and keep them in the proper channel? Can we prevent evil thoughts from coming into our minds? Apropos to this, my mother used to tell me, "You cannot hinder the birds from flying around your head, but you need not allow them to build nests in your hair."
Paul, who kept his body under by the aid of a pure and vigorous mind, and by the spirit of grace, speaks of bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. We can keep our minds pure and free by constantly putting pure, clean food for reflection into them. As a sack filled with wheat has little room for chaff or other refuse, so the mind that is stored with good things cannot harbor evil thoughts.
Therefore, "whatsoever things are true, honest, just, pure, lovely and of good report: if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."
LIVING FOR OTHERS. – It is ten thousand times harder to live right than to die right. It is not difficult for a man to give his life up through the chamber of death. But to give this life while you hold it, yes, and to use it so that it is a perpetual benefaction all through – that is hard, and that is the special Christian duty. To live in such a way that, as from the moon by night and the sun by day, light and guidance are issuing, from you shall proceed an influence that comforts, cheers, instructs and alleviates the troubles and sufferings of life – this is the true following of the Lord Jesus Christ.
TWISTED TOGETHER. – Our word strength comes from a word signifying twisted together. "The Lord is the strength of my life;" "God is the strength of my soul." Then my life is twisted together with the Lord. God and my soul are as two strands twisted together. One may have no strength at all, but while twisted together with one that is infinite, the weakest shall not fail. Then with what confidence we may say, "The Lord is the strength of my salvation."
"Pray, what is your life? It is even a vapor,
Appearing a moment, then passing away
Full soon it is gone, like the light of the taper,
Or melts like the stars at approach of the day.
Yes, such is your life; and no promise is given
That sin blighted man shall forever endure;
For ever since he from the Garden was driven,
Endurance of days is reserved for the pure.
And purity only is yours through the Saviour,
No merit nor work of your own can make clean.
The stains of your wayward and evil behavior
Are still on the robe of self-righteousness seen.
If hope, then, of living forever you cherish,
Acknowledge at once it is hope in the Lord,
Apart from the Saviour each sinner must perish:
The life is in Him, as revealed in His Word.
Since present existence is truthfully likened
To vanishing vapor, or grey morning mist,
'Tis clear to conclude that the men who are quickened
To life everlasting – obtain it in Christ."
They reason that if he was immortal God would not have said, "In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die"; for if immortal it would be impossible even for him to die. To this we assent; it is a logical conclusion.
On the other hand, say they, If he was mortal [their idea of mortal – a state in which death was unavoidable] wherein could consist the threat or penalty of the statement, "Thou shalt surely die"? since if mortal (according to their idea of the term) he could not have avoided death anyhow.
The difficulty, it will be perceived, is in the false meaning given to the word mortal. Apply the correct definition and all is clear and plain. Adam was mortal. [i.e., In a condition in which death was a possibility.] He had life in full and perfect measure, yet not inherent life. His was a life sustained by "every tree of the garden" save the one tree forbidden, and so long as he continued in obedience to, and in harmony with his Maker, his life was secure – the sustaining elements would not be denied. Thus seen, Adam had life, and death was entirely avoidable, yet he was in such a condition that death was possible – he was mortal.
The question arises then, If Adam was mortal and on trial, was he on trial for immortality? The general answer would be, Yes. We answer, No. His trial was to see whether he was worthy or unworthy of life. Since it was nowhere promised that, if obedient, he should have a prize, we are bound to leave all such speculations out of the question. He was promised a continuation of the blessings then enjoyed so long as obedient, and threatened with destruction if disobedient.
It is this false idea of mortal that leads people in general to conclude that all beings who do not die are immortal. Under this head are classed Jehovah, Jesus, angels, and all who are saved of mankind. We claim, however, that this is an error; that the great mass of mankind, those saved from the fall, as well as the angels of heaven, will always be mortal; that they will, though in a condition of perfection and bliss, always be of that mortal nature which could suffer the wages of sin – death – if they should commit sin. The security of their existence will be conditioned as it was with Adam, upon obedience to the all-wise God, for whose justice, love, wisdom and power, to cause all things to work for good to those who love and serve him, will have been fully demonstrated by his dealings with sin at the present time.
Nowhere in Scripture is it stated that angels are immortal, nor that mankind restored will be immortal. While, on the contrary, it is a quality which is ascribed only to the DIVINE NATURE – to Jehovah, to Jesus in his present highly exalted condition, and to the Church, the "little flock," the "Lamb's wife" and "joint-heir," when glorified with him. And not only is this true of the English word "immortal" and its corresponding word "incorruptible," but it is equally true of the original Greek terms which these translate. Let every student prove this to himself by using his "Young's Analytical Concordance."
Not only have we the foregoing evidence that angels are not immortal, but we have proof that they are mortal, in the fact that the chief of their number is to be destroyed. (Heb. 2:14.) The fact that he can be destroyed proves that they, as a class, are MORTAL.
Thus considered, we see that when all sin and misery and evil are blotted out, immortal and mortal beings will live in joy and happiness and love. The first class possessing a nature incapable of death – having life in itself, (Jno. 5:26), the latter having a nature susceptible of death; yet, because of perfection of being and knowledge of the evil and sinfulness of sin giving no cause for death, they being approved of God's law shall be everlastingly supplied with those elements necessary to sustain them in perfection, and shall never die.
Some years ago a dear friend of mine in Yorkshire wrote to me, saying he heard I had taken hold of some strange views regarding the doom of the finally impenitent, and he would like to know what these were. I replied that it was quite true that my mind had been changed on this sad subject. I no longer believed in the eternity of future torment, but held that the wicked would be cut off everlastingly after the Judgment of the Great Day.* I said that this light that had broken out upon me from God's Word had made our Father in Heaven dearer to me than ever, and the Bible a clearer book than it had been before.
My friend immediately answered that he was satisfied with the Orthodox belief upon the matter, and he was sure I ought to be. In order to win me back to the old path he would like to have a debate with me by correspondence. And as I much appreciated his candour, kindness and Biblical knowledge, I at once asked him to begin the discussion by proving from the Bible the natural immortality of man. This would be the right course, I said, as he was going to take the side of Orthodoxy, and that affirmed that all men live forever.
In a day or so a note came, informing me that my proposal was accepted; that there were many passages in God's word which stated man was an immortal being, and that he would prepare a list of them for me. I knew full well that he could not produce such a list; however, waited patiently to see what he would further say.
About a fortnight after I received a letter inviting me very urgently to go and see my friend, for he found himself in dreadful difficulty regarding the task he had thus undertaken. Being able to arrange it soon, I paid the requested visit; and never shall I forget his look when he said that, to his amazement, he could not find a single verse in all the Book which declared man to be immortal: on the contrary, in his search many turned up which taught the mortal nature of mankind.
He further said that the few passages which at all gave plausibility to the ordinary view of future punishment appeared now most unsatisfactory to him: and a little further conversation revealed to me the fact that he already had received the truth of Immortality in Christ alone.
Simply by searching the Scripture on the subject. "These," said Jesus, "testify of Me." My friend had gone to them with the theory that he had received from the instructors of his childhood, and had searched for it in vain. Throwing all prejudice then overboard he had sought for Truth, and was rewarded. He was by the truth made free from former error.
Ladies and Gentlemen: It is inconceivable that any man who believes in the Christian religion should attack it, for if he believed in it, he would believe he puts in peril the eternity of his soul. But it is conceivable that, in a country where the orthodox religion is a reward for hypocrisy, thousands pretend to believe who do not. The man says to himself: "If I tell my honest thoughts, I can have no office – I can never be President." He says: If "I attack this religion, I cannot keep my wife and children." I tell them, "Don't dress your children in rags for the sake of expressing your thoughts. Do not try to improve your fellow-men, they are not worth it, Go to church and say 'Amen' at the proper time if you happen to be awake, and I will do the attacking for you."
There was a time when the astrologer said he could read the stars, but now he has gone and the astronomer has taken his place. There was a time when the soothsayer held a place, but he has been superseded by the priest and the parson. They are the fruit of the same tree, born of fear and ignorance. Now the preacher must go and give place to the teacher. They die hard, but what else can they do? We have done with the supernatural. There was a time when the prophet foretold the future, but the philosopher has taken his place. The supernatural is dying from this world, and let me tell you that everything is liable to death excepting demonstrated truth. The allopath who first bled his patient near unto death and then tried to bring him back to life is a thing of the past, but he died hard, and for years you could have seen in some place or other some ancient members of his profession looking for a patient whom he could bleed. There is to-day the same warfare between orthodoxy and science as existed between the old stage-coach and the railroad. But the coach had to give way, and the religion of our fathers, with its cruel hell and tyrant God, must die – it is not for this day and generation. They tell me it dies hard because it is of supernatural origin. Let me whisper in the ear of the Protestant, Catholicism dies hard, because the people are ignorant and the priests are cunning. Let me whisper in the ear of the Catholic, Protestantism dies hard because of the same thing. Let me whisper to both that Judaism died hard although thousands of years older, and Mohammedanism dies hard because intelligence is a plant of slow [R674 : page 3] growth. Let me whisper to you all, infidelity is increasing every day.
We are past midnight. If the ministers would tell their honest thoughts, you would find that they do not believe much more than I do, or know much more of the subject. Do you know why the clergy dislike me? They know that I know that they know what they do not know. They have been telling me for years that I am fighting a man of straw; that the church does not believe what I have been saying of them, and that I have been misled in reading their creeds; that I have been misled by taking the Bible as it appears to me. I used to hope that I was mistaken, and that they believed what they said. A little while ago the Congregational churches appointed a high joint commission, composed of professors. They came together and recommended a creed to the churches. These were men of advanced thought, the ablest of the time, who pretended to know the sciences, and to have read Darwin and Huxley. I read their creed, and I found I was right. I was not fighting a man of straw. The orthodox churches still believe it is necessary for you to believe something you do not understand. They say: "We believe in one God, one Father Almighty, maker of heaven and of earth, and of all things visible and invisible." But nobody knows if that is true, or whether there is a God. They say he is maker of everything, but nobody knows it. What was he doing before he started? What does an infinite personality mean?
In the orthodox creed there is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body, parts or passions, but I defy any man to know it, and no man can write a better description of nothing. This God walked in the garden and talked face to face with Moses, and he loves the children of men who believe his book and damns to eternal flame of fire the man who expresses his honest thought. There may be such a God for all I know, for this is the only planet I was ever on. There may be another world, but if the ministers know no more of it than this, it is hardly worth mentioning.
The next thing in this wonderful creed is the providence of God, which is over all events of the world. Here is an infinite and wise God, the governor of this world; but what evidence have we that this world is presided over by this infinitely wise God? How do you account for Russia and Siberia? That means all the human heart can suffer. How do you account for all the horrors of slavery? How do you account for the holy martyrs? Why should God allow men to be burned for believing in him? What is such a God worth! Why does he allow all these ills in the world? He who allows it, having the power to prevent it, is criminal. Who is responsible? He who makes man as he pleases – God. A man told me a little while ago that there was a special providence in his life. He was going to sail on a ship, but he was delayed, and he did not go, and that ship went down, and he really thought that God had looked out for his poor little withered life and let five hundred go down to the depths. What did he suppose the other five hundred thought about a special providence? Why, only the other night in Washington the lightning struck the Young Men's Christian Association building, and in the same block with my office, too. Special providence. What nonsense!
The Congregational churches believe in the resurrection of the body. How they can, I do not know. My God shall be my reason. It is the only torch nature has given me in the sad night called life. I will go where that light leads me and take the consequences, not only in this world, but in all others, no matter where.
I also find that this creed says: 'We believe that Jesus Christ came to establish among men the kingdom of God, the reign of truth, and love of righteousness and peace.' That may have been his object, but what did he do? What has been the result? All the cunning instruments of slaughter have been invented by Christian nations. Born of "universal forgiveness" is the Krupp gun throwing a ball of two thousand pounds weight. How do you account for the thirty years' war in Europe; the war in Holland, the persecution of Scotland and Ireland by England? At the bottom of nearly all is superstition and heartlessness born of this religion. They tell us in the creed that they believe in the ultimate prevalence of the kingdom of Christ over the earth. Is it so? You only convert a few thousand of the fifty millions born each year. Are you going to do this by your missionaries? You never converted an intelligent Chinaman or Hindoo. You cannot do it unless you go there and board them. [R674 : page 4] When the money stops, your Christianity ceases.
"They say when a man dies nothing remains but to damn him if he is not a Christian. Congregationalism makes hell as hot as ever. If their doctrine is true, Benjamin Franklin is in hell. He wanted to break chains here; he is a convict there. Thomas Jefferson has gone to his reward, as he did not believe in the doctrine. Nearly all the revolutionary heroes had not been born but once, and they are there. Old Ethan Allen adds to the joys of hell. The soldiers of 1812 went to hell long ago, and nearly all the soldiers of our civil war are in God's prison, compared to which Andersonville was a paradise. 'Great tidings of joy.' Every idiot goes to heaven, and the less brain you have the better your chance. Such men as Humboldt are in prison forever. They are damned long ago. They are crying for water. Any civilized man ought to be damned who subscribes another dollar for such preaching.
Such sentiments as the above are the natural conclusions of many a truly noble soul whose faith in the religion of the Bible has been destroyed by unfaithful professors of religion who are first and loudest in their denunciations of the open and avowed unbeliever. It is surprising, indeed, that there is not more infidelity than there is; but we apprehend that there is a great deal more infidelity in fact, than finds open expression.
But the time is rapidly approaching when all those who are really infidel will plainly declare it; and there are thousands of them within the nominal church, as well as out of it. The very same thing that keeps many who have seen much of the truth of God's Word and the errors of so-called orthodoxy from openly declaring their convictions, also keeps many who have not seen the truth, but who do see the errors and inconsistencies of orthodoxy, from openly declaring their infidelity; and that is the popularity and worldly influence of the nominal church – an influence which very largely affects both business and social interests.
Many dogmas are advanced as truth and enforced upon a credulous people on the asserted peril of eternal torment which have not the slightest foundation either in the Scriptures or in our God-given reason. And not only so, but there are thousands of those who profess to be guided in their daily life and conversation by the high principles of Christianity, while beyond a mere profession and appearance, there is nothing of it, and the unrenewed dispositions of a depraved nature have nearly full sway.
Those who claim to be the living epistles of God are known and read of men before they think of reading the written epistle, and if the world becomes disgusted and indignant with the former, it is not likely that they will esteem or consult the latter. Many a son goes out from a home whose inmates are professing Christians, but whose unbridled tempers, avarice, selfishness, pride and unholy ambitions, have proven to him the falsity of their claims and confirmed him in unbelief. And who can justly condemn such if they choose what seems to them a more excellent way? if they take as their guiding star the most noble power which they see – their reason – and follow where it leads and take the consequences?
We honor the man who is true to his convictions and to the highest principles of action of which he is aware. We believe, with Mr. Ingersol, that the so-called orthodox religion of to-day has outlived its usefulness; that orthodox Christianity is a sick man. Yes, it is dying, but it dies hard. Why? "Because the people are ignorant and the priests cunning."
We also believe, with Mr. Ingersol, that "We are past midnight," – the midnight of superstition, ignorance, want and woe. But we do not arrive at our conclusions in the same way, nor from such uncertain data. He sees human reason struggling for freedom from oppression, and hopes, against a great barrier of doubt and uncertainty, for the good time coming when right and reason shall prevail and bring about a better order of things than we see at present.
If the barriers which unfaithful professing Christians have themselves erected could be entirely removed, reasonable and unbiased minds might see with us the satisfactory evidence contained in the Scriptures that it is a positive and unmistakable fact that "we are past midnight" and that a better day is beginning to dawn.
Mr. Ingersol, with thousands like him, stand away on the outskirts of God's great plan, too remote to see or hear the great Commander, and even doubting that there is a commander; yet they [R675 : page 4] note the direction in which the current of events is tending; and though they see not the almighty hand that moulds and shapes them, they realize that the tendency is toward a better state of things: that is a better time for future generations, but beyond a faint hope and desire, they know not that they also shall have part in it.
But, as sons of God, we have been privileged to know not only that He is, but that he is working all things according to the counsel of his own will. And while Mr. Ingersol may take his reason which he believes to be the only torch which nature has given him to light him through this dark night called life, (and a blessed God-given torch it is); and while by its glimmering light he can leave his dead under the feeling of hope; and while his benevolence can reach out beyond his own kindred and "Hope for future joy for the whole human race," thank God the Bible reveals the blessed fact that in due time this hope will be realized in the glorious restitution of all things; for that time the whole creation is groaning and waiting in ignorance. Yet not without hope do they groan and wait, who heed the light of reason's torch. (Rom. 8:22,19.)
But let us say to all such, If you can surmount the barriers in your way and throw away your prejudices, the faithful following of that very torch (God-given) will lead you straight to the Word of God, who says:
First, we would say that if it is true, we should expect it to bear the evidence of its truthfulness within itself, since, if it is the Word of God, in the very nature of things there could be nothing higher to bear witness to it. Outside evidences may and do corroborate its truth, but on its own internal evidence it must stand or fall; and we should bear in mind that nothing can be properly considered evidence which does not satisfy our reason. That is not faith, but mere credulity and superstition, which accepts as truth things contrary to all reason. Such a faith meets neither the reward or approval of God.
The Word of God was given to us through human agency, those agents being under the special direction of God. That we might be sure that it was not a scheme devised by men or under the direction of man, it was written by different men scattered over a period of two thousand years. Each writer supplies an important part of the great chain of truth, and all are in perfect harmony with each other. The book complete tells the one story – the purpose of God concerning men. Some of the writers tell it in types, some in symbols, and some in prophetic utterances which cannot be understood until the events prophesied actually transpire. And, standing where we do to-day, when by far the greater part of prophecy has passed into history, the plan of God becomes clearer than it ever appeared before.
While we agree with Mr. Ingersol in some things, we cannot agree with him when he says that the soothsayer of the past has been superseded by the priest and the parson, and the prophets of the past by the philosophers of the present. No, we think the soothsayer has been superseded by the philosopher who follows the torch of reason, while the prophet, divinely inspired to foretell the future, has been superseded by the historian recording the fulfillments. And it is the blessed privilege of our day to read them both by the combined light of reason and revelation.
The New Testament writers while adding their important links to the great chain of truth, also instruct us as to how, by comparison of scripture with scripture, history with prophecy, types with their antitypes, and reason with revelation, we may come to such an understanding of the truth as was not possible in earlier ages. Surely no other book can claim such authorship; and if reason in other things teaches us that for every effect there must have been an antecedent cause, we must conclude that the wonderful harmony of this wonderful book, written under such diverse circumstances, and by writers so remote from each other in time, must have been under the special direction of some master mind whose length of days is more than three score years and ten.
The Bible claims that its Author is also the Author of nature; that by his power all things were brought into existence, and that by the same power all things are sustained in existence. If this be true we should expect the testimony of nature and the testimony of revelation to agree perfectly when both are understood. If one reveals an author of benevolence and goodness, we should expect the other to do the same; and if some things in nature seem to be out of harmony with nature's general design, we should expect the clearer light of revelation to vindicate the wisdom and power of its Author in the permission of such lack of harmony.
And just so we find it. The general testimony of nature is that God is good, benevolent, loving, wise, and powerful; yet there are some things which seem strangely out of harmony. And as we turn to the written word we find that testimony repeated with emphasis and proved beyond the shadow of a doubt. It also shows that those things which seem out of harmony with the principles of benevolence, goodness, etc., are so because of sin; that the natural consequences of sin – suffering and death – are for a time to be permitted, that men may learn a needed lesson from bitter experience, and that when that lesson is fully learned by the whole human family, all evil will be forever banished, and those who have suffered in gaining the experience shall be restored to life to reap the benefit of it.
Yes, it stands to reason that creatures of three-score-years-and-ten cannot understand the facts of the present, as they stand linked with the plan of God which began thousands of years before we had an existence, and reaches on into the distant future, unless he comes with a teachable spirit to the study of the written revelation. And it also stands to reason that we should expect such a revelation from a God who is wise and good.
But though Mr. Ingersol lays much stress upon reason, and promises to follow where it leads, we think that sometimes he forgets his torch and blindly stumbles into many foolish and absurd errors. For instance, he says, "Nobody knows whether there is a God." But how does he know that nobody knows? Perhaps he does not know, but why should he so confidently assume that others know no more? or why should he be in ignorance.
Reason never showed effects without competent causes. Mere chance was never known to produce anything but disorder and confusion, but we have spread out before us continually, worlds and systems of worlds, moving with perfect and exact precision according to fixed laws which admit of no variation or mishap. The elements of nature that surround us are beautifully adapted to human needs and human happiness, and with unerring finger every element in nature points to the great cause of all things. Who can think reasonably even of his own body, so wonderfully made, and conclude there is no God? Yes, nature's book alone, gives evidence conclusive that there is a God, powerful, wise, and good; and those who discard its testimony are without excuse, and should forever keep silent about "reason."
The taking of life which God commanded under the Jewish economy, as we now understand it, was a part of that great typical Object Lesson which in due time will be made clear to the world as it is now being made clear to the saints. God had a right to do this. Man's life was forfeited anyhow, and in a short time these must have perished in some way; if not by the sword, by wasting disease. If the purpose of God for the future good of mankind could be better served and the object lesson made clearer by taking them away with the sword, pestilence, etc., than by natural decay, who has a right to object? Even so he took away the Sodomites as he "saw good," (Ezek. 16:50.) In all these things God had a wise purpose, and in his own time he will make that purpose manifest to all, as he even now makes it manifest to his saints.
Again, Mr. Ingersol seems to think the idea of an infinite God a very absurd one, and says: "They say he is maker of everything, but nobody knows it. What was he doing before he started? What does an infinite personality mean?"
To this question we answer, All we know about it is what the Bible and reason teach. The Bible says that God is from everlasting to everlasting (Ps. 90:2); that he is immortal – self-existent – not dependent on any other being, conditions, or circumstances; and though our finite mind cannot grasp and comprehend the infinite, our reason says, It must be so. Causes must always precede effects, and back of all the inanimate causes, such as nature's laws, etc., there must be an INTELLIGENT FIRST CAUSE. Our reason unaided by revelation would name that intelligent first cause "a mighty one" – a God, and even more, the All-mighty.
If God had a beginning, then he must have been produced by the operation of some laws of nature that preceded him, and those laws would also indicate an intelligent designer, and that designer would be God the first cause of all. And so if we follow reason alone, we cannot escape the conclusion not only that there is a God, but also that he is infinite.
And here he seems to have forgotten his other conclusion that his God should be his reason; for again he says, "the universe is God." This seems a little mixed, and we fear the gentleman would have some difficulty in harmonizing the statements. We prefer that he should stick to his torch and by-and-by we will hope for better conclusions. [R676 : page 4]
As to what he was doing before he began his work of creation, we presume that since he has not told us, it is none of our business. And if in future ages he ever gratifies our desire to know more of him, we will reverently hear. As to the orthodox teaching that God is without body, parts, or passions, which we admit is a fair description of nothing, we have simply to say that in this as in many other things, they attempt to be wise above what is written. When we come to the end of what is written, it is better to stop and say, We do not know, than to indulge in speculation.
But further. If, as reason teaches, there is a God, we should conclude even without a written revelation that his ways are higher than our ways, and his thoughts than our thoughts (Isa. 55:9). In other words, we have every reason to have faith in the supernatural. To presume that the mighty God who created all things is limited and confined in his power merely by those laws of nature which our human understanding can see and comprehend is absurd in the extreme.
As to God's providence, which Mr. Ingersol thinks is such a ridiculous thing, we would say that in it we have unbounded confidence. As it is represented by Orthodoxy, however, it does appear no less ridiculous than Mr. I.'s illustration shows. But leaving Orthodoxy and [R676 : page 5] taking the Scriptural standpoint, viewing the wonderful plan of God, spanning the ages past, and reaching on through the ages to come, we gain an idea of his Fatherly providence which comports with the highest idea that reason can give us of God. (See "Food for Thinking Christians," and "The Chart of the Ages.") And while God's providence is thus over all his works, for special reasons (heretofore given) the Gospel Church is now the special object of his care.
"The whole creation is his charge,
But saints are his peculiar care."
The absurd idea of a resurrection of a body with the same identical atoms of matter that had been wasted by disease, eaten by worms, wild beasts or cannibals, burnt by fire, or which had entered into vegetable or animal life, must go down before a reasonable study of the subject of the resurrection as presented in the Scriptures. And God's purpose in the permission of evil for a time, when made clear to all, as it has been made clear to us, will amply vindicate the glorious character of our God.
Of course men who are so mixed and uncertain in their views of God, and so ignorant of the character of his Word, however well informed they may be concerning other matters, and so blinded and deceived by misrepresentations of it, we cannot expect to comprehend the great scheme of redemption planned by Jehovah and wrought out in Christ. But we thank God that the mists are being rolled away – that chronology and the march of foretold events, already prove, what Mr. Ingersol supposes, that already "we are past midnight." Soon the Sun of Righteousness shall rise with healing in his wings, and the blind eyes shall be opened and the deaf ears unstopped, and the knowledge of the Lord shall fill the whole earth. But until then we, with the lecturer, leave the groaning creation under the feeling of hope, KNOWING that a glorious future awaits the whole human race in God's due time. But this blessed hope finds no support save in the Word of God which abundantly proves it to reasonable, unprejudiced minds who will give it the necessary study.
"If 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.
The misunderstanding and misrepresentation of the at-one-ment, or reconciliation Jesus effected between God and man by his death on the cross, have been fruitful sources of error and repulsive ideas of God; these have made an orthodox hell possible, instead of death, as the wages of Adam's sin, and the blood of Jesus a necessity to satisfy the wrath of God, instead of a substitution of his life in death for the forfeited life of the world: thus orthodoxy says,
"Jesus Christ who stands between
Angry heaven and guilty men
Undertakes to buy our peace."
Such a representation of the "God (who) so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son," is so abhorrent and revolting that it has had the effect of driving some to other extreme and equally false theories; among whom we may cite H. W. Beecher, who gave expression to his belief on this subject in a sermon preached before the Cornell University, on June 1st, published in the New York Herald of June 2d, viz.: "Christ's work on earth was not to restore a lost race – a fallen one – but to carry forward and upward a sinful one. He did not suffer in man's place nor mend a broken law and make it honorable. The conception that Christ came into the world to suffer for sinners is monstrous. He came to benefit a miserable race by making known the supreme idea of a God of love."
If Christ's work on earth was to carry forward and upward a sinful race, instead of to restore a fallen one, man must have been at creation worse rather than better than he now is, and therefore there never could have been a fall. But how did he become miserable and sinful? he could not have made himself so if he never fell. Did God make him as he now is, or worse? If Mr. Beecher is right, God cannot be other than the author of all man's sin and misery, and being therefore, the author of sin, he would undoubtedly be evil himself. In this view of the case, what was "the supreme idea of the God of love," and in what way did Jesus make it known? How Mr. Beecher can preach this God as a God of love, a great and good being, we cannot understand; but it is written, "The wisdom of their wise men shall perish and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid" (obscured). (Isaiah 29:14.) Paul says, "Through one man sin entered into the world (in whom all sinned) and through sin death; so also death passed upon all men." (Rom. 5:12. – Diaglott.) Therefore, these men cannot be right and God's word true; one or the other must be wrong. But the time has come "when they [the people] will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts [desires]...heap to themselves teachers having itching ears, and they [teachers] shall turn away their ears [understanding] from the truth and shall be turned unto fables" (2 Tim. 4:3,4), and "denying the Lord that bought them shall bring upon themselves swift destruction" (2 Pet. 2:1).
Every law, human or divine, must have a penalty attached to its transgression, otherwise it is no law, lacking force; the law of God demanded as a penalty the life of the transgressor, and Adam through disobedience having incurred this, all his posterity are heirs of death – life being forfeited. Therefore indeed as through one offence "sentence came on all men to condemnation (condemning all to death) so also through one righteous act (of Jesus) sentence came on all men to justification of life (justifying their living again)." Rom. 5:18. – Diaglott. "If one died for all, then were all dead" (2 Cor. 5:14). And "as in [through] Adam all die, even so (to the same extent) in [through] Christ shall all be made alive" (1 Cor. 15:22).
If, therefore, through one man and one offence, sin and death entered the world and passed upon all men there must have been a fall, and mankind is now in a fallen condition, and if by one righteous act of the man Christ Jesus judgment, decision or sentence came, that all men should be justified to life, or justly entitled to life, i.e., raised up from the fall – resurrected – we ask what one act of Jesus could have accomplished this if not his death on the cross? The penalty, as we have seen, was death, not torment; therefore, he need not give more, nor could he give less; not only so, but it was because of his "obedience unto death – the death of the cross – that the Father hath highly exalted him." – Phil. 2:8.
There is, however, a marked distinction between the death of Jesus and that of other men, and this distinctive feature is [R677 : page 5] not in the mode of death, but in the degree of life possessed by him. "In him was life" (John 1:4); not a deathless life, which could not die, but life everlasting, so that he would not die, had he not laid down his life. All other men are in bondage to corruption, and have no life in them by nature, but he being a perfect and sinless man, was not liable to sin's penalty – death; therefore, he could say, "I lay down my life,...no man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself; I have power (right) to lay it down." (John 10:18). Previously the "Jews sought to take him to put him to death," but "no man laid hands on him, for his hour was not yet come" that he should be put to death "the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God." 1 Pet. 3:18. He commenced the sacrifice of his life at baptism, but had it not been completed in death, as it was on the cross, when he cried, "It is finished," all the rest would have been valueless, for "without shedding of blood is no remission," And when he said, I lay down my life, he immediately added, "I have power to take it again." Surely he could not have meant he had power (right) to take again the sacrifice of his life from baptism to the cross; this would be withdrawing his consecration to the will of the Father. Besides, how could he do this? Nor did he mean that he would take again the same condition of life – flesh and blood – to do this would be to undo the atoning sacrifice and take back our ransom price; but, thank God, he gave his life – parted with it forever on the human plane and was made alive on the spirit plane.
He was "put to death in the flesh." (1 Pet. 3:18) not to pacify divine fury against sinners, nor to mend a broken law and make it honorable; it did not need this; but he vindicated the justice of the law and satisfied its claims upon us by giving himself as our substitute, flesh for flesh – his life for the life of the world. If, however, he had been of the divine nature as he now is, he could not have laid down his life, for "Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him" (Rom. 6:9); and if he had been a spiritual being under cover of flesh he could not have given his life for man, because his real life would be spirit, and therefore it would not be as required an equivalent or substitute for man.
That he did exist, a spiritual being with the Father, and that all things were made by (through) him, and without him was not anything made that was made (John 1:3) is evident, but he left – gave up the glory he had with the Father and "was made (became) flesh." (John 1:14.) Why should it be any more incredible that Jesus' nature was transformed from the spiritual to the human without retaining his former nature under cover than that the Church "shall...put on immortality" (1 Cor. 15:54) and yet not retain the flesh and blood nature? for "flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God." (1 Cor. 15:50.)
Then, while we were yet "enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his son." (Rom. 5:10.) Reconciliation for the sins of the whole world was made (Heb. 2:17) for "he died for all," but all have not yet accepted the reconciliation through faith that they may be "saved by his life." "In due time," soon, we trust, the redemption and consequent reconciliation "shall be testified to all" – all shall "come to the knowledge of the truth" and to appreciate the precious redemption: and when they do, may we not reasonably infer that nearly all will accept the glad tidings and come into harmony with God? We have good ground to hope that the majority will be "saved by his life," as all were "reconciled by his death."
"By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast." – EPH. 2:8,9.
From this scripture it is generally presumed that faith is the gift of God, and that this is what the Apostle here meant to teach. And so, we often hear of Christians praying and waiting and expecting God to increase their faith, while they entirely ignore the means he has provided for its increase. As well might we fold our hands in idleness and expect food after praying, "Give us this day our daily bread."
It should be evident, we think, that Paul is not here speaking directly of faith, but of salvation. He is affirming that salvation is the gift of God; that it is not received as the reward of works, but that it is purely of God's grace and favor; and that though it is not procured by works, it is received "through faith." Yes, salvation is the gift of God, granted by his grace or favor, and grasped by us through FAITH; for actual salvation is not yet – now "we are saved by hope." This, we think, is the only logical inference which can be drawn from these words and their context.
Let us then, inquire, What is faith, and how may it be obtained? To have faith in any statement or doctrine is to have confidence in its truthfulness, and this should only be based on clear evidence. To have faith in any thing without evidence is foolishness; and it is equally foolish to be lacking in faith when the evidence produced is clear and convincing. To have faith in a statement or doctrine, then, it is only necessary to examine the evidence on which it claims to stand, and, if reasonable, accept the conclusion – have faith in it.
To have faith in a person is to have such a knowledge of his character, of his principles of action, and his controlling motives, as to warrant us in believing that those principles will always govern, and then to repose confidence in that knowledge.
In order, then, to have faith in a person, it is necessary to become thoroughly acquainted with him. The more thorough our acquaintance, the stronger will be our faith, if he is true. If we would "have faith in God," it is also necessary to acquaint ourselves with his character as expressed in his two harmonious books – Nature and Revelation.
The Apostle tells us that "without faith it is impossible to please God," and it is equally impossible to have faith without knowledge. It, therefore, becomes our duty to acquaint ourselves with God. We should be constant students of his character. God has sufficiently revealed his character to us to enable us to clearly discern the governing principles in all his actions, and, therefore, we may safely and confidently trust him, knowing from the evidence given, not only in his present and past dealings, but also in the statements of his word relative to his future purposes, that the Judge of the whole world will do right.
Faith is an act of our own, and the only way in which our faith can be strengthened by another, is by their supplying the necessary evidence on which to base it. Hence, we do not need to pray for its increase, but to pray and search for knowledge out of which it will grow, and for grace to resist pride and prejudice, that we may receive the truth into honest minds.
THE Roman Catholic Church was not organized, it grew. Many of its peculiar doctrines date back from a comparatively late epoch. Thus Papal infallibility was not claimed until about the eleventh century, nor dogmatically asserted by Council till the nineteenth; the celibacy of the clergy was not adopted till after the fourth century; penances were introduced about the middle of the third century; indulgences in the fourteenth century; there is no trace of the worship of the Virgin Mary prior to the fourth century, and it has been ever since then growing in extent; the very word transsubstantiation had no existence till the beginning of the twelfth century. Thus it will be seen that so far as Romanism is a system of doctrine, it does not in its present form date from the Apostolic days.– Christian Union.
Talmage, D.D.: –
"It is high time that the "King of Terrors" were thrown out of the Christian vocabulary. A vast multitude of people talk of death as though it were the disaster of disasters, instead of being to a good man the blessing of blessings."
Beecher, D.D.: –
"Christ's work on earth was not to RESTORE a lost race – a fallen one – but to carry forward and upward a sinful one. He did not suffer in man's place, nor mend a broken law and make it honorable. The conception that Christ came into the world to suffer for sinners is monstrous. He came to benefit a miserable race by making known the supreme idea of the God of love."
Paul – "By one man sin entered into the world and death BY SIN, and so death passed upon all men." (Rom. 5:12.)
"The last ENEMY that shall be DESTROYED is death." (1 Cor. 15:26.)
"The sting of death is sin." (1 Cor. 15:56.)
Jesus shall "destroy him that has the power of DEATH, that is the devil." (Heb. 2:14.)
"Thanks be to God who giveth us the victory [over Death the king of terrors, our captor] through our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Cor. 15:54,55,57.)
Paul – "I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him." (1 Thes. 4:13,14.)
"We [the Church here addressed] shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed...and the dead [the sleepers] shall be raised." (1 Cor. 15:51,52.)
Daniel – "Them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake." (12:2.)
Jesus – "Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go that I may awake him out of sleep. Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep he shall do well. Howbeit Jesus spake of his death, but they thought that he had spoken of taking rest in sleep. Then said Jesus plainly, Lazarus is dead." (John 11:11.)
Solomon – "There is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave whither thou goest." (Eccl. 9:10.)
Job – "Now shall I sleep in the dust, and thou shalt seek me in the morning [of the resurrection], but I shall not be [being or existence having ceased in death, nevertheless he adds] Thou shalt call and I will answer thee" (i.e. I will spring into being again, at thy word). (Job 7:21 and 14:15.)
Peter and all the prophets testify that there shall be "times of restitution of ALL things," which necessarily includes the restoration of friend to friend and their mutual recognition. (Acts 3:21.)
Peter – "And he shall send Jesus Christ which before was preached unto you, whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution (RESTORATION) of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began."
Paul – "Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures." (1 Cor. 15:3.)
"By the offence of ONE judgment came upon all to condemnation, even so by the righteousness of ONE the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life." (Rom. 5:18,19.)
Peter – "Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God." (1 Pet. 3:18.)
Isaiah (42:21) – "He (Christ) will magnify the law and make it honorable." – [i.e., Christ kept the law in its minutest and in its widest sense, and proved it a just and perfect law, which a perfect man could keep, thereby proving the fault to be in man and not in the law.]
John (4:9,10) – "In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world that we might live through him. Herein is love that he sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins."
Paul (2 Tim. 3:16) – "All Scripture divinely inspired is indeed profitable for DOCTRINE [theological instruction]... that the man of God may be thoroughly furnished unto every good work."
Immersion or baptism (Greek – dipping) in water, as practiced by John the Baptist and afterward by our Lord and his disciples, had a different significance at first among the disciples from what it came to have after the Spirit dispensation was fully opened and its teachings understood.
John came and his disciples, preaching repentance of sins, and used immersion as a token or sign of the putting away of sin by the repentant one. Not that the immersion put away sin, but it illustrated it. Jesus' disciples did a similar work among the people (John 4:2). And after Pentecost, even, the Apostles, for a time at least, used the emblem in this same way. For instance, Acts 2:38,41; 8:12,13,38. In each of these instances open sinners symbolized the putting away of their sins, and this, indeed, is the usual significance of the ordinance among Christians to-day.
But baptism came to have a new and very different significance to the Apostles, under the guidance of the Spirit, as they came to discern its deeper meaning as illustrated both by the words and act of Jesus. In Jesus' case, surely, it did not typify a putting away of the filth of sin, for the question he put, but which his opponents never answered, was, "Which of you convinceth me of sin?" and the record is that "in him was no sin."
Jesus' baptism or immersion into water typically expressed his death, into which he voluntarily went as a ransom for our sins. It represented the full consecration of his will to the Father's purposes and plans for our redemption. Jesus was baptized when he "began to be about thirty years of age" – manhood according to the law – and therefore, the proper time for him to sacrifice his fully-developed manhood. His baptism represented in the one act of going down into the water and rising from it, his going down into death, and his trust in the Father's promise that he should not be left in death, but should have a resurrection. (Psa. 16:10; Acts 2:31.)
When Jesus presented himself to John – regarding it, and properly, as the symbol of repentance and reformation – John was surprised, and said, "I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?" He recognized Jesus' sinlessness and knew that he needed no repentance. Jesus answered, "Suffer it to be so now, for thus it becometh us (the Church of which he was the Head) to fulfill all righteousness." (Matt. 3:15.) His death, which his immersion symbolized, was indeed the fulfillment of all the righteous demands of justice against the condemned race of Adam.
That which was expressed in that brief, symbolic act, was fully carried out in the three and a half years of his ministry – for during that time he died daily, or was continually giving his life strength – sacrificing himself – for the sake of the Lord's truth, the Lord's children, and humanity in general. The act of immersion meant in symbol all that sacrifice which, commencing at Jordan, was completed at Calvary, and also his triumph as a new creature in the resurrection. Baptism into death signifies sacrifice and suffering unto the end, both to Jesus and his followers – all who would share the present sufferings and the final glory.
To all who would share the heavenly glory, the question comes as it did to James and John, "Are ye able to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?" (Matt. 20:22.) And if we have indicated our willingness, we have the promise that the ability shall be supplied, for our leader is our surety. And again, Jesus says: "I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I straightened until it be accomplished." (Matt. 20:22; Luke 12:50.) All must see that not the watery-symbolic death, but the reality, is here referred to.
After Pentecost, under the leading of the Spirit, the Apostles came gradually to apprehend this deeper and more forcible significance of baptism when applied to Christians – to those who sought to follow the Master's footsteps of self-denial and crucifixion of the flesh to heavenly glory – the first resurrection. If they would know him and the power of his resurrection (to spiritual conditions) it must be by means of knowing experimentally the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death. (Phil. 3:10.) They came to see that to be baptized with his baptism meant much more than John's – much more than the putting away the filth of sin; that it now meant consecration – to sacrifice – of that which already was justified in God's sight, cleansed from sin by the "precious blood of Christ." Hence it is, that we find Paul so ably teaching and exhorting believers, who were already justified from sin by faith in the Redeemer, to put on Christ by baptism; to become members of the "little flock" – "members of his body" – by being immersed into Christ. We quote his words:
"Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ, were baptized (immersed) into his death? Therefore, we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life" – walk as those having heavenly, not earthly, hopes and aims. How different is the meaning to the saints from that conveyed by John's baptism? So different, indeed, that the Apostles soon came to see that John's baptism, though the same in outward form, did not at all represent a baptism into Christ, and some who had been once baptized with the idea of putting away sin-filthiness were commanded to be baptized again, and thus express the new and deeper meaning to baptism. (Acts 19:1-5 and 10:48.)
From these few brief testimonies we hope that all will be able to recognize the two baptisms (two in import; one in outward form). All may add to the evidence by the use of Bible references or a Concordance. And let all clearly distinguish between the heart-work which is the real, and the watery-type, which is the shadow. All should see, too, that the outward form has even greater weight and is the more proper to be observed by those who see the reality. We must not only believe with the heart, but also make outward profession of our consecration and our consequent hopes.
Immersion, as typifying the death of the human nature, we regard as being no longer proper, except for those who, in heart, had already made the consecration – presented themselves living sacrifices – but may not before have seen the significant beauty and propriety of the symbol. But immersion, as practiced before the Gospel dispensation – called John's baptism, or the baptism unto repentance, as indicating a change of life, and thereafter a putting away of the filth of the flesh, is now in order again, as illustrating the very consecration that natural men should make to come into full harmony with God.
Does Paul dissent from this statement concerning two baptisms when he says, we have "one baptism"? No, he addressed the Church, those following in Jesus' footsteps, being baptized, not unto John's baptism, but into Christ – into the anointed company of which the anointed Jesus is the head.
Some have inquired, Who may properly administer the ordinance? We answer, Any one, it matters not who, but all our preferences would naturally lead us to desire that the administrator should be a brother in Christ. The formula of words, which it is our custom to use toward those being immersed into Christ, is as follows: Brother or Sister __________, "In the name (by the authority) of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, I baptize thee into Christ." Our formula for those now covenanting to renounce sin and pursue righteousness is, Brother or Sister __________, "In the name (by the authority) of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, thy sins be forgiven thee: walk henceforth in newness of life."
Monday, Sept. 29th last, was, according to the Hebrew calendar, "the tenth day of the seventh month" – the day of Atonement for sins. To the Jew it is the most solemn day of the year, and to all those who appreciate this feature of their law, and see its significant import, the day and its ceremonies are full of valuable lessons.
When God selected Israel to be his specially favored nation, through whom he would make types and illustrations of his gracious plans for the world and the Gospel Church, we find that he so arranged all their ceremonies and laws as to illustrate higher things, as a fulfilment is always higher than a type. [R679 : page 6]
Because the removal of sin, and its consequences, was in God's plan the most important thing to be done for man, therefore, those ceremonies which illustrated and typified it, were the most solemn and momentous. More than any other type, the work of the Day of Atonement showed the process by which sin would be removed, and a consequent blessing come upon man instead of the curse which will be removed, and as a result the harmony and communion between God and man, lost at the threshold of Eden, will be restored.
The poor Jew busied in making the type saw not the typical nature of the work he performed. He saw not that their Priesthood represented the Little Flock of the Gospel age – the Royal Priesthood, whose Chief Priest is Christ Jesus, and that they as a people for whom the typical sacrifices making satisfaction typically for their sins, were offered, represented the world of mankind for whose sins Christ was set forth to be a propitiatory covering. They saw only the type and mistook it for the reality.
We cannot to-day step into their synagogues and see the ceremonies of the Day of Atonement performed, for nowhere in the world are they performed to-day as enjoined in their law. True, they observe the day by strict self-denial, fasting, abstinence from all business and pleasure. (Afflicting their souls. Lev. 16:29.) But since the law made the Temple or Tabernacle part of the type, it follows as a necessity that the Jew being without either cannot perform the type as specified in the law, hence must not attempt any part of it.
Looking back to Lev. 16, we find the detailed account of how the typical service was observed. And thank God, we, looking at the type lighted up with the revelations and instructions of the New Testament, can see the real, the antitypical Atonement Day, the anti-typical "sacrifices for sins," and the anti-typical priests performing the sacrifices, and the people in distress under sin. And by faith looking into the future, we can see the priestly garments of sacrifice changed for robes of glory and beauty, and the [R679 : page 7] coming forth of the Great High Priest with every member of his body [church] complete and the great blessing and raising up of the world, the atonement sacrifice for whose sins will be fully complete with this Gospel age – this anti-typical Day of Atonement in which not only Jesus [the bullock] dies for sin, but the priesthood in general [the Lord's goat] fill up, that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ.
In view of the fact that to suffer with Christ is not a necessity but a privilege to which is attached the grand hopes of wearing with him the glorious garments of honor and dominion, and of blessing fleshly Israel and through them all the families of the earth, "Let no man beguile you of your reward"! Let no man take thy crown"! Faithfulness – "even unto death," is the condition upon which our exceeding great and precious promises hang. We are in the closing hours of the great anti-typical Atonement Day, and we beseech you by the mercy of God that you neither lose your hold upon your share in Jesus' atonement sacrifice nor relax your effort to fulfill your covenant to sacrifice with him, by presenting your bodies living sacrifices to God, on behalf of others.
And Jesus being full of the Holy Spirit, returned from Jordan, and was led of the Spirit into the wilderness, being forty days tempted of the devil. (Luke 4:1.)
It would seem a reasonable assumption that Jesus, under the guidance, leading, or inspiration of the Spirit just received, retired to the wilderness for study and meditation relative to the great work to which he had just consecrated himself, represented in his baptism. Doubtless he there quietly searched the Scriptures, which after his anointing, would open before him deeper truths than ever before seen. He then probably saw more clearly than ever before the nature of the work before him, and this study opened the way for the presentation of temptations to do the work in some other way than that indicated in the Scriptures.
In the account of Jesus' temptation, we cannot presume that the four points of temptation mentioned cover every trial to which he was subjected during those forty days, but that of all the temptations of those days these that are mentioned are illustrations.
When the devil had showed Jesus the kingdoms of the world he said: "All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me, and to whomsoever I will I give it. If thou wilt worship me, all shall be thine." This people generally regard as a sham temptation, and say that he offered what he did not possess and could not give; that Jesus knew this, and hence the temptation was a mere farce.
But such reasoners are in error, because they hold that all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them already belonged to Christ and were already ruled over by him. That such a view is erroneous is readily proven, not only by Scriptures, which speak of Satan as "the prince of this world," "the god of this world," "the ruler of this world," etc., and which speak of Christ's kingdom as future, a kingdom to "come" when he shall "take to himself his great power and reign," but the very facts of past and present history are sufficient to prove beyond a doubt that not a gracious God, but a fiend, a devil, has been working in and ruling over the nations. In no other way could we possibly appreciate the character and history of nations written as it is in blood and crime and injustice. Satan is now the prince and ruler of the nations, and gives the glory and honors of them to such persons as best suit his purposes. At the time in question Satan saw before him the perfect man Jesus, just anointed and imbued with the Spirit power from on high, and whose work as a Redeemer and Saviour he probably understood.
But even recognizing Satan's authority and power over the nations, the force of the temptation upon Jesus might be overlooked unless we remember other circumstances in connection with it. Some might ask, How would Jesus possibly be tempted to bow the knee and worship Satan? We reply that the thought is not of adoration and prayer, but of service – to follow Satan's directions – as though Satan had said to Jesus: I remember you before you became a man, when you were my superior in rank; I know why you became poor, taking a human nature, but Jesus you are laboring under a delusion. As your friend and well-wisher, let me tell you that you can never accomplish your object in the way proposed. You have come into the world to die for men, and thereby redeem them and restore them to perfection. But you never can do this; you may give your life for them, but it can never benefit them, for it would be impossible to restore beings once destroyed in death. Remember, too, that you lose your own life by the operation; for though God has promised to raise you from death again, that, I assure you, is an impossibility. Remember that no one who ever came under the power of death ever escaped from it entirely.
Now, hear my advice: I, as well as yourself, have felt sorrow at the misery and trouble humanity is experiencing, and would be glad to assist you to such a place of influence and power among men as will enable you to establish REFORMS both moral and physical. And for such a work of reform among men you are eminently qualified, being a perfect man. You can thus accomplish for the world what no other man can do, alleviating much of the present distress and suffering. Thus by moral reform you could lead the race gradually back to the original perfection.
Now, Jesus, I have shown you the impracticability of your plan of dying to redeem men and the reasonableness of my plan, that you live and reform them and thus restore them, and I appeal to your judgment, is not my way the most reasonable, most sure and most hopeful way to the object you have in view – man's restoration?
Here was a strong temptation – all the appearances favored Satan's theory; yet Jesus walked by faith and held fast to God's promise of resurrection of himself and of mankind through him, and answered:
"Get thee behind me, Satan. It is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve." Thus Jesus escaped this temptation not by arguing with Satan that God's plan was as reasonable, but by simply relying on the fact that it was right to obey God and wrong to disobey under all circumstances.
As we look about us and seek to see which temptations common to the followers of Jesus most resemble this one endured by the Head of the Church, we are struck with the similarity of the adversary's methods now and the great success he meets with in assailing saints from this standpoint, viz., temptation to turn aside from God's appointed course – self-sacrifice – and endeavor to begin the work of blessing before the appointed time.
It was this same temptation which beset the infant Church during the first five centuries, and which finally was successful. The persecuted and weary Church was beset by the adversary saying, Come, not so; I will show you a far better way than suffering, and tribulation, and persecution to accomplish your desires. Follow my wise counsel and all these kingdoms of earth and the glory of them shall be thine. The offer was accepted, and Satan, faithful to his promise, exalted the nominal Church, [the few who resisted the temptation being considered heretics and outcasts,] which resulted in placing over the world the Church of Rome as the head of both civil and ecclesiastical government.
When this handmaid of Satan became very vile and low, and her methods and shams very apparent, and as a consequence a Reformation movement came about naturally, Satan, equal to the emergency, presented the same temptation to the "Reformers," and again with success. His argument, successful upon Luther, Calvin and others, was: Your reform is a great and grand work, but now you must beware of fanaticism. Get about your great work systematically, so that it will be a success and abide and have a powerful influence in the world. First, then, the IMPORTANT matter is to secure the support and sympathy of the world – of its empires and its great and wise. In deference to public opinion, you must have an organization and a very sharply-defined creed, and you had best distinguish your church by some name; and since you are the organizers and originators of your church, you surely have a right to call it what you please.
Your Church must first of all recognize these governments of mine, and must call them Christian governments, no matter how un-Christlike may be their rulers and laws. Thus you must aid them in maintaining their hold upon the people, and they in turn will aid you, support you and protect you. Beware also that the long cherished traditions and theories of the Roman Church settled [R681 : page 7] by her ancient councils and firmly engraven by her upon the minds of the people be not in any wise tampered with, else your entire power and influence with the people would go and you would fail to make your Church the great one you so much desire.
Thus again power, dominion and the glory and pleasure and ease of them, allured the Reformers and nipped in the bud the Reformation which needed to be very thorough. Since then, various servants of God stirred by a zeal for truth, have broken over some of the barriers and again attempted a continuation of Reformation work, and invariably they have been met with the same temptation, by the same wily tempter; and in their day, or soon after, all reformation was swallowed up by the desire to please the world, sail smoothly, and to be great and influential.
But while this has been and is true of companies of men, it is true also of individual Christians. To us as individuals, this same temptation is one of the most difficult to withstand. It presents itself thus sometimes: It is useless for you to waste your time and influence advocating and helping to spread those unpopular doctrines, even though they be true. Associate yourself with some large and influential organization, and don't be eccentric and peculiar. Thus your influence among men will be greater, and more good will be accomplished than by advocating the truth and associating yourself with it. Alas! how many yield to this who should say to the tempter as Jesus did in his similar temptation: It is written: Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God and him only shalt thou serve. Nothing else under any consideration shall claim my attention or attract my service; his will, his plan and his truth must have my little ALL.
Sometimes the temptation is: Why spend time and effort in preaching that which is unpopular, yields small results and much persecution, rather let me engage in some other service, such, for instance, as the TEMPERANCE CAUSE, to do men good at once by moral and legislative reform. Why not seek by political agencies to relieve present troubles, rather than be thought a fool for preaching and preparing men for a coming reign of Christ when all these evils shall be remedied and all the race blessed. The temptation thus presented is often successful in removing from the ranks of the truth-bearers many of those who were anointed to preach the glad tidings. Others are tempted to think that they can serve God's cause and truth best by spending their best energies and talents in acquiring wealth, to be spent in spreading the Gospel. Deceitful snare! the getting of the wealth so enlists their best talents that they become dwarfed spiritually, and the wealth never reaches the object originally purposed. Thus Satan is successful with this class. He says, serve God and bless mankind and spread the Gospel, but do it my way, you will find it the most successful and most congenial way. But to heed is to reject God's way and to fall into the snare of the devil, and be led his captive and hindered from gaining the great prize.
Another temptation presented to Jesus was, that he should use power just received at his baptism for his physical (personal, human,) gratification by making a stone into bread. To some it has appeared that there could have been no sin in so doing, and hence no temptation. For a man to use any or all his powers to satisfy hunger, would certainly under ordinary circumstances be no sin. But the circumstances were peculiar: Jesus had just consecrated himself as a man, and as a result of that consecration had special power conferred upon him in the anointing of the Holy Spirit. It was this newly acquired power that Satan sought to have him use for fleshly gratification, whereas it was given for a totally different purpose. To have bartered or used it for purely selfish ends would have been misuse – sacrilege indeed.
How many of Jesus' followers have temptations placed before them of a similar character, viz.: Use your consecrated talents and powers, and your office as God's children and representatives, in such a manner as to further your "bread and butter" interests. Are you a public minister and under-shepherd? – seek the flocks with the golden fleece, and especially procure and maintain the goodwill of the bell-sheep of the flock; and with all your service of God, be sure you use your office so as to first of all secure a bountiful supply of earthly comforts. Many a public minister has yielded to this temptation, and obtained the bread that perisheth, while he starved spiritually.
Are you a private servant and soldier in the Lord's hosts, whose service is less public? You are not, therefore, exempt from this temptation. The Adversary will, in some manner, present the thought that, by using your religious profession in a certain channel – by associating with a popular church system in Babylon, your bread and butter interests will be advanced.
All pilgrims following in the Master's footsteps, should meet this temptation as he met it, viz., by saying: "It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone." I am not afraid of starving, God has more ways and means for sustaining my life, than food; if I am faithful to my covenant, I can afford to trust the matter fully to his wise care.
Another thought comes with these words – one especially applicable to the sisters: In your daily life remember, that "Man shall not live by bread alone," and, therefore, that all your energies should not be spent in merely gratifying the palate. Undoubtedly, very much valuable time is thus spent by the Martha's a part of which, at least, might be profitably spent after Mary's example, attending to the words of Jesus – either receiving or giving to others, spiritual food.
The third temptation was, to recklessly and boastfully risk his life in an attempt to answer a banter. Satan took Jesus to the highest part of the temple. (Probably, the central part of the royal portico, which was very high and overlooked a deep ravine; of it, Josephus says: "The pillars of that portico were a hundred cubits high, and the valley below four hundred deep.") Here Satan suggested that Jesus should prove himself the Son of God, by leaping from this eminence, Satan intimating that thus he could at once prove his claims before devils and men, if he escaped injury.
But Jesus answered, "It is said: 'Thou shalt not try the Lord thy God.'" Such an act would have been reckless presumption and daring, and not the faith in God proper to all who put their trust in Him; hence for Jesus to have yielded would have been sin.
With the followers of Jesus, not infrequently the desire comes to make some show before the world, and thus to convince the ungodly instead of by the Lord's plan – simply the preaching of [R681 : page 8] "the Gospel to the MEEK." It is this temptation which sometimes leads men to call upon God loudly, to come down in power and convert fifty sinners here this evening – convert every sinner in this house, and such like petitions. Such prayers are an attempt to force God by prayer to interfere and do by miraculous power what he has arranged shall be done by other means – by preaching – teaching.
It is worthy of notice that finding Jesus able to quote Scripture, and to answer his previous temptations, Satan this time backs his temptation with a quotation from Scripture. Let this be a reminder to God's children that the adversary can use Scripture, and does use it often in the presentation of error. The quotation of a few words of Scripture should not be considered sufficient, but the context should be examined to see that it is properly applied. Truth misapplied is error.
The Scripture here quoted by Satan is part of the 91st Psalm, and at first glance the application seems correct. But in the light of the present unfoldings of God's word we see that it applies not to the feet of the man Jesus, but to the members of the feet class, or last members which complete "the body of Christ, which is the Church."
Throughout this Gospel age, the Church, the body of Christ, has been guarded by the angels of God: "Are they not all ministering Spirits sent forth to minister for those who shall be heirs of salvation"? But it is in the present "Evil Day," speaking of which, Jesus said, "Who shall be able to stand"? when thousands are falling at our side, that the body of Christ, now represented by the last members – "the feet of Him" needs to be specially helped. It is, then, with reference to the protection of the class of saints now living, that it is written, "He shall give his angels charge over thee to keep thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone."
If then, we are the feet, what is the stone over which there is danger of stumbling? It is the chief corner stone of the true TEMPLE Jesus. Of him it was written, "He shall be for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence" to both the houses of Israel." We remember that the first or typical house – Israel after the flesh stumbled over that "stone of stumbling," in that they did not recognize his presence among them, and rejected his sacrifice as the basis of justification, holding instead to their own righteousness which in God's sight was as filthy rags. See Isa. 8:14; Rom. 9:32; 1 Pet. 2:6.
The very same stumbling-stone is NOW in the close of the Gospel age causing many to stumble, which caused so many to stumble at the close of the Jewish age, viz.: an unwillingness to be saved from the Adamic penalty by the redemption or purchase accomplished by Jesus. To-day everywhere, this question of salvation by faith in Christ's finished work is being contested. Numbers [R682 : page 8] of influential ministers and religious papers, under the guise of new light are endeavoring to show that Jesus did not give himself a ransom (Greek – antilutron, AN EQUIVALENT PRICE) for all, but was our example only. They talk about justification but know nothing of justification through his blood, and are not really justified. Wherefore? Because they seek it not by faith [in the ransom] but as it were by works of the law – their own works of righteousness. They stumble at the stumbling-stone. But whosoever believeth on him shall never be put to shame (stumble).
The context shows (Ps. 91:3-8) that there will be a great falling away from the truth, the pestilence of error, the arrow of sarcasm, and the destructive plague of infidelity, shall unsettle and overthrow the faith of thousands; yet in it all we are assured that all the truly consecrated, all the true, covenant-keeping members of the body of Christ – THE FEET, shall be kept by the power of God, through the ministration of his messengers, and delivered. And, finally, of the whole body it is written: Because he has set his love upon me, therefore I will deliver him: I will set him on high [exalt to glory] because he hath known my name, I will deliver him and honor him, with long life [everlasting] I will satisfy him and show him my salvation. [R677 : page 8]
"In God I have found a retreat,
Where I can securely abide;
No refuge, nor rest so complete,
And here I intend to reside,
I dread not the terror by night,
No sorrow can harm me by day;
His shadow has covered me quite,
My fears He has driven away.
The pestilence walking about,
When darkness has settled abroad,
Can never compel me to doubt
The presence and pow'r of our Lord.
The wasting destruction at noon,
No fearful foreboding can bring;
With Jesus, my soul doth commune,
His perfect salvation I sing.
A thousand may fall at my side,
Ten thousand at my right hand;
Above me His wings are spread wide,
Beneath them in safety I stand.
His truth is my buckler and shield;
His love He hath set upon me;
His name in my heart He hath sealed;
E'en now His salvation I see."
A brother writes among other things: "Are you quite sure that the evidences warrant us in believing that the first seven years of the harvest was the limit of time during which the overcomers were separated and glorified? Is this implied in "FOOD," page 119?"
Your understanding of the teaching of "FOOD" is in the main correct, but not so when you understand it to teach that the saints would be separated and changed to spiritual beings during the first seven years of the harvest. ("Food" was not published and circulated until the close of those seven years.)
The thought we wish to convey is, that the gathering, or separating of wheat from tares, is part of the harvest work and may be accomplished early in the harvest before the "fire" or judgments of that time come upon "tares," etc. When the ripe wheat is garnered or brought under the special care and labor of the Master, it requires some threshing, winnowing, etc., to fully prepare it for his service.
To our understanding, the seven years which ended in Oct. 1881, with the close of the Jewish sacred year, marked off the limit during which the harvest work and that of sowing of seed for the Gospel harvest, progressed together. In other words, while the harvest work was commencing and in progress, the "call," (Matt. 20:16; 2 Pet. 1:10,) to the "Divine nature" through opportunity to sacrifice, continued to go forth; and up to that time any believer in the ransom who presented himself a sacrifice to God was "acceptable," and reckoned a member of "the body of Christ," and a joint heir in the coming kingdom. But in October, 1881, we understand that the "acceptable year of the Lord" closed, and that the "call" to sacrifice and its promised reward is no longer authorized.
Not that sinners may not still turn from sin to righteousness and come into full reconciliation with God, for this is the very work of the Millennial age just dawning. But their call is to obedience, and faith in the ransom with its reward of continued, everlasting life – as human beings, but not to sacrifice and FILLING UP of the afflictions of Christ, which will be filled up by the Church which is His Body, already selected.
Again, while 1881 marked an important point in the harvest work, it has not completed the work for, much of the wheat already sown and ripening has yet to be reaped, threshed, garnered, etc. Since October, 1881, we understand that two distinct classes of work are in progress: One with the world, leading them to Faith healings, etc., etc., engaged in by many; and the work of perfecting of the saints, assisting those who have already consecrated, to realize their obligation more fully and thus leading them out of Babylon and bondage and darkness into the glorious light, liberty and enjoyment of their birth-right as heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ their Lord – if so be that they suffer with him that they may be glorified together. (Rom. 8:17.)
All branches of the Lord's service are grand, honorable and blessed, but to those who appreciate the plan, and who see that the fullness of blessing to the world will follow the completion of the Church and its exaltation to power, the force of the Apostle's words, "especially to the household of faith" will be apparent.
Please give an exposition of Gal. 3:19: "Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made." What I want to know is – What law was added, what was it added to, and on account of what transgression was it added?
The context shows that the law referred to is the law given to Israel at Sinai. (Compare verse 12 with Lev. 18:5, Ezek. 20:11 and Rom. 10:5.) It was added to the Abrahamic covenant under which they had been placed four hundred and twenty years previously. (See verse 17.)
As originally created, man was in God's image and had his law written on his heart – to appreciate right and to do right were natural and easy to the first perfect man, until sin blighted, blurred and, to a great extent, effaced the law and likeness of God. Adam having passed his trial and, being found unworthy of life, was condemned to death, and all his posterity was involved with him. Since all his children have inherited an imperfect organism, both morally and physically, it follows that it would be useless for them to hope that if they, in their present imperfect condition, were placed on trial under God's law, they would be able, so to obey that law as to be faultless before it, and thus worthy of its blessing – life everlasting.
God foreseeing the impossibility of man's ever bringing himself to a position of worthiness of life, had provided a way for his relief in "the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world" – "the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world" – and this, God's plan, was referred to in his covenant with Abraham. God, foreknowing his own plans that he would in due time justify the heathen, made known beforehand the glad tidings to Abraham, saying: "In thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed."
Thus we see that, under the conditions of this covenant, Israel and all other men had promise of a blessing. But because of inherited sin, not only Israel was unfit to be the "seed" that should BLESS, but all the members of the Adamic race were unfit.
But while God knew of their unfitness, it was not so apparent to the fallen race, and God undertook to prove to Israel and, through their experience, to prove to all the world that man was unable [R683 : page 8] to recover himself, or to give a ransom for himself or his fellow, (Psa. 49:7), that thus all might recognize in Jesus and the ransom price he gave for all, the only hope of blessing, and that there is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved ("blessed") than the name of Jesus.
So, then, the law of Sinai was added to the promise to Abraham because of and to convince men of, their sinful condition, and thus point them forward in expectation of the real Seed which should be perfect and able to keep the law and be approved of it as perfect – Jesus.
It may be asked in this connection, Are not the saints of the Gospel age as well as Jesus counted to be of this "seed"? And if so, in what sense can they be approved of the law who, by nature, are as condemned and fallen as the Jew?
By birth, by nature, we were children of wrath and condemnation and disapproval, even as the Jew and others, but all who are of that seed have their sins "covered" – "washed away," "blotted out" by the precious sin-offering presented on their behalf – "by faith in his blood," who bought us with his own precious blood. Their sins were imputed to Jesus, and he died as the unjust for them; his righteousness imputed to all who believe in him and accept of his sacrifice, constitutes "a propitiatory covering" for all those transgressions of God's law resulting from Adamic sin and weakness, so that the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in us who walk not after the flesh but after the spirit.
It matters not if you cannot tell just when you became a Christian. If we sow a handful of wheat in our garden, we could not tell, though we watched ever so narrowly, the exact moment when it germinated. But when we see waving grain in the autumn we know it did germinate, and that is all we care for. The young disciple should not expect too much light at once. It will grow brighter with every Christian duty he performs. The Christian life is a sort of mountain path; and the higher one climbs, the clearer the atmosphere and the sooner he will see the morning sun. To the adventurous traveler who has ascended to the summit of Mount Blanc, the sun rises earlier and sets later, and the night is therefore shorter than to the peasant who lives down in the valley at the base. So it is in the Christian life. Clearness of vision, and firmness of foot, and beauty of prospect, come only to those who have struggled up the heights – to the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Conversion may be the work of a moment, but a saint is not made in an hour. Character, Christian character, is not an act, but a process – not a sudden creation, but a development. It grows and bears fruit like a tree, and like a tree it requires patient care and unwearied cultivation. – Sel.
"WE cannot keep darling sins and work out salvation. We cannot harbor impure thoughts and then repose on the bosom of the All-pure. We cannot gratify our lust and attain to holy living. We cannot roll in the mire and then enter into the company of those who walk with him in white because they are worthy."