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.
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.
FORTUNATELY we have come across another small lot of "YOUNG'S ANALYTICAL GREEK, HEBREW AND ENGLISH CONCORDANCES" – the best – the "Author's Edition," at much below the previous price of the work. We desire many might avail themselves of the opportunity for obtaining a work so valuable, indeed almost indispensable to Bible study. This great book is cheap at the regular price, five dollars, but we have secured this lot so as to offer them to you at just half the price. They are new and perfect. See last page, last column.
This book is too heavy to go by mail to Europe, and too expensive by express; but we have recently sent some to the very city of the author in Scotland, by mail, so cut in two, that it can be easily repaired and they thus cost our subscribers about one-third of what the book sells for there. We will gladly accommodate any of our foreign subscribers thus, that they may have the benefit of this valuable work at so low a price.
Very encouraging is the outlook from this point of observation. The "Plan for harvest work" suggested in the September TOWER, put into operation, is yielding fruit. It is undoubtedly proving a blessing to those engaged in the service, and it cannot fail to do some good to others. In either or both cases it is encouraging to remember Paul's assurance: "Ye know that your labor is not in vain;" good results are surely flowing from these sacrificings and self-denials. The isolated workers should know for their encouragement, that hundreds of earnest disciples in the various States of this country, and in several in Europe, are preaching the gospel by word and by the printed page seeking out the "meek" (Isa. 61:1,) who only have "an ear to hear" at present.
And the truth is breaking through the clouds of tradition and error which so long have hindered many from beholding the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, as it shines in the face of Jesus Christ our Lord. (2 Cor. 4:6.) Pulpit utterances are being moderated and many are beginning to see dim outlines, as did the physically blind one whom Jesus anointed (Mark 8:24). Almost unconsciously to themselves the light of the now dawning Millennial Day is breaking into all reasoning minds.
And if we can see a little of the success from the lower plane of this TOWER of observation, what must be the view from the Tower on high, where the great King of Kings notes the progress of "the battle of the great day," between truth and error, light and darkness, God's Word and human traditions. Ah! he sees as we cannot, how fully his grand glorious purposes are being accomplished. Error shall fall while truth shall rise triumphant. Satan and all the delusions wherewith he has blinded men and defrauded Jehovah, shall give place to the knowledge of the Lord, which spread abroad at the rising of the Sun of Righteousness, shall fill and bless the whole earth.
And the FAITHFUL ONES who despite the sneers and scoffs and the allurements of the world, the flesh, and Satan are OVERCOMING these, saying, "Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business" – what of these, are they seen by the eye of the Chief Captain? Will their tremblings and difficulties and sacrifices endured from love of the Father and a desire to please him and honor him – will these be forgotten? I tell you, nay! He knoweth each one and by these difficulties he is but permitting your testing to see whether you can safely be entrusted with the great honor and glory he has to bestow. As he sees your spirit of self sacrifice overcoming obstacles, he looks lovingly upon you and says, Ah! there is one who loves me more than self; I can trust him – "They shall be mine in that day when I make up MY JEWELS." (Mal. 3:17.) He shall sit with Christ in the throne. He is an OVERCOMER who loved me more than the things of this world, and my approval more than the approval of men. He shall not merely enter into joys but shall share the joys of his Lord. (Matt. 25:21.)
How refreshing to us is the spirit manifested in the extracts below from a few of the many letters received, and the master who knoweth the heart, sees many others of his faithful, laboring more obscurely than some of these, from whom we seldom hear, and to him their efforts are just as pleasing though the result be smaller, perhaps scarcely perceptible.
DEAR FRIEND AND BROTHER: The WATCH TOWER came duly to hand in good time. I had business at Illinois, where I was detained one week trying a suit against a coal company that had undermined and taken my client's coal, amounting to three thousand tons, and while there I made it my business to make acquaintances and introduce the "Herald of Christ's presence," as shown in ZION'S WATCH TOWER." It was welcomed by some, and some it astonished. I was careful in distributing it, having taken notice of your remarks as to how distribution should be made, and I have every reason to hope that you will hear from that quarter sooner or later.
On my way out I attempted to distribute some among the passengers, and some few were glad to receive a TOWER; and when they got home and a little time to study its contents, I advised them to sit down and, with their Bible at their elbow, to prove every passage of Scripture it refers to, and if the Bible sustained the TOWER to accept it, but if not to reject it. But my efforts in this direction were soon interrupted by a News Man who politely informed me that I was interfering sadly with his business and requested me to discontinue my distributions, which I did, being careful to avoid anything like contention or trouble aboard the cars; notwithstanding, like Paul, being a free citizen, I knew the rights the law accorded me in such case. I landed at Lacon Saturday evening, and after tea I spoke in a private house and had a pleasant time reading, explaining the scriptures and answering questions. Sunday I was welcomed to the M.E. Church and spoke there at the Sunday School, and spoke somewhere every night I was there except one. One evening I spoke in the [R796 : page 1] Baptist Church. When I went in there was to appearance an indescribable coldness about the people, a want of vitality, mere matter of form. I spoke from Ephesians 1:4,7,9,13 and 14, and here it seemed as if the people had been waking out of a stupor in the short time I addressed them. Really it is true, the people are starving for the truth. I just wish I could have stayed there for a few months, but I could not on account of my court business here.
Though the year has been full of the things which long had brought care, and grief, and bitterness of heart, I have looked upon them as trifles compared with "the joy now set before me." I have found that "the gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation" from the besetments of the world, the flesh and the devil.
The doctrine, in accord with both reason and revelation, which I first heard proclaimed by Bro. Adamson, I have tried to present to others in the form of "Food" and the TOWER, in written letters, in conversation, and in public speaking, both indoors and on the streets.
"I love to tell the story –
It did so much for me."
Yet I fear I have not done enough though, I have seen a little fruit, I think, and some buds which promise fruit "in due time." And on this very anniversary of the "happy day that fixed my choice," comes the October "View from the TOWER," with its encouragement to us when we do not see the result of our labor.
In this year I have learned more about the word of God than in all my life before. He has "opened my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of his law." And what once seemed doubtful history, strange legends, and wonder stories that could not be accepted, has all become "Wonderful words of life." My daily prayer is: "O God, teach me thy will, and give me grace and strength to do it."
We are not disposed to undervalue means of grace, as they are ordinarily termed. In many cases the amount of blessing thus imparted is greater than human arithmetic can calculate; in others, it may be doubtful whether the apparent benefit is as real as it seems to be; and in some the influence is unquestionably bad. But as a whole, there can be little doubt that sermonizing, with all its weakness, is a public benefit, and a mainstay of the religion of our land, such as it is.
Our object is not to depreciate the value of either books or men, regarded as teachers of Divine Truth; it is simply to show how easily those "helps" – for such they certainly are when rightly used – may become "hindrances" if trusted in without discrimination, – substituted for personal responsibilities, – or merely leaned upon as pillows of indolence.
Even of books specially intended to facilitate Scripture investigation, it may be asserted, without paradox, that they are sometimes at once both helps and hindrances; helps in one direction, hindrances in another.
Such we believe to be the case, notwithstanding their acknowledged excellencies, with many "critical introductions" to the Bible. They help by the information they impart; they hinder, by the impression they leave that Holy Scripture can scarcely be understood [R796 : page 2] without a prolonged course of preparatory acquisition.
We are not to be supposed, for a single moment, to look with contempt on any branch of inquiry. They all have their place in the course of a students preparation for life, and form part of that mental discipline by which the human mind is enlarged and strengthened. But, just as "critical analyses of the English language," – which have little to do with a plain man's comprehension of his mother tongue – often create an impression on the mind of the untaught that some mysterious light is by such processes developed, so ordinary readers of Scripture are apt to conclude that, apart from critical investigations of the kind referred to, the Bible can never be properly understood. The eminent scholar, Dr. Maitland, thus wrote:
"I must add my belief that the cumbersome apparatus of systematic interpretation ought to be placed among the impediments to the right understanding of the word of God. The learning and labor which have been bestowed on it seems to me to have been worse than wasted; and so far from its helping towards the understanding of the Word of God, it appears more calculated to puzzle and perplex the student, and to supply, to those who may desire it, the means of confounding common sense and perverting the plain text of Scripture.
"These systematic schemes,"he says, "are probably unknown to most readers of the Bible, and therefore, do not directly form an impediment to them; but it is obvious, that complex machinery which they never saw, and could not understand, may have a great effect on the manufactured article of which they are the consumers.
Some persons, I believe, have thought that they put honor on the Word of God, and the language in which it is written, by telling us that there is something 'in the original' which no translation can reach, – something not transfusible, expressible. No doubt this is true as regards every language, and every book in every language, unless it is confined to the most common subjects, and written in the lowest style.
In most cases the curious felicity of one language cannot be transferred to another without using such paraphrases or making such nonsense as is peculiarly infelicitous; but so far as regards meaning, where meaning is of importance, and the mode of expression of secondary consideration, or none at all, any theme written in one language may be made intelligible in another, provided the things spoken of are known to the translator and the person for whom he translates."
"Who would write a bulky treatise about the method to be pursued in interpreting Plato or Sophocles? No man, assuredly, who did not wish to create the impression that the meaning of these writers was beyond the comprehension of ordinary readers. And this is precisely what has been done in relation to Scripture. People have come to believe that without a formidable critical apparatus it is not possible to arrive at the meaning of God's Word; whereas, the reverse is nearer the truth. The plain and unsophisticated reader is more likely to get at the true interpretation than the learned student; for the true use of interpretation is to get rid of interpretations, and to leave us alone in company with the Author.
"When the meaning of Greek words is once known, the young student has all the real materials, which are possessed by the greatest Biblical scholars, in the Book itself. The great thing, after all, is to perceive the meaning of words in reference to their context. Less weight should be given to Lexicons, – that is, to the authority of other Greek writers, – and more to the context. It is no exaggeration to say that he who, in the present state of knowledge, will confine himself to the plain meaning of words, and the study of their context, may know more of the original spirit and intention of the authors of the New Testament than all the controversial writers of former ages put together."
Once more we return to Dr. Maitland: "The Bible," he says, "has long been the subject of discussion by the learned and the unlearned; and some of each class have left no stone unturned to make it appear that certain parts mean what they certainly do not mean. 'Biblical Criticism' has been heaped upon the Word of God, and explanation after explanation too often only makes the matter darker than it was before.
"Truth is single; and therefore one is right and the rest, how many soever they may be, are wrong. A good deal of the evil of this arises, I imagine, from vanity, coupled with the affectation of modesty. The commentator frequently knows not what to say, but is unwilling to confess this without showing that he knows what others have said. His own mind is altogether dissatisfied with their explanations, yet he recounts them, and without saying of some (as he really ought, if he mentions them at all), that they are mere nonsense, not worth a moment's notice, he effects to leave it to the reader to choose what explanation he pleases. A simple mind is thus bewildered, and perhaps almost led to a vague idea, that what has so many interpretations, all thought worthy of record has not, in fact, any very certain or definite meaning at all."
And all this folly and confusion arises from attempts which have been too successfully made, to raise an opinion that the Bible is not to be judged of by the rules of common sense; forgetting the fact that learning can obscure as well as illustrate, and heap up chaff when it can find no wheat.
The readings and the findings of the private Christian are often in advance of the expositions and instructions of the public teacher. When once this fact is fully recognized, the false notion – now all but universally held – that the one divinely appointed means of Christian edification is sacred oratory delivered from the pulpit, will be shaken to its foundation. It will then be seen that while popular speaking, when effective, is admirably adapted to awaken the attention of the careless, to interest the young and uninformed, to kindle the affections, and to move to action, it is altogether unsuited to advanced Christians; is incapable of leading them on to deep personal acquaintance with divine truths; and, after a season, all but certain to become a hindrance to spiritual growth. This happens because it is commonly abused by the indolent; because it occupies in the esteem of multitudes, the place of personal investigation, and because, being associated with united worship, it almost inevitably becomes the only living channel of religious impression.
Nothing is more certain than this, – that whatever wants seem to be supplied to a man while in a passive condition, he will never seek to satisfy by active service. Yet it is quite as true in religious matters, as it is in everything else, that without labor and discipline, all direct instruction must be unavailing and useless. The most elaborate and manifold apparatus can impart nothing of importance to the passive and inert mind. It is almost as unavailing as the warmth and light of the sun, and all the sweet influences of the heavens when shed upon the desert sands. Such a mind, even if it be filled with the results of other men's labors, can only be compared to a well filled granary; it bears no resemblance to the fruitful field, which multiplies that which is cast into its lap a thousand fold.
Hitherto we have proceeded on the supposition that the teaching thus imparted, although too oratorical, is on the whole, sound and sensible, but that it is not always so, is but too well known. An ingenious twist is often valued more than a true explanation. The words of [R797 : page 2] the text in such cases merely supply a theme, neither preacher nor hearers ever troubling themselves about its meaning. The reason for this course is, that the text is wanted merely for the purpose of communicating some moral or religious lesson, determined upon beforehand; or for the support of some cause which the preacher may be pleading, or to condemn some error which he has to combat.
This sort of perversion is bad enough when united, as it often is, with deep earnestness, solid learning, and much oratorical power; but how intolerable it becomes, when combined with ignorance and folly, vanity and conceit, will be fully admitted by all who have been obliged to listen, as too many have, to expositions of Scripture, which from their astounding stupidity, are only calculated to excite men to laughter or scorn.
Who has not heard sermons in which the entire teaching has been made to turn altogether upon mere emphasis, applied in the most arbitrary manner to a single verse of Scripture? Sermons, which remind one only of the sentence, dear to every school boy, – "Do you ride to town today?" Since it is one which, according as this or that word is made emphatic, admits of five different meanings, and is capable of being considered in five distinct relations, viz.: to fact, to person, to mode, to place, and to time. Seriously, such is the treatment the Word of God too frequently receives at the hands of men who, themselves wanting common sense, are quite unconscious that others possess that divine gift.
In the exercise of this responsibility, a man may, if he think fit, accept, with or without question, the decisions of Rome, – the conclusions of the Fathers, – the dogmas of the Puritan, – the Speculations of Rationalists, or the current opinions which belong to the religious circle in which he has been educated, or may, at any given time, happen to move. But, in each and every case, his conduct is an act of private judgment, for the wisdom or folly of which, with all its attendant consequences, he is alone and individually answerable.
Private judgment, thus viewed, implies a two-fold obligation, viz., first, that of a patient and diligent use of all the means placed within our reach for ascertaining truth; and secondly, the cultivation of those dispositions of heart which are favorable to spiritual discernment, and apart from which no man can rightly discriminate between truth and error.
The former will include in the case of those who have an opportunity to investigate, a thankful appreciation of the labors of scholars, in relation both to the text and to the translation of Holy Scripture, and an examination of the commentaries of pious and learned men, so far as they may seem to us to be truthful and unprejudiced expositions of Holy Writ: the latter, as graces of the Spirit, must be sought, where alone they can be obtained, at the footstool of him who is the Giver of every good and perfect gift.
To those we would add, a reverent listening to the voice of the Church which expresses itself in the lives and labors of holy men in all ages; a voice which is not the voice of the Priest, or the voice of a party, or the voice of the schoolmen, or the voice of the fathers, whether Greek or Latin, or the voice of England or Scotland, – Evangelical or Armenian, high or low, broad or exclusive; but that great silent testimony which issues from Apostles and Prophets, from martyrs and confessors, from poor and rich, from the palace and the peasant's cot, from the ignorant and the learned, from the living and the dead; – witnessing evermore to the truth of Christ's Holy Gospel, – to its influence over mankind, to its triumphs over the world, to its sole and exclusive power to enlighten, to solace, to sustain, and to save. Wretched indeed is the sophistry which would confound this sublime echo of the human heart responding to the Divine, with the decisions of a council or the dicta of a sect.
Human nature craves for infallibility in religious matters, and it is a happiness, we doubt not, even to think that we have secured it. This craving is the fruitful source both of superstition and atheism; but it is incessant in some minds. God has, however, not chosen to gratify it. And because he has not, because he has thought fit to make our apprehension of divine truth to depend mainly on a right state of heart, men of all classes quarrel with his method.
The mode in which this dissatisfaction manifests itself is various. Sometimes it is in the way of restlessness, and sometimes it finds expression in a reckless skepticism, followed by a predisposition to listen to any Church which professes to be infallible; and sometimes it carefully bars the door against all inquiry, and refuses, under any pretext, to be disturbed.
Hence the timidity and terror which is so often manifested when any new form of religious thought is first broached in Christian circles. That which is stated may indeed be true, but whether it is so or not matters little. It seems to introduce an element of uncertainty in quarters where neither doubt nor question has ever been allowed to enter and therefore it must be disallowed.
To all such we can only say, that for intelligent men to shrink from the investigation of truth of any kind, is, in fact, to evade the most important part of their moral discipline; that he who desires truth as the supreme good, cannot fail eventually to enjoy the blessedness it brings in its train; and that he who subordinates truth to what he calls peace, may in the end lose both truth and peace.
"It is but an earthen vessel,
But it lay so close to me;
It is small, but it is empty,
And that's all it needs to be.
"So to the fountain he took it,
And filled it full to the brim;
How glad was the earthen vessel,
To be of some use to him.
"His own hand had drawn the water,
Which refreshed the thirsty flowers;
But he used the earthen vessel,
To convey the living showers.
"And of itself it whispered,
As he laid it down once more;
Still will I lie in his pathway,
Just where I did before.
"Close would I keep to the Master,
Empty would I remain;
And, perhaps, some day he may use me
To water his flowers again."
This article is suggested by a letter at hand in which the Brother says: "I have read the articles, 'Our Mediator,' 'Our Access to God through the one Mediator,' 'An Advocate with the Father,' in the last TOWER. I was much pleased, both with the logical reasoning and the Scriptural evidence adduced," but he adds, "that he is at a loss how to harmonize those teachings with the command to 'Pray for your enemies,' 'Pray ye – Thy kingdom come,' and Paul's exhortation to 'Pray for all men – for kings,' etc." The Brother asks: "Is not the principle the same in all prayer – 'Imperfect human beings attempting to direct the All-wise Jehovah?'" We answer:
There can be no doubt that for the ignorant and weak finite beings to attempt to use prayer or any other agency to thwart the plans and change the arrangements of the Almighty, and to attempt to instruct the All-wise, would be improper. Such cannot be the province of prayer. This we hold to be an axiom. But if this be beyond its scope, what is the purpose and intent of prayer; what are its privileges and its limits?
The privilege of praying to God, of holding communion with him, is a great privilege and an evidence of his favor. God permits and arranged to grant us this privilege, not that he might be informed of our desires, for we being imperfect our desires are not perfect, so that "we know not what things to ask for as we ought," and he does for us better than we know how to ask or think. Nor does God permit us to pray to him that we may inform him regarding matters here; for he knoweth the end from the beginning as well as every intervening step. But he has instituted prayer for our benefit and comfort and instruction.
The OBJECT of prayer is to bring the heart and mind of the child of God, whether in joy or sorrow, into contact with the heart of God, that he may be enabled thus most fully to realize the fatherhood of God, his love and care and his deep interest in every item of our welfare; that in deep affliction we may unburden our hearts to God and thus have forcibly brought to our attention his love and care and wisdom – for our encouragement, not his; for our strengthening, not his, and for our joy. This opportunity is not for us to instruct Jehovah how to arrange matters for the best, but it is to bring our hearts to realize him as the centre of wisdom and power, that having unburdened our hearts, we may be prepared to listen for his answer and advice through his word. And he whose knowledge of prayer is confined to the meagre information he has imparted to God with "much speaking," and who has never learned to listen for the answer to his prayer at the word of God, has as yet measurably failed to appreciate the object of prayer.
Earnestness in God's service will bring his children to him frequently, to [R798 : page 3] realize at his feet his sympathy with them in the difficulties, discouragements and trials of life, as well as to ask his guidance and overruling of every affair of life, through his word, and to hearken to his wisdom, which will enable us to serve him acceptably.
The PROVINCE of prayer is to ask for such, and only such things, as God has already declared himself well pleased to grant. And while we may freely speak to him as a Father, and tell him how we understand his word, and the confidence and trust we have in its ultimate fulfilment, yet we must not only avoid telling the Lord of our will and our plan, and what we would like; but we must avoid and put far from us any such spirit, and must recognize and bring ourselves into full accord with his will and his plan of accomplishing it. If this thought were appreciated, it would cut short some of the "long prayers," "much speaking," and "vain repetitions" by which some endeavor to instruct the Lord in their wishes regarding every matter under heaven. It would send them speedily to the word of God to search diligently the plan of God that they might labor as well as pray in harmony with it. While assuring us that the Father careth for us, and is well pleased to have us come to him with sincere hearts, the Master informs us of the conditions upon which we may expect an answer. He says: "If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will and it shall be done unto you." (John 15:7.) These are the conditions for sure answers to our prayers. What is it to abide in Christ? It implies first that our WILL has been wholly consecrated – swallowed up in the will of Christ. And more, that the will is in this condition at the time of the prayer, abiding in Christ. And if the suppliant's own will is gone and he is now controlled entirely by the will of Christ, he surely would consult the words of Christ and there seek information as to what his will is before framing a petition to the Father in Christ's name. And if this be his case, if the will of Christ is governing him, and the words of Christ are abiding in him, such an one is prepared to ask any and everything he may WILL to ask.
His requests would probably be as simple as was the Master's petition when he prayed, "Not my will, but thine be done. (Luke 22:42.) In such a condition prayers are always answered; but in such a condition the prayers would be very modest. Our prayers under such circumstances would be more a thanksgiving for our blessings, an expression of confidence and trust, and the committal of our way unto the Lord, confidently realizing the promise that to us under such conditions, ALL THINGS [even seeming disasters and troubles] shall work together FOR GOOD. Hence whatever came, such an one could realize his prayer answered. He could rejoice evermore because he is prepared to rejoice in tribulation as well as in prosperity, in the path of service. He has no will to oppose whatever God permits, knowing that it will work out good.
Such could not pray for anything of their own will, for they have no will except God's; then abiding in Christ, and his words in them, would prevent any other petition. They could not pray for the immediate conversion of the world, for though they know that "God will have all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth," they also know that the present age is not in God's plan devoted to this work, but solely to the selection, under SEVERER trial, of those who shall be God's instruments for blessing all the families of the earth in God's arranged time.
We cannot single out an ungodly friend and request God to work a miracle on him, and bring him into the "Church of the first-born," though we may pray for wisdom to "rightly divide the word of truth," that if possible the light of the knowledge of the glory of God might thus shine into the understanding of that friend. This would be in harmony with the Word. Jesus said, "Be ye wise as serpents, and harmless as doves," and instructs that "If any man lack wisdom, let him ask [it] of God, who giveth liberally and upbraideth not."
We may not ask for riches and honor; nor for fine food and fine clothing. To seek or pray for these is contrary to the Spirit of the Master. But we may ask, "Give us this day our daily BREAD," assured that the Father knoweth best what kind is best, and what things are needful to us as seen from his standpoint which embraces our interests spiritual as well as temporal, future as well as present.
We may not pray for the increase in numbers of any of the many sects of today, well knowing that Jesus would not approve of thus fettering with human tradition those whom he calls to liberty; and that he does not approve, but would condemn the sects of today as he did those of eighteen centuries ago, saying, "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees," and declaring to them, "Ye do make void [useless and ineffective] the law of God by your traditions."
We can neither labor nor pray for the advancement and growth in power, wealth, influence and numbers of any of these sects, knowing their very existence to be contrary to God's Word, and their advancement a hindrance to the light of truth.
Nor can we today either labor or pray for the perpetuation of the governments of this world, for the word of Christ abides in us, and we are therefore not in darkness, but we know that "the times of the Gentiles" are about fulfilled; and the time for the establishment of God's kingdom is at hand. For that new kingdom we may pray, "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth," patiently awaiting the fullness of God's due time. So surely as we are children of the light, not left in darkness that that day should come upon us unawares, we know that the success of the heavenly kingdom for which we pray, means the destruction of all these kingdoms of earth. (Dan. 2:44.)
We cannot pray our Father to grant abundant harvests, send rains, prevent famines, drouths, wars and pestilences, for we find no example in the Master of such presumption, and realize from his words (Luke 21:9) that God will permit these things until the reign of Christ is inaugurated. And further, we are informed by the Master that the present day will be one of trouble caused by the new Prince binding the strong ruler of earth and spoiling his house. (Matt. 12:29) Hence we pray for none of these things, but with trust and peace look with patience into the future, praying, "Our Father – thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as in heaven." In all things "Thy will be done," – and even in the midst of the present necessary unrest and trouble we rejoice in confident hope, knowing that all things are so overruled as to work out the accomplishment of our Father's grand designs, revealed to us in his Word.
Instructed by the abiding words of Christ, and realizing the covenant of sacrifice to be even unto death we cannot ask release from pain and trouble and death, but with Jesus we can only ask that if it be possible, the cup of shame and misrepresentation might pass, that we suffer not as evil doers; and yet with him we must say: "Not my will but thine be done!" "Father, glorify thy name!"
These may pray for the healing of others, but not for themselves. It was truly said of the Master, that he saved others, but he could not save himself and be a sacrifice too. Yet, in requests for the healing of others we must remember that the time for full restitution of life and health to the world has not yet fully come. Jesus did not heal all the blind and impotent in Judea, and what healing he did was merely to show forth the glorious power and blessing of his coming glorious reign which has not yet fully dawned. Hence our prayers for the sick should be with full confidence in God's ability to heal, yet not demanding it, always letting the words of our Lord abide in us – "Thy will be done."
To pray in other than this spirit is to "ask amiss," to ask for things to be consumed upon our own lusts [desires] (Jas. 4:3.) Desires for ease, for earthly prosperity, for a sect and its growth and honor; all these are earthly lusts contrary to the Spirit and Word of Christ. Thus the word lusts is used by the Apostle in the above instance. Most prayers seemingly are of this sort, and therefore amiss.
Those who abide in Christ, and in whom his word abides, can pray for their enemies and those who despitefully use and persecute them, though they cannot pray God to open their blinded eyes at once, or in their way; but realizing from the indwelling word of God's promise, that the blinded eyes shall all be opened to the truth, they can abide his time, but going to God in prayer they may express their forgiveness of the persecutor, their interest in him, and their patient waiting for the day when "the knowledge of the Lord shall fill the whole earth," and his will be done on earth.
When in harmony with Paul's exhortation (1 Tim. 2:1,2) these pray – "For all men; for kings and all that are in authority," their prayers will not be that those kings may be continued in power and control; for they well know that this would be in direct opposition to God's expressed plan, which is to break in pieces and consume all these.
And though these may labor toward it they cannot expect and pray for the conversion of "all men," "kings," etc., well remembering the Master's prayer – "I pray not for the world but for THEM which thou hast given me,...that they all may be one, that [then] the world may believe" in its due season. (John 17:9,21.) In none of Jesus' prayers did he ever pray for Caesar, or Pilate, or Herod; nor did he make any special effort to reach these, with the gospel message, [R798 : page 4] remembering how it was written, "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the MEEK." (Isa. 61:1, and Luke 4:18.) And when he gave the disciples a formula of prayer it contained no prayer for kings and rulers of this age, nor for "all men" except [R799 : page 4] as this is implied in the expressions of forgiveness of debtors, and the prayer for the coming kingdom which will bless all men.
What then could we pray for "as we ought," and not ask "amiss," for all men and for kings? Very little, indeed, other than the prayer for the blessing of all, implied, when we pray, "Thy kingdom come." Our prayer to God for kings, etc., must be merely that he would so overrule and direct by raising up or casting down among the nations, as would be most in harmony with his wise plans, for the blessing and development of the Church now being selected. For though God has given over the world to the rule of the Prince of this world and his faithful agents until the full end of Gentile Times, when he shall come whose right the dominion is and shall take the dominion under the whole heaven, associating with him his faithful followers according to his many promises (Dan. 7:14,18,22), YET God has not given present rulers unlimited power. He will suffer them to take their course only so far as it does not interfere with his plans – there it must stop. The wrath of man shall not work ruin to the plan of God, for God will cause the wrath of man to work to his praise, and all that will not so work he will restrain. (Psa. 76:10.) And this is what the Apostle has in view: Pray God's guidance and direction over all the affairs of life and over rulers TO THE END THAT the piety and sobriety and growth of the Church may be conserved. Verse 2.
Thus considered, not merely as a begging arrangement, nor yet as an occasion for instructing the Lord as to our wills; but considered as a season of union and communion of heart with our Father in which we may relieve our burdened or perplexed hearts by there realizing divine sympathy, calling to mind divine promises, reviewing divine care, and expressing our confidence in God's many promises, thus bringing those promises afresh and closely to our hearts, as though God now audibly uttered them in our hearing – thus considered, how proper, yea, how necessary, is prayer to the true child of God. He cannot live without it. To break off this communion would be like stripping a tree of its leaves: it would stunt and hinder its development.
But to suppose that Christian life depends solely upon prayer without earnest study of God's word, is like supposing that a tree could flourish from its leaves only, without roots and soil. Both are needful: good soil and roots will produce leaves and fruitage, and, likewise, the promises of God's word absorbed by us will naturally lead to good works and to communion with God in prayer, without which our fruits would soon wither and disappear.
No wonder, then, that Jesus both by precept and example said, "Watch and pray" (Matt. 26:41), uniting the two conditions needful in our development. Some pray and neglect to watch; others watch and neglect to pray; both these errors are serious, and it is not possible for us to decide which is the most serious neglect, since either would work disastrous loss of the great prize for which we are running.
No where is prayer defined as a duty, though its necessity is stated. The Father desireth such to worship him as worship in spirit and in truth (Jno. 4:23); and it would be contrary to this principle to define prayer as a duty, and stipulate a set time or place or formal manner. The earnestness of the service and the peculiarity of the circumstance, will regulate the frequency and the matter.
But though "Family Prayer," "Morning Prayer," "Evening Prayer," nor any other stated time of praying is not specified in Scripture, who among God's children has not experienced the blessedness of communion with the Lord in the morning of each day asking his guidance of its affairs, and realizing and expressing to him our confidence in and reliance upon his promises. This does not remind the Lord of his obligation contained in these promises, but it does remind us of those promises and thus strengthen and prepare us for the events of the day. Likewise, how impossible it is for a child of God, remembering and impressed by the events of the day, as to the Lord's wisdom and care and the surety that all things shall work for good – how impossible, we say, for such an one to retire to rest without thankfulness of heart to him upon whose power and promises they have leaned throughout the day: and how appropriate to bow the knee as well as the heart to render homage as well as thanks.
Hence no form of prayer is furnished in the Scripture. Even the Master, when asked by the disciples for instruction on this subject, gave them not a form to repeat, but merely an idea or example of how to arrange their prayers to God. He did not say, Pray this prayer; but "after this manner pray ye." Our prayers, then, should be after this manner – not an assortment of extravagant demands, but the simple expression of the earnest heart. First acknowledging and paying homage to God as our Father the Almighty and hallowed One. Secondly, expressing our expectations and trust that his kingdom according to promise is coming, and our eagerness for it, and the time when his will shall be done as in heaven. Thirdly, our reliance upon him, for "daily bread," which he has promised us. Fourthly our acknowledgment that our ways are not perfect and our reliance upon his favor [granted through Christ Jesus] for forgiveness; and our willingness to exercise forgiveness toward our debtors.
Though not enjoined specifically, how appropriate that husband and wife should blend their hearts and bow their knees in divine worship, and in submission to the divine will. How much this must tend to unify those hearts and lives. How blessed must such an example be to the children. How appropriate that the little "olive branches" be trained to look to their Creator in the days of their youth, not with formal and long prayers, but with the evidence before them of parental trust in and love for the giver of every good, as expressed in a simple, earnest, trustful prayer after the MANNER of the Lord's illustration. As children see their parents recognizing and bowing to the superior will and wisdom of their heavenly Father, they learn from the example the lesson of obedience and submission to parental authority while learning to know and reverence their Creator.
As soon as children come to reasoning age, their attention to the daily family prayer, whether it be morning or evening, should be placed on the same plane that God places it before us: not of CONSTRAINT, but of a willing mind, out of thankful and loving hearts. Such an influence and example will make home and parents and sacred things dear to children in after life. The true worship of God is profitable both for the present and future life.
With the climax of Christian growth, the climax of worship is reached, and the earnest child of God will presently experience the meaning of the Apostle's words: "Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks." 1 Thes. 5:17,18. Communion with God and the feeling of continual trust in his goodness and care, will become interwoven with all the affairs of life, so that to thus pray without ceasing, and be continually thankful, will become as natural as breathing. But this continual prayer and thanksgiving can never take the place of the formal recognition of worship of God, either to our own hearts or to our families.
What is true of our families is not less true of God's family, of which we are members – the body of Christ. To bind us together in love, God has arranged to make the various members more or less dependent on each other for the blessings he is willing and ready to bestow. Thus he would unify the body of Christ in his method of providing spiritual food, as the human body is dependent as a whole upon its various members for the natural "daily bread" which God thus supplies.
This being true, we should not only neglect not the assembling of ourselves with those of like precious faith, personally when we can; and at least through the medium of the printed page, but when assembled how sweet and refreshing, and how appropriate, to ask our Father's blessing upon the meeting; that the spirit of love may pervade the members of Christ's body there assembled, and that the truth might be discerned by sincere and truth-hungry souls, so that all might be more and more filled with the self-sacrificing spirit of that truth, and thus be built up in the most holy faith and love, and made meet for the Master's service both now and hereafter. Can it be doubted that to the extent that such prayer is the expression of the sentiment of all, it will bring an answer at the moment of its utterance, by impressing upon all solemnly the object of the meeting and the blessings to be expected and enjoyed? It is ever thus; as we draw nigh to God in prayer we bring the blessings promised nigh to ourselves by bringing our hearts into a condition of readiness to enjoy the blessings promised the seeker.
While the offered prayer is to God it should not be forgotten that in harmony with the foregoing statement (that the prayer influences of all who join in it) that Jesus and the Apostle indicate that it should be uttered in such a voice and manner as to enable those about to appreciate and intelligently join it. Jesus said, in connection with one of the few of his recorded sayings, "Because of them that stood by I said it." (John 11:42.) Paul exhorts those who lead the company in prayer to seek to do so in such a manner that all may be able to hear and acquiesce in it. (1 Cor. 14:14-17.) And in all things whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.
So complete is the submission of Roman Catholics to their priests, that such a thing as a Roman Catholic congregation asserting any rights, is almost unheard of. But contact with freemen and the exercise of liberty on other subjects is having an effect, and the indications are that the church of Rome must ere long bend or break under the weight of this influence. She will undoubtedly do both, bend a little first then break and lose her power over her faithful as her daughters are doing.
"A movement of unusual character has taken place in the large and wealthy Roman Catholic parish of St. Mary's, at Aurora, Ill. Some time ago the parish revolted against the Rev. Father Welby, its pastor, giving as a reason the fact that the priest would not permit the congregation to superintend its own financial affairs, but collected all the money and spent it at his own pleasure, without so much as making a report to those who contributed. At that time the congregation appealed to the Archbishop to remove Father Welby and replace him by a pastor who would accept a stipulated salary, "as other preachers do," and permit the congregation to manage its own affairs. The Archbishop referred the matter to the Vicar General, and that gentleman visited this city and from the pulpit soundly berated the congregation as a lot of ignoramuses and concluded by saying that Father Welby would be kept here until the congregation bowed in submission to his authority. The Vicar General subsequently said in Chicago that Father Welby would be kept in Aurora until the congregation accepted his word as law, if it took until his dying day. Notwithstanding these promises Father Welby was removed from Aurora in two weeks and the congregation was left for a time without a priest. Last Sunday, Father Leyden, of Woodstock, occupied the pulpit and announced his intention to control, not only the spiritual but the temporal affairs of the church. The result of this announcement was a meeting of the congregation at which a more compact organization was effected, and a resolution unanimously adopted by a rising vote, asserting the right of the congregation to control its own temporal affairs, and demanding that Father Leyden either accept a stipulated salary, or withdraw from the pastorate. The case is attracting unusual attention.
The death of the eminent Jewish philanthropist has raised a question among some of the religious journals concerning his future. All agree that he was a godly man as well as benevolent. Nor were his kind deeds done solely to his own people. His heart was large enough to sympathize with all classes of his fellow-men in need. And many Christians shared in his bounty. Moreover, he died like a man at peace with God. The Christian Register (Unitarian) refers to this case in this way: "Judging the tree by its fruits, how few professed Christians might dare to compare their life with his! Yet, according to the doctrine which still holds the mind of Christendom in bondage and darkness, this great, pure, faithful soul was fatally self-deceived, and has passed to endless sorrow. When will so-called believers dare to interpret all narrower Scriptures in the light of Peter's great discovery – that 'he that feareth God and worketh righteousness is accepted of him'?" [R800 : page 5]
In the Independent, of September 17th, A.A. Hodge, D.D., for the Presbyterian Church, and Daniel Curry, D.D., for the Methodists, endeavor to free their respective systems from the narrow view which would exclude such a man from salvation. Dr. Hodge concedes that while participation in the benefits of Christ's redemption is "generally conditioned upon personal recognition and confession" of Christ, and while this is essential whenever intellectually possible, it "is not absolutely essential, as is proved in the case of infants and of idiots. On like grounds of principle, it might hold true in the case of some exceptionally enlightened heathen. The charitable formula of 'invincible ignorance,' used and greatly abused by Romanists, rests ultimately upon a true principle, and has always been practically, more or less, recognized by orthodox Christians." He then goes on to argue for a favorable judgment in Sir Moses Montefiore's case because, either through intellectual bias, or through national Jewish prejudice, the true Christ was never apprehended by him, only a distorted image, and therefore never consciously rejected. "Or, very probably, loving and embracing the real Jesus in his heart, his intellectual bias and national and social position may have so modified his expression of Christian faith, as to render it unrecognizable to us."
Dr. Hodge's principles here are wide enough to embrace many other cases than that of this pious Jew. His article is a gratifying instance of a growth of a "wider hope" even among theological circles where it has been put under the severest ban. Certainly there is growth here away from the severe statements of the Westminster Confession, upon which the Christian Register seems to have based its cavil. For instance, it affirms (p. 212), "They who have never heard the gospel, know not Jesus Christ, and believe not in him, cannot be saved, be they never so diligent to frame their lives according to the light of Nature, or the laws of that religion which they profess; neither is there salvation in any other but in Christ alone, who is the Saviour only of his body, the Church."
It is difficult to make the above concession of Dr. Hodge, in respect to "some exceptionally enlightened heathen," accord with the statement just quoted. This proves that even he is progressing at some points beyond the "Standards." It is certain that, with the large Christian heart we know him to possess, he must seek relief somewhere.
In our view, however, this relief is found in a more consistent way than by a strained interpretation of the standards. It is better to confess that there are some lines of Scripture truth bearing upon this point which they do not include. It would be more consistent for Dr. Hodge to hold that, while the salvation of the elect proceeds within the narrow limits which the Calvinistic system has traced out from Scripture, provision is made for other and wider operations of grace, of which they are the chosen instruments, outside these limits and beyond this present age. The purpose of the choice of the Church of the first-born is that they may be kings and priests unto God in carrying out his gracious purposes towards the later born. The enigma of the future of pious Jews and heathens would not be so hard to solve on this principle. Better than the opening wide the door into the church, by such accommodating expositions of the terms of admission, is that view which regards it as a body of called and chosen and faithful ones, who enter only by the door and walk in the strait and narrow way of the cross, thus offering themselves in sacrifice, not merely to secure their own salvation, but as a means of blessing for others, – baptized even for the dead. Whatever hope we may have for others, outside the Church, must be sought in the wide promises of God that in this chosen seed all the families of the earth are to be blessed.
There is still another principle bearing upon this subject which has been too much overlooked, and which needs now to be brought out of Scripture with fresh force and urged upon the attention of the Church and of all men. And that is that the one ultimate standard of admission to blessedness in the future, is character. The saints of this dispensation will not reach their high station except as they become holy and without blemish before him in love. And our God, who is a consuming fire, must burn against all our evils and faults of character, that we may be found "of him in peace, without spot and blameless." And so also all the Scriptures which refer to the judgments and administrations of the future are most emphatic upon this point of righteous character. On whatever level men may hereafter be brought into the Kingdom of Heaven, whether as princes or subjects, this is the standard. The Old Testament upon every page asserts that only such shall ascend into the hill of the Lord. (Psalms 15,24.) The Lord's judgment of the nations (Matt. 25.) is all upon this principle. The righteous go into life eternal. The dead, at the resurrection, are infallibly sorted in the same way. "They that have done good unto the resurrection of life; they that have done evil unto the resurrection of judgment." Now, while it is true that no man can merit salvation by good works, and much less a place in the Church of the first-born, it is also true that no man of unrighteous character can enter into the kingdom of God. And it must, therefore, be true that men of righteous and merciful life, whether Jew or Pagan, must go into the life to come with a character much more nearly approximating to its perfect standard than that of unrighteous men. Cornelius, who feared God and worked righteousness, was accepted before him. He was not fit for the church until Christ had been revealed to and in him. He was not even "saved" (Acts 4:12) until Peter came to tell him the way. But he was in that receptive condition which made Christ welcome to him, when made known, as the flowers welcome the sunshine. And so Sir Moses Montefiore, if ignorant of the true Christ, must come to the same recognition of him in order to be saved. But we are not tied down to any such arbitrary and narrow views of God's dealings as to suppose that such a receptive soul, if blind to the light in this world, could never receive it in the next, or that his future administrations proceed [R801 : page 5] upon such narrow lines as to make no room for such cases, and no account of good character developed under such circumstances. Let the case of Cornelius and the parable of the good Samaritan teach us that the eyes of the Lord are open upon all the ways of the sons of men, beholding the evil and the good, and that, if not in this world, then in the world to come, every one shall receive according to his ways and according to the fruit of his doings. The promised resurrection of the dead, which is the era of judgment, will furnish the amplest scope for all such righteous adjustments as seem to us to be now lacking.
In Dr. Hodge's article, above referred to, there is a distinct assent given to the view that men may be saved who may have accepted that form of truth and goodness of which Christ is the expression, who yet have never heard of the historic Christ. We have already said that he here steps outside of the Westminster standard which distinctly states that men who have never heard the gospel do not know Jesus Christ, and therefore cannot be saved. Upon this point, we must side with the Andover Review in affirming that this immediate opening of the door of heaven to devout men of every nation who strive to live up to the light they possess, is more dangerous than the theory which supposes that by the grace of God such men may be brought to a true knowledge of Christ after death. When Dr. Hodge apologizes for a conscientious Jew that "what he, through national prejudice, may have failed to appreciate was not the real Christ, but a distorted reflection cast by the so-called Christian world of the day," he admits a principle upon which conclusions may be based, which we are sure, he would not accept. There are many others failing to acknowledge Christ who may hope to be excused at last on similar grounds. A distorted image of Christ lies indeed in the minds of all men to whom the Holy Spirit has not revealed him.
Our general objection to all these views which makes the entrance into heaven more wide and easy than the straight and narrow way of the gospel is that, in order to make room for such high-minded souls to escape from everlasting torment, they lower the claims of God's holiness. This is far worse than the view that, after judgment, resurrection will open out to such another door of hope. For this view may be held without any abatement of the testimony of Scripture that without holiness no man shall see the Lord, that our God is a consuming fire, and that there is no other name given under heaven or among men whereby we must be saved.
"There is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known. What I tell you in darkness, speak ye in light; and what ye hear in the ear, preach ye upon the housetops." Matt. 10:26,27.
The greater portion of divine truth has been expressed under cover, so that its full import is not always discernable. The Bible abounds in symbols, figures and allegories, and the same is as true of Jesus' teachings as of any other portions of the Word. He opened his mouth in parables and dark sayings, so that those who heard him, and even his disciples, often said, We cannot tell what he saith. But the above assurance of Jesus is that all will in due time be made manifest.
Several objects have been served by the hiding, and gradual unfolding of truth – first, the successful development of God's plan; secondly, the saving of his children from discouragement because of the length of time involved; thirdly, the trial of the faith of those who believe.
The revealing of truth, as we have seen, has gradually progressed from age to age, and God's children in every age have had a sufficient revelation of truth to enable them to carry out their part of his plan, including such knowledge of future things as would encourage and help them. It has also been a part of God's plan that truth once revealed, expounded, or made manifest, should not be lost or forgotten, but that it should be treasured up and recorded for the generations following. Hence, all his children of every age have been taught to bear witness to the truth, both to their own and succeeding generations, according to their ability and opportunity. And it is through the faithfulness of past witnesses – the Patriarchs, Prophets, Jesus, the Apostles, and some of later date, that we have our present knowledge.
To us, as to them, comes the commission – "What I tell you in darkness, speak ye in light; and what ye hear in the ear, preach ye upon the housetops." With the blessed knowledge always comes the responsibility of making it known. Strange to say, the good news is seldom well-received, and never has been. It is hated, ridiculed and rejected by those it comes to bless; and those who bear witness to the truth are persecuted, many of them even unto death. This has been the case in every age. Every witness has to some extent suffered for his testimony, and it is still the case. When all is revealed, nothing will remain covered; then the knowledge of the Lord shall fill the whole earth. Every type, and figure, and parable, and dark saying will in due time bear a testimony to all.
And while it will be thus with the truth, it will also be true of those who bear the truth, and indeed of all men, good and bad; for there is no character now covered that shall not be revealed. Upright and godly characters are now hidden under misunderstanding and misrepresentation, while many base and detestable characters are hidden under a fair, deceiving exterior. "The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord....If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more them of his household."
It is a matter of comparatively small concern what men may say of us now. They will say hard things of us even against their own convictions, though not unfrequently because they believe them; and this the faithful witness must endure; and while he should take heed to let the light of truth shine through a transparent character and a clear and positive testimony, he may commit his way unto the Lord, for "he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noon-day." "Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him." Psa. 37:5,6,7.
In the issue of Feb., '85, it was shown from Bible testimony that character will in every case in due time be revealed and meet its just recompense. The masks will all be taken off, and every man will be estimated both by God and man according to the real merit of his motives. Already we see this revealing of character and motives in the church. Trial and persecution for the truth's sake is making it manifest. For instance, how many whose works once led us to esteem them as very zealous for the Lord's cause, now prove to be rejectors and even opposers of his truth, because of its unpopularity. Such declare plainly that their chief incentive to good works is the praise of men, or the success of some sect or scheme of their own. What a low incentive, and how unworthy of a child of God. But they have their reward, while we choose to wait for ours. And so says Paul: [R801 : page 6] "Every man's work shall be made manifest; for the day [of trial] shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire [trial]; and the fire shall try every man's work, of what sort it is." 1 Cor. 3:13.
Those found worthy in the trial, whose motives are those of true zeal and love for the Lord's cause, will receive the great reward. For such characters he is now searching and applying the tests. In similar ways character will be made manifest in every case in due time. It is particularly true now of the Church, because this is its day of trial; and it will be true of the world also in its judgment or trial day – the Millennial age.
And further, not only will the character and motives of every man appear in their true light, and the truths of the Bible, hitherto covered and hidden under types and symbols and dark sayings, be revealed, but truth in every sense must be made manifest. The truths of nature, God's other great book, will also come to light, and are coming to light now more rapidly than ever before, [see last two issues, "The Undefiled One,"] and science and God's written revelation will be seen to be at perfect agreement; both being ordained for the blessing and elevation of mankind. The light from our Lord's presence will probe and penetrate every secret thing, rewarding the good and purging out the evil. Already men are beginning to be blessed by the increasing light on every subject. God's due time has come to turn on the light, and it is touching every department of human interest – religion, science, philosophy and art. In religion it is revealing the true and exposing the false. Every branch of science and philosophy has already felt its genial touch. Notice, for instance, the great advancement in the science of medicine, and how the world is being blessed by it; the great discoveries in nature and the wonderful inventions of art. Mark also the growth of general intelligence and the blessings it is bringing with it.
Yes, the truth – the light – is God's means of blessing. Praise and honor and thanksgiving to him who is turning on the light! Time was when it was but a faint, glimmering ray – and, thank God, the world was never left without a ray – but according to his infinite wisdom and love he has been turning it up higher and higher age after age, and now he has sent his Anointed, the great source of light, and soon the blessed rays of light shall flood the world. It is only obscured now by the clouds and darkness that are round about him; but even through the darkness comes the lightning flashes of his truth.
To be humble is not to think meanly of one's self. Christ was humble; but he knew he was Lord and Master, and told his disciples so. To be humble is, knowing your character and abilities, to be willing to take a lower place, and perform a menial service. A private may know more than his superior officer; he is humble if, knowing that, he is willing to work faithfully under him.
THE world is preparing day by day for the Millennium, but you do not see it. Every season forms itself a year in advance. The coming summer lays out her work during the autumn, and buds and roots are fore-spoken. Ten million roots are pumping in the streets; do you hear them? Ten million buds are forming in the axils of the leaves; do you hear the sound of the saw or the hammer? All next summer is at work in the world; but it is unseen by us, and so the kingdom of God cometh not with observation.
MY DEAR BROTHER: – Your letter of Aug. 28th came duly, for which receive my warmest thanks. I was both strengthened and refreshed by it. Just at the time it arrived I was well nigh weary of "the way," fightings without and fears within; finding that when I would do good, evil is present with me, and being defeated at nearly every point. I find now that I had left my place of security – abiding in him – and therefore was exposed to the wiles and malice of the enemy. My armor was not firmly buckled on; but he has so tenderly and lovingly quickened me through your letter and restored unto me the "joy of his salvation," and is now upholding me, that I am as a giant refreshed and more conscious than ever that he that watcheth over Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps. Blessed be his name.
I inclose a pamphlet for your perusal, and will tell you why I wrote it. I was a member of the "Brethren," and as such used occasionally to give a "Gospel address" on Sunday evening at their meeting. I know now that it was not the truth that I preached, but tradition. For a long time my mind had been exercised concerning the truth of orthodoxy, and on one Sunday evening in the spring I went and preached upon 2 Cor. 4:3-6, dwelling particularly on the fact that the Bible was the Gospel referred to. That was the third time in a few weeks that I had spoken about the same words, insisting that it was the truth or else a forgery – no middle path. During the following week the truth shone clear; the eyes of my understanding being opened I saw clearly that eternal "torment" was blasphemy. During that same week I was invited to address a meeting on the following Sunday. I knew not what to do; if I went it would be out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth would speak; but being afraid that I might cause confusion, and so hinder the reception of the truth, I cried to the Lord for guidance, and decided not to go without first acquainting the brother who invited me of my change of views, knowing that Paul "saw them that were of reputation privately, lest he had run in vain," and also that although free from the error, I was not then, as now, built up in the truth and able to offer clear evidence for my decision. This led to a correspondence and some interviews. I showed my evidence, and they called it false doctrine. I asked one to read "Food;" he did so, and tried to prove it wrong, but failed.
I was counseled to send in my resignation. At first I had intended merely to say that my views were changed concerning certain doctrines, and that I resigned; but thinking it would be a good opportunity for boldly declaring what I believed to be the truth, and to witness for it, I wrote the enclosed paper, and on showing it to my brother, who has been quickened by the truth, and who is as devoted to the cause as myself, he expressed a wish to have it printed, and bore all the expense of 1,000 copies for free circulation. I put in an extract from the TOWER, as it bore so pointedly on the subject, and trust you will approve of my attempt to spread abroad the truth by referring the readers to the TOWER for further reading. I have enclosed two copies, and shall be most grateful if you will please correct anything that you perceive wrong there, and return it at your earliest convenience. I may add that my resignation was not accepted by the "Brethren," but they held a church meeting and solemnly excommunicated me. But "What shall separate us from the love of Christ?"
Very truly yours in Christ,
The article below is in substance the Tract published by the Brother to which reference is made in the above letter. It brought we are sure a blessing upon the Brother who wrote, and also upon the Brother who had it published, as every sacrifice of time and money made purely for the truth's sake brings a blessing on the sacrificer.
This Brother's case reminds us forcibly of Jesus' words in Luke 18:13,14. Though steeped in sin, he was more easily reached by God's Word than many Pharisaic professors about him covered with the filthy rags of self-righteousness, and bound and blinded by the human tradition of some popular sect. Thank God that the day is dawning, in which all this blindness and the blinding influences will be removed forever.
To the Reader. – My mind having been greatly exercised by the following doctrines of so called "Orthodoxy," I searched to see what the Scriptures say, with the following result. When I penned these lines, I had no intention whatever of having them printed, as they were simply written to send to the pastor of the Chapel where I used to worship, but showing them to a brother in Christ, he expressed his wish to have them printed. This has been done, in the hope that any who have been seeking for the truth, may by the grace of God, be assisted in finding it, and realize as I myself do most gratefully, "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."
I am yours in the love of God, and in the glorious liberty of the gospel of Christ,
I find no scripture to lead me to believe this doctrine; quite the reverse, man is never described as having an endless existence. "Your fathers, where are they, and the prophets, do they live forever?" Zech. 1:5, and as to man having a conscious existence after the breath leaves the body, I do not believe it, not until the resurrection, "for in death there is no remembrance of thee." Psalm 6:5. "His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth, in that very day his thoughts perish." Psalm 14:6, "There is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave whither thou goest." Eccles. 9:10. "Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was, and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it. Eccles. 12:7. "If Christ be not raised, ye are yet in your sins, then they also which have fallen asleep in Christ are perished.... what advantageth it me if the dead rise not, let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die." 1 Cor. 15:17,18,32. If there is consciousness after the breath leaves the body, there should have been consciousness before the breath entered in, (kindly examine this). I know that Luke 16:23-31, may be argued against this, but are you sure that our Lord is speaking of individuals here and not nations, Jewish and Gentile. He was speaking to the Pharisees, verses 14,15, kindly compare rich man, verse 19, (Jewish nation), with Ezekiel 16:1-14, and the same denunciation is uttered in Matt. 21:41-43, and its accomplishment recorded in Rom. 11. Abraham's bosom, (place of favor); Gentile brought in, Israel broken off, and a gulf fixed, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. The Jews as a nation are dead, and being cast abroad in the earth, they are being tormented in the flame of persecution. Wherever they are, there is being fulfilled the prophecy of Moses, and our Lord Jesus, Deut. 8:19,20, Deut. 28:62-68. The Gentile also ceased to be a beggar, (poor) and they were brought into a place of favor, (for description of Gentiles as beggars or dogs, see narrative of Syro-Phoenician woman, Matt. 15:20-28). Immortality is one of the promised blessings, and is not possessed by natural man, else if possessed by him, why seek for it? Compare Rom. 2:7 with 1 Cor. 15:53,54.
I find no Scriptural proof of this doctrine quite the reverse. "To us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him." 1 Cor. 8:6. I am convinced that God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ are two beings, not one. I find no Scripture speaking of the Lord Jesus as "God the Son," but as the "Son of God." Part of 1 John 5:7, is evidently spurious (left out in the Revised Version), and manifestly inserted to support the doctrine of the Trinity. In John 8:16-18, he says, "I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent me. It is also written in your law the testimony of two men is true, I am one that bear witness of myself, and the Father that sent me beareth witness of me." You may quote "I and my Father are one," undoubtedly they are one in purpose and nature, but not in being, and he also prayed that the members of his body "all may be one in us" (John 17:21), even as we are one (verse 22). So "God is light;" Christ said, "I am the light of the world," also "ye are the lights of the world," all partaking of the same nature, but not one in being, and differing in degree.
Were I to believe that God and Christ are one being, I am shut in to the fact that all the members of the body of Christ will ultimately lose all personal identity in Christ, and he in God. Or else if Christ be equal with God, as the members of his body will have glorious bodies like his (Phil. 3:21), be co-heirs with him (Rom. 8:17), have power with him (Rev. 2:26, and 3:21), and be partakers also of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4); in fact to be like him (1 John 3:2), they will eventually be equal with God too. Such creature glorifying, and God dishonoring doctrine is not of God, according to 1 Cor. 15:27,28 – "For he hath put all things under his feet." But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted who did put all things under him, and when all things are subdued unto him, then shall the Son himself be subject unto him, that put all things under him, that God may be all in all. His equality is plainly taught in authorized version of Phil. 2:6; "Who being in the form of God (spiritual form), thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but in margin of the Revised Version and in note at end, where the American translators retain the marginal reading of this same passage, the exact opposite meaning is given – he "counted not the being on an equality with God a thing to be grasped." This is in harmony with the whole passage and the result, verse 9 – "God also [R803 : page 6] hath highly exalted him." Had he been on an equality with God before, how could he have been highly exalted after? This harmonizes too with Prov. 8:24. "When there were no depths I was brought forth." Col. 1:15. "The firstborn (chief) of every creature." Rev. 3:14 – "The beginning of the creation of God." John 1:1 – "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." This is clearly explained in 1 Cor. 8:5,6 – "For though there be, that are called Gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many), yet to us there is but one God the Father," and the same word in the original, "Theos," I see is used in 2 Cor. 4:4, in reference to Satan as the god or ruler of this age; so there is no conflict, but harmony. And in John 5:18, the Jews asserted, that he made himself equal with God, which he most emphatically denied in verse 19: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, the Son can do nothing of himself." Now use that expression in reference to the Father, and the denial is apparent. Would any say [R803 : page 7] of the Father, "the Father can do nothing of himself?"
I find no Scriptural evidence for this anywhere. In Acts 20:7, a meal is evidently spoken of, as in chap. 2:42-46. I find no command or example from our Lord or any of his Apostles, for a weekly observance; and I am convinced it is a yearly observance. In 1 Cor. 5:7,8 – "Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us, let us keep the feast." Our Lord altered the manner, but not the time. The early church met on the first day of the week. – John 20:19, but no mention is made of the feast. In Luke 22:15, the Lord said, "With desire have I desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer;" verse 19, – "this do in remembrance of me," verse 22 – "this cup is the new testament" or covenant. How often the old covenant was to be celebrated is plainly stated, Ex. 13:10, "Thou shalt therefore keep this ordinance in his season, from year to year," and as He has not altered the time, I dare not. Paul said, "as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show forth the Lord's death till he come." The cup was not mentioned in connection with the First-day gatherings and meals in the accounts in Acts. And as Israel, when they ate the passover yearly, did show forth the death of the lamb, their passover, so with us in the antitype: we do show forth that which was accomplished by which God in justice passes over us; and as there is but one anniversary of a birth or a death in a year, how strange to celebrate it weekly. And though we are not commanded to observe it at all, we being not under THE LAW, but under favor, yet it is our privilege or favor to observe the ANNIVERSARY.
1st. – If eternal torment is the punishment of the ungodly or finally impenitent sinner, then he who took the sinners' place must bear the sinners' penalty (Isa. 53:6 – "The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all), viz.: eternal torment; and as Christ did not bear that (eternal torment), what does it say then but that Christ was not the sinners' substitute. Such a gospel as that, though an angel from heaven should preach it, I dare not believe it. But what do the Scriptures say but that "the wages of sin is death," that "Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures," as he explained to the disciples going to Emmaus. (Luke 24:25-27.) Yes, thanks be to our God, "he came to seek and save that which was lost." Mankind had lost life. The sentence of death having passed on all men, he said, "My flesh will I give for the life of the world." The Psalmist is clear on this point: "Who redeemeth thy life from destruction." (Psa. 103:4.) So, as by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead" (1 Cor. 15:21); "some to a resurrection of life (glorified), and some to a resurrection of judgment (discipline) (John 5:29) – not damnation, as in the old version, but judgment (discipline), as in the revised version. Then, and not till then, will be the world's probation; then, in the time of restitution (Acts 3:21-23), "he that will not hear that prophet (Christ) shall be destroyed (second death) from among the people; not preserved in torments and disobedience, but utterly destroyed – everlasting punishment – DEATH being the wages or punishment.
2d. – What a door is opened to the atheist by this horrible doctrine, eternal torment. He will argue thus, and rightly, too: You represent that God is just, yet when he sends his Son in the flesh to bear the punishment for sin (Isa. 53:6), his sufferings terminate at death, but the sinner's go on through the eternal ages.
3d. – Weak Christians may reason thus: If eternal torment is the punishment for sin, as Christ did not bear that, how do I know but what I shall have to suffer it? But thanks be to our God, he can be just, yet the justifier of him that believeth on Jesus. The sentence was death, my dear Lord and Master died that I might live, and he gave his word, that believing, I might have life through his name (John 20:31); and, thank God, this is the word by which the gospel is preached unto you. (1 Pet. 1:25).
"These words are usually given a very uncertain meaning. Wrong ideas relative to their meaning produce erroneous views of subjects with which they stand connected in general and scriptural use. The definition of mortal is a state or condition of being liable to death, not a condition of death, but a condition in which death is a possibility. The common but erroneous idea of mortal is a state or condition in which death is unavoidable. The common definition of immortal is more nearly correct. The word immortal signifies not mortal, hence the very construction of the words indicates their true definition. It is because of the prevalence of a wrong idea of the meaning of the word mortal, that so many are confused when trying to determine whether Adam was mortal or immortal before the transgression. 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 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 is 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 element 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 speculation out of the question. He was promised a continuance of the blessing then enjoyed so long as obedient, and threatened with destruction if disobedient. Nowhere in Scripture is it stated that man is 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 term which these translate.
Some years ago a dear friend of mine wrote to me, saying he had 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 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, (the Millennial day). I said that this light that had broken in 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 candor, 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 for ever. In a day or so a note came informing me that my proposal was accepted; that many passages in God's word, stated that man was an immortal being, and that he would prepare a list of them for me. I knew full well he could not prepare such a list; however, I waited patiently to see what he would further say. About a fortnight after I received a letter inviting me very urgently [R804 : page 7] to go and see my friend, for he found himself in a dreadful difficulty regarding the task he had undertaken. Being able to arrange it I paid the requested visit. I never shall 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 man. He further said that the few passages which at all give 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." HOW HAD HE COME TO SEE IT? 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. Then throwing all prejudice overboard, he had sought Truth, and was rewarded. He was, by the truth, made free from former error.
Should any readers desire further reading matter on these and other long neglected Truths, they may obtain it "free" by addressing,
DEAR BROTHER R__________: – I want advice. It is the desire of my heart to come over and see and talk with you and profit by your instructions; but at present that is impossible, but I may hope to some day (God willing); but as I cannot see you I will do the next best thing, that is write for help. Before I was converted I was a great rascal – gambler, drunkard, thief; but when brought to the knowledge that Jesus had died for me, that his precious blood cleansed me from all sin, I rejoiced in his salvation and was happy.
Some months after at a meeting a sister quoted the words, "Owe no man any thing," and said that if any had stolen anything previous to their conversion (doubtless thinking they had not done so after) they should replace it. I had never heard of this before, and was greatly disturbed. I had robbed my father and many others. I was in London at the time, and wrote immediately and told my father of my misdeeds. He was aware of them, to a certain extent. I knew not the full amount myself, as it was over a series of years; but I confessed as fully as I knew how, and he very kindly answered that whatever I had robbed him of he freely forgave me, and ever since then I think he has looked upon me as rather weak in mind. I went to some, and repaid and wrote to others. Among others was the Metropolitan Street Railroad Company of Boston, U.S.A. I was conductor of one of their cars for ten months, and defrauded them of a considerable amount; I know not how much.
Just then a work of C.G. Finney, the American revivalist, was placed in my hands. Therein he said that unless everything was returned that had been stolen (as far as the memory would serve) God could not forgive the sinner. I was nearly mad, my joy vanished, I was entangled in the bondage of the law, and for three days was distracted; until a dear brother came and conversed with me, and the bonds were cut asunder. I wrote acknowledging my fault to the M.R.R. Co., Boston, saying that although I had not the means then, should I ever have it I would send such a sum as would assuredly cover all my theft. I cried to the Lord to teach me his way, and enquired of all who I thought could help me, and although many gave their opinion, some one way and some another, yet none offered me evidence to convince me from the Scriptures, and that is my present difficulty. The question is, "What is our Father's will in this case?" The evidence, to my understanding, is conflicting. Mind, dear brother, I do not say the evidence is conflicting, but only that, to my mind, it is; and I want my understanding enlightened to know the will of God more perfectly. Paul said, "Let him that stole, steal no more; but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing that is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth." (Eph. 5:28.) And although the Lord Jesus commended Zaccheus for restoration, that was under the old dispensation, as the sacrifice was not yet offered, and so the full benefit was not enjoyed according to Heb. 9:14-17, and as they that believe are justified from all things "without works," all covered by the precious blood (sacrificed life) of Jesus. I have thought thus, as God says, "Your sins and iniquities I will remember no more," can it be that he, by his Spirit, is leading me to think of restoring, and in doing so try to add to the work of Jesus? or is it the enemy, as an angel of light, bringing me into bondage again and casting a slur on his work of redemption. (Heb. 9:14,15.) I have acted thus; when my Lord bought me he bought me thefts and all, and to him I owe this, for I through law am dead to the law, and I have by his grace acted upon Eph. 5:28, as he has given me more than to supply our need, myself and family, so have I distributed it according to the best of my judgment, not having saved anything whatever. But I am not at rest; I want "Thus saith the Lord," and that alone will satisfy. There are many that I know that are in the same difficulty. Could you find room in the TOWER for an article on this? You are perfectly at liberty to use this information in any way you please, not even keeping back the name, if you think that by doing so the Master will be honored. It is the crime I am ashamed of, not the confession of it. I have often thought if restoration is our Father's will, what a life of bondage a converted thief would have, in most cases utterly unable to restore, and with a heavy load all his days. Can it be so, or is it, "If the Son make you free, ye are free indeed"? Praying our heavenly Father to uphold you in every way, and give you boldness to speak the truth, and to preserve you to the end, I am, dear brother, your's very affectionately in the best of bonds,
DEAR BROTHER: Your confession and abhorrence of former sins and your tenderness of conscience, relative to your duty in the matter of making restitution [R804 : page 8] for wrongs done by you in the past, is to us a refreshing evidence of your present spirit being holy – in harmony with God's Spirit or mind on the subject.
In my mind, we should consider the teaching of the above Scriptures to be that when you entered into Christ – when you, realizing your justification in God's sight through the ransom given by Jesus, consecrated or sacrificed yourself wholly to his service, then all things past were reckoned DEAD – past hopes, aims, debts and ALL. You were from that moment, in God's sight, a "new creature," free through Christ's ransom from all things past, and bound by your covenant of sacrifice to a new service. Old things then passed away, and all things, so far as you were concerned, became NEW by this your reckoned death.
You should treat your former self, and all claims against it, as though you were actually dead. And from that standpoint I suggest that you take an account of all your property of every kind, and so far as it goes, use it in making restitution to those whom your former self had wronged, and then start out anew. This, of course, applies specially to wrongs such as that against the railroad company mentioned, and would not, in my judgment, apply to any debts contracted for your sustenance and clothing: these should be paid in full, as they were personal favors which you contracted for your necessities.
In this connection, too, it should be remembered that the very object of this reckoned cancellation of former liabilities is, that you may be reckoned henceforth a "new creature" in the service of another – Christ. Therefore if your time future shall be spent in labor for earthly wealth or superfluous comforts or luxuries, thus renouncing virtually the new life of sacrifice, now proposed and commenced, THEN you would be no longer free from the above-mentioned obligations: for inasmuch as your former self would thereby be revived, brought to life again, its debts and obligations come to life also. In either case, you are accountable for those debts and wrongs so long as you live to human aims and ambitions; and only freed when you become dead toward these and alive in the service of God as a new creature. Nothing but death cancels such an obligation so far as man is concerned. Your responsibility ends when you have made restitution to the extent of your ability at the time of your reckoned death. Christ, to whose service you give yourself, agrees to cancel all your debts of every kind, to God and man, which you are unable to settle when entering his service. And in the blessings of the Millennium, he will far more than compensate the world for all such obligations of those who entered his service. This line of reasoning harmonizes with that of the Apostle. Compare Rom. 7:4 with Gal. 2:18-21.
Nor would we advise you to publish or expose the errors of your former self as you would not expose needlessly the faults of any dead man. Send what money you have to send privately to those whom you alone know that you have wronged. When you came to the [R805 : page 8] Lord you confessed to him, and have representatively confessed to the Church also, as we are exhorted "confess your faults to one another."
This rule is recognized in our civil laws. A debt or a crime, so far as man is concerned, cannot reach us beyond death, and whatever he possesses may be claimed by his creditors; but his offspring are not held responsible. The Apostle's words are in place here as indicating your duty. "Let him that stole steal no more; but rather let him labor with his hands, that he may have to give." The case of Zaccheus was commended by Jesus, not because of the dispensation, but because true repentance must always be accompanied by restitution for the wrong to the extent of one's ability. Had Zaccheus not made restitution it would have been proof that his repentance was not sincere, for he had wherewith to repair the wrongs done. In your case you must do the same; i.e., make restitution to the extent of your ability; then you are free from all the remainder if you are never able to do more, BECAUSE OF service to Christ as his steward and servants, possessing only time, money and talent, reckoned his and being used in his service. May the Master bless you, and own and abundantly bless your endeavors to serve him according to your covenant. May you be not only dead to self and the world reckonedly, but I pray that the spirit of truth may more and more vivify or quicken your mortal body in God's service (Rom. 8:11), and thus may you be prepared for the fullness of the divine nature when the present mortal body shall give place to a spiritual and immortal one, in which you can serve the Lord perfectly.
Ques. – Since Jesus taught in the Jewish synagogues, should not we remain in and use what opportunities we can find for advancing truth in and with the various sects of today. Paul was a Pharisee, should not we be joined to the sects also?
Ans. – The Jewish Church was composed in God's sight of Israelites indeed, but the Nominal Jewish church included the whole nation and embraced various factions or sects. The SECTS were not the Jewish Church, nor did Jesus or the apostles ever belong to those factions. Paul was indeed a member of the sect of the Pharisees, but from the moment of his conversion to Christ, he never affiliated with them, and only once owned the name when his life was apparently in danger, and his faith must have trembled. Then he did not lie, since the membership in the Pharisee sect was not so "tight" an affair as is membership in modern sects. He needed not to formally disconnect himself, and might without untruth refer either to his birth, or as in this case, he did refer to one feature of the doctrine of the Pharisees which was noted, and which agreed with the truth of the Gospel, viz., the doctrine of "the resurrection," and as touching this question, Paul held the views of Pharisees, though in a wider and more positive degree than they.
The Lord's mission was twofold, viz., to Israel and to the World; to Israel first was he presented to give the true Israelites the privilege of becoming "Sons" (spiritual), and to as many as received him, to them gave he liberty to become the sons of God – as many as believed on His name, which the Pharisee and Sadducee sects REJECTED.
As a matter of fact, the Nominal Jewish church was flourishing and wealthy in Jesus' day, and the members many, while the TRUE Jewish Church, as God regarded it, was small – few, poor and despised among them. Thus, "wheat and chaff" were together until their age was fully ripe and Jesus came to reap it. John, his forerunner, preached this "harvest message," saying, Repent! Reform! to the false and chaff-like. He added, Now, also, the axe is laid to the root of the tree, and every tree not bearing good fruit must be cut down and cast into the fire (of trouble and dissolution). He added, "There cometh one after me" (a Reaper and Garnerer) "whose fan is in his hand. He will thoroughly purge his floor. He will gather the wheat into his garner and burn up the chaff," etc.
John's prophecy was fulfilled. Jesus and the disciples did a reaping and harvesting winnowing and separating work never done in that nominal system before, because only then were the fields white and the reapers sent forth to do their work.
For a little while Jesus was able to enter the synagogues as a real Jew, but of none of the sects, but the synagogues being in the hands of sectarians, this soon ceased, and he not only could no longer teach the people in the synagogues controlled by sectarians, but he dared not walk (travel) in Jewry except at certain times when "the people" outnumbered and somewhat overawed the rulers and sectarians. Neither were Jesus' disciples allowed synagogue privileges. (See John 9:34. Compare v. 22.)
When the blind man was CAST OUT for confessing Jesus, then it was that Jesus "found him" and graciously revealed himself more and more unto him, while the blind sectarians who retained control of the synagogues were the more blinded by their own prejudices. See verse 39.
This result was but what Jesus had predicted early in his ministry. See Luke 6:22. The favor during which the trial or harvesting was to last was "one week" of years as predicted by the prophet Daniel and as fulfilled. Seven years from the beginning of Jesus' ministry in the midst of which he was cut off and the work "cut short." It was three and a half years so far as the Nominal Jewish Church was concerned, for the remaining three and a half were used merely for the benefit of Israelites indeed who were appealed to SAVE THEMSELVES FROM [out] that perverse generation. Acts 2:40.
Yes, it was just five days before his crucifixion that Jesus formally rejected the Jewish Church Nominal. See Matt. 23:32-39, especially 36-39. In sending forth the Apostles after his resurrection, the Law and the Jewish Church was ignored. "Go ye into all the world and preach this gospel to every creature." But he bade them begin at Jerusalem because three and a half years of Israel's favor time was yet unexpired.
The Pharisees were born sons of Abraham, but Jesus and the Father recognized them as controlled by the devil in their sectarian blindness and prejudice and hypocritical maneuvering, praying, etc. He denounced them, and warned all their sectarian followers that they were being blinded and led astray by blind leaders of the blind. And Jesus and the Apostles did not fellowship these wolves. No sane man will claim that Jesus held communion and fellowship with such whited walls and sepulchres full of all manner of uncleanness. Nor were they really members of the Jewish Church though they controlled the synagogues. Jesus, the Apostles and followers and the man blind from birth, were members of the REAL Jewish Church "separated" from the company of the sectarians in the "harvest" by their advocacy of the TRUTHS THEN DUE. They were not separated from the real TRUE Jewish Church, but merely from the Nominal sectarian systems. They continued to be the real Church, and because obedient to truth to the extent of being "cast out" they were finally ELEVATED a step higher and became the gospel or Christian Church.
During this age wheat and tares grow together UNTIL the "harvest" – the end or closing period of this age. And here, NOW, in this harvest greater and more important changes are to take place, inasmuch as this is the higher or antitypical age of which the Jewish was but the foreshadowing.
Here, as at the former harvest, separation is the "harvest" WORK in order. But the Lord does not call on us to come out of THE CHURCH. Oh, no; ALL consecrated and obedient saints ARE THE CHURCH and we must not come out of it. It is "HIS BODY" and we must and do retain our membership in it. From what then do we separate? We separate from the Nominal sectarian systems which now rule the synagogues and stifle (even more than did their prototypes, the Pharisees and Scribes), and hinder free expression or examination of truth – all not in accordance with the "doctors of the Law."
From these all will be driven if obedient to the truth. The truth makes evident their untruth – so that which we are out of, separate from, is not from the Head; hence, not from the true body, but from false systems and sectarian bodies who, while acknowledging Jesus and his doctrines, really put (as did the sects at the first advent), the traditions (creeds, etc.) of men in place of God's word, and thus make void the word of God.
In harmony with these thoughts is the command of Revelation, "Come out of HER my people," not out of the real but out of the Nominal Church, the mystery of error and iniquity, Babylon the great, the mother, of harlots and the daughters as well.