No. 151 Robinson St., Allegheny, Pa.
C. T. RUSSELL, EDITOR.
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.
TERMS: – FIFTY CENTS A YEAR, POSTAGE FREE. Including special number (Millennial Dawn, Vol. I., paper bound) seventy five cents. Remit by draft, P.O. Money Order, or Registered Letter, payable to C. T. RUSSELL.
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.
DAWN VOL. II. will not be ready for several months. It will be duly mentioned in these columns. We hope that at least one hundred thousand copies of Vol. I. will be in the hands of the people by the time Vol. II. is ready.
BUSINESS ORDERS should be separate from balance of your letter. Write very plainly and give full address in each letter. By wording your orders very exactly our time is saved from hunting and guessing, and thus the general cause is forwarded by such care.
You will be pleased to learn that the seventieth thousand is now in the binder's hands. The sixty thousand already in circulation are nearly all out as the result of personal efforts on the part of those who love the truth and delight to serve it. The influence of many is exerted to hinder and oppose the book, and is sufficient to keep it out of book stores generally. As always, such are "grieved that we teach the people." Thus, and in every conceivable way, professed servants of truth oppose and hinder its spread and endeavor to keep the truth hungry of the flock from the green pastures, from the "meat in due season." But praise God, it is shining more and more; and every consecrated one who sees the light lets it shine as the Chief-Shepherd instructed. Each seems to realize himself a minister (servant) of the truth, and each looks up his Christian friends, writes to them, and sends them DAWN and TOWERS. And thus God is having the truth, the "good tidings," preached to every "Israelite indeed in whom is no guile," notwithstanding the opposition of the clergy, who, from their office and profession, should be the very ones to sound the Jubilee trump to our dear brethren and sisters. God's blessing is with you; greater is he that is on our side than all that be against us. The Chief Reaper in this harvest is with us, and every true grain of wheat will soon be separated from the chaff and tares – then all the faithful shall shine forth as the Sun in the Kingdom of our Father (Matt. 13:43), and the great work of blessing and healing and enlightening the world will begin. That will be our glorious triumph, for which we can well afford to wait and to endure hardness now as good soldiers. It will consist in blessing and informing many who now oppose us and the truth.
The following at our request is from our dear Brother Tackabury, whom old readers of the TOWER remember as formerly a Methodist minister, who was made free from sectarian bondage by the blessed harvest truth. Subsequently he was engaged with us in the important, though personally obscure field of labor of Z.W.T., where he did efficient service in preaching the blessed gospel by letter and otherwise to many of the scattered saints, holding up Christ as the one altogether lovely while self was kept in the background.
Dear Brethren and Sisters – readers of ZION'S WATCH TOWER: – It has been my privilege to enjoy Christian fellowship with some of you by personal association, and I believe that to all of you I am united by that tie (love) that binds together the children of God everywhere, in one family.
To know that my dear brethren and sisters thus kindly think of me alleviates my sufferings and enables me the more cheerfully to endure affliction. It is now more than two years since I was attacked with a difficulty of the throat and lungs, and though I was quite thorough in its treatment, none of the remedies used gave more than temporary relief; and from the first, my physicians held out but little hope for my recovery.
At times during this period I have been very much prostrated, and it seemed that my change could not be far off, but to the surprise of all who know my condition, I have as often rallied and nearly recovered the strength in which the attack found me.
During the whole of may sickness the Lord has been present to sustain me, and I have been enabled at all times to say from the heart, "Thy will, not mine, be done." At times the thought of being "forever with the Lord," makes me long for the end of the warfare and the union with Jesus our head, and all the "elect" – members of his body.
How glorious thus to be permitted to enter on the work for which he has called and is perfecting his Church! On the other hand, when I know that error is being preached so persistently from almost every pulpit in this land, and throughout Christendom, and that great efforts are being made to spread these errors among the heathen nations, I long for strength to raise my voice for the truth. But the decree has gone forth that the darkness of error shall give place to the light of truth, and whoever may fail, the work will go on till all God's promises shall be fulfilled.
That each one of the saints may be faithful and lay hold on the grace that is sufficient, is the prayer of your fellow-traveler in the narrow way.
It is surprising in this day of comparatively independent thought, how willingly and stupidly some submit themselves to the yokes of sectarian bondage. But the following is a sample of how some do so. Had the apostles and early disciples acted so, they could not have believed or followed Christ. No more can such follow him to-day. The blind, and the leaders of the blind, shall together fall into the ditch, into the "great tribulation" shortly to overtake them.
The harvest of the age is upon us; but the blind guides of Babylon are utterly indifferent, even when their attention is called to it, and the stupid indifference of those whom they have effectually rocked to sleep is utterly unworthy of the knowledge. Surely the thunder-bolts of His wrath will be necessary to awaken them.
DEAR FRIEND: – It is now some months since you were kind enough to forward to my address the Millennial Dawn, Vol. I., Plan of the Ages. Immediately on its receipt I placed it in the hands of my spiritual adviser, Rev. T. M. Lowry, (I am a Presbyterian in faith.) to know if I could place it in the hands of my wife and children. He only returned it to me yesterday, and advised me not to do so. Consequently I now return it to you, with many thanks. Very truly yours,
How strongly in contrast with the above is the following, which came in the same mail. It reminds us forcibly of Acts 17:11,12 – "These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind and searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so. Therefore many of them believed." (Compare with verses 2-6 and 13.)
DEAR FRIEND: – I have not yet fully read the entire volume (Millennial Dawn Vol. I.) but the spiritual benefit already received is untellable. The gates of the eternal kingdom have been opened wide to me, whereas before, the gates were but "ajar." I shall feel blessed indeed, if I have no other mission than utilizing the columns of my magazine to spread abroad the "glad tidings" of this "new revelation," and "Plan of the Ages." With deep respect, Yours fraternally,
DEAR BRO. RUSSELL: – Being busy all good weather have not had time to read "Sons of God," but only the letters and the forcible View in the February TOWER.
The thought of the height of Babylon's self-exaltation adding force to the fall is borne out by Rev. 18:7 – "How much she hath glorified herself and lived deliciously so much torment and sorrow give her, for she saith in her heart I sit a queen and am no widow and shall see no sorrow" (such as we see predicted and threatened here and elsewhere). I think all should read Isa. 45, 46 and 47, and Jer. 50 and 51, with Rev. 17th and 18th chapters.
A word about German DAWN. I think it right to pledge myself for 400 copies, or one fifth of the 2000 needing to be pledged and one twenty-fifth of the whole 10,000. I do not know how soon I can pay for the 400, but not before last of March and you must store them and send as I order. Hope I shall sell thousands of German DAWN.
In the Master's name I most heartily thank Bro. Zech for his patient toil of a consecrated spirit shown in his persevering labor on DAWN translating it into German. "My reward is with me," shows that Christ's reward to our dear brother is not only sure but will follow speedily.
Now I don't want to bother you, but I have completely "faced about" in the last year, and I want to tell you how it happened. Eight years ago, I began to practice medicine, and the study of medicine I believe has a tendency to infidelity, if the study of the Bible be neglected. I depended on the preachers for spiritual food, and they mixed it up so, it disgusted me, and I came near starving, and presume I would, if my wife had not come to the rescue. All through the "dark nights," my wife was on her knees, begging for bread for me. My confidence in my wife as a true and noble woman is replete, and biting my lips, I would yield to her request, and go down on my knees with her, sympathizing with, and pitying her delusion. But the crisis came. Hypocrisy in the churches, clashing of creeds, etc., all claiming a Bible basis, "boiled me over," and I said, what I pleased, even to the detriment of my profession. I affirmed this question in a debate, "That man is the author of God, and a spiritual future." But you know what I want to tell, so I will not bother relating all. I commenced the study of the Bible last October a year ago. First dismissing all creeds and notions of men, as well as prejudice, and with my wife on her knees asking divine guidance, I commenced the study of the New Testament. When I finished, the result was: I admired the pluck and tact and intelligence of Paul; but when I went to Genesis, all was dark, and like the "sow and dog," I was about to return, when I struck the prophets. This gave me a key to the whole thing. It was the hind site on the gospel gun, the New was the fore site, and Christ the mark, and before winter closed, I looked upon the Bible as a great store-house – an ocean, the springs of which are hid in the mountains of God's eternal love. I came to this conclusion: If I want to build a house, I take the tree and use it as I find it, for if I should wait to learn the origin of the first oak, or acorn, I might freeze before I build my house. So, with the Bible, I accept the material at hand, and use it.
After I was convinced, I wanted to be about my father's business, but not being willing to take passage on any of the boats, concluded I would swim over, and have been swimming around, doing all the good I can.
The "Dawn" came into my library just when I needed it. Since then I am giving to my patrons the "Plan of the Ages;" but I am not as popular as when I was an infidel, for they will not endure sound doctrine. I don't belong to any church, therefore could not get a hearing, if I undertake to preach, nor a house either, but I am going to lecture at a schoolhouse, and continue Christian work. But I must say it is a great comfort to know my Methodist wife who has suffered and agonized for me at a throne of mercy, joins heart and hand in helping me to promulgate the "Plan of the Ages."
I rejoice to know that there is a thirst for knowledge, and the world is clamoring for more light. I sometimes feel like launching out in the world, giving up my profession, and doing my little in lifting from the slough and cesspool of ignorance those over whom I have an influence. I never was an enthusiast in anything, and always aimed to take a stand, after reaching it by intelligence. But all the faculties of my soul are enlisted in this enterprise. I never experienced such a longing to go forth and "gather in the sheaves."
Excuse me for writing so much. I have unbosomed myself to you in a way that my pride almost condemns, but I can write to you feeling that our hearts beat in unison. May God bless and prosper you in all your efforts to do good.
MR. C. T. RUSSELL. DEAR BRO.: – I write to inform you, I have not yet received this January number of the TOWER, but as I did not send the number of my residence, that may account for it. I find it so precious, I can not afford to lose one number.
I have been a member of M.E. church for nearly a quarter of a century, sometimes rejoicing, but more of the time doubting. But blessed be the name of Christ, I have received some of the light that will erelong, I trust, shine to the perfect day. Through the kindness of Bro. P., I received a copy of Millennial Dawn, and I treasure it more than I ever did my Bible before receiving it, and my Bible is now more precious than ever before. May the blessed Father help you to spread the glad tidings, is my prayer.
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL: – Recent experiences have made exceedingly precious the word of the Lord through Peter – "Rejoice inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings...[and] if ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye, for the spirit of glory resteth on you."
On last Sunday forenoon I took my stand in front of Grace M.E. church, Harrisburg, Pa., and proceeded at once to give out the Arp tracts. This had the effect of making the rulers of the high places angry, two of them going so far as to threaten to have me arrested, and when I would not obey and go away, one caught me by the collar to hustle me off. Whereupon I told him to take his hand off me, or I could have him arrested. Then he stood between me and the people and told them not to take them, but they took them anyhow. His next move was to send in hot haste to the mayor's office for a policeman to arrest a man who, he said, was hindering the people from going into church. The officer came, and on their charge arrested me and brought me to the mayor's office, but by this time I had the entire congregation supplied with slips. Without any hearing or trial they were preparing, they said, to send me to jail; when I told them, I was well known by a number of prominent business men in their city, with whom I had done business as a traveling man for a New York house for years, and requested them to send for one gentleman near by who, I thought, would go my bail. They did so and the gentleman soon made his appearance and with a look of astonishment shook hands with me in the prisoners' box, inquiring, Why, how is this? The matter was soon explained and he immediately became my bail for $100.
At the hearing next day, they appeared against me. They well knew, however, that to charge me with giving out tracts that taught the people that an orthodox hell was a delusion, and that there was hope for all mankind, would be regarded as bigotry. That this was their real grievance, there can be no doubt. But they trumped up another charge that would take better and not expose them to ridicule, charging me with advertising a book and hindering the people from going into church.
The strange decision was, that I was the offending party, but should go free this time, upon paying the costs, which amounted [R1013 : page 2] to $1.50. Of course such a decision on such pretences could soon be proven unjust if brought into court, and I could claim heavy damages as against my personal rights and business interests, for being escorted through the streets as a common criminal, when I was violating no law of either God or man; but being a traveling man I have no time to attend to it. How it reminds me of the experience of Peter and John recorded in Acts 4:1-21. And how like them we feel like relating these experiences to each other for mutual sympathy, as we thus have fellowship with Christ in his sufferings – yet "light afflictions" indeed in consideration of the glory to follow. (See verses 23,29.) I expect to see you soon and tell you more, and how I expect this circumstance will redound to the glory of God. Blessed be God. My joy is indeed great in the Lord, and I realize my oneness with Christ as partaker of his suffering.
I remain yours in the one hope in Christ,
P.S. In consequence of this affair, I have had a number of opportunities which I could not otherwise have had, for explaining my position and preaching the glad tidings to interested hearers – in the mayor's office, several newspaper offices, and among business men of my acquaintance. And it has created quite a little stir and talk both among these and members of that church, some saying they must get that book and learn further of this matter. The Lord be praised. page 2
DEAR FRIEND: – I have read the book Millennial Dawn. It is grandly beautiful, yet so different from the interpretations of the various churches, to which I have been so long accustomed, that it almost frightens me to think of accepting it as God's interpretation of his own word, notwithstanding the fact that it does present a perfect chain of evidence more in harmony with the divine character than anything I ever read before.
I say to myself, What if this should be one of those "teaching new and strange doctrines?" But then, I reflect, it comes hand in hand with the Word, and is fighting against the errors that have crept into the church, and not against God.
From early childhood I have been a Bible reader, and often wondered that ministers of the gospel almost entirely ignored the prophecies of both Testaments relating to the Millennial age, and confined their remarks to the doctrines of repentance, baptisms, etc., when it seemed so plain to me that such did not cover the whole ground of prophecy. The doctrine of Christ embraces so much more than they attempted to explain. I never could bear the idea of setting the Old Testament aside just as though it had already performed all its part in the great plan, seeing, as I thought, so many grand prophecies pointing to a time beyond the Gospel Age. I could not tell when, where, nor how they would be fulfilled; but still clung to the belief that they must come in somewhere, because of the divine declaration that God's word shall not return unto him void, but shall accomplish all that he hath purposed. But, as I now begin to see, what more fitting time than the Millennial Age could there be for finishing all things pertaining to the Plan of the Ages? Now, the words of the prophets and apostles seem to stand out, like real living things. By faith I can see holiness to the Lord written upon the bells of the horses, the desert blossoming as the rose, the Lamb that was slain opening the sealed book, and everything that hath breath praising the Lord. I can see it all as if in a grand panorama passing before my eyes.
Please send a copy to my sister, and oblige Your sincere friend,
About three weeks ago, I distributed a few of the "Arp Tracts," in a car bound for Chicago. A man of Buchanan found one of them, while on his way to Chicago, and it so interested him in DAWN, that he inquired at nearly all the book stores there, and also at "Y.M.C.A." headquarters, without success. On his return home, not finding any trace of the book, he sent to you for two copies.
On Friday I sold about 40 copies of Dawn, in Buchanan, Michigan, a village near here, where a great many isms are doing their evil work. Yours,
[Brother Rodgers is doing a great work in the vineyard. You will recognize him as an able minister (servant) of the truth, when you learn that during January he sold 620 copies of DAWN. Reckon each chapter of DAWN a sermon, and suppose that each book will be read by at least two persons, and you will see that his is a noble service to our Redeemer and King.
While we all rejoice at the success of those who have many talents, and do great exploits in the battle for truth, let none of the humble, less talented, feel discouraged. The measure of every man's approval before the Lord, is in proportion as he hath DONE what he could. Some whose opportunities permit less service and less success, will be just as sure to hear the Master's "Well done, good and faithful servant," if they do with their might, what their hands find to do. The grace and blessing of our Lord Jesus be upon all the faithful in Christ. – EDITOR.]
TOWER PUBLISHING CO.: – An hour ago I took from P.O. box a copy of ZION'S WATCH TOWER, and within the past month having finished reading the "Millennial Dawn," and having become so completely engulfed by its wonderful but simplified explanation of the Bible with its hitherto (to me) dark sayings, I had but to glance over the pages of the WATCH TOWER to become at once fascinated with its peculiar beauty. I herewith hand you the sum required for a subscription. Send it along. I may well add that my feet had well nigh slipped into infidelity, but I now thank God that I feel quite free, and well assured of the plan; and I attribute my conclusions to reading your book. It occupies, in my estimation, a position on the apex of all Christian literature, and I hope and trust that its interesting and valuable pages will be carefully and thoughtfully read by additional thousands. Wishing you and your co-workers in the Master's cause abundant success, I will ask to be remembered as your true, though stranger friend,
DEAR FRIEND: – I do not know but that you will be a little surprised at receiving another letter from me, yet I thought it would be proper for me to write to you again, if only to acknowledge your kindness in sending me the book, Millennial Dawn, as I requested. I must confess that I was not quite sure that you would pay any attention to my first letter, as I imagined that most people on the outside would be apt to regard with doubt and suspicion any pretension on the part of a man in such a place as this, to being interested in religious matters, or desiring information or light on such subjects. You may be sure it gave me much pleasure to find that you were not of that way of thinking.
Several other men besides myself and cell-mate are interested, and pretty much to the same extent. I can honestly assure you that no book that I have ever read has impressed me so much, or caused me to do so much serious thinking as Millennial Dawn. It is altogether different in its treatment of the subject of religion, and in the view it gives of the Bible and its interpretation, from anything I have ever read.
However unfavorable my early surroundings, and however evil my early associations, I think I have cause for thankfulness that I have at last reached a point where I can see the right way ahead, and turn my back on the dark and wretched past. I am determined to pursue that way for the remainder of my life. I have been five years in this place, and have still three years and three months to serve. For the last four years I have honestly tried to improve my mind and prepare myself, as far as what facilities I have had would permit, to lead an honest and useful life when I get out. I wish to acknowledge the receipt of two copies of ZION'S WATCH TOWER, and the pleasure and instruction the reading of them has given. I am much interested in them as well as the "Plan of the Ages," and nothing would give me more pleasure than to have an opportunity to follow up a course of reading, the beginning of which, has been of so much real benefit to me. Hoping that you will not be annoyed at my having written so much, and again thanking you earnestly for your kindness, I remain,
"If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar's friend; whosoever maketh himself a king, speaketh against Caesar. When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus forth." – John 19:12,13.
"Ye are My friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you." – John 15:14.
CAESAR'S friends? or friends of Jesus?
Solemn question for to-day!
Friends of Caesar! Friends of Jesus!
Take your sides without delay.
If ye pause for man's forbidding,
Caesar's friendship ye secure;
If ye do the Father's bidding,
Scorn, reproach, ye shall endure.
Friends of Caesar! Friends of Jesus!
Stand revealed! your choice declare!
Who in truth two masters pleases?
Who may rival banners bear?
Jesus' friends account Him precious,
Lose for Him all other gain:
Dearer far the smile of Jesus
Than the praise of worldly men.
Free from Caesar, friends of Jesus!
Stand in phalanx! never fear!
Love, severely tried, increases;
Courage yet! the Lord is near!
Onward still, His name confessing,
Weaving crowns to grace His brow;
Lo! His hands are full of blessing,
Lifted for your succor now.
Caesar's friends were we, but Jesus
Owns us for His friends to-day!
What! shall rival friendship please us,
While the Bridegroom is away?
No! through grace would we surrender
Caesar's things to Caesar's care,
Whilst to God, our God, we render
Filial homage, praise, and prayer.– Sel.
"Then came the day of unleavened bread when the passover [lamb] must be killed...and the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might kill him. ...And Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, Go and prepare us the passover that we may eat...And when the hour was come he sat down, and the twelve apostles with him. And he said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer: for I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God. And he took the cup and gave thanks, and said, Take this and divide it among yourselves: for I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God shall come. And he took the bread and gave thanks, and brake it and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood which is shed for you." – Luke 22:7,2,8-20.
Such is the simple account of the institution of the Lord's Supper, as recorded by Luke; and again as the appointed time draws near we call to mind the words, "This do in remembrance of me." And in compliance with that request, we will again commemorate our passover by the repetition of the simple ceremony thus instituted by our Lord.
Monday afternoon, March 26th, 1888, will be the anniversary of our Lord's death at Calvary – the 14th day of the first month, Jewish time, which begins at sunset of the previous evening. Sunday evening, March 25th, will therefore be the anniversary of our Lord's Supper, instituted in commemoration of his death, as the antitypical paschal lamb – "the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world."
On that occasion the church at this place will meet at our usual upper room, No. 101, Federal street, Allegheny, (side entrance), at 7:30 o'clock, P.M., and we most cordially invite to meet with us all who love our Redeemer, and who appreciate the ransom sacrifice which we meet to celebrate. Provision will be made for the entertainment of those from a distance. Let as many as can, meet with us. A number of meetings will be arranged for several days following which will afford a favorable opportunity for inquiry regarding the plan of the ages. Since all the consecrated are ministers of the truth, it behooves all who can to avail themselves of the opportunities which these conferences afford, for the more thoroughly equipping themselves for their respective fields of usefulness.
But we are aware of the fact that only a few can assemble here: nevertheless, let all the faithful in Christ Jesus, in every place, "Do this in remembrance" of God's Lamb who redeemed us by the sacrifice of himself. Such, in every place should assemble together, even if there [R1014 : page 3] be but two or three of like precious faith. And even the solitary ones may break the bread and partake of the wine, in heart communion with the Lord and with the scattered fellow members of the one body yet in the flesh.
Christians in this matter, as on many other points, have left the teachings of the Word and the example of the early church, and follow various customs as to the time of its observance. Few observe it as a "supper" at all, Protestants in general selecting for convenience the noon hour instead of the evening. Some commemorate the Lord's death every Sunday, some once a month, and some once in three months. They seem to regard the time and frequency as a matter of indifference, and they might reason, If it is a good thing to do, why not do it often – even daily. To this, others would reply, and truly: It would lose much of its solemnity and force. And so it does as they now celebrate it. Those who celebrate every Sunday, mistake the record in Acts 2:42,46 and 20:7,11. They surely err in supposing these occasions to be the Lord's Supper. They undoubtedly refer to a common usage in the early church, of eating a plain meal together when they gathered every first day of the week from distant places, just as it is the custom now in country places, except that they all ate together, and made it more of a "love feast." These "feasts of charity," or love feasts, are referred to by Jude (verse 12), in which he shows that all who partook were not brethren indeed. The institution of these love-feasts was not by any command of our Lord, or of the apostles, but like the celebration of the first day of the week, seems to have been the spontaneous prompting of grateful hearts. The early church thus celebrated the resurrection of our Lord (not his death) every week, and the breaking of bread in their love-feast was probably a pleasant reminder of the fact that the Lord was made known to the disciples at Emmaus and on other occasions after his resurrection in the breaking of bread – at their ordinary lunch. (Luke 24:29,30,42; Jno. 21:12,13.) They thus celebrated both his resurrection and the opening of their eyes to know him. But they neither used wine (no less important than the bread in the celebration of the Lord's Supper), nor did they call it the Lord's Supper, nor observe it with special solemnity, but rather with thankfulness and joy. "They did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart" "breaking bread from house to house," (Acts 2:46,) and, for a time, daily.
Those who celebrate the "supper" at noon on Sunday once a month, or once a quarter, have no plea for their custom except that St. Paul said, "As oft as ye do this," etc. (1 Cor. 11:23,25), which they think gives liberty for doing it when they please. On the contrary the apostle uses the word "As oft," in the sense of whenever. "Whenever ye do this," carries the mind to the context to see what is referred to. We find Paul in the context referring to the "same night in which he [our Lord] was betrayed," and the bread and wine there and then instituted by our Lord as his remembrancers, to take the place of the typical passover eaten by the Jews. Paul wrote to those who well knew the Jewish custom and how often it was celebrated, so that "as oft," or whenever, to them signified each time, each anniversary.
The Lord's Supper was designed to supplant the annual commemoration of the typical passing over of Israel's first-born, whose lives were saved through the blood of the typical lamb. Such an event could only be properly celebrated on its anniversary, which our Lord and his disciples and all the Jews strictly observed. They no more thought of celebrating it at any other time, than Americans think of celebrating the signing of their Declaration of Independence on any other day than the fourth of July.
It was the custom of the early church to celebrate it, as we do, on the fourteenth day of the first month, Jewish time, as the Lord indicated; and though there was a great falling away from the original purity of faith, which commenced even in the days of the Apostles, this custom was still retained by some Christians down to the fourth century, when it was peremptorily abolished by the Council of Nice, when the great falling-away, predicted by the Apostles, had partially developed the great system of error afterward known as the Papacy.
On this point we quote the following from Mosheim's Church History (see page 523). He says, "There arose toward the close of this [the second] century, between the Christians of Asia Minor and those of other parts, particularly such as were of the Roman church, a violent contention. ...The Asiatic Christians were accustomed to celebrate...the institution of the Lord's Supper and the subsequent death of the Redeemer, on the fourteenth day of the first Jewish month. ...This custom they stated themselves to have derived from the Apostles Philip and John."
But let no one misunderstand us to teach, that those who have commemorated the Redeemer's death at inappropriate seasons are therefore condemned of our Lord. No, thank God, the Gospel church is not placed under Law, but under grace, in this as in every matter. And those who in heart sincerity have so partaken of the emblems of our Lord's body and blood, while they may suffer loss in the sense that the occasion by its too frequent remembrance has lost some of the power it was designed to have on their hearts, have nevertheless not been spurned by him whose sacrifice for sins they thus confessed. But surely, when the intent of our Lord's words is grasped, all the fully consecrated will gladly comply with his arrangement, assured that it is best and most appropriate; as well as most acceptable to him of whom it is a remembrancer.
Not only has the proper time been lost sight of, but the true meaning of the symbols, wine and unleavened bread, has also been obscured by the spiritual darkness of the "dark ages." Trinitarian errors, which in the third century were introduced into Christianity from heathen philosophy, have done much to warp and twist the minds of God's children, and to hinder clear views of the sacrifice which our Redeemer gave as our ransom price. (See Nov. '87 TOWER, on this point.)
The typical lamb by which the Children of Israel foreshadowed Christ and the coming deliverance, (except the blood which was sprinkled upon the house as a protection, – an atonement) was eaten by all. So with the emblems by which we are instructed to remember the real lamb. The bread is to be eaten by all; the wine may only be partaken of by a few. The bread and wine symbolize the body and blood of our Lord. Our Lord as a man was the living bread [literally, bread of life] which came down from heaven to give life to the world. The illustration is perfect: Mankind is dying for want of life and needs some food so full of life-producing quality that it will arrest the wasting of death, and repair and restore to the original perfection lost in Adam. Men have sought panaceas, elixirs, life restorers, in every quarter, – in animal and vegetable food, in minerals, and in chemistry; but all in vain; no such "bread of life" has ever been found. But when men had for four thousand years sought in vain, the true bread of life came from heaven, of which, if a man eat (partake or appropriate to his use, as it is his privilege to do) he shall live forever. That is, If by faith in the means which God has provided to accomplish his redemption, he accepts the favor of life, he can have it on those terms, and those only. This our Lord symbolically termed eating his flesh.
Notice how perfect is the illustration. The Son of God as a heavenly or spiritual being, as he was at first, was not bread for man, and had he given his spiritual body as bread, we of a different nature (human), could not have appropriated it, just as that which would nourish and perfect a tree (viz., air, moisture, and earth) would not perfect men because of a different nature. Man is of human or flesh nature; hence if the spiritual Son of God would give to dying men the bread of life, it must be flesh, full of life-giving nutriment.
The preparation for this was the change of the Son of God from spirit to flesh. To this end he humbled himself, when he was "made flesh and dwelt among us." (Jno. 1:14.) The flesh was to be the life-giving bread; and since he who had been in the heavenly or spirit state had become earthly or human, being made flesh, it is truly said that this bread came down from heaven, from the heavenly or spirit condition to the earthly or human nature. This is the bread of life of which a man may eat and not die. – John 6:50.
We have now found the bread of life, but how shall we eat him? We cannot eat anything that is alive, nor would anything that dieth of itself [by disease] be fit for food. So if our Lord had died what is called a natural* death, it would have proved that he was a sinner like other men; for death is the penalty of sin, and hence to partake of him would have given no new life. So then we see that there was no way to give us this life-food or "bread of life" except by the sacrifice of the man Christ Jesus, who did not die because his life, like [R1014 : page 4] ours, was forfeited, but who gave himself a ransom, a corresponding price, a substitute for all – for Adam and all who lost [R1015 : page 4] life through him. His life in the flesh – his example and counsel, teachings, etc., could not give life any more than music would keep alive a starving man. We may study and try to follow his perfect example, but we cannot do it perfectly because we are dying and lack strength. We need life, life-producing food, and he became flesh, for the very purpose of providing us this life supply which we could get in no other way.
So when speaking on the subject to his disciples, he told them that the killing of the lamb was needful, so that they could eat of him, saying, "It behooveth the son of man to suffer." Had he remained with them in the flesh, their teacher, they would indeed have been greatly blessed, but could never have gotten life. Hence he said, "The Son of man goeth as it is written of him," and "It is expedient FOR YOU;" "for if I go not away (If I remain flesh, if I do not submit myself in sacrifice and thus carry out the Father's plan for your redemption), the Comforter will not come." You cannot in any other way than by my sacrifice, and by partaking of me, escape from condemnation and come into harmony and acceptance with God, so as to be recognized of him as sons, and as such be granted life.
So, then, it is a mistake to suppose that truth is the bread of life, and that the eating of truth will justify us, or give us a right to life. It is a mistake to suppose that to believe the sermon on the mount and other of our Lord's sayings would give life. Truths they were, and good for food after and with the Lamb, but INDIGESTIBLE without it. Those very truths were indigestible to many, and acted as emetics rather than as nourishing food, and "many went back and walked no more with the Lord." Even the twelve got little nourishment from our Lord's teachings until after the Lamb was slain, and they by faith had eaten of that life-giving food. Then, under the strength and vigor of the life, they were able to find sweetness and strength in all things whatsoever the Master had spoken unto them. The eating of the Lamb, by the new life which it brought, restored them again to fellowship with God; and receiving the adoption and spirit of sonship, they were thereby enabled to appreciate and appropriate to their strengthening, truths in general, as "meat in due season."
Our Lamb was slain for us, on our behalf, because he was the bread of which all must eat, to have life, and because we could not eat him until he gave himself. Now, what did he give, and what do we eat? We answer, his flesh. But what is meant by this, his flesh? We showed above, that he "became flesh," (John 1:14) i.e., he became human. So then, to give his flesh, means to give himself, at that time a human being. Whatever he possessed therefore in the way of human rights and privileges, under God's law, he there resigned in our interest – that the human family which has no rights or privileges, having lost all those in Adam its representative, might receive back all of these rights and privileges and liberties. Adam's family was all in him when he sinned and lost life, and every right and privilege of sonship, and so we all are sharers in that one loss. So now corresponding full and sufficient rights belong to the new man, "the man Christ Jesus," who as a perfect and uncondemned being exchanged his higher rights for men's lower rights which Adam had forfeited. And when this one then gives himself and lays down all that he has (Matt. 13:44) in the interest and for the use of the condemned race, we see that the giving of his flesh for the life of the world (John 6:51) means the handing back to dying men of the life, liberties, and privileges lost. And the eating of his flesh would consequently mean, the appropriating to his own use by the eater, of all the rights, liberties, and life which the perfect sinless "man Christ Jesus" possessed, – no more, and no less.
What he gave up when he died, is ours – it is free to every child of Adam. But it will give life, etc., only to such as eat, i.e., by faith appropriate, those rights and privileges, freely given unto us of God, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.
If a man becomes leprous, not only he, but all in him, i.e., all his unborn posterity are affected. So it was with Adam and his children: we were "born in sin" and under its penalty, death, as the natural law of our being. Now consider that if a medicine or bread of life, a sure cure for leprosy were provided, to do good, it must be received into the system and appropriated, else no cure would result. So it is with Christ and the condemned and dying sinner. Not only must the bread contain the elements he needs, and be made accessible to him, but he must eat, or by faith appropriate it, if he would be freed from his malady of sin and its curse of condemnation to death. And as each child born a leper would need to eat for himself, and the family could not all be cured by any one of them taking the medicine or life food, so it is with sinners, each must eat for himself of the life-giving flesh of the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. It is for every man; hence every sinner must have an opportunity to eat and live, and none can be cured and brought to life (perfection) without eating this bread of life. None can eat it ignorantly (though many eat its symbol ignorantly); hence none of the heathen have yet had a chance to eat and live, and since all must come to the knowledge of this truth, this of itself would be a proof of the judgment (trial) to come, in the great Millennial Day; for it must be testified to all IN DUE TIME (1 Tim. 2:4-6) in order that all, if they will, may eat and live forever. Since only the few come to even an imperfect knowledge of the truth, in this age, it is evident that God's "due time" for spreading this great feast before the world, is "in the morning," in the Age of Restitution, the Millennium, when the knowledge of the Lord shall fill the whole earth. – Hab. 2:14; Isa. 25:6.
In the Millennial age, men as they shall accept of Christ as God's lamb and their ransom price, will be permitted to partake of his perfections, physical, mental and moral; and as they do so, and conform to his teachings, they will gradually return to perfection, to all that was lost in Adam, attaining full perfection at the close of that age, or else for willful disobedience be entirely and forever cut off from life in the second death, for which there is no antidote, no bread of life, no cure.
We, the church, who receive this bread of life now, and eat or appropriate it, do not experience a gradual restitution of our human powers to perfection, nor in any measure our restitution to human rights and privileges, etc. Ours is only reckoned, and not actual. By faith only, we can and do eat of the flesh of our Redeemer, accepting by faith (contrary to sight) human rights and liberties and life from the sacrifice made by our Lord. Mankind who will live in the next age will have sight as an aid to their faith; for they will feel their gradual physical improvement as they take the steps of faith and obedience. But none can walk by sight now, hence fewer and most select is the "little flock" now being chosen out from the world, to be the Bride and joint-heir of Christ in the Kingship and Priesthood of the age to come. To eat the Lamb we must realize his purity, his perfection, his spotlessness, and his RIGHT to all God's favors prepared for man. We must see, too, that he has sacrificed, surrendered up, all these human rights and privileges in order that all these blessings might be restored to the fallen and condemned race, and thus permit all to come back to a standing and fellowship with God, which he does not grant to condemned creatures.
But why should any be permitted to eat thus of his flesh (his human perfections, rights, etc.) beforehand – before the general time for spreading the feast for all? Ah! there is a very precious truth there; there lies covered from view of the world "the exceeding riches of his grace, toward us who are in Christ Jesus." Let us look at it.
The blood, symbolized by the wine, represents death; "the blood is the life" of anything; and when it is "shed," or taken from it, it implies the death of the creature. So the shed blood of Christ signifies the death of Christ – the life given up for the sins of the world. In the typical Passover, the Lamb was eaten, but the blood was not. No Israelite was allowed to eat blood. This was symbolic of how all are to eat the flesh of the Son of man but all are not to drink or partake of his death. Those to whom our Lord gave the wine as representative of his blood, were invited to partake of and share in his death, which was proper, because they were to be members of his body; and not only he, the Head, should taste death for every man, but we his body should be "made conformable to his death" (Phil. 3:10), and become dead with him. (Rom. 6:8.) The "cup" then is the symbol of death – by partaking of it (intelligently) we pledge our lives even unto death in the service of our Lord and Redeemer. Whether or not we shall be found worthy of restitution and lasting life depends on our eating (accepting and appropriating) his flesh; but whether we shall be found acceptable as members of his body, his bride and joint-heir, depends upon whether after eating his flesh by faith in the present age, we shall drink of his "cup," consecrate ourselves entirely to his service – unto death.
This being true, how appropriate that the giving of the wine was after the eating of the bread, and to those only who had eaten it. This teaches, in harmony with all the Scriptures, that only those who are justified from all sin by faith in the merit and sacrifice of the Lamb of God (and no others) are invited to crucify their (justified) humanity and share in the afflictions of Christ in this age, and in his glory which shall follow in the [R1016 : page 4] Millennial age and the eternity beyond.
Only those who both eat his flesh (appropriate his merits – justification) and drink his blood (share with him in his sacrifice by rendering their justified humanity a sacrifice to his service) dwell in him, as members of the one "body of Christ," as members of the "true vine." (Jno. 6:56) Only such (verse 53) can have inherent life: that is, life independent of all conditions – Immortality. (See MILL. DAWN, VOL. I., Chap. X.)
These must all be first brought to a knowledge of the Lord, of the sacrifice which he gave, and of the justification and restitution provided in it, and may then partake of it freely and live. Of such, it is written, "He that eateth of this bread (without sharing "the cup") shall live for ever," and "He that eateth me, even he shall live by me" – a dependent life, supplied to all who rely upon Christ, the life-giver, for it. The distinction is, that the Gospel church now being selected – the body of Christ – will, with the Head, have immortality, inherent life, and will be the source of supply to the world, who will come to this fountain for life, and live thereby.
We notice also the statement of the apostle that "He that eateth and drinketh unworthily – not discerning the Lord's body – eateth and drinketh condemnation to himself." (1 Cor. 11:27-29.) The import of this is, that to all who fail to recognize Christ's sacrifice for their sins, the eating of those emblems implies their guilt as his murderers, in the same sense that the Jews cried out, "His blood be upon us and on our children." As the Jews made themselves guilty of innocent blood (death), so do all who now by eating the emblems say, his blood is upon us – unless they discern the Lord's body and blood as their ransom. To all who do not recognize it as their ransom – it signifies condemnation as sharers of the guilt of the breaking of his body and shedding of his blood, seeing that to them it speaks no forgiveness – no remission of sins.
The common translation improperly renders the above damnation, whereas it should be condemnation. Yet to the great mass of those who ignorantly do this unworthily, i.e., without properly recognizing the meaning of the emblems and the value of the Lord's death which they symbolize, there is no actual blood-guiltiness but merely a symbolic guilt. In symbol or figure they break the Lord's body and take his blood upon them. The symbol rightly understood speaks peace and forgiveness of sins, and fellowship with the Lamb, but not understood it could only be interpreted, under the Law, as a symbolic confession of murder. But as it is all symbolic, the condemnation could only be symbolic condemnation. Only such as come first to a knowledge of the ransom effected by the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world, can really come under the actual condemnation which the improper use of this symbol signifies.
The drinking of the cup of suffering and death, for his sake – the sacrificing – must all be done in the present age. When the age of glory opens, all the sufferings of Christ will be in the past, both those of the Head and those of every member of his body. When the prophets spake of the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow (1 Pet. 1:11), they spake truly, of the entire Christ including the smallest and last member. When the glory ushers in, the drinking of the blood will be at an end, as well as all opportunity to share in that "high calling" as joint-heirs with Christ. Then the entire Christ of which our Lord is head, and we the members in particular, will have been broken and sacrificed, and the feeding of the multitude of earth will begin to be an actual fact. Restitution will then begin to be realized by mankind. We now have it imputed to us by faith, in order that in [R1016 : page 5] this time for sacrificing we may do so; for none can give himself a sacrifice with Christ, who has no right to life to surrender. Therefore we are first granted to partake of Christ's merits by faith, and by faith to find access to the Father, and acceptance in the Beloved, in order that we might receive the "high calling"; an invitation to become joint-sacrificers with Christ, and to drink of his cup, that we may also be joint-heirs of the glory to be revealed when the "body" is completed and the sacrificing over.
To the consecrated, therefore, the emblems (bread and wine) are not only remembrancers of the Lord's sacrifice, but also of their own covenant to share the sacrifice with him, if by any means they might fulfill the conditions and be accounted worthy to be "made partakers of the divine nature," and to be with our Lord and Redeemer, his "joint-heirs" and co-workers in blessing all people.
Paul calls our attention to this feature of the commemoration, saying: "The loaf which we break, is it not the communion [fellowship] of the body of Christ [the "little flock," the Church, of which our Lord is the head]? The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion [fellowship] of the blood of Christ [the entire anointed company]? For we, though many [members], are one loaf and one body, for we all share in that one loaf." – 1 Cor. 10:15-17.
All must eat of the flesh of our Lord Jesus: i.e., they must partake of those human rights and privileges which his sacrifice secured for all, either in this age by faith, or in the next age actually, else they will have no life-rights, either to make sacrifice of now, or to enjoy (without the privilege of sacrificing them) hereafter. So then we urge all believers to "DO THIS"; and to do it intelligently. While using the emblems, accept and apply and appropriate fully the justification from all sin and the right to life which God holds out through the Lamb of God, and in no other name or way. And especially let all believers who have been immersed with Christ into his death, and thus into membership in his "body" (Rom. 6:3,4), do this, remembering their justification through his blood and renewing their covenant to be dead with him as partakers of the new, the divine nature.
So far as possible meet with such as you can recognize as fellow-members of the same body, and exclude no believer in the ransom. Arrange for the meeting long enough beforehand. It matters not which of your number shall pass the emblems, even Judas may have assisted at the first celebration. Remember that "all ye are brethren" and privileged to serve one another in any matter as you have ability and opportunity. In honor prefer one another; but do not allow false modesty to prefer tares above wheat among you.
"OUR lives should be like the days, more beautiful in the evening; or like the seasons, aglow with promise, and the autumn rich with golden sheaves, where good words and deeds have ripened on the field."
As some rare perfume in a vase of clay
Pervades it with a fragrance not its own,
So when Thou dwellest in a mortal soul,
All heaven's own sweetness seems around it thrown.
The soul alone, like a neglected harp,
Grows out of tune, and needs the hand Divine;
Dwell Thou within it, tune and touch its chords,
Till every note and string shall answer Thine.
Having in our two previous issues examined the word sheol, the original and only word for hell in the Old Testament, and the word hades, most frequently rendered hell in the New Testament, we now complete this study by noticing every remaining instance in Scripture where the English word hell occurs. There are but two other words than hades, rendered hell in the New Testament, namely gehenna and tartaroo, which we will now consider in the order named.
This word occurs twelve times. It is the Grecian mode of spelling the Hebrew words which are translated "the valley of Hinnom." This valley lay just outside the city of Jerusalem, and served the purposes of sewer and garbage burner to that city. The offal, garbage, etc., were emptied there and fires were kept continually burning there to consume utterly all things deposited therein, brimstone being added to assist combustion and insure complete destruction. But a living thing was never allowed to be cast into gehenna. The Jews were not permitted to torture any creature.
When we consider that in the people Israel, God was giving us object lessons illustrating his dealings and plans, present and future, we should expect that this valley of Hinnom, or gehenna, would play its part, too in illustrating things future. We know that Israel's priesthood and temple illustrated the Royal Priesthood – the Christian church as it will be, the true temple of God – and we know that their city was a figure of the New Jerusalem, the seat of kingdom power, and centre of authority – the city [government] of the Great King, Immanuel. We remember, too, that Christ's government is represented in the book of Revelation (Rev. 21:24-27), under the figure of a city – The New Jerusalem. There, after describing the class permitted to enter the privileges and blessings of that kingdom – the honorable and glorious, and all who have right to the trees of life, – we find it also declared that there shall not enter into it anything that defileth, or that worketh abomination, or lies; but only such as the Lamb shall write as worthy of life. This city full, representing the redeemed world in the end of the Millennium, was typified or represented in the earthly city, and the defiling, and abominable, etc., the class unworthy of life, which do not enter in, are represented by the refuse and the filthy lifeless carcasses cast into gehenna outside Jerusalem for utter destruction. Accordingly, we find it stated that those not found worthy of life, are to be cast into the fire (Rev. 20:15), fire here, as everywhere, being used as a symbol of destruction.
Thus we see that while gehenna served a useful purpose to the city of Jerusalem as a place of garbage burning, it, like the city, illustrated the future dealing of God, when the refuse and impure elements will be forever destroyed and prevented from contaminating the holy and pure, after that age of judgment, or trial, has proved which are sheep and which are goats.
Gehenna then was a type or illustration of the SECOND DEATH – final and complete destruction. Strictly speaking, none could be in any danger of the second death while as yet under the first, or Adamic death, and while as yet no ransom from it had been given. Consequently no one could have been liable to the second death before the coming of our Lord, who brought to light the plan of God (to be accomplished through Christ,) for the resurrection of all from the first death, and a second trial of all men individually for the eternal continuance of that life, by obedience to the law of Christ, the penalty of failure to comply with those just and righteous conditions being the second death – condemnation a second time to death, for failure the second time, and this time individually. Nor is the world in general now liable to this penalty: none but consecrated believers could possibly incur it yet; because no others have escaped (even reckonedly) the condemnation that is on the world – the first death, for Adam's sin. The consecrated have escaped it reckonedly, the sin of Adam being no longer imputed to them. (Rom. 8:1; 4:6-8.)
But remember that Israel, though they were not, and could not be actually ahead of other men in this matter, yet for the purpose of being used as types of the future of God's dealing, they were treated typically as though the ransom had been given before they left Egypt, though only a typical lamb had been slain. When Jerusalem was built, and the temple, representative of the true temple, the church, and the true kingdom as it will be established by Christ in the Millennium, that people typified the world in the next age. Their priests represented the glorified Royal Priesthood, and their Law and its demands of perfect obedience, represented the Law and conditions under the New Covenant, to be brought into operation for the blessing of all the obedient, and for the condemnation of all who, when granted fullest opportunity, will not submit to the righteous ruling and laws of the Great King.
Seeing then that Israel's condition, etc., was a figure of the world's condition in the coming age, how appropriate that we should find the valley or abyss, gehenna, a figure of the second death, the utter destruction during the coming age of all that is unworthy of preservation, and how aptly, too, is the symbol, "lake of fire burning with brimstone," (Rev. 19:20) drawn from this same gehenna, or valley of Hinnom, burning continually with brimstone, the deadliness of brimstone adding to the force of the symbol fire, to express the utter and irrevocable destruction of the second death. How reasonable, too, to expect that Israel would have courts and judges resembling or prefiguring such courts and judges in the next age; and that the sentences of those (figurative) courts of that (figurative) people under those (figurative) laws, to that (figurative) abyss, outside that (figurative) city, would largely correspond to the real sentences of the real courts and judges in the next age. If these points are kept in mind, they will greatly assist us in understanding the words of our Lord in reference to gehenna; for though the literal valley just at hand was named and referred to, yet his words carry with them lessons concerning the future age, and the antitypical gehenna – the second death.
"Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, 'Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be amenable to the judges:' but I say unto you, that whosoever is ANGRY with his brother [without a cause] shall [future – under the regulations of the real kingdom] be amenable to the judges: and whosoever shall say to his brother Raca [villain] shall be in danger of the High Council: but whosoever shall say 'Thou fool' shall be in danger of hell [gehenna] fire."
To understand these references to council and judges and gehenna, all should know something of Jewish regulations. The "Court of Judges" consisted of seven men [or twenty-three, – the number is in dispute] which had power to judge for some classes of crimes. The High Council, or Sanhedrin, consisted of seventy-one men of presumed learning and ability. This constituted the highest court of the Jews, and its supervision was over the gravest offences. The most serious punishment was death, but certain very obnoxious criminals were subjected to an indignity after death, being refused burial and cast with the carcasses of dogs, the city refuse, etc., into gehenna, to be consumed there. The object of this burning in gehenna was to make the crime and the criminal detestable in the eyes of the people, and signified that the culprit was a hopeless case. It must be remembered that Israel hoped for a resurrection from the tomb, and hence they were particular in caring for the corpses of their dead. Not realizing the fulness of God's power, they thought he needed their assistance to that extent. (Exod. 13:19; Heb. 11:22; Acts 7:15,16.) Hence the destruction of the body in gehenna after death implied to them the loss of hope of future life by a resurrection. Thus it represented the second death in the same figurative way that they as a people represented, or illustrated, a future order of things under the new covenant.
Now notice that our Lord in the above words pointed out to them, that their construction of the Law, severe though it was, was far below the real import of that Law, as it "shall be" interpreted under the real kingdom and judges which theirs only typified. He shows that the command of their Law, "Thou shalt not kill," reached much farther than they supposed, and that malicious anger and vituperation "shall be" considered a violation of that Law, under the "new covenant," and that such as under the favorable conditions of that new age shall not reform so thoroughly as to fully observe this law, would be counted worthy of that which the gehenna near them typified, – the second death. However, the force and severity of that Law will be enforced only in proportion as the discipline, advantages, and assistance of that age shall enable each to comply with it.
Here again the operation of the Law under the New Covenant is contrasted with its operation under the old, or Jewish covenant, and the lesson of self-control is urged by the statement that it is far more profitable that men should refuse to gratify depraved desires (though they were dear to us as a right eye, and as convenient and almost indispensable as a right hand,) than that they should gratify these, and lose, in the second death, the future life provided through the atonement, for all who will return to perfection, holiness, and God.
These expressions of our Lord not only serve to show us the perfection (Rom. 7:12,) of the Law, and how fully it will be enforced and defined in the Millennium, but they served as a lesson also to the Jews, who previously saw, through Moses' commands, only the crude exterior of the law of God. If they had found it difficult in their fallen state to keep inviolate even the surface significance of the Law, they must now see the impossibility of their keeping the finer meaning of the Law, revealed by Christ. Had they understood and received his teaching fully, they would have cried out, Alas! if God judges us thus, by the very thoughts and intents of the heart, we are all unclean, [R1016 : page 6] all undone, and can hope for naught but condemnation to gehenna (to utter destruction, as brute beasts). They would have cried, Show us a greater priesthood than that of Aaron, a priest and teacher able to fully appreciate the Law, and fully able to appreciate and sympathize with our fallen state and inherited weaknesses, and let Him offer for us "better sacrifices," and apply to us the needed greater forgiveness of sin, and let him as a great physician heal us and restore us, so that we can obey the perfect Law of God from our hearts. Then they would have found all their needs in Christ.
But this lesson they did not learn, for the ears of their understanding were "dull of hearing;" hence they knew not that God had already prepared the very priest, and sacrifice, and teacher, and physician they needed, – who in due time redeemed those under the typical law, as well as all not under it, and who also "in due time," shortly, will begin his restoring work – restoring sight to the blind eyes of their understanding, and hearing to their deaf ears. Then the "vail shall be taken away" – that vail of ignorance, pride and human wisdom, which Satan now uses to blind the world to God's true law and true plan of salvation in Christ.
And not only did our Lord's teaching here show the Law of the new covenant, and teach the Jew a lesson, but it is of benefit to the Gospel church, his body, also. For though we are not under the Law as a covenant (as the Jews were typically, and as the world in the next age will be actually,) but under grace [special favor], yet our favor is more clearly seen by reason of our Lord's words here. In proportion as we learn the exactness of God's Law, and what would constitute perfection under its requirements, we see that our Redeemer was perfect, and that we, totally unable to commend ourselves to God as keepers of that law, can find acceptance with the Father only under the merit of our Redeemer, while none can be of that "body," covered by the robes of his righteousness, except the consecrated who endeavor to do only those things well pleasing to God, which includes the avoiding of sin to the extent of ability. Yet their acceptability with God rests not on their perfection, but upon the perfection of Christ, so long as they abide in him. These, nevertheless, are benefited by a clear insight into the perfect law of God, even though they are not dependent on the perfect keeping of it. They delight to do God's will to the extent of their ability, and the better they know his perfect law, the better they are able to rule and conform themselves in harmony with it. So, then, to us also the Lord's words have a lesson of value.
The point, however, to be noticed clearly, is the mistake commonly made, of supposing the gehenna which the Jews knew, and of which our Lord spoke to them, to be a lake of fire to be kept burning to all eternity, into which all would be cast who get "angry with a brother" and call him a fool, or who "look upon a woman to lust." Nay, the point is that "gehenna" symbolizes the second death – utter, complete and everlasting destruction. This is clearly shown by its being contrasted with life as its opposite. "It is better for thee to enter into life, halt, or maimed, than otherwise be cast into gehenna." It is better that you should deny yourself sinful gratifications, than that you should completely lose all future life, and perish in the second death.
"Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to DESTROY both soul and body in hell" [gehenna]. See also another account of the same discourse by Luke – 12:4,5.
Here our Lord points out to his followers the great cause they have for bravery and courage under the most trying circumstances. They were to expect persecution, and to have all manner of evil spoken against them falsely, for his sake, and the sake of the "good tidings" of which he made them the ministers and heralds; yea, the time would come, that whosoever would kill them would think that he did God a service. Their consolation and reward for this, was to come not in the present life, but in a life to come. They were assured, and they believed, that he had come to give his life a ransom for many, and that all in their graves must in consequence, in due time, hear the Deliverer's voice and come forth, either to reward, if their trial was passed in this life successfully, or to trial, as it must be, to the great majority who had not yet come to the necessary knowledge and opportunity constituting the new trial, secured for all by the ransom-sacrifice.
Our Lord here speaks of the present life and the life to come (which he was about to secure for all by the ransom-sacrifice he was giving); he calls that future condition the real soul or being [soul signifies being], while the present life [which is really a dying, rather than a living state,] he designates or indicates by the word "body." His bidding then, is, fear not them which can terminate the present [dying] life in these poor dying bodies, which, full of frailties and weaknesses and aches, you got from dying Adam. Care little for it, its food, its clothing, its pleasures, in comparison with that future existence or being which God has provided for you, and which, if secured, may be your portion forever. Fear not the threats, or looks, or acts of men, whose power can extend no farther than the present being, who can harm and kill these bodies, but can do no more. Rather have respect and deference to God, with whom are the issues of life everlasting – fear him who is able to DESTROY both the present dying existence and the future everlasting existence, in gehenna – the second death.
Here it is conclusively shown that gehenna, as a figure, represented the second death – the utter destruction which must ensue in the case of all who, after having received fully the opportunities of a future being or existence through our Lord's sacrifice, prove themselves unworthy of God's gift, and refuse to accept it, by refusing obedience to God's just requirements. For it does not say that God will preserve soul or body in gehenna, but that he can and will destroy both in it. Thus we are taught that any who are condemned to the second death, are hopelessly and forever blotted out of existence.
[Since these two refer to the same discourse, we quote from Mark; remarking that verses 44, and 46, and part of 45 are not found in the oldest Greek MSS. though verse 48, which reads the same, is in all manuscripts. We quote only what is in the ancient MS.] "If thy hand offend thee cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into gehenna, into the fire that never shall be quenched. And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life than having two feet to be cast into gehenna. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into gehenna, where the worm dies not and the fire is not quenched."
All must agree with the prophet, after reading the above, that our Lord opened his mouth in figures and obscure sayings. (Psa. 78:2; Matt. 13:35.) No one for a moment supposes that our Lord advised the people to mutilate their bodies by cutting off their limbs, or gouging out their eyes. Nor does he mean us to understand that the injuries and disfigurements of the present life will continue beyond the grave, when we shall "enter into life." The Jews whom he addressed must have understood him better than many to-day; because at that time the Jews had no conception of a place of everlasting torment, and knew the word gehenna to refer to the valley outside their city, which was not a place of torment, (nor a place where any living thing was cast,) but a place for the utter destruction of whatever might be cast into it; so that when they saw the Lord's expression regarding limbs and eyes to be figurative, they knew that the gehenna mentioned was not their valley of destruction, but a destruction which it prefigured or illustrated.
The Lord meant simply this: The future life which God has provided for sin-cursed, defiled and condemned man, is of inestimable value. It will richly pay you to make any sacrifice to receive and enjoy that life. Should it even cost an eye, a hand or a foot, so that to all eternity you should be obliged to endure the loss of these, yet it would be cheap at even that great cost. That would be better far than to retain your members and lose all in gehenna. Doubtless, too, the hearers drew the lesson as applicable to all the affairs of life, and understood the Master to mean that it would richly repay them to deny themselves many comforts and pleasures and tastes, dear as a right hand, precious as an eye, and serviceable as a foot, rather than by gratification to forfeit the life to come and be utterly destroyed in gehenna – the second death.
We answer, In the literal gehenna, which is the basis of our Lord's illustration, the bodies of animals, etc., frequently fell upon ledges of rocks and not into the fire kept burning below; thus exposed, these would breed worms and be destroyed, as completely and as surely as those which burned. No one was allowed to disturb this valley's contents, hence the worm and the fire between them completed the work of destruction – the fire was not quenched and the worms died not. This would not imply a never-ending fire, nor immortal worms – the thought is that the worms do not die off and leave the carcasses there, but continue and complete the work of destruction. So with the fire also – if not quenched, it will burn on until all is consumed, just as we might say if a house were on fire which could not be controlled or quenched, but burned until the building was destroyed – it would be an "unquenchable fire."
Our Lord wished to impress the thought of the completeness and finality of the second death. All who go into the second death will be thoroughly and completely and forever destroyed; no ransom will ever be given again; there will be no occasion for any, for none worthy of life will be cast therein – but only those who love unrighteousness after coming to the knowledge of the truth.
Not only in the above instances is the second death pointedly illustrated by gehenna, but it is evident that the same Teacher used the same figure to represent the same thing, in the symbols of Revelation, though there it is not called gehenna, but a "lake of fire." Its use in Revelation shows that the time when the destruction, or second death, symbolized by the fire, will "consume the adversaries," will be during the Millennial age, and chiefly toward its close, when the sheep [the meek and good class,] will be separated from the goats [the froward and intractable class of mankind]. Then the goat class – with their "father, the devil," whose image of sin, pride and rebellion they retain and love, in spite of every favor and knowledge and opportunity granted them – will be cast into the "lake of fire" – the "second death," "everlasting destruction," the reality prefigured in gehenna.
The same valley was once before used as the basis of a discourse, by the Prophet Isaiah (Isa. 66:24). Though he gives it no name, he describes it, and all should notice that he speaks, not as some with false ideas might expect, of billions in flames and torture, but of the carcasses of those who transgressed against the Lord, who are thus represented as utterly destroyed in the second death.
The two verses preceding show the time, and it is in perfect harmony with the symbols of Revelation: it is in the new dispensation of the Millennium, in the "new heavens and new earth" condition of things.
Here, in strong symbolic language, the apostle points out the great and bad influence of an evil tongue – a tongue set on fire [figuratively] by gehenna [figurative]. For a tongue to be set on fire of gehenna, signifies that a tongue may be set going in evil by a perverse disposition, self-willed, selfish, hateful, malicious, the sort of dispositions which, in spite of knowledge and opportunity, are like those which, unless controlled and reformed, will be counted worthy to be destroyed – the class for whom "second death," the real "lake of fire," the real "gehenna," is intended. One in that attitude may by his tongue kindle a great fire, a destructive disturbance, which, wherever it has contact, will work evil in the entire course of nature.
The Greek word tartaroo occurs but once in the New Testament, and is translated hell. It is found in 2 Pet. 2:4, which reads thus: –
Having examined every other word rendered hell in the Bible, and all the texts in which they occur, we conclude the subject with this, which is the only instance in which the word tartaroo occurs in the Scriptures. In the above text, all the words shown in italic type are translated from the one Greek word tartaroo. Evidently the translators were at a loss how to translate the word, but concluded they knew all about where the evil angels must be, according to "orthodoxy," and so they made bold to put them into hell, though it took six words to twist the idea into the shape they had predetermined it must take.
The word tartaroo, used by Peter, very closely resembles tartarus, a word used in Grecian mythology as the name for a dark abyss or prison. But the word tartaroo [R1016 : page 7] seems to refer more to an act, than to a place. The fall of the angels which sinned was from honor and dignity, into condemnation and dishonor. Hence we prefer to translate the sentence thus: "God spared not the angels who sinned but degraded them and delivered them into chains of darkness." – 2 Pet. 2:4.
This certainly agrees with the facts known to us through the Scriptures; for these fallen spirits frequented the earth in the days of our Lord and the apostles at least. Hence they were not down in some place, but down in the sense of being degraded from former honor and liberty, and restrained under darkness, as by a chain. Whenever these fallen spirits, in spiritualistic seances, manifest their powers through Mediums, pretending to be dead human beings whom they simulate, they must always do their work in the dark, because darkness is the chain by which they are bound UNTIL the great Millennial day of judgment. Whether this implies that in the immediate future they shall be able to materialize, etc., in daylight, is difficult to determine. If so, it would greatly increase Satan's power to blind and deceive for a short season – until the Sun of Righteousness has fully risen.
Thus we close our investigation of the Bible's use of the word hell. Thank God, we find no such place of everlasting torture as the creeds and hymn-books, and many pulpits, erroneously teach. Yet we have found a hell, sheol, hades, to which all were condemned through Adam's sin, and from which all are redeemed by our Lord's death; and that hell is the tomb – the death condition. And we find another hell [gehenna – the second death – utter destruction] brought to our attention as the final penalty upon all, who after being redeemed and brought to the full knowledge of the truth, and to full ability to obey it, shall yet choose death by choosing a course of opposition to God and righteousness. And our hearts say Amen.
True and righteous are thy ways, thou King of nations. Who shall not venerate thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? For thou art entirely holy. And all nations shall come and worship before thee, because thy righteous dealings are made manifest.
DEAR SISTER RUSSELL: – I hope you will find time to look over and answer this suggestion which mother and I have been talking over. My mother is old, will be 80 years of age in February, is feeble, and is liable to be taken from us any time. God seems to have spared her all these years to be called out of Babylon, and to see his glorious light shine. It was so plain to her, when the truth was presented to her; it was of a truth meat in due season.
All of our kinsmen are strictly orthodox, and at my mother's funeral they will have some one of the shepherds of Babylon, to preach her funeral sermon, and I will not have it that way, if I can get you to comply with my mother's wish. I want to have this all fixed while my mother is here with me. I want you to write her funeral sermon, just as if she had written it herself.
We would write it ourselves, but we are only babes in Christ. I know if you will do it, it will be all right. So when the preacher comes I will present this written sermon to him, and request him to read this – my mother's request, and to have no other services.
I do not want to delay having it done, for mother wishes to see and read it, and to sign it with her own hand. Will you comply with this my wish and mother's? Although there are but few of the nominal church people who come to see us of late – for they think we are crazy or something worse – nevertheless they will come to mother's funeral, and I think by so doing I will let them know what my mother did believe and also give them some truth they never heard before. I leave it to you to select the text. Hoping you will not deny us this favor, I close with love from mother and self.
Death, under whatever circumstances it makes its approach, is a grim monster from which we instinctively shrink. Yet to those instructed out of the word of God, it loses much of its terror. The nominal church, and the world under its influence, have one common hope and fear concerning death. They dread it, not only because it is the severing of cherished earthly ties, but because of their fear of eternal misery, which they have been taught to believe may follow it. But while they believe that eternal torment is the portion of the large majority of mankind, in almost every individual case their human sympathies and reasonings get the better of their theology and their fears, and a little ray of hope is kindled, based not upon the knowledge of our Heavenly Father's gracious provisions for all, but merely upon their own human sympathies.
But with those who know our Father's plans, how different is the feeling with which they look upon the faces of their dead! There is, of course, the pang of severed ties, which leaves the heartache and wrings our tears, even though we know, like Martha, that they shall rise again; and the sympathizing tears of Jesus on that occasion show that such grief is not to be condemned. But at such times we sorrow not as those who have no hope, nor even as those whose hope is vague and indefinite. We know that already we are in the early hours of the glorious day which is shortly to bring release to the groaning creation; that the Life-Giver is already present; and that preparations are now being made to bring the dead ones back under more favorable conditions. And we would not, if we could, have them brought back one day sooner than our Father sees best.
We see that natural men who die are simply being hidden in the grave until the wrath upon the nations be overpast (Job 14:13), that they are waiting for the dawn of the great Lord's Day – the Millennium, and that the saints who now die in the Lord do not sleep for a moment, but are changed instantly, to the likeness of their Lord, and made ready for the great work of restitution just before them. Surely then WE should not sorrow as others who have no such assurance. We may rejoice even in the midst of tribulation, and in everything give thanks.
As to how the dead body shall be disposed of, is a matter of no consequence to the dead, but the proper disposal of the remains of our departed friends is a mark of our respect and affection. The prevailing customs among various people have much to do with individual ideas of propriety on such occasions; and these are largely influenced by the prevailing religious beliefs and the hopes which they inspire for the future.
The modern Jews believe that the resurrection will take place in Canaan, and hence the desire of many of them is to die there, and often some of the sacred soil is strewn about the body of the deceased. The Romanist, believing in purgatory, and in the power of the Priest to ameliorate the condition of the dead, thought to be conscious in purgatory, thinks it necessary to have masses for the dead, to have the dead body sprinkled with holy water, and to bury in consecrated ground. And Protestants, believing as they do in the doctrine of eternal torment for all who are not Christians, look anxiously to Protestant clergymen to console them with the thought that there is some hope in the case of their departed friends, whether or not their faithfulness to God appeared in their lives. And even the world, under the influence of these teachings, would not consider their friends decently buried if a minister did not come to preach a funeral sermon, and to give the idea to those assembled, that the virtues of the deceased would sufficiently overbalance his sins, so as to secure for him an escape from eternal woe, especially if his name happened to be on a church roll.
The church nominal has a strong hold upon the people, in this and other public sentiments, created by the claims of the class which styles itself The Clergy. Many say, if we leave the sects to which we now are joined and recognize only the one, true church, "whose names are written in heaven," who will bury our dead? who will administer the ordinances of baptism? who will administer the elements of the Lord's Supper? etc.
To such we would say, that the clergy of the nominal church is a self-appointed class, claiming authority and power not scripturally vested in them more than in all the saints. The commission to preach the gospel is given to every consecrated child of God. – See Isaiah 61:1. The humblest are preachers divinely authorized now, as in the early church. No priest is needed to do for the brethren those simple offices which any one of them may perform for another. We have shown through the TOWER that their services are not needed either in the case of Baptism, or the celebrating of the Lord's Supper. Neither are they necessary for the burial of our dead. Nowhere in the writings of the apostles is there the least intimation that any of these services must or should be performed by a "clerical" class. On the contrary, "all ye are brethren" and may serve one another, except in marrying, which by civil law is taken out of your hands. Why, we ask, should any of those who recognize the errors of Babylon, call in her self-constituted "clergy" to serve them, when a brother or sister can be had to serve them better. Especially in the burying of your dead, how inconsistent and foolish it would be to call in those who are strangers to our grander hopes, to offer to us at such an hour the poor consolations of ignorance, or at least of doubt and uncertainty, or the vague fancies of their own imaginations? Rather be guided in such matters by reason, in view of the teaching of God's Word.
Remembering that the dead are past our doing for them, let such opportunities as funeral occasions furnish be improved for the advantage of the living. Friends come together on such occasions to express their sympathy with the bereaved, and to show their respect for the dead, and they are generally in a more impressible frame of mind than usual. Here is a most favorable opportunity to impress the truth, an opportunity which should never be lost where we have the privilege of controlling or influencing the arrangements.
We would suggest here a simple line of thought which any brother or sister might present on such an occasion. From whatever standpoint we speak, the object should be to briefly make clear, First – the reality of death – that it is not life in any sense, but the cessation of life; and that it is not a blessing, but a curse pronounced against the race, as the penalty for sin; Secondly – that the only hope of the race is in a resurrection, in being created again, by the same power that first called us into existence; Thirdly – that an awakening from death, and an individual opportunity of retaining life, is secured for every human being by the death of Christ; Fourthly – that the restored life may be eternal, on the original conditions of perfect obedience, when perfect obedience is made possible to all.
And if the deceased is one of the consecrated, whom you have reason to believe has been "faithful unto death," it may be shown that such are now – since 1878 – promised an immediate entrance into the reward of our high calling, since it is written, "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from HENCEFORTH."
Read John 11:1-14 slowly, giving special emphasis to verses 11-14. Then comment somewhat as follows: Here we have the unmistakable fact of death, and our Lord's authority for calling it a sleep. It is actually death, but it was likened to a sleep in view of the resurrection. But what is actual death? Let Job tell us. He says, "Now shall I sleep in the dust, and thou shalt seek me in the morning [The Millennial morning when the night of death and weeping is past] and I shall not be;" that is, I shall not exist, having been destroyed. (Job 7:21.) Nevertheless, although he thus realized death to be destruction, he expresses his hope of a resurrection, saying, "All the days of my appointed time will I wait till my change come. Thou shalt call and I will answer thee. Thou wilt have a desire to the work of thine hands." – 14:14-15.
If Job is not in existence, yet answers to the Lord's call, the call must signify a re-creation – a call into being again – a resurrection. No other meaning could reasonably attach to such language. The Psalmist adds his testimony to the same thought, saying, "Thou turnest man to destruction [to death] and sayest, Return, ye children of men. For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night. [The lapse of time between death and the awakening is nothing to the dead when it is past, since they are entirely unconscious of it.] Thou carriest them away as with a flood; they are as asleep. In the morning they are like grass which groweth up. In the evening it is cut down and withered." (Psa. 90:3-6.) So brief is his present existence. Thus Job and David agree: the one says, when dead, "I shall [R1018 : page 7] not be:" the other says death is "destruction:" and both, like Jesus, liken it to a sleep, because there is to be an awakening, a resurrection.
God meant no pleasant, agreeable thing when he pronounced death as a curse, a penalty for sin. The Scriptures, throughout, represent it as an enemy (1 Cor. 15:26.) but, thank God, as an enemy from which there is at an appointed time to be a grand release, a resurrection, accomplished by him who redeemed us.
The faith of some seems to stagger at this promise of God when they come to view death in its true character. If death [R1018 : page 8] means non-existence, destruction, as the Scriptures affirm, then how, say they, is a resurrection possible? But Paul asks, "Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you that God should raise the dead?" (Acts 26:8). And he shows clearly that he understood death to be destruction, saying, that if there were no resurrection those who had fallen asleep in Christ were perished, and the hope of the church was vain. – 1 Cor. 15:15-18.
When God makes a promise there is no room for doubt. And those who have the faith of John (Matt. 3:9), who believed that God could of the stones raise up children unto Abraham, are also able to believe that he can resurrect, or create again, that which was once destroyed.
A single thoughtful glance at the plan of redemption assures us beyond a doubt of a resurrection – "both of the just and the unjust," as our Lord declared. (Acts 24:15; John 5:28,29.) For we read that "As in Adam all die, even so in [or, by] Christ shall all be made alive," (1 Cor. 15:22,) and He "gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time."
But when will this due time come? Peter answers (Acts 3:21,) that it will be at the second advent of Christ – "whom the heaven must receive UNTIL the times of restitution of all things." The restitution, or restoring of all things, is the object of his coming. While in God's arrangement it will require a thousand years to restore the race to its original perfection, the awakening from death is necessarily a first part of this restitution work.
Although the race was redeemed nearly nineteen centuries ago, and Christ has not yet taken his purchased possession, this does not argue against the promise; for it is to be fulfilled at the time appointed – when Christ takes his great power and begins his reign, and the present powers of earth have passed away.
Job says, "O that thou wouldst hide me in the grave, that thou wouldst keep me secret until thy wrath be past, that thou wouldst appoint me a set time and remember me." And again he says, "So man lieth down and riseth not till the heavens be no more: They shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep." (14:12.) The present order of things, or dominion of earth, is symbolically termed the heavens. The order of things that now obtains in the world must give place to the kingdom of Christ, the "new heavens." And under the glorious privileges and opportunities of the Millennial reign of Christ, the dead shall be awakened and brought forth to share its advantages, which, if properly improved, will lead to life eternal. The restored life will be eternal on the original condition of perfect obedience to God. And perfect obedience will be possible to all when fully restored.
But we are taught, also, that there are to be various orders in the resurrection – a first or chief resurrection, as well as a general resurrection. And it is written, "Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection." Such are those believers only, who are entirely consecrated to God, and faithful unto death. Such are to be joint-heirs with Christ, kings and priests unto God, and shall reign with Christ a thousand years, sharing with him in the great work of restoring all things. The resurrection of this class is first, not only in point of time, but also in point of importance. Such was the hope for which our (brother or sister) lived for the last – years and such the hope in which he died.
It is no vain thing to serve the Lord with the whole heart. Such shall reap a glorious reward with which the light afflictions of the present time are not worthy of comparison. Lukewarm service is an abomination in the sight of Him who readeth the heart; while even the imperfect service of those whose hearts are fully set to do his will, is well pleasing unto God. And the Lord, who discerneth the thoughts and intents of the heart, will make no mistake, nor will he be slack concerning his promises. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it. (1 Thes. 5:24.) Let each lay well to heart the solemn lessons of God's Word and rest in implicit faith in its sure fulfillment.
It would be appropriate also, if the circumstances should warrant it, to refer briefly to the general lesson taught by such an occasion to all. How that this life is the time in which our love for God, for his truth, and for our fellow men, can take an active form and display itself in deeds of self-sacrifice, whose sweet incense will endure when life is gone and precede us into the life to come. Appropriate words of sympathy for the bereaved ones, reminding them of God's care and love and protection, will suggest themselves according to the varying circumstances.
In reply we would say yes, though it has not been our habit to make any special point of such cases, for the reason that too much stress is generally laid upon a dying testimony. It should be remembered that though the instant of death is now the instant of change to those accounted worthy of the first resurrection, the change is not to be realized until that instant, and consequently, no testimony of the fact could be given. The dying testimony of the saints, therefore, can be nothing beyond their life testimony – a testimony of their full assurance of faith in the sure promises of God, based upon his approval or disapproval of their walk since the time of their consecration.
In proportion as the covenant of consecration has been scrupulously kept, may the final assurance of acceptance be strong. And as in Paul's case, it may amount to positive assurance, because of positive and continuous faithfulness. He declared "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, and henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness which the Lord the righteous judge will give me at that day; and not to me only but unto all them also who love his appearing." But had Paul given no such expression of his latest confidence that he had run successfully, his faithful course was a sufficient proof of it. This testimony of Paul however was not a dying testimony, but the expression of his confidence in view of the fact that he was about to be offered.
We have no account in Scripture of any visions of any of the saints when dying. What is generally regarded as a dying vision of Stephen (Acts 7:55,56,) was not a dying vision; for it was because of his statement, that he saw the heavens opened etc., that they ran upon him with one accord and cast him out of the city, and stoned him to death. And there is nothing in this expression of Stephen, which leads us to believe that he saw this vision otherwise than by the eye of faith – "being full of faith and the holy Spirit."
Consider the few accounts of the death of saints mentioned in the Scriptures – Jesus, Paul, Stephen, also the Prophets. None gave any dying message concerning that which is beyond. No favor of this kind is granted in dying. The dying words of our Lord – My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? – if uttered by any of the saints now, would awaken doubts and fears for their future well-being, because of the general belief in ecstatic visions granted to the faithful in dying. But the fact is, all the saints who share in the sufferings of the sin-bearer must do so unto the very end, and like him must be left to die as parts of the sin-sacrifice. It is only when this sacrifice is accomplished, when the dissolution is complete, that the blessedness of the dead can be realized. In this blessed time of his presence it shall be instantly realized by this faithful class – "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye."
How then shall we regard the dying words of some of our friends who thought they were going to heaven at once, and that, before this specially favored time ("from henceforth")? We must regard their mistaken dying expressions in precisely the same way that we regard their erroneous views previous to their dying hours, remembering that those errors influenced them to the end. The fact that the powers of mind and body are failing and almost exhausted, is certainly no reasonable guarantee that in that hour they possess any increased knowledge, or that they are granted any supernatural insight into the future. Such things are nowhere promised in the Scriptures, and are nowhere recorded in the Scriptures of the dying saints, nor even of the Lord. God does not communicate with the living through the saints either after their death, or in their dying. His method of communicating his truth to them is through his Word; and those who would follow his leading must walk by faith in that Word, down to the very end of the dark valley of death.
Methodists place great stress upon the dying words of one of their bishops – "I am sweeping through the gates of the New Jerusalem, washed in the blood of the Lamb." This, we can only regard as the outgrowth of his erroneous theology. The New Jerusalem was not yet in existence, but in due time he will be awakened when it will be gloriously established. Other Christians of the various denominations have similar ideas, and often base their hopes on similar errors, while passing by the sure and only foundation of hope given in the Scriptures. The truth gives a confidence in God which cannot be shaken, and which is an anchor to the soul both sure and steadfast, even amid the surges of Jordan.
In the course of conversation with the Rev. W. C. Van Meter, who is now on a visit to this country, in a brief interval of his mission work in Italy, he informed us that he had been enabled to print a large number of copies of the Gospel according to John in Italian for use in the Sunday Schools of Rome. The children there are following the International Course, the subjects of which just now are in that gospel. A singular coincidence, which shows the changes which God has worked, is that the gospel was actually printed in the room formerly used as the torture-chamber of the Inquisition. The printer who had undertaken the work was obliged to leave his former business premises, and looking around for a new location, selected rooms in an ancient edifice that appeared suitable. There he set up his presses and compositors' cases. A strange-looking iron ring in the ceiling arrested his attention, and on making inquiries about it he learned that he was actually in the old Inquisition, and that the room he occupied had served as a torture-chamber. There within the walls that have resounded with the cries of men and women suffering for conscience' sake, he set up and printed the gospel of John.– Dawn of Morning.
Dr. Alden – "I am sorry to say, sir, that, though you may be a good man and a good preacher, you are afflicted with too much hope to be a suitable missionary for the American Board."– Christian Register.