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Some of our readers, forgetting or failing to notice the change of the TOWER to a semi-monthly and the increase of the price to $1.00, have sent 60 cents, as last year. Such will please correct the matter at their earliest convenience. We prefer to have all subscriptions end with the year.
To those who feel an interest in the Truth and in the WATCH TOWER as an exponent of it, we offer the suggestion that now is a convenient season to invite their friends to become subscribers for it. We will accept of three or six months' subscriptions, so as to facilitate such new trial orders and also for the convenience of any whose circumstances hinder them from paying for the entire year in advance.
Our German readers will be glad to see this announcement, as some of them have long been wanting it for themselves and their friends who cannot read the English fluently. The price will be 35 cents per copy in paper covers, and 50 cents in leatherette binding. (Colporteurs will be supplied at half price.)
The credit for this work belongs to our dear Brother von Zech, who also translated the first volume and who is now the owner of the plates and the publisher of both volumes in German. Address all German orders, therefore, to Otto von Zech, Euclid Ave., Allegheny, Pa. However, should it ever be more convenient for you to enclose an order for German books with your letter or orders to the TOWER PUB. CO., do so, on a separate sheet, and we will take pleasure in handing it over to Brother Zech.
THE "TABERNACLE SHADOWS OF THE BETTER SACRIFICES" has been delayed considerably by a printers' strike; nor can we yet promise it definitely. It, like "The Wonderful Story," will be a special issue, and will be sent only to those who subscribe for it – price 10 cts.
Colporteurs in Great Britain and Ireland will be pleased to learn that they can now be supplied with MILLENNIAL DAWN, VOL. I., in packages of 5, 10, 20 or multiples of these, at colporteurs' rates, 7d. per copy – including carriage. Address ELLIOT STOCK, No. 62 Paternoster Row, London, England.
Our meetings are held in Bible House Chapel, Arch Street, Allegheny, Pa. Readers and friends will be warmly welcomed. Preaching every Lord's-day afternoon at 3:30 o'clock. A Question Meeting at 7 p.m., at which all reverent Bible subjects are entertained, is followed by a Social Meeting at 7:45.
Preaching in German by Bro. Zech, 10:30 a.m.
|VOL. XIII.||JANUARY 1, 1892.||NO. 1.|
In traveling abroad during the past Summer, one important object was to learn by actual observation something of the present condition and progress of Foreign Mission work, and to this end, had time been at our command, we would have liked to extend our tour a little further across the seas to India. However, we had opportunities in Turkey, Syria, Palestine and Egypt, which may be justly regarded as fair samples of foreign missionary effort and success. And those observations have led to a careful reconsideration of the entire subject of gospel missionary work both from the standpoint of Scripture testimony and from the standpoint of human theory and practice. Our findings upon the subject we submit to our readers.
Foreign Missions, i.e., efforts to reform and proselyte barbarous peoples, have been popular among Christian people since the third century; but, strange as the statement may at first appear to many, we have no record of such efforts being made by the Apostles or under their direction during the first century. This, however, was not because the gospel is not free to all – barbarian or Scythian, bond or free – but because the apostles found plenty and more than they could do to spread a knowledge of the gospel among the civilized Jews and Gentiles, and found no time, therefore, for going among the barbarous and uncivilized, though they never passed by the poor, the slaves, or any class manifesting "an ear to hear" the truth. They evidently expected to find and did find more with "ears to hear" among those civilized peoples who had "their senses exercised by reason of use." Having right ideas concerning the work of the Gospel age, their efforts were always expended upon the most hopeful material. No doubt, had the time ever come when all the civilized peoples had been thoroughly evangelized and indoctrinated, they would have extended their efforts as far as possible – even to the barbarians. But that condition of things was not reached in their day, and some of us believe that it is not reached even yet.
True, the Apostle to the Gentiles went on so-called "missionary journeys" for years, in the cities near the Mediterranean sea, but those were not "Foreign Missions" in the sense that this term is now understood. The peoples whom he visited, so far from being barbarians, were the most civilized and cultured peoples of the world. Nor can it be said that he did this because there were no barbarians; for Africa with its millions was just alongside his home; and some of the islands of the Mediterranean had plenty of uncivilized people or "barbarians," too. Yet the Apostle went past these to the chief cities of the world – to Athens and to Rome, the centers of civilization and education – when he went to preach the gospel.
On the contrary, however, the book of the Acts of the Apostles – a history of the mission work of the first century – although it tells us of Paul's shipwreck upon the island of Melita, [R1347 : page 4] inhabited by "barbarians," among whom he was obliged to spend the three winter months, and of how he healed the sick among them, tells us not one word about any missionary effort made among those "barbarians," nor of any converts or church left there when he journeyed onward in the Spring.
It is common at Foreign Missionary meetings in this day to represent the barbarians as stretching out their hands to Christians and saying, "Come over and help us!" as in a dream the Apostle Paul saw a man of Macedonia calling him. And this generally passes for a good parallel illustration, because people forget that Macedonia, instead of being in "darkest Africa," was that region lying northward of Athens and in every way one of the most civilized states of the world at that time. It was among these intelligent people that the Apostle labored so successfully, establishing the truth among the noble people of Thessalonica to whom he afterward wrote two of his noted epistles. There, too, he founded another congregation among the yet more noble Bereans, and there also another congregation at Philippi, to whom another of his noted epistles was afterward addressed.
The fact that some of the Apostle's converts were "slaves" counts nothing against their intelligence, for the slaves of the rich were often hostages taken in war, and were frequently as well or better educated than their masters. It is plain, then, that the missionary efforts of the apostles were made among the most intelligent of their day, and not among the barbarians.
It may be urged that our Lord's command was, "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature."* But this expression has gradually come to have a very different meaning from what the apostles could have understood it to signify. To them it meant substantially this: I have heretofore confined my own efforts and yours to the Jews, and would not permit you to preach to the Gentiles; but now the Jewish or Law Dispensation is at an end; the middle wall of partition between Jews and Gentiles is broken down; and now, therefore, I instruct you to preach the good tidings without respect to race – to any and every creature who has an ear to hear it.
That the Apostle Paul so understood our Lord's teaching is proved by his conduct: he preached the gospel to all who would hear him – to the Jew first and also to the Greek – and was "willing to preach the gospel" to the people of Rome also, although they were less intelligent than the people of Achaia and Macedonia (Greece). But while such fields for usefulness among intelligent peoples were open, he evidently was unwilling to go on a modern foreign missionary tour amongst degraded barbarians totally unprepared for the "high calling," which alone, Paul knew, was the divine call due to be given during the Gospel age.
Nor would it have been right for the apostles, as wise master-builders, to spend their efforts upon the unfruitful barbaric fields while a more fruitful one lay open. They were bound to remember the other injunctions of the Word – that the gospel is to be preached "to the meek" (those ready to be taught) and to "him that hath an ear to hear" – a desire to know God's plan. They knew, too, that the present "high calling," so far from being a call of the world, is a call for the purpose of selecting from the world a choice "little flock" to be the bride of Christ and his joint-heir in a glorious kingdom, to be established for the blessing of the whole world during an age to follow – the Millennium or thousand years reign of Christ for which he taught us to pray "Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is done in heaven." Consequently, when once they had presented the subject clearly, if the hearers scoffed, the apostles did not coax or urge and plead with them, but sought for others having "ears to hear," concluding that, for the time at least, such as rejected their message were unworthy of the knowledge and the call. See Acts 28:22-31.
In the second and third centuries, when the gospel message became well known in the civilized [R1348 : page 4] parts of the world (Italy and Greece), zealous Christians began to branch out, carrying the gospel to what is now Germany, the people of which were gradually becoming more civilized and intelligent. But it was not until about the fifth century, when the doctrine of the eternal torment of all not believing in Christ had been [R1348 : page 5] generally accepted, that foreign missions among the barbaric races became popular.
This unscriptural doctrine, that all who do not accept of Christ in this present life will be everlastingly tortured, is still the unholy, inglorious and God-dishonoring basis of activity on behalf of the heathen in the present foreign missionary enterprises.
We are not sorry to see time and money spent upon the poor, ignorant barbarians; but we do sincerely regret that they should be so spent as to add to their superstitious fears. If this money and time were spent in teaching the uncivilized and half-civilized peoples the simple arts of civilized life – how to build, how to sew, how to cook, and how to live comfortably upon their meager incomes, it would be a good work; and if in addition they were taught the truth regarding the Lord's plan, or even given the Bible unexplained, it would be a still better work. But when little is done except to pervert the gracious promises of the Bible, it would be far better if the heathen were left in their former darkness until the true, pure sunlight of the Millennial Kingdom shall reach and bless them all.
To imagine, however, that all the missionaries or all who give for the support of missions do so because of the belief that the barbarians will all go to eternal torment except such as learn of and accept Christ would be a mistake. Many have clearer heads, and the hearts and hopes of others are better than their heads. A few probably go abroad as missionaries for the glory and novelty of the thing, and because their support there is guaranteed, while here it would be precarious; but the majority, we are glad to believe, go forth with a sincere desire to do good in the name of the Lord. They go because they think it is the best way of serving the Lord. They see the civilized world full of churches and pastors, and hence look beyond for fields of usefulness. They do not consider intelligently enough the doctrines of these churches, and perhaps blindly give assent to the one proposing to send them out, not considering how much of error they go forth to bind upon the heathen, nor that a better work would be to get themselves right with God and his Word, and then to help other members of the body of Christ at home into the true light and life of entire consecration and holiness.
Likewise with the moneys donated for this cause: While much of the missionary funds is collected in a sectarian spirit, each denomination striving not to be outshone by others; and while a few of the contributors probably give to missions to be seen and approved of men, no doubt the great majority give from noble, good motives – unto the Lord, to do good to fellow creatures – not considering, and in some cases not knowing, how much more necessity there is at home for their every talent in feeding, purifying and clothing the multitudes, both spiritually and temporally.
Present Protestant missionary efforts may be said to date from A.D. 1792, although the Moravians and others in a small way did considerable before that. To say that no good is accomplished by these missions, their pastors and teachers would be an untruth. They are doing good, although in a different way and to a much less degree than is generally presumed. Take, for instance, Syria: were it not for these Protestant missions, the Roman, Greek and Italian Catholic Missions and the Mohammedan and Jewish Missions, the natives would be almost destitute of educational and civilizing advantages. As it is, they are compelled to swallow a certain amount of some of the religions offered them, in order to get a little schooling; and very little of any religion or schooling does them. They are naturally cunning and quick to learn first principles, and want no more. But so far as the real work of the Gospel age is concerned – the finding of the saints, the Lord's jewels – the foreign mission work seems to be a total failure. For that matter, however, there are few such "jewels" found in any field of labor: we merely point out that very few of these jewels are to be found among the "barbarians," except among the missionaries themselves.
We had the opportunity of visiting the chief and oldest Mission Station of Syria, at Beyrout. It is one of the most prosperous Protestant Missions and will consequently afford a good illustration of general mission work. [R1348 : page 6]
When we were there most of the missionaries had gone up to Mt. Lebanon to spend the summer, but we ascertained the following from those in charge. (1) The printing office has become self-supporting or better, and is now separated from the American Mission. (2) Beyrout represents twelve branches of Protestant work – American, English and German, including several denominations. (3) It has a full force of teachers and Doctors of Divinity. (4) Its schools make the principal showing. (5) During 1890 the total number of children under instruction was 15,473; and of these the various Protestant institutions had 3,090; the remainder, 12,383, being under Catholic, Jewish and Mohammedan instruction.
Our conclusion was that the missionaries so engaged there are investing their time and talents to poor advantage, and where harvest is sure to be meager, if indeed under the Lord's scrutiny it amounts to anything in the real mission of the present age – the selection of the "little flock" of saints who, as Christ's Bride, will be his joint-heir in the kingdom to come, whose mission will then be to bless all the families of the earth. But although teachers in the secular schools of the United States are doing a similar mission work with even better prospects of success, because of the better element they labor with, we should and do esteem many of these earnest teachers of the semi-civilized and barbaric children very highly for their works' sake, for their self-denial and devotion to principle, even though those principles be founded upon human traditions and misinformation concerning the Lord's plans for the present and for the coming age. They are laboring in a field almost, if not altogether, barren of fruit such as the Lord is now seeking; and are trying to do before God's time, under great difficulties, a work which the Lord will accomplish thoroughly very soon. While the Lord no doubt accepts every sacrifice and every good deed done in the name of our Savior, and will give some reward to all such servants, we feel like saying, as we look at the fields of Christendom, white already for harvesting, and see that the harvest is great and the laborers few – Oh! dear, consecrated co-laborers and co-sacrificers, would that you could see the more excellent way of God, and engage in the harvest work of the Gospel age instead of laboring fruitlessly before the time to sow and plant for the work of the next age, before the improved machinery for so doing is ready, and while our Master is saying in this harvest which is to the end the Gospel age, as he said in the harvest or close of the Jewish age: "Go ye also into my vineyard," and "I send you forth to reap." He that reapeth receiveth wages and gathereth fruit unto everlasting life. So surely as the harvest work is the Lord's work, that should be the mission and the only mission of all who appreciate the privilege of being co-workers with him. So surely as he is now saying, "Gather together my saints unto me, they that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice," so surely all who desire to serve and obey should engage heartily in that work. So surely as he declares that this is the time for the sealing of his servants in their foreheads (intellectually) with present truth, so surely all who get sealed themselves will desire thus to bless others and to obey their King. However, we must not imagine that all missionaries are saints, and must remember that the harvest-truth is only for the holy and meek, the few, while many who have done "many wonderful works" in Christ's name shall be rejected as unworthy a place in the kingdom. – Matt. 7:21-23.
But, while we would discourage saints from going abroad on such missions, we would not advise the return of foreign missionaries, but, rather, calling to mind the Apostle's words (1 Cor. 7:20), would advise that, after getting sealed in the forehead with an intellectual appreciation of the truth of God's great plan, they stay abroad and seek the ripe wheat, the humble and fully consecrated saints among the missionaries (or among the native converts, if they find such), and in return seal them and gather them into oneness with the Lord and his plan. But be not discouraged if you find few "jewels." – Mal. 3:16-18,1-3.
Our opinions concerning Foreign Mission work were by no means altered by our visit to the headquarters of the American Mission for Turkey, in Constantinople; nor yet by our visit [R1348 : page 7] to the English Church Mission among the Jews in Jerusalem; nor by our visit to the British Syrian Mission in Jerusalem.
We found the Missionaries (such as we met, several having gone to the mountains for the summer) such as are ordinarily met with in the pulpits of the United States and Great Britain. And in Jerusalem we heard a very good discourse in good English from an Episcopal minister. It was delivered in a neat church building, fitted up in good style and with a fine pipe-organ, to an English congregation of about thirty-five persons aside from the choir-boys. For this congregation it required three missionaries to officiate, and the fourth, the bishop, was at Hebron for the summer. [R1349 : page 7]
To us it seemed that those missionaries had missed their calling; for the three seemed to do less than any one of them might have done, had the proper spirit for such work been combined with a proper appreciation of the opportunities at their hand.
To be adapted to work in such a field, or in any field, for that matter, one should first of all have that spirit of the Master which, seeing the multitude in ignorance, is "moved with compassion toward them." As, on our way back to our hotel, we saw poor Jews misled by the Talmud, and poor Arabs misled by the Koran, and poor Greek and Roman and Armenian Catholics misled by their priests, and then thought of these Protestants, more intelligent, but without either the truth or the spirit of it necessary to bless the others, we felt sad for the moment; but soon we were thanking God that his gracious plan would ere long rectify all these blind mistakes caused by false doctrine.
We would have loved to learn the language and to have spent the remainder of our days among those miserable people, helping to uplift them, but remembered that the "harvest" work is much more important, in order that the already called-out Bride of Christ may make herself ready for the marriage, and then, under more favorable conditions than the present, and backed by kingdom power, she with her Lord and his spirit may say to those and to all the poor distressed ones of earth – Come to the water of life! – Rev. 19:7; 21:17.
Finding that the natives generally had little respect for either Protestant or Catholic missionaries, we inquired of our guide, himself a Christian, why it was so. He replied, Ah! sir, no wonder: these priests and teachers are too far above the people. For instance, fancy, if you can, the Lord Jesus going through the streets of Jerusalem in patriarchal robes, and preceded by two men, one crying, Oh – ah! Oh – ah! (Clear the way!) and the other carrying a whip to enforce prompt obedience. Can you wonder that the people do not respect such religion? And it is the same with bishops of the Church of England as with the others.
Upon inquiring at the hotel the route to the residence of the Rev. Ben. Oliel, whose card, posted in the hotel corridor, indicated that he was the Presbyterian Missionary, we were told the direction to take; but, said our director, he will not be known by that name among the people. Ask for Habish and any of the natives can point you to his residence. Before starting we inquired the meaning of Habish, and were told, That is Arabic for "turkey-cock:" the gentleman has so pompous an air that the natives know him as Habish. Our readers will not wonder that we turned our steps in another direction, and were pleased to find a native pastor preaching to a congregation of natives – mostly young men connected with the printing and other departments of the mission work.
As we returned through England and the United States, where the money is furnished to support these missions, we said to ourselves, Alas! how strange that while thousands of lives and millions of money are given freely to civilize the heathen and to misinform them concerning the divine character and plan, so little is being done for the ignorant and depraved at home in all the large cities (into which the most degraded classes from all nations are being dumped continually); and how few lives and dollars, comparatively, are consecrated to the grand mission of proclaiming the "gospel of the Kingdom" – "good tidings of great joy, which shall be unto all people."
This language is so pointed and so emphatic that it will not do to treat it lightly, as some do who claim that the "gospel of the Kingdom" may be anything else than what its name would indicate. The word gospel, here, is emphatic in the Greek, and so is the word kingdom. It is not any and every good message, but a special one – This good message of the Kingdom – which must first be preached before the end of this age.
We ask whether this has yet been done, and reply, No. That which is generally preached under the name gospel has little in it that is really good tidings, and nothing whatever in it about the Kingdom that our Lord promised should be "set up" in the end of the Gospel age, to bless all the families of the earth during the Millennial age.
Catholics and Protestants, although they use our Lord's prayer, saying, "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is done in heaven," do not expect such a kingdom, and hence are not preaching it in all or in any of the nations of the world. Roman Catholics claim that their church system is the Kingdom of God, and that this kingdom came or was set up in authority back in the sixth century. And on the strength of this they have for centuries claimed the right to govern the world politically and religiously. Protestants, while rejecting some of Rome's errors, held on to this one in part, and claimed that they and the so-called Christian governments of Europe constitute the Kingdom of God set up in power – they know not exactly when or how. Their error, however, is sufficient to keep them from preaching this gospel of the Kingdom.
Brethren and Sisters, the fewer there are to do this work the greater is the opportunity and privilege of those who realize the situation, and desire not only to be at work, but at work doing what our great Chief Reaper has instructed us to do in accordance with his plan and his message.
We are not calling for missionaries to go to foreign fields, where they would have comparatively little opportunity for preaching the Kingdom gospel. We believe that the Lord is blessing and will yet more bless the printed page and use it in this service. Thus you can be at work here in the richer fields, reaping the ripened saints and sealing them with the truth, and at the same time co-operating in sending forth in the name of the Lord this gospel of the Kingdom. It is already reaching and blessing some in foreign lands, and they are mostly missionaries who in turn tell the good tidings to others hungry for the soul-satisfying portion of meat in due season.
Let us not be discouraged by the comparative smallness of the number interested or the comparative smallness of the funds at our command, for "Greater is he that is for us than all they that be against us." Our Redeemer and Lord is at the helm, and the work, as he has planned and declared it, will be done. The only question for us is, How great a share in that work may we each have. Labor in the cause of this gospel of the Kingdom will not bring honor among men, but it will bring honor from above and from all the little flock in full sympathy with the divine arrangement.
The handful of harvest laborers and the money at our disposal seem insignificant in contrast with the hundreds of missionaries and the millions of dollars spent by Catholic and Protestant societies in their support and in publishing abroad the doctrinal errors handed down from [R1349 : page 9] the dark ages, which tend to pervert and subvert the teachings of the Scriptures. And yet such is the zeal which the "present truth" inspires that "A little one is able to chase a thousand, and two to put ten thousand to flight." (Deut. 32:30.) Although few, and untitled, and generally without great worldly learning – in these respects resembling those sent out by our Lord with the Kingdom message at the first advent – the faithful band of harvest workers is busily engaged (some giving all their time and others able to give only a portion of it) in seeking out the "wheat" class – the sickle of truth which they bear separating "the wheat" from "the tares."
Few know these Colporteurs as the Lord's real representatives, or recognize that dignity which the Lord sees in their humility and self-sacrifice. Missionaries? No, say the world and the nominal Church, ours are the missionaries, who go to foreign lands. Yes, says the Lord, these are my missionaries, charged with a grand mission – to "Gather together my saints unto me; those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice." "They shall be mine, saith the Lord, in the day when I come to make up my jewels."
Ministers? No, say the world and the nominal Church, only ours who wear "clerical" garments and preach from our pulpits are God's ministers. Yes, says the Lord, My servants (ministers) they are because they serve me, dispensing present truth to my household. I have sent forth the message which they bear. He that despiseth them despiseth me, and he that receiveth the sealing in the forehead which I send by them will know the doctrine, that it is of me. "My sheep know my voice."
During the past six years, annual reports of the work have not been made, for the reason that the reports would not have shown up so well as we would have liked, and might have been discouraging rather than encouraging, some years. But the past year has been so favorable, and the responses already received to the suggestion on last leaf of the November TOWER have been [R1350 : page 9] so encouraging that we have concluded to report each January hereafter, good or bad. We accordingly report now the Tower Missionary Work in spreading the Gospel of the Kingdom for the six years past.
Paid balance, debt, owing January 1st, '86, $ 516.17 Expended in publishing and circulating Tracts and sample copies of Z.W. TOWER and in sending TOWER to the Lord's poor,.............................. 8625.03 -------- 9141.20
From Old Theology Tract subscriptions,... $1113.63 From Tract Fund Donations.................. 8017.57 -------- 9141.20
It will thus be seen that we started Dec. 1st, '91 with an evenly balanced ledger. But since figures are not apt to come out so exactly, it may be proper to remark that we had expended considerably more than our receipts, which would have shown a debt owing, but five friends of the cause subscribed the balance so as to permit us to start the new fiscal year, beginning December 1st, free from debt.
The results of the above expenditures will be of interest and will, we believe, show a very economical use of the means.
Tracts published and distributed,........... 841,095 Representing – as usually stated – in pages,. 14,874,240 Copies of Zion's Watch Tower aside from those sent to subscribers,................. 395,000
While this branch of the service is kept separate from the Tract Society's Work, and is, as far as possible, run upon a self-supporting basis, it is the purpose to give during the present year the extra assistance necessary to enable some to enter this service who manifest an ability for it but who need a start, or whose dependent families make needful some extra provision to enable them to continue in the work.
Of all the means in use for preaching the good tidings of the Kingdom, this work yields the most favorable results; and we praise God that he is sending more laborers into this harvest work, and that those already in it give evidence [R1350 : page 10] of being so filled with the spirit of the gospel and so consecrated to its service. The circulation of the MILLENNIAL DAWN in its three volumes during the past twelve months has reached nearly 85,000 copies; and these have been circulated almost exclusively by the Colporteurs – including under this name not only those who give their entire time to this work, but also those of you who are doing what you can in a humble, quiet way about your homes – selling, loaning or giving books to such as have an ear to hear the Truth. While congratulating you all and ourselves upon the results of our united efforts under our dear Master's blessing and guidance, we start upon another year hoping for still greater blessings in his cause and name. The statements on the printed slips in November TOWER of what you hope to be able to do in this cause during the year beginning have been very helpful and encouraging to us; and the kind words accompanying were no less appreciated – assuring us as they did that you are glad to be reminded of the Apostles' advice on the subject, and to be thus assisted in ordering your affairs to the Lord's praise.
"Where art thou, Lord?" we sometimes cry
From hearts with pain and anguish riven,
And wonder in our sorrow why
No answer comes from his far Heaven.
Filled with our grief, we do not know
That softly, gently, through our woe,
His voice is whispering tenderly,
"Lo, I that speak to thee am He."
"Where art thou, Lord?" we sometimes say,
As clouds of unbelief and doubt
Sweep darkly o'er our onward way
And crowd his loving presence out.
We shrink back as they draw more near,
And, looking at them, do not hear
His voice still saying lovingly,
"Lo, I that speak to thee am He."
"Where art thou, Lord?" we've sometimes said,
As error, all the wide world through,
Stalks onward with triumphant tread
And crushes down the just and true.
We catch the sound of strife and fear,
But, through the discord, do not hear
That sweet voice sounding steadily,
"Lo, I that speak to thee am He."
"Where art thou, Lord?" we sometimes sigh,
From beds of weariness and pain,
The while his husbandmen go by
To gather in his fields of grain.
And longing with them forth to go,
We miss his gentle accents, low,
That through our pain would constantly
Say, "I that speak to thee am He."
"Where art thou, Lord?" some glorious day
We'll ask upon the heavenly shore,
As 'mid the angel hosts we stray,
Our pilgrim journey safely o'er.
Our hearts will find no resting place
Until before his glorious face
The blessed words to us shall be,
"Lo, I that speak to thee am He." – Selected.
"I form the light and create darkness; I make peace and create evil." – Isa. 45:7.
In view of the blasphemous explanation now being given by some, of this passage of Scripture, we are reminded that this is but a fulfilment of the divine forewarnings through the apostles and prophets. In this connection we notice that Paul says, "Perilous times will come" (2 Tim. 3:1); and then he describes at great length the class of men from whom we are to expect the perils. And that we might at once recognize them so as to have nothing whatever to do with them, he adds, those "Having the form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away." (2 Tim. 3:5.) The importance of this admonition will be seen when it is understood that Jesus' death is made the power or source of godliness to them that believe. In harmony with this view Paul says, "I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you...by which also ye are saved...unless ye have [R1350 : page 11] believed in vain...how that Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures." (1 Cor. 15:1-3.) For "Ye are bought with a price" (1 Cor. 6:20), "Redeemed...with the precious blood of Christ." (1 Pet. 1:18,19.) In this way Jesus, by the sacrifice of his life as a human being, obtained the right to mankind, having bought them from Justice with the price. This he did in order that God could maintain his Justice and at the same time receive all sinners who would come to him through their appointed substitute; for "The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." (Isa. 53:6.) Therefore those who come through Jesus are "justified freely by his [God's] grace [favor] through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,... through his blood." (Rom. 3:24-26.) The sinner thus justified is reckoned holy or godly, having secured "the gift of [attributed] righteousness. ...For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous." (Rom. 5:17,19.) Therefore Jesus' death is made the power or source of godliness. (1 Cor. 1:23,24.) Then to deny in any manner, either by word or implication, that Jesus gave up his life (died) as the price of our redemption is to deny the power of godliness. This, Paul said some would do, while they would maintain the outward appearance of being godly.
It is Peter, however, who describes more particularly the peculiarly subtle method they would adopt in thus denying the ransom. He says, "There shall be false teachers among you, who shall privately bring in damnable [destructive] heresies, denying the Lord that bought them." (2 Pet. 2:1.) He thus positively asserts that there would be teachers of falsehood right in the midst of God's people. Evidently, then, they would be formally godly – "grievous wolves" in sheep's clothing. These he says would deny that the Lord bought them. Not that they would do so openly, by word of mouth, but that they would do so in a private manner. That is, while they might profess to believe in the ransom, they would quietly introduce some false theories that would be opposed to it, or, in other words, a virtual denial that the Lord bought them.
These inspired forewarnings we now see were not in vain; for the false teachers are now here, and are doing exactly as foretold. This is fully exemplified, in that the words of our text are now being used as authority for charging God with being the author of sin and wickedness. This theory, while blasphemous in itself and opposed to both reason and Scripture, is in addition, as we shall see, a denial of the ransom. Now, if God be responsible for the introduction and continued existence of sin, then the commission of sin is excusable, and then Adam and his posterity would undoubtedly be irresponsible, having had no choice in the matter.
Further, under such circumstances God could not have commanded the man to obey a given law. Not being in any way, then, amenable to law, he could not possibly be a transgressor of law, and therefore he could not have committed an offence against justice. As a sequence, there would be no necessity for Jesus as the Redeemer, and of his death as the price. For unoffended justice could not require satisfaction, i.e., a ransom or corresponding price. In this way, this subtle and God-dishonoring theory denies the Lord that bought us. In addition to this, by getting rid of the penalty (for where there could be no transgression there could be no penalty inflicted), it holds out a false hope that all must eventually be saved.
The whole theory is decidedly unreasonable, and is opposed in every particular by the testimony of God's Word; and further, there is not a particle of authority for it in our text. That the evil here referred to by the prophet is not sin, but calamity, is shown by the context and the contrast drawn between peace and evil. The chapter opens with the statement that Cyrus is the Lord's anointed to subdue nations. Then, continuing, God promises him (verse 2) "I will go before thee" (verse 3) "I will give thee the treasures of darkness... that thou mayest know that I the Lord... am the God of Israel." (Verse 5) "I am the Lord and there is none else; there is no God beside me: I girded thee." (Verse 6) "That they may know...that there is none beside me." (Verse 7) "I form the light and create [R1350 : page 12] darkness; I make peace and create evil: I the Lord do all these things." The subject of the prophet is thus evidently continued, inclusive of the seventh verse, and here the word "create" is used twice, and undoubtedly in the same sense. For as darkness may [R1351 : page 12] be said to be created by the withdrawing of light, so also the evil referred to may be said to be created by the withdrawal of the restraint and protection that afford peace. Now, however, God was about to withdraw these and inflict chastisement. To this end Cyrus was exalted to power, as stated, that he might know that Jehovah was the God of Israel, for the sake of the Jewish captives then in Babylon, and also that the idolatrous nations might know, by the calamities (evils) inflicted on them, and the overthrow of their man-made gods (to whom they would vainly appeal for deliverance), that there was no God beside the God of Israel.
[Rather, we would suggest, Israel had already experienced adversity and captivity to Babylon (evils) as the result of the withdrawal of the Lord's protecting care, because of their idolatry; and now that God's time had come for their return to his protection and favor in their own land, he would have Cyrus know that his accession to power was not accidental, but of divine arrangement, for the purpose of returning the Israelites to their own land. God would have Cyrus recognize him as the supervisor of his people's affairs. – EDITOR.]
That this is the meaning is clear, and in this sense the word evil and its Hebrew equivalent, "ra," are repeatedly used by Moses and the prophets. For example, it is recorded that Lot said "I cannot escape to the mountain, lest some evil take me and I die." (Gen. 19:19.) Here it is evident that Lot feared that he would receive bodily injury or be killed; and these are called "evil." Again it is said, "The Lord will put none of the evil diseases of Egypt upon thee." (Deut. 7:15.) Here bodily affliction or diseases are called "evil." Again, the Israelites "Forsook the Lord and served Baal." "And the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel, and he delivered them...into the hands of their enemies." "The hand of the Lord was against them for evil...and they were greatly distressed." (Judges 2:13-15.) In this case Israel sinned against God, and he suffered their enemies to make war on them and spoil them; and this calamity is called "evil." Further, the Hebrew word ra, rendered evil, is also translated as follows: Adversity: "Ye have this day rejected your God who saved you out of all your [ra] adversities." (1 Sam. 10:19.) Afflictions: "Many are the [ra] afflictions of the righteous." (Psa. 34:19.) Trouble: "In the time of [ra] trouble he will hide me." (Psa. 27:5.) Hurt: "I will deliver them for their [ra] hurt." (Jer. 24:9.) Distress: "Ye see the [ra] distress we are in, how Jerusalem lieth waste." (Neh. 2:17.) Harm: "Look well to him and do him no [ra] harm." (Jer. 39:12.) It is also translated "misery," "calamities," "ill," "sorrow," and many other words.
It will be seen, then, by the use of the word, as well as by the connection in which it is found in our text, and the contrast there drawn between peace and evil, that not sin, but calamity, is meant. There is, therefore, as we have said, not a particle of authority in our text for the blasphemous, God-dishonoring theory of these false teachers. On the contrary, in marked contrast with this vile charge are the repeated and pointed declarations of God through his holy apostles and prophets; for they all bear witness to the holiness of his character, and of all his works and ways. For example: God exhorted the people of Israel through Moses, saying, "Ye shall be holy, for I am holy." (Lev. 11:44.) And through Peter he exhorts the Gospel church, saying, "But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation." (1 Pet. 1:15,16.) By Isaiah (who wrote our text) God is called "the Holy One" thirty times, and once he emphasises it by adding, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord." But if these theorists be right, the prophet was guilty of inconsistency and falsehood. Again, David records that "The Lord is righteous in all his ways (acts) and holy in all his works." (Psa. 145:17.) Now, it is clear that he could not be holy in all his works if he were the author of sin and crime. Further, Jeremiah says, "The Lord is [R1351 : page 13] righteous." (Lam. 1:18.) And Samuel testifies that, "As for God, his way is perfect." (2 Sam. 22:31.) And still further, "Thus saith the Lord:...let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord which exerciseth lovingkindness, judgment and righteousness [not wickedness] in the earth; for in these things I delight, saith the Lord." – Jer. 9:22,24.
This exhortation and this glorious expression of God's character should inspire unbounded confidence, and bring lasting comfort to those who honor and love him. It should likewise, by making the folly of those who dishonor him apparent, bring them shame and confusion of face. Not only is he thus over and over declared righteous and holy, but he is also proclaimed "A God of truth and without iniquity." (Deut. 32:4,5.) Also "A just Lord, and will not do iniquity." – Zeph. 3:5.
Habakkuk testifies that "Thou [God] art of purer eyes than to behold [i.e., with approval] evil, and cannot look [denoting his abhorrence] upon iniquity." (Hab. 1:13.) James says, "God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man." (James 1:13.) And the Psalmist says, "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me." (Psa. 66:18.) Again he says, "Thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness, neither shall evil dwell with thee: thou hatest all workers of iniquity." (Psa. 5:4,5.) Then with David we would say, "Rejoice in the Lord, ye righteous, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness." (Psa. 97:12.) "Give thanks, ...make known his deeds,...talk of his wondrous works, glory ye in his holy name." – 1 Chron. 16:8-10.
But the advocates of this God-dishonoring theory prefer to reverse all this; for they rejoice and give thanks at the remembrance of his unholiness (?): they make known his evil (?) deeds, talk of his evil (?) works, and glory in giving him an unholy name. But their folly should be manifest to all; for the evidences are overwhelmingly conclusive that God has not corrupted mankind, but that "They have deeply corrupted themselves." – Hosea 9:9.
LESSON I., JANUARY 3, ISA. 11:1-10.
The inspiring themes of this lesson are the glorious Millennial Kingdom and the rightful King whom God hath appointed to reign in righteousness over all the earth. This is that kingdom to which our Lord referred when to his disciples he said, "I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; that ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel" (Luke 22:29,30); that kingdom for which he taught us to pray, "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is done in heaven;" that kingdom which he commissioned his disciples to preach, saying, "Let the dead bury their dead, but go thou and preach the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:1,2,60); and that to which some of the poor of this world, rich in faith, have been chosen heirs. (James 2:5.) It is that kingdom of which the Prophet Isaiah frequently discourses in glowing language, and which, indeed, has been the theme of all the holy prophets since the world began (Acts 3:19-21), as well as of the Lord and the apostles.
But observe that every reference to it looks to its future establishment, and makes clearly manifest the fact that it is not yet set up in the earth; for the will of God is not yet done on earth as it is done in heaven, and the heirs of the kingdom are not yet reigning with Christ. The only way in which the kingdom of God yet exists is in its embryo condition, in its incipient stage of humiliation, in which it often [R1351 : page 14] "suffers violence," and "the violent take it by force." (Matt. 11:12.) But in due time these prospective heirs of the kingdom who now faithfully endure hardness as good soldiers, will be counted worthy to be exalted and to reign with Christ when his kingdom shall be established in power and great glory. (Matt. 24:30.) Hear the promise of our glorified Lord: "To him that overcometh, will I grant to sit with me in my throne." (Rev. 3:21.) And again, "They shall be priests of God and of Christ and shall reign with him a thousand years" – "on the earth." – Rev. 20:6; 5:10.
It seems strange indeed, in view of the clear testimony of the Scriptures on the subject of the establishment of the kingdom of God in the earth, and of its glorious character and work, that Christians generally, both Catholic and Protestant, entertain the idea that that kingdom has already come, and that it has been established in the earth for many centuries. This error is not one which originated with Protestants, but rather, one which they have never outgrown. The claim was first made by the Papacy when she became popular with the world and was exalted to power, and the "Great [R1352 : page 14] Reformation" movement, while it touched many other doctrines, left this one unmolested; and the thoughtless indifference of Christians since those days has never discovered to them the absurdity of praying, "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is done in heaven," while at the same time they claim that his kingdom did come long ago, though they freely admit that his will is not, and never has been, done on earth as it is done in heaven.
But let us observe what the Prophet here has to say of the glorious character and the extent of this dominion and of the power and glory of its appointed King, and then see if there is, or ever yet has been, such a king or such a kingdom in the earth. Hear him! (Isa. 11:1.) "And there shall come forth a rod out of the stock of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots: And the spirit of Jehovah shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the reverence of Jehovah; and shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither give sentence after the hearing of his ears. [He will not need to call up the testimony of human witnesses in any case, since his own knowledge and understanding of each man's case will be perfect.] But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and give sentence with equity for the meek of the earth....And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins." – Verses 1-5.
This glorious Branch out of the stock of Jesse we recognize as our blessed Lord Jesus, who, after his resurrection, said, "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth" (Matt. 28:18), and who at the time appointed will take unto him his great power and reign. (Rev. 11:17.) This is "the Messenger of the [new] covenant whom ye delight in. Behold he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts." (Mal. 3:1; Jer. 31:31-34.) Oh, let our hearts truly rejoice in the blessed and multiplied assurances that he who so loved us as to give his life for our ransom is coming again to reign. "Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad;...for he cometh to judge the earth: he shall judge the world with righteousness and the people with his truth." – Psa. 96:11-13.
Now in observing the character of his reign, notice First, that it will be a terror to evil doers, and that because iniquity so abounds in the world, the first work of his reign will be the smiting of the earth with the rod of his mouth and the slaying of the wicked with the breath of his lips (verse 4); for somehow the truth, "the rod of his mouth and the breath of his lips," is either directly or indirectly to bring about the smiting of the earth – the great "time of trouble such as was not since there was a nation." – Dan. 12:1; Matt. 24:21; Jas. 5:1-6; Mal. 3:2-5; 4:1.
Secondly, observe that while his reign is to be a terror to evil doers, exposing and uprooting every system and every principle of evil, both in society at large and in every individual, it will on the other hand be the consolation and joy of all the meek who love righteousness; for such shall no longer be oppressed, but shall be exalted and blessed. – Verse 4. [R1352 : page 15]
Thirdly, notice that the blessings of Christ's Millennial reign will extend, not only to the establishment of righteousness in the earth and peace and harmony among men, but to the lower creatures as well, so that they will be docile and obedient to mankind, as they were originally. – Verses 6-9; Psa. 8:6-8.
And fourthly, do not overlook the blessed assurances of verses 9,10 – "The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea" – full, broad, ample and deep. Ah, no conflicting creeds then; for all will be made plain and all the vain traditions of men will have perished. And in that day the Root of Jesse shall stand for an ensign of the people; to him shall the nations come to inquire, and his resting-place shall be glorious. (Verse 10.) Here, he who in verse one is called the Branch out of the root of Jesse – the Son of Jesse – is now called the Root (or father) of Jesse. And this seeming contradiction is not an accidental misstatement but a veritable truth; for though Christ was the Son of Jesse according to the flesh, he is now to be "the Everlasting Father" or life-giver to the whole human race; so that Jesse, in the "Times of Restitution of all things," will be the son of Christ. – Isa. 9:6.
When Christ is thus exalted in the earth and men begin to realize his power and goodness, he will indeed be for an "ensign of the people," and there will indeed be a great turning to him. Men will say, "Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain [kingdom] of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths....And all nations shall flow into it." (Isa. 2:3,2.) And truly "his resting-place shall be glorious" – so different from the miserable resting-places now afforded by human creeds, so aptly described by the Prophet (Isa. 28:20), saying, "For the bed is shorter than that a man [a developed Christian] can stretch himself [or grow more] on it, and the covering narrower than that he can wrap himself in it." [He knows so little of the divine plan that he is constantly subject to doubts and fears.] But the blessed resting-place which the new King will discover to all men, in making "the knowledge of the Lord fill the earth as the waters cover the sea," will indeed be a glorious resting-place. God's plan and each man's place in that plan will be clearly manifest and blessedly satisfying.
In the blessed assurance of our Golden Text, that "He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth," and all the accompanying assurances of that precious psalm, let our hearts rejoice, remembering also that when he shall appear in his kingdom, then shall we also (if faithful unto death) appear with him in glory. – Col. 3:4.
Let us not fall into that miserable delusion, which should be so apparent to every student of the Scriptures, that the kingdoms of this world, misnamed Christendom (Christ's kingdom) are in any sense the kingdom of Christ, or that they are in any sense accomplishing the work which the Scriptures under consideration point out as the work of that kingdom. Let the true saints of God, the embryo kingdom, the "heirs" of the kingdom soon to come in power and great glory, be content to be unrecognized of men and to suffer reproach and violence if need be, knowing that when it does come, it will far surpass the vain glory of these earthly kingdoms which must pass away. Such was Paul's faith; for when about to die, and looking forward to the time appointed for the setting up of the kingdom of God, he said, "Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day, and not to me only, but to all them also who love his appearing." (2 Tim. 4:8.) While, then, we wait for his appearing, let us confidently and joyfully hope for the glory to be revealed in us and through us. [R1352 : page 15]
LESSON II., JANUARY 10, ISA. 26:1-15.
In this lesson we have two great cities brought to view; and the burden of the song is that the one has been "laid low, even to the dust" – i.e., utterly destroyed – while the other is established in peace and security. Jehovah is shown to be the destroyer of one, and the founder and strength of the other. (Verses 5,1.) In the symbolic language of the Scriptures a city always represents a government or kingdom. The city here represented as securely established, and as a place of safety for all who love righteousness and truth (verse 2), symbolizes the Millennial Kingdom of God; while the city which is destroyed is the opposing kingdom of the prince of this world. In Revelation 21:2 the former is called "the holy city, the New Jerusalem," whose excellent glory is described as like that of "a bride adorned for her husband;" while the latter, in Chapters 14:8 and 18:21, is called Babylon, whose unrighteous character is described, and its sudden and violent overthrow predicted and likened to a great [R1352 : page 16] millstone cast into the sea to be found no more at all.
The time when this song will be sung is also definitely pointed out. "In that day shall this song be sung." What day? Evidently the day when the singers begin to recognize the fact that the New Jerusalem or Kingdom of God is established in the earth, and that the great city, Babylon, has been completely overthrown – the dawn of the Millennial day. Those two events will occur simultaneously, and will be recognized together, as indicated in this song of triumph.
This calls to mind the theme of our last lesson (Isa. 11:1-10), and, glancing along the intervening chapters, we see that the Prophet applies this same name, Babylon, to the great city whose destruction he predicts, and that he has much to say of its ignoble character, as well as of its doom. See chapters 13:1,19; 14:4,22; 21:9; 47:1.
The destruction of Babylon and the establishment of the New Jerusalem or Kingdom of God are ascribed to Jehovah in verses 1,4 and 5; and this is in harmony with Psa. 2:6. "I [Jehovah] have set my King [Christ] upon my holy hill of Zion." And the great day of wrath which will accomplish the destruction of Babylon is called "the day of Jehovah." "Lo, the day of Jehovah doth come, fierce with wrath and heat of anger." – Isa. 13:9.
We next notice (verse 1) that this song is sung "in the land of Judah," thus indicating what is elsewhere clearly shown, that Israel will be the first to recognize the Kingdom established. [R1353 : page 16] And they will say, "Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation." – Isa. 25:9.
Having thus distinguished the cities and located the time and the singers, let us now observe the burden of this song. Concerning the great city, Babylon, they sing (verses 5,6), "The lofty city [the city formerly exalted and powerful in the earth], he layeth it low; he layeth it low, even to the ground; he bringeth it even to the dust; for he bringeth down them that dwell on high. The foot shall tread it down, even the feet of the poor and the steps of the needy" – referring to the great social troubles which will culminate in the utter destruction of all the present civil and ecclesiastical power of "Christendom:" a culmination even now greatly feared by long-headed statesmen and ecclesiastics everywhere.
But concerning the then established city, the New Jerusalem or Kingdom of God, they sing (verse 1), "We have a strong city; salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks." It will be a strong city of refuge within whose protecting walls all may enter who desire the great salvation which it assures.
Verse 2. "Open ye the gates, that the righteous nation which keepeth [observeth or regardeth] the truth may enter in." From Rev. 21:12 we learn that the gates or entrances of the city, which are twelve in number, are inscribed with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. This is in harmony with what we have learned of the earthly phase of the Kingdom of God (see MILLENNIAL DAWN, Vol. I., Chapter XIV.), that the ancient worthies from the various tribes of Israel, selected during the Jewish age, will be the visible representatives of the heavenly Kingdom in the earth, through whose instrumentality the nations may enter into the blessings of the Kingdom.
Verses 3,4 tell of the peace and general advantages of trusting in God. Verse 7 tells how plain he has made the path of the just – "The way of the just is plain: thou makest exactly plain the path of the just." – Leeser.
In verses 8,9 they tell how, through the long night of their chastisement, when the judgments of the Lord were upon them, they still remembered the Lord and desired his favor and blessing; and they justify God in sending his chastisements upon them for their correction, because they were necessary.
Verses 10,11 note the fact that the remainder of the world have not yet recognized and submitted themselves to the new Kingdom, but that they shall yet see and be ashamed of their past course, and that God will surely destroy any who persistently remain enemies.
Verse 12 expresses their confidence in God, who has cared for them in the past and ordained peace for them now, since they have come to trust in him.
Verses 13,14 refer to the contrast of their condition under the Kingdom of God with that under other rulers or lords of the past – the evil governments and systems under which they have suffered privation and bitter persecution. Henceforth they desire to make mention only of the Lord as their King and to forget the bitterness and woe of the past while cast off from his favor and subject to other rulers; for they remember that those evil governments and systems have perished, never again to be reorganized to oppress and misrule the world.
Verse 15 again refers to the blessedness of Israel regathered under divine protection and favor – Israel, which for their sins had been scattered to the ends of the earth.
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This volume presents evidences that: – Six Thousand Years from Adam ended in A.D. 1872.
The Date of our Lord's Birth was October, B.C. 2.
The Date of Annunciation to Mary, Dec. 25th, B.C. 3.
The Date of our Lord's Baptism was Oct., A.D. 29.
The Date of our Lord's Crucifixion, April, A.D. 33.
The "Seventy Weeks" of Israel's favor ended A.D. 36.
The Jewish Age "Harvest" was 40 years, A.D. 30-70.
The Christian Age "Harvest," 40 yrs., A.D. 1875-1914.
The Jewish Jubilees were Typical of the "Times of Restitution
of all Things." – Acts 3:19-21.
The Typical Jubilees Mark the Date of their Antitype.
The "Times of the Gentiles" will End with A.D. 1914.
The Jewish Age, in Its Length, Its Ceremonies, etc., Typified the realities of the Christian Age and its Length.
Elias or "Elijah the Prophet" was a Type. – How fulfilled.
The Antichrist Has Come! – What? When? Where?
This volume treats of the prophetic periods of Daniel and Revelation – The 2300 Days, The 1260 Days, The 1290 Days, The 1335 Days. – The Work of the Harvest now in Progress. – The Return of God's Favor to Israel. – The Great Pyramid of Egypt and its wonderful corroboration of all the prophetic testimony.
|VOL. XIII.||JANUARY 15, 1892.||NO. 2.|
"The Spirit of truth...will guide you into all truth, ...and will show you things to come." – John 16:13.
While a part of the work of the Holy Spirit, or Spirit of Truth, is to guide the children of God into a clear apprehension of present duty and privilege and to give them such knowledge of things past as is needful, another of its offices is here stated to be that of showing them "things to come;" for the things to come, as well as things past and present, are of great importance to the Church. Such knowledge is not given merely to gratify curiosity, but for a definite and worthy purpose. It is wisely hidden from the merely curious and graciously revealed to the meek disciple who seeks to know the divine mind more perfectly, in order that he may the more fully conform to it.
It is only such truth seekers that are ever rewarded with the knowledge of the things to come and of the relationship of things past and present to those which are yet future – or, in other words, who ever come to see the beauty and harmony of divine truth as a system. The scoffing skeptic may diligently search the divine oracles, but he never finds the truth until he comes with reverence and humility as a meek disciple. He reads the wonders of divine revelation in a disjointed way, but cannot systematize or comprehend them. And even if God's children set them forth systematically, they are to him foolishness: he cannot receive them. Nor can any man retain this divine truth after he has found it, unless he retain the meek spirit in which he first received it, which also implies the right and diligent use of it.
This privilege of being shown things to come is granted in order, first, that we may not be overwhelmed with fear and discouragement at the seeming calamities of the future; secondly, that we may be co-workers together with God in harmony with his plan; and thirdly, in order that, seeing our future relationship to that plan, we may be fully prepared to enter into that new relationship and its duties and privileges.
The Scriptures give unmistakable testimony to those who have full faith in its records, that there is a great time of trouble ahead of the present comparative calm in the world – a trouble which will embroil all nations, overthrow all existing institutions, civil, social and religious, bring about a universal reign of anarchy and terror, and prostrate humanity in the very dust of despair, thus to make them ready to appreciate the power that will bring order out of that confusion and institute the new rule of righteousness. All this, the Scriptures show us, is to come to pass before the year 1915 (See MILLENNIAL DAWN, Vol. II., Chapter IV.) – that is, within the next twenty three years. And in view of these calamities the Lord's consecrated ones are told not to be alarmed, knowing what the grand outcome is to be.
All thinking men, whether they have faith in the Word of prophecy or not, see in the present attitude of mankind in general a growing tendency which threatens such a culmination, [R1354 : page 20] and they stand in fear and dread of it. As a consequence, the daily papers and the weeklies and monthlies, religious and secular, are continually discussing the prospects of war in Europe. They note the grievances and ambitions of the various nations and predict that war is inevitable at no distant day, that it may begin at any moment between some of the great powers, and that the prospects are that it will eventually involve them all. And they picture the awful calamity of such an event in view of the preparations made for it on the part of every nation. For several years past thoughtful observers have said, War cannot be kept off much longer: it must come soon – "next spring," "next summer," "next fall," etc.
But, notwithstanding these predictions and the good reasons which many see for making them, we do not share them. That is, we do not think that the prospects of a general European war are so marked as is commonly supposed. True, all Europe is like a great powder magazine which a single stray match might set off at any moment with a tremendous explosion. The various nations are armed to the teeth with the most destructive weapons that skill and ingenuity can invent, and there are national grievances and bickerings and hatred that must find a vent some time; and in consideration of these things the war cloud is always impending and ever darkening: but things may continue just so for many years, and we think they will.
These rumors of impending European wars, and the desire to judge whether observation would tend to confirm the divine revelation that the intensity of the great predicted trouble is yet nearly fifteen years future, formed no small part of our motive in visiting Europe during the past summer. With this object in view, and especially to be enabled to form some estimate of the social conditions of the people, which always have much to do with war probabilities, we pursued a very different course from that usual to European tourists.
We paid more attention to the towns, villages, cities, and especially to the poorer quarters, than to the lakes, cathedrals and art galleries. That you may know that our observations were not confined to any one corner of Europe, we will state that our journey carried us over more than four thousand miles of those portions of Europe expected by so many to be the battlefield of the world within a year, viz., 900 miles in Italy, 500 miles in Austria, 900 miles in Russia, and 1800 miles in Germany and France.
As for war, it is the talk of everybody in Germany, Austria, Russia, Italy and France. And all seemed agreed that if it did not break out this fall it would surely come by next spring. All seem ready for what they consider the inevitable. In Germany every man is a soldier; and wonderful soldiers they seem to be: every thing is done with military precision, the influence of the last twenty years of military methods extending into every department of life, business, etc. And, by the way, we experienced quite a change of view with reference to this matter of German military influence. We had heretofore considered as an almost unmixed evil the taking of hundreds of thousands of men from the tilling of the soil to spend four years each in the prime of life in military service; but now we see another side to the question. While the taking away of so much of the energy and muscle of a nation from the army of production into an army of consumption has been to the detriment of the nation financially for the present and to the greater bondage of the women of Germany who do most of the farming, it has been the greatest and most rapid educator of the men of that nation, and thus, under divine providence, an instrumentality for awakening the world and preparing for the great change of dispensation about to be inaugurated.
It has taken sleepy, thoughtless boys from the farm and has waked them up and educated them, often to far more practical benefit than four years of a college course would have done. As a result, one seldom meets a stupid German. And this same rule seems to hold in other countries in proportion to their strictness in military regulations. France, Austria and Italy follow the lead of Germany in military education, although far behind her. Italy, however, is awaking more rapidly than other nations. She has adopted the German military system in full, and the influence of this measure is already [R1354 : page 21] seen and felt. The German military system, it may be as new to others as it was to us to learn, is not alone a system of military drilling and physical disciplining, but also a schooling in the common branches of education. The men do not idle and dream away their time, except when on dress parade, but have regular hours for lessons under well educated instructors.
The effect of this general education may be imagined: the people are awake to an appreciation of their rights in a way and to a degree that no one would have suspected but a short time ago, when the German brain was generally credited with being rather slow and sluggish. No other nation on earth is so fully awake now.
This general awakening of the masses to a knowledge of their rights and their power, it might be argued, is one of the chiefest reasons for fearing the great time of trouble such as was not since there was a nation, spoken of in the Scriptures as one of the results of the present increase of knowledge which will eventuate in anarchism, and prepare the way for the Kingdom of Heaven.
First, the various states of Germany, once independent, are now not only united, but that union is cemented by a patriotic feeling which would sacrifice much rather than see the present empire, of which they all feel proud, destroyed. They would therefore bear much rather than see it disturbed.
Secondly, the Germans are a cautious people: they know that their present government is as good as the average, at least, and that they are surrounded by enemies, and they will be extremely slow to take chances on a change such as would be implied by the word Revolution. [R1355 : page 21]
Thirdly, the present government and Emperor are very popular. The last ten years have witnessed for the masses a great social and financial elevation; laws have been enacted for the protection, and gradually for the betterment, of the poorer classes; and the present Emperor has very wisely addressed himself to various liberal reforms for their amelioration.
Our judgment therefore is that, so long as these conditions prevail, Germany can control the anarchistic or lawless elements within her borders, and is not likely to experience a social revolution for some years to come.
Germany's military preparation is so well known to the leading statesmen of Europe that no nation is likely to seek a quarrel with her; and her strain to keep up her present standard is so great that she wants no increase of it such as war would bring. Hence, with Austria and Italy in league and largely in the same plight and under her influence, Germany is today, humanly speaking, the arbiter of the world's peace.
Furthermore, we found that throughout Europe the social conditions are much better than we had expected to find them. Indeed, the houses occupied by the poorest class, except in southern Russia, compare favorably with the dwellings of a similar class in this country; and we know of localities here in Pittsburgh which are as dilapidated in appearance as any tenements observed on our journey – not even excepting the slums of London, Liverpool, Edinburgh and Glasgow, which are the worst we saw in Europe, Russia alone excepted.
The people are generally intelligent, industrious, busy and comfortably clothed and fed – far beyond our previous suppositions. We could not help wondering whence come some of the worst specimens of all races to this country as emigrants. Evidently the people of the United States are performing a service of inestimable value to the whole world in receiving their scum of ignorance and their dregs of degradation – both due more to evils of the past than to those of the present, and chiefly chargeable to priestcraft, superstition and ignorance fostered for centuries by that old "Mother of Harlots," which falsely claims to be the Church-system founded by our Lord and his apostles. The wonder often is that, with almost no assistance except the necessity and opportunity for industry, so many of these degraded members of the human family turn out as favorably as they do. What a field here at our door for mission workers, [R1355 : page 22] evangelists and philanthropists – better, if they but realized it, than any foreign mission field we saw. And these emigrants, let us remember, although generally poor, are not always either ignorant or vicious. Some of them are God's consecrated saints whom he is sending here to be blessed and sealed with present truth, which he gives us the privilege of ministering to them.
True, the food of the lower classes of Europe would not be satisfactory to the average mechanic and laborer in the United States, who, accustomed to larger pay and unaccustomed to frugality, spends probably six times as much on his stomach, eating not only finer and more nutritious foods, but also much more of them, and wasting often through improvidence as much as or more than he eats. However, the European laborer seems to enjoy himself as much as or more than his artisan brother here, and on the whole there is more of an appearance of contentment on the faces of all the people there – the poor, the middle class and the rich – than on faces met in the streets here.
Intelligence without the grace of God to back it up brings discontent: only when it is backed by godliness, does it bring contentment, peace and joy. For this reason it is that the greater general intelligence and greater liberty of the people of the United States bring them, not more contentment, but less than their less favorably circumstanced European brothers. And this leads us to expect as stirring times in the United States as elsewhere when the "time of trouble" shall reach its height.
While the growing intelligence of Europeans is fast preparing them for the trouble and anarchy which God's Word predicts, it cannot reasonably be expected for some years yet. This is further in harmony with prophecy, though out of harmony with the expectations of many who look every day for a declaration of war in Europe, which they suppose will be the battle of the great day of God Almighty. Even should a war or revolution break out in Europe sooner than 1905, we could not consider it any portion of the severe trouble predicted. At most it could only be a forerunner to it, a mere "skirmish" as compared with what is to come. Indeed, in our judgment, based upon our observations, nothing could precipitate the great anarchistic trouble upon Europe, which the Scriptures predict, sooner than the date named, except a famine or some such unusual occurrence which would bring the people to feel that they have nothing to lose, but all to gain, by a general uprising.
While it was an agreeable surprise to us (in view of the contrary sensational accounts so often published) to find the situation in Europe as we here describe it – in harmony with what the Scriptures had led us to expect – yet so great is our confidence in the Word of God and in the light of present truth shining upon it, that we could not have doubted its testimony whatever had been the appearances. The date of the close of that "battle" is definitely marked in Scripture as October, 1914. It is already in progress, its beginning dating from October, 1874. Thus far it has been chiefly a battle of words and a time of organizing forces – capital, labor, armies and secret societies.
Never was there such a general time of banding together as at present. Not only are nations allying with each other for protection against other nations, but the various factions in every nation are organizing to protect their several interests. But as yet the various factions are merely studying the situation, testing the strength of their opponents, and seeking to perfect their plans and power for the future struggle, which many, without the Bible's testimony, seem to realize is the inevitable. Others still delude themselves, saying, Peace! Peace! when there is no possibility of peace until God's Kingdom comes into control, compelling the doing of his will on earth as it is now done in heaven.
This feature of the battle must continue with varying success to all concerned; the organization must be very thorough; and the final struggle will be comparatively short, terrible and decisive – resulting in general anarchy. In many respects the convictions of the world's great generals coincide with the predictions of God's Word. Then "Woe to the man or nation who starts the next war in Europe; for it will be a war of extermination." It will be abetted not only by national animosities, but [R1355 : page 23] also by social grievances, ambitions and animosities, and if not brought to an end by the establishment of God's Kingdom in the hands of his elect and then glorified Church, it would exterminate the race. – Matt. 24:22.
The Scriptures show also that the battle of the great day will begin with the Church of God, and that the overthrow of the great nominal church systems will precede the overthrow of the present civil powers; for the Lord is about to shake, not only the earth (the civil organization of society), but heaven (the ecclesiastical powers) also (Heb. 12:26), to the end that great "Babylon," falsely called Christendom – Christ's kingdom – may be completely destroyed. The great counterfeit kingdom of Christ, with all its allied civil and ecclesiastical powers, must go down as a great millstone into the sea, preparatory to the final establishment of the true Kingdom of Christ. Here, as in the world at large, the work of preparation is going on. The creeds, which for years have been reverenced and received without questioning, are now called up for inspection; and their inconsistencies and lack of Bible foundation is being discovered. As a consequence, the clergy, whose living and honors and worldly prospects in general are all bound up with the systems held together by these creeds, are in great trouble, and are looking about to see what can be done to strengthen the stakes and lengthen the cords of so-called Christianity. A general union of the various sects is suggested, with a simple creed formulated from the various points of agreement among them all and the ignoring of all other points of doctrine to which objection might be made by some.
This scheme meets with very general approval from all the sects, and the trend of their efforts is in this direction. This, too, is in harmony with prophecy, which shows, not only that the various sects of "Protestantism" will band together as one, but that there will also be a close affiliation with Roman Catholicism. These two ends of the ecclesiastical heaven will roll together as a scroll (Isa. 34:4), the two rolls, Protestantism and Romanism, coming closer and closer together as their power over the masses of the people decreases.
This work is already progressing very rapidly: church congresses for the consideration of various schemes of union are the order of the day. All the various branches of Presbyterianism are considering the feasibility of union; so also of Methodism, Congregationalism, and others. When each of these is consolidated, their respective denominations will have a greater prestige in the world; and when all Protestant sects are more firmly united under some one name, such as "The Evangelical Alliance," the prestige of Protestantism as a whole will be greatly augmented, though we think the term Protestantism will probably be dropped entirely as a concession to the church of Rome, to secure its favor. Such an organization is already in existence, [R1356 : page 23] and corresponds to what the Revelator calls "the Image of the Beast" (of Papacy); but this Image has yet to receive life and power to speak with authority to the civil powers, which authority will be used for the oppression and suppression of all that is opposed to them. (Rev. 13:15.) All this remains to be accomplished before the trouble upon the world can reach its crisis; for when men begin to realize more fully the united power of ecclesiasticism to oppress and fetter free thought and action, and when under the searching light of this day they shall have discovered the hollowness of its pretensions, we can readily see what the results will be – viz., a sudden and terrible overthrow, as the Scriptures predict. And when its present power of superstitious reverence is broken, and its authority no longer binds men in subjection to the civil powers by the false doctrine of the divine right of kings, the fate of the civil powers will not long tremble in the balances, and the ever-darkening war cloud will burst in all its destructive fury. This culmination we do not expect, however, before about 1905, as the events predicted will require about that time, notwithstanding the rapid progress in these directions now possible.
It is written that judgment must begin at the house of God (1 Pet. 4:17), and here it has begun. Trials for heresy of many of the most prominent clerics of the various denominations [R1356 : page 24] have raised the questions, What is heresy? and what is orthodoxy? and before these questions are settled, every creed of Christendom will be brought before the bar of the public judgment.
But while judgment has thus begun at the nominal house of God and has been in progress for some years past, it had a still earlier beginning among those consecrated saints who have been coming out of Babylon for the last fourteen years, and whom the Lord has been graciously leading into the knowledge of the deep things of his wisdom and grace. It is right that these prospective joint-heirs of God's kingdom should be fully tested before its establishment, before being permitted to enter into their reward; and consequently the Lord has permitted and will permit our great adversary to severely test and try all accounted worthy of the light of present truth. Since 1878, the time when this judgment was chronologically due to begin, the arts and devices of the adversary to overthrow the faith of the saints in the very fundamental doctrines have been constantly multiplying. New theories have been constructed, purporting to tell us of wonderful things to come, yet lacking the sure foundation of the Word of God. What has not appeared? Theosophy, Christian Science, Evolution in all its various and deceptive forms, Koreshanism and even a modernized Buddhism. All these deceptions have one common identity; for no matter how different they may be in other respects, they agree in denying that the Lord Jesus Christ by his death on Calvary paid the penalty for Adam's transgression, the guilt and penalty of which his race has inherited; and they all agree that instead of being justified by faith in that ransom-price paid for our release from sin and death, salvation is to be on some other score. These become "strong delusions," because they each unite with their errors certain elements of present truth. Thus Satan clothes himself in the garment of "light." These have been and are being brought with force against the consecrated and awakened children of God who have escaped from Babylon. Their various theories concerning things to come are presented in most seductive forms, and God permits them to practice and prosper for a time. Nay, He even makes use of these, sending the strong delusions to lead away from the light all such as, after coming to a knowledge of the Truth, do not love it so as to be willing to die for it. – 2 Thes. 2:10,11.
Such as fall away under these delusions are thereby shown to be "condemned" as unworthy a share in the Kingdom of the elect – none such will escape, for the deceptions will be so strong that "if it were possible they would deceive the very elect." But the deception of the elect, the faithful, will not be possible: God knoweth them that are his – who meekly abide under the wedding-garment of Christ's imputed righteousness and who are daily seeking to be the more conformed to the image of God's dear Son. All others shall be deceived and led astray from the truth, being unworthy of it – who have pleasure in error, and who have not that pleasure in the truth which gladly endures hardness and persecution for its sake. If one error does not overcome such, the persistent adversary will be permitted to bring another and another. He will surely find some seeming messenger of light to bear to such a deceptive doctrine, to ensnare such as reject the favor of God, expressed in the sacrifice for sins once for all.
And let us remember that a preparation for thus leaving the foundation and getting ready for the deception is laid beforehand, always. Instead of the truth leading such to humble service of the truth, it leads to pride or to carelessness and worldliness, or to that idle curiosity which, while willing and curious to know the present and the future, never leads to its service; or, neglecting the Word of truth, they fall into purely human reasoning and, getting a theory, start to twist the Scriptures to fit the theory; or imbibe some of the worldly ambitions to be thought well of, to be considered liberal-minded and very charitable to every thing, whether it be truth or error, and to every one who claims to be a teacher, whether he teach the true gospel or a base and deceptive counterfeit. All possessing such a self-seeking, compromising spirit are not worthy of the truth, and must go back into the outer darkness, [R1356 : page 25] whether we wish so or not. Some of the many deceptions and snares will overcome all such.
Or should we become listless and indifferent in the service of the truth and have consecrated time on our hands which we are willing to occupy in other ways than as we covenanted to do, the adversary will find some convenient method of occupying the time and some plausible excuse for so doing, wherewith to silence conscience; and to such a covenant-breaker will soon be sent a strong delusion, because he is not a lover (server) of the Truth.
There is but one sure, safe course for the saints to pursue if they would gain the prize of our high calling, and that is a course of fidelity and loyalty to the truth with a full determination to give no heed to seducing spirits who seek either to present to us another gospel, or to attract our attention away from the true gospel and from the one service of preaching that gospel of the Kingdom to which our lives have been consecrated, to the study of other themes and interests. Our Lord has opened up before us the chart of his wonderful plan of the ages and has shown us the written specifications, so that the things to come might be as surely known to us by faith as the things past and present are known by history and experience. He has thus taken us into his confidence as beloved sons and heirs of the kingdom to come. He showed us these things because at the time of the showing we were justified by faith in the precious blood of Christ, and consecrated to his service, and because we were meek and had faith in his Word and were loyal to him and desired to continue faithful. So we were reckoned of him as worthy of the truth and eligible to the high calling.
Having received all these favors of knowledge and grace, our use of them becomes the test of our loyalty and faithfulness. If we are ashamed to bear witness to them lest we offend those who advocate false doctrine, preferring their favor to God's favor; or if we hold the truth lightly, with an open ear for every doctrine opposed to the doctrine of Christ, and a God-speed for every advocate of error as well as of truth; or if we make no effort to withstand error, or to help the weak, or to spread abroad the knowledge of the right ways of the Lord, we are surely unfaithful to our trust and must lose it.
But ye, brethren, who are still walking in the light, be faithful to the end. The things to come reveal a glorious reward for your faithfulness. In this our part of the battle of the great day, a thousand will fall at your side and ten thousand at your right hand (Psa. 91:7); but be not dismayed. Like Gideon's typical band, the victory is reserved to the faithful few. Glory not in numbers nor in worldly favor. The devices of error alone will prosper in that way. Glory only in faithfulness to the Master, and make haste to accomplish his appointed work for this time of sealing the elect, and bear the "good tidings of great joy unto all people," saint or sinner, wherever you can reach them.
And in attempting to teach others – for all who have the truth are commissioned to declare it to others – let us remember the Apostle's counsel: "If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God." (1 Pet. 4:11.) To teach what we claim to be divine truth, even in the humblest way, is to incur great responsibility; for in so doing we stand as God's representatives, and the Prophet Isaiah (5:20,21) says, "Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter. Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes and prudent in their own sight."
Hear again the word of the Lord by the Prophet Ezekiel (13:1-23) saying, "Son of man...say unto them that prophesy out of their own hearts, Hear ye the word of the Lord: [R1357 : page 25] Thus saith the Lord God, Woe unto the foolish prophets that follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing....They have seen vanity and lying divination, saying, The Lord saith: and the Lord hath not sent them; and they have made others to hope that they would confirm the word. Have ye not seen a vain vision, and have ye not spoken a lying divination, whereas ye [R1357 : page 26] say, The Lord saith it? albeit I have not spoken."
"Therefore, thus saith the Lord God: Because ye have spoken vanity and seen lies, therefore, behold, I am against you, saith the Lord God. And mine hand shall be upon the prophets that see vanity, and that divine lies: they shall not be in the assembly of the people, neither shall they be written in the register of the house of Israel; and ye shall know that I am the Lord Eternal."
Let us, therefore, be zealous for the truth, in declaring the glorious things to come, according to God's revealed plan, but take heed that we be not of those "foolish prophets that follow their own spirit and have seen nothing." No man has any commission from God to be a teacher of divine truth who has not first learned what the truth is and become fully convinced of it so that he can say with confidence, Thus saith the Lord! and here are the chapter and verse, and thus and so it harmonizes with every other chapter and verse of the Word. Let us have confidence in the sure word of the Lord and with humble boldness declare it and with zeal and vigor as loyal soldiers of the cross defend it against every opposing device of error. "If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth [not of his own], that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion forever and ever." – 1 Pet. 4:11.
All grim and soiled and brown with tan,
I saw a Strong One, in his wrath,
Smiting the godless shrines of man
Along his path.
The Church, beneath her trembling dome,
Essayed in vain her ghostly charm;
Wealth shook within his gilded home
With strange alarm.
Fraud from his secret chambers fled
Before the sunlight bursting in;
Sloth drew her pillow o'er her head
To drown the din.
"Spare," Art implored, "yon holy pile;
That grand, old, time-worn turret spare;"
Meek Reverence, kneeling in the aisle,
Cried out, "Forbear!"
Gray-bearded Use, who, deaf and blind,
Groped for his old accustomed stone,
Leaned on his staff, and wept to find
His seat o'erthrown.
Young Romance raised his dreamy eyes,
O'erhung with paly locks of gold –
"Why smite," he asked in sad surprise,
"The fair, the old?"
Yet louder rang the Strong One's stroke,
Yet nearer flashed his axe's gleam.
Shuddering and sick of heart I woke,
As from a dream.
I looked: aside the dust-cloud rolled –
The Waster seemed the Builder, too;
Up springing from the ruined Old
I saw the New.
'Twas but the ruin of the bad –
The wasting of the wrong and ill;
Whate'er of good the old time had
Was living still.
Calm grew the brows of him I feared;
The frown which awed me passed away,
And left behind a smile which cheered
Like breaking day.
Grown wiser for the lesson given,
I fear no longer, for I know
That where the share is deepest driven
The best fruits grow.
The outworn rite, the old abuse,
The pious fraud transparent grown,
The good held captive in the use
Of wrong alone, –
These wait their doom, from that great law
Which makes the past time serve to-day;
And fresher life the world shall draw
From their decay.
God works in all things: all obey
His first propulsion from the night.
Wake thou and watch! – the world is gray
With morning light.
LESSON III., ISA. 28:1-13, JANUARY 17.
This portion of Isaiah's prophecy is set forth in the International Lesson series as the temperance lesson for this quarter: and it certainly is a very strong one. But while we carefully observe this, let us not forget its prophetic character; for a prophecy must be received as a prophecy, and not merely as a collection of moral or religious precepts to be indiscriminately applied.
Our first observation in studying any prophecy should be as to the time when its predictions will be realized, and when, therefore, its warnings should be specially heeded. The division into chapters and verses, it will be remembered, is merely an arbitrary arrangement in modern times for the sake of convenience. Glancing back to chapters 26:21 and 27:1 we see that a definite time is marked – "In that day." What day? In the day when "the Lord cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity" (26:21); the same day which Daniel foretold, saying, "And there shall be a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation, even to that same time" (Dan. 12:1); the day of which Malachi said, "Behold, the day cometh that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble" (Mal. 4:1); and again, "Who may abide the day of his [Christ's] coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner's fire and like fuller's soap." (Mal. 3:2.) Ah! yes: it is the harvest time of the Gospel age, the day of reckoning, the very day in which we are now living – from 1874 to 1914 – the latter part of which is to witness the great conflict foretold, and the preparations for which are now going on in the world. The wheat and tares of nominal Christendom are now being separated, and the latter bound in bundles – tied up tightly in great organizations – preparatory to the symbolic burning or trouble of the closing days of this age and the ushering in of the Millennial day.
Among the things mentioned concerning that day, the Prophet (28:1) foretells woe to the crown of pride, to the drunkards of Ephraim. As the language is symbolic, we next inquire, Who is referred to under the name Ephraim? It is the very same class mentioned in our last lesson (Isa. 26:5) as the "lofty city" that the Lord is going to bring down to the dust – that great city, "Babylon" (Rev. 16:19; 17:5; 18:2), which now proudly calls itself Christendom (Christ's kingdom). The Prophet in succeeding chapters applies to it several symbolic names. The name Ephraim here used signifies fruitful, and is symbolically applied to the great nominal Christian system, both Papal and Protestant. It has a great show of fruitfulness in number, influence, power and wealth; but this is not the kind of fruitfulness for which the Lord is looking. This he calls "hasty fruit" – sour and bitter, like that forced before the summer. – Verse 4.
Verse 1. "Woe to the crown of pride" – the worldly prosperity – the boast of the great Nominal Church. Her glory in numbers and wealth and power is a fading flower. Who can not see it, in this day when her position is disputed and her doctrines and authority are boldly called in question? Her "beauty" crown the "fat valleys" of worldly-mindedness where many are overcome, intoxicated, with the spirit of the world. The trouble or "woe" on these systems is beginning to be experienced, and will be continually increasing.
Verse 2. The "mighty and strong one" is the Lord, whose instrument is the Truth, which, "like a flood of mighty waters" (Water is a symbol of truth), is destined to cover the earth – "The knowledge of the Lord shall fill the earth as the waters cover the sea." It will come as "a tempest of hail and a destroying storm." Hail represents truth put in a hard, forcible way; and "a tempest of hail" indicates the destructive and forceful method which the Lord will adopt. Thus the Truth will batter down the old and long-established errors upon which the great systems of "Christendom" have been built. The Lord has refrained from the separating of the wheat and tares until this time of harvest; now he will separate them, glorify the "wheat," and cast the "tares" into the fiery furnace of a time of trouble such as was not since there was a nation (Matt. 13:30). Thus he will do "his work, his strange work, [R1357 : page 28] and bring to pass his act, his strange act" (verse 21) – viz.: the bringing down to the earth and laying low of great Babylon – Christendom.
Verse 3. "The crown of pride" – the wealth and fame and prestige of these great systems, together with all who have been intoxicated with their worldly spirit shall be "trodden under foot" – humbled in the dust. Compare Rev. 18:2,5.
Verse 4. In rejecting the Lord's plans and adopting plans of their own, the various nominal churches have had great fruitfulness in numbers, etc., but the fruit is not good. It is "hasty," immature fruit. Thousands of such have been brought into the various nominal churches whose hearts remained unchanged, and hypocrites of every shade also find a home there, until, in the language of Inspiration, "Babylon has become the hold of every foul spirit and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird." – Rev. 18:2.
Verse 5. Unto "the residue of his people" – those who are truly consecrated to the Lord and who follow his leading, who love and obey his truth – the Lord will be for a crown of glory and a diadem of beauty. They are his betrothed and will shortly be exalted as his bride and joint-heir. To all such who are still in Babylon as wheat in the midst of tares he says, "Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins and that ye receive not of her plagues." – Rev. 18:4.
Verse 6. The Lord will give judgment, discretion, to those who endeavor to discern between truth and error, and who bring all things both new and old to the test of his Word. His strength will also be given to those who battle against the forces of error – who endeavor to "turn the battle at the gate." The gates of ancient cities were generally important places in the defence of the city and there courts of justice, public assemblies, etc., were often held. To turn the battle at the gate would, therefore, in symbolic language, signify public effort to withstand error with the truth, even in the strongholds of error. For this God will and now does give strength to his people, so that one may "chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight."
Verse 7. "But they also" – to whom the people look as leaders and teachers, viz.: the clergy – "have erred through wine, and through strong drink are out of the way: the priest and the prophet have erred through strong drink, they are swallowed up of wine, they are out of the way through strong drink, they err in vision, they stumble in judgment." Here, in harmony with the symbolic character of the prophecy, we see that the wine and strong drink are also symbols – symbols, too, of something bad, something deceptive in its character and [R1358 : page 28] intoxicating in its effects – hence, indirectly, a rebuke to the evil thing itself. But as a symbol what does it mean? It is a forceful symbol of the spirit of the world, the love of the world and of the world's approval and emoluments, with which spirit all the systems of Christendom are intoxicated, especially the "priests and the prophets" – the leaders and teachers in Babylon. Therefore do they "err in vision and stumble in judgment." It is for this very reason that they cannot understand this prophecy which we are now considering. They are so infatuated with the greatness of their antichristian systems that in their pride they cannot see its application to them; and in their blindness they set forth these verses as a lesson on temperance in the use of intoxicating beverages, taking no notice of the time of its application – "In that day" (verse 5) – nor to its symbolic and prophetic character. Truly, said the Prophet, "they err in vision, they stumble in judgment."
Verse 8. "For all tables are full of vomit and filthiness, so that there is no place clean." "Here is a forceful statement of the condition of affairs of which we are all witnesses today. The Calvinistic tables are all so polluted with the rejected dogmas swallowed in the past, that people are now turning away in disgust from the tables around which they formerly gathered so complacently. The Arminian tables are almost equally polluted, so that Methodists are beginning to discuss the propriety of absolving the laity from all doctrinal tests, lest they lose a large proportion of their membership. And truly, look where we will, through all the sects of "Christendom," as the Prophet says, "There is no place clean" – no table fit for God's intelligent children. But God is providing "meat in due season" now for all who hunger and thirst after righteousness, outside of Babylon. "My table thou hast furnished in the presence of mine enemies," the true Church may still sing.
Verse 9. Here the Prophet raises the question, "Whom shall he [the Lord] teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine?" In other words, Who among all this people, who are in this miserable plight, are worthy of the truth which is now due to the faithful? Will he give it to the drunken? or will he give it to those who are satisfied with their polluted tables? or to those who have no hungering and thirsting after truth prompting them to seek it? No, the Prophet says he will give it "to them that are weaned from the milk [R1358 : page 29] and drawn from the breasts" – to them who are reaching out after more knowledge of God and of his gracious plans. Blessed are the hungry who desire more and stronger spiritual food that they may grow thereby, for they shall be filled. (Matt. 5:6.) Milk is for babes, but strong meat is for those who have passed the infant stage and who are no longer babes in Christ. – Heb. 5:14.
Verses 10-12 show that it will take a great many more lessons to help those in Babylon who are not yet ready to be helped; for he will not longer speak to them through the old tongues – the intoxicated "priests and prophets" to whom they still look for leading. But "by men of strange lips and with another tongue will he speak to his people." (R.V.) He will raise up other teachers – teachers not ordained of men, but of God – whom therefore they will not incline to recognize or heed; because they will not "prophesy smooth things," saying, Peace! peace! when there is no peace." And when these (verse 12) point out the true rest and refreshment of divine truth, they will not hear.
Verse 13 is a solemn warning of the responsibility of such; showing that when they are ensnared in the traps of error, and thereby fail of the reward of faithfulness to the truth, it will have been due to their own improper condition of heart, and not to any lack of faithfulness on God's part.
In view of this solemn averment of responsibility on the part of those who hear but will not heed the truth, and who are too much intoxicated with the spirit of the world to discern it, how solemn are the words of rebuke that follow. This whole prophecy is one which every child of God who desires to know the truth and to escape the snares of error would do well to study with reverent humility and lay its solemn warnings and precepts well to heart.
But let all such first make sure that they are not in the least intoxicated with the wine or strong drink of Babylon, but that in simplicity of heart they desire the strong meat of truth, that they may grow thereby.
LESSON IV., ISA. 37:14-21,33-38, JANUARY 24.
This lesson is a scrap of history incidentally interwoven with Isaiah's prophecy. In reading it we should bear in mind that Israel was God's peculiar people and under his special protection and care, as it is written, "Ye are the children of the Lord your God....Thou art a holy people unto the Lord thy God, and the Lord hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth." "The Lord hath chosen Jacob unto himself, and Israel for his peculiar treasure." – Deut. 14:2; Psa. 135:4.
We should remember also that God himself was King of Israel, and that Hezekiah and others were his representatives on the throne, as it is written, "Then Solomon sat on the throne of the Lord as king, instead of David his father." (1 Chron. 29:23.) While God thus ruled in Israel he permitted all the other nations to pursue their own course and follow their own inclinations except when they interfered with his plans for the government of Israel. When Israel became refractory and disobedient he often chastised them by permitting the other nations to annoy them and take them into captivity, but as long as they were obedient to the Lord they had prosperity.
All the promises made to Israel were promises of temporal good; no mention was made to them of the heavenly hopes set before the Gospel Church. These are peculiar to the gospel dispensation which had its beginning in our Lord's ministry and at Pentecost, and which closes with the dawn of the Millennium. The promises made to Israel were that they should have the land of Canaan "for an everlasting possession" (Gen. 17:8), and that, if they were willing and obedient subjects of God, their King, they should "eat the good of the land." – Isa. 1:19.
But they were also told that if they were disobedient and walked contrary to the Lord, he also would walk contrary to them, and bring upon them distress and trouble. See Lev. 26, and observe in their history how God dealt with them as he said he would do. So long as Israel was under the divine rulership and care no evil could befall them except by divine permission for their correction and discipline, as it is written, "Shall there be evil in a city [a city of Israel], and the Lord hath not done it [or brought it upon them]?" And they were generally forewarned of such impending evils or calamities and given the alternative of repentance; for, said the Prophet (Amos 3:7), "Surely the Lord will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets."
In reading Hezekiah's prayer for the deliverance of Israel from the Assyrian invaders, and the Lord's answer to that prayer in the destruction of the enemy, we are not to consider that a precedent is thus established, whereby other nations may claim God's help in overcoming their national enemies; for none of the other nations has ever been recognized as God's [R1358 : page 30] kingdom, nor has Israel, since the rejection of the Messiah. Since that time, God has had no kingdom set up in the world, but has permitted the Gentile kingdoms to have full sway until the time appointed for the establishment of his own glorious kingdom in the hands of his Anointed – our Lord Jesus and his Church. And when that time arrives, which now is not far distant, all these Gentile kingdoms must be destroyed.
The only sense in which the kingdom of God now is or has been in the world since the beginning of the Gospel age is in its embryo or incipient stage, and it is composed of the prospective heirs of that kingdom. In this sense all through the Gospel age the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence and the violent have taken it by force (Matt. 11:12). Suffering and ignominy, and often martyrdom, have been its lot; but the glory is to follow in due time.
This scrap of Israel's history which the Prophet here narrates was given, not merely to point a moral lesson, but to show, in connection with other similar items recorded by other prophets and historians, how God actually did deal with them as a people according to his promises and his threatenings. However, we may take all the good suggestions we can draw out of the narrative. Thus, for instance, we may admire Hezekiah's sterling character, particularly in view of the wicked example of his father who reigned before him; for instead of heedlessly following in his unrighteous ways, as most sons of unrighteous parents incline to do, Hezekiah resolved to do differently, and became a great reformer in his day; and the narrative of this lesson shows his reliance upon God's promises in time of trouble, and how God honored his prayer and fulfilled those promises in the deliverance of Israel from a great impending calamity.
The golden text – "The righteous cry, and the Lord heareth and delivereth them," is applicable to all who fulfill its conditions.
LESSON V., JANUARY 31, ISAIAH 53:1-12.
In the midst of his vivid and striking prophecies of the Millennial glory of Christ's Kingdom in the earth, and of the overthrow and destruction of Great Babylon preparatory thereto, the Prophet here predicts, and particularly describes, that one great event which was to be the foundation upon which the whole superstructure of the plan of salvation and the hope of future glory should rest.
That one central or pivotal truth, is briefly expressed in our golden text – "The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." The one referred to we readily recognize by the prophetic description to be the Christ of the New Testament history. The prophecy and the fulfilment both stand out prominently on the pages of divinely-attested truth. But notwithstanding the importance of this great truth to the whole human race, the Prophet, speaking from a then future standpoint when the fulfilment of his prophecy had been accomplished, inquires, "Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?" – thus calling attention to that which we now realize, viz. that only a very few understand or appreciate the good tidings. And when we remember that faith in this message is necessary to the receiving of its benefits, it is disheartening, unless we know some of the further steps of the divine plan, to realize how few believe it. Daily there are thousands and tens of thousands, in both civilized and uncivilized lands, going down into the grave without faith, and without the least ray of hope from this precious truth. In view of these things, many seem to think that God's arm is shortened that it cannot save – except the very few who now believe.
But let such observe the second inquiry of the Prophet – "And to whom is the arm of Jehovah revealed?" – intimating that his arm, his power, has not yet been revealed to many that they might believe. But his arm, his power, will be fully revealed to all in due time in the final accomplishment of his plan. But that plan is one which requires ages for its complete accomplishment; hence the "arm of Jehovah" is revealed now, to those only who can receive the revelation of it by faith. The household of faith may therefore comfort themselves with this blessed assurance, that "God our Savior will have all men to be saved [out of the Adamic death], and to come to the knowledge of the truth; for there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time." (1 Tim. 2:3-6.) To this end, a resurrection, "both of the just and the unjust," is promised: "The hour is coming when all that are in the graves shall hear the voice of the Son of man, and shall come forth." (Acts 24:15; John 5:28,29.) They will come forth in due time to have the truth fully testified to them, and to profit by it; and if they are obedient to it, they may go on unto perfection and live forever.
Verses 2 and 3 describe "the man Christ Jesus," saying, "For he shall grow up before [R1359 : page 31] him [Jehovah] as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground." All humanity under the condemnation of death was reckoned dead; and this one alone, like a new, fresh, living root out of the barren soil, grew up from infancy to manhood. But, in the estimation of men, he had no desirable form nor comeliness, nor beauty. His glorious perfection made manifest their deformity; and when he declared himself the Messiah and the King of the Jews, they had no desire for such a king. They were looking for a king like Alexander the Great, or like the Caesars; one who, with military skill and carnal weapons, should deliver them from the Roman yoke. They had no faith therefore in the meek Nazarene and his claims: they saw no beauty such as they were looking for in him. Consequently, he was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. He was despised, and men esteemed him not. And because men lightly esteemed and even despised him, "he hid as it were his face from them." [See margin. Because of their unbelief and hardness of heart, they therefore lost the benefit of his wisdom and teaching and many of his mighty works. – Rom. 11:20; Matt. 13:58.]
Verse 4. "Surely he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted." As a perfect man, apart from the condemned race, and having no sin nor any cause of death in him, he voluntarily bore our griefs and carried our sorrows. Though he was rich before he became a man, and though as a man he had all the talent necessary to secure earthly riches, he voluntarily became poor and remained poor – so poor that often he had not where to lay his head. Thus he was able to sympathize with the poor of this world. And though as a perfect man, without sin, and consequently without the consequences of sin, he had perfect health, yet during the three years of his ministry he was continually imparting his vitality – vigor, strength – to the suffering ones around him, thus impoverishing himself and so being "touched with a feeling of our infirmities," as it is written: "And the whole multitude sought to touch him, for there went virtue [vitality, strength] out of him, and healed them all;" "And Jesus said, Somebody hath touched me, for I perceive that virtue [vitality, strength] is gone out of me." He felt the consequent weakness. – See Luke 6:17-19; 8:46-48; Mark 5:30-34.
But while he thus, from exhausting labor and daily sacrifice for the good of others, endured weakness and weariness, so that at the end of the three and a half years of his ministry he was unable to bear his cross to the place of execution (Luke 23:26), men did not recognize the real cause of his physical weakness, but esteemed him stricken and smitten of God, as though he were a sinner like other men, and therefore, like them, subject to physical decline and death. But no, "In him was no sin:" he was generously and sympathetically bearing our griefs and carrying our sorrows, while we ungratefully "esteemed him smitten of God and afflicted."
Verse 5. "But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed." The dreadful tragedy of Calvary was not for his own sins, but for ours, as also saith the Prophet Daniel (9:26) – "Messiah shall be cut off, but not for himself." "He suffered for sins," says Peter, "being put to death in the flesh, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God." (1 Pet. 3:18.) And Isaiah continues – verses 6 and 7 – "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord [Jehovah] hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." And meekly and willingly he bore our burden; for, though "he was oppressed and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth." See Mark 15:3-5.
Verse 8. "Through oppression and through judicial punishment [by means of false accusations which secured a legal condemnation to death] was he taken away; but his generation – who shall declare it? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken."
"His generation." This expression may be understood in three ways truthfully, and hence properly. (1) Who of his day and generation would admit the facts? – only the very few who became his despised followers. (2) How few knew of his generation, of his divine lineage! how few believed or confessed that the despised, rejected and crucified one was the only begotten son of God, made flesh for the very purpose of thus giving himself a ransom for all! (3) But "his generation" is specially to be understood (see following verses) in the sense of his posterity. Who would suspect that he who was thus cut off childless would ever become "The Everlasting Father?" (Isa. 9:6.) Yet "he shall see his seed" (verse 10) in Jehovah's appointed season. At his second advent, times of restitution shall come (Acts 3:19-21), when, as the great Life-giver [father], he will give life and health and strength to all of Adam's [R1359 : page 32] race who will accept them under the conditions of the New Covenant. It is a gross mistake, however, to suppose that the Gospel Church is the "seed" of Christ, whether reckoned by the millions (including the black, the speckled and the ring-streaked, a worldly class, as Bishop Foster describes them) or merely the "little flock" of consecrated and faithful believers. The Church is never spoken of as the children of our Lord Jesus, either in symbol, or in type, or in literal statement. The Church "he is not ashamed to call his brethren." The bride, the Lamb's wife and joint-heir, are the honorable titles given to the little flock whom the Father, Jehovah, draws to Christ, and gives to him, as it is written, "Behold I and the children [of God] which God hath given me." (Heb. 2:11-13.) Our Lord Jesus enunciated this clearly when he said, "I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God." (John 20:17.) But after the "little flock" of the Gospel age has become the Bride and joint-heir of the Lamb, the glorified body of Christ, the new dispensation, the Millennium, will open, when the glorified Christ – Head and body – will become the Life-giver or Father to the world in general, restoring to them the human life and privileges lost in Adam but redeemed for them by the sacrifice of Christ's human life. That will be the time in which the glorified Christ in kingdom power will draw ALL MEN toward righteousness and life, even as the Father now draws the elect truth-hungry ones to Christ – as it is written, "No man can come unto me unless the Father which sent me draw him. And he [thus drawn by the truth – by the promises of God] that cometh unto me [Christ] I will in no wise reject." But as many who are now drawn or called to Christ by the Father fail to profit by the drawings of the truth, and hence to make their calling and election sure, so during the Millennial age, when Christ shall bring the whole world to a knowledge of the truth and [R1360 : page 32] thus influence or draw ALL MEN toward righteousness, it will still be for each to decide the matter for himself. Such as accept the gracious offer will receive everlasting life from Christ and his glorified Church, and will thus become the children of the Christ, and the Christ becomes to such the Everlasting Father. Thus He shall see his seed [his children] and shall prolong their days everlastingly; and thus the pleasure [will, plan] of Jehovah shall prosper in his hand. – Verse 10.
Verse 9. "And they made his grave with the condemned [Heb. rasha, condemned or guilty – i.e., with the race of condemned sinners], and with the rich in his death [in the tomb of the rich man – Joseph of Arimathaea – Matt. 27:57-60], although he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth."
Verse 10 declares that all this violence that befell our blessed Lord and Redeemer was in exact accordance with the plan of Jehovah, who so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son to redeem their life from destruction by the sacrifice of his own – "Although he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth [and therefore no cause of death in him], yet it pleased the Lord [Jehovah] to bruise him: He hath put him to grief."
Verse 11. "He shall see [the fruits] of the travail of his soul [in the grand restitution of the redeemed race] and shall be satisfied." And here the Prophet interjects the statement that it was our Lord's knowledge of the divine plan or purpose to redeem and then restore the fallen race that enabled him to thus carry out that purpose in the sacrifice of himself, thus justifying many by bearing the penalty due for their iniquities – "By his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities."
Verse 12 points to the great personal exaltation of our blessed Lord Jesus, because of his obedience to the Father's will, even unto death. – "Therefore will I [Jehovah] divide him a portion with the Great [rab – the Lord, the Chief, the Master of the whole universe, Jehovah himself]." Because of his faithfulness he was highly exalted, made a partaker of the divine nature, and was associated with his Father in his throne. (See Phil. 2:9; Rev. 3:21.) And not only so, but he has been permitted of God to carry out another feature of his plan in the selection, training and final exaltation of a faithful few from among the redeemed race to share his great reward – to become likewise "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Pet. 1:4) and "joint-heirs" of his kingdom and glory (Rom. 8:17; Luke 12:32) – Thus "he shall divide the spoil [the great reward] with the strong" – the overcomers. In accordance with this privilege granted him by the Father he left the gracious promise on record for us – "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I overcame and am set down with my Father in his throne." – Rev. 3:21.