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All interested in the Colporteur work will be glad to learn that the change of the price of DAWNS, when sold by Colporteurs, to 35 cents has, as was hoped, made it possible for others to enter this most fruitful field of service for our Redeemer. Several new laborers have started and others are preparing to start soon. (For particulars of price see our last issue.)
As for the old Colporteurs, some who were behind are now getting caught up and will be able to keep ahead; while others who were able to more than meet expenses at the 25 cent rate are now enabled to contribute to the general work. The first letter of this kind received was from Sister Erlenmyer, May 29th. While saying that the wet season had hindered her greatly, she adds, "I have sold only a little over 300 DAWNS since the Anniversary Meeting, having lost so much time by reason of my present route being amongst small towns, and the weather so wet; but I have made expenses, and am able to send in to the general Tract Fund work the extra ten cents now charged, and accordingly enclose a Money Order for $30.00. Use it according to your judgment for the Master's glory. With much love to you and Sister Russell, I am yours in the glorious service!"
Surely there are many other brethren and sisters so situated that they could, with some effort, enter this specially useful and fruitful service. While every service, great or small, done from love for the Redeemer is owned and blessed, this one yields specially large results both to the "reapers" and to those whom they reach with the sickle of truth.
These two neat pamphlets, bound in Leatherette (the former of 64 pages, specially for children, and the latter of 108 pages, specially for developed Christians) are well adapted for use by Colporteurs. Not that we would have any stop selling DAWN to sell these; but there are some who cannot go away from home, and who have already canvassed their home city for DAWN, who could now make a success and do a good work for the great Master in seeking his sheep with this food. The Wonderful Story, even, although a child's booklet, most assuredly is reaching also the older folks, who read it to and with the children. Our price is 10 cents each; Colporteurs' price, 15 cents each – the two booklets, 25 cents. Special price to Colporteurs, seventy-five cents per dozen.
To one weighed down, as I have been from birth, with that spirit of fear, such words come as a cool, refreshing draught from the waters of life. But Oh! that I might come into the full stature of a man in Christ Jesus.
In love, Your brother,
Tract No. 1, "Do the Scriptures Teach that Eternal Torment is the Wages of Sin?" has been translated into Swedish, which is Tract No. 9; and into Norwegian, which is Tract No. 13. We do not send these out except when specially ordered. Any who can use these judiciously are welcome to order them – freely. These, as well as Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 10 and 14, are supplied in quantities without charge – out of the Tract Fund.
|VOL. XIII.||JULY 1, 1892.||NO. 13.|
In discussing this subject it seems necessary to call attention first to the difference between Infidelity and Atheism; because the popular mind is confused on the subject, and because when mentioning the Infidelity of the Pulpit we do not wish to be understood as claiming that ministers are becoming atheists. We cannot do better than quote on this subject from Webster's Unabridged Dictionary as follows: –
"An infidel, in common usage, is one who denies Christianity and the truth of the Scriptures. Some have endeavored to widen the sense of infidel so as to embrace atheism and every form of unbelief; but this use does not generally prevail....An atheist denies the being of God."
What we desire to call attention to is that, in the Protestant pulpits of leading influence in these United States, infidelity (the denial of the truth of the Scriptures, and of the doctrines taught by Christ and the apostles – Christianity) is fast displacing faith (in the Bible as the Word of God, and hence in the doctrines which it sets forth as being of divine revelation).
This strong statement we are abundantly able to prove by quotations from the public addresses of ministers recognized as the "great lights" of various denominations – men honored with titles such as neither our Lord nor any of the apostles ever owned – Reverend Doctors of Divinity; men who receive salaries such as no apostle ever received, ranging from six thousand to twenty-five thousand dollars a year; men who are recognized as among the best educated in all things pertaining to worldly wisdom; men, consequently, of more than ordinary ability and influence, either for or against the faith they have pledged themselves to defend, but which in reality they are doing far more than outward infidels to undermine and cast aside as rubbish good enough for the ignorance of the past, but unable to bear the light of what they are pleased to term the "higher criticism" of to-day.
Fed with this bread of worldly wisdom, which does not recognize God's providential care of his people in supplying them a revelation of his past dealings and of his future purposes in connection with them, but which prefers to arraign that revelation before an inferior court of fallible human philosophers and incompetent judges who vainly overrate their own knowledge and wisdom, what wonder that the pews also are skeptical – especially when we consider that aside from such food from the pulpit they are beset by the same spirit in the world, in the every-day walks of life. These worldly philosophers, instead of recognizing modern inventions as the God-given precursors of the yet greater blessings of the Millennial Day, account for them by a supposed greater brain-capacity, and call this the Brain-age. They sneer at the teachers and the philosophies of the past, and especially at the teachings of the prophets, our Lord and the apostles – that man, created in the glorious image of God, fell from that original perfection into sin and degradation, and needed to be redeemed and restored to "that [original perfection and God-likeness] which was lost." [R1417 : page 196]
While exposing the infidelity which these "great teachers" are publishing from pulpits dedicated to God, we are far from accusing them of any desire to do evil. On the contrary, we believe them to be conscientious, but so misled by their own and other men's supposed wisdom that they can now see nothing of God in the Bible, and have therefore come to reverence it merely as an ancient and curious document, a relic of the remote past upon which these, its critics, could improve amazingly. They tolerate it as a book of texts from which to preach sermons (generally in direct opposition to the contexts) merely because the common people still reverence it and can as yet be better appealed to thus than in any other way. They tolerate the Bible only because of what they believe is the superstitious reverence of the people for it. And they are seeking quietly and skilfully to remove that superstition.
Of course it is true that some superstitions do attach to the popular reverence for the Bible, as for all sacred things. For instance, some keep a Family Bible upon the table, unused, as a sort of "charm," just as some hang an old horseshoe above their door. Others use it as an "oracle" and after prayer upon any perplexing point open their Bible and accept the verse upon which the eye first lights as an inspired answer to their petition – often torturing the words out of all proper sense and connection to obtain the desired answer. And some ignorantly presume that the English and some that the German translation is the original Bible, and that every word in these imperfect, uninspired translations is inspired. For this much of ignorance and superstition the Protestant ministers of the world are responsible; because they should have taught the people by expounding God's Word, instead of tickling their ears with pleasing essays upon other topics. And it is upon this degree of superstition which they helped to inculcate, that these "wise men" are now placing their levers and exerting the whole weight of their influence and learning to overthrow entirely the faith of many, their own faith having first perished in their culpable negligence of the prayerful study of the Word and their pride in human philosophies and speculations.
People of the world seem to realize the true state of affairs better far than many of God's children, most of whom seem to be asleep on the subject. As an instance, see the illustration which we give upon pages 200 and 201. It was published by "Life," a New York journal, in its issue of April 28th. Its publishers kindly granted us the privilege of reproducing it. It shows leading ministers and colleges* of the country in the forefront – blind leaders of the numerous blind followers who are shown groping after them in the background. The miasm of infidelity ["doubts"] is shown hovering over them as smoke, helping to injure their already darkened vision. All are shown as approaching, unconsciously, a great precipice into which some have already fallen headlong. The illustration brings forcibly to mind our Lord's words to the leaders and Doctors of the Jewish Church – "If the blind lead the blind both will fall into the ditch." And so it was fulfilled in the case of that typical House of Israel: they stumbled over that stumbling-stone – Christ; and the Apostle declares that the particular doctrine of Christ over which they stumbled was "the cross of Christ, to the Jew a stumbling-block and to the Greeks foolishness," but to us who believe the power and the wisdom of God. – 1 Cor. 1:18.
And as God foresaw and foretold the fall of all the fleshly House of Israel except the believing little remnant, so he has foretold the stumbling and fall, not only of these blind leaders of the nominal spiritual House of Israel whom we see already stumbling, but the fall also of all, except "a remnant," of the great mass of the nominal Church, who will follow the pernicious ways of these false teachers and fall with them into the ditch of infidelity. Thus it is written – He will be for a stone of stumbling and rock of offense to both the houses of Israel. As the nominal fleshly house stumbled eighteen centuries ago, so the nominal spiritual house is now stumbling. And, as already pointed out, the present stumbling is [R1417 : page 197] like the former – over the doctrine of the pardon of sins by virtue of the death, the cross, of Christ. This now, as then, seems foolishness to the worldly-wise and proves a stumbling-block to all who are unworthy of the truth.
Those who have the TOWERS as far back as 1879 and '80 will notice that we then called attention to this very condition of testing upon this subject – as coming first upon those most advanced in the light, those upon the housetop of Babylon; and later upon all in her; and here we applied the words of the Apostle: "If it begin first with us [if some amongst us need to be sifted out and to fall], what shall the end be" to others? What, indeed, but that which God represents, a falling on every hand? "A thousand shall fall at thy side" – a thousand shall fall to one who will stand. No wonder the Apostle counsels: "Take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all to stand." – Eph. 6:13.
Whilst Colonel Ingersoll is thundering against the Bible and its inconsistencies – because he misinterprets it in the light of the conflicting creeds of Christendom – professed Bible expounders in some of the leading pulpits are exerting a ten-fold greater influence toward infidelity. They are handing stones and serpents to those who look to them for food. Under the name of The Findings of the Higher Criticism, they assure their confiding supporters that the Bible is not reliable; that, for instance, the finding of shells upon the tops of mountains was probably the origin of the story of the deluge in Noah's day, and that now these are known to have resulted from the upheaval of the mountains; that it has been discovered that although a whale has an enormous mouth it has a small throat, and that consequently the story of Jonah must be a fable; they proceed to deny that God created man in his own likeness [R1418 : page 197] and that he fell into sin and thereby lost almost all of that likeness, and insist that this and other accounts of Genesis are wholly unreliable and contrary to reason. They then claim that reason teaches evolution; that only a beginning of man's creation took place in Eden, and that, so far from falling from divine favor into sin and degradation, man has gradually been growing into God's likeness and favor for the past six thousand years.
They proceed to say that "higher criticism" shows that the canon of the Old Testament Scriptures was not completed until after the return of Israel from the Babylonian captivity, and that in that compilation serious errors were made – for instance, that the collection of Psalms was merely a collection of Hebrew poetry and ascribed to David because he had written a few of them, and because of his reputation; and that the other psalms were written by various parties and are therefore to be considered as uninspired. Similar claims are made regarding others of the Old Testament books: for instance, that not more than the first twenty-eight chapters of Isaiah are really the writings of that prophet; that the remainder of the book bearing his name has distinctive peculiarities indicating that they were written by two or three other parties than wrote the first twenty-eight chapters.
We reply to this "higher criticism" that it is altogether too high – that it takes the standpoint of unbelief and therefore not the standpoint proper for the child of God, who reasonably expects that his Heavenly Father has given a revelation, and who, finding in the Bible that which commends it to his heart and head as being that revelation, seeks to prove rather than to disprove its authenticity and its truthfulness. Higher worldly wisdom ignores God's supervision of his Book, but the higher heavenly wisdom recognizes that supervision and therefore studies it reverently and expectantly.
The truly higher criticism would reason that as the olden-time prophets generally used scribes, to whom they dictated, so probably had Isaiah; and that as Isaiah's prophecy covered a number of years, he probably had several scribes, and while each scribe may have had his own peculiarities, the same God who was able and willing to give a revelation of his will through his prophet, Isaiah, was willing and able to overrule the scribes provided, so that the revelation should reach his people as he designed to give it.
The truly higher criticism, instead of being [R1418 : page 198] surprised that all the psalms of the Book of Psalms were not indited by King David, should remember that the book does not claim to be a book of David's Psalms, but a book of Psalms. It should notice, too, that whilst a majority of the psalms particularly claim that David was their author, some do not name their authors. One at least (Psalm 90) claims Moses as its writer. And although twelve are credited to Asaph, a Levite whom King David made Musical Director in the services of the Sanctuary, it is by no means certain that their dedication should not read as some scholars claim – "A Psalm for Asaph" – to set to music.
But no matter: suppose it could be proved conclusively that one fourth or one half or all of the Psalms had been written by some one else than David, would that invalidate their divine censorship? It is nowhere stated that David alone of all the prophets was permitted to put his messages into poetic form. The Jews recognized the Book of Psalms as a whole, as sacred scripture – as a holy or inspired writing. And our Lord and the apostles (the highest possible critics, in the estimation of God's people) made no objection to that popular thought of their day, but, on the contrary, they quoted directly or by allusion from sixty-one of the psalms, some of them repeatedly. Our Lord himself quoted from nineteen of them. And these quotations embrace, not only some of those definitely ascribed to David, but equally those whose authorship is not definitely stated. And in one case (John 10:34,35), our Lord, quoting from Psalm 82:6 ("A Psalm of Asaph") distinctly terms it a part of the "Scriptures" which "cannot be broken." This, the highest possible criticism, makes the Book of Psalms entirely satisfactory to God's humble "little ones," whether or not it be hid from the wise and prudent according to the course of this world, whom the god of this world hath blinded with the brilliancy of their own earthly learning and with their love of honor of men. – Compare Matt. 11:25-30; 1 Cor. 1:19-31; 2 Cor. 4:4.
The arguments against the story of Jonah and the whale and against the story of the flood are fully met by the reminder that the Scriptures do not say that a whale swallowed Jonah, but that the Lord specially prepared a great fish for the purpose, and that our Lord and the apostles refer to both of these narratives without in any degree modifying or correcting them. If they were deceived upon such points we could place no reliance upon their superior guidance and inspiration upon other points. The "meek" will recognize that there is much more likelihood that the error lies with the modern critics. See Isa. 29:10-14.
But some of these wise men, whose wisdom is perishing, wax very bold and not only discredit the truthfulness of the records of the past, but declare that, if assured of their truthfulness, there is no reason to think them more inspired, nor even as much so, as the writings of good men of to-day. They claim that the prophesying of the past was merely the expression of the longing desires of naturally good hearts looking for and predicting a better state of things coming after. They assert that this is the natural order of evolution; that men desire something better and then aim for and attain it; they make light of the teaching of Genesis that man was created in God's image and fell from it; asserting that by a process of evolution the world has each century approached nearer and nearer to the likeness of God. The Rev. R. Heber Newton declares: –
"If the dear Christ's throne stood on any such flimsy basis of prophecy as men have built up under it, then, when the underpinnings [of faith, which he has been actively engaged in removing] come tumbling out, as to-day they are doing, we might fear that his authority was dropping in with them; that no longer we were to call him Master and King; that criticism had pronounced his decheance. But his throne really rests on a nation's [the Jews] growth of the human ideal and divine image. And since this nation's growth was on the same general basis as the religious and ethical progress of other races [i.e., there was nothing peculiar about the Jews religion – nothing better than that of other nations, except that they were more religiously inclined, as the writer elsewhere claims – although on the contrary, the Scriptures claim and show by their history that the Jews were "a stiff-necked" and idolatrously inclined people], his throne rests on no less secure [R1418 : page 199] foundation than humanity's evolution of the human ideal and divine image."
Here is a repudiation of all that Christ taught on the subject of the "things written" which "must be fulfilled," a repudiation of all his quotations from the Law and the Prophets; a repudiation of his repeated statements of God's choice of that nation and the house of David and seed of Abraham as heirs of the promises that of these should come the predicted Messiah; a repudiation of his statement of the necessity of his death: that thus it was written, and thus "it was necessary" that the Son of Man should suffer and rise from the dead in order that salvation and remission of sins, and consequently restitution from the penalty of sins, should be preached in his name unto all people. But whilst showing Christ to have been a wonderful Jew, and the great exemplar for both Jews and Gentiles, he utterly repudiates him as a Savior in the sense that the Master taught – that he "gave his life a ransom for many" – "to save [recover] that which was lost." Then, fearing to break the idol of our hearts too suddenly, and a little shocked by his own boldness as an iconoclast, he for the moment pacifies his own and his hearers hearts by (so to speak, saying, Hail, Master! and kissing the very one whose teachings he, as a "higher critic," is betraying) saying, "The dear Christ."
The Master prophetically rebuked such as say Lord, Lord, yet follow not his teachings. (Matt. 7:22.) And they still need rebuke, and it is the duty of every true disciple to rebuke them; for the outward opponents do far less harm than those who wear the Master's name whilst denying his doctrine.
As for the average nominal Christian, overcharged with the cares and business of this present life, and wholly ignorant of prophecy and its past, present and future fulfilments, he is just ready to swallow these suggestions of unbelief. The Apostle Peter's statement (2 Pet. 1:21) is that "prophecy came not in old time by the will of man [that they were not the imaginings of longing human hearts], but that holy men of old spoke as they were moved [to speak] by the holy spirit" of God. And so far from their utterances being their own ideas of what would come to pass, the Lord sends us word, through the Apostle Peter (1 Pet. 1:10,11), that the prophets did not know, but searched diligently to know what and what manner of time (whether literal or symbolic) the spirit which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand concerning the sufferings of Christ and concerning the glory and restitution of all things (Acts 3:21) that would follow as a result of his suffering – the just for the unjust. And not only does the Apostle tell us of this, but the prophets themselves acknowledge their own ignorance (Dan. 8:26,27; 12:4,8,9; Ezek. 20:49); and the Apostle exclaims that they spoke and wrote not for themselves and the people then living, but for the instruction of the Gospel Church, and especially for the [R1419 : page 199] two ends, the opening and the closing of the Gospel age. – 1 Pet. 1:12; 1 Cor. 10:11.
But these worldly-wise teachers who put light for darkness and darkness for light go farther and farther into the "outer darkness" in their efforts to justify their theories and still be logical. They openly claim that the apostles were not inspired; that their belief in the inspiration of the prophets misled them; and that, although they were good-intentioned men, their writings are very misleading. Indeed, one of these preachers has attempted to prove from their own words that the New Testament writers did not claim infallibility, or a divine supervision of their writing. He quotes the preface to the Gospel according to Luke, saying: "No Biblical writer shows any consciousness of such supernatural influences upon him in his work as insured infallibility." We answer that it should not require a special inspiration to enable an honest man to set forth in historical form facts known to himself or testified to by his honorable friends who had been eye-witnesses of the facts recorded. The first five books of the New Testament are merely histories – good histories, reliable histories, histories written by men who gave their lives in devotion to the matters concerning which they here bear witness. The only superhuman influence that could be desired in this would be that the Lord should facilitate their work by bringing important matters clearly and forcibly to the attention [R1419 : page 202] of these historians, and guarding them against misunderstandings. This our Lord promised to do (John 14:26); and this we have every reason to believe he has done. But this "higher critic" declares that the Apostle Paul, the greatest of the New Testament writers, did not claim divine direction, or more than ordinary knowledge or authority for his teachings. In proof of this statement he cites us to 1 Cor. 7:10,12,25,40. He argues from these citations that the Apostle was quite uncertain about his own teaching. We reason contrariwise, that the man who thus carefully marked off his own judgment or opinion and clearly specified that these particular items were his, and not of divine inspiration, not only implies that the remainder of his teachings are of divine authorization, and very positively so, but that his candid admission that some things here taught were without divine authorization proves that if his teachings had all been merely his own judgment, he had the courage which would have told the truth – the honesty which love of human approbation could not affect.
Let us hear what the Apostle has to say relative to the divine authority for his teachings aside from what is implied and stated in the citations already mentioned. – 1 Cor. 7:12,25,40.
He declares that "God hath set" first or chief in the Church the Apostles, as rulers and teachers of all. (And that the early Church so recognized the apostles is very evident.) He declares that he is one of the apostles – the last; points to the evidences of his apostleship – how the Lord used him, not only in imparting to others through him a knowledge of the truth, but also in communicating the gifts of the spirit, which at that time outwardly witnessed the acceptance of all true believers, but also witnessed who were apostles – since only apostles could impart those gifts. – 1 Cor. 12:28; 2 Cor. 1:1; 1 Cor. 9:1,2; 15:8-10; 2 Tim. 1:6.
Every time, therefore, that Paul announced himself an apostle, he declared (to those who appreciate the meaning of that office) that he was one of those twelve specially commissioned of God and recognized of the Church as God's representatives, through whom he would promulgate and establish in the world the truths concerning the New Covenant which had just been sealed with the precious blood [sacrificial death] of Christ. Every time he referred to his apostleship he announced himself one of those specially commissioned "by the holy spirit sent down from heaven" to preach and to establish the Gospel. – See 1 Pet. 1:12.
His writings are toned not only with meekness, but also with that authority which should mark one who knows what he teaches to be the truth – unlike the uncertain "scribes." Not only so, but he affirms, "I have not shunned to declare unto you [not my own opinions, but] all the counsel of God." – Acts 20:27.
Hear the Apostle: – "I certify unto you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ." "But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel than that we have preached unto you, let him be accursed." (Gal. 1:8,11,12.) "For my gospel [message of good tidings] came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the holy spirit, and in much assurance." "As we were permitted of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God." "We preached unto you the gospel of God" – exhorting "that ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory;" and we thank God that "when ye received the word of God WHICH YE HEARD OF US, ye received it not as the word of men, but, as it is in truth, the word of God." (1 Thes. 1:5; 2:4,9,12,13.) "God...hath chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the spirit and belief of the truth: whereunto he called you by our gospel." – 2 Thes. 2:13,14.
And yet so dense has the "outer darkness" become in some instances, that ministers who should know what the Apostle Paul claimed, and who would know if they studied his writings as much as they study the findings of "higher criticism," declare in the face of the foregoing and other statements of the Apostle that –
"Against his [Paul's] modest, cautious discriminations, our doctors [of divinity] set up [R1419 : page 203] their theory of the Bible, clothe all his utterances with the divine authority, and honor him with an infallibility which he explicitly disclaims." – R. Heber Newton.
"His intensely speculative mind had furnished a system of thought into which he built such ideas as these: The pre-existence of Christ, as in some mystic, undefined way the head of Humanity; the sacrificial nature of his death; the justification of the sinner through faith;... the speedy return of Christ to reign on earth; the resurrection of the pious dead; the translation of the living believers; the final victory of goodness over evil; and the ending of the mediatorship of Christ, God then becoming all in all....With the incoming of a more rational, ethical and spiritual age, we may surely expect a finer fashioning of the forms of thought."
As this higher critic philosophizes that Peter and James and Paul and especially Jesus were the developments of the Jewish age, by processes of moral and physical evolution, what wonder if he concludes that himself and his co-critics, as the developments of this Brain-age, are much better able than they to teach the world – and to doctor divinity. The fact that Christ and the apostles taught the doctrines of justification by faith in the great sacrifice for sins, of a second coming of Christ, and of the resurrection of the dead, would, of course, be the best of reason for the rejection of all those doctrines by the new lights of higher criticism; for, disbelieving in a plenary inspiration, they ask, How could any one get the true light eighteen centuries ago?
So far from regarding our Lord Jesus as the one and only and true Light of the world which sooner or later, in this or the next age, shall lighten every man that cometh into the world, this "higher criticism" asserts that the heathen "Bibles," as well as ours, though mostly error, were rays of the light which is now, as a result of their "higher criticism," about to burst upon the world with electrical brilliancy. But lo! we perceive that what they offer is only a rehash of the old heathen doctrine of evolution – the wisdom of the East – which has done so little for its votaries, whilst the Word of God, even misinterpreted, has been carrying blessings to every land.
But the most forcible element of this attack upon the Bible – to the average mind – is that which claims that there are discrepancies of statements between the books of Chronicles and the books of Kings; and that the Old Testament contains narratives too indecent for promiscuous reading. The argument is that the former prove the Bible to be uninspired and unreliable, and that the latter is a reason for believing it to have been written by men of impure minds, and gives the book an impure influence, and hence proves that it is not of God and is unfit for use by the pure minded and the young.
We answer that the Old Testament Scriptures comprise three classes of writings, viz.: History, Prophecy and Law. The history neither needed nor claimed any special inspiration, though we believe that God's supervision of the historical writings was exerted to the extent of seeing that such items were recorded by the historians as would be of special value in connection with the revelation of the divine plan of the ages. And so also we believe that God's supervision has to some extent been over modern history, by means of which we are enabled to read, upon reliable authority, the fulfilments of many ancient prophecies.
The errors or chronological differences between the books of Kings and Chronicles are, therefore, not to be considered errors of inspiration, but merely such slight discrepancies as we might expect to find in any history, and which [R1420 : page 203] God permitted for a purpose, while he supplied this deficiency in the Old Testament chronology by a fuller record on these obscure points in the New Testament. Thus we are assured of his supervision of the historical features of the Bible as a whole. At the same time, the Lord thus hid the exact chronology of events, and hence the knowledge of his times and seasons, both from Israel and from "the wise and prudent" of to-day, whose pride in human philosophies impels them more toward adverse criticism of the Bible than toward a reverent study of its hidden treasures of truth and grace.
We claim and have shown (MILLENNIAL DAWN, Vol. II., pages 44-49) that upon those very points where, by the historian's error or our [R1420 : page 204] misunderstanding, our faith in the chronology would be influenced, God has supplied the needed evidence through the apostles – thus cultivating the confidence of "the meek" in his supervision of the entire matter, and emphasizing his special use of the apostles.
In his eternal purpose God had designed not only the sending of his Son to be man's Redeemer and Deliverer, but also that when made flesh it should be in the line of the seed of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and David. He designed also that every item of his plan should be accomplished "in due time," "in the fulness of the times appointed," and he desired that his reverent children should, in due time, know of his good purposes and their times and seasons. For these reasons it was expedient that records be clearly kept – including family genealogies. And it is in keeping a clear record of these necessary genealogies – the showing of who was the father and who the mother – that most of the unchaste narratives are introduced, none of which are approved, but many of them reproved. The reasons for mentioning these features of history are not always apparent without study. For instance, the narrative of King David's relations with Bathsheba were necessary, because her son Solomon succeeded to the throne, and his title to it depended on his relationship to David. Then the account of Absalom's estrangement from his father David made necessary the statement of his relationship to Tamar; and the account of Absalom's conduct toward his father's concubines was necessary as an item of history to prove that the Lord's penalty against David for his injustice toward Uriah was fulfilled. Another account of base wickedness in detail is made necessary as an item of Jewish history to account for the almost complete annihilation of the tribe of Benjamin. And so with other cases: if the reason for the account is not on the surface, let us look deeper, assured that in every instance there is a good reason. Furthermore, the fact that our Lord's ancestors, according to the flesh, were far from perfect, proves that his perfection did not result from evolution, but, as the Scriptures declare, from his divine origin and his miraculous conception and birth. But even its enemies must concede that these unchaste elements of Bible history are told briefly, and evidently without desire to awaken morbid sentiments, or to do more than the historian's simple duty of keeping the lines of history free from obscurity. This was specially needful because the line of our Lord's descent was to be traced, and because for a part of the course that was Israel's royal line or family. And it seems to have been a peculiarity of the Jewish historian to tell the story fearlessly, regardless of whether it related to king or peasant.
All familiar with ancient history know that the Jewish social system was much purer than that of other nations, and few are not aware that to-day the history of any large city of the world, for one week, if written as boldly as Scripture history, would record more unchastity than the Bible account of an entire nation covering centuries.
We do not urge a promiscuous reading of these unchaste portions of ancient history (either from the Bible or other works) before the family or to the young. The Bible is not a child's book, but a book for "believers."
And while the New Testament might be freely given into the hands of children, only selections from the Old Testament should be read to those of immature mind. Such was the custom in the days of the apostles: selections from the Law or from the Prophets were read to the people by the scribes: and the historical books were open for reference for any who had use for them.
As for persons of matured minds, the unchaste elements of Bible history can work no injury: the morbid and impure mind can find, alas! far more attractive tales upon the counter of every book-store and upon the shelves of every public library. The true Christian can trust himself to read and get a lesson from every department of God's Book – and it is for such only, and not for the worldly, nor for children; "that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto every good work."
As a further element of this discussion the reader is referred to Chapters ii., iii. and x. of MILLENNIAL DAWN, Vol. I. And thus we rest our argument for the present: urging all who have "laid hold upon the hope set before us in the gospel" to hold fast the confidence of their rejoicing firm unto the end – to hold fast to the Book. And how much more easy it is and will be for those who have learned the real plan of God and seen its beauty to stand firm upon the Bible, than for others. To many, alas! it is a jumbled mass of doctrinal contradictions, but to us it is the foundation of a clear, definite, grand plan of the ages. So grandly clear and symmetrical is the wonderful plan that all who see it are convinced that only God could have been its author, and that the book whose teachings it harmonizes must indeed be God's revelation.
III. QUAR., LESSON III., JULY 17, Acts 2:37-47.
VERSES 37-41. As soon as the disciples had received the begetting spirit and the qualifying gifts, they became preachers – all who received the spirit received a gift or ability to preach the truth in some way. They did not tarry to build colleges and seminaries, and to study astronomy, or geology, or even elocution, but straightway preached – using whatever talents they had, God being willing to use all who desired to serve him. They did not even stop to dispute about how they would "organize" and who should be the officers and which should be Reverend and which Most Reverend. They did not say, Let us make a creed which will elaborately state all that must be believed regarding this life and the next. Already, in being united to Christ, they had the only proper organization.
What then did they do? They preached! What did they preach? The words of Peter are briefly stated (verses 14-36) and were doubtless the text for all, as all preached. He simply explained to the people that these gifts of the spirit, which they saw displayed, were meant to designate these as acceptable to God, as the Prophet had foretold (see June TOWER); that their acceptance with God was the result, not of works of their own, but of faith in Christ's work (verse 21); then he explained about Christ, the Messiah, and how they as a people had slain him; how God had foreknown and foretold this, and how he had raised Christ from death, as also foretold by the prophets; and how this Messiah was now highly exalted by God and would yet conquer every foe; and that he had secured for his followers divine favor and adoption into the family of God, of which these gifts of the spirit of adoption were the outward witness. And with many other words and arguments in this same line Peter and the others preached the gospel and said to the people, "Save yourselves from this crooked generation," accept of Christ and through him have God's favor and unite with us in his service – telling the good tidings.
Some believed this plainly-told story, and asked, What must we do to be saved from the fate of our cast-off nation and to obtain the divine favor as you have it? The answer came quickly, Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. They did not say, You are all right now since you BELIEVE: there were certain works proper to show their belief. Their course of conduct as well as their belief was to be changed in conformity to the words of Jesus, whom they now accepted as Messiah, and they were to give outward expression to this change, and to show publicly that they believed in him and had consecrated their lives to his service, by baptism into his name.
They did not ask them which Church they would join, for there is but one true Church – "The Church of the Living God," of which Christ is the Head, and of which every truly consecrated one who believes in him as his Savior is a member. They did not ask them to assent to a fixed creed devised by men, nor to bind or commit themselves in any manner, except as their faith in Christ and their allegiance to him would be expressed by their baptism into his name, in the likeness of his death. How beautifully simple was the organization of the early Church. The names were "written in heaven" (Luke 10:20), but we have no record to indicate that they were enrolled on earth. And all were just as free to leave the Church as to come into its gatherings; and when any "drew back" or proved unworthy, [R1421 : page 205] their names were "blotted out" in the heavenly records only, for no other records are mentioned. (Rev. 3:5.) About three thousand souls were added to the Church by that first day's preaching – but it is not stated that they were all immersed in the one day.
The statement that they were to be baptized for the remission of their sins is generally misunderstood. It should be remembered that those addressed were all Jews – already in covenant relationship with God, but about being cast off because of failure to live as nearly as they could up to the terms of their covenant. There was a difference, therefore, between them and the Gentiles who had always been aliens and strangers, afar off from God – "without God and without hope." And it was proper to tell the Jews to repent – to turn again to God and to their covenant – to be his people and to seek to do his will. To the Jew who had wandered away from God, baptism in the name of Jesus became a fresh witness of a covenant [R1421 : page 206] relationship with God which recognized Jesus as his appointed Messiah. If they would thus accept and acknowledge Christ, their sins against their covenant and their share in the sin of their nation in rejecting and crucifying him would be remitted or forgiven. Compare Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3; Acts 13:24 and particularly Acts 22:16. These instances all relate to Jews, either natural born or proselyted.
VERSE 42. Recognizing the Apostles' teachings as divinely inspired, the early Church had a grand unity of sentiment, and "all believed the same things" (1 Cor. 1:10); they did not each try to rack his brain to make a new theory or a new kind of theology. How blessed it would be for the Church to-day if she were delivered from the confusion (Babel) of tongues – doctrines – which now prevails, and if, instead of studying and endeavoring to harmonize the inconsistent teachings of men, all would unite in discussing the teachings of the Lord and the apostles, with a view of learning just what they (God's mouthpieces) meant to teach. How soon would "the faith once delivered to the saints" illuminate the hearts of all the humble.
The "breaking of bread" does not refer to the Lord's Supper; for in it the wine is no less important than the bread, and would surely have been mentioned had that yearly memorial been meant. Our Lord's resurrection from death on the first day of the week seems to have given rise to the custom in the early Church of meeting together on that day, so precious in its memory of revived hopes. And since after his resurrection our Lord made himself known to them several times in connection with their partaking of food (Mark 16:14; Luke 24:30,31; John 21:5-12), the early Church appears to have gotten into the habit of having a simple meal in common in remembrance of this – a sort of love-feast.
Prayers, of course, were not neglected. No soul appreciative of the great privilege of communion with the great Creator, opened to us by our Mediator through the sin-offering which he gave for our transgressions, would fail to use so precious a boon – to express his thanks for mercies received and to seek fresh supplies of grace and wisdom in the Redeemer's name.
VERSES 44,45. The tendency with all whose hearts are touched and sealed with God's spirit, the spirit of love, is to live together as one family – the new-found cup of blessings, joys of the Lord, being rendered the more sweet and precious by being shared in common; and if the spiritual so also the temporal joys and sorrows would be gladly shared. So it was in the early Church: such a spirit of love prevailed and speedily led to community of goods – "They had all things in common" – "possessions (houses, etc.) and goods" – as one family, the family of God.
This beautiful and desirable condition of affairs doubtless affords a foreview of the blessed state of affairs already existing in heaven and of what will be found also upon earth when that which is perfect is come, and when as a result of the promised "times of restitution" God's will shall be done on earth as it is done in heaven. And God no doubt arranged for this sample of Christian Communism as an illustration of what a full measure of the holy spirit would lead to. But that God did not intend that such a communism should continue throughout this Gospel age seems evident. Having served its intended use as an object lesson, it was permitted to die. Indeed, it should be evident to all that the children of this world would be led into such a community by a spirit of selfishness and indolence as surely as if not more numerously than saints would be drawn into it by the spirit of love. And it is evident that it required the exercise of those special powers conferred upon the apostles, to keep the community from being imposed on by such selfish characters. – Acts 5:1-11; 8:18-24.
When our Lord traveled throughout Palestine with his twelve disciples they had a common "bag" into which freewill offerings were put. Judas, who had a devil, was the treasurer, being naturally drawn to the position by his love of money, selfishness. And yet theirs was not a communism in the full sense; for John at least had "his own home." – John 19:27.
Furthermore, neither our Lord nor the apostles in any of their teachings urged believers to communism of goods; but, on the contrary, they urged each to esteem himself a steward of God's favors, temporal and spiritual, and to use them – "distributing to the necessities of the saints" – laying by on the first day of the week, according as God had prospered each, a fund from which the Lord's cause could be forwarded. And those who have, from time to time since, attempted religious socialism or communism have, as a rule, found the matter impracticable, because, although the spirit may be willing, the flesh is weak.
VERSES 46,47. Whilst it lasted, their full fellowship was delightful, and made even the ordinary affairs of life more blessed – "They ate their food with gladness." Such a blissful condition was well calculated to draw the attention and hearts of all Israelites indeed. And thus did the Lord draw out of the rejected nation into the Church such as it was proper to rescue or "save" from the "blindness" which he had sent upon that nation, because of unfitness of heart to share the blessings of the Gospel age. – Rom. 11:7-11. [R1421 : page 207]
III. QUARTER, LESSON IV., JULY 24, ACTS 3:1-16.
VERSE 1. Peter and John were promptly about the Master's business. The Pentecostal blessing had filled their hearts, and in their zeal to find some opportunity for service they went up to the temple at the hour of prayer, hoping and expecting to find there some opportunity for testifying to the truth.
VERSES 2,3. At the gate of the temple they met a poor beggar, lame from his birth, who asked for alms; and immediately the Spirit of God suggested to Peter the healing of this man in the name of the Lord Jesus as a means of calling the attention of the people to the fact of his resurrection and power. The suggestion was accompanied by the gift of faith (1 Cor. 12:9), and the inspired Apostle, strong in the assurance that the Lord would work with him in this matter, boldly commanded the man in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth to rise up and walk.
VERSES 4-7 show that a remarkable cure was effected as soon as the man made the effort to obey the command of the Lord Jesus through Peter. Herein is a lesson for us to manifest the disposition to obedience to the Lord if we would secure his blessing.
VERSE 8 declares the completeness of the cure and the surprise and joy and gratitude of the man, as, walking and leaping and praising God, he entered the temple with Peter and John, a living witness to the power of the risen Lord Jesus whom they preached.
VERSES 9-11 show that the miracle had the desired effect of drawing the attention of the people to the apostles' teaching.
VERSES 12-16 are a part of the testimony concerning the Lord Jesus. How bold and fearless Peter here appears since that pentecostal baptism of the holy spirit. There is no disposition now to deny the Lord: he fearlessly stands before the people who only a few months previous had crucified the Lord, and charges them with the crime; describing, too, the enormity of their guilt, and then declaring the fact of his resurrection, of which fact he claimed to be one of the witnesses. And this miracle which had been wrought in their sight, in the name of Jesus, he pointed to as an evidence of his exaltation and power.
Here, strange to say, just at the most interesting point of his discourse, our lesson closes, and the succeeding lesson is chosen from the next chapter, thus omitting the glorious doctrine which Peter that day set forth to the eager listeners, and which the miracle was only intended to introduce to their attention and to prove to them that the doctrine was of God. But let us proceed.
VERSES 17-19 were intended to encourage any who began to realize their national sin and [R1422 : page 207] their individual part in it, by showing that their sin might be forgiven, because they, as well as their rulers, had done it in at least partial ignorance. Thus he urges them to repentance in view of the fact that times of refreshing are coming from the presence of the Lord.
VERSES 20-24 declare that the Lord Jesus is coming again, and that the times of refreshing or restitution are due at his return. Then the apostle calls attention to the fact that this promised restitution was the theme of all the prophets, and bids them specially note what Moses had to say about Christ as a great prophet and teacher with authority and power, all of which will be fully realized at his return.
Glorious tidings were these for those who heard in faith. They had before them that very day an illustration of the restitution blessings. These things did Jesus through his faithful witnesses and thus shadowed forth the glory and blessings of his future kingdom. Then the Apostle reminded them of the promise made to their father Abraham – "In thee and thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed:" i.e., that through the children of Abraham, exalted to power and great glory, these blessings of restitution were to flow to the whole world; and that they, as the children of Abraham and of the prophets who foretold these things, were the natural heirs of this promise – of the grand privilege of being exalted to such a position of favor with God and of power and influence as to be able to bless all the families of the earth.
Then he declares that it was for this very reason – because they were the natural seed of Abraham – that God was so gracious toward them as to offer to them first this special favor, over and above the great favor of restitution which he had promised for the whole world (verses 25,26); for, in order to bless others, they must of necessity be the more highly exalted. (Heb. 7:7.) Not indeed because of their personal worthiness was this offered to them. Ah, no: they had most signally manifested their unworthiness in killing the Prince of life. Nevertheless, they were told that God would forgive this terrible sin if they would repent and turn to their crucified and now highly exalted Lord and receive his great salvation. But if they would not repent they had no inheritance in the Abrahamic promise or covenant; they would not be owned as children [R1422 : page 208] of Abraham, but would be disinherited; "for God," said Jesus, "is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham."
The sermon that Peter preached that day, accompanied, as it was, by an actual demonstration of the Lord's power to accomplish the great restitution work, must have made a deep impression upon the minds of his hearers. And as we read it to-day, in the early dawn of the blessed times of restitution, our hearts are made to rejoice also in the glorious prospect; especially since we have come to realize that the special favor which the natural seed of Abraham, except a small remnant, failed to appreciate and accept, we, Gentile believers, being by faith counted as the seed of Abraham, have fallen heirs to. Blessed inheritance! How little poor, prejudice-blinded Israel realized what they were rejecting; and how careful should we be who have been adopted in their stead into the family of God, lest we become blinded by the god of this world to the great value of this favor, and so fall after the same example of unbelief. Let us remember the Apostle Paul's admonition – "Thou standest by faith. Be not high-minded, but fear."
Referring again to the subject of the lesson – the healing of the lame man – let it be observed that this was not a prayer-cure, since there was no prayer offered, nor was the subject anointed according to the directions of the Apostle James; nor was it a faith-cure, since the subject evidently had no faith or expectancy of such a thing; nor was it a mind-cure; nor was it a partial cure gradually effected in the course of days or weeks. It was instantaneous, miraculous and complete, and in all of these respects different from the healings witnessed to-day, some of which we regard as a beginning of the restitution work, or rather, as an introduction to that work, and designed principally to call attention to the possibilities of the restitution times. It was one of the results of the special gifts granted to the early Church for the purpose of confirming their testimony and establishing the truth in candid and pious minds.
To witness for the truth in those days required special power: a mere statement of the fact that the despised and hated Nazarene, against whom the nation had conspired, and whom they had very recently put to a cruel and ignominious death, would not suffice to convince the people that this was indeed Jehovah's Anointed, the long promised Messiah. Consequently, it was necessary for these chosen witnesses to these wonderful truths to have some supernatural powers granted to them to enforce their testimony, else they would be regarded merely as deluded fanatics; and, therefore, in addition to the blessings of the day of Pentecost, special gifts were conferred upon all the various members of the early Church, whereby the Lord endorsed their testimony.
There were, as Paul enumerated them (1 Cor. 12:8-10) gifts of wisdom, of knowledge, of faith, of healing, of miracles, of prophecy, of discerning of spirits, of speaking with unknown tongues. These gifts were necessary in those days, both for convincing the honest-hearted Israelites and for the edification of the infant Church, which was not then possessed of the bountiful supply of spiritual food now granted to us in the completed canon of both Old and New Testaments, with ability and helps to read them.
In the instance of our lesson two special gifts were exercised by the Apostle Peter, viz.: the gift of faith, and the gift of healing. Ordinarily, faith is not a gift, except in the remote sense of the God-given basis whereon a reasonable and sure hope may rest. But, in the case under consideration, Peter was made to know assuredly that the man before him was to be healed for the glory of God. This God-given persuasion seemed to come to him instantly, as soon as the lame man asked for alms. Observe that the man did not pray, either to God or to Peter and John, for healing. He evidently never thought of such a thing, much less expected it. Neither did the apostles pray for the man or ask the man to pray for himself; but, in the full assurance of the gift of special faith for this occasion, he exercised his gift of healing, commanding the man who had never walked before and who never expected to walk, and who needed the assuring hand of Peter to encourage him to make the effort, in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth to rise up and walk.
The cure which immediately followed was evidently a complete soundness of the lame ankle. The man, filled with wonder and surprise, could at first hardly believe it himself. He tried standing, then began to step; and then, realizing his new strength and soundness, he leaped for joy, and, praising the Lord, entered with the apostles into the temple to hear what more these men would have to say about this one in whose name the miracle had been performed.
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[R1422 : page 211]
|VOL. XIII.||JULY 15, 1892.||NO. 14.|
Pittsburg has been kept prominently before public attention for some days past by reason of the rioting and bloodshed in the suburb of Homestead. While all lament the sad state of affairs, great diversity of opinion prevails regarding the responsibility, some taking sides with the Carnegie Steel Company, and others with their former employees who have practically taken posession of the works and declare that none others than themselves shall operate them, and they upon their own terms.
At first it might appear that not only the law, but also justice, is upon the side of the Steel Company, since the men admit that the wages proffered them are as good or better than is usually paid for similar service: namely, from $2.14 per day for "sweepers" to $9.45 per day for chief "rollers." But there is another side to the case: although the firm offers no objection to their employees being members of "The Amalgamated Association," it refuses any longer to recognize that union or to be controlled by its rules and regulations. This is the real difficulty. The officers and members of that association, although not claiming that present wages are "starvation wages," do claim that, had it not been for their organization, past and present, wages would be much less than they are. And their fear now is that if the dignity of their association is permitted to go down, in this, the largest works of the country, the result would ultimately be to their disadvantage, which, no doubt, is true.
With this brief summary of the situation it is the less difficult to appreciate the frenzy exhibited in the attack upon the three hundred watchmen sent by the Steel Company to take possession of and guard the works. It is no doubt true that much of the fiendish work was done by common laborers whose wages were not at all affected by the proposed changes, and who are not even admitted to membership in the Amalgamated Association. Being mostly Hungarians, Slavs and Poles, they, of course, [R1423 : page 211] understand the language, laws, etc., of this country but poorly, and know no law but force. These got the impression that non-resistance meant starvation for themselves and families, and so fought like savages to keep possession of what they would not claim to be their property in any sense of the word.
We mention this matter not to take sides in the controversy, not to endorse or to exonerate either party; for usually, in all struggles of which selfishness is the basis, rights and wrongs are to be found on both sides. But we desire to remind our readers that this last development is exactly in line with what we have been pointing out for the past sixteen years as the Scripturally predicted evidences, showing that we are living in the "harvest" or end of the Gospel age, which is to close, and to be merged into the Millennial age, with "a time of trouble such as was not since there was a nation." – Dan. 12:1.
When we reflect that many of these Homestead [R1423 : page 212] workmen are professed Christians – Presbyterians, Methodists, Catholics, etc. – who not only believe that "no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him," but who also believe that those who were shot down not only departed this life, but went to an eternity of torment, we ask ourselves – If self-interest and excitement lead to such excesses now, what can be expected when superstition gives way and Churchianity shall fully lose its already vanishing influence upon the masses? Then what has just shocked the world will seem tame – the Scriptures intimating that the scenes of the French Revolution were but a prelude to and illustration of the coming universal trouble.
While recognizing in these troubles some of the events marking this Day of the Lord, let us not be premature. Much remains to be done before the great and awful climax of these troubles is reached, when human selfishness will be fully arrayed against human selfishness and equally matched. Then widespread anarchy will demonstrate the necessity for the reign of the Prince of Peace, whose first work will be, in the culmination of this struggle of human selfishness, to dash the nations to pieces as a potter's vessel, and to rule them with a rod of iron – of unbending and just retribution – until their pride and their power are humbled in the dust, and they shall learn in the depths of their humiliation to be still and to recognize God, and Christ who will be exalted in the earth as king over all the earth, to lift up and bless all who love righteousness and peace. – Psa. 2:9; Rev. 2:27; Psa. 46:10.
But first and chiefly the intervening work will be the sealing of the servants of God in their foreheads. (Rev. 7:3.) And each should ask himself – What am I doing to assist in sealing others since I received the intellectual sealing of the knowledge of the truth? And each should resolve that whilst others are battling for earthly advantages and willing to lay down their lives for the same, "We ought also to lay down our lives for the brethren" – in carrying the present truth to all who have an ear to hear.
Without taking either side in the selfish struggles which will from time to time come with increasing violence, without assuming that all the right is with one party, and all the wrong with the other, let us have charity for both the parties to these struggles – for the rich in their morbid selfishness which takes pleasure in hoarding millions, while some of their employees (laborers at $1.48 per day) have scarcely enough for the bare necessities of life for themselves and their families; – for the workmen in that while they are lately tasting of the advantages of education and home comforts, and even luxuries, they fear lest they should let slip advantages now possessed. They fear lest labor should become degraded as in by-gone days, or even to the European level of to-day. And who could blame them for having these sentiments, seeing that selfishness is the law of "this present evil world?"
The entire trouble between labor and capital centers in selfishness! The mechanic wants from three dollars to nine dollars a day, and thinks the laborer well paid at one dollar and a half, because of his inferior skill, and yet unreasonably expects his employer to act upon different principles – to risk capital and invest still greater ability on philanthropic principles. Like all the rest of the world, he recognizes the royal law of Love, which Christ taught, and would like to have it in force toward himself, but is not ready to exercise its principles toward others. The great trouble will be gradually precipitated by this very conflict of the principles of Selfishness and Love – the masses longing for the blessings that would flow from the operation of the principle of Love, yet unwilling to submit themselves to the same, because they see no way of enforcing that law upon all. Many, who name the name of Christ only in blasphemy, are selfishly ready to quote to others the words of the great Teacher: "Do unto others as you would that they should do to you" and "Love thy neighbor as thyself" but are wholly unwilling to obey these commands toward others. It will be their attempt to realize for themselves their ideal of true Brotherly Love that they have not yet learned to practice toward others which will, as the Scriptures show, eventuate in anarchy – "a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation." [R1423 : page 213]
How different is and should be the attitude of those who, realizing that they were bought with a price, have surrendered their own selfish wills and plans and committed their interests, present and future, to Christ. To such the Lord makes known the mystery of his will – that though in the world, they should not be of it; that they should not seek to amass wealth, but rather to spend and be spent in his service; that they should not share the world's fear, but entrust the entire matter to their Lord's overruling providence. To such the Lord now gives, as "meat in due season," the assurance that he is about to set up in the earth the long-prayed-for Kingdom of God, whose will, the law of Love, shall be enforced for the blessing of all the families of the earth, after this trouble is over. Such, while deprecating violence and sympathizing with both sides of the controversy, are to avoid taking any part in the conflict, but rather to counsel peace and a reliance upon the Lord for the ushering in of the Golden Age in his own time and way.
How long the present spasm of trouble may last, and how great the proportions it may yet assume, no man can foretell; but that it is merely a spasm, and not the final catastrophe which will utterly wreck society, we are confident. It will probably result in a general back-set to labor organizations and to greater confidence on the part of the capitalists. But the world is longing for a government based upon Love, and does not realize that such a condition is beyond the grasp of selfish human beings and can come about only through the interposition of Christ's Millennial Kingdom. Ah! little do they realize that their own failures are to be used of the Lord as his instrumentality in setting up his kingdom – that the pent up fires in selfish breasts will eventuate in the destruction of society, and that upon its ashes the Lord from heaven will establish the Kingdom of which the law will be Perfect Love.
"Go to, now, ye rich men, weep and howl for the misery that shall come upon you....Behold, the hire of your laborers, who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth...into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth." – Jas. 5:1-8. Even though all rich men have not done so, even though some of them in this our day have been no more selfish and grasping than others – perhaps, indeed, much more generous, giving liberally for the endowment of Hospitals, Colleges, Libraries, Homes for the Blind, for the Deaf and Dumb, for Incurables, for Orphans, for the Aged, etc., etc. – yet they will be judged as a class in this day that shall try every man's work – this day of trouble which shall "burn as an oven, in the which all the proud, as well as all that do wickedly, shall be as stubble." The judgment of the masses will be that those who possess great wealth never justly and rightly obtained so much more than their fellows, even though imperfect laws and social customs may endorse as honest the methods used for its accumulation. And upon the wealthy class of this generation shall be visited the penalty due to those thieving Barons of past centuries who kept their dependent neighbors in serfdom and grew rich at the expense of those who reaped their fields – of much of whose proper wages they fraudulently deprived them. This will be on the same principle as that of Luke 11:50,51; Rev. 18:5-7,24. A realization of the wrongs done by the rich toward their poor brethren in past times should, under the light of this day, lead the same class to the greater sympathy for their less fortunate fellows. And if it does not, the relentless argument of the masses soon will be – Your class defrauded our class in the past, and now our class will defraud your class to even up matters.
At present all is quiet at Homestead, with the Volunteer State Guard in possession. But the socialistic flame is spreading amongst various other labor organizations, in all parts of the land, some of which have passed resolutions of sympathy for the workmen, and some have contributed funds to enable them "to fight capital." (The Amalgamated Association, however, claims to have $250,000 in its treasury.) Some Labor Unions propose that now they must arm themselves, with improved weapons, to defend their rights. Mr. Powderly, president of the Knights of Labor, is quite revolutionary: he is publicly reported to have said: [R1423 : page 214]
"This fight is but the rumbling of a coming revolution, that is to say whether Wall Street [the financial centre] shall or shall not control the country. It is the fight of labor; and the labor organizations of the country should stand firmly at the back of these men who are fighting [R1424 : page 214] at Homestead."
So strong and so rapidly growing is the animosity toward millionaires, even though they pay better wages and pay more promptly than others, that they will "weep and howl" – be in misery in this great day of the Lord. But in the outcome – when Anarchy shall have blighted all human hopes and destroyed all human government – the Lord will set up his kingdom under the whole heavens; and, under its beneficent rule, all shall be blessed and brought to a knowledge of good under the law of Love, as they now have a knowledge of evil under the law of Selfishness. Then, at the close of that Millennial Kingdom, will come the final test to all – to manifest whether, with full knowledge of the two laws and their respective workings, they prefer Love or Selfishness. Those who choose Love shall be granted life – everlasting. Those who prefer Selfishness shall be esteemed unworthy of further life and shall die the Second Death.
How wise, and how beneficial in the end to all classes, it might prove for the masses to adopt a different principle of dealing with this question: If they should enact laws providing that whenever any man dies possessed of over one million dollars worth of money and property all the surplus above one million should be divided equally between funds for public secular education, for the improvement of public highways and water-ways and for charitable unsectarian hospitals and homes for unfortunates.
The effect of such a law would be rapidly experienced: wealthy men would at once give away their surplus millions without waiting to have it forfeited at their death. Such a law would scatter capital, and, without destroying the energy of the world's active minds, would turn that activity to good account – for the ambition to make a name and leave enduring monuments in colleges, hospitals and public benefactions would take the place of the ambition to be the richest man.
If necessary the limit could afterward be reduced to half a million dollars (as each member of the family could hold, and transfer at death, an equal sum). And lest some should hold their millions until near death's door, the law could provide that transfers of property by a sick man or woman made within thirty days of death should be invalid and void.
But while some such law would be beneficial, we have no expectation of seeing so simple a method for all adopted. Both sides will evidently fight the matter out to the wrecking of the present social system. Thank God for the higher than human government, long promised and now at hand – even though it come to men through a baptism of bloody trouble – the breaking of present imperfect systems with the "rod of iron." – Rev. 2:26,27.
Good servant, enter in:
Thou hast been faithful found
In righteous stewardship
O'er the entrusted pound.
The honor of my house,
My Kingdom, thou hast sought;
Thy life thou more and more
A sacrifice hast brought.
In nothing hast thou had
Self-interest for thine aim.
Naught seemed too small nor great
To glorify my Name.
My yoke hast easy called,
My burden took on thee,
And every day with joy
Hast borne it after me.
Good servant, enter in,
And faith's reward now share;
With me upon my throne
A crown of life now wear.
For he who, without fear,
In small the great hast traced,
O'er few things faithful here,
O'er many shall be placed.
A thousand years full soon
Thou mayest reign with me;
Thee will I also grace
With priestly dignity,
Till all the tribes of earth
Claim God to be their Lord,
To whom I then return
The Kingdom at his word.– J. KUEHN.
LESSON V., JULY 31, ACTS 4:1-18.
This lesson continues the narrative of the preceding one, and shows how the glorious doctrine, of redemption and restitution through the death and resurrection of Christ, was received by those who heard. We learn that so many of the people believed that the number of disciples who openly espoused the cause of Christ was greatly increased. (Verse 4.) This manifestation of power, to influence the people to believe in the crucified Jesus and in the doctrine he taught, greatly incensed the priests, who resolutely refused the truths of the new dispensation, and were determined, so far as lay in their power, to hinder the people from believing them, and thus to retain their own former prestige and honors and influence.
The Sadducees also, a large sect of the Jews who denied, not only the doctrine of the resurrection and a future life, but also the existence of spirit beings, were greatly annoyed by this teaching, and joined with the priests and the captain of the temple in an effort to put an end to it. Then Peter and John were seized and put into prison, and afterward brought before the rulers and elders and scribes to answer for this heresy.
Evidently they appreciated the privilege of thus enduring reproach for the cause of Christ. With great boldness Peter again affirmed before the rulers that this miracle had been performed in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom they had crucified. They were so filled with the spirit of the glorious message they bore, that prisons and persecution and even the possibility of sharing their Master's fate did not deter them from speaking boldly in his name, and of the blessed tidings of his coming kingdom and glory. "Be it known unto you all," said Peter, "and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him, doth this man stand here before you whole. This is the stone which was set at naught of you builders, which is become the head of the corner [the chief corner stone in the divine plan of the ages]. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved."
How differently the truth affects men according to the attitude of their hearts with reference to it. Here was the man who had been healed of his lameness gratefully acknowledging the favor of God by accompanying God's accused servants to prison and to judgment, bearing his witness to the truth thus by his personal presence with them, and willingly enduring with them whatever of reproach or persecution this testimony might bring. And how eloquent and convincing was the silent testimony of his presence; for these priests and rulers, the enemies of Christ and his doctrine, "beholding the man which was healed standing with them, could say nothing against it." Then there were numerous others who openly identified themselves with the Church, ready and willing to bear whatever of reproach or persecution it might bring to them. On the contrary, there were those priests and rulers, the professed leaders and teachers of the people, forced to admit in their own hearts the truth of this miracle, yet, blinded by prejudice as to the teaching, secretly plotting and scheming as to how they might be able to hedge up its course and stamp it out, and secretly conferring among themselves, saying, "What shall we do to these men? for that indeed a notable miracle had been done by them is manifest to all them that dwell in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it." And they finally decided that it would not be advisable to rashly antagonize the numerous followers of the apostles who had been so impressed by their teaching. And therefore they let them go after strictly charging them to speak no more in this name.
To the one class the truth brought peace and joy and the blessed hope of everlasting life; while to the other class – the prejudice-blinded rejectors of God's truth, though professedly his chosen leaders and teachers of the people in the truth – it brought only condemnation, and deepened and intensified their darkness. "Ye serpents, ye generations of vipers," said the Master, "how can ye escape the condemnation to gehenna" [symbol of the second death]? – Matt. 23:33.
Those who cultivate a spirit of opposition to righteousness and who plot and scheme to withstand [R1424 : page 216] God are trifling with a dangerous propensity to evil which will sweep them on to destruction with almost irresistible force, rendering it next to impossible for them ever to turn to righteousness and truth. How great is the responsibility, then, of those who hear and understand the truth, both toward themselves and toward their fellow men. We cannot trifle with God's truth with impunity: when it is testified to us it is our part to receive it into good and honest hearts, to act upon it and to let it have its proper effect upon our lives; and then, with grateful hearts toward God the giver, to bear its precious testimony to others in whatever way we can. If, like the man that was healed of his lameness, we have no talent of eloquence, we can at least company with those who love and serve the truth and let others see what the Lord has done for us, and in simple language we can tell how we who were once lame with ignorance and superstition and doubt and fear have been healed of our lameness and can now run and not grow weary, and walk and not faint; and how that through faith in the crucified and risen Lord Jesus the great work has been accomplished.
Let all who have heard the blessed gospel of redemption and a restitution of all things, and of the precious promises to the Church of being made co-workers with the Lord in bringing to all mankind the blessings of restitution, and of being made joint-heirs together with him in his kingdom, be faithful to the truth – faithful in esteeming it of highest importance, faithful in complying with its conditions of life, faithful in declaring it to others, faithful in standing up with and for those who publicly proclaim it, and faithful in holding it firm to the end.
The Golden Text of this lesson deserves more than a passing notice; for too many seem to lose sight of its import. As it was "through faith in his name" – the only name given, [R1425 : page 216] whereby we can be saved – that the impotent man was healed, so it is and is to be with all men and with all diseases of body and of soul. Only through the channel of faith in Christ flows the blessing of God. Not through faith without Christ, and not through Christ without faith, but through faith in him whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation [satisfaction] for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. – 1 John 2:2.
As men's hearts expand and as they come to realize that but a very small proportion of humanity, now living or dead, ever heard of the ONLY NAME WHEREIN IS SALVATION, they rebel against this text and either twist it or deny it, because they hold as truth the human teaching that the present life ends all probation and all hope. On the contrary, how much better it would be for them to say with the Apostle: Let God be true though it prove all humanity to be in error; and, affirming with Peter and all the apostles that there is no salvation without faith and no other name in which faith will avail, they should seek for the Scriptural solution of their difficulty. They would find it in the words of all the holy prophets and apostles, as well as in our Lord's words: that as the man Christ Jesus gave himself a ransom for all, this glorious gospel must be testified to all in due time (1 Tim. 2:6), and that this "due time" is coming in which the knowledge of the Lord will fill the whole earth. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. (Isa. 11:9; 35:5.) Then all that are in their graves shall obey the voice of the Son of Man and come forth – and they who then obey him shall live in a sense and to a degree that they never lived before – an everlasting life. – John 5:25,28. [R1425 : page 216]
LESSON VI., AUGUST 7, ACTS 4:19-31.
VERSES 19,20. Here Peter and John called upon the rulers and elders and scribes in council to judge for themselves whether it would be right in the sight of God to obey earthly rulers rather than God, and boldly declared their own convictions and purpose to continue to declare the things which they had seen and heard, notwithstanding their command to the contrary; for, said they, we cannot do otherwise: we are so full of the spirit of this glorious truth that we must give utterance to it. The basis of their confidence was not superstition, but a knowledge of the truth – of the sacrificial death of the Lord and the clearly demonstrated fact of his resurrection, which was to them a pledge of the promised resurrection of all the redeemed race of men. "Ye shall know the truth," said our Lord, "and the truth shall make you free" – free from ignorance and superstition, and bold to declare the whole counsel of God.
These opposers of the truth, be it noted, were not professed infidels, nor worldly people: they were the greatest religious teachers of their day; and one was the great high priest. According to God's own arrangement for the Jewish nation during the Jewish age, these were the appointed guides of the people; but now a new dispensation was dawning, and these professed teachers, who had been unfaithful to their trust, and who had grown proud and self-righteous and out of all harmony with the spirit of [R1425 : page 217] God, were entirely unprepared for it, so that when the glorious gospel of the new dispensation reached their ears they could not receive it. Their learning and their leisure to devote to the study of the divine Word were of no avail to them in finding the truth, for their hearts were not in the proper attitude of humility before God. Consequently the lowly and untitled – the humble fishermen, yea, and the publicans and reformed harlots – went into the kingdom before them.
And so it has been ever since those days: the most determined opposition to the truth has always come from the recognized religious leaders in whom pride and ambition were fostered and cultivated. And these were nearly always followed by the multitude, while the few who dared to be true to God and his Word have always endured persecution from them in some form. This is none the less true of our day than of the past. It is the clergy to-day that offers the most strenuous opposition to the truth; and it is only here and there that a few faithful souls are found brave enough to believe and teach the truth as the Lord is now unfolding it to us in the dawning light of the Millennial day.
It is indeed the right and proper course to believe God rather than men, to declare his truth with humble boldness, and to be ready always to give an answer to every man for the hope that is in us, with meekness and reverence. This we can do if we keep filled with the spirit – filled with the truth, and with love of the truth, and with the joy and peace and comfort that the truth alone can give, and with the zeal for God and for the blessing of our fellow men which the truth alone inspires.
VERSES 21,22. So strong was the evidence of the truth that the masses of the people disregarded the opposition of the clergy; and the latter, unable to deny the testimony, were obliged to let the apostles go.
VERSE 23 shows the beautiful bond of sympathy that existed among the various members of the early Church. They shared each others joys and sorrows and comforted and encouraged one another to be firm and true to God in the midst of the severest trials.
VERSES 24-30 record their prayer of thankful acknowledgment of the favor of God in the deliverance of these two faithful witnesses, thus showing that they did not attribute their success in convincing the people to their own eloquence or power, but to the favor and blessing of God. As the beloved Apostle Paul wrote (1 Cor. 3:5,6), "Who is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed. I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase." All praise is due to God; but we may truly rejoice in being honored as servants of his truth.
The reference in verses 25,26 to David's prophecy (Psa. 2) had a proper application, not only upon that occasion when Peter and John were brought before the rulers, but also upon many subsequent occasions all through this gospel age. The prophecy, however, has special application to the time indicated in verse 6, when Jehovah is about to set his king upon his holy hill of Zion – when he is about to establish his kingdom and set up his Anointed as king over all the earth – when, as other scriptures show, there will be "a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation." We are even now upon the eve of this great time of trouble, which will ere long culminate in the complete and final overthrow of all the kingdoms of the world and the full and permanent establishment of Christ's kingdom.
While the kings and rulers, civil and religious, set themselves in determined opposition and take counsel together against the principles of truth and righteousness that are now being brought to the front and urged upon the attention of all mankind in the heated disputes between capital and labor, between rulers and subjects and between the clergy and the laity of all Christendom, they little realize that they are arraying themselves against the mighty power of the Lord of hosts, who will surely lay justice to the line and righteousness to the plummet, and effectually sweep away every refuge of lies. – Isa. 28:17.
VERSES 29,30 are a petition for special grace and courage, in view of the threatenings of persecution, that they might not grow faint-hearted, but, being filled with the spirit, might speak the truth with great boldness, regardless of the consequences to themselves; and for such miraculous endorsement of their teachings as he would be pleased in his wisdom to grant.
What a sweet, Christlike spirit was manifested in this prayer. Mark the love and harmony and sympathy among the brethren; the love and zeal for the truth which was evidently paramount to every other consideration, their gratitude and humble recognition of the divine favor, and the realization of their own weakness and desire for more and more of the power from on high and for special aid to enable them to endure hardness as good soldiers of the cross. Such is the proper attitude of the Church at all times; and such a spirit and such a prayer are sure to bring to the Church now as well as then the same answer of peace and joy. It is written that they were all filled with the holy spirit, and they went forth from that place of prayer and spoke the Word of God with [R1425 : page 218] boldness. The place also where they were was shaken while the blessing of the spirit came upon them. This, like the gifts that were then given, was evidently to supply what was then needed – an aid to their faith – in an hour of trial just at the beginning of their great work. [R1426 : page 218]
LESSON VII., AUGUST 14, ACTS 5:1-11.
The lesson of this sad narrative is one of special warning to the whole Church. It is the only case in the Church on record where the penalty of wilful violation of a covenant with God met with summary punishment. Many since that day have doubtless similarly violated their covenant and no such results followed. With great boldness many have not only done so, but they have gone still farther and made merchandise of the interests of the truth; and still judgment tarries. Nevertheless, the Lord's eye is upon every one of the consecrated household, and no inequality will be seen in his dealings when his work is completed.
We have seen from the preceding lessons that the Lord's dealings with the early Church were peculiarly adapted to the needs of the inception of so great a cause, and different from his dealings after the Church had been fairly set upon her course for the prize of her high calling. The particular lesson which the Lord in this case desired to impress upon the whole Church from then till now was the solemn obligation involved in our covenant with him of entire consecration to his service.
While this property remained in thy hand was it not thine own? said Peter; and after it was sold was it not in thine own power? Why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God. The complicity of the husband and wife in the deception made very manifest the wilfulness and deliberate intention of both; and the penalty which followed was a warning of God's righteous indignation against all hypocrisy and deceit and the holding of the truth in unrightness. – Rom. 1:18.
We are not called upon to decide in this case whether the death of these two was the final or "second death" or not. If they sinned wilfully against sufficient light and ability to walk in it, the penalty must have been final; for it is impossible to renew in righteousness and holiness those who have once enjoyed and then abused the full measure of divine favor. (Heb. 6:4-6; 10:26.) And indeed these words seem to imply that such a deplorable condition may be reached before the fullest measure of light has been received; but such a one must at least have tasted a considerable measure of the heavenly gift and of the powers or advantages of the coming age.
We are told that in the Millennium the sinner a hundred years old shall be cut off (Isa. 65:20) without receiving all the benefits of the Millennial reign. Those who are obedient and who patiently submit themselves to the reformatory measures of Christ's government will go on and on until at the end of that age they will have reached perfection, when all will receive the final testing which will prove their worthiness or unworthiness of eternal life. But the sinner who dies at a hundred years of age will certainly not have enjoyed all of those advantages, simply because he refused to avail himself of them; and his cutting off from life will be because he has so hardened his heart by persistent opposition to the law and discipline of the Lord that it has become impossible to renew him in righteousness and truth.
If such conditions may obtain in the Millennial age, when the world is on trial for life, it is equally possible to the Church in this our day of trial or judgment. We do not count ourselves competent to decide on the case of Ananias and Sapphira or any other individual; we know not what extenuating circumstances God's merciful eye may see in their cases; but we would counsel all to take heed that they hold not the truth in unrighteousness. If we have consecrated all to the Lord let us ever bear in mind the solemn obligation of our covenant. This is the lesson which God designed to impress upon us all, and let us lay it well to heart. But while we would carefully heed the lesson, let us not fear that God will not patiently and tenderly bear with our weaknesses while our hearts are right toward him and while we strive to overcome them. God is just, loving and merciful – slow to anger and plenteous in mercy. page 218
LESSON VIII., AUGUST 21, Acts 5:25-41.
This lesson is a continuation of the narrative of the Apostles' faithfulness, even under great persecution, and of the desperately evil course of the religious persecutors of that day. But the circumstances are so similar to those of Lesson VI. that further comment is unnecessary.
DEAR FRIEND AND BROTHER: – I have just received my outfit from the WATCH TOWER PUBLISHING CO., and shall commence the canvass in a few days. Will you please answer the following inquiry, which is made in all good faith: Is there any organization among those who espouse the doctrines and gospel truth as taught by you in the DAWN Series? and, if so, by what name are they known? I have been a minister in the Baptist ranks for about four years, and in love with a full Gospel; and with the bright light of the DAWNS shining upon me I feel like breaking away from all hindrances and spreading the truth from platform and pulpit and in all other proper ways. Please write me and in addition to above inquiry make any suggestions you may feel willing. Yours in love and work for Christ,
To the majority of ministers, used as they are to a more or less easy living and to the honor and almost reverence of the people, to take a step away from these is a great trial. But considering that they have had more light, more opportunities for study, more advantages in every way than most people, it seems but reasonable that they should have greater trial – on the principle of more light, more responsibility. The truth has never been popular, and the one who would follow it must leave the approbation of the world and the worldly-minded nominal church.
We have, however, no organization into which to invite you, dear brother. The only one which we recognize is the one to which our Lord Jesus is the door, and the members of which have their names written in Heaven. It includes, probably, some in as well as out of all denominations – every consecrated Christian, known to us or unknown. We believe that you will already recognize yourself as a member of this one, true Church – our Church, because we are Christ's. But, while recognizing many in the denominations of Babylon as members of this true Church, it is our duty to re-echo the Lord's words, "Come out of her, my people!" – and then to assist them as much as possible by the truth which affords the necessary grace and strength.
I would, therefore, think it proper for you to use any opportunity or talent in any pulpit, etc., from which you can gain a hearing, so long as you are able to present therein what you believe to be the truth; and as long as you do not hide your light through fear of offending the worldly-wise. As the Baptists are professedly less sectarian and are governed more by pure Bible principles than most of the other denominations, probably your liberty there would last longer and your work among them prove more fruitful.
But the method from which, according to the experiences of others, best results are to be expected, and in which I see it to be your intention to engage, is the Colporteur work. As at the first advent, work from door to door, instead of pulpit preaching, seems to be receiving the Lord's special blessing. Then the disciples stood at the door with the simple message, "The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!" – while now with the same message we can present literature (which they did not then have) showing why and how and when it is to be introduced.
In introducing the Dawns, however, it is better not to say much about the doctrines, except where a person is found who is ripe and ready for it, leaving it for the books to present them gradually, in a way not to excite prejudice before enough truth has been gained to offset it and to give a taste for more with the desire to search diligently for it. The suggestions already sent you, you will see are along this line of wisdom – speaking the truth in love.
A back number of the Watch Tower has been sent, in which you will find more concerning the true Church. May the Lord bless you in your service for him, and may you become more and more in touch with him and his plans. I shall be glad to hear from you whenever you feel like writing.
Yours in the Redeemer,
I would like to give you some experiences of our little "church" of three. Last week each of us withdrew from the nominal church – myself from the Presbyterian, Brother D__________, from the Baptist, and Brother F__________, from the Methodist. Although it was the most difficult step I have ever taken, yet the way was made very clear, and the Lord has greatly blessed me since, because new floods of light have come from his Word, and whenever I have occasion to speak about it, I always have Scripture given to me, to prove wherein I am right. How true is that promise that "The path of the just shineth more and more unto the perfect day." I see it so plainly since I have given my will completely to God. [R1427 : page 220]
Many, many thanks for the Towers sent me in regard to Baptism and The Thief on the Cross. The proper mode for immersion is now very clear, and the light on the other came almost instantly upon reading the article. Thank God for a receptive mind!
My constant companion is the Word of God, and his plan of salvation is scarcely out of my mind a moment. The light grows brighter every day. I received much good yesterday from reading the "Tabernacle Shadows." Believe me, dear Brother, although never having seen you, yet I feel very near to you.
Yours in Christian love,
REPLY. – DEAR BROTHER LEWIS: Your enclosure is applied as directed. Allow me to congratulate you and the other dear brethren on your new-found freedom from the Nominal Church. "Be not again entangled in any yoke of bondage," that you may render all allegiance to the one Lord and Master.
I very much appreciate the spirit of your closing remark. I think that is how all who truly love the Lord feel toward each other. We are one with him, and love binds us more and more closely to him and each other as we see his spirit, "the spirit of a sound mind," manifested in each other and working out in the life.
You have been growing very fast in the knowledge of the truth, dear Brother; in just a few months you have partaken of much "strong meat," in the three volumes of Dawn, all the back numbers of Tower obtainable, etc.; or, to use another figure, you have been putting on the "armor" very rapidly. All this is for a purpose: that you may have the strength and the proper armor to enable you to stand in this evil day; and not only to stand yourself, but also to protect and assist others. You must use the shield of faith to resist the fiery darts of the adversary, coming from many directions, and learn to handle skilfully "the sword of the spirit," which is the Word of God, as well as to have your intellect protected by the helmet of salvation.
Now I suggest that you re-examine your armor to see if you have on each necessary piece, in its proper place; in order that you may not be taken unawares when the battle grows hotter. In other words, that you go back and read again what you have received, so as to make it entirely your own. As in armor the shield does not change into the sword, or the helmet into the breastplate, or the one usurp the particular office of the other, so each distinct feature in the plan of salvation retains its own place and use in the general whole; and as there are only a certain number of pieces in a suit of armor, and when you have them on you need no more, only to see that they fit together and are tightly fastened, leaving no crevice for a stray arrow to penetrate, so with the truth: once a truth, always a truth, and needing only to be properly adjusted, secured and used; and no more can be piled on without disastrous effects, weighting one down with a multitude of pieces of unnecessary or poor armor which would permit the enemy to overpower and capture.
It is necessary to consider these things, because the Adversary, seeing that you and others cannot be hindered from studying the truth, transforms himself into an angel of light, and tries to lead such beyond the true light into realms of unwarranted speculation which in the end carries the expectant and eager student as far or farther away than the nominal church or some less subtle foe could at the beginning of [R1427 : page 221] his studies. A time will come when we shall know all things, even as we are known; and as we approach nearer to the end of our earthly course and apprehend more fully the heights and depths and lengths and breadths of our Father's plan, we must learn to take the same pleasure in its completeness that we formerly did in searching out "deep things" – just as God enjoys the grand and good and finished features of his work.
We should expect completeness now, so far as God's revelation is concerned, because such was the promise. For instance, Daniel was told, "Go thy way, Daniel, for the thing is closed up and sealed until the time of the end – then (1) many shall run to and fro, (2) knowledge shall be increased, (3) the [truly] wise shall understand,...and (4) at that time Michael [Christ] shall stand up...and there shall be a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation." Here, then, we have an assurance that the truly wise will understand, or, as the Apostle says, speaking of the same class and the present time, "Ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief." And as our Lord promised (to his people throughout this age), "Ye shall know the truth," and "If any man will do my Father's will he shall know of my doctrine." Then again, we have the assurance that, "In the days of the voice of the seventh angel ['seventh trumpet'] – when he shall begin to sound – the MYSTERY OF GOD [His plan and his Church] SHALL BE FINISHED" – matters "kept secret from the foundation of the world." – Rev. 10:7; Matt. 13:35.
I mention these points, dear Brother, because the tempter will sooner or later bring to you as to others suggestions of doubt and uncertainty upon the very points which now you see so clearly, and for which there is such abundant proof in God's Word. These suggestions will be human speculations, "May be" and "What if" and "Who knows," which finally end in the "outer darkness" of agnosticism, in which the worldly-wise have always wandered, and into which the nominal church is fast falling. These doubts will start with suggestions that, Perhaps if God is good and loving enough to provide a redemption for all, and an opportunity for all to escape the penalty which came upon all through Adam's sin, and to come to righteousness and harmony with him through Christ – perhaps he will force all to accept of his loving plans and thus ultimately force salvation upon all, by taking away their choice or free agency.
When these unscriptural suggestions of the Adversary (based upon purely human reasoning) come, the test begins. If your faith is built upon the wisdom of men, you will begin to say: My wisdom is just as good as that of Brother Russell or any other man, and I will think for myself. Then you will begin to imagine how things might be; and the Adversary will send you plenty of assistance in turning and twisting every Scripture statement seeming to interfere with YOUR OPINIONS. At first you might be disposed to base all such claims for universal, everlasting salvation upon the merit of Christ's redeeming sacrifice. But when you begin to reason on the subject you will see that – (1) God's law has held Adam and his race under its penalty, death, for these thousands of years; (2) The sinner could be released only by the payment for him of the death-penalty by the great Redeemer; (3) The new trial of all under the new Covenant by Christ the Mediator implies a possibility of failure and second death, as well as a possibility of success which would confirm the redeemed life and make it everlasting; (4) Since God's laws never alter, it follows that if, after being forgiven – justified – from the Adamic condemnation, any shall sin wilfully after receiving full light and knowledge, and with full desire to do sin, the penalty, death (the second penalty – "second death"), would come against such as surely as it came against Adam at first; (5) Reason then urges that as surely as God's law required a ransom price to be paid before any could be released from the first penalty or first death, so the same unchangeable law would require another or second ransom before releasing any from the penalty of the second trial – second death. Reason says that it is scarcely probable that Christ would die again to give anyone a third chance for life, after he had been granted [R1427 : page 222] fullest opportunity under the second. And Scripture answers, "In that he died, he died unto [or because of] sin [our sin] once," but "Christ dieth no more!"
But the person infatuated with his own thinking and bent on making some new light for himself cannot be stopped by reason based on Scripture. So he is merely stunned by his reasoning. He hesitates but a short time, and then decides – my thinking must be right: all must be saved eternally, and not merely all saved from the first or Adamic death and granted a trial for life-everlasting. I must set aside the doctrine of the fall and its penalty, death, and the ransom from it by our Lord's death. I must make a new theory on this which will harmonize with universal salvation. And soon he begins twisting and turning language in every conceivable form to get rid of those statements so clearly set forth in Scripture, in which he at first delighted as the very bulwarks of the good tidings of great joy for all people – that "Christ died for our sins" – that "he died the just one for the unjust" that he might "open up for us a new way of life" and "bring us to God." He may or may not hold to the word ransom and affect to hold to the Bible's teaching, but in fact all such deny the ransom and the entire plan of salvation which God has revealed – whatever of their own or other men's wisdom they may adopt instead.
So, dear Brother, you see my solicitude for you and the reason for my urging that you study again and very thoroughly the subjects presented in DAWN, Vols. I., II., III., looking up every passage cited and noting the contexts. I would have your faith rest not in the wisdom of man – (neither my wisdom nor your own nor any other man's) but in the wisdom of God [R1430 : page 222] and in the power of God as revealed to us, his children, through his Word. – 1 Cor. 1:24.
Yours in our Redeemer,
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL: – I feel that I want to do something in the vineyard of our Lord; but fear I may not be humble enough – or perhaps I am too ambitious, or may undertake "eye" or "hand" work, rather than that belonging to members of lower degree in "the body."
My health both physically and spiritually leaves me to a certain extent strengthless. Oh! how I do realize this – even more keenly spiritually than otherwise. The suggestions you gave me have found lodgment in my heart. I want them to remain there. I want to ponder over them. I do not know just what the result will be, but I want to loose my hold on business at least to the extent that it has overcharged me with this world's cares. My first work will be partly to regain lost ground. While getting business in shape to get more time to devote to the Lord's service, I will have time to study and exercise my senses, both in getting an understanding of, and in defending, the divine plan (which embraces the glad tidings to both Church and world).
For want of practice I cannot make as good "music" on my "harp" as I could a few years ago. Then I had great confidence, so that I did not fear to meet and fight with a Goliath; becoming rather an expert with the two-edged sword. How ashamed I have felt sometimes within the past year or two, when I realized that I was concealing my light, fearful lest some "Philistine" giant might get the better of me in discussion, if he saw and accused me of being "one of them." I am truly glad that I never denied my Lord, nor indeed ever denied being one of his disciples; but realizing that I had to a great extent lost my power to use the Scriptures in defense of my views, I often felt it prudent to keep quiet, when otherwise I might have improved a good opportunity for exposing error, spreading the truth, or putting to flight its adversaries.
How thankful I am for the vivid glimpses of truth I had at different times while attending the Convention. I do not know to what to compare them – unless to what I have seen at night, during a terrible thunder storm, as I lay in bed looking out of a window. A few flashes of lightning divided the heavy, choking darkness, and for an instant revealed objects such as trees, houses, etc. These glimpses of truth seemed very, very distinct, and the impression they made remains with me. If the presentation of truth to the mind may be compared to the brightness of the sun at noon-day, these glimpses or pictures seen might be compared to the clean-cut flashes of lightning, even more dazzling than the brightness of the sun.
The feeling that always followed was like this: Oh, that I could always, constantly, have such clear conceptions of truth. Oh, that this [R1430 : page 223] bright shining, with the confidence it inspires and the love it enkindles in my heart, would remain. Then, how I could with confidence go into the vineyard, knowing that I would succeed – that I could hold fast, that I could stand, that I could overcome, that I could win the prize and wear the crown.
In Christian love, yours,
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL: – I have been in the Christian ministry for twenty years, during fifteen of which I have studied the prophecies diligently – which resulted in bringing me to some of the same conclusions you give in Millennial Dawn. It would be difficult for any one to imagine my delight in reading your books. I am profiting by the information thus gained and I am talking and preaching it wherever I go; and it is wonderful to find so many people ready to receive new truth, however much it may differ from the old stereotyped systems of theology in which they have been reared. I was pleased with the copies of Tower sent, especially with the one containing your article on "The True Church." I intend, by the help of God, to proclaim all that I learn from His Word, believing it is perfectly safe. I am Pastor of the Christian Church here, it is in a prosperous condition, and I fancy I have the love and confidence of my people; but there is no sacrifice too great for me to make for the cause of God and humanity.
I have no doubt that you are asked many questions by your many correspondents, and I am aware that your time is too valuable to waste on those of carping critics; but if it is not asking too much I should like to know how you harmonize the doctrine of the utter destruction of the finally wicked (which I also believe) with Rev. 20:10; 22:15. Believe me, dear Brother, that I ask this only for information. I make no secret of my nonbelief of eternal torment, and have a theory in reference to the scriptures referred to, but fearing it might not be the best I ask your views. [This question will be briefly answered soon in a tract – A Rejoinder to Mr. Ingersoll. – ED.]
I am studying these things with a view to devoting the remainder of my life to their proclamation, as soon as I can master the lessons. I am only forty-six years old, strong and vigorous, just in the prime of manhood and well inured to hard work; and hence I think I can do much in the name of Him to whom I belong – who bought me with His own blood. God bless you in your grand work.
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL: – The time draws near again to send in our "Good Hopes." I am glad that I am permitted to help even so little in the work, and perhaps, as I long to be useful in the Master's service, if I am faithful in a little, he will give me more to do.
I am very much interested in the young boys of this neighborhood. There are so many temptations to lead them astray. With this end in view, of lifting up a higher standard of morality and truth, we canvassed the neighborhood for means to buy a tent and started a Union Sabbath School. We also hold Bible readings; but our way is encountered with many difficulties, and it is only by prayer and earnest zeal that we are enabled to keep up. I have a class of young boys which I long to start out in the world as little soldiers to battle for the right.
One who is trusting in Him,
REPLY. – DEAR SISTER: Your enclosure has been applied as directed – and appreciated as your thank-offering to the Lord and as an evidence of your love and zeal. May it be blest in the service of our King, and may the sacrifices in earthly things, which it has cost you, be more than compensated for in spiritual blessings.
I am glad that you desire to be led of God into that service which will most honor him and put yourself in more nearly perfect touch with his will; yet I am not surprised that in the work for the boys of your neighborhood you find it very much up-hill. Ordinarily it would be a good work – better far than a bad or selfish way of spending or wasting the time – and accomplishing something for them also; but accomplished only with difficulty. And perhaps the Lord does not remove the difficulties, as you might like, in order to show you a better work – good though the present one is, and undoubtedly receiving his blessing on account of your earnestness and love.
Have you never thought that the Lord could, [R1430 : page 224] very easily, close the liquor establishments and other doors of temptation? and that the reason he does not do it is that his time has not yet come? When his time does come, in the Millennial age, humane work of reform will be far more successful, because evil will be restrained, temptations, etc., removed, and it will be his will that all shall be blessed.
So I want to suggest, as before stated, that he may desire to show you what his work is now, according to the times and seasons which he observes in all his dealings with us. This age has been for the selection of the bride of Christ, who is to be associated with him in the Millennial reign of blessing; and the work of the prospective bride now is to make HERSELF ready (Rev. 19:7) – not specially the blessing of the world, which her Lord designs shall be done after she becomes united to him.
Or, as pictured in a parable, this is the "harvest" of the age, when, instead of sowing the good seed, as you are trying to do in the case of the boys, the time for reaping has come, when the wheat (those who have already received the word of truth and been developed by it) is to be separated from the tares by the sickle of present truth. Surely there are many developed Christians within your reach in need of your sickle lest they be choked under the mass of tares. – See DAWN, VOL. III., Chapter vi.
The Lord said, as represented by the prophet, that he was anointed to preach the glad tidings to the meek. We, as the members of his body, have received the same anointing, and therefore must likewise seek THE MEEK. The meek are generally not found amongst wild boys or [R1431 : page 224] in the slums, but among Christians – those whose experiences in life have made them willing to seek refuge in Christ – whose hearts have been "broken." Surely if your boys were "meek" and willing your difficulties would be removed. But you are trying to force on them that which rightfully belongs to the meek, who are perhaps waiting and longing for your message of peace.
Yours in our Redeemer,
MY DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL: – I have read with great interest and, I trust, profit, the double number of TOWER in which you treat the subject of the "Trinity." It is a view that seems to harmonize with the Scriptures and sanctified common sense. I have also received the Quarterly giving an epitomized statement of the Plan of the Ages. I think this particularly good, and will be adapted to prepare the way for some busy people, who would not think at first that they could read 350 pages of matters ethical. I would like to have you send me fifty copies of it, and I will try to use them in a way that will help the great cause. I enclose my check for $5.00, which I think will pay for them and leave a little balance, which you may use in the Lord's work as you think he desires. I think "The Tabernacle and the Better Sacrifices" is excellent in pamphlet form.
[Glad to know that our recent publications are giving so much satisfaction to you and others whose approval and co-operation we so much value. – EDITOR.]
My wife and I have lately read MILLENNIAL DAWN, and you will know it has changed our whole lives. With my brother in the flesh, we had consecrated our lives to the service of the Lord in heathen lands, purposing to support ourselves with the Lord's help. Now all is changed. I have given up my pastoral work: the Bible alone must receive my whole attention for a time at least. The way is not clear, but we trust the Lord to lead us. We pray, God bless Brother Russell, as a faithful servant in the Lord's house, for the meat he has given us "in due season."
My work, pastoral and evangelistic, has been quite remunerative (about $1200 per year); but even before I read the DAWN, I felt I could no longer work for a salary. I have ordered 12 copies of the DAWN, and shall use my opportunities to spread the light.
In the hope of immortality,