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Our quarantine laws, as enforced at this time, interfere with the execution of Baron Hirsch's remarkable project for the transfer of the main body of the Jewish population of Russia to the United States.
About two months ago, according to the news we have printed from St. Petersburg, the Czar authorized the Jewish millionaire to carry out his project, and several ship loads of the people were sent from Hamburg last month under the baron's responsibility. We have reason to believe that about 10,000 of them were on their way to Hamburg, and that 15,000 more were ready to leave Russia, when the cholera became epidemic both in St. Petersburg and Hamburg. As many as 3000 have been shipped to this country since the beginning of last month, while all the others are in a bad plight.
Some are in various European ports, British as well as German, Belgian and French, hoping that they will yet be able to take passage; some have been driven back to the Russian pale which they had left; and those who were about to leave the pale had been compelled to stay there, being forbidden to cross the countries that lie between Russia and the western seaports. About 40,000 of the Jewish people of Russia, 25,000 of them under Baron Hirsch's auspices, would have reached the United States in the last four months of this year, if the new quarantine regulations had not been set up along our whole seaboard from Canada to Mexico.
According to our advices from St. Petersburg, Baron Hirsch made arrangements with the Czar for the exodus of 3,500,000 of the Jewish people of Russia. As this is the only country in the world which has been freely open to them, and the only country in which they have shown any desire to settle, it does not seem possible that the remarkable Hirsch project can now be carried out.– New York Sun.
Very shortly we will have ready a 48-page booklet in leatherette binding, entitled, "THY WORD IS TRUTH – AN ANSWER TO ROBERT INGERSOLL'S CHARGES AGAINST CHRISTIANITY." It is our desire to start out a number of canvassers for this and the other leatherette booklets – "THE WONDERFUL STORY" and "TABERNACLE SHADOWS OF BETTER SACRIFICES." The three will sell together for fifty cents. They will tell the gospel in a way that may reach some who might not at first be attracted to "Dawn."
We purpose that this work will not interfere with the Dawn work, and would suggest that those even but slightly interested in the Truth can be brought into this service. Friends or neighbors or grown daughters of TOWER subscribers are invited to send in their names as applicants for territory, instructions, etc. These booklets will be supplied to canvassers at seventy-five cents per dozen, thus leaving them a liberal margin in selling a set, three for fifty cents.
|VOL. XIII.||OCTOBER 1, 1892.||NO. 19.|
"The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up." – John 2:17.
The correctness of our interpretation of Scripture, set forth in these columns thirteen years ago, relative to what would be the ground of the testing of God's people during this harvest time, is year by year more fully demonstrated.
We then showed that the prophecy which declares, "He shall be for a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel" (Isa. 8:14), refers to Israel after the Flesh and Israel after the Spirit; and that as the testing and sifting of the fleshly house came in the end or "harvest" of their age (the Jewish age), so the testing and sifting of the spiritual house is due now, in the end or harvest of this age (the Gospel age).
And we showed, to the satisfaction of ourselves and the majority of the TOWER readers, that the testing of the spiritual house (strange though it seems) will be upon the same question of faith with which the fleshly house was tested – namely, the cross of Christ. Not that any now doubt, nor that any in the Jewish harvest doubted, the fact that our Lord died, or that he died upon a cross; for that fact cannot be questioned. The test with the Jews was whether or not they would accept the sacrifice there finished as the ransom-sacrifice which paid the penalty of their sins and justified the believer. This they refused to believe; and thus they made the cross of Christ of none effect, of no value. The Apostle states this pointedly of them, saying: "We preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling-block." – See 1 Cor. 1:17-24.
Similarly the nominal Gospel Church is now to undergo a test upon this same subject – whether each accepts the work of Christ as the full ransom (corresponding-price), the complete "propitiation [satisfaction] for our [the Church's] sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." And, the Lord's Word for it, the vast majority will stumble, and only a faithful remnant will stand the test. The Lord's tests are very simple, but very thorough.
It may be said, This is the last issue upon which a testing might be expected, since all "orthodox" Christians have held it tenaciously, even during the dark ages. Yes, we answer, this is one item of truth which has been constantly held, even though surrounded in every case with various contradictory errors: it has thus been held unreasonably, held in unrighteousness, held without being fully appreciated, but nevertheless held. And it is because this doctrine of the ransom has been held, and that as the foundation of faith, that even in the dark ages, and in the midst of great corruption, the nominal church has been recognized of God at all, or been worthy at all of the name "Christian."
Had the doctrine of the ransom been held intelligently and reasonably, it would have hindered its holders from falling into any of the great errors with which the doctrines of Christendom abound. With a correct view of the ransom (a corresponding price), where could the doctrine come in which claims that the wages of sin is everlasting torment? Was the [R1452 : page 292] suffering of eternal torment the ransom-price which our Lord gave for all? or was his death our ransom? What saith the Scriptures? It would have settled the question of natural immortality of man beyond dispute. It would speedily have settled the question of the Trinity. The holding of the ransom is the key to every truth. It is the center or "hub" from which all other truths must radiate to the circumference of the divine plan for salvation.
Because this truth is generally held unintelligently, and in the midst of various contradictory errors (in unrighteousness), therefore, now that the testing time has come, and God is bringing it as an issue or "stone of stumbling" before Christendom, the large majority are willing to cling to the errors and let go the ransom.
And those who reject the errors of eternal torment, and who are inclined to go to the opposite extreme, and to hope for the everlasting salvation of all men, would be saved from that error, too, if they would but hold to the ransom, giving it its full signification. For, if the Scriptural account be admitted, that condemnation of death resulted from Adam's wilful sin (Rom. 5:12), and that the death of our Lord Jesus, finished at Calvary, was the ransom (corresponding price – See the definition of "ransom," Greek, antilutron, in Young's Analytical Concordance), then it must also be admitted that whoever will fail in the new trial, and hence be condemned in that judgment, will be subject to the same penalty that was originally inflicted upon all in Adam. This second trial results directly, under God's grace, from the ransom-sacrifice; and God has appointed that the world's Redeemer shall be the Judge, in that Millennial judgment-day. (Rom. 14:9; Acts 17:31.) Because it is the penalty of the second trial, this sentence is Scripturally called "Second Death." And it is not difficult to see that if God's law was such that he could not clear the sinner without giving a ransom for the first transgression, so also if any were ever to be released from Second Death (which God has not even hinted at), it would require a ransom for each one tried, found guilty and sentenced. [R1453 : page 292]
But as some are so anxious to hold to eternal torment that they will let go of the ransom, when they see the two doctrines to be in conflict, so others, when they decide that they want to believe in the everlasting salvation of all men, and find the doctrine of the ransom contradicting them, they feel that the doctrine of the ransom must be gotten rid of, and they drop it. The Scriptures show that only such can have everlasting life as come willingly into oneness with Christ and his laws, when the full knowledge and opportunity are offered; and that this opportunity will end with the Millennial age, beyond which sin and sinners cannot go to mar, or even to endanger, the felicity of eternity.
But since they are very anxious to propagate their views, it becomes necessary for us as true under-shepherds to point out the fallacy of their position, to those sheep who have an ear to hear the voice of the Chief Shepherd, and to follow him. They perceive that the issue is well taken, and hence make every effort to "get around" the difficulty. To do this they are all agreed; and hence they are in this respect in sympathy and fellowship, no matter how different their theories may otherwise be, and make common cause against the WATCH TOWER publications, which defend the doctrine of the ransom.
As a matter of fact, each party (represented by a journal) tries to dodge the ransom in a different manner. One, totally ignoring the meaning of the word ransom, claims that it refers to the forcible deliverance of men from death; another says the ransom was given by our Lord when he left the heavenly glory to become the man Christ Jesus; another says that the living example of our Lord while among men was the ransom; and another now comes forward claiming that our Lord is now making the ransom, that even since his ascension he has been expiating the sins of the world in heaven, and that this work of ransoming will not be finished until the end of the Millennial age. – This last twist becomes the wretchedly thin foundation for another "no-ransom" journal, just started, called "The Herald of Glad Tidings." It is no better and no worse [R1453 : page 293] than the others – "The World's Hope," "Spirit of the Word" and "Herald of the Morning."
What wresting and twisting and dodging! one way and another, to avoid the real issue, and to get around the many plain statements of Scripture to the effect that "Christ died FOR OUR SINS;" that it was "the man Christ Jesus who GAVE HIMSELF a ransom [a corresponding price] for all." The thought of these people seems to be, any argument or theory is good that sets aside or gets around the Bible statements that the ransom for sinners was "finished" (John 19:30) when our Redeemer died on the cross at Calvary.
We denominate all of these as "no-ransom" views; for although they all use the word ransom, it is only to blind, to confuse, and to lead the minds of their readers away from the real and only ransom-sacrifice, and from the real and only meaning of the word ransom (antilutron – a corresponding price).
Let those who seek to serve the Lord know that his truth is his representative, and let them cast their influence, all of it, on the right side of this momentous question which is now the testing, the stumbling question, to all those who are not loyal soldiers of the cross and followers of the Lamb. Show your loyalty to him who gave himself a ransom for all. (Tit. 1:13; 2:15.) Leave no doubt with any as to just where you stand. However much others may seek to dodge and evade the truth on this subject, let us be true to God and his Word. (1 Pet. 2:19; Matt. 5:16; Rom. 3:4.) As soon as we see that any teacher (or would-be teacher), whether a human being, or a paper published by a human being, is wrong on this one, central and vital point – the ransom – evading, misrepresenting and misapplying the word and doctrine to some other sense than the true one – "a corresponding price" for all – we should have nothing further to do with such person or journal until it fully and openly acknowledges the error and retracts it heartily.
The Lord's instructions to us are very pointed on this matter, and leave no doubt as to the course of duty and loyalty. The Apostle Paul says (Rom. 16:17), "Brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned [from inspired sources]; and avoid them." Surely, among all the doctrines taught us by Christ and the apostles and prophets, no other is of so vital importance as the doctrine of the ransom. Hence those who reject the Scriptural statement that our Lord Jesus gave himself a corresponding price, a substitute, a ransom for all, are to be rejected from recognition as Brethren, and even to be avoided.
The Apostle John says: "Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you [man or paper, professing to be a teacher], and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds." (Compare 2 John 9-11; Gal. 1:8,9; 2 Tim. 3:5; Titus 3:10.) Thus it is evident that we who would follow closely the way marked out for us have not much liberty or choice in our attitude toward those who deny the very foundation of our faith – however much they may desire to company with us. Compare also the rules respecting immoral persons who desire fellowship (1 Cor. 5:11; Eph. 5:11; 2 Thes. 3:6-14), although there is generally less danger from such than from those who become doctrinally corrupted.
The present King commands his faithful servants who have not cast off the "wedding garment" of his imputed righteousness (faith in his blood [sacrifice] for the forgiveness of sins), concerning those who reject it, saying, "Bind him hand and foot [i.e., restrain his influence by thoroughly answering his arguments], and cast him into outer darkness." (Matt. 22:13.) Reject such a one from any fellowship which would mark him or her as a Brother or Sister in Christ. Soon such will be in the outer darkness of worldly confusion and uncertainty, called Agnosticism, saying, "I don't know surely what is truth."
It is not the question whether this course is worldly-wise, but whether or not it is in conformity with God's Word. The wisdom of [R1453 : page 294] men and the policy of men and the theories of men are all foolishness with God. It is the essence of wisdom to obey God. Let us do it.
In all this we advocate no harshness, no bitterness, no unkindness; but firmness for God and for the truth. Let the spirit of love rule in our hearts – love which is first of all true and loyal to God, his truth and his Church. "The zeal of thine house [Church] hath eaten me up."
The Fiftieth Psalm furnishes food for most profitable meditation to the consecrated. It starts with a precious reminder of the glory that is shortly to be revealed in and through the faithful. Taking the standpoint of the Church's future completeness and glory, it says (verse 1): "The mighty God, even Jehovah, speaketh [through the glorified Church, the Christ, Head and body], and calleth the earth from the rising of the Sun ["the Sun of Righteousness, with healing in his wings" – Mal. 4:2] unto the going down thereof" [i.e., from the beginning to the close of the Millennial day, Jehovah, through his Anointed, will be calling the earth to repentance and to righteousness and eternal life]. Verse 2: "Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty [out of the Church exalted and glorified], God shineth forth" [his glorious character and plan are made known].
Verse 3. "Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence: a fire ['the fire of his jealousy'] shall devour before him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about him." It will be the tempest of the great time of trouble so often and so variously and vividly described elsewhere.
Verse 4. "He shall call to the heavens above, and to the earth, to judge his people." In this time of the Lord's presence and the harvest of the Gospel age, all who claim to be his people – i.e., all "Christendom," Christ's kingdom, falsely so-called, or "Babylon" as named in the Scriptures (Rev. 16:19) – are brought into judgment before the assembled hosts of heaven and earth – angels and men. Already this judgment of "Christendom," "Babylon," is in progress: hence the late overhauling and demanded revision of the hitherto accepted and unquestioned creeds of its various sects. And hence, too, the unsparing criticisms of nominal Christianity by the world at large, in the secular press, etc., calling attention to its traditional errors, and to its untenable positions. It is now recognized as a self-contradictory mouthpiece of God.
Verse 5 is the command of the now present Lord of the harvest, to the reapers, to separate the true wheat from the great bundles of tares in Babylon – "Gather my saints together unto me: those that have made a covenant with me [not merely by the lips, but] by [actual] sacrifice" – those who have faithfully carried out the solemn covenant of entire devotedness to the Lord.
Verse 6. "And the heavens shall declare his righteousness; for God himself is judge." In that judgment which heaven and earth are called upon to witness, and which shall closely discriminate between the wheat and the tares, and effectually separate them, "the heavens [the kingdom of God which will be established as the outcome of this judgment] shall declare his [God's] righteousness; for God himself [who cannot err] is [the] judge."
Verse 7. "Hear, O my people [ye who claim to be my people by a solemn covenant], and I will speak: O Israel [nominal spiritual Israel], and I will testify against thee: I am God, even thy God. Not because of thy sacrifices will I reprove thee; and thy burnt offerings [free-will offerings, such as benevolent works, etc.] are continually before me." But [R1453 : page 295] such works cannot commend them to God in that day of judgment; for, said Jesus, "Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? and then will I say unto them, I never approved of you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." (Matt. 7:22,23.) These have been "false prophets" (Matt. 7:15), "teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." (Matt. 15:9.) For their own erroneous theories they have claimed divine authority; and though in going about to establish their own righteousness they have done "many wonderful works," those works are not acceptable to God, because they have not submitted themselves to his plans and methods.
Verses 9-13 declare God's independence of their works, and intimate his perfect ability to accomplish the blessing of the world according to his own plan without their assistance. "I will take no bullock out of thy house, nor he goats out of thy folds; for every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. I know all the fowls of the mountains: and the wild beasts of the field are mine. If I were hungry I would not tell thee; for the world is mine and the fulness thereof. Will I eat flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats?" – Am I in need of your wisdom or works, or in any way dependent upon your gifts? No – "Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the Most High." (Verse 14.) What have any of us to offer unto the Lord that we did not first receive from him, and that should not therefore be thankfully received and used according to the directions of his plan? And this is what all who have consecrated themselves to God have covenanted to do. It is therefore obligatory upon all such that they pay their vows, fulfil their covenant unto the Most High.
True, in the faithful fulfilling of a covenant of entire consecration to God there is much to endure in the way of reproach and persecution from the world (2 Tim. 3:12), but to such the Lord through the Prophet (verse 15) says, "Call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou [by thy testimony and faithfulness] shalt glorify me."
Verses 16,17. "But unto the wicked God saith" [But bear in mind that the wicked here referred to are not unrighteous people of the world; for, according to verse 7, this testimony is borne against those who claim to be the Lord's people, and members of the spiritual house of Israel. These "wicked" are the covenant breakers among those who still claim to be faithful people of God.] – unto these God saith, "What hast thou to do to declare my statutes [decrees, doctrines] or that thou shouldest take my covenant into thy mouth? seeing thou hatest instruction and castest my words behind thee." The Lord will not hold them guiltless who, professing entire consecration to him, nevertheless despise instruction and cast his words behind them while they cling to their own traditions and theories; "For," says the Apostle, "the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who hold down [Greek katecho – hold down or suppress] the truth in unrighteousness." (Rom. 1:18.) This is what the various ecclesiastical systems of Great Babylon have been guilty of for centuries past: they have taught their own false doctrines and have claimed for them the divine authority of the Word of God. In doing so, they have unjustly suppressed the truth: they have hated instruction and have cast the words of the Lord behind them whenever they were brought forward to testify against them or their plans.
What right, the Prophet inquires, have such covenant breakers to declare the plan of God? None whatever. Such unfaithful and "wicked and slothful" servants are hindered by their errors from seeing truths now due. Having been unfaithful to the measure of truth received, they are not permitted to know, and hence cannot declare, the deeper things of God – the breadth and scope of his wonderful plan. "Light is sown for the righteous" who faithfully and thankfully receive and disseminate it, "and gladness [the gladness which comes from a realization of the truth] for the upright in heart." – Psa. 97:11.
But the testimony against this class proceeds – Verse 18 – "When thou sawest a thief [one desirous of robbing God's children of the truth], [R1453 : page 296] then thou consentedst with him." All who do not guard the truth and the flock of God against the encroachment of error, who bid false teachers God-speed, or who commend wolves in sheep's clothing to the Lord's little ones, are, according to the Prophets language, wickedly consenting with thieves and robbers. And not only so, but he continues – "and hast been partakers with adulterers." Such a compromise with the spirit of the world is, in the language of the Scriptures, defined as adultery. For this reason Babylon the Great [Papacy] is termed a harlot, and the mother of harlots [of the various similar systems that sprang from her]; and the principle holds good in every case where unfaithful covenant-breakers consent to any degree with the thieves and robbers who plot and scheme against the truth.
Verse 19. "Thou givest thy mouth to evil, and thy tongue frameth deceit." Such is the course of all who in unrighteousness suppress the truth and go about to establish their own righteousness and their own plans.
Verse 20. "Thou sittest and speakest against thy brother; thou slanderest thine own mother's son." The unfaithful always take the attitude of persecutors to some degree of the faithful. Such is the attitude of the whole nominal church against those faithful servants who receive and advocate the truth.
Verse 21. "These things hast thou done ["Babylon," "Christendom," the great nominal church], and I kept silence: [up to the present time, the harvest; and because I kept silence and permitted this evil to run and prosper] thou thoughtest that I was altogether such a one as thyself [that I was consenting with thee to thy evil ways]; but [not so; for a purpose I permitted you to run your course and to make your real character manifest; but now, in this harvest and judgment time] I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes." Hence the present investigations and exposures of creeds, and the growing unrest in the various sects of "Christendom."
Verses 22,23. "Now consider this [reproof], ye that forget God, lest I tear you in pieces [destroy you], and there be none to deliver."
"Whoso offereth thanksgiving [thankfully receives the reproof and applies his heart unto instruction] glorifieth me [or honors me, as a faithful and consistent believer and representative of the truth]; and to him that ordereth his course aright [that conforms his life and teaching to the light received] will I show the salvation of God."
How solemn and weighty the admonition, and how worthy of the most thoughtful and prayerful consideration of all who name the name of Christ. The day of reckoning is upon the Church – upon all who profess to be members of it: "The hour of his judgment is come." Who is worthy to stand? Only those who gratefully receive the message of divine truth, and who faithfully pay their vows to the Most High.
One writes us who has been for some time a TOWER reader, and who seems to have determined that he wants the Scriptures to teach the everlasting salvation of all men. We fear he has not been much helped by the articles on this subject in recent TOWERS. We will answer his questions publicly for the good of others; hoping also that the objector may see the weakness of his position, and come over again to the firm foundation of the explicit statements of God's Word. He says: –
We answer, The Bible is God's revelation of what he has done and purposes to do for human salvation. If, therefore, it reveals no resurrection from the Second Death, no one has a right to believe or teach so – no, nor even so to hope. Those who do so are adding to God's Word. It is a bold, bad heart which, after receiving all the mercies revealed, would attempt to set aside those just features of the divine plan which an unsanctified will rebels against. [R1453 : page 297]
Yes, those gracious expressions mean much of joy and comfort; but, in the original, the word of which our English word forever is a translation does not mean exactly the same as forever or without an end. It means, rather, continuously as long as proper or necessary, until a proper end has been reached. To illustrate: In Lev. 16:34 we read, "This shall be an everlasting (Hebrew, olam) statute unto you, to make an atonement for the children of Israel for all their sins, once a year." And in verse 29 we read, "And this shall be a statute FOREVER unto you: That in the seventh month and tenth day of the month ye shall...do no work at all." (Compare Exod. 21:6.) How long did "forever" or "everlasting" mean in those cases? Are those statutes still in force? No. When did that "forever" and that "everlasting" cease? At the cross. These, with all the other features of the Mosaic Law, ceased [R1454 : page 297] when Christ made an end of the Law, nailing it to his cross.
Just so in the texts quoted by Objector. God's mercy toward human sinners will endure until Christ makes an end of it in the close of the Millennial age. Mercy by that time will have exhausted every legitimate means for showing to sinners the path of life. More than that could not be called mercy. When all will have been done that can be done for sinners (and God's promises concerning the great work of Christ for the world during the Millennium are nothing short of this), then, the true, proper end of the mercy having come, divine Love and Justice will step forward and declare that those who have rejected this fulness of mercy shall be "cut off [not from their sins, but] from among the people." – Acts 3:23.
(3) "Once for all" Christ died to release Adam (and all in him), whether it be from First Death, Second Death or any other death. His blood can never lose its power until all are saved, to sin no more; because the man Christ Jesus gave himself a ransom FOR ALL.
(3) "Once for all" Christ died to release Adam (and all in him), whether it be from First Death, Second Death or any other death. His blood can never lose its power until all are saved, to sin no more; because the man Christ Jesus gave himself a ransom FOR ALL.
We are glad that this Brother holds fast to the ransom, and bases all his hopes upon that sure foundation. (For this reason we can call him Brother.) If he will hold fast to that foundation, and test every part of his theory by that, he will come out all right. But to do this he will need that humility which will say, "Let God be true, though it show my theories to be nonsense." The words, "once for all," and "a ransom for all," while they do teach a salvation for all (and not a limited atonement and a limited offer of salvation, as most Christians believe), do not teach that the salvation secured can never have an end.
Let us keep in memory the Scriptural statements that the penalty under which all the race fell from divine favor and into death was for Adam's transgression (Rom. 5:12), and that the recovery from sin and death secured by our Lord Jesus' ransom-sacrifice affected THAT death and THOSE sins and weaknesses which we inherited from our father Adam, and none other. Is it not, therefore, logical as well as Scriptural to say that wilful sins (intentionally committed, under full light and ability to the contrary) are not Adam's sins in any sense of the word, and that the ransom from Adam's sin and penalty would therefore not at all affect a release from these sins and their penalty? So say the Scriptures concerning all whose share in the Adamic sin and penalty has been canceled ( – through faith in Christ's sin-sacrifice), and who are therefore reckoned as no longer dead in Adam, but as "alive in Christ" – "risen with him." After they have been once enlightened – been brought to a knowledge of the truth, tasted of the good Word of God and the powers of the world to come [the Millennial powers – resurrection, etc., tasted by faith], and been made partakers of the holy spirit – if such shall fall away, it is impossible to renew them again – because their course does despite to the favor God offers, and counts as common and valueless the blood of the New Covenant wherewith they had been sanctified. – Heb. 6:4-6; 10:26-31.
Since God's plan is to save all men from all that was lost in Adam – through the Second Adam, Christ – it follows that when every child of Adam has been brought to a full knowledge of God's plan, and a full opportunity for forgiveness and restitution to divine favor, all have been SAVED from that calamity. Then,
[R1454 : page 298]
however, their individual trial begins; and the length or brevity of their salvation depends upon their own (not Adam's) course. If they after all that sin wilfully, the penalty they will get will be their own and not Adam's – for which Christ died. And there is no authority in Scripture for your statement that our Lord's death was for, or that it will have any effect upon, those who will suffer Second Death, the penalty of wilful sin against full light and opportunity.
(4) Did not Lazarus of Bethany die twice? (Although it is not mentioned in the Bible, we of course suppose that he died again sometime after his miraculous restoration by our Lord; for he is not now living.) Surely Lazarus will share in the future resurrection; and hence it is evident that dying a second or even a third or a fourth time is no bar to the power of God.
(4) Did not Lazarus of Bethany die twice? (Although it is not mentioned in the Bible, we of course suppose that he died again sometime after his miraculous restoration by our Lord; for he is not now living.) Surely Lazarus will share in the future resurrection; and hence it is evident that dying a second or even a third or a fourth time is no bar to the power of God.
Ah! now we see, by this, that you do not grasp the subject of the Second Death. Lazarus did not die the Second Death. He had not yet gotten free from the Adamic or First Death when our Lord awaked him. The great ransom-sacrifice had not yet been finished, and when awakened he was, with the others of the human family, still under the original death-sentence incurred through Adam's disobedience. The only way to get Lazarus out of the Adamic death was, first, for our Lord to die as the substitute or corresponding price for condemned Adam and all his posterity; and afterward, for Lazarus to be justified from Adamic sin and its penalty – First Death – by faith in that sin-offering, based upon a clear knowledge of God's goodness and a full consecration to him.
Since these were not the conditions in Lazarus' case, his was merely a re-awakening to the measure of Adamic life (yet under sentence of Adamic death) which he had enjoyed before he became sick and fell asleep. Consequently, the awakening of Lazarus and others by our Lord at his first advent is never spoken of as their resurrection; for "resurrection" signifies lifting up, out of the Adamic death entirely, to full life and perfection. Only those thus actually released from Adamic death by such an actual resurrection, or such as by knowledge and faith come to the justified state (a reckoned resurrection condition) are or will be in danger of the Second Death – the penalty of wilful, individual sin against clear light and knowledge. Sanctified believers of this Gospel age (reckonedly passed out of Adam into Christ – from Adamic death to life) when they die are not counted as dying in Adam; for reckonedly they are out of Adam. They are reckoned as dying with Christ their Redeemer. (See 2 Tim. 2:11; 1 Thes. 4:16; Rev. 14:13.) But if such abide not in Christ (after getting into him as members of his body, as branches of the Vine), it will be because of wilful sin and rejection of his sacrifice and favor. Their death will be Second Death – the penalty of second failure during second trial.
As for believers in the next or Restitution age, they will likewise be justified by knowledge and faith and obedience – reckoned as resurrected out of Adam and his death penalty into Christ and his life gift. But instead of suffering and dying with Christ, as do the faithful in this age, they will be gradually restored to the perfection and life reckoned to them from the moment of justification. Only the disobedient will die after the new dispensation opens. Their death will not be because of any weakness inherited from Adam (all of which will have been reckoned paid and canceled in Christ's sacrifice), but because of their own wilful opposition to the Lord's righteous requirements. Hence their death will not be the Adamic but the Second Death – the wages of their own deserving, for which no ransom was given and none is promised – an "everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his power" – "cut off from among the people."
Our reply to this, in conclusion, is, If this were good tidings, we could not preach it; because we have no authority to declare, in God's name and as a part of his plan, what he has nowhere revealed. But we fail to see how it would be good tidings to any but the wicked. To all who love righteousness it would be very [R1454 : page 299] bad tidings; just as to-day it would be bad tidings to any good community to learn that the jails and penitentiaries and work-houses and pest-houses were all to be thrown open; for no other pest has proved so baneful as the leprosy of sin. The righteous might dread such a release from the Second Death of those evil-doers described in Rev. 22:15 – evil-doers for whose permanent reform there would be no hope; because, before sentencing them to the Second Death, their righteous Judge had given them every opportunity possible to repent and come into harmony with his righteous law, that they might live forever.
Furthermore, let us remember that the Second Death will receive the incorrigible at the close of the Millennium (Rev. 21:8); and that at that time Christ's Kingdom, the thousand-year day of judgment, comes to an end. Hence, if it were true that there is to be a release from the Second Death, it must come after the Millennium. This would involve the thought of a continuance of sin, and a continued trial or judging of sinners, whereas God's gracious promise is that the Millennial day of judgment will make a full end of sin and sinners, and that beyond it, in the everlasting ages, there shall be no more sin, sorrow, pain, dying or crying; for all those former things will have passed away. – Rev. 21:4.
"He said to Jesus, Remember me when thou comest in thy kingdom. And he [Jesus] said to him, Indeed I say to thee this day, thou shalt be with me in Paradise." – Luke 23:42,43.
Those who consider salvation to be an escape from everlasting torture to a paradise of pleasure, and dependent only on accidental circumstances of favor, see in this narration the doctrine of election exemplified – our Lord Jesus, being pleased by the consoling words of the one thief, elected him to heaven, and equally elected that the other should roast to all eternity, unpitied and unrelieved. Truly, if God has made salvation such a lottery, such a chance thing, those who believe it to be such should have little to say against church lotteries, and less against worldly ones.
The Lord had just been condemned, and was now being executed on the charge of treason against Caesar's government, in saying that he was a king: though he had told them that his kingdom was "not of this world." There, upon the cross above his head, was the inscription of his charged crime, written in three languages: "THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS." All knew of his claims and derided him, except one of the thieves crucified with him. Doubtless he had heard of Jesus and of his wonderful character, and said in his heart: This is truly a strange and wonderful man. Who can know that there is no foundation to his claims? He certainly lives close to God. I will speak to him in sympathy: it can do no harm. Then he rebuked his companion, mentioning the Lord's innocence; and then the conversation above noted took place.
We cannot suppose that this thief had any correct or definite idea of Jesus – nothing more than a mere feeling that he was about to die, and a straw of hope was better than nothing. To give him credit for more would be to place him in faith ahead of all the Lord's apostles and followers, who at this time had fled, and who, three days after, said: "We [had] trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel." – Luke 24:21.
We can have no doubt as to the import of his petition: he meant that whenever Jesus reached his kingdom power, he desired favor. Now note our Lord's answer. He does not say that he has no kingdom; but, on the contrary, he indicates by his response that the thief's request was a proper one. The word translated "verily" or "indeed" is the Greek word "amen," and signifies so be it, as you have asked: "I say to thee this day [this dark day, when it seems as though I am an impostor, [R1455 : page 300] and I am about to die as a felon], thou shalt be with me in Paradise."
Now the substance of this is that, when the Lord has established his kingdom, it will be in Paradise, and the thief will be remembered and be in it. Notice that we have changed the comma from before to after "to-day." This makes our Lord's words perfectly clear and reasonable. He might have told the thief more if he had chosen. He might have told him that the reason he would be privileged to be in Paradise was because his ransom was then and there being paid. He might have told him further that he was dying for and ransoming the other thief also, as well as the whole gaping and deriding multitude before him, and as well as the millions then entombed, and the millions yet unborn. We know this because we know that "Jesus Christ, by the grace of God, tasted death for every man," and that as all in Adam die, even so all in Christ shall be made alive, and be privileged to come back to that Edenic condition forfeited by the first man's sin, and redeemed for men by Christ's righteous sacrifice.
As already shown, the garden of Eden was but an illustration of what the earth will be when fully released from the curse – perfected and beautified. The word "Paradise" is of Arabic origin, and signifies a garden. The Septuagint renders Gen. 2:8 thus: "God planted a paradise in Eden." When Christ has established his kingdom, and bound evil, etc., this earth will become a paradise, and the two thieves and all others that are in their graves shall come into it; and by becoming obedient to its laws they may live forever. We doubt not, however, that the kind words spoken in that dark hour to the Lord of glory will no more lose a suitable reward than the gift of a cup of water, or other small kindnesses, done to those whom this King is "not ashamed to call his brethren."
But have we a right to change the comma? Certainly: the punctuation of the Bible is not inspired. The writers of the Bible used no punctuation. It was invented about four hundred years ago. It is merely a modern convenience, and should be so used as to bring out sense and harmony with all other Scriptures. This harmony and sense are obtained only by the punctuation we have given above. As usually punctuated, the passage would teach that the Lord and the thief went away somewhere that day, a statement contrary to the following Scriptures, which read carefully: Luke 24:46; John 20:17; 3:13. In the latter text note that the words, "which is in heaven," are an interpolation, as shown by the oldest MS.
IV. QUAR., LESSON V., OCT. 30, ACTS 11:19-30.
This lesson takes us back several years, and reveals the persecution against the Church at the time of the stoning of Stephen – Saul of Tarsus being one of the chief persecutors. It shows us some of the results of that persecution, and illustrates well the fact that the Lord's work is sometimes prospered by those very circumstances which to human judgment might seem unfavorable, if not disastrous. The persecution scattered the light instead of extinguishing it. Accordingly, years afterward news came to the Church at Jerusalem that the knowledge of salvation through Christ had spread to the third city of importance in the world – for Antioch was such at that time.
VERSES 20,21. Here we see a difference in the Lord's dealings, as compared with our last lesson, on the opening of the Gospel Door to the Gentiles at the hand of Peter, Cornelius being the first received. That event had been God's method of drawing the attention of Peter and the other believers to the changed and widened character of the new dispensation. But in this lesson we see how the Lord led others to preach the gospel to the Gentiles, when the due time had come, without visions, etc., such as were proper, and indeed necessary, [R1455 : page 301] for Peter and others. These Christians had been Jews, born and living in Cyprus and Cyrene, and hence intimately acquainted with Gentiles; and when God's due time had come to remove all differences between Jews and Gentiles these were easily led into telling the good tidings to their Gentile friends – many of whom promptly accepted it.
VERSES 22,24. The Church, whose chief representatives still resided at Jerusalem, having already learned, through Peter (Acts 11:1-18), of God's favor having been extended to the Gentiles, were glad to learn of the good work that had been done, and promptly took steps to help the new believers by sending Barnabas, "a good man full of faith and of the holy spirit," to teach them the way of the Lord more perfectly. And Barnabas, after doing a good work among them, bethought him of Saul of Tarsus, converted some years before, and who probably had meantime been under divine instruction and discipline preparatory to his introduction as the great "Apostle to the Gentiles," to take the place of Judas as one of the twelve (Rev. 21:14); which place the eleven had unauthorizedly conferred upon Matthias before their anointing with the holy spirit at Pentecost.
VERSES 25,26. Saul – or Paul – was seemingly ready for the opening of this door of service and entered it with his peculiar fervor – yet humbly, remembering his own unworthiness to preach Christ, whom he had persecuted and slain, representatively, in his disciples. Barnabas and Paul, instead of saying to the intelligent people of Antioch, "We must leave you to go and look up some uncivilized peoples, barbarians, cannibals, etc.," took a different view of the matter, and, seeking the most intelligent auditors they could interest, staid with them a year after they were converted – teaching them. Alas, that so many now feel that teaching is unnecessary. How the actions of the Apostle Paul agree with his teachings. – See Eph. 4:11-13.
"And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch." Whoever may have started this name it matters not: it is the most fitting title that could be conceived of – followers of Christ. What a pity it is that in modern times it is considered a valuable addition to prefix Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist, Lutheran, etc. Surely, to all who rightly view the matter, our Master's name is a sufficient one for all who are his. Let us not only adopt the Apostolic simplicity in practice and in doctrine, but also in name. We do not belong to Wesley, Luther, Calvin or any other man; and we should show that we are Christ's, and his alone, by refusing the names of others than the Heavenly Bridegroom. Thus, too, we stand where we can have fullest fellowship with all the Lord's true followers.
VERSES 27-30. The fruits of the spirit are here shown by the willingness of the Christians at Antioch to contribute to the famine-stricken and persecution-spoiled brethren at Jerusalem. It was a noble return in temporal matters for the spiritual favors they had received from the believers at Jerusalem, through Barnabas, and Paul, whom he had brought. And this seems always to be true where the spirit of Christ has operated and dwells richly: each is anxious to serve the other, first with the spiritual and priceless favors, and second with temporal favors as opportunity offers. – See 1 Cor. 9:11. [R1455 : page 301]
IV. QUAR., LESSON VI., NOV. 6, ACTS 12:1-17.
It does not teach us, however, that all of God's servants will be miraculously delivered, nor that the same servant will be so dealt with on every occasion: For was not James, whom Herod killed, also a servant of God? See verses 1 and 2.
The lesson to be learned is concerning God's ability to do whatever may please him. Then, if confident of his love, as all should be who have intelligently accepted God's gift to men in Christ our Lord, we have only to rely upon divine wisdom to feel perfectly content, whatever may come upon us, – realizing that all things are working together for good to them that love God – to those who are called according to his purpose. – Rom. 8:28.
Our request, that we hear weekly from all Colporteurs who are giving all their time in the work, has been well responded to. But please remember both parts: State the spiritual prosperity and health, as well as the number of orders taken and the physical health. If more convenient, a postal card will do; and those working together may send their reports in the same envelope, if preferred. It will do you all good to write to the "home" (office) at least weekly, and it will do us good also. You are continually remembered in our prayers.
Do not forget the Missionary Envelopes. We have a new lot and supply them now at the reduced price of 25 cents per hundred, and $2.00 per thousand. This includes free delivery to you at your Postoffice.
The following letter, from his brother in the flesh, was recently received by Brother J. A. West. What joy it must cause him to receive such a testimony to his faithfulness to the truth! How much he would have lost, both for time and for eternity, had he put the Light under a bushel from fear or shame or policy or other selfish motive.
Brother James is still in the harvest work, and although with him, as with all, much of the effort shows no fruit immediately, he and all of us must go on our way rejoicing, leaving the results to our Lord.
Dear Brother: – We daily invoke our Heavenly Father's blessing upon you, you who have been used by him in our blessing. We are feasting, rejoicing, drinking at the fountain of truth, and yet we each now have even a higher privilege than this. It is the joy of taking the glad tidings to others, and seeing them blest as we have been. We meet some of them everywhere. At E__________, Brother P__________, who was considered the best Bible scholar in the city, and the most consecrated and spiritual-minded man, received us kindly. We had just what he needed; and though restitution, the plan of the ages, etc., were new to him, he readily accepted them; and we left him rejoicing in present truth. Another brother and sister also gave us a hearty welcome, and happier souls you never saw than they were. This book we sell, dear James, is certainly a child of Providence – a bearer of "meat in due season," simply and truly. Praise the Lord!
Our problem is solved: We have demonstrated the fact that we can sell DAWNS, and make a living. We economize and work hard; and with God's blessing we can and do succeed. Accept our united love, and remember we think of you every day – especially when with the blessed Lord in prayer.
Your brother and sister in the precious hope, rejoicing in our present Lord and busy in the Harvest,
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL: – I wish you to send me forty-five volumes of MILLENNIAL DAWN, Vol. I. These I shall distribute in Canada, enclosing a printed slip, a copy of which I send you herewith. The circular reads as follows: –
DEAR FRIEND: – I commend this volume, The Plan of the Ages, to your careful reading. It is the best commentary on the Scriptures I have read. I value it next to the Bible. It develops love for the truth, an eagerness to "search the Scriptures," an independence in Bible study, a reverence for God's Word and a refreshing liberty of mind. It is not written in the interest of any religious organization: its author is not a member of any sectarian body, but simply a Christian. Because of its rich helpfulness to me in the unfolding of the wondrous truths of the Bible, in the clear presentation of God's own gracious plan for the blessing of "all the families of the earth," in the brightening of my own life by dispelling the conflicting doctrines of denominationalism and giving the sweet hope of a better and everlasting life, possible to every one of my fellow creatures, and in heralding the dawn of a glorious and lasting day for the whole creation, I present it to you with the request that you read it twice and examine all the references. If, when you are through with it, you will send it to other truth-seekers, I shall be grateful.
In "the good hope through favor,"
DEAR BROTHER AND SISTER RUSSELL: – We think it very kind of Sister R. to take the time from what we have known must be her very arduous duties, to write us so fully concerning the matter of which we inquired, especially when we remember how many others are seeking information at your hands. [R1456 : page 302]
Loss of sleep is a part of the price I have to pay for the truth. It is so precious, and sometimes so all-absorbing, that I cannot quit thinking about it long enough to go to sleep. My present sleepless condition was brought about through my efforts to do some missionary work among the members of a religious gathering in our city.
They have no organization, and in many respects are like us. I have enjoyed their meetings and Bible readings very much, and I think that they are the Lord's own children; but they are handicapped in their search for truth by the horrible, blasphemous doctrine of eternal torment. I cannot tell you how I longed to lead their minds out into the clear sunlight of God's truth, and I have done what I could to this end. But oh, how Satan uses this horrible impeachment of God's character to blind the eyes, even of those who love him. How subtle the arch-enemy is – whispering as he does [R1456 : page 303] to them, This is no concern of yours. You are not going to Hell. Why bother your brain about the matter at all? Ah, well does he know that so long as he keeps this veil over their faces they cannot apprehend the truth. If there is any thing for which I entertain an able-bodied hatred, it is this hydra-headed relic of the dark past; and my experience with it in the past week has been anything else than pleasant.
Although I have been painfully conscious of the fact that the outward man is perishing, yet during the past week I have been most blessedly conscious of that other fact, that the inner man is renewed day by day. It seems to me I have never before so fully realized the simplicity and security of our refuge in Christ as I do now. I am sure I have never before fully comprehended Paul's description of it, as we have it in Romans 8.
In comparing the various translations of verses 33 and 34, I discovered a marginal note in the Revised Version which says that some ancient versions read, "Shall God that justifieth," "Shall Christ that died," etc. Notice that the words "it is" are in italics. This is the same sense given to the verses in the Diaglott and Rotherham translations. "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? Shall God that justifieth? Who is he that condemneth? Shall Christ that died? yea, rather, that is risen again – who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us?" No, blessed be his precious name, we know that our Advocate is too true to our interests to condemn or accuse us in the presence of the Father. Oh, no: he constantly says to the Father, They have been judged in me. I have borne their sins; by my stripes are they healed. Lay nothing to their charge. I have met all the demands of justice against them, and they are free.
Oh, how blessed to know that "the past is under the blood," as well as the present, if we abide in him; and thus John says, "In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him;" and then he adds, "Perfect love casteth out fear." Ah, yes: when we begin to comprehend the perfection and measureless depths of God's love to us, as manifested in the gift of his dear Son as our ransom from death, we are lost in amazement; and the testimony of his spirit with ours, that we are his children, clears all our doubts and fears away, and there is no torment.
"God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment." This wonderful manifestation of God's love to us, through its reflex action upon the heart, will deepen and broaden our own love, until at last, when we partake of his nature, we shall also possess the perfection and fulness of his love, and become the instruments through whom he will manifest this love to the world, as he is now manifesting it to us, that they may know and believe the love that God has for us, and for them also. Sharing with Jesus the "all power in heaven and in earth," we shall go forth upon our mission of love, lifting up, tenderly nursing the groaning creation back to the moral likeness of God the Father – which, if willing, they may possess and enjoy forever.
May our Heavenly Father kindly lead and bless you both. Yours in the service of the Master,
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL: – I wish I could see you and talk to you as my soul desires. I am so anxious for a pure heart – one from which emanates nothing but purity. As Peter said, not only my feet, Lord, but every thought, word, act and motive of the heart I desire made pure and right. Oh, how I long for this, to be able to resist every form of evil. Is it not possible for me to live without any evil in my heart? I want my environment to be clean; or rather, I want to be clean in my environment. Any help you may be able to give me will be gladly received. Pray mightily to God for me, Brother, that I may be in the procession with the crown and uniform at the great meeting of the elect of God. May God bless and keep you! Yours in Christ,
[Am glad to know that you are desirous of living a pure life; for that is an indication that you already possess to a considerable degree a pure heart. Purity of thought, word and act can result only from purity of motive; and the best way to cultivate purity of motive is to make a friend and companion of the Lord, our Redeemer, who is not only pure himself, but able to give wisdom and grace to all who seek his aid. Then all his desires will become yours, his will and work will be your delight, and you will become more and more impervious to temptation, and able to think and live worthy of his friendship. It will be no longer you that lives, but "Christ in you." – Gal. 2:20. – EDITOR.] [R1456 : page 304]
MY DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL: – It has been some time since I wrote you, not because I am not interested, but I am so busy that I cannot do as I would. However, I meet some interested ones occasionally, and talk with them about the grand things that encourage us so much. Thank God for this privilege, that we can (though in trouble) look to him who is our life; and we are encouraged with the blessed assurance that we (in due time) shall be like him.
I have been traveling a little in the great cause, and I do not think that my humble effort is in vain. Had a good meeting here this summer. It was a time of feast and rejoicing. When I left the Methodists, I had a large acquaintance, for I had been preaching for forty miles around. I have kept up appointments in several places, and have some who love the truth. I can go to these places, preach to them day and night, and not be away from home long; and this is the way I have to do. I love the truth; I am made free by it; and I love to tell it to others; and oh, when I can find a hearing ear it does me so much good.
I have all the reading matter from the TOWER office since 1883, and am still feasting on the precious Word of God. I love the "TOWER" dearly. I love the spirit in which it is written, for I believe it to be the spirit of my blessed Lord. I love to read the few words from interested ones in different places. Surely we are drawn nearer together; and though we are so far apart, yet we are realizing that we are one in Christ Jesus our Lord; and though we are strangers and pilgrims, yet we are made nigh unto each other by the blood of Christ. Oh, the blood, the precious blood, that cleanseth from all sin. Praise the Lord!
In the blessed hope, yours,
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL: – In a little conversation last evening at the home of two staunch Presbyterians, I was not a little enthused, and was made to see clearer than ever before our position regarding the doctrine of the holy Spirit. They, of course, maintained that the holy Spirit is a person, denying the possibility that the mind of God could be infused into our minds.
I drew their attention to the following, which nearly all must have experienced, namely: When one gets interested in some book, a novel, for instance, and gets wrapped up in the subject, does not the mind of the writer become our mind, until we think the same thoughts, love what he loves, hate what he hates, etc.? Well, then, the same effect follows when one gets thoroughly interested in the Book of books. The mind of God is then infused into our minds and hearts, and it is thus that we are sanctified by the truth – separated from the world and the worldly spirit.
To prove that the apostles named the expression of the mind of God through his Word "holy Spirit," I referred to Heb. 10:15,16, in connection with chapter 8:10-12. The Apostle calls this quotation "a witness" of the holy Spirit, while verse 16 plainly states that "the Lord" is the speaker, as does also Chapter 8, verse 10.
Truly the words that he has spoken are spirit and life. I relish this more fully now than ever before, and am greatly blessed by the Spirit's leading. So you see our controversy was profitable to myself, even if I did not succeed in convincing my opponents. Yours in the Redeemer,
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL: – The package arrived safely a fortnight ago. I have been waiting to write a letter, but find I cannot work it in just now, so please accept this as acknowledgment of my great indebtedness and gratitude. It is very good of you to so abundantly supply us, and we hope to remit for same shortly. Do not deduct from previous amount sent. The Lord has blessed me very especially, and I shall be well able to cover extra cost in a month or so. I have sent a goodly number of DAWNS and Tracts by a brother going to Australia, who will distribute half of them on board of ship and the rest on landing. He will write you when he has settled down.
Our little band is making its influence felt, though we have never been heard in the streets and squares; but a steady and quiet manner coupled with a consistent life – being led of the holy Spirit – is mighty in reproving the worldliness and political spirit of our time. The churches are now mostly shows, and political agencies. Things are rapidly shaping themselves for the battle of the great day. Thank God, he has enabled us to see it. Accept our united love and a hearty greeting to all our dear brethren and sisters, especially Sister Russell.
Yours ever affectionately in Christ,
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[R1457 : page 307]
|VOL. XIII.||OCTOBER 15, 1892.||NO. 20.|
We have heretofore shown that election as taught in the Scriptures is not in opposition to, but in harmony with, the free moral agency of the elected classes. We have endeavored to show that, while during the Jewish age there was an election or selection of a "house of servants," as, during the present Christian age, an election or selection of a "house of sons" (Heb. 3:5,6) is in progress, yet neither of these selections was or is arbitrary so far as individuals are concerned. God did arbitrarily fore-ordain and determine that these two classes should be selected, and arbitrarily set apart a limited period of time for the selection of each; and for aught we know to the contrary, he arbitrarily and unalterably fixed the number of each of these classes, so that not one more, nor one less, shall complete each of these elect classes, fore-ordained in this plan. But he did not, and in harmony with his own justice he could not, arbitrarily fore-ordain and elect that certain individuals must be of these classes regardless of their wishes and endeavors, and regardless of the operations of his own arrangements and regulations governing these elections.
But before any are able to look at the subjects of Election and Reprobation intelligently, they must first of all get rid of the false and blinding idea that election implies "selected to go to heaven," and reprobation, "selected to go to eternal torture." No such significance attaches in any way to the words. God not only applies justice to his creatures in the laws governing them, but he applies the same to himself; hence it would be as unjust and impossible for God to choose, select or elect an unworthy person to heaven as it would be for him to torture a righteous person. Furthermore, to be unchosen to a particular office or position does not imply that the unchosen one is wholly undesirable, but merely that he is not chosen to the particular office or position for which choice is being made.
Since God is good and all his plans are wise and beneficent, it follows that to be selected by him to perform any part of his plan is an honor and a favor. Thus God, having purposed in himself the redemption of mankind from the curse, and the consequent lifting up or restoration of all things (Acts 3:19,21), not only foretold it, but began preparations for that restitution. Accordingly, having also determined that this restitution should be accomplished by means of a "Kingdom of God" or a government of earth in harmony with his laws, and having predetermined that this Kingdom should be of two parts, a human and a spiritual, he began his preparation by selecting first the natural or human portion of the proposed, and as yet future, Kingdom.
Mark well that God fore-ordained these two classes, and the work for which he intended them, long before the individuals composing them had any existence. But how has this predetermined will of God operated in selecting the predetermined classes for the predetermined service of honor? Infinite wisdom [R1457 : page 308] made choice among the families of earth and chose Abraham and his family. Arbitrarily, and without reason for such a choice? Probably not: in all probability Abraham's family was best suited to the divine purpose, the best adapted to the execution of the plan God had in view.
It was part of Israel's difficulty that they supposed God's election of their nation an arbitrary one, and thought it a sufficient guarantee of God's exclusive favor to be able to say, Abraham is our father – we are, through him, the elect people of God. (Luke 3:8.) But this was a mistake; for though God had chosen Abraham's family for a special service, and separated them by his law and favors from other nations, this was the extent of the favor they enjoyed – "To them were committed the oracles of God."
But by reason of this national favor each individual of that nation had special knowledge and opportunities beyond those of other nations; and their faithfulness or unfaithfulness, obedience or disobedience, to this knowledge and favor decided which individuals of that called and chosen and favored nation were worthy of the position of future honor and service as members of the human or earthly phase of the Kingdom of God, which is to be established in ruling and blessing power "under the whole heavens."
Which individuals, because of faith and obedience, were accepted as making their election sure to that future honor and service, we know only in part. The names of some of the most notable only are given by the Apostle. (Heb. 11:17-39.) These evidenced their worthiness of the favors of God held before them, by the sacrifices which they made of present honors and comforts, to obtain the future and lasting honors of heavenly promise. Therefore God will in due time honor them by manifesting them as his elect to the position and service to which he called them, and will give them a portion or share in the "heavenly city;" i.e., in the heavenly government or kingdom which he will establish – the portion promised them and to which they and all Israel were called or invited, but for which the great majority were unworthy. Yet the rejected Israelites are not to be cast off from all favor of God; rather, they will be blessed by and under the righteous dominion which Christ will establish, and in which their fellows are granted the earthly portion. They shall see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the Kingdom of God, and they themselves unworthy of that honor.* – Heb. 11:16; Luke 13:28.
The election of the full number for the human portion of the Kingdom ended about the time of Jesus' baptism and anointing, when he began to bring life and immortality to light. Then began the selection of the class which God had predetermined he would select from among men for exaltation to the "divine nature," and to constitute the spiritual phase of the Kingdom which will restore and bless the world. Of these Jesus was the first, the "forerunner," the chief or captain. In the selection of this spiritual class, Abraham's literal descendants, the Hebrews, have not been so exclusively favored as they were in the previous election; for instead of the light of truth (the "oracles of God"), through which the call is made, being confined to Israel, it has by God's design and arrangement gone out into all the earth – calling all who have "an ear to hear" to justification, through faith in the blood of Christ as their redemption price, and, further, to sacrifice and glory – the "high calling." The only pre-eminence given to Hebrews under this last call is that it commenced with them. (Luke 24:47.) The previous call was confined to them.
Nor should we overlook the fact that, though in the process of selecting these two classes certain individuals were elected or chosen to do a service in connection with the calling of these classes, this in no way implied their election to one of those classes. Thus Jacob, like Abraham, was chosen to be a father of the favored nation, and Moses, Samuel and others were chosen to a service in the first selection, as Paul and the [R1457 : page 309] other apostles, and others since, have been chosen and selected for special service as God's agents in the selection of the spiritual class; yet their being elected to this service was in no way an infringement upon their free moral agency, and in no way decided for them the question of their final election to the class to which each was called.
Thus Paul, after telling us that God chose him and prepared him for this service in early life (Gal. 1:15), also assures us that he knew full well that the call to this service, and the fact that he was used as a servant in announcing the "heavenly calling" to others, by no means proved that he would attain the prize of his high calling.
To be called to such special service as Paul and the other apostles were called to was a special honor which they must appreciate to use; to have a call to the heavenly and the future service is a still greater honor; and the worthiness of the apostles, and of all who will attain it, is, during this age, being tested by the measure of their love and gratitude to God, as shown in their obedience, and proved by their self-denials.
That Paul understood that obedience or unfaithfulness to the present opportunities was to prove whether he was worthy or unworthy to be a member of the already elect or predetermined spiritual class – the "body of Christ" – is clearly evident from his many statements to this effect. For instance, he says, "I keep my body under, and bring it into subjection [I do not allow my human appetites, or ambitions, or hopes, to govern my course, but I permit the new mind, begotten of God's promises, to rule], lest that by any means, when I have preached to others [of the great prize for which we run and sacrifice], I myself should be a castaway"* [rejected as unworthy a place in that choice company which God has predetermined shall be composed of "overcomers"]. (1 Cor. 9:27.) "Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended [or grasped the prize to which God called me, and for which I, with you, am running]; but....I press along the line towards the prize of the high calling." (Phil. 3:11-15.) And in the preceding verses [R1458 : page 309] he tells us in what way he was running or pressing along the line to win this great prize which God has already predetermined to give to the class whom he would select for it. He tells us that he was casting away former hopes, and ambitions, and honors, as though they were worthless and vile, and spending every effort to win a place in the body of Christ, and to secure a share in the chief resurrection (to spiritual being).
He well knew that, because redeemed, "all in their graves" would in due time "come forth:" but he knew, too, that only the elect "little flock" would be raised spiritual beings like their Captain and Forerunner; and he was willing to sacrifice everything (as Christ also did) to obtain a place in that elect class. The Apostle knew also that from the moment of consecration he was reckoned a member of that chosen "body" or "bride" of Christ, and that his name was "written in heaven" (Heb. 12:23); and though he had full assurance of faith each moment, because of full knowledge that he was daily a living sacrifice, yet he also knew that for him to turn back, or even to "look back" (or desire to recover that which he had sacrificed), would prove him unworthy of the kingdom position. He well knew that he who wrote his name in heaven, when he consecrated and started to run, could blot it out; and that the condition upon which it would not be blotted out was, faithfulness to the end of the race. (Rev. 3:5.) And not until his faithful course was closing with martyrdom did he write, "I have fought a good fight; I have finished my course; I have kept the faith; henceforth there is laid up [reserved securely] for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day; and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing." – 2 Tim. 4:7,8.
Yet, while remembering that God has made the deciding of the matter, whether or not we shall be members of the elect company to which he called us, to depend upon our faithfulness to the end – "unto death" – we should [R1458 : page 310] ever bear in mind, as Paul did, that the prize is not offered to us because of our worthiness of it, but of God's grace or favor; and that our running is acceptable only because of God's "mercy" in imputing to us the merits of Christ, our Redeemer, as the covering of our inherited weaknesses and imperfections. – Rom. 9:16. [R1458 : page 310]
(1) "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." – 1 Cor. 10:12.
(2) "Give diligence to make your calling and election sure; for if ye do these things ye shall never fall." – 2 Peter 1:10.
(3) "Whosoever of you are justified by the Law, ye are fallen from favor." "Christ shall profit you nothing." – Gal. 5:2,4.
(4) "For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened,...if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance." – Heb. 6:4-6. (a) "Him that is able to keep you from falling [stumbling], and to present you faultless." – Jude 24.
(b) "I am persuaded that neither death, nor life,... nor things present, nor things to come,...shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." – Rom. 8:38,39.
(c) "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me, and I give unto them eternal life. And they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand. My father which gave them me is greater than all; and no one is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand." – John 10:27-29.
In the light of the foregoing statement of the doctrine of election as deduced from Scripture, the above and similar texts cease to seem contradictory, and become clear, harmonious and reasonable. To show the harmony we have selected some of those apparently most contradictory and positive, which will serve to illustrate how all similar statements are in harmony. The first four show the possibility of falling from grace or favor; the last three seem to many to teach that to fall from God's favor is an impossibility.
It is a mistake to suppose that favor and love are synonymous, for though the favor of God always implies his love, yet the withdrawal of favor does not imply hatred. To illustrate: When God created our race representatively in Adam, he placed it in a position of favor, and when it afterward fell from that favor by disobedience to the conditions, God so loved the race (fallen from his favor), while yet sinners, as to provide a ransom for all, that thereby he might in due time restore all to the original favor, thus giving another or second opportunity to enjoy life as his favor, everlastingly.
Every act must be in harmony with his justice, love and wisdom: not with one alone, but with all of these divine attributes must every act of God conform. Hence in dealing with us, should we fall from his favor, whatever happens to us will be in full harmony with God's character – whatever his justice, wisdom and love indicate to be best. Let us keep this well in mind.
To fall from favor implies that those who fall had first been lifted up, given a vantage ground for present or future possibility and advantage. The seriousness of the loss by a fall from favor depends upon the greatness or amount of the favor spurned or left.
Two of the three above-mentioned texts (a,b,c) assure us that God will not withdraw from us any favor he ever bestows; he will never cast us off or cause us to fall. And, more than this, his love is so great that he will not permit others to separate us from his favor contrary to our own will. And since his love is so great and his power all-mighty, we have full confidence that no power in earth or heaven can forcibly separate us from his love and the favors granted us in and through our Redeemer. Here rests our full assurance of faith – none can pluck us from our Father's favor and protection:
"In God I have found a retreat,
Where I can securely abide;
No refuge nor rest so complete,
And here I intend to reside.
"Oh! what comfort it brings,
My soul sweetly sings,
I am safe from all danger
While under his wings."
But is there then no danger? There is no danger of others plucking or forcibly separating us from God's favor, or turning his love away from us: the only danger is in our own doings. We can despise or lightly esteem the favors of God, and thus forfeit our privileges under those favors, and fall from them; but [R1458 : page 311] we cannot forfeit all favor, except by direct and open apostasy. God will not force his favors upon any, but decides that those who do not appreciate the favors, when made fully aware of them, are not worthy of them.
Text number 1 guards us on this very point. Our safety is in a vivid realization of our own helplessness and dependence upon God's favor. To realize our own imperfection and inability to justify ourselves is the safeguard against that self-righteousness which spurns justification as the favor of God, through the ransom given by our Lord Jesus. True humility and dependence upon God accepts his favor of justification in the way he provides it – through Christ's ransom – and thus prevents its possessors from spurning, and counting a common or ordinary thing, the sacrifice of Christ – "the blood of the covenant." (Heb. 10:26-29.) In harmony with this is the text marked a. God is able to keep us from falling or even stumbling over his favors; and he is so willing to aid us and keep us, that he has in his Word made every provision for our assistance, and assures us that the Scriptures are able to make us wise regarding his favors, so that we shall be able to avoid falling from them, and to obtain them.
Here text number 2 applies, and shows that while God has supplied every necessary aid to keep us from falling, he has left the matter in such a way as to make our earnest desire for the promised blessings a condition of our not falling from or failing to secure the favors offered us. We must give diligence and attention to the assistance and directions he has provided.
A difference in the extent of the fall and the seriousness of the consequences is shown in texts 3 and 4. The former shows a Jew who had trusted in his ability to keep the Law, who afterward came to see in Jesus his Redeemer, and became his follower, and thus reached and laid hold of justification, God's favor granted through the ransom. Under false teaching he had been led to the erroneous conclusion that though Jesus was a good example of holy living, yet all must still be justified, if at all, by perfect obedience to the Law. Paul addresses this one and all such in this text (3), and assures them that by such conclusions they renounce and reject God's favor, and place themselves again just where they were before they heard of Christ – under the Law, which could never justify them. – Rom. 8:3 – margin.
Their conclusion that Jesus was merely an example and teacher was fallacious. There were, and had been, many noble exemplars and good teachers, and in thus regarding Jesus they were rejecting all that was specially valuable in him. Our Lord's example and teachings [R1459 : page 311] could never give us everlasting life, unless his Ransom-sacrifice had first justified believers. Regarding Christ as an "example" would be of no everlasting profit or advantage: nothing could thus advantage them until past sins were canceled, and they reckoned justified through the shed blood (the death) of Christ. – Rom. 5:9.
This fall from grace, though serious, in that it would hinder their progress and keep them on the level of the Jew and the unjustified world, would not necessarily be an everlasting loss or fall, because, if they perceive not their error sooner, the time will come when "every hidden thing shall be made manifest." Then a correct knowledge of the Lord shall fill the whole earth, and "none shall need to say unto his neighbor, Know thou the Lord! [or understand thou of the ransom for sin] for all shall know him from the least to the greatest;" and then, if not sooner, these and the prejudice-blinded Jews and all others shall see clearly and enter gladly upon the favor from which the Apostle tells us these were falling.
But the other text (4) tells of a fall from favor that is a far greater loss, and one which can never be regained in this or any other age. The Apostle assures us of those who thus fall away, that "it is impossible to renew [or restore] them again." Why is it thus – why the difference in these fallings? We answer: Because those of the class here referred to (Heb. 6:4-6) have had fuller knowledge; and by having gone along from favor to favor, their fall is without excuse and indicates deliberation, a wilfulness, wholly inconsistent with their knowledge. While the others (text 3) were but deceived "babes," these (text 4) were matured and advanced in knowledge beyond first principles. And any who have not advanced to [R1459 : page 312] the point of favor here indicated could not fall from it; and from such state of favor only is it possible to fall so utterly as to be beyond hope – in the second death.
But notice carefully the conditions of such a fall – the height of the multiplied favors, from which if any fall it is impossible to restore or renew them. They must have been "once enlightened," brought to discern sin clearly, its penalty, and the ransom price given for the sinner. They must have "tasted of the heavenly gift:" not merely heard of Christ's sacrifice, etc., but tasted in blessed experience the results of that ransom in realizing sins forgiven, and communion and fellowship with God restored, through "the blood of the Lamb." They must have been "made partakers of the holy Spirit," coming into heart fellowship with God's plans, and for a time at least being co-workers with him – begotten by the Spirit to fuller appreciation of the truth and to new hopes and aims. They must "have tasted of the good Word of God," by experiencing the pleasures of the appreciated fulfilment of some of the statements and promises thereof, and by recognizing a grandeur and beauty in the as yet unfulfilled portions. These must also have tasted, experienced or come to appreciate "the powers of the coming age," realizing from the good Word of God the blessings and powers that will then be brought into exercise for the blessing and restoring of mankind, all as the fruit and result of the ransom.
Should such as have seen, tasted, experienced and enjoyed all these favors then fall away to the extent of "denying the Lord having bought them" (2 Pet. 2:1 – Diaglott), denying the ransom – the very foundation of all those hopes and blessings seen and experienced – they would be treading under foot the Son of God, in rejecting the blood of the covenant, wherewith they were sanctified (and in which they had trusted, and on account of which they had been privileged to grow in grace and knowledge). If they thus count that blood an unholy (ordinary) thing, and despise the favor of God in providing the sacrifice for our sins (Heb. 10:25-29), there is no forgiveness for them further; no restoring from such a miserable fall from such heights of favor and knowledge. And who, except those who thus "fall away," would dispute the righteousness of this, our Father's decision? The expression of his justice and wisdom, in full harmony with his character of love, is that such shall "be as though they had not been" born. The prolongation of such lives could not be a profit or a pleasure to God, to themselves or to their fellows.
The sentence is manifestly just. It is wise, because if these have thus seen the grand outline of God's plans, and despise and repudiate the divinely-appointed foundation of it all, then moral force, the force of truth, is seen to be unavailing upon them, and God sees that thereafter it would be impossible to renew them or to make them recognize the beauty of his way. Therefore divine wisdom has decided that all thus out of harmony, without possibility of reformation, shall be utterly destroyed as thorns and briers are destroyed, and for the same reason. – Heb. 6:7,8.
And this same principle will obtain in the next age as well, when the full opportunities of that age of favors are enjoyed by all the world. Those who wilfully reject and despise the precious blood, spurn forgiveness through it, and thus crucify Christ afresh, will thereby fall hopelessly; because, after having enjoyed the blessings secured by the ransom, they spurn and reject it. Christ dieth no more. The one sacrifice once fully appreciated and wilfully rejected leaves the rejectors in the same state as though no ransom had ever been given. It remands them again under the original penalty, death, extinction. And, because they had once been redeemed from it as the Adamic penalty, and had thus again come under it of their own will and act, it is called the second death.
Thus may not all see clearly God's election of classes for future service, and of nations and individuals for present service, and yet recognize that God leaves his creatures free to exercise their own wills in accepting or rejecting his arrangements and favors? He seeks such to worship and serve him as serve from the heart – in spirit and in truth; and such preeminently are the classes selected in this and in the preceding age for the Kingdom's positions and honors.
Many have applied this parable to Jews and Gentiles, assuming that the Gentiles are illustrated in the prodigal son. To us, this interpretation is not consistent with facts and Scripture; for up to the time of the giving of the parable, and for years afterward (three years and a half after Pentecost), the Gentiles were not recognized as sons of God, but as "strangers," "aliens," "foreigners," "having no hope, and without God in the world." (Eph. 2:11,12.) From the time of the fall none but the one line of Adam's children had divine favor – the line of which Noah and Abraham and Israel and Christ came – the line of Seth. (Amos 3:2.) All of this line, as the record shows, were accepted through the mediation of typical sacrifices of atonement for their sins – except Christ, whose life was from another father than Adam, and who himself became the true antitypical sacrifice of atonement for Adam and all who lost life in him.
Gentiles, consequently, cannot have been meant or illustrated by the prodigal son of the parable, for they had never been sons, and could not have left the father's house when they never were in it. We must look elsewhere for the class represented.
Others have suggested that the two sons represent, the elder the "overcomers" and the younger the "great company" of the Gospel Church: that those who fail to live up to their covenant are represented in the prodigal and may be said to be wasting their spiritual privileges, with figurative publicans and harlots, in the enjoyments of worldly favor, and in immunity from the reproaches which fall upon the faithful covenant-keepers who are "dying daily" in the service of the Master according to their covenant. But it should be noticed that this exposition reverses the order of the parable, makes of the prodigal the one free from the reproaches and opposition of the world, and represents those who suffer with Christ for righteousness' sake as the elder son who suffered nothing. In the parable it was the elder son that had the good things, the plenty of food and clothing and every comfort; and it was the prodigal son who was ragged and hungry and barefoot and suffering and outcast with the swine.
In the parable the elder brother represented the Pharisees, and the younger brother the publicans and sinners. The context shows that our Lord's willingness to receive the "lower classes" of the Jews, those who were living sinful lives regardless of God's laws and of their covenant, had excited the anger of the Pharisees. The latter were strict observers of God's Law, and in this respect commendable; but they were blameworthy in that they were proud of their religion, and boasted of their goodness; and because they despised and spurned and would not recognize, nor speak to, nor eat with, the irreligious class; and the more so because in their pride they failed to acknowledge the fact that, when doing their best to fulfil God's law, they came far short of perfect obedience.
Our Lord's strict observance of the Law [for, being born a Jew, born under the Law, he was bound to and did respect every legal requirement up to the day of his death – which ended that Law covenant] no doubt made him at first a favorite with the Pharisees: accordingly we find him occasionally the guest of some of them. [R1460 : page 313] (Luke 7:36; 5:17; John 3:1,2.) But when they found that he received sinners and ate with them, they began to realize that his righteousness was of a different sort from theirs, and, as darkness is opposed to light, they hated him. Moreover, soon they began to see that his teachings reflected against them, severely reproving their claimed and yet very imperfect sanctity. So it was in this parable and the others of the same discourse: they were spoken to the Pharisees as a reproof, because they had murmured at him for teaching or having anything to do with the disreputable backsliders. – See Luke 15:1-3. [R1460 : page 314]
Originally all the Jews entered into covenant relationship with God, and thus became, typically, his sons. Although they were a "house" of servants as contrasted with the Christian Church, called the "house" of sons, yet we must remember that they typified the house of spiritual sons, and that as Adam was a human son of God before he sinned, so all who obtain forgiveness and return to harmony with God are again sons, either of the earthly or the spiritual family. So, then, as in this parable, all Israelites under the Jewish covenant were treated as (human) sons of God. The beginning of this relationship dated from the Covenant at Sinai.
At first all sought to abide in God's favor at "home," fulfilling the relationship of obedient sons – the original or eldest son of the parable, represented most prominently in our Lord's day by the Pharisees. But another class developed, who, after having received God's favors, wandered off into the ways of sin and forgetfulness of God, and his love and care, and into dissipation – the younger son of the parable, represented in our Lord's day by the publicans and sinners.
Sin always brings misery in some form, and often in many forms: and one can fancy that the publicans and sinners, as they heard the story of the young prodigal beginning to feel his lack, would realize their own miserable condition therein pictured. Before the Master had finished telling how the prodigal "came to himself," and how the father "saw him a long way off" and ran to meet and greet him, no doubt many of the hearers' eyes were wet with tears, and many of their hearts swelling with emotion and sympathy and the desire similarly to get back from the service of the devil to God's favor and love.
And how true to facts was the picture of the Pharisees standing around and objecting to his telling those poor prodigals anything about the love of God and his willingness to forgive them, and to welcome them back home again. The elder son of the parable was "angry, and would not go in:" the self-righteous Pharisees were angry, too, and refused to enter the Kingdom, then nigh at hand, and first offered to their nation according to divine promise. Our Lord said to them upon another occasion, "Woe, unto you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in" (Matt. 23:13); and again he said, "Verily, I say unto you that publicans and sinners shall go into the kingdom before you." (Matt. 21:31.) Poor, self-righteous Pharisees! To this day they are jealous and will "not go in." As a class they refused the Kingdom on the conditions offered, until the offer and opportunity were taken from them entirely (Matt. 21:43), and given to a class whom they esteemed still less than the publicans and sinners – even to the Gentiles whom they esteemed as "dogs," from among whom, strangers and aliens and not then sons, members for the Bride and Kingdom of Christ are being selected.
We who have been accepted by God from among the Gentiles to be his sons – joint-heirs with Christ – can perhaps enter as fully into the spirit of this parable as did the publicans and sinners who heard the gracious words from the Redeemer's lips. We, who were strangers and aliens, learned that the Father prepared a great sacrifice for the sins of all condemned in Adam. We have heard and tasted of his loving welcome into his family – we who were dead in trespasses and sins, but who are now alive toward God through Jesus Christ, our Lord. We received the "best robe," the robe of Christ's righteousness, replacing the filthy rags of our unrighteousness; we received the ring, representing the witness of the spirit that we are sons and heirs; we received the sandals, preparing us for the sharp contact often to be experienced from the beggarly elements of the present evil world; and above all we received the kiss, the seal of our reconciliation, the mark of our adoption into the divine family. Nothing in this parable shows the necessity for the ransom as other Scriptures show it. This, however, is not out of harmony but consistent with our interpretation of the parable; for Israel as a whole had been typically atoned for in the typical sacrifices by which their covenant was introduced and renewed [R1460 : page 315] yearly. It is therefore evidently a picture of the return of a backslidden son, and not that of the redemption of a condemned stranger and alien.
The lesson of this parable to the Pharisees is one widely applicable in its principles – viz.: that all who are in harmony with God should, nay, all who have the spirit of holiness will, rejoice to see sinners returning to divine favor. Any other spirit will surely work injury, as it did to the Pharisees, who, as a class, were unfit in their selfishness to share the blessings God had or ever will have to offer. Thank God, the time for removing blindness will soon be here. (Isa. 35:5.) Let us trust that under the new conditions many more will learn and practice the spirit of love, who now are ruled by selfishness. How hardly shall a selfish man enter the Kingdom! Let us beware of selfishness, and embroider our wedding-robe with flowers of humility and love.
"Return, return!" thy Father's voice is pleading,
"Tho' far astray, I bid thee turn again!
Thy robe is rent, thy tender feet are bleeding,
Thy heart is faint and sick with famine pain:
Return, my child: a welcome here awaits thee;
No longer in the distant country rove;
Resist the cruel tempter that belates thee,
And keeps thee from my dwelling and my love."
Return, return! Thy Father's loving-kindness
Thou long hast scorned, and done his grace despite;
Yet in his touch is healing for thy blindness,
And he can turn thy darkness into light.
Return in all thy rags of sin's defilement;
Return with all thy want and sore distress;
Thy Father's voice bespeaks his reconcilement:
Flee to his breast, and there thy guilt confess.
Return, return! Thy substance hath been wasted –
Thou hast not aught to bring but thy poor heart;
Yet art thou longing for the bread once tasted,
And for his paths of peace, and faith's good part?
Return, for why shouldst thou delay the pardon
Thy Father's great compassion waits to grant!
Arise and go, before thy doubts shall harden
The homesick yearnings of the penitent.
Return, return! Leave thou the swine and famine
And seek again the plenty of thy home!
Why dost thou toil among the husks of mammon,
When to his rest the Father bids thee come?
Return thou to his arms, his kiss, his blessing;
Accept the robe, the sandals, and the ring;
And there, thy sinfulness and guilt confessing,
Thou shalt be found, lost treasure of the King!
Return, return! The angel-hosts bend o'er thee –
They wait to bear the tidings' joyful sound.
They have beheld the Savior dying for thee,
And will rejoice to sing, The lost is found!
Return, for he will heal all thy backsliding –
Will love thee freely, and will thus forgive;
Come, weary soul, rest in his love abiding.
Thou hast been dead – arise to-day and live!
"Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever. Amen." – 2 Pet. 3:17,18.
There is a touching tenderness in the Epistles of the aged Apostle Peter to the household of faith, showing that, while he realized that the time of his departure was drawing nigh (2 Pet. 1:14; John 21:18,19), his solicitude for the growth and development of the Church was increasing. Accordingly, he writes two general epistles, not so much to advance new truth, as to call to remembrance truths already learned and fully received (2 Pet. 1:12-15), and to counsel all to faithfulness and to growth in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
In the preceding verses he has been calling to mind some of these truths, and he recognizes the fact that those addressed are already established in them; but, in view of his knowledge that false teachers would arise to pervert the truth, he counsels special watchfulness against being led away from their present steadfastness by the error of the wicked. That this counsel of the Apostle has a special fitness to the Church in the last days, our days, and [R1461 : page 316] was evidently so designed by the Spirit of God, is clear from verse 3 – "There shall come in the last days scoffers," etc.
Let us observe the manner in which the Apostle would have us guard against being led away by the error of the wicked. Is it by a careful investigation of all the claims which every new false prophet that arises may intrude upon our attention, thus giving heed to every seducing spirit (1 Tim. 4:1)? No: that would be quite contrary to the teaching of "our beloved brother Paul," to whom Peter so affectionately refers, and whom he so fully endorses; for Paul had given no uncertain counsel on this subject, saying, "Shun profane and vain babblings; for they will increase unto more ungodliness, and their word will eat as doth a canker;" and "I entreat you, brethren, to mark those who are making factions and laying snares contrary to the teaching which you have learned, and turn away from them; for they that are such are not in subjection to our Anointed Lord, but to their own appetite [for honor and praise among men, as great teachers – 1 Tim. 1:6,7]; and by kind and complimentary words they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting....I wish you to be wise with respect to that which is good, and harmless with respect to that which is evil." – 2 Tim. 2:16,17; Rom. 16:17-19.
Peter felt the force of Paul's wise and earnest counsel, and with emphasis re-echoed the same sentiments. To give heed to such seducing doctrines, contrary to the doctrine which we have already received from the Lord and the apostles, argues a lack of faith in those doctrines. Such a one is not established in the faith. And indeed there are those – and such is the general sentiments among the teachers of false doctrine – who think that it is not either necessary or advisable to be established in the faith. To be established is to be a bigot, is the idea they advance. And so it is, if one is so unfair in mind as to accept and tenaciously hold that which he has never proved either by sound logic or Bible authority. But he is not an unreasoning bigot who, in simple faith, on the authority of God, accepts the Word of God. And such, and only such, as do so are established in the truth. The difference between the strong and steadfast Christian and a bigot is that the one is established in the truth, while the other is established in error. The former knows the truth, and the truth has made him free from all doubts and misgivings, and from all desires to delve into the muddy pool of human speculations. To all such Paul says, "As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: rooted and built up in him, and established in the faith, as ye have been taught [by us, the apostles], abounding therein with thanksgiving." – But, "Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ." – Col. 2:6-8.
With these sentiments of "our beloved brother Paul," Peter's counsel is in fullest harmony, his advice being, not to waste valuable time in investigating "the errors of the wicked," but, on the contrary, to endeavor the more earnestly to "grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ," who is the way, the truth and the life. The more thorough our knowledge of the Lord, and the more intimate our acquaintance with him, the more secure we are in our own steadfastness.
But what is it to grow in grace? It is to grow in favor with the Lord through an intimate personal acquaintance and fellowship of spirit with him. It implies, first, a knowledge and recognition on our part of our redemption through his precious blood and a personal faith in and dependence upon all the promises of the Father made to us through him, and then an intimate communion with him in our daily life of prayer, and of observation of his will and obedience to it. If such be our constant attitude of mind and heart, there must be a constant ripening of the fruits of the Spirit, rendering us more and more pleasing and acceptable to our Lord. A sense of the divine acceptance and favor is given to us from day to day in increasing measure, in fulfilment of that blessed promise of our Lord, "If a man love me, he will keep my words; and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him." – John 14:23. [R1461 : page 317]
This, as nearly as words can express it, is what it is to grow in grace; but the full and blessed understanding of it is best appreciated by those who from day to day walk with God in faith and obedience and love.
To grow thus in grace and not grow in knowledge is impossible; for the very object of such communion is to build us up in a more perfect knowledge and acquaintance with the Lord – to bring us into closer fellowship with the divine plan, and to give us the privilege of being co-workers together with him in executing that plan. If, therefore, we love and obey the Lord and desire to grow in his favor, his written Word is our daily meditation and study, and thus we grow in knowledge: not, however, by finding out each year that what we learned last year was false, but by adding to what we learned last year, by putting on more and more of the armor of God until we realize its glorious completeness in the full discernment of the divine plan of the ages. We are then ready to do valiant service for the cause of truth in withstanding the encroachment of error (Eph. 6:10-13), being established, strengthened and settled in the faith. (1 Pet. 5:10.) But even to those thus established in the faith there is abundant opportunity to grow in knowledge; for while they will see nothing new or different in outline or design, they will be continually charmed and cheered with newly discovered lines of harmony and beauty in the divine drawings of the wonderful plan of the ages. As pupils we may ever study the master workmanship of the Divine Architect.
"And still new beauties shall we see,
And still increasing light."
Our beloved brother Peter, zealous for our growth in knowledge, endeavors to inspire us thereto, by calling our attention to the wonderful events and the close proximity of the day of the Lord, saying –
"The day of the Lord will come as a thief [unobserved by the world], in the which the heavens [present ecclesiastical powers] shall pass away with a great noise [tumult and confusion], and the elements [the various parties and sects composing it, split and torn by discordant views] shall melt with fervent heat [the heat of public discussion and investigation]: the earth also [society as at present organized under civil and ecclesiastical authority] and the works that are therein shall be burned up" [destroyed, in the strife and friction caused by increasing knowledge combined with selfishness. This will not be a literal fire, but, as described by the prophets, the fire of divine jealousy – Zeph. 1:18; 3:8]. (2 Pet. 3:10.) Already the noise and tumult, which shall thus eventuate in world-wide anarchy, are distinctly heard in every nation; for the day of the Lord has indeed begun, and the heat of human passion is growing more and more intense daily, and the great time of trouble is very near.
"Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved [seeing that present arrangements and institutions shall all go down], what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens [the present ruling powers] shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?" Let us indeed lay to heart this solemn question, for we stand in the very presence of the Judge of all the earth. These words, while addressed to God's people eighteen centuries ago, and serving a purpose for good all along down this Gospel age, are specially meant by the Spirit for us, who are living in this very Day of God.
"Nevertheless we [we who have come into covenant relationship with the Lord – we, unlike the rest of the world, know of the divine plan and], according to his promise, look for new heavens [the Kingdom of God – to be established in power and great glory] and a new earth [a new organization of society under the rulership of Christ and his glorified bride, the Church] wherein dwelleth righteousness." Blessed assurance! how favored are we above the people of the world who have not this knowledge!
"Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless." And Jude (24) reminds us that the Lord, in whose grace and knowledge Peter desires us to grow, "is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy." Amen.
IV. QUAR., LESSON VII., NOV. 13, ACTS 13:1-13.
VERSE 1. The Church at Antioch had grown and prospered under the instructions of Barnabas and Saul, who, after spending a year with them, went to Jerusalem at the time of the famine and must have returned again to Antioch and resumed their work of teaching and strengthening them in the faith and hope of the gospel. The occasion of this lesson was probably about a year after the famine. Not only had the Church there increased largely in numbers, but in their midst had developed both prophets and teachers. The view of this band of Christians is truly a refreshing one. Here Jews and Gentiles were made one in Christ Jesus, and mingled together in ardent devotion to the recognized Messiah. They were full of love and zeal; they were earnest students of the Word of the Lord as expounded by Barnabas and Saul; they were prompt in sending relief to other Christians in time of famine. And now, having themselves grown strong spiritually through the knowledge of the truth and humble submission to its teaching, the missionary spirit began to develop.
VERSE 2. As the prophets and teachers continued in the good work with fasting and prayer, the holy Spirit indicated in some way that Barnabas and Saul should be released from the work in Antioch and sent elsewhere, to the work whereunto God had called them – the work among the Gentiles – to which Saul had been appointed by a voice from heaven, and Barnabas by the circumstances which had drawn him into this work and by the ability he manifested in carrying it forward. We are not informed as to the manner in which the holy Spirit indicated this, whether by some miraculous means, or whether by a simple consensus of opinion regarding the matter, in view of the ability of the Church at Antioch now to dispense with their services.
VERSE 3. In a most solemn manner – with prayer and fasting and the laying on of hands – the dear brethren at Antioch bade Barnabas and Saul God-speed on their mission. The laying on of hands cannot be understood as conveying authority to these brethren to preach the gospel; for they had been preaching the gospel for several years: and, besides, these brethren who laid their hands on them were not bishops or great ones in the Church; but, like all the others, they were simply brethren in Christ. The laying on of their hands we understand, therefore, to signify that they wished the new converts abroad to recognize these two as representatives, not only of the Lord, but also of the Church at Antioch, who, in parting with them and foregoing the advantage of their services, thus manifested their disposition to bless others with the same good tidings which had so refreshed them. And doubtless they paid their expenses and pledged them the support of their sympathy and prayers, and their means, if need be. Thus Barnabas and Saul went forth in the name of the Lord, and of the Church at Antioch, who thereby shared in the enterprise. In the symbolic services of the Tabernacle, this same significance attached to the laying on of hands. Thus Aaron, the high-priest, in laying his hands upon the head of the bullock to be sacrificed, declared that the animal represented him (Lev. 8:14) and thus typified Christ Jesus, our great high-priest who gave himself a sacrifice for our sins.
Thus we see that there was no apostolic succession indicated in this simple ceremony; for, as a matter of fact, it was brethren who were not apostles who laid their hands on one (Saul) who was already an apostle chosen and ordained of God. – 1 Tim. 2:7.
VERSES 4,5. Being thus sent forth by the holy Spirit, they began their work in the synagogues of the Jews, because the Jews, having a knowledge of the prophecies and of the events, etc., connected with the life and tragic death of Jesus of Nazareth, were best fitted to receive the truth. Just so now the truths of the new, Millennial dispensation belong to Christians first, and the testimony should be borne to them before going to the world in general. This being our custom, we are often confronted with the query, Why not go rather to wicked people who never go to church? We reply, Because this gospel is sent to the meek (Isa. 61:1), and because "Light is sown for the righteous, and joy for the upright in heart."
But the temples of the nominal church today do not offer the same advantages for the [R1461 : page 319] presentation of the truth as did the synagogues of the Jews. The former are so hedged about with restrictions and formalities that there is almost no opportunity to present the truth there, while the Jewish synagogues, on the contrary, were open to any one who would read or expound the Scriptures. So also were the assemblies of Christians in those days of primitive simplicity, which have been so widely departed from by the nominal church of these later days.
VERSES 6-12 show how God worked with Barnabas and Saul and manifested his power through them. As they sought to make plain the way of truth to an earnest inquirer an enemy appeared who endeavored to withstand their teaching; but the power of God exercised through Saul promptly silenced the opposer, and the truth had free course.
Here the question naturally arises, Why does such power not exist in the Church to-day? On every hand the foes of truth and righteousness arise and flourish, and there is no power to withstand them save the power of the truth. We answer, it was not God's purpose thus to defend the Church from her foes all through the age. It was his purpose, on the contrary, to let "the mystery of iniquity" work and prosper, and to let the Church develop under the trial; but in those early days, in order to let truth have a start on a fair footing it was necessary for a time to restrain the power of the adversary, as in the case of Elymas the sorcerer. The difference between that time and this is that that was the seed-sowing time while this is the harvest. And therefore God now permits false teachers to increase and multiply more and more, and to have such liberty that, if it were possible, they would deceive the very elect. Even these enemies serve a purpose in testing and in sifting the true children of God from the false.
DEAR FRIEND IN CHRIST: – I received your card, the Tracts and two numbers of "Zions Watch Tower," for which favors please accept thanks. I did not know that there was any such line of thought in publication, until I acted as scribe for a friend in ordering "Millennial Dawn;" but I have been reading the Word very studiously for some years, with the heart and will surrendered to God, and the body presented a living sacrifice. I sought to know God only in this search after truth; for Jesus, in his beautiful prayer, said, "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent."
I have read many publications, getting some food from each and all; but I have never found the liberty which you advocate, and which undoubtedly is of God, made practical; and I can accept nothing less than the liberty wherewith Christ has set me free. What need have we of man's sanction or ordination, since to come under man's dictation is to cut off spiritual communication with God. My continual aspiration to God is, Fashion me as the potter fashions the clay. Fill me with the knowledge of thy will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding. I am glad that I may be his child without subscribing to any rules according to the wisdom of man, which is foolishness with God. I am sure we may have Jesus dwelling in us, we may be baptized into his death (and so put on Christ), and his life may be sustained in us, as we eat of his broken body and drink of his shed blood.
Praise the Lord, O my soul; be glad in the Lord, and rejoice! Oh, how unkind not to believe him and live; for he delighteth not in the death of him that dieth. Yes, he died to deliver us from death. He took the flesh, that through his death he might destroy him that has the power of death, that is the devil, and deliver us.
Yours very truly in the love of the truth,
TOWER PUBLISHING CO.: – I received the three volumes of "Dawn" and several numbers of the Tower. They are indeed a helping hand to one who has been struggling to get into the light but dimly seen, standing outside of the Babel of confused tongues for nearly twenty-five years, and waiting for the Lord's coming since 1844. I now stand on the verge of three score years and ten, and pray, "Thy Kingdom come;" and with the ardent desire of the souls under the altar I inquire, How long, O Master, how long?
How almost overwhelming is such a flood of light as the Lord is now giving through you and others of his chosen messengers! How inexpressible and exultant the joy of such light! [R1461 : page 320] I have often remarked that wherever there is an earnest, persistent seeker of the truth, it will finally come to such an one; and that if there should be no other way, a special messenger would be sent.
I am thankful for the opportunity now offered to do some little service for the Master, by circulating your publications wherever I find a hearing ear or a waiting soul. Our Lord said, "Ye are my witnesses;" and I fear that I have not been a faithful witness, although I taught many of these truths privately for some years. Standing outside of all human organizations, and in a very dark corner of the earth, and knowing nothing of the TOWER movement (or work), I felt alone and fearful. But my moral courage is now greatly strengthened by the knowledge of the fact that there are so many and such strong laborers in the field. May the Lord ever guide us, and teach us when and what to speak, and when to be silent.
Yours in him,
TOWER PUBLISHING CO.: – I received the third volume of MILLENNIAL DAWN, and I was well pleased with it, as with the first and second volumes. They have given me great light on what seemed dark and mysterious passages of the Bible; and they have created in me a new interest in the study of the Old as well as the New Testament – not for mere curiosity, but because I see a new beauty in all their teachings, in all God's plans and purposes. We are made willing or unwilling instruments to accomplish his will. What a blessed thought, to be willing workers in his vineyard, and to be waiting with glad hearts for the Master's return to secure his own.
DEAR FRIENDS: – I am sincerely grateful for the generous gift of the WATCH TOWER. I enjoy it beyond my power to express, and I read it, as I do the DAWN, with the Scriptures open beside me. The beauty and value of your publications lie in the fact that every statement is so completely fortified by Scripture references. I sometimes read the whole chapter, where one verse or more is referred to, and I am conscious of a much clearer comprehension of Bible teachings than I ever had before; for I was much troubled by skepticism. I did not then know how to study the Scriptures, as many of my teachers were also partially blind.
I am very thankful that our blessed Savior so ordered the late events of my life that I was permitted to obtain some of the true light, and I trust some of that wisdom that maketh wise unto salvation. I believe it was his grace that caused some Tracts to be sent to me, and that led me to obtain Volume I. of DAWN. By the time that I had carefully read Chapter vi. of that work, all my skepticism and doubts disappeared. To me the Scriptures are not contradictory, nor is our loving Creator unjust, unwise, or lacking in power. Yea, he is infinite in all his attributes.
I intend to use all means and opportunities in my power to aid in spreading the light that has so mercifully been extended to me. I desire to consecrate all my abilities, and the remainder of my life, to the circulation of literature that tends to a knowledge of righteousness, the truths of Scripture, the wonderful plans of our Creator, our Father, and his infinite love, wisdom and justice. May the Lord grant abundant success to our labors for the spiritual help of mankind. Gratefully yours in the Lord,
The following letter, just at hand, indicates that there are some truth-seekers in the pulpits too: a fact that one might be inclined to doubt, from the number of ministers who seem determinedly opposed even to investigating anything approximating "good tidings of great joy for all people" – hating the light, neither coming to it; but, like their prototypes in the Jewish "harvest," stopping and in every way hindering all who are longing for the dawn of the Millennial morning. Let us not despair of the ministers: there are some honest ones among them. Let us remember that it costs them more than others to embrace present truths. One of them (a Presbyterian minister in Pittsburg), after admitting privately that he believed much taught in the Dawns, was asked, Why [R1462 : page 320] then do you not preach it? His candid reply was: "My bread is not buttered on that side."
BRETHREN: – If you have anything Biblical in "The Plan of the Ages" which will lift the awful load of depression from mind and heart, and harmonize natural and "revealed" religion, in the name of mercy send it to me by return mail. Find thirty cents inclosed.