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Whilst some go to the extreme of saying and hoping that their good works will commend them to God's favor, regardless of what faith they hold, others make the serious mistake of supposing that if they hold a correct faith there can be no necessity for works. But though faith in the redemptive work of Christ is indispensable – so that no works of ours would be acceptable to God without it – and though clear knowledge and faith respecting the divine plan are to be desired and sought, yet the objective value of all faith and knowledge is to lead the believer into works of service for the Lord.
Nor should we esteem works essential to the success of God's plan for the blessing and instruction of others; for, if we are unwilling, our God is able to use many other agencies. Rather we should esteem it a privilege to be co-workers with our God, to honor his name and to serve his people; and indeed it is thus that the worker in the Master's service is blessed – every effort to serve his Master adds to his strength and joy. The Lord is seeking for membership in his Bride such believers as feel so full of grateful joy for their own redemption and are so anxious to honor and serve their Redeemer that they esteem it a privilege to work in his service – a privilege to suffer as well as to labor for him and in co-operating with his plan.
This being the case, beloved, none of us can afford to exercise or cultivate a spirit of idleness. Those who idle away their time, and those who absorb it all in the service of business, or pleasure, or family, or self, are laying up no treasure in heaven, however much or little they may be laying by on earth. Present opportunities for sacrificing service are therefore to be esteemed, not only as the greatest privileges of the present life, but also as the greatest privileges ever offered or to be offered.
Let each one, then, ask himself – What am I doing for God, his plan and his people? If you are doing all that you can do, be glad and rejoice, even though that all be miserably small, even in your own estimation. It is the will and effort to DO and to BE that our Redeemer regards with loving favor. But if you are not doing all that you could do, be dissatisfied with yourself; and uneasy lest your listlessness and carelessness for his service settle it with the Master that you are unworthy to share in the work of glory as a member of his Church glorified.
Let each one resolve to do something each day to serve our gracious King – not to merit salvation, but as the expression of our love for him through whom we have redemption, even the forgiveness of sins.
Our Lord does not despise our feeblest efforts when prompted by warm, overflowing hearts. The servant who has but one talent and uses it faithfully will be welcomed as a good and faithful servant, as surely as the one who uses faithfully two, five or more talents. He that is faithful with a little can be trusted with more, and he that is unfaithful in the use of one talent would be unfaithful with more. And every one who uses his talents faithfully finds them increasing daily. He who cannot deliver an oration can speak a quiet, pointed word, or write a letter, or hand a tract, or loan or sell a DAWN. When so many privileges abound on every hand, surely all have several talents for service.
Be assured, dearly beloved, that neglect to use your privilege of serving the truth will react to your spiritual degeneracy. As a sound faith is for the purpose of leading to good works, so the activity of service is necessary to continued purity of faith. It is from this cause that many are stumbling into the "outer darkness" of agnosticism – doubt, uncertainty.
|VOL. XIII.||SEPTEMBER 1, 1892.||NO. 17.|
"Behold, I stand at the door and knock!" says the Master, addressing himself to the present or Laodicean stage of the Church nominal. Yet she is "rich and increased in goods" (in supposed world-converting machinery, as well as temporally prosperous), self-complacent and feeling no need for the second coming of the Lord and the establishment of his Kingdom to put down all enemies of righteousness, and to cause the knowledge of the Lord to fill the whole earth. She is so satisfied with the present machinery that she believes that she can do all this of herself, and would rather dislike to have the second advent occur now, to spoil her plans and her "many wonderful works." (Rev. 3:14-20; Matt. 7:22.) Hence she hears not the knockings which from time to time declare that he has already come – that he is even now present, doing his work, his great work [overthrowing the nations], and bringing to pass his act, his [to them] strange act [of spewing "Laodicea" out of his mouth], rejecting the nominal Church systems and casting all but the faithful into the outer darkness of the world, relative to his plans and doings, letting them have a full share in the vexatious time of trouble already begun. – Isa. 28:21,22.
Several loud raps have recently been given, so loud that even the worldly begin to inquire what they mean. Within the past two months, one loud, long knock came at Homestead and generally in the vicinity of Pittsburg. Another was heard in the Rocky Mountain mines. Another was heard in the coal-mining towns of Tennessee; another along the railroad lines in New York state; another in labor circles in France; another in the cholera plague visiting Europe.
Not that the Lord directly caused or approves of the rioting or bloodshed; but that these things are related to the day of his presence, the "day of trouble," with which the Gospel age will close and the Millennial age be ushered in – a day of distress and perplexity upon men, upon nations, and upon the Laodicean church – a day of vengeance and righteous retribution.
But whilst men's hearts are "failing them for fear and for looking after [forward to] those things coming upon the earth," of which present rumblings are but premonitions, an excellent opportunity is afforded, for those who understand the situation, to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom to all who have an ear for the message. These rumblings mean the breaking in pieces of the powers that be, the Gentile governments, which for now nearly 2500 years have, under Satan's blinding and by God's permit, ruled the world under the law of selfishness. The Scriptures have foretold the utter dissolution of society as at present organized, and the reconstruction of it upon principles of righteousness and love, under the great Prince Immanuel – upon whose reign all the gracious prophecies of peace and blessing and good will toward men depend; and for whose kingdom to come the whole creation (although ignorantly) is "groaning and travailing in pain together, waiting for the manifestation of the [R1439 : page 260] sons of God" [the Church – the Christ, head and body], in the power and glory of the Kingdom promised.
Let each of us who is informed through the Lord's Word be on the alert to invent and to wisely use the many opportunities now, thus afforded for preaching the good tidings of great joy which shall be unto all people. But great prudence is needed, and wisdom from on high should be sought, else the results may be injurious rather than beneficial. The right words at the right time will surely do good; while ill-chosen words or an inopportune time may prejudice the mind so as to hinder some from seeing the beauty of the Lord's plan for years to come. Our Lord's words, "Be ye wise as serpents and harmless as doves," should never be forgotten.
Sometimes, and with some people, the loan of a "Dawn" or of an Old Theology Tract, [R1440 : page 260] with very few words, is the wise course. At other times the words introducing the reading matter are all-important. And the true, earnest minister (servant) of the truth will lose sight of self, and all disposition to vaunt his knowledge of the Lord's word and plan, and will seek merely the glory of God and the blessing of his hearers.
Tell the story as simply, as kindly and as truthfully as possible. Overstatements harm the cause they would advance. Do justice to all concerned. "Let your moderation be known unto all men" – whichever side of the question they may take and however partisan they may be. Let your counsel and influence always stand for peace and right and order, however you may seek to make apology for blinded law-breakers on either side of any question. A poor law is better than no law. Lawlessness has no sanction in God's book, nor in the example of any held up to us by it as worthy of emulation; but the reverse: God is a God of order and of law, and all who have his spirit will be friends of order. True, all law and order will be overthrown in this day of trouble, and that by divine permission; but so long as there is any law, all who are God's people should respect it. When the Apostle said that we should "be subject to the powers that be," he did not add so long as the laws are perfectly just and equal. No: he knew, as we know, that laws made by imperfect men cannot be perfect laws. Our only question about obeying the laws must be if they conflict with our duty toward the divine law of love to God and to our fellow men. And very few, if any, human laws demand of us a violation of this, our supreme law.
While using present labor-troubles, etc., as a starting point for conversation, always remember that it is to be but an introduction to the Gospel of the Kingdom. We are not commissioned to teach other matters than the one Gospel; but we may and shall use every other subject to introduce the good plan of God to the attention of all "the meek" (Isa. 61:1) – especially to those who confess to be God's people. Remember that this is your one work, if you are of the consecrated body of Christ, the Church. To this end you eat and drink and sleep and labor at your earthly tasks – that you may have time and strength and opportunity to make known the gracious plan of our God, the foundation of which was laid in the ransom-sacrifice for all given eighteen centuries ago by the man Christ Jesus, and which is about to have a glorious consummation at his hands and at the hands of the Church, in the setting up of the Kingdom for which so long we have prayed, "Thy Kingdom Come!"
"Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name. And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them as a man spareth his own son that serveth him." – Mal. 3:16,17.
The Prophet Malachi, in connection with the above words, was foretelling, not only the coming of John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ at his first advent, but also the coming of a greater, and in a fuller sense an antitype [R1440 : page 261] of Elias, before the great and notable day of the Lord's second advent. (See MILLENNIAL DAWN, Vol. II., Chapter viii.) What, therefore, we find here addressed to nominal fleshly Israel, in view of the Lord's first advent and of the harvest work of sifting and separating and the final disposition of the wheat and chaff of that people in the close of the Jewish age, we find applicable now, in the harvest of this Gospel age, to nominal spiritual Israel – to the great sifting and separating work now progressing under the direction of the Lord of the harvest, who is now present.
While, therefore, we see the fitness of this prophecy in its application to fleshly Israel in the close of the Jewish age, and while we recognize its rebukes, its warnings and its promises to that people in the past, the important feature for our present consideration is its application now, in the closing days of this dispensation.
We see that the promised Elias has indeed come, and that the great "Messenger of the Covenant" in whom we delight – Jesus, our Lord and Savior – is now actually present. And truly his presence is like the refiner's fire and like fuller's soap. (Verse 2.) All of those who profess to be his people are now under rigid inspection. The tests are being constantly applied to all professions of godliness, and are separating, with unerring precision, the pure gold of actual loyalty to God from the dross of mere profession and outward forms of godliness.
The condition of the nominal spiritual Israel was wonderfully mirrored in that of fleshly Israel. When the Lord says, "Return unto me, and I will return unto you" (verse 7), now, as then, the reply is, "Wherein shall we return." They will not own that they have departed from the right ways of the Lord: in their own estimation they are rich and increased in goods, spiritual as well as temporal, and have need of nothing, though actually they are poor and miserable and blind and naked. (Rev. 3:17.) In their own estimation they are whole and need no physician, though actually they are sick and full of wounds and bruises and putrefying sores. The Lord says to them, Ye have robbed me in tithes and offerings; your words have been stout against me; and ye have declared it a vain, unprofitable thing to serve the Lord and to keep his ordinances. But they answer, [R1441 : page 261] "Wherein have we robbed thee?" and "What have we spoken against thee?" and "What profit is it that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked contritely before the Lord of hosts? And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered." – Verses 8,13-15.
In making profession of consecration to the Lord and yet living in pleasure and luxury with the world, conforming to worldly ideas, etc., the great nominal church has robbed God of that which they covenanted to give him – the loyalty and devotion of their hearts. Their words, too, have truly been stout against the Lord – their teachings have been in direct opposition to his Word, though they will not own it; and seeing no present profit in following the Lord closely, and observing the temporal prosperity of the wicked, they are content to follow the Lord afar off and to make whatever compromises with the world may be necessary to secure their present advantage.
Such is the attitude of the great mass of nominal Christians to-day: they have a form of godliness, but the power has long since departed. They build magnificent temples of fashion, run in debt to the world for them, and tax even the poorest to pay the interest on the mortgage and to secure a grand organ, a paid choir and a pulpit orator. These they dedicate to God, and then open them for the festival, the fair, the grab game and church theatricals; and while all effort is made to court the favor and secure the patronage of the rich, the humble poor are shunned and slighted and elbowed first into corners and back seats and finally outside the gates.
Thus increased in worldly goods and flushed with pride and apparent prosperity, the masses of the nominal church of all denominations are at ease. They are satisfied with their position and attainments, unwilling to acknowledge their shortcomings and backslidings, and are enjoying their feastings and revelry with the world. And their words are stout against the Lord's [R1441 : page 262] truth, because the truth would expose their errors and sins and destroy their friendly relationship and alliance with the world.
But in the midst of all this confusion and error God's people have been developing. They are the mourners in nominal Zion whom the Lord promised in due time to comfort. (Matt. 5:4; Isa. 61:3.) They are the wheat in the midst of the tares or mere imitation Christians. They do not love the spirit of the world and cannot assimilate with it; they are not satisfied with the distorted creeds of human manufacture and deplore the fact that others are; they love the Word of God and make it their study; and they love the spirit of God wherever they see it exemplified. And while the multitudes come together in the great temples of fashion, ostensibly to worship God, but really to worship Mammon, these prefer to meet one with another, and on every such occasion rejoice in the verification of that blessed promise of the Master – "Wherever two or three are met together in my name, there am I in the midst of them."
These reverence the Lord's words above the teachings and traditions of men, and it is their delight to withdraw from the great multitude and commune together concerning the Lord and concerning his promises. So these that reverence the Lord speak often one to another; they love to encourage and build one another up; they love to tell of the Lord's goodness and of his truth wherever they can find a listening ear; and when through them a neighbor or friend finds the truth they rejoice together, and together widen the circle for proclaiming the good tidings and for communing one with another with reference to their heaven-inspired hopes. Their hearts are full of love and loyalty to God, and though their opportunities to serve him and to spread abroad the honor of his name may be few, yet their loving zeal is not passed by unnoticed by the Lord; for, says the Prophet, "The Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that reverenced the Lord [not systems and creeds and traditions of men] and that thought upon his name [that were zealous for the honor of his name, not the names of Wesley, or Calvin, or Knox, or Luther]. And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels. And I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him."
Yes, the Lord is looking for loyal, loving, generous and noble hearts, for those who prefer the joy of his approval and of his promises to every earthly joy, and whose actions prove their zeal and devotion. Such, wherever we find them, are the Lord's jewels; and these will all be spared when the overwhelming trouble shall shortly be visited upon the wide fields of Christendom. These ere long will all be gathered out from amongst the tares and exalted to glory and honor and dominion with Christ as his Bride and joint-heir.
"Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not." Then, after the gathering and exaltation of the Church, and after the great time of trouble has accomplished its purpose of leveling all the proud and all the great systems – civil, social and religious – which have so long blinded and misled the world, then the new order of things will be established, wherein the order of the present time will be reversed. Instead of the proud being set up then, the meek shall inherit the earth, and life and prosperity and happiness and every blessing shall be the rewards of righteousness; and evil doers shall be cut off when the discipline of that time shall fail to effect a transformation, though none, we are informed, shall be thus cut off without at least a hundred years' trial under the favorable conditions of that time.
While we thus view our Heavenly Father's glorious plan and rejoice to declare it to others, what a comfort it is to know that he reads the loyalty of our hearts with reference to it; and though our talents may be few and weak, and really insignificant in our own sight, yet in the Lord's estimation the use of an opportunity even to speak to a neighbor about his truth and the honor of his name is not overlooked. "And the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written." Did you ever think of this when, perhaps with faltering [R1441 : page 263] speech, you tried to tell the good tidings of great joy to your next neighbor, or your shopmate, or your Christian brother or sister? or possibly to a larger company? – "The Lord hearkened, and heard it." Aye! and has not your heart burned within you as the heavenly benediction fell upon you, and sweet peace and joy filled your soul and fired your zeal with an intense yearning to herald the good news to earth's remotest bounds? Yes, every loyal and faithful child of God has had some of this blessed experience and may have more of it, and will, to the extent that he is energetic in serving the truth.
And if our names be not blotted out of that book of remembrance through unfaithfulness, we shall surely be gathered among the jewels, though no mighty deeds have made us great in the eyes of our fellow-men. The tests of love and loyalty are not always great deeds, though, if we love with all our hearts, they will be as great and as far reaching in their influence as our talents and opportunities will permit; but the prompt and ready use of even the smallest talent is carefully noted by our loving Lord in his book of remembrance. And not the imperfect rendering of service, but the perfect intention with which it is rendered, is faithfully recorded.
I long had borne a heavy load
Along life's rough and thorny road,
And often-times had wondered why
My friend walked burdenless, while I
Was forced to carry, day by day,
The cross which on my shoulders lay:
When, lo, one day the Master laid
Another cross on me. Dismayed,
And faint, and trembling, and distressed,
I cried, "Oh! I have longed for rest
These many days. I cannot bear
This other heavy load of care.
I pray thee, Lord, behold this one –
Shall I bear both while he has none?"
No answer came. The cross was laid
On my poor back, and I was weighed
Down to the earth. And as I went
Toiling along and almost spent,
Again I cried, "Lord have I been
Untrue to thee? Is it for sin
That I have done, that I must still
Carry this cross against my will?"
"My child," the Master's voice returned,
"Hast thou not yet the lesson learned?
The burden thou hast borne so long
Hath only made thee grow more strong,
And fitted thee to bear for me
This other load I lay on thee.
Thy brother is too weak as yet
To have a cross upon him set.
God's burdens rest upon the strong.
They stronger grow who bear them long,
And each new burden is a sign
That greater power to bear is thine."
So now no longer I repine,
Because a heavy cross is mine,
But struggle onward with the prayer,
"Make me more worthy, Lord, to bear."
There is another sense in which some are said to be in Christ. While, as we have just shown, all believers are represented in Christ for justification, just as they were formerly represented in Adam for condemnation, some come into Christ as members of the Christ body, of which Christ Jesus is the head. The term "Christ" signifies the Anointed, and the ceremony of anointing in olden times, from which this term is borrowed, signified the consecrating or setting apart of some one for the office of king, etc. So the Son of God, our Lord Jesus, was anointed, consecrated or set apart by God for the offices of prophet, priest and king. He is, therefore, the Anointed, the Christ; and since it is the purpose of God to select from among [R1442 : page 264] men some to be joint-heirs with him in this inheritance – "a royal priesthood," of which Christ Jesus shall be the head or high priest – all who are of this anointed company are said to be in Christ. Such are said to be baptized into Christ: they come into this anointed company, into the body of Christ, by baptism; not by baptism in water merely, but by baptism into the spirit, the disposition, the mind and will of the head, Christ Jesus, which proves eventually to be a baptism even unto death. "Know ye not that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death." But those who are thus planted in the likeness of his death shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection – the first order of resurrection, which is to the spiritual, divine nature. – Rom. 6:5; Rev. 20:6; 2 Pet. 1:4.
But this high calling is not the special salvation referred to in the above text. (1 Tim. 4:10.) True, that special salvation of justification must be obtained (reckonedly, by faith) by every one of this class, before he is even called with this high calling to come into Christ as a member of his body and a fellow-heir with him of the coming kingdom. This high calling is not salvation at all, but a gracious favor of God beyond the favor of salvation; or, as John expresses it (John 1:16. – See Emphatic Diaglott), it is grace upon grace, favor upon favor. The special salvation referred to by the Apostle is one which will be bestowed upon all who believe: not only of this age and of past ages, but also of the Millennial age; while the favor of the high calling is proffered only to believers during the Gospel age.
Thus we have seen that the Lord clearly points out the conditions upon which his special or actual salvation, which is provided for all men, may be realized by all men. And none can realize it in any other way; for our "God is a consuming fire" to any who claim or demand his salvation on any other terms than through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. (Rom. 3:24.) Any who seek to climb up to life in any other way he declares to be thieves and robbers (John 10:1,8,9); and to such the Apostle gives fair warning, saying, "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Heb. 10:31) – a fearful thing to stand trial before God in our own righteousness, which is but "filthy rags," and without the covering of the robe of imputed righteousness secured for us by our Redeemer, who according to our Father's gracious plan becomes the representative and Mediator for all who accept his grace. It is the folly of some, nevertheless, to claim that none can lose or miss this salvation – notwithstanding all that the Scriptures say about the conditions of salvation, and their warning against the possible loss of it. In the face of the testimony of the Scriptures to the contrary, such a suggestion is a forcible reminder of the subtle tempter's language to our mother Eve in Eden. Said he, "Yea, hath God said, ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die." God says to all men, "You may have salvation upon these terms," while some men say, "There are no conditions, there are no terms, but the everlasting salvation all will have." But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you: let God be true, though it prove every man a liar.
The theory of a universal, eternal salvation is not a new one: it has had some adherents for many centuries. Indeed, it is older than the doctrine of redemption; for it was announced by His Satanic Majesty to our mother Eve in Eden, when, tempting her to despise the word of the Lord, he boldly said, "Ye shall not surely die." For those who have never been enlightened with a clear knowledge of the plan of God, and who have been confronted all their lives with the horrible nightmare of eternal torment for a large majority of the race, there is some excuse for swinging to the extreme of liberalism. In such cases, it may be regarded more in the light of a benevolent and hopeful reaction from old superstitions. But the case is very different when one turns away from a clear knowledge of the divine plan of redemption and restitution through faith in Christ and [R1442 : page 265] repentance and submission of heart and life to God, to embrace a theory which is antagonistic in its nature to the whole scheme of redemption and restitution as set forth in the Scriptures. Let those who have been once enlightened take heed, "lest as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ" – the simplicity of Christ's doctrine. – 2 Cor. 11:3.
It is true that God has provided salvation for all men, and that the fullest opportunity for realizing it will be granted to each and all; but the terms upon which the favor may be realized are also distinctly stated, and that together with the fact that there will be no compromise as to terms; and, further, that those who reject the terms reject the proffered salvation, and hence die the second death, from which there will be no redemption and no deliverance. (Heb. 10:26-31.) The Scriptures also abound in warnings as to the danger of coming under the penalty of death the second time, after having been released from the first death, either reckonedly or actually. – Heb. 6:4-8.
But some, still anxious to maintain this delusive hope, are willing to press every lame argument into its service; and they do so until by logical deduction, based upon this false premise – that the eternal salvation of every man is so secure that it cannot be forfeited – they are driven to the denial of the whole plan of God from its foundation in the vicarious sacrifice of Christ to its glorious finish at the end of his Millennial reign in the restitution of all things to the perfect condition and happy estate from which man fell through sin.
Those who determine to make this theory of a universal, eternal salvation the rallying point in their theology begin by asserting that it must be so, because God is love; then they go farther and say, it must be so, because God is just. Thus they presume upon the love of God and claim his salvation upon the score of justice; and upon this hypothesis they do all manner of turning and twisting to force the Scriptures into harmony with their theory. They make light of all the Bible warnings of a second death, by claiming that they do not mean actual physical death, but that the term is figurative and signifies a death to sin; that it is the opposite of the first death, which was a death to righteousness; and that it was this figurative death to which God referred when he said, "In the day thou eatest thereof, dying thou shalt die." Thus the actual death loses its sting as a penalty for sin, and it is generally regarded by them as a necessary step in a process of evolution by which man is evolved to a higher condition or nature – the spiritual.
To attain this spiritual nature it is therefore necessary, in their estimation, for every man to die the second death, which they regard as a blessing and not a curse. And since physical death is, presumably, merely a step in a process of evolution to a higher condition, and not a penalty for sin, therefore there is no necessity for a ransom from it. Hence the death of Christ is regarded only as an extreme measure of self-sacrifice, as an exhibition of the martyr spirit, in his zeal to show men how to live; and the idea of a vicarious or substitutionary sacrifice being required for the satisfaction of divine justice, so that God could still be just and yet be the justifier, or savior, of him that believeth in Jesus (Rom. 3:26), is indignantly scouted as a barbarous view, and the "precious blood of Christ wherewith we are sanctified is counted a common thing" and of no more value to us than the blood of any other martyr.
But while these would-be philosophers make this preposterous claim, that the second death, against which the Scriptures so faithfully warn us, is only a death to sin and the dawn of a new life to righteousness, and that it is therefore nothing to be feared, but rather to be desired, they seem at times to forget this hypothesis, and, inconsistently enough with their own theory, they tell us that if a man actually experiences a second physical death, or even a third or fourth, these like the first could only be regarded as further necessary steps in the process of evolution, and out of each the persistent sinner will be recovered without a redemption, as he was presumably out of the first death. So they claim that the process of physical death and resurrection may be repeated over and over until the sinner is prevailed upon to submit to the [R1442 : page 266] will of God. And since the Scriptures declare that some will die at the end of Christ's Millennial reign, they claim that the work of reform will continue into the ages to follow – ignoring entirely the positive statement of the Apostle to the contrary. – 1 Cor. 15:24,25; Rev. 20:6.
The revolutionary tendency of the doctrine is thus very apparent; and when the mind is fully set on establishing this theory and perverting every scripture to its support, the false doctrines that grow out of it are legion, and the entire Word of God is made of no effect.
The Bible teaching is plain and simple to those of simple mind, and admits of no such fanciful and absurd interpretation. There, death is declared to be "the wages of sin," and not merely a departure from righteousness. (Rom. 6:23.) Sin is the departure from righteousness; and death, destruction of being, is its just penalty. And since death was the just penalty of sin, and was pronounced by God, who cannot err, and who is unchangeable – the same yesterday, to-day and forever – it could not be revoked or set aside: no power in heaven or earth could set aside the immutable claims of justice until, by the grace of God, the man Christ Jesus, our Lord, paid our penalty, died for our sins, legally set us free, and thus made provision for our recovery out of death in due time by the process of resurrection. Thanks be unto God and our Lord Jesus Christ for this great salvation, purchased on our heavenly Father's part by the sacrifice of his only begotten and well beloved Son, and on our Lord's part by the sacrifice of himself, and made efficacious to us through faith on our part in his precious blood shed for many for the remission of sins. – Matt. 26:28.
And as the original difficulty was not death, but sin, so the remedy is not second death, but righteousness. The two principles are Sin and Righteousness, and under God's arrangement they each have certain results. Sin results in DEATH, while righteousness results in LIFE. The entire race became sinners by heredity in Adam, weak and unable to fulfil all righteousness, and hence all shared the penalty, death – "death passed upon all men," because all are imperfect, sinners.
But God, foreseeing that some would, after experience, be willing to obey all righteousness if provided the ability through Christ – through the New Covenant sealed and ratified by his death as our representative and substitute, bearing our penalty – compensated for all sins past and for present and future sins resulting from the fall, to all who accept him as their Redeemer [R1443 : page 267] and who become followers of his commands. Thus such are made the righteousness of God in him (Christ) and shall obtain the reward of righteousness – everlasting life.
While we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of them that believe, let all "thieves and robbers," who are attempting to teach men how to climb up to life by some other than God's appointed way, take warning; for while "God is love," let them know that he loves that which is lovely, that he has decreed that all that is unworthy of love in his universe shall be destroyed, and that when the Millennial reign of his Anointed is complete not one blot shall remain to reproach his fair creation; for Christ "must reign till he hath put all enemies under his FEET." Then he will have brought forth judgment unto victory. (Matt. 12:20.) And his victory will be complete when all evil and all wilful evil-doers – Satan and all those who follow his leading (Heb. 2:14; Rev. 20:10,14,15), shall have been cut off. His victory will consist in the establishment of righteousness and peace, no matter how many or how few fall in the conflict.
Let all the faithful – the elect – take heed that they be not deceived by those vain philosophers who, "desiring to be teachers, understand neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm" (1 Tim. 1:7); for God hath declared that wilful evil-doers "shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power, when he shall come to be glorified in his saints and to be admired in all those that believe in that day." And from the mention of the character of the class that shall be destroyed it is very manifest that the second death into which they are cast is not a death to sin, as Universalists claim. Hear the Word of the Lord – "The fearful and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone, which is THE SECOND DEATH. And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire:...this is the second death." (Rev. 21:8; 20:10.) That is a bad lot: we do not want to be in such company. Before their destruction comes they will have had fullest opportunity to repent; and the fact that Satan will have had the opportunities of seven thousand years and yet remain incorrigible will be ample proof to every intelligent mind that there is such a thing as becoming established – fixed and immovable – in sin as well as in righteousness. Let us remember the word of the Lord – "For evil-doers shall be cut off; but those that wait upon the Lord, they shall inherit the earth. For yet a little while and the wicked shall not be: yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and he shall not be there. But the meek shall inherit the earth, and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace." – Psa. 37:9-11.
Feeling should never be mistaken for faith, yet there is as much connection between faith and hallowed feeling as there is between the root and the flower. Faith is permanent, just as the root is ever in the ground. Feeling is casual and has its season. Just as the root or bulb does not always shoot up the green stem and beautiful flowers, so faith does not always produce ecstasy of feeling. Our faith may be just as strong when we are despondent as when we are filled with joy. As we feel the calamities of war, the pangs of disease and the hardness of poverty, our feeling sinks down to zero, while our faith may be as firm as the granite that underlies the cloud-kissing hills. Measure not God's love and power by your own feeling. The sun shines as clearly in the darkest day as it does in the brightest: the difference is not in the sun, but in some clouds that are between you and the sun. So God loves as well when we see not the brightness of his countenance as when we do.
One of the things we learn by a Christian experience is that low measures of feeling are [R1443 : page 268] better than ecstasies for ordinary life. God sends us his rain in gentle drops, else tender plants and delicate flowers would be beaten to pieces. If our faith is founded on the immutability of God, our Christian life and love will flow steadily on like a deep river, not easily affected by a cold blast nor obstructed by despondencies. Moses was not governed by feeling when he stood on the margin of the Red Sea, neither was Abraham when he offered up Isaac, nor Israel when they compassed Jericho seven days. Have faith in God, move forward all along the line, and we shall have the victory.– Sel.
The lesson chosen by the International Committee as a temperance lesson for this quarter was 1 Cor. 11:20-24. But some, seeing no reference to temperance in these Scriptures, have made the above selection, which we will here treat briefly, referring the reader to our issue of March 1891 for an exposition of the lesson in 1 Cor. 11:20-34. We still have a few on hand which can be supplied to any requesting it.
While some of the above Scriptures are well chosen for a temperance lesson, there is much more in some of them, as will be observed by those who will study them in connection with their various contexts. Let us here pursue such a study of them, though we must necessarily be brief.
ISAIAH 5:11,22. The reference here is not to literal wine, but to the intoxicating spirit of the world, so freely imbibed by nominal Israel, both fleshly and spiritual. It was through such intoxication that fleshly Israel rejected the Lord at his first advent, and that nominal spiritual Israel is now stumbling over that same stumbling-stone. (Isa. 8:14.) The whole chapter, like chapter 28 of the same prophecy, was given as a warning to both fleshly and spiritual Israel against imbibing the intoxicating spirit of the world. Woe indeed came upon fleshly Israel in the end of their age of favor, because of their intoxicated and miserable condition of heart and mind. It came in the dreadful overthrow of Jerusalem and their complete destruction as a nation. And a similar woe upon nominal spiritual Israel – "Christendom" so-called – will, according to the sure word of prophecy, be visited upon them in the closing days of this harvest, because nominal spiritual Israel has partaken also of the same intoxicating wine.
And while all who constitute a part of that great system, which because of its intoxication is now cast off and disowned of the Lord, and out of which he is now calling those who are still his people (Rev. 18:2,4), will share in the woe that is coming upon it, the prophet (verse 22), makes very special mention of woe that is to come upon those who are mighty to drink this wine, and men of strength to prepare the cup for others. In other words, the prophet seems here to indicate special condemnation to those who are the public leaders and promulgators of false doctrine.
ISAIAH 28:7. This scripture refers to the same class as that last mentioned – the priests and the prophets, the leaders and teachers in nominal spiritual Israel now, and in nominal fleshly Israel at the close of the Jewish age. Because of their intoxication with the wine of this world's pleasures, etc., they are all out of the way: they err in vision, they stumble in judgment, and are unable to discern and follow the truth, and much less to teach the truth, though they occupy the position of teachers. For further notes on this chapter, see treatment of Lesson III., in our issue of January 15th.
PROVERBS 20:1. This proverb of Solomon evidently has reference to literal wine and strong drink, and its truthfulness is so manifest as to require no comment here. Well would it be if all men would ponder and heed this wise warning against a foe so subtle and so destructive to peace and righteousness.
PROVERBS 23:19-21 classes drunkenness and gluttony together. Both are unworthy of true manhood and bring their sure reward of poverty and disgrace.
PROVERBS 23:29-35 extends the wholesome counsel further, picturing the miserable results of intemperance; for the momentary pleasure [R1444 : page 269] at last "biteth like a serpent and stingeth like an adder."
GALATIANS 5:19-21 classes drunkenness among the miserable works of the flesh, which Paul here contrasts with the beautiful fruits of the spirit of God among those who have become the children of God. And thus the Apostle arrays himself, and all the saints who seek an inheritance in the Kingdom of God, on the side not only of temperance, but also of every good work and disposition.
HABAKKUK 2:15 seems, from the context, to have special reference again to the spirit of the world, and declares woe unto such as endeavor to lead others to imbibe of this intoxicating wine. But the condemnation would apply equally to those who tempt others to the use of intoxicating drinks.
HOSEA 14:9. This scripture has no reference whatever to the subject of temperance, but closes an exhortation to fallen Israel to return unto the Lord. [R1444 : page 269]
FOURTH QUAR., LESSON I., OCT. 2, ACTS 9:1-20.
In this lesson we have a forcible illustration of the importance of a correct knowledge of the truth as well as a zeal for God. Paul had the latter, but, lacking the former, he went to the extreme of persecuting the Church of Christ. Nevertheless, God, who reads the heart, discerned its loyalty and zeal, and, without blaming him for doing that which he thought was right and acceptable to God, he simply pointed out to him the better way. Light, says the Prophet (Psa. 97:11), is sown for the righteous; and Saul was righteous at heart and hence the truth was due to him in God's appointed time.
Before that time arrived, however, the beloved and faithful Stephen had sealed his testimony with his blood, while Saul was consenting unto his death. Was God negligent, then, of the interests of his faithful martyr? Ah! no; but his ways are not our ways. Stephen's life was fully consecrated to the Master's service, and evidently the only question with him as to when or how it might end was, which time or way would be most to the glory of God. It has been truly said that the blood of the martyrs has been the seed of the Church. Stephen thus became an example to the whole Church of faithfulness even unto death; and having thus gloriously finished his course, there was thenceforth laid up for him a crown of righteousness to be received at the Lord's second appearing.
Little did Stephen think that one who stood by, consenting unto his death, would soon go forth as a zealous advocate of the very cause he was persecuting. That Paul's heart was right in the matter, even when his head and his hands were in the wrong, is very clear from his statement of the matter in Chapter 26:9-11, where he says, "I verily thought within myself that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth, which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death I gave my voice against them. And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and, being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them, even unto strange cities."
Again, we find the Apostle referring to the matter in his letter to Timothy (1 Tim. 1:12-14,16), saying, "I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful [at heart, though wrong in action], putting me into the ministry who was before a blasphemer and a persecutor and injurious: but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus....Howbeit, for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all longsuffering for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting."
In view of these statements, therefore, we are not to consider Paul's conversion as a conversion of the heart from a disposition of opposition to one of harmony with God, but as a conversion or turning about, through a better understanding of the truth, from an erroneous course to one in harmony with God and his plan of salvation.
The Lord's mercy and love to this deluded though sincere servant were beautifully manifested in the words addressed to Saul: In the midst of the overwhelming glory of the heavenly presence a tender voice fell on his ear, saying, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks." And Saul answered, "Who art thou, Lord?" And he said, "I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness, both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; delivering thee from the people and from the Gentiles unto whom now I send thee, to open their eyes and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, [R1444 : page 270] that they may receive forgiveness of sins and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me." And Saul, trembling and astonished, said, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" And the Lord said unto him, "Arise and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do." – Compare Acts 9:3-6 and 26:13-17.
Saul's prompt obedience and instantaneous change of conduct were indicative of a noble character; and his question, "What wilt thou have me do?" showed an earnest desire to be active in the service of God to the extent of his ability and knowledge. And no sooner had he learned the will of God than he was off about his Master's business – preaching Christ at Damascus and Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judea, to Jews and Gentiles, calling upon all to repent and turn to God and do works meet for repentance. (Acts 9:19,20; 26:19,20.) Nor did the zeal of this faithful soldier of the cross abate in the least until he had finished his course. After years of unmitigated toil and care and persecution and trouble on every hand, he rejoiced at the close of life to say – "I have fought a good fight; I have finished my course; I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown, 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."
The instance of this lesson affords also a striking illustration of the Lord's personal oversight and supervision of the interests of his Church, both as a company and as individuals. By the loss of Judas a vacancy had occurred in the company of the apostles, which vacancy the apostles themselves endeavored to fill by their election of Matthias. (Acts 1:26.) This they had no authority to do, but, presuming such to be the Lord's will, they chose two and asked the Lord to indicate which of the two whom they had selected would be his choice; and when the lot fell upon Matthias – for it must of course fall on one of the two – the eleven accepted him as the Lord's choice for the place of Judas. But the sequel showed that the Lord merely ignored their presumption in the matter, and in his own time and way chose Saul of Tarsus, a man at heart devoted to the service of God and needing only to be enlightened by the truth when all his consecrated powers would be fully enlisted in the blessed work of bearing the name of Christ to the Gentiles as well as to the Jews. And this Saul, afterward called Paul, was the most noted, self-sacrificing and efficient of all the apostles.
Then, too, in the selection and special favor shown to Saul, we see the Lord's appreciation of loyal and zealous hearts. What a comfort is this to all the saints in the midst of a realizing sense of our own infirmities and short-comings, that if our hearts are loyal, the Lord can read it there. If we lack knowledge he will grant it in his own good time and way; and his wisdom will correct our mistakes, and his love and mercy and grace will abound toward us more and more as we continue to walk in his ways.
The part which Ananias was privileged to take in the healing of Paul's eyes and in enlightening his mind with the truth was one which must have brought great joy and blessing to his own heart – not only because of being specially chosen of the Lord for this purpose, but also in seeing such a one as Saul of Tarsus so fully convinced of the truth and enlisted in its service. How wonderfully wise are the ways of the Lord; how blessed is his truth; how tender are his providences; how consoling is his mercy; and how rich are his abounding love and grace! And how glorious is the hope set before us in the gospel of ere long seeing him face to face and of being transformed into his glorious likeness, when, being like him, we shall not be overpowered with the glory or stricken with blindness.
The golden text of this lesson was evidently chosen with the idea that Saul of Tarsus was born again when he was converted to the service of the cause of Christ. But such was not the case. Saul was only begotten of the spirit when through the teaching of Ananias he was brought to a knowledge of the truth and to a full consecration of his life to its service. But his birth as a new spiritual being was not due until the resurrection. Birth presupposes both a begetting and a course of development ending at a particular time in the completeness of the new being. The Greek word (gennao) rendered born has the significance of both begetting and birth. Hence, except a man be both begotten and born again he cannot see the Kingdom of God. Paul's birth was not due until the dawn of the Millennium, at the second advent of the Lord. The Lord was the first born from the dead (Col. 1:18), and this second birth in his case surely did not mean conversion to God; nor does it ever have such significance.
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL: – I write to express my sincere gratitude to you, as an instrument in the dear Lord's hands, for unfolding the good and precious truths that his Word teaches. I have read three of your books titled MILLENNIAL DAWN. They have been a great deal of help to me. They have inspired my soul with zeal and more love to my dear Savior. The truths they draw from the Word of God seem as refreshing and uplifting to the believers who are bowed down by the teachings of the nominal church as did the dear Savior's teachings to the poor, lost sheep of Israel at his first advent. The restoration and plan of redemption for all is the only thing that can be harmonized with the Word of God. Oh! how the nominal church is lacking in knowledge. Light, more light! Some might think this true doctrine has a tendency to lead one away from God. But thanks be to him, it is the reverse. It fills us with love beyond what words can express. It draws us up on to a plane where we can behold the beauty and holiness of our God more clearly, where we can drink of his waters more freely and can look up into his tender face and read his countenance of love in a measure as never before.
Yours in Christ,
MY DEAR SIRS: – I enclose a check for $10. Please send me Young's Concordance, twenty copies DAWN, Vol. I., ten copies Vol. II. and eight Vol. III. I assume you will allow me the wholesale price on the above as I wish to circulate them, either selling or giving them away.
I enclose a postal card received from a friend which indicates how he appreciates the truth. I see that others send you words of thanks and encouragement, so I thought perhaps you could find time to read this. It may be of some little interest to you to know how the light came to me. We have a union Bible class once a week; and, some three months ago, every time we met it so happened that before the lesson was finished we would drift into the subject of the Millennium. One evening one of the friends said, I have a book called the "Plan of the Ages," which a lady gave me, that may give some light on the subject. Have not read it, but will loan to you. Since then there has been a well of rejoicing springing up in my soul which I pray will be unto life everlasting. 1 Cor. 2:9,10 comes to me very forcibly in the light of the Plan of the Ages. Please return the postal.
In the interest of the truth, truly yours,
Dear Friend: – Not for ten years of life would I have missed reading Vol. I., MILLENNIAL DAWN. I shall read the others as soon as I can spare moments. How truly wonderful is God's plan! Human mind cannot grasp its fulness. Your friend,
DEAR SIR: – I am a constant reader of "MILLENNIAL DAWN," Vols. I., II. and III. My eyes were opened to the light of God's truth in my "Jubilee" year. (I turned fifty years on the 4th inst.) I feel that I am emancipated from the bondage of creed and tradition.
I have been connected with the Baptist denomination for over thirty-five years. In 1874 I was a theological student at Rochester, N.Y., but my health failed me and I never became a minister. For this I have been thankful, since my enlightenment, knowing that I would have been a messenger of error rather than truth, and less liable to have received "the truth now due." Yours in fellowship,
TOWER PUBLISHING COMPANY: – I have just finished reading the first volume of MILLENNIAL DAWN. Am delighted: it settles difficulties, answers questions and illuminates the way wonderfully. I am deeply indebted to you. Am seeking for light; have you more of such publications? If so send me circulars.
DEAR BROTHER AND SISTER RUSSELL: – Oh, if you could only know the joy that the DAWNS have brought to this poor heart of mine! I belonged to the Missionary Baptist sect; but in studying my Bible I saw there was confusion, and I sent to different places and got Disciplines and Articles of Faith, but found none in harmony with the Scriptures. Last fall a dear Brother sold me DAWNS I. and II., and after carefully reading them I found them in perfect accord. Praise the dear Lord that he has raised up expounders of his precious Word, after the counsel of his own heart. Oh, the joy there is [R1445 : page 272] now in studying the precious Word of God from his standpoint!
I will not intrude more on your valuable time. God bless you abundantly in your labor of love.
DEAR FRIENDS: – I have just finished reading Vol. III. of MILLENNIAL DAWN; and the language of my heart is, How wonderful are thy works, O Lord God of Hosts: just and right are all thy ways. I have been greatly blessed in reading the books, and want to confess that I believe they are truth, notwithstanding I have had to give up my former views that I held dear; but with the bright light shining on the Word, I can hold them no longer. I do feel to thank the dear Lord and his servants for the light. How wise and beautiful are all his plans, and how well they correspond with the declaration that "God is Love." O, who would not love and serve him! The "Time of Trouble" is now just in the future, but the true child of God feels that he has a shelter under his mighty arm.
Enclosed find $2.00 for the WATCH TOWER, and copies of PLAN OF THE AGES in paper covers. I want all to read them that will, for truly "we are living in a grand and awful time," and I want to do what little I can to help spread the truth.
TOWER PUBLISHING COMPANY: – Enclosed please find pay for the TOWER and THE PLAN OF THE AGES. Permit me to add, this volume, which was loaned to me and which I have read, is wonderful in its clearness – logical throughout – and a most wonderful Key to the Holy Scriptures. Truly the author must have been divinely directed in his researches of the Bible. Be pleased to hand these lines of thanks to him and his helper, for their patient and loving work. It has drawn me nearer to God than ever before, and I have professed to be near him for fifty-two years. Please also send me a price list of your books. I must have more of them.
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL: – Ever since reading Vol. I. of MILLENNIAL DAWN, last winter, I have been wanting to write to you, but feared your time was too much occupied to answer me. My whole life has been changed by the reading of the DAWN series, the first volume of which I came across accidentally, or providentially, and read only because I had nothing else to read. There are some questions, however, that are not yet clearly settled in my mind, and on which I wish to receive light.
I have tried to do something towards giving light to others since I found it myself, and I hope that my efforts have not been in vain; for it is my greatest desire to do the work of my Father acceptably. I would like to go into the colporteur work, but, being in debt, I think it my first duty to pay up. Any advice you can give me will be gratefully received, for I have no one to consult when in doubt, and all is not yet clear. Thank God for the light that has come, and may it shine brighter and brighter.
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL: – Since reading the MILLENNIAL DAWNS, the Tracts and the WATCH TOWER, I cannot do less than write and tell you that my heart is so full of the love of God through the better knowledge of the truth advocated in the above expositions, that I desire to thank you, and wish you many a "God bless you." I am growing in grace and the knowledge of the truth daily, and verily I have songs in the night. Truly, "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him," and he will show them his covenant. I see nothing in the DAWNS to take exceptions to: they are all built upon a "Thus saith the Lord," and a rightly dividing the Word of truth – a harmonious whole. The prophetic periods are very convincing to me, and I am glad that the thousand years are made so plain to be yet future; for some of the leading Adventists are trying to put them in the past.
I thank God that I have kept aloof from man-made creeds, and I can accept truths, hitherto not made known, but now in the due time revealed to the little flock. May the dear Lord still bless us, and keep us humble at the cross, "trusting in the precious blood," is the prayer of your brother in the faith,
It would now be impossible for me to preach my old sermons over again. Even the ordinary language of "Orthodox" prayer is distasteful to me, and some of the usual forms of expression absolutely shocking to my new feelings. God is blessing your work and many are coming out of the darkness. Yours in the bonds of the "Glad Tidings,"
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DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL: – You expressed a desire to be informed of the progress of my work in the Hudson river towns. It is quite encouraging to me and the friends of the truth, though as yet not very far advanced. At W__________, where nearly every one knew of the DAWN, and many had the first volume, I sold 200 in about five days. At P__________, in a week and a half, I sold 330 books, besides spending one day delivering – 98 degrees in the shade. All praise to the Lord for this measure of success. I am not feeling very strong physically, but his spirit is sufficient to quicken my body.
Brother B__________ and others are quite anxious that I should hold some meetings, and while I may consent to it, it will be with some questioning as to whether it is wise to use much of my strength and time in that direction – especially in towns like this where I expect to remain only a few weeks. I am quite satisfied that those who will not read and understand the DAWN are not very near ripe – if they have any of the wheat quality at all. And I believe the "winds" are being held that the saints may be sealed, not that the world is to become greatly interested now. Hence it seems necessary that we should hasten over the field – "flying in the midst of heaven."
With kind greetings to the Church at Allegheny, Yours in our Redeemer,
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL: – I write to let you know that my interest and zeal in the Lord's service are not abated. Perhaps, dear Brother, you have wondered why I, unlike others of the dear workers, do not turn in any money to the Society, but I would say that all I get is not spent selfishly upon myself. I find abundant opportunity to help some of the dear saints around here. There is one sister who at times is very destitute, and who has become very much interested in the truth. She is a widow with two children.
If you could only see how some of the dear ones (this sister included) in S__________ are feasting upon the glorious truth, it would cheer your heart very greatly; and as for myself, I could not express upon paper, nor in language, the joy that fills my heart in perusing the precious things brought out in the TOWER of late. Often my thoughts revert to yourself and dear sister R., and prayers on your behalf, as well as for all saints, ascend to the throne of grace. It often comforts me to think that the Lord knoweth the heart of each one of his children, and whether they are fully in harmony with him and his wonderful plan; and though we may sometimes misunderstand each other, yet the Lord understands us at all times.
With warm Christian love, Your brother in Christ,
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL: – The TOWER came to hand to-day, and your article on "Enoch, Elijah and the Sentence" has lifted from my mind a load that has been troubling me for some time and I want to thank you. Words fail to express my gratitude to such a kind, loving Heavenly Father, and to you who have been serving him and us so faithfully. God's justice, love and power are made clearer than ever, and I can exclaim with the apostle, "Oh, the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge, of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out." Praying that he will guide and direct you into all truth, and with love to all the saints, I remain,
Yours in the service,
[R1446 : page 275]
|VOL. XIII.||SEPTEMBER 15, 1892.||NO. 18.|
Amongst those whom we recognize as God's children, but from whom we differ as to many of the teachings of our Father's Word, is a considerable number of Seventh-Day Adventists. Indeed, not a few from this people have received the present truth, brought to their attention through Millennial Dawn and the WATCH TOWER and for the sake of these and others we have on two occasions treated the Sabbath and the Law questions in these columns.
However, their leaders and teachers have woven together so close a net of ingeniously applied but quite mistaken theory based upon the "cleansing of the Sanctuary" (Dan. 8:14) and "the mark of the beast" (Rev. 13), that the majority of their followers, as well as themselves, seem to be hopelessly entangled. Believing that many of them are honest, we feel less disposed to chide them, and more inclined to say to them mildly and kindly, in the Master's words, "Ye do err, not knowing [understanding] the Scriptures."
Believing that the Law given to Israel as the basis of their covenant (See Deut. 5:2-7-21) was not given to them alone, but to all the world, they would enforce upon all the Jewish, seventh-day Sabbath – now usually called Saturday. When we point out to them that the Law which is the basis of the New Covenant is briefly comprehended in one word, Love ( – instead of the ten commands, as was the Jewish Covenant), they ask, Well, then, if the newer and fuller expression of the Law be Love, and if love implies that we do not steal, kill, etc., does not this New Covenant have a Sabbath also?
Without waiting for an answer, they proceed to say – we, therefore, should keep the Seventh Day, as did the Jews. No one had a right to change it to Sunday, the first day of the week, when God had specified the seventh. Papacy changed the day; and it is, therefore, "the mark of the beast," etc.; and all who observe Sunday are thus branded or marked, and can have no part among the "overcomers" in the first resurrection.
Few of them are patient enough to hear the answer: – That the seventh-day rest (for the word Sabbath merely means rest) of the ten commandments is contained in our Law of the New Covenant, just as truly as are the other commands included in that Law of one word – Love. Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not violate the seventh-day rest, and all the other commands of the Decalogue, meet with much grander and fuller expression in our New Covenant and its Law. Thus, if we love God and men, we will not blaspheme, nor kill, nor steal, nor bear false witness; and those who have entered into this New Covenant, and found the heart-rest (Sabbath) by faith in Christ and his finished work, so long as they appreciate this rest, can have no desire to break it or even to disturb it by violating any part of their covenant.
This is the real and only Sabbath (rest) commanded [R1446 : page 276] or provided for under our New Covenant. It was typified in the Jewish Law (which was a shadow of the New Covenant Law) by the Seventh Day – because this rest from sin is to be actually observed in the seventh thousand-year day – in the Millennium. The present REST of believers, trusting in Christ, is not the complete rest, but merely a rest of heart by faith, hoping and waiting for the actual. This the Apostle clearly shows in Heb. 4:2-11 – that although the Jews had observed the Seventh Day, it did not profit them, and they did not really enter into the rest which it typified, because they merely held the outward form or shadow, and did not mix it with FAITH so as to discern its antitype – the rest of heart. He concludes his argument by urging – "Let us labor, therefore, to enter into that rest (Greek – Sabbath-keeping), lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief" – set by the Jews who kept the Seventh Day, but never knew what it meant. The time for entering by faith into the real rest came to the Church at Pentecost, when the spirit dispensation began. The time for entering actually into the real rest is just at hand, at the ushering in of the New Dispensation.
As for the claim that no one had a right to change or substitute the First Day for the Seventh Day, that is true. Our Lord and the apostles never authorized any such change: they declared the Jewish Law (which included the Seventh Day) ended at the Cross, and the new and more comprehensive law of the New Covenant thereafter in operation toward all who accepted Christ. The apostles used the Seventh Day as a time for preaching Christ, as they used every day in the week, and especially because on that day the Jews, their most hopeful hearers, met for worship and study. But the apostles nowhere recognized the seventh-day Sabbath as a day of rest, as the Jewish Law Covenant enforced it. On the contrary, they taught (Rom. 14:5-8) that any and all days are acceptable for good works done in the service of God and for the benefit of fellow men.
It is a mistake, too, to claim that the Christian Sabbath was started by an edict of one of the popes. It had its start in the fact that it was on the First Day of the week that our Lord arose from the dead; and that upon that day and evening he met with his disciples, and expounded unto them the Scriptures, until their hearts burned within them. What wonder that, without any command to do so, they thereafter loved so to meet together frequently, and to repeat the simple meal, the giving of thanks and the breaking of bread; recounting one to the other the gracious promises of God through the prophets, and the explanations of some of these which the Lord had given in person, and seeking yet fuller understanding of the same under the leading of the holy Spirit (Christ's representative), operating to guide them into all truth as it became due.
It was some little time, evidently, from the account, before they realized that the Law Covenant which had so long ruled them was dead (Rom. 7:2-6), and that thus they were free from any obligation to any formal observance of the Seventh Day – that thenceforth all days were alike to them: all to be used in God's service in doing good, and none to be used for any other purpose.
For a time the two days were observed by Christians, the Seventh-Day from Jewish custom (and because it furnished the best opportunity for devout people likely to be interested in the Gospel) and the First-Day in commemoration of our Lord's resurrection. Ignatius, A.D. 75, in his writings mentions some approvingly as "no longer Sabbatizing, but living in observance of the Lord's-Day, on which also our life sprang up again."
The earliest record of the use of the name Lord's-Day for the first day of the week found in Scripture is in Rev. 1:10 (A.D. 96). And says Encyclopaedia Britannica (first-class authority) "by that name it is almost invariably referred to by all writers of the century immediately succeeding apostolic times....The first writer who mentions the name of Sunday is Justin Martyr: this designation of the first day of the week, which is of heathen origin, had come into general use in the Roman world shortly before Justin wrote. (Second century A.D.)...As long as the Jewish-Christian element continued to have any prominence or influence in the Church a [R1446 : page 277] tendency more or less strong to observe Sabbath as well as Sunday would of course prevail. ...The earliest recognition of the observance of Sunday as a legal duty is a Constitution of (the Emperor) Constantine, 321 A.D., enacting that all courts of justice, inhabitants of towns and workshops were to be at rest on Sunday, with an exception in favor of those engaged in agricultural labor."
So, then, it is a misstatement of fact for our Seventh-Day friends to say that Pope Gregory or any other Pope first by decree instituted Sunday or the Lord's-Day as taking the place of the Jewish seventh-day Sabbath. Consequently, Sunday-keeping could not be "the mark of the beast," as they claim. The Decretals of Gregory do enjoin Sunday-keeping, saying, "We decree that all Sundays be observed, from vespers to vespers, and that all unlawful work be abstained from, so that in them trading or legal proceedings be not carried on." But it will be noted that the Emperor Constantine's [R1447 : page 277] decree was in 321 A.D., while Gregory did not become a pope until 590 A.D. And Gregory refers to the fact that the work prohibited was already unlawful: hence his decree is merely confirmatory of the laws of Constantine and other civil rulers preceding him.
The Roman Catholic church does not now and so far as we know never did insist upon a strict observance of Sunday. In Catholic countries to-day priests and people attend service in the forenoon, and give up the afternoon to various forms of pleasure – in beer gardens, parks, etc.
As for ourselves, we delight in the Lord's work any and every day; and could and would cheerfully accommodate ourselves to any day of the week appointed by any government under which we might be living, to meet specially to study God's Word and to render him worship; because under the New Covenant no single day is specified, but every day is alike. As it is, we rejoice that one day in the week is so generally observed (no matter what may be the world's object or thought in its observance), because it affords the world a day of recreative rest and the true believers an opportunity for union and communion of heart and voice. And we are specially pleased that the day set apart by the government under which we live is the First Day of the week, because of the same blessed memories and associations which gave it a special sacredness to the Church in the days of the apostles.
But our friends, the Seventh-Day Adventists, are scaring themselves with the ghosts of certain misapplied symbols of Revelation relative to the Mark of the Beast, etc. They have the Seventh Day "on the brain" to such an extent that they can see nothing else clearly because of the false-importance they give to that subject. Noting the fact that religious people, seeing the growing tendency here toward a European Sunday (which means a Roman Catholic Sunday, spent in part at least in concert and beer gardens), are moving together for uniform laws enforcing present and past prevailing customs for the suspension of business on that day, our Seventh Day friends jump at the conclusion that soon their adherence to the Seventh Day will lead them to the stake, etc. They are getting greatly agitated and attempting to point to these things as fulfilments of their misapplications of Revelation, 12th and 13th chapters. We quote from one of their journals as follows: –
"And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon." – Rev. 13:11.
"For many years Seventh-day Adventists have been keeping their eyes upon this prophecy, predicting on the strength of their view that the United States Government would oppress and persecute those who were striving to walk conscientiously before God, as did the "dragon"-spirited powers of earth in by-gone days. Recently it has become manifest that a spirit of intolerance and oppression existed and was growing in this Government, but within the last week an event has taken place which is of the utmost significance in connection with the fulfilment of the words of this text. The Senate and the House of Representatives of the United States have united in saying to this country, and to the world, that the World's Columbian Exposition shall have joined to it the institution of the Sunday Sabbath. They have declared, speaking with the voice of the Nation, that here in this hitherto free land a religious institution shall be enforced by law; for legislation always means compulsion. [R1447 : page 278]
This is very absurd. The action of Congress in deciding, when appropriating money for the World's Fair, that the money should be given subject to the restriction, that the Fair be closed to the public on Sunday, does not mean "that here, in this hitherto free land, a religious institution shall be enforced by law." Only a mind distorted on this subject could so imagine. It is not an interference with personal liberty. At very most it was a refusal of the government to spend the money collected from the people to forward certain opportunities for pleasure, of which the majority of tax payers did not approve. No fair mind has a right to object to this course. As for the writer's own opinion, it is that it would have been better to open on Sundays certain departments of the Fair – the flower and art displays at least – leaving closed those portions which would have necessitated human labor, that all might have like opportunities for rest. And no doubt Congressmen generally would have taken as liberal a view of the case had they expressed their own sentiments; but in spending the money did they err seriously in deciding that it should not be used contrary to the consciences of the majority whose tax the money chiefly represented?
Those who ask for Sunday observance are not persecuting the minority. The minority, be it a denomination or an individual, is left perfectly free to observe any day in worshiping God. So far as the writer is concerned he could not conscientiously make any law regarding Sunday observance for the worldly, believing as he does that God made no such law, and that its observance is acceptable to God merely as a volunteer exercise of Christian liberty. But we see no reason why it should be considered persecution for a majority of three-fourths of the people of the land (who believe Sunday to be of divine ordination) to make laws prohibiting labor on that one day of the week which they consider to have the divine approval and command.
The fact of the matter is that our Seventh-Day friends are fanatically anxious for persecution, believing that it is to be the portion of all the faithful. We also believe that whosoever will live Godly (i.e., according to the divine will) shall suffer persecution. But we find plenty of persecution without hunting it; and we remember also the holy words, "Let none of you suffer as...an evil-doer, or as a busy-body in other men's matters." – 1 Pet. 4:15.
If we say to them, How are you persecuted? How are your consciences interfered with, when you attempt to observe Saturday as a Sabbath or rest-day? They reply, Oh! it is not in that way that we are persecuted: we have full liberty to meet and worship, sing and pray and rest, all day Saturday. It is when Sunday comes and we begin to do our work as upon other days. Then the officers of the law pounce upon us as law-breakers and persecute us.
Well, we answer: If you have the liberty to worship how you please on the Seventh Day, you cannot claim that your consciences are interfered with. You should obey the law – be "subject to the powers that be" – whenever it does not require you to violate God's law – as in this case. To refrain from work on the First Day of the week surely violates no command of God; and hence you should obey the law; otherwise you are a law-breaker, and instead of suffering persecution for righteousness' sake you are violating the Apostle's command, But let none of you suffer as an evil-doer or a busy-body.
But so anxious are they for some suffering, and so fanatical is their method of reasoning, that many of them will reply – Oh, yes! To be idle on Sunday would violate our consciences, because the Scriptures say: "Six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work." How can we labor six days, if we must rest two days in the week, one on the command of the laws of the land, the other on what we believe to be the command of God.
Thus they pervert language to get persecution. If each of the six days contains twenty-four hours (thus they reckon the Seventh Day – from 6 P.M. of Friday until 6 P.M. of Saturday), then, to take the command literally, as they rest twenty-four hours for the Seventh Day, they should labor twenty-four hours a day during [R1447 : page 279] the other six days. ("Ye that desire to be under the Law, do ye not hear the Law?" – Gal. 4:21.) But every one of unprejudiced mind knows that the command never meant that more than one day might not be spent in rest, but merely that the Jews must rest during the Seventh Day, while during the other six they might labor for their own interests. Thus seen, the cry of persecution for keeping the Seventh Day as a Sabbath is nonsense.
As for the true interpretation of Revelation, 12th and 13th chapters: we gave what we considered to be such in the TOWER issues of January and February, 1883. But as the supply of these is long since exhausted, we purpose soon republishing those explanations in the TOWER.
But while we find no fault with any laws yet made or attempted to be passed for the prohibition of labor on Sunday, or for the curtailment of intemperance and gambling, and other immoralities, we see a tendency toward a blending of civil and religious matters in such degree as will become burdensome to minorities. A blending of civil and religious authorities would be very desirable indeed were the laws and officers infallible. Indeed such is the very institution which, during the Millennial age, is to bless the world – Christ's Kingdom. But so long as those in control are fallible and their views on politics and religion are various and imperfect, so long it will be unsafe and unjust toward the liberties and consciences of the minorities to enforce upon them the religious convictions of the majorities.
The Seventh-Day people see this phase of the subject, too, and would be prepared to look for the right things, were it not for their Sabbath bugaboo. This is evident from the following, clipped from one of their Journals: –
"United States senators have declared it to be 'not wise statesmanship' to disregard the demands of the churches for legislation deciding a religious controversy as to whether Sunday is the Sabbath or not. Now why shall not this principle apply to other cases? Why shall not the Spiritualists now work up some issue by which they can demand legislation which will decide the question as to whether or not people are alive when they are dead? There are as many Spiritualists as there are church members; and, of course, it would not be 'wise statesmanship' to disregard their demands. Besides this, they would have the unanimous and hearty support of all 'the evangelical churches' in the country. And as Congress has granted the demands of the churches alone on this Sunday-Sabbath question, how much more would the same body grant the demands of the same ones over again with largely increased numbers with them. For such would only be 'wise statesmanship,' according to the latest definition of the term. What queer ideas these gentlemen have of what statesmanship is! The truth is that it is not statesmanship at all. It is sheer demagogism; and that of the worst sort. These gentlemen should be told that statesmanship does not pander to the selfish and arbitrary demands of classes; it creates sound and healthy public opinion."
As we have heretofore stated, the Scriptures indicate the formation of a great religious combination, which will exercise a measure of political power throughout the world, and especially in these United States, and which will forcibly restrain public expression on religious subjects when contrary to its standards. At that time we expect that the WATCH TOWER publications will be suppressed – the very thing its many enemies would now like to accomplish but cannot; because now, and for some time yet, the "four angels" will hold back the storm – until all the servants of God have been sealed in their foreheads – given an intellectual appreciation of God's plan. (Rev. 7:1-3.) When the suppression comes we shall be fully resigned to it, and accept it as a sign that the membership of the elect Church, the bride or body of Christ, has been completed. When this occurs we shall understand it to be the shutting of the door of opportunity to membership in the elect Church, mentioned by our Lord in Matt. 25:10. This will probably be some twelve or fifteen years hence. Soon after, the intensity of the great trouble and anarchy may be expected.
The transfiguration of Jesus in the presence of three of his disciples is a point of interest to many, not because they see its lesson and significance, but because they do not see them. We read that there "appeared" to the disciples Moses and Elias, talking with Jesus. (Matt. 17:1-9.) Our Lord was transfigured (changed in appearance). His face did shine as the sun and his raiment was white as the light. A bright cloud overshadowed and surrounded them, and a voice out of the cloud said, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him." "And when the disciples heard it they fell on their faces and were sore afraid. And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, be not afraid. And when they had lifted up their eyes they saw Jesus only."
We might wonder and speculate about how Moses and Elijah came to be on the mountain, how the disciples, who never saw either of them, could know them, etc., etc.; but all such speculation is set at rest by Jesus telling the disciples that they had seen a vision. As they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying: "Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen again from the dead." (Matt. 17:9.) To the disciples the vision seemed a reality, just as to John at Patmos the various visions recorded in Revelation were clear and distinct; but our Lord certainly knew all about it, and we will rest on his testimony that it was a vision.
To think otherwise would involve the contradiction of sundry plain Bible statements; for instance, Jesus was not yet crucified, hence had not risen from the dead, and we know that he is the "first-born from the dead." But if Moses had already been resurrected, our Lord Jesus was not the first-fruits of them that slept. (1 Cor. 15:20.) The bringing back to life of Lazarus and others, we have heretofore shown, is not called resurrection, because they were not entirely delivered from the power of death – but died again.
But let us see, if we can, what lesson was taught or what important truth was illustrated by this transfiguration scene or vision. Doubtless in that way we shall see a reason for the presenting of Moses and Elijah in the vision.
Peter, who was one of those present on the occasion, mentions it in his letter long afterward. He says: "We have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eye-witnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honor and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory: 'This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.' And this voice we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount." – 2 Pet. 1:16-18.
We understand Peter to tell us, then, that the transfiguration vision was an illustration or presentation in vision of the "majesty" and "power" of his presence (parousia – here translated coming). It is, then, to be understood as representing the establishment of the Kingdom at our Lord's second presence. Therefore, from our standpoint, it is an illustration of the present time, in which the King is present and the Kingdom being established. Moses, we have seen, represents the human element of the Kingdom ("Moses, verily, was faithful in all his house as a servant" – Heb. 3:5); while Elijah represents the entire Gospel Church – the spiritual house of sons. Elsewhere we have seen that there will be these two classes in the Kingdom – an earthly and a heavenly – over all of which, the orderer of both phases, will be Christ Jesus; and this fits perfectly with the vision – Moses and Elijah, with our Redeemer in the midst, transfigured and shining.
So now, in his presence, we see not only the evidences of the spiritual Kingdom in the harvesting and sifting of the wheat, but also preparation being made for the establishment of the earthly or perfect human phase of the Kingdom. This is no cunningly devised fable, and was not only shown to Peter and others in vision, but "we have also a more sure word of prophecy," which bears the same testimony, "whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place." – 2 Pet. 1:19.
"Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you?" inquires the Apostle James (Jas. 3:13); and the question is one which all may consider with profit. Many indeed are endued with considerable knowledge, who display but little wisdom. Knowledge truly is of great importance, but it is only as it develops wisdom – sound judgment and pure and high-toned sentiment. This is the main object of God's revelation of himself to us. And the wisdom that comes thus, through the channel of divine truth, the Apostle describes as, "first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy." – Verse 17.
Such a character is the result of the transforming influence of divine truth. God's revelation is a mirror of his character, in which we see reflected his purity and love and goodness; and as we therein trace the lines of his glorious character the desire grows and strengthens to be more like him whom we thus learn to admire and love. The sincere heart, accepting the divine plan and its gracious provisions of salvation and blessing through Christ, at once begins to fashion itself in conformity with God's character by first putting away sin and then by striving daily to live a life of purity and holiness. With this effort come in the peace of God and the love of God, to rule and take possession of the whole man. And when the heart is thus cleansed and filled with God, the fruits of such an indwelling life-principle become very manifest to all beholders, in gentleness, mercy, goodness, and pure and holy friendship with all who are like-minded.
In contrast with this wisdom which cometh down from above the Apostle mentions another kind, which he describes as earthly, sensual, devilish. It is a wisdom or low cunning which is prompted by a spirit of envy and strife, and is always productive of "confusion and every evil work." Pride and selfishness are the inspiration of this kind of wisdom, just as in the case of Satan; and therefore let every one who names the name of Christ keep very humble. To harbor such a spirit of malice, of bitter envy and strife, while still professing to have the spirit of truth, the Apostle describes as "lying against the truth." God forbid that it should find place in the hearts of any who have thus far been faithful and have run well.
How carefully we need to guard our hearts against the slightest rising of pride and worldly ambition, and against every root of bitterness which, springing up, might trouble us. There are thousands of occurrences and circumstances in life which are calculated to bring us into bondage to the spirit of the world, and only those who keep a vigilant watch and an ever-prayerful attitude can hope to be kept in this evil day. Temptations and trials seldom give us warning of their approach, and therefore our armor of righteousness must ever be adjusted and securely buckled on.
"Leave no unguarded place,
No weakness of the soul;
Take every virtue, every grace,
And fortify the whole."
Heed carefully the Apostle's instruction – "Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him show by honorable conduct his works with meekness of wisdom." It is by our conduct and not by our professions that we are to be judged; and if any man have the true heavenly wisdom which is always coupled with meekness – humility – it will surely manifest itself in a straightforward, manly, honorable course of conduct, dictated by the wisdom which cometh down from above, which is always pure [unselfish], peaceable, gentle, compassionate and sincere.
May the Lord grant to all his loyal sons an abundance of this heavenly wisdom and the rich rewards of grace and peace that always accompany it. Put away all these – Malice, Envy, Hatred, Selfish-ambitions – and put on those adornments of Christ's spirit – Humility, Gentleness, Generosity, Meekness, Love. "If any man have not the spirit of Christ [in some degree] he is none of his." And he in whom these graces are not being cultivated and increased [R1448 : page 282] will soon lose them and be choked with the selfish and ignoble spirit of the world.
There are some of the children of the world who have cultivated outward gentleness and benevolence for policy's sake, whose hearts, as privately expressed, are full of bitterness, envy and selfishness; and there are some of God's children who naturally are very selfish and mean, but whose changed hearts are fighting against the weaknesses of the flesh, and who afterward repent of selfishness and meanness. But let such press along the line and seek for grace to help in every time of need. Their progress toward the likeness of Christ will gradually manifest itself to them and to others. "If the spirit of Christ dwell in you, he [God] that raised up Christ from the dead [has also the power and] will also quicken [to activity in his service and to his praise, in the present life] your mortal bodies."
Here, then, we have the earthly wisdom which is based upon selfishness contrasted with the heavenly wisdom based upon love and service to others. Whoever is really wise will choose the heavenly – the end of which, in Christ, is everlasting life.
Though the prospect here looks sad indeed, must Hope be altogether relinquished? "The miserable have no other medicine, but only Hope." True those words may be of this life and death, but will hope animate the breasts of those upon whom this awful sentence of the second death is passed, as it did the breasts of our first parents, when incurring the sentence of the first death they rested on the word that "the serpent's head should be bruised?"
That such a sentence may not or will not be the lot of any who have had the opportunity "in due time" of fully knowing the truth by realizing the effect of the Ransom that Love gave in their liberation from death's captivity, I do not undertake to say; I can and do most heartily hope it will not be, yet I feel that such prophetic threatenings as abound in the Scriptures, though known at one time only to Jews, and in subsequent times, though very partially, to the nations, yet in a coming period to be clearly and fully known, cannot be meaningless ones.
That character hereafter may be largely affected by the character displayed here on the part of the unconverted is a most likely thing, thus making it a solemn thing to live; because whatever may be the environments of the man in resurrection, however really he may be physically and mentally "made whole or saved," the same man morally, and knowing himself to be such man, is raised from the dead; and false appearances will stand us in no stead hereafter. All deceptions will be removed from man then, and "the mask fall from him." Nero will not rise a John, nor Cleopatra a Mary, nor the Caesar Borgia a Peter, even though he wore the Fisherman's ring. A man, dying out of Christ a wicked man, will not rise "in Christ," as some fancy from a misinterpretation of those words in 1 Cor. 15:22. Sodom rises, not a people whose "sin was destroyed" by their destruction, even in type, but the same persons who died, and who, though restored to Adamic life, could not and will not be ipso facto restored to innocence and holiness. But as a tree renewed in springtime would be the same tree, yet would require not a cutting off of its old branches, but a grafting of another or a new kind of life into it, in order to bring forth another and a different kind of fruit from that which it had formerly borne, so with Sodom and Samaria and Israel, as Ezekiel shows, 36:23-27, etc. The man "made whole" at Bethesda's Pool received with his healing the solemn warning, "Go and sin no more, lest a worse thing befall thee."
It is this "worse thing," then, that we are now to consider: for as that whole transaction was a "sign," the words carry some deep import. To me they have the import, or are a sign, of the future death; for to him the present [R1449 : page 283] life was dear when possessing it even in its misery; and the first death would inevitably overtake him, however reformed he became; which would not be the "worse thing" set before him, save in type in the sign. It is this subject that the student of the future of man must not leave out of his careful reflections when dealing with the subject of coming judgment, for it occupies much space in the word of Prophecy.
Here again the caution in interpretation is needed, "Distinguish the periods and the Scriptures will agree;" for as in other matters confusion has arisen from want of attention to that sound axiom, so the first and second deaths have also been confounded.
The strength of Calvinism lies in its grasp of the Sovereign Power and Grace of God; that of Arminianism in the use God makes of instrumentalities; and the strength of Universalism in the prominence it gives to the fatherly love of God. But each has its weak points (as what has not that man formulates?) – Calvinism, from not taking into full consideration the points of Arminianism and Universalism; and Arminianism, from not understanding how to arrange rightly the truth that the former so sternly and unlovingly upheld. Universalism, by far more true than either to the fatherly conception of Almighty God, has never, to my mind, squared itself fairly with the oft-repeated threatenings of the personal destruction of the wilfully disobedient sinner; nor with the stern decree of the sentence, "the soul that sins shall die." – Ezek. 18:20.
Now whilst allowing all due force to the suggestive thought which Universalists maintain to-day (some in so many words, and, I think, all mainly so in spirit), that "the destruction of the sinner" means the destruction of sin in him, I would ask: Can the thought be honestly maintained according to the natural laws of language, the harmonious interpretation of figures, and the character of judicial threatenings to evil-doers?
As Locke says, in his "Reasonableness of Christianity," with regard to the figurative practices of theologians concerning God's warnings to Adam: "It seems a strange way of understanding a law, which requires the plainest words, that by death should be meant everlasting life in misery;" so one may say of such modes of interpreting subsequent threats. It is a strange way of understanding God's judicial code of penalties for wilful sin in the future, that such words as "the soul that sinneth, it shall die" – shall incur the indignation of the devouring fire, shall be destroyed – mean destroying the sin, not the person himself.
This is not a matter of our hopes and desires, it is a matter of interpretation, or of understanding what is the judicial penalty for sin threatened in the Word of God when man has arrived at "the full knowledge of the truth," and when sin, being "full grown, bringeth forth death." – Heb. 10:26; James 1:15.
When Paul says, "The end of those [sinful] things is death," as "the end of holiness is eternal life; for the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God eternal life in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 6), does the death clause here refer to the first death? seeing that the holy and the sinful alike die that death. That it includes the former, it may be; but seeing that the true antithesis to eternal life is eternal death, it would appear that Paul's language extends farther than at first sight it may seem to do. In this respect, to let language have a fair range and potency, it may be well to note a few of the plain words of Scripture, and the figurative ones also, expressing the same thing.
That man is not annihilated at the first death is clear from our Lord's words in Matt. 10:28; but that man can be destroyed should he sin after resurrection is as plainly affirmed in that same sentence. Gehenna was the place of burning outside Jerusalem for corrupt things, offerings, or sacrifices of persons in idolatrous worship (Jer. 7:31; 19:6, etc., also Isa. 30:33); and appears to be used as a type of the real Gehenna, or Lake of Fire, unquenchable till its work is done.
These statements, when connected with evil-doers, are indicative, not of purifying the persons by the destruction of the evil in them, but rather of purifying the world by their own actual destruction, or removal by "the second death." [R1449 : page 284]
I have heard great stress laid on the view that "God wills not the death of a sinner;" and, misplacing the somewhat inaccurate quotation, they attach it to the statements made in Ezek. 18 and 33. Now, God does not say He wills it not, but "I have no pleasure in the death of him that dies." The quotation alluded to occurs thus in 2 Pet. 3:9: "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, but is long suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance."
This statement is in harmony with the one given by Paul, that "He wills all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth;" and His will undoubtedly will be accomplished, otherwise one can be sure of nothing, and could repose no confidence in His Word; but I do not know that anywhere He implies that He wills not the death of him who dies, i.e., in the coming age, for his own sin, but that He "has no pleasure or delight" in it, which is a very different sentiment; for it is evidently His will that "the soul [or person, so restored in the resurrection time] that sinneth [wilfully] shall die."
Some say the only way that death can be known to have been destroyed or rendered null is by the release or resurrection of every captive. At first sight this appears to be of considerable weight, because as darkness can be destroyed or rendered null only by light, so death must be by life; and in one sense such view is fundamentally correct; because all that have been its captives will, ere the destruction of Death itself, have been released from its grasp. Yet upon looking into it more closely, it does not appear to be a sound argument; for the Power which destroys Death in the Lake of Fire is that which is afterward exercised upon those not written in the Book of Life: thus making the position false which assumes that because destroyed they are therefore still under the dominion of Death rather than the dominion of Death's Destroyer. Such a view therefore [R1450 : page 284] demands too much when it maintains that its solution of the question is the only true one.
The warning voice of Jude is not without great significance in regard to this matter. He writes: "I will therefore put you in remembrance, though you once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of Egypt, afterwards (literally, the second time, or secondly) destroyed them that believed not." It would seem, therefore, that Israel as a type (see 1 Cor. 10:11) is here presented to view, particularly in that part of their history. In this light they had passed through death and resurrection in the Red Sea when "baptized into Moses" (as that ordinance denotes, according to Paul, death and resurrection – Rom. 6), and were on their way to the Rest of God; and it was not in their first sad condition of bondage and misery in Egypt that the anger of the Lord was thus manifested, but in their delivered and saved condition out of it.
In summing up, I may say it is clear that the first death terminates the first life [and would, were there no redemption and resurrection, be death in its real import]. Does not all reasoning by analogy therefore require us to believe that the second death ends the second life; and that, if no resurrection therefrom follows, it becomes as absolute a termination to life as the first death would have been under similar circumstances?
We can see how perfectly equitable is the arrangement, that as the first death entered and spread throughout all the race entirely independent of human will or personal act [except Adam's], the recovery by redemption and resurrection extends as far. (Rom. 5:18.) But the second death enters under totally different conditions, and is not independent of each man's will or personal act. (Jer. 31:29,30.) So that a radical difference exists between the two conditions: experience of good and evil, and knowledge of the truth, will take the place of ignorance; and every facility and inducement to resist evil and follow that which is good will be given.
To say the sacrifice of Christ covers also the second death goes beyond Scripture (Heb. 10:26); and not only so, but such a statement does not appear to be in harmony with reason, in the face of all the advantages accruing under the new order of things following.
As the Lord said by Isaiah concerning Israel: [R1450 : page 285] "What could have been done more to My vineyard that I have not done in it?" so likewise concerning that period of "restitution of all things," we may say of man so restored, "What more could have been done?" A full ransom freely given for all; a recovery from death extending as far as the sin; a full knowledge of the truth acquired; the whole environment of restored man, without and within, in his favor; and in such a condition a full trial or probation for life evermore!
Should such incur the second death by wilful sin, would not the echo of God's solemn appeal be heard, "What more could have been done?" Have those solemn words, regarding such as have partaken of "the powers of the age to come" and apostatized, no force? "It is impossible to renew them again unto repentance, seeing they crucified unto themselves the Son of God afresh and put Him to an open shame."
It is a sad picture! this closing scene portrayed in Rev. 20:15 – the second death. Our first parents had the cheering word from Love upon which Faith could fasten and Hope subsist; but in vain we search everywhere for words from God, for Faith and Hope. Adam and Eve went out of Eden, and in due time reached the Valley of the Shadow of Death, with the blessed words of resurrection life still sounding in their ears, "The woman's seed shall bruise the serpent's head." I can hear no sound from the depths of the second death; but I hear, as it were, God's appeal to the universe, "What more could have been done?" "Just and true are Thy ways, O King of Ages!"
FOURTH QUAR., LESSON II., OCT. 9, ACTS 9:32-43.
This lesson presents two instances of the exercise of the gift of healing on the part of the Apostle Peter. In the one case there was the restoration to health from a long and severe illness, and in the other case the restoration to life of one who had succumbed to the power of disease and was dead. The result of the miracles in both cases was faith on the part of the people who saw in them the Lord Jesus Christ, in whose name they had been accomplished; and faith in Peter as a servant of the Lord, and in his teachings concerning Christ and his coming kingdom, and the blessings promised to all them that believe in him.
And this was the object in the performance of these miracles – viz., to establish the authority of the apostles' teachings by thus showing to all men that the Lord was working with them and thus endorsing them.
It is also noteworthy that in every such instance of the manifestation of divine power the effect was the same: there was a large increase in the number of believers. And yet we find that this potent agency for the conversion of the world did not survive the days of the apostles; and consequently the world is full of doubting Thomases who would believe if they had some more tangible evidences of the divine purpose and power. How shall we account for this seeming indifference on the Lord's part in the matter of the world's conversion?
The Scriptures answer that it is because "the Lord hath appointed a day" – a set time – in which he purposes to give to all men just the kind of evidence which their doubting and unbelieving condition of mind requires. Then – in the Millennial age or Times of Restitution – he will say to all, Open thine eyes, and reach hither thy hand, and behold the manifestations of my power, and be not faithless but believing. And then will follow the speedy conversion of the world to God. These manifestations of divine power will come first in a great time of trouble (Dan. 12:1) which will completely revolutionize the whole present social order of the world and bring in a new and better order, based upon sounder principles of justice and truth. Then will follow manifestations of power in the healing of the morally and physically sick and infirm, the lame, the halt, the blind and the deaf, and the awaking of all the generations of the dead to life. When these mighty works are done in the earth there will not be [R1450 : page 286] room for a single doubt as to God's purpose and plan and power, and of his glorious and righteous character; for then "all shall know the Lord from the least to the greatest," and the way of life will be made so plain that "the wayfaring men though unlearned shall not err therein." – Jer. 31:34; Isa. 35:8.
But we call to mind the words of the Lord to Thomas after giving him the tangible evidence that his weak faith demanded, saying, "Blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed" – whose confidence in God is simple enough to take him at his word without the evidence of their senses. It has been for the purpose of selecting out from among men such strong and fearless characters, and granting to them the special blessedness of joint-heirship with Christ, that the appointed time for manifesting the divine power to the world is delayed. The Gospel age now closing has been the appointed time for the selection of this "blessed" class; and when this work is fully accomplished, the enlightenment, conversion and blessing of the world will follow.
There is another fact noticeable in connection with this narrative; and that is, that when Dorcas came to life again, although she was a good woman and a child of the Lord, and therefore one whom all the creeds of "Christendom" would send to heaven as soon as she died, yet when she was awakened to life she had no wonderful experiences or mysterious visions to relate, nor any disappointment to express at being recalled to this mundane sphere. She simply opened her eyes and recognized Peter, and, accepting his helping hand, sat up and received the congratulations of her friends. And the same may be observed in every case of awakening from death. See the accounts of the awakening of Lazarus, of the son of the widow of Nain, of Jairus' daughter and others. And then let the student remember the clear statements of the Scriptures – "The dead know not any thing;" "His sons come to honor, and he knoweth it not; and they are brought low, but he perceiveth it not of them;" and "No man hath ascended up to heaven but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man;" "There is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave whither thou goest." – Eccl. 9:5; Job 14:21; John 3:13; Eccl. 9:10.
With these statements and observations before us, call to mind also the prominence given in the Scriptures to the doctrine of the resurrection – how Paul said that except for the promise of a resurrection our hope and faith would be vain; and how when he had finished his course he did not expect to go to heaven, but to await the Lord's return to earth, when he and all the faithful would be rewarded by having part in the "first resurrection." – 1 Cor. 15:13,14; 2 Tim. 4:7,8.
Thus in the light of the Scriptures death is seen to be just what God intended it should be – an "enemy," an undesirable thing, a penalty [R1451 : page 286] for sin. And we are then able to thank God for the victory over this enemy, through our Lord Jesus Christ, by a resurrection from the dead; and with the early Church to appreciate and look forward with joy to his second appearing, when the resurrection of the dead will be accomplished. The few instances of awakening to life recorded in the Scriptures, but never repeated since the days of the apostles, were not resurrections in the full sense of the term anastasis, which signifies a full raising up to perfection of life and health, never again to relapse into death, as all of these died, because the appointed time for full restitution had not yet come. These instances were given to aid our faith in looking forward to the full restitution or resurrection promised at the time appointed, as well as to divinely endorse the teaching of the Lord and the Apostles and some of the Prophets.
In the life of Dorcas, of which this brief narrative gives us a glimpse, we see an example of Christian benevolence and zeal well worthy of imitation in spirit if not in exact detail. There often are temporary necessities now among poor neighbors and friends for the use of the needle in works of charity; but such necessities are far less common now than they were in the days here referred to, being superseded by public benevolence on a much larger and more effective scale. But there is always the still more important work on hand of feeding the hungry soul with the bread of life and clothing the naked with the robe of Christ's righteousness – a work in which this good woman doubtless engaged also, at the same time that she sought to relieve the temporal necessities of the needy poor.
When Dorcas was dying she was surrounded and ministered to by the loving hands of the Lord's people, the saints, and many poor widows whom she had lovingly sought out and ministered to previously. And when she was restored to life these were there to bid her welcome. How suggestive the thought – If we live the life of self-sacrificing love and devotion to God and his cause, sweet will be the awakening and the blessed re-unions beyond these scenes of sorrow and suffering. Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord; and blessed and holy are all they that shall have part in the first resurrection. [R1451 : page 287]
LESSONS III. & IV., OCT. 16 AND 23, ACTS 10.
In this lesson we have an account of the first presentation of the gospel to the Gentiles. It will be remembered that all the teaching of the Lord and of the apostles had been, up to this time, confined to Israel; that when Jesus sent out his twelve disciples to preach the gospel of the kingdom, he strictly charged them, saying, "Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not; but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Matt. 10:5,6); that when a Gentile woman besought the Lord to heal her daughter he replied, "I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel....It is not meet to take the children's [Israel's] bread [favor] and to cast it to dogs" [Gentiles – for such the Jews termed their Gentile neighbors], though when the poor woman was willing to accept a morsel of favor merely as a crumb from the children's table, she received her request. – Matt. 15:24-28.
This was because the appointed time had not yet come, according to God's plan, for favor to be shown to any people but Israel. God had abundant favor in store for "all the families of the earth," but his plan of salvation and blessing is a systematic, orderly arrangement, all the times and seasons and circumstances and details of which were planned and fixed by unerring wisdom for the accomplishment of a glorious purpose. According to that plan, seventy weeks of years (490 years) from a certain definite period were marked off as a special divine favor to Israel (Dan. 9:24); and those seventy weeks ended three and a half years after the death of Christ, from which time the gospel message was no longer to be confined to Israel, but might go to the Gentiles also, as it did, beginning with Cornelius, who was the first Gentile who received divine favor as a Gentile, without becoming a Jewish proselyte. Previous to this time even the Lord Jesus, whose work was strictly in accordance with Jehovah's plan with reference to both time and method, could not show favor to the Gentiles, and would not therefore have granted the Gentile woman's request for the healing of her daughter had she not been willing to receive it humbly as a crumb from the children's table, thus acknowledging that she was not a recognized child of God or heir of his favor, but willing, as an alien and an outcast from the commonwealth of Israel, to accept her portion as an unworthy "dog."
But, thank God, though both Jews and Gentiles have been unworthy of his favor, his love and grace abounds through Christ toward us all. And in the clearer light of a fuller development of his plan we now see that even the exclusiveness of his favor to unworthy Israel for an appointed time was a measure of his wisdom – a necessary feature in the glorious plan for the blessing of all the families of the earth in due time. – See Millennial Dawn, Vol. II., Chapter III.
It will be observed from this lesson that God puts a very different value to the words "saved man" from that generally given to those words by Christians to-day, who by reason of an erroneous view of the divine plan misuse the words. Cornelius was a good, devout man, one who believed in God and prayed to him, and who gave much alms to the poor, and who had built a synagogue or chapel for some poor Jews. Many to-day would say to Peter, Why go to that man? He is a saved man already. Go, spend your time more profitably laboring with publicans, harlots, vagabonds and prodigals; for this man already is good and devout and a believer. So, too, they often say to us to-day – marvelling that we teach the way of the Lord more perfectly to some who already have some knowledge of God.
From God's standpoint, which must be the true one, Cornelius was not a saved man, although a well-meaning, benevolent and praying man. God puts great stress upon faith – not only upon a faith, but upon the faith. He sent word by an angel to Cornelius, saying, Send for Peter and he shall "speak unto thee" and "tell thee words WHEREBY thou and all thy house shall be saved." – Acts 10:32; 11:14.
A false idea of "lost" has gotten possession of men's minds since the great falling away from the simplicity of the primitive Church; and hence "saved" also has a distorted meaning. Under the false but common view, "lost" means condemned to eternal torment, and "saved" means released from such an awful calamity. No wonder, then, that with such wrong ideas people in general should to-day conclude that "a devout man, who prayed to God and gave much alms to the poor" ought to be a "saved" man. Such a man certainly ought to be saved from eternal torment, according to every one's concept of fair-dealing.
The fact is that "lost" does not mean sentenced to eternal torment; and hence "saved" cannot mean recovered from such a fate. The [R1451 : page 288] loss or penalty of sin is to be "lost" or cut off from divine favor and blessings, as strangers and aliens; and hence to be under the penalty of death – loss of life. And "saved" means to be removed from that alienated condition – to be brought nigh to God and recognized no longer as sinners but as sons; and as such to have his blessing, which includes the favor of lasting life.
All Gentiles were in this "lost" or alien and condemned to death state from the time of Adam's sin. Only the one nation, Israel, had been restored to divine favor and fellowship (and that as a type), accepted through a typical covenant, based upon a typical cleansing, by typical sacrifices. When the true sacrifice had been offered, three years and a half of exclusive favor remained to Israel under God's promise, although the great Sin-offering or ransom price given was not for Jews only, but for "all" – "every man." Cornelius was the first Gentile received back into the divine favor as a son: the first "saved" or delivered from separation from God and the sentence of death, to fellowship, and heirship in the promises of God of eternal life through Christ.
Next notice what were those important "words," the believing of which "saved" or delivered Cornelius from condemnation and alienation. They were the simple statement (briefly recounted in Acts 10:34-43) of the facts: How God had anointed Jesus with the holy Spirit and power at his baptism; how after using this power for the good of others he had been crucified; how God raised him from the dead and appointed him to be the Judge of the living and the dead ( – which implies a new trial for all who had been sentenced when judged and tried as a race in the loins of Adam). Peter explained these facts in harmony with what the prophets had witnessed to on the subject (See Isaiah 55), no doubt quoting: "He poured out his soul [being] into death." "For the iniquity of my people was he smitten." "He made his soul an offering for sin." "The Lord let fall upon him the iniquity of us all." [R1452 : page 288] "He was bruised for our iniquities, and by his stripes we are healed." Then, applying all this (verses 36 and 43), Peter showed that this is a preaching of "peace" and "remission of sins" to all who believe these facts and accept by faith this grace of God in Christ.
So, too, it must be with all, whether in this age or in the next age: in order to be "saved" they must believe; and in order to believe they must hear, in some way, this same gospel declared to Cornelius. And it must "be testified to ALL in due time," that "there is one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for all." – 1 Tim. 2:5,6.
What a rebuttal this lesson is to the theory of some, that the heathen may be "saved" without having heard of Christ. Let us hold close to the Lord's way and the Lord's time for giving to all this gracious testimony of the peace and forgiveness effected by the blood of the cross for every one that believeth. To the Jew first it was given, and since to many Gentiles; but ultimately, "in due time," it is to be made known fully and clearly to every man.
God never would send you the darkness,
If he felt you could bear the light;
But you would not cling to his guiding hand
If the way were always bright;
And you would not care to walk by faith,
Could you always walk by sight.
'Tis true he has many an anguish
For your sorrowful heart to bear,
And many a cruel thorn-crown
For your tired head to wear;
He knows how few would reach heaven at all
If pain did not guide them there.
So he sends you the blinding darkness,
And the furnace of seven-fold heat:
'Tis the only way, believe me,
To keep you close to his feet –
For 'tis always so easy to wander
When our lives are glad and sweet.
Then nestle your hand in your Father's
And sing, if you can, as you go;
Your song may cheer some one behind you
Whose courage is sinking low;
And, well, if your lips do quiver –
God will love you better so.
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