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N.B. – Those of the interested, who by reason of old age or accidents, or other adversity, are unable to pay, will be supplied FREE, if they will send a Postal Card each December, stating their case and requesting the paper.
Thanks, dear friends, for the promptness with which so many of you are responding to our request to know whether or not you desire the WATCH TOWER visits during 1893. Your welcome letters are just pouring in upon us. This together with the other extra work of this season has quite overpowered our office force. All are busy, but all are insufficient. We usually send a card of acknowledgment for all sums of two dollars or more where books, etc., are not ordered (leaving the date on the address-tag to indicate the receipts of smaller sums). But as we are quite unable to do this at present we know that you will kindly excuse us. We cannot at present find time even to give the ordinary newspaper receipt on the address-tag: this receipt we will endeavor to give to all on our next issue.
Just a word of answer now, therefore, to all your letters at once, to say that we greatly enjoy the testimonies which so many of them give, of your clearness of mental vision on spiritual subjects; of your devotion to the Lord, and to the Truth, and to us, as their servants and yours. God bless you!
The donations to the Tract Fund accompanying the above mentioned letters (which must be acknowledged in like manner) have been unusually large, and the newly filled out "Good Hopes" for 1893 are very numerous. The interest thus manifested is greatly appreciated by us, as well as by the Master, in whose name we receive and in whose service we use them. Be assured that every self-denial of an earthly sort these may cost you will be more than compensated for in spiritual favors. We regard this increase in your free-will offerings as a sign, either of much more prosperous times than before or else of a richer spiritual growth in appreciation of the lengths and breadths, the heights and depths of the love of God. We believe it to be the latter; and we praise God on your behalf. – Phil. 4:17.
"While humbly receiving the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as containing the Word of God, I decline to subscribe to a merely human declaration of their contents, even though that declaration be so able and so venerable as the Westminster standards.
"Again I decidedly prefer not to be identified with any particular denomination of the followers of Christ, such names and the spirit which they engender seeming to me unscriptural and baneful rather than beneficial. It is sufficient for me to be a 'companion of all them that fear God.'
"Finally, I suspect that the world and the visible church are somewhat surfeited with preaching, at least of the prevailing type. Like the army of the Potomac early in 1862, the church has been abundantly, perhaps excessively, organized and drilled."
There is a report from Jerusalem that Baron Edmond de Rothschild has completed negotiations with the Turkish government for the establishment of Jewish colonies on the Rothschild lands in Palestine, and also for permitting Russian Jews to settle there.
Preaching in German at 10:30 a.m.
|VOL. XIV.||JANUARY 1, 1893.||NO. 1.|
At the threshold of each new year it seems but natural to look about us – backward at the year just gone, and forward to the year drawing on – reviewing our conflicts and God's mercies past and, with hope as our telescope, prospecting the future.
From your letters and otherwise, dear readers, fellow-servants of our King and fellow-heirs of his glory, we know something of the trials temporal and spiritual which have bestrewn your paths; but we know much more of how the grace of God has blessed you all spiritually through Christ. And we earnestly trust that, with us of the TOWER Office, you can apply to yourselves the words of the poet –
"Looking back, I praise the way
God has led me, led me day by day."
Our day is peculiar in many respects. Not only is it a day of blessings, advantages and conveniences beyond any other, but it is a day of dissatisfaction and discontent beyond any other. Not only is it a day of greater light and understanding respecting the Lord's plan, but it is a day in which the great Enemy of the truth is permitted to spread before the awakening nominal and real Church more sophistical delusions in the name of "new light" than ever before. Not only is it true that a man or woman has five times the opportunity for usefulness in God's service, ever before enjoyed, but it is also true that business, worldly pleasure and ambition are five times as active and powerful to keep us back from this possible usefulness. It behooves us, therefore, not only to get awake to our present privileges, blessings and opportunities, but to keep awake to them. He who does not realize that this will require a constant battle with selfishness, within and without – with the World, the Flesh and the Devil – is very liable to fall into the snare in learning of it.
Nevertheless it is possible, even now, for the intelligent Christian to have absolute contentment, to escape the errors of our day and to keep himself actively in the love and service of God. This blessing, with the peace that passeth all understanding, is, however, only for the few: for those whose faith is resting in the perfect work of Christ – in the ransom which he gave – and who are fully consecrated, heart and body, to the Master's will and work and way in every matter. Such he does not leave in darkness and doubt in this day when the hearts of the worldly-wise are "failing them for fear and for looking after those things coming upon the earth," but to them are fulfilled the promises – "He will show you things to come;" "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" – free from the bondage of error, free from the bondage of fear, and from those other bondages of creeds of men and of social and religious societies into which fear is driving many under the plea of "Union."
But while we do well, dear friends, to remember gratefully the mercies of the past year and to rejoice in the grace sufficient with which it was so richly supplied, it is wise for us to look carefully to our steps for the year beginning. [R1485 : page 4] While we did not fall last year, some did. Our trials and testings may be more severe during the year beginning, and unless we feel our own insufficiency and look to our Master continually, we shall be liable to depart from humility, to become puffed up with pride and haughtiness, the sure precursors of a fall. And again, if we look merely to our own weaknesses we will become so discouraged as to yield readily to the adversary's assaults. Our only safe position will be to feel humble and to realize our insufficiency, but to trust implicitly and always to him who has promised that he will never leave us, nor forsake us. (If there be any breach between us, if any leaving and forsaking, it will be on our part, not his.) We can safely trust our all to him who assures us that "All things shall work together for good to them that love God (with all their hearts) – to those called according to his purpose." We need have no fear of the ultimate results, so long as we find our wills fully submitted to our Master's will, and our hands and thoughts filled with his work. We may have full confidence, and may rest in peace upon the promise, "He will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able, but will, with the temptation, provide also a way of escape."
"Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary, the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour. Whom resist [by standing] steadfast in the faith, knowing that similar afflictions are being accomplished in your brethren in the world." – 1 Pet. 5:8.
The more we realize that we are in the harvest – the winnowing and testing time – the more we should each seek to follow the Apostle's advice, "Make straight paths for your feet lest that which is lame be turned out of the way." Each of us has learned some of his weak or vulnerable points of character, and each should seek, not only to strengthen these weak points but also specially to fortify himself against temptations and besetments of the adversary upon those weakest points, lest he thereby be turned out of the straight and narrow way.
This means a circumspection of your affairs in general: home affairs, business affairs, all, should be ordered and systematized with a view to protect your own weak points to the Lord's praise and to the good of yourself and others. See that your heart is fully given up to the King, and then, with the wisdom which he will supply those who seek it, divide your time and talents among your various duties so as to spend and be spent more to the honor of the Lord and to the service of his truth, and you will find yourself liberally repaid in spiritual favors.
We suggest to all WATCH TOWER readers as a motto and watch-word for 1893 the words of the great Apostle Paul – "Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong. Let all your deeds be done in love." – 1 Cor. 16:13,14.
Dissatisfaction and unrest tell the story of the entire civilized world. The growth of intelligence is making the world more unhappy daily, because selfishness is the basis or principle upon which every fresh degree of enlightenment must be erected; for the world knows not of the other basis, upon which the new nature builds, the basis of Love. Consequently, intelligence makes possible gigantic Trusts, Pools and swindling schemes on the part of many who occupy places of power; and the same intelligence permits those less favorably circumstanced to detect the frauds, to see their own comparative disadvantage so far as a rapid or fraudulent accumulation of wealth is concerned. Hence the gradual unrest. None but real saints of God know what full rest there is in Christ – the result of having the Christ-basis – Love for God and men – substituted for selfishness.
"And yet how far from realization is this noble idea of peace to-day. That Europe is an armed camp is a hackneyed truism. England holds millions of Oriental peoples under her sway, not by the bond of brotherhood, but by the iron hand of force. France is rent into factions by a great national scandal, in which many of her honored sons figure as despoilers [R1486 : page 4] of the widow and orphan. The tragedy of the great anti-Semitic persecution is not yet played out in Russia, and in some other European [R1486 : page 5] countries the echoes of its cry of hate are ominously distinct. Nor has the shadow of gaunt famine yet ceased to fall athwart the land of the Muscovite. At the same time, a social unrest unparalleled in history has taken possession of the nations of Europe, and has found a lodgment even in our own land. Its dominant note is a profound dissatisfaction with things as they are, not always rational or intelligent, but based on certain facts which no candid investigator will deny. This unrest is constantly leading to the social insurrection known as anarchy, and to the industrial wars known as lockouts and strikes. It may not be that the present social system is disintegrating; but it is certainly true that it contains within itself movements and elements which are symptomatic of a change in its character. And whether that change shall come by evolution or revolution depends largely on the wisdom and discretion of those who now hold the places of influence and power in the world. These are the facts that confront us this morning as we repeat the angels' song of peace and good will. Does not the situation suggest to us rather those words of the Master, recorded in holy Writ, 'I came not to send peace, but a sword'?
"Nor is the prophetic dream of brotherhood, for which Christmas stands, realized in the churches. The great Roman Catholic Communion in this country is stirred to its depths by controversies that vitally affect its very life and character. Every Protestant denomination is touched with the same unrest that is affecting social life. Old traditions and dogmas are in process of reconstruction, and new views are forcing themselves to the front. As a result of all this, there is strife to-day between those who join in singing the praises of the Babe in Bethlehem, and multitudes of good men are arrayed against each other in a deadly conflict of opinion."
After the conflict will come rest, and after the battle will come peace. Happy those who, in this enigmatic age, in spite of so much that is calculated to puzzle and sadden us, have such a clear prevision of the future that they can see the coming triumph of truth over error, of good over evil, in every land and clime."
"Let him that would be greatest among you be servant of all....One is your master, even Christ, and all ye are brethren." – Matt. 23:10,11.
Pride is selfishness gone to seed. The selfish spirit greedily gathers to itself as much as possible of all that it esteems good and valuable – wealth, learning, honor, fame and distinction among men. A measure of success in the acquisition of these treasures further leads the selfish soul to a feeling of self-complacency, independence and indifference to the well-being of others, which, gradually but rapidly developing into arrogant and self-assertive pride, will continue to ripen with every gleam of the sunlight of temporal prosperity. As selfishness continues to ripen it swells itself to ridiculous proportions and delights to vaunt itself, and gloats over its imagined importance and worthiness of honor and praise.
Who can love such a disposition? It is utterly unworthy in all eyes save its own. No wonder, then, that it is written, "God resisteth the proud and giveth his favors to the humble." And again, "Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall." How could it be otherwise? for these inflated values must at some time come down to a solid [R1487 : page 5] basis: wind will not always pass current for worth, and the punctured bubbles of earthly vanity will reveal the true status of every individual. And well will it be in the cases of those in whom the humbling realization does not awaken a spirit of rebellion and strife against God, which must inevitably end either in contrition or in destruction.
How much easier and how much wiser is the course of humility. The humble spirit seeketh not its own, is not puffed up, and does not attempt to speculate on inflated values, does not think of self more highly than it ought to think, but thinks soberly – neither overrating nor underrating its own acquirements or achievements. Humility strives always to do business on a solid basis, though it strives lawfully to acquire a real worthiness and to achieve the true glory of the divine commendation and favor.
The man who underrates his worth comes much nearer the truth than the man who overrates; for the fact is that no member of the [R1487 : page 6] fallen race, however favorably he may compare with some of his fellows more bruised by the fall, has anything whereof to boast. Consider, for instance, how meager is the aggregate of human knowledge in every direction. As a race we are unable to trace our own history for centuries from the beginning, or to account for our origin, or to prognosticate our destiny. We are unable to fully comprehend the deep philosophy of our physical and mental organisms. There are mysteries within us and all around us which the wisest men cannot fathom; and only those narrow souls whose world of thought is bounded by the horizon of their own temporal interests ever vaunt their learning or wisdom, or feel that they have aught of which to boast. Their fellow-men may call them great and wise and reverend, but they know too well how small and ignorant they are and how unworthy of reverence, realizing that beyond the ken of their short vision are vast unexplored fields of knowledge. The truly noble soul feels humbled upon the borders of the vast unknown, thankfully accepts the divine revelation as to his nature, origin, destiny, etc., and patiently awaits the Lord's good time for a fuller understanding of all the mysteries of his wondrous grace. Pride of wealth or of fame is of still more ignoble character. Wealth selfishly hoarded and enjoyed certainly adds no degree of merit to the possessor, whether he inherited or acquired it; and fame among fallen men only proves that he who gained it has not to any considerable extent outstripped the popular limit of advancement. At best he is only abreast of his times. The man who has outstripped the current of popular thought is never a popular or famous man. Every such one has had to attest his true moral courage by facing popular opposition and enduring the popular reproach; or, in other words, by humbling himself.
In view of these considerations we see how just and wise is the divine rule for abasing the proud and exalting the humble, and how sound our Lord's counsel to his disciples, to cultivate the spirit of humility and to avoid even the appearance of pride. Observing the growth and manifestation of this spirit among the Pharisees, who did all their works to be seen of men, who loved the uppermost rooms at feasts and the chief seats in the synagogues, and to be called of men Rabbi, Rabbi, he said, "But be not ye called Rabbi; for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren" – or, in the language of to-day, Be not ye called Reverend Doctors of Divinity, and let there be no distinctions of clergy and laity; for one is your truly reverend Lord and instructor, even Christ, and all ye are brethren. "Let him that would be greatest among you be servant of all;" for the divine rule is that "whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted."
God's plan, viewed as a whole, shows that the exaltation of any individual or class of his creatures is always for the purpose of blessing others who are not so exalted. Thus, for instance, the exaltation of our Lord Jesus and his Church is for the blessing of all others; so also was the election and special favor to Israel to result in blessings to the nations not so favored.
Such a rule, it will readily be seen, is the prompting of the highest benevolence and of the fatherly love of God for all his creatures of every name and order, and manifests the depth of his wisdom as well as his love, both in rewarding the truly worthy and in bringing righteous and benevolent power forward for the accomplishment of righteous and benevolent ends. Thus in benevolent service and mutual love he will in due time bind together in one the whole family in heaven and in earth, through the mediation and service of the greatest of all servants, Jesus Christ.
Let us heed this counsel of the Master, and let us humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt us in due time. (1 Pet. 5:6.) We have already done so to some extent in refusing to own as our masters the various heads of the great nominal church. We own neither Luther, nor Calvin, nor Knox, nor Wesley, nor Campbell, nor any other man or body of men, as our master; nor do we own the pope of Rome as our pope, our Father: God is our father, and his anointed Son is our Lord and head. To them, and not to our brethren, let us look for the reward of faithfulness: "For," says the Apostle (Heb. 6:10), "God [R1487 : page 7] is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love which ye have shown toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister."
It is indeed no easy matter to tread the pathway of humility, to continually check the human aspirations and to keep the sacrifice on the altar until it is fully consumed. But thus it is that we are to work out our own salvation to the high calling with fear and trembling, lest we come short of worthiness for the prize of the high calling promised to the faithful overcomers who tread closely in the footsteps of our blessed Forerunner, – who was meek and lowly of heart. – Phil. 2:8,12.
It is when we are thus humble and faithful that the Lord makes us his chosen vessels to bear his name to others. Thus emptied of self, he can fill us with his spirit and with his truth, and we can go forth strong in the Lord of hosts and in his mighty power to do valiant service as soldiers of the cross.
If you sit down at set of sun,
And count the acts that you have done,
And, counting, find
One self-denying act, one word
That eased the heart of him who heard,
One glance most kind,
That fell like sunshine where it went –
Then you may count that day well spent.
But if, through all the livelong day,
You've cheered no heart by yea or nay;
If through it all
You've nothing done that you can trace,
That brought the sunshine to one face;
No act most small,
That helped some soul at trifling cost –
Then count that day as worse than lost.
"Beware, therefore, lest that come upon you which is spoken of in the prophets: Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish; for I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you." – Acts 13:40,41; Isa. 29:14; Hab. 1:5.
This prophecy was one of sufficient importance to be recorded by two of the Lord's prophets, Isaiah and Habakkuk; and from the Apostle Paul's reference to it in speaking to the people of his day, which was the end or harvest of the Jewish age, we see that it had an application to that peculiar time. And since that age with its harvest and all its peculiar circumstances was, as we have seen (MILLENNIAL DAWN, Vol. II., Chapter vii.), a type of the Gospel age and its harvest, we recognize this prophecy, as well as the other prophetic features of the context, as having a yet fuller and more special application to the present time – the harvest period of the Gospel age.
It is true to-day, as it was in the harvest of the Jewish age, that there are many despisers of the truth – especially of the truth due and now coming to light in this, our day. But, nevertheless, the Lord's great work goes steadily forward: he is doing "his work, his strange work, and bringing to pass his act, his strange act." (Isa. 28:21,22.) It is indeed a strange work to those unacquainted with the Lord's plan, which sets aside all human theories and plans, and pursues a course in direct opposition to them all. The world looks on and beholds this work of the Lord, and with fear and trembling as to the final outcome they regard its wonderful progress. And not only the world, but the vast majority of his professed followers, too, who have not been living on such intimate terms with the Lord as to be led into a clear knowledge of his wonderful purposes, regard the future with fearful forebodings, and his present "strange work" as an innovation rather than as a preliminary preparation for the glorious reign of the Prince of peace; for they wist not that this is "the day of his preparation" spoken of by the Prophet (Nahum 2:3), for the setting up of Christ's kingdom.
Before that kingdom can be fully established in the earth, all power and authority, of whatever sort it be, which belongs to this present [R1487 : page 8] order of things, must pass away. As a consequence of this preparation for Christ's kingdom, which is now nigh, even at the door (See MILLENNIAL DAWN, Vol. II., The Time is at Hand), we behold the shaking of the nations and the trembling of the very foundations of the whole structure of human society as at present organized unwittingly under Satan, "the prince of this world." The great crisis of this world's affairs has not yet been reached, but the preparations for that crisis are progressing steadily both in civil and in ecclesiastical circles. And if we would be among those who are truly wise we will apply, not only our heads, but also our hearts, unto the instruction of the [R1488 : page 8] "sure word of prophecy that shineth as a light in a dark place until the day dawn;" for it is written (Dan. 12:10) that "none of the wicked shall understand, but the wise [not according to the wisdom of this world, which shall perish (Isa. 29:14), but with the wisdom of meekness which confesses human ignorance and relies solely upon the wisdom which cometh from above: they] shall understand."
Those who thus rely upon God, and are simple hearted enough to take him at his Word, view his present work in the light of his glorious plan: they see light in his light: they realize the necessity for the great scourge of trouble which shall shatter all human ambition and pride and humble the nations in the dust. They see, too, the deformities of human theories and the fallacy of human arguments and the futility of all human schemes for the uplifting and blessing of the world, as they view them in contrast with the divine plan of the ages which God is working out. (See MILLENNIAL DAWN, Vol. I.) In consequence of this superior vantage ground from which, as children of God, we are permitted to view "the work, the strange work" of our day, we are not at all surprised to see all systems of men tottering to their final overthrow; nor are we dismayed as we are brought to realize that their utter destruction is sure.
But what do we see, as from God's standpoint we look out over "his work, his strange work," in this our day? We see, first of all, that which interests us most, viz., that the Lord is gathering together his saints and separating them as wheat from the tares – as loyal, devoted children of God from a great multitude of mere professors. (Psa. 50:5.) We see that such are being wonderfully led by a path which hitherto they knew not, enabling them to comprehend the lengths and breadths and heights and depths of the love of God as manifested in his wonderful plan of the ages.
Secondly, we see the binding together of the various companies of tares into great denominational bundles and labeled with various sectarian names. (Matt. 13:30.) Thirdly, we see the present heavens (the ruling religious powers of the world – viz., Roman Catholicism and Protestantism) beginning to roll together as a scroll. (Isa. 34:4.) That is, each is retaining its own distinctive features, yet both are coming closer together in mutual recognition, sympathy and co-operation – rolling together just as a scroll does, from the two ends. Any one at all familiar with the trend of thought in ecclesiastical circles to-day will mark this rolling together of the heavens. Protestantism is very solicitous, for instance, for Roman Catholic cooperation on the subject of Sunday legislation and various other proposed reforms, and to this end is constantly courting the favor of Rome. Presbyterians are anxious to expunge from their creed that clause which recognizes the Papacy as the "Man of Sin;" Methodists speak of it as a "great Christian camp," and Protestants of every name and order are doing homage to what they are pleased to call the mother church, all unconscious apparently of the fact that the Lord calls it a harlot church and the mother of harlots. (Rev. 17:1-5.) Union! is the watchword to-day throughout the length and breadth of Christendom, so called. In union is strength, they say; and strength to brave the coming storm, of which they all feel apprehensive, is what they all feel the need of. Singly and alone they realize that they are unprepared to meet the great time of trouble of which the Prophet Daniel declares that it shall be "a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation." (Dan. 12:1.) And consequently they are all willing to make any compromise necessary to secure what they call Christian unity. They [R1488 : page 9] want so-called Christianity to make an imposing appearance before the world in numerical strength. And Papists are none the less anxious than Protestants, though, seeing the anxiety of Protestants, they prefer rather to stand back and be courted than to take the initiative in this movement. But they are quite willing for policy's sake to speak now of the Protestant heretics as their "separated brethren," and Catholic priests are quite willing to sit side by side on the platform with Protestant clergymen in religious gatherings.
In no particular instance is this disposition of the heavens to roll together more manifest than in the proposed religious congresses which are to convene in Chicago during the season of the great International Exposition. There it is proposed to gather together for religious conference and co-operation, not only the representatives of all the creeds of Christendom, but of heathendom as well; and many are the religious enthusiasts who seem disposed to persuade even the heathen that they are Christians if in any degree they manifest the Christ spirit, which they define simply as a disposition of love to God and love to man.
In seeking a basis of union it is also clearly observable that Christians of every name and order are willing, for the sake of what they call Christian Unity, to drop out of their creed the only true foundation of Christianity, viz., the doctrine of the ransom. Such are some of the indications of the rolling together of the ecclesiastical heavens, or ruling religious powers.
Fourthly, we see the elements of the earth – civil society – getting ready for the final conflagration when, it is said, "the elements shall melt with fervent heat" (2 Pet. 3:10-12) – the heat of human passion and wrath. We see the angry nations armed to the teeth and impoverishing their treasuries to equip themselves for the emergencies of the near future, while statesmen and politicians everywhere view the situation in civil affairs as extremely precarious, and are put to their wits' ends to devise ways and means for the protection of civil government against the dangers that threaten it from the growing dissatisfaction among the masses of the people. This was very manifest in the policy of Prince Bismarck of Germany in his course with reference to the church of Rome, when, a few years ago, he sought to rid Germany of Popish influence; but finding subsequently the necessity of that influence for the preservation of civil authority in Germany, he retraced his steps from considerations of mere political policy.
We see, further, that men in every condition of life are banding together to resist others of opposing sentiments, so that the appearance of the world to-day is that of a great battle-field where mighty hosts of contending parties are definitely mustering their forces and preparing for a desperate conflict. Such has been the condition of things for a few years past, and the perfecting and equipping of these organizations will be the work of a few more years; and then will follow the world's crisis – a crisis in which all the powers of light and darkness will struggle for the ascendancy; and the result will at first seem to be disaster and utter ruin, until above the wreckage of all human law and order the power and authority of the Prince of Peace begin to be recognized.
Such is the outlook of our day as viewed in the light of the holy apostles and prophets; but the conservative Phariseeism of to-day shakes the cautious head and says, Nay, it is not so; we cannot be on the eve of a new dispensation and of a revolution so stupendous, involving the whole present social structure, both civil and religious; for Lo, "all things continue as they were from the beginning." (2 Pet. 3:4.) And in their zeal to bolster up the tottering structures of priestcraft and statecraft, whose interests are so closely allied, they array themselves in bitter opposition to the present great work of the Lord and the promulgation of the truth concerning his plans and purposes. And as the heralds of the divine purpose spread abroad these tidings, and the great work of the Lord in this our day is shown to be along the exact lines of his revealed purposes and for the utter destruction of the present order of things, the opposition increases and both the truth and its advocates are despised and rejected. And, strange to say, many of God's children are among the despisers, having partaken of the spirit of this world and become lukewarm and [R1488 : page 10] indifferent to God's truth, while they have sought out many incongruous theories and devices of their own and consecrated their lives to these human purposes.
It is to such that the words of our text are addressed – "Beware, therefore, lest that come upon you which is spoken in the prophets." What is that? It is spiritual blindness and darkness; "For the wisdom of [even] their wise men [even the honored and learned doctors of divinity, the leaders and representatives of nominal Christianity] shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid." "The priest and the prophet [the leaders and teachers] have erred through strong drink [being intoxicated with the spirit of the world]: they are swallowed up of wine, they are out of the way through strong drink; they err in vision, they stumble in judgment," and hence cannot discern the wonderful plan and work of the Lord in this our day. – Isa. 29:14; 28:7.
Greatly to be dreaded indeed is this spiritual blindness which shuts out from view the glorious vision of God's wonderful plan of the ages and the work of the Lord – his "strange work" – in this our day, and its glorious outcome when his wrath is overpast. Such despisers of the truth, however highly they may be esteemed among men, must fail to enter into the reward of the faithful overcomers of this age, who are to live and reign with Christ a thousand years. – Rev. 3:21; 20:6.
Let us, then, beware of that spirit which despises the instruction of the Lord, and when in his providence some human instrumentality [R1489 : page 10] is raised up in God's own time and way to declare the divine plan and work, let us rejoice and be glad. No human instrumentality has anything in this matter whereof to boast: the work is the Lord's, and the highest honor that any man can claim is to be his mouth-piece, his messenger. The prophecies concerning present truth were all securely closed up and sealed until this time of the end (Dan. 12:9), and no wisdom or learning could break those seals until God's due time had come. Let us, therefore, as we now behold the work and plan of the Lord, "lift up our heads and rejoice," remembering, as the Psalmist expresses it, that "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear though the earth [society as at present organized] be removed, and though the mountains [kingdoms] be carried into the midst of the sea [though they be engulfed in a sea of lawlessness and anarchy]; though the waters thereof [the ungovernable masses of humanity] roar and be troubled, [as we see them now and shall see them much more so, and] though the mountains [kingdoms] shake [with fear and dread and with an uncertain stability] with the swellings thereof." – Psa. 46:1-3.
With joy we have seen the light of truth breaking, and with joy it is our privilege to view every prophetic fulfilment, whether it be in the advancement of the truth, or in the cumulation and culmination of the troubles of this evil day; for every step of the Lord's great work brings us nearer the glorious outcome of everlasting peace not many days hence.
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL: – I enclose you herewith another editorial from the New York Sun of Dec. 15th, 1892, on the Prof. Smith heresy case. It is of the same purport as the Dr. Briggs case, and points clearly to the inevitable dilemma of the future, either to give up the Bible or give up the creeds. The Sword of Truth is certainly doing its work effectually now, exactly as you have interpreted the Scriptures. How easily would the acceptance of the truth of the Bible settle all their disputes if they could but see it. Yours,
"The charges against him were substantially the same as those on which Dr. Briggs is now undergoing trial in New York. That is, he has taught that scientific Biblical scholarship proves that there are errors in the Scriptures. [R1489 : page 11] Like Dr. Briggs and many other distinguished and nominally orthodox Biblical critics, he rejects the Mosaic authorship of the first five books of the Bible, upon which, according to the Rev. Dr. Birch, the authority of the Gospel rests, and generally in his teachings he has been in agreement with this modern school of criticism.
"On Monday the Cincinnati Presbytery pronounced such doctrine to be contrary to the doctrine of the Bible itself and of the Westminster Confession, and it condemned Dr. Smith to suspension from the Presbyterian ministry until he renounces and recants his heretical teaching. Of course, he will not purchase his restoration at that price: and he will not be tempted to make the humiliating submission by fear that he will be burned at the stake. Even if the constituted Presbyterian authorities refuse to tolerate his doctrine, he knows that he can get toleration for it elsewhere, and even among Presbyterians themselves. The Cincinnati Presbytery convicted him by a small majority only, though his teaching is opposed to the Westminster Confession in both its spirit and its letter, and is utterly subversive of the Presbyterian faith in the Bible as held for generations past.
"If it is thus made apparent that Dr. Smith has sympathizers with his views even in the conservative Cincinnati Presbytery, how must it be here in New York, where leading Presbyterian ministers and laymen have expressed their agreement with Dr. Briggs so openly? What does his suspension amount to under such circumstances? Because of his condemnation as a heretic by the one party he is all the stronger with the other party. If the Presbyterian Church drives him out as a heretic, he is only the first of a great company of its ministers whom in justice it must condemn to go out with him.
"Dr. Smith will appeal from the Presbytery to the Ohio Synod and thence to the General Assembly, thus keeping alive an issue of tremendous importance to the Presbyterian Church. Unless the sentiment of both of these appellate courts changes radically meantime, there is no probability of his obtaining a reversal of the judgment from either of them. The great majority of the General Assembly has been strongly opposed to such views as his for two years past, and there are no indications that the opposition will be less next spring. It is more likely to become more intense. Even at the risk of dividing the denomination, the Presbyterians must hold their ministry to the teachings of their doctrinal standards, for it is better to split than to go to pieces altogether. If the Bible is not the perfect and absolutely true Word of God received by inspiration from heaven, Presbyterianism has no foundation of divine authority: it rests on human reason.
"That is the issue, and the Presbyterian Church must meet it squarely and decide it positively. It may be confused by subtle theologians like Dr. Briggs and Dr. Smith, even in their own minds, but really it is the issue between faith and agnosticism. The conviction of Dr. Smith is only the beginning of the most momentous struggle in the whole history of Protestantism."
At this writing the decision of the New York Presbytery in the case against Dr. Briggs is announced as decided in his favor. Thus has the Presbytery of New York – one of the most influential religious bodies in the world – decided and proclaimed to the world its disbelief in the Bible as the inspired Word of God, and its conviction that the few Bible statements which measure up to Nineteenth century ideas should be treated respectfully for that reason, and that the remainder should be regarded as legends and old wives' fables. Truly the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. – EDITOR.
"And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God." – Eph. 5:15-21.
From the contrast here instituted between being drunken with wine and being filled with the Spirit, as well as from the fact that Christians and not worldlings are here addressed, we understand the wine to be used as a symbol of the spirit of the world. And the Apostle here warns the children of God not to become intoxicated with the spirit of the world, but counsels us, on the contrary, to be filled with the Spirit of God. It is not enough that we banish from our hearts the spirit of the world, but we must keep filled with the holy Spirit of [R1489 : page 12] God, else the spirit of the world will come in unsolicited and take possession.
The spirit of the world – the disposition and sentiments of the world on every subject – we find all about us, and the inclination of our natural mind is in the same direction: it is the mind of the flesh, the carnal mind, the selfish mind. To partake largely of this mind or disposition is to become intoxicated with it; and this intoxication stupefies the spiritual senses and beclouds the reasoning faculties, and so greatly mystifies the vision of truth that its clear discernment is impossible. But the spirit of Christ has the very opposite effect: it is the spirit of love and of a sound mind, whose healthful tendency is to illuminate the understanding and to invigorate every noble faculty of the soul.
The effect of such spiritual invigoration and illumination is that of joy and peace and praise; and when two or three such meet their hearts naturally flow together; and while they make melody in their hearts together to the Lord, they often delight to express themselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, and in prayers of thanksgiving to God the Father, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Nor do such ever find themselves so beset with the cares and vexations of the present life that they can find no cause for thanksgiving; for, being graciously enlightened by the spirit of God, they know that all things, however vexing or perplexing or trying they may be, are working together for good to them that love God – to the called according to his purpose; and therefore it is their privilege to rejoice at all times and under all circumstances, and their pleasure always to give thanks to God [R1490 : page 12] for all things.
As for days of national thanksgiving, we, as citizens of the heavenly kingdom, have no special need of them; for every day should be with us a day of thanksgiving for all things – for the prosperity of our "holy nation" under the righteous authority of Christ our King, for its peace and joy and its glorious hope, for its privileges of spiritual enlightenment and blessing, for the perfection of its laws and the shaping of its course and destiny, and for the needed discipline as well, which is to prepare it for its future exaltation and glory. Let the people of the world and less enlightened Christians give thanks, as doubtless many of them do, out of a sincere heart, for the common blessings of this present life – for the air and sunshine and rain, for bountiful harvests and for seasons of comparative peace with the nations abroad. Yes, blessed be God, out of his abundant mercy, these rich blessings are common to all – to the just and to the unjust – and it is well that the attention of all men should be called to mark and consider them. But they tell of no special favor to any of the nations or kingdoms of this world, all of which, as soon as the appointed "times of the Gentiles" are fulfilled, must give place to the universal Kingdom of God. (See MILLENNIAL DAWN, Vol. I., Chap. xiii.) God's supervision of these in the present time is not any interference in their chosen course, but simply an overruling of their free course so that they may not interfere with, but rather that they may ultimately minister to, his own wise ends, in the same sense as it is said that He maketh even the wrath of man to praise him.
And while the world thus marks and rejoices in, and in some cases returns thanks to God for, the truly glorious common blessings which our loving and benevolent Father showers alike upon the evil and the just, let our hearts not only rejoice in these things, but also in the higher spiritual favors bestowed upon the sons of God, giving thanks always and for all things unto God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Truly this is a happy frame of mind to be in, and those who can do this at all times and under all circumstances have reached an enviable altitude of Christian character and experience. All about us are trials and vexations on every hand, and the man or woman who has become so superior to these that he takes cognizance only of the end to be gained by this refining process, and who therefore patiently and even thankfully submits to the painful ordeals in hope of the glorious end designed by Divine Providence, may also confidently rejoice in hope of the final reward of the overcomers. [R1490 : page 13]
Along with this beautiful frame of mind produced by the indwelling spirit of God, the Apostle also links the grace of humility or submission – "submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God." Where the spirit of joy and thankfulness reigns pride finds no place, but each, in lowliness of mind and in the fear of God, submits himself to the other for helpful, loving counsel or criticism, to the end that so, by mutually taking heed to the word of the Lord and seeking to measure up to all its requirements, the bride of Christ may make herself ready for the marriage.
It is in view of the urgent necessity of sober watchfulness and attention to the will of the Lord regarding us that the Apostle calls upon all who are to any extent intoxicated and stupefied by the spirit of the world, saying, "Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light." – Put away the worldly spirit and awake to the importance of being filled with the spirit of God, and look to him for the light that will surely follow, with its blessed, invigorating and health-giving influences.
"See then that ye walk circumspectly" [carefully, picking your steps. Oh, how carefully we must tread this narrow way!] not like ignorant persons, but as wise men, securing the season for yourselves [taking advantage of your opportunities] because the days are evil. [The times are perilous, and only by sobriety and the wisdom of meekness shall we be able to walk this narrow way to its glorious terminus.]
"Wherefore," he adds, "be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is." And may the will of God and the joy and peace of God fill our hearts and leave no room for the spirit of the world to intrude upon us.
I. QUAR., LESSON IV., JAN. 22, ZECH. 3:1-10.
Although this chapter is not stated to be a vision, that is the inference. It will be remembered that a mixed multitude of those who trusted in God's promises, out of all the tribes, had returned from Babylon to the Holy Land. They had endeavored as best they could to restore the temple and its services, and Joshua was the High Priest; but withal their matters were in but a poor condition, very unlike the former glory of Solomon's time. The object of this vision was in part, no doubt, to encourage the then fainting hearts of Israel, and to lead them to trust in the acceptableness of their humble arrangements for God's service.
However, the vision's special significance is as a prophecy, in which the literal Joshua, of the prophet's time, has nothing whatever to do. Our interpretation of the vision, briefly stated, would be about as follows: –
Joshua typified the entire "Church of the first-born ones" during the present life – beset and opposed by their adversary, Satan. Our Lord Jesus is represented by the head and his consecrated followers by the body of the typical High Priest. All are opposed by the same adversary, for "He was tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin." The body of Joshua was represented as clothed in filthy garments – which represents the fact that "all our [the Church's] righteousness is as filthy rags."
The change of raiment typifies the removal of our sins and the providing instead of Christ's righteousness in and through God's arranged way – Christ's sacrifice – which was not then made known. The announcement of the angel to the cleansed Joshua (verse 7) corresponds to the Church's high-calling to the divine nature and Kingdom of God after its members have been justified by faith in Christ.
VERSE 8 addresses Joshua separately from the under priesthood ( – his body – just as our Lord and the royal priesthood under him – his body – are sometimes addressed separately), telling them that they are not the reality, but merely types of the true Christ. "Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, and thy companions, sitting before thee, for they are sign-men [or types]. For, lo, I am about to bring in my [real] Servant [R1490 : page 14] the Sprout" – a fresh sprout – one not of the old Adamic stock, blighted and dying because of original sin, but a new sprout, having fresh vitality: holy, harmless and separate from sinners, and yet a man – "the man Christ Jesus."
Using another symbol, a stone, the Chief Corner Stone, to represent this coming One, verse 9 declares: "Behold the stone that I have laid before Joshua [the type]. Upon that one stone rest seven eyes [perfect or divine wisdom, seven representing perfection and an eye representing knowledge]. Behold, I will engrave the engraving thereof, saith Jehovah of hosts. [God is superintending the engraving of his character and law upon all the "living stones" of the Church – the body of Christ – as surely as he superintended the trial development of our Lord, the Chief Corner Stone: as it is written, They shall be all taught of God.] – 1 Pet. 2:4-7.
"And I will remove the iniquity [unfruitfulness, etc., as well as sin] of the land in one day [the Millennial Day – "a day with the Lord is as a thousand years" with men]. "In that day, saith Jehovah of hosts, ye shall call every man his neighbor, under the vine and under the fig tree."*
The Golden Text is very appropriate. Our Lord, the Captain of our salvation, has been proved perfect through obedience to the things which he suffered; and now, in the completing of his body-members, he stands not only as our Redeemer, to make us fit to stand trial under the high-calling; and also as our Example of how to overcome, but more: he, as our High Priest, makes good our unintentional shortcomings, and also stands ready to succor all his consecrated members – promising that we shall not be tempted above that we are able to bear, because he will provide, for such, ways of escape. [R1490 : page 14]
I. QUAR., LESSON V., JAN. 29, ZECH. 4:1-10.
This, like the vision of the preceding lesson, was doubtless intended to encourage the Israelites living at the time it was given; but, like [R1491 : page 14] it also, its chief lesson belonged not to them, but to us. – 1 Pet. 1:12.
The golden candlestick (literally, lamp) with seven branches (or burners) is the same as that which, in the typical Tabernacle and Temple, shed the only light of "The Holy." The same seven lamps in one are brought to our attention in the Book of Revelation (1:20), and there explained to symbolize the Church of Christ during the present time. The seven represents perfection or completeness; hence as a whole the lamp-stand represents all the true saints or light-bearers in all the various phases of the Nominal Church development. – Rev. 2:1,5.
The two olive trees from which the olive oil proceeds to the seven lamps we understand to be typical of the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments – God's two witnesses. The holy spirit is "the spirit of the truth;" and God's Word is truth! God explained this to Zerubbabel (verse 6), saying, "Not by an army nor by force but by my spirit [the spirit of the Truth – the spirit or influence of God given through his exceeding great and precious promises, etc. – the olive trees – (2 Pet. 1:4) the Word], saith Jehovah of hosts. Who art thou, O great mountain before Zerubbabel? Thou shalt become a plain, and he shall bring on the headstone with shoutings of, Grace, grace unto it."
A mountain symbolizes a kingdom; and the one here represented as an obstruction before Zerubbabel typifies Satan's kingdom – the dominion of evil under the Prince of this world. Zerubbabel typifies Christ. His name signifies "a shoot [or sprout] out of Babylon." Literally, he was a son or shoot out of David and Jesse (as our Lord also is called), and secondly, as a sprout out of Babylon [confusion], he was a further type of Christ, who was out of, and yet separate from, sin and all mixture of evil. Undoubtedly the people of that day understood Zerubbabel to be the branch or shoot mentioned in the vision of Chapter 3:8, not realizing that Zerubbabel and Joshua were but types of Christ, in whom the two offices of King and Priest would be combined.
VERSES 9,10 blend the type and the antitype. Zerubbabel had begun the rebuilding of the literal Temple, and the people understood that it would be completed by him. They might not then despise the humble beginning of the work, but rejoice to see it progress under his direction – realizing that the seven eyes (i.e., the perfect wisdom of God which holds survey of all the earth) were superintending the work.
The real application of these verses is to Christ, who began the construction of the true Temple of God – "which temple ye are." His earthly ministry and the work of his followers have all along seemed small and weak, and far from what might be expected by any respecting so great a Temple for so grand a purpose. But those who realize the situation from God's standpoint can rejoice in the outcome, realizing the Lord's promise that "the day of small [R1491 : page 15] things," the day of suffering, the day of trials, will soon give place to the Millennial Day of joy, perfection and blessing. The despised "little flock," whom the world knows not, even as it knew not its Master, will soon be glorified with him, and share his Kingdom. The poor, rich in faith, and those that are nought, and that are despised, and that are foolish according to the wisdom of this world, are soon to be gloriously manifested as the Sons of God, the body of Christ and the embodiment of divine wisdom and power and love, that as his Kingdom they, with Christ their Lord and Head, may, as the "Sun of Righteousness," shine forth in blessing and life to the groaning creation – already redeemed by the precious blood.
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL: – The TOWER, to which I subscribed some time since, comes regularly to hand, and is much enjoyed by myself and wife. I note that you like to hear from subscribers, and I thought it might not be uninteresting to you to learn that I am one of those into whose hands "Food for Thinking Christians" [now out of print] fell, in London, about the year 1881. I had several years previously given up as entirely unscriptural and ridiculous the wretched dogma of eternal torment and the inherent immortality of mankind. I remember well your book being loaned to me by a friend, and my taking it home, sitting up all night and literally devouring its contents. Unfortunately it was read too quickly for perfect digestion and assimilation, but looking back, I can see now that it was not altogether seed sown by the wayside. I have been wandering about among the sects all these years since, "seeking rest and finding none," becoming successively a Methodist, a Disciple, a Baptist and again a Methodist. I have been clinging to the latter church, because it seemed to me that it had more love and zeal than some of the other denominations, but I have had no sympathy whatever with the erroneous doctrines I knew it to be teaching.
A year ago, in Baltimore, it was my good fortune to meet a Baptist brother who had been reading the DAWNS. He kindly lent me the volumes, one after another. I again swallowed their contents – getting through the three books in a little over a week, besides verifying most of the passages. I can scarcely tell you the change they have wrought in my whole religious life. I have been set to thinking as I have never thought before; and the blessed Word of God, which has to a large extent hitherto been a sealed book to me, is now unfolding to my mind in a truly wonderful manner. It is now my only study, and I have renounced all worldly ambition in order that I can find out fully what is the will of God concerning me, and that I may learn how best to do it. Many times in the past I have felt sick at heart at the thought that it seemed impossible to learn the truth fully, in view of the extraordinarily divergent teachings of the numerous sects, all claiming to expound the Bible aright; but it has been my humble and constant prayer to the good Lord to lead me into the light; and now, thank God, I feel that my prayer, to a very large extent, has been answered, and I am still trusting to the same leadings of the energizing and illuminating Spirit of God, praying fervently that the Word may yet become a "Lamp unto my feet and a light to my path."
I am glad to tell you that I was found by Brother Hewes some two months ago, when he called at my house selling DAWNS. Since then myself and wife have been meeting regularly at his house for study of the Word, singing and prayer, and these meetings have been wonderfully profitable to us. I have read, re-read and am still reading DAWNS with increasing interest and profit, and so is my dear wife; and we do feel that you have been the means, in the Lord's hands, of disseminating the needed light upon much of Scripture hitherto hidden, but now due to be revealed, and we are abundantly thankful to him therefor.
Yours in the one hope,
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL: – I am impelled to write and thank you for the last TOWER, especially the article, "Obedience Better than Sacrifice." It has been a great blessing to me, not only in awaking me to a realization of my own condition, but also in aiding me to regain at least a partial footing in the way of light and peace. The devil has surely been leading me by a quiet and subtle way into a condition of lethargy and doubt that found me, on awaking, nearly in the "outer darkness."
No doubt from a spirit of pride and overconfidence I was easily assailed. He began by persuading me that many of the expressions used in the TOWER, as regards false doctrines, were uncalled for. While I did not feel in sympathy page 16 with such doctrines and theories, yet I can see now that he was leading me as an "angel of light," very stealthily but surely in this and other ways. I had partially realized it as I had begun to lose that rest and peace which should be ours; but your article seemed to be sent of God to awaken me, and lead me back. I assure you, dear brother, I feel my own unworthiness and weakness, and for a time I hardly dared to look up; but I know he is willing to help me.
Just at the proper time the devil caused the enclosed article on "Inspiration" to come in my way, and I seemed in just the condition for it to cause a disturbance – a doubtful spirit. How thankful that I was awakened before it was too late!
My object in writing you is not only to thank you, but to ask you to pray for me. I need it. Pray that I may be given a spirit of humility and strength to obey, and that my own will and pride may be subdued. Oh, I am so anxious. Your article was indeed to me "a word in season." I thank God for it! How forcibly I have learned to know the meaning of Paul's words, "Let him who thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." Pray for me!
TOWER PUBLISHING CO., DEAR BRETHREN: – ...Robed in his righteousness, I am looking forward to be clothed upon with a glorious body, to have this mortal put on immortality, to when there will be no more a law in the body at variance with the law of the mind; but alas! before I am made meet for an entrance upon this inheritance of the saints in light, how much cleansing from the filthiness of the flesh, how much washing with water by the Word, I need; how much refining before the dross is all consumed, and how little will there be left. Nothing left but the will to be one with the members of his anointed body – one in Him.
Yours in our blessed Redeemer,
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL: – Enclosed please find $1.00 for the TOWER for '93. It can never be more appreciated than it has been, for it is more precious to me than its weight in fine gold. It has been like a mirror in aiding me to adjust the robe which my Master has given me, that I might appear at the royal marriage of the King – where (if I hold out faithful unto the end) I hope to meet you. I see so much to be done, by way of adorning the robe; and all I can do makes me realize all the more that it is all of Christ and nothing of self; yet I love to "wait upon the Lord." Yea, I would rather be a door-keeper in the house of the Lord than to dwell in a palace.
It seems as if I am now a mere drone in the bee-hive of earnest workers, but I leave that all to the Master of the harvest. He knows my heart. Paul tells us, "Having done all, stand;" and here is the standing in which patience is to have her perfect work. I find it requires strength from above to do this. I have done all I could, and now I am just resting with childlike confidence in my Lord, for he has answered my petition for strength to so do.
MY DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL: – I enclose you a dollar for renewal of TOWER for 1893. Being a newspaper publisher of over thirteen years experience, I know the value of prompt renewals. The dollar in advance saves interest, saves disappointment and worry, and gives the sender an easy conscience. I would not do without the TOWER if I had to live on two meals a day until I saved the money to pay for it. Its teachings are priceless to the true child of God. May its influence for good increase from year to year, and be the means of scattering light and truth to the uttermost parts of the earth.
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL: – I should like, if possible, to express to you my love and thankfulness for the blessings I have received through the reading of ZION'S WATCH TOWER during the year just closed. Many times have I been seemingly cold and despondent when the TOWER would come so full of rich food that in reading it the fire of zeal would glow in my heart, and I would feel like shouting praises to God, the Father, who has prepared such great things for his children. All praise to God, who gave his Son to die for us – and not for us, only, but also for the whole world – and to Christ, our blessed Redeemer.
May his favor ever abide with you and Sister Russell, that you may hand out meat in due season during the year just ahead. A happy new year to you both, is my prayer. I am glad to feel that I am remembered by you at the throne of grace, that the grand truths may become more clear to me.
"With the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation."*
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We are still greatly behind in our office work, thanks to your loving promptness in renewing your subscriptions. (These, and especially the accompanying kind words of your letters, greatly encourage us in the service, corroborating the assurance of the Word that "our labor is not in vain in the Lord," and add to our strength and courage amidst discouragements and difficulties raised up by the world, the flesh and the devil.) We trust you will excuse our inability to get the date on your address-tag so changed as to furnish you a receipt for subscription moneys sent in recently. We will attend to this as soon as possible.
The anniversary of our Lord's Last Supper, on the eve of his crucifixion, falls this year upon Thursday, March 30th, – after six P.M. At that hour begins the fourteenth day of the first month, (old) Jewish reckoning.
As usual, the Church meeting at Allegheny will celebrate it by commemorating our Lord's death. As usual, also, a protracted meeting for Bible Study will precede the memorial; and, as usual, friends from far and near will be invited to join in both, as may suit their convenience. These meetings will convene on Tuesday, March 28th, at 2 P.M., in Bible House Chapel, Allegheny (just across the river from Pittsburg), and be followed, on the 31st, by a Colporteurs' Meeting. Fuller particulars will be given in the February 15th WATCH TOWER. [R1497 : page 18]
Few journals, if any other, have such critical readers as has ZION'S WATCH TOWER. And we are glad of this. Prove critically all that is offered you, by us and by others, by the Word of the Lord; and let us know whenever you find a discrepancy. We will be pleased to correct an error.
We refer more to a number of letters received calling attention to our comments on verses 15 and 16 of the Bible Study for Dec. 25th, in our issue of Dec. 1st, '92. These letters were nicely expressed; and inquired whether the "Shepherds," and the "Wise men" who visited the infant Jesus, were identical; and if so our proofs. We answer, No: it was merely "a slip of the pen" on our part which thus blended into one the two classes. page 18
Orders for this translation are for the present delayed awaiting a new edition which the publisher advises us is now on the press. Orders will be filled in rotation as received as soon as possible. Our price is $2.00, including postage.
[R1491 : page 19] January 1st
|VOL. XIV.||JANUARY 15, 1893.||NO. 2.|
"The Church of God is to-day courting the world. Its members are trying to bring it down to the level of the ungodly. The ball, the theatre, nude and lewd art, social luxuries with all their loose moralities, are making inroads into the sacred inclosure of the Church; and as a satisfaction for all this worldliness, Christians are making a great deal of Lent and Easter and Good Friday and Church ornamentations. It is the old trick of Satan. The Jewish Church struck on that rock, the Romish Church was wrecked on it, and the Protestant Church is fast reaching the same doom.
"Our great dangers, as we see them, are assimilation to the world, neglect of the poor, substitution of the form for the fact of godliness, abandonment of discipline, a hireling ministry, an impure gospel, which, summed up, is a fashionable church. That Methodists should be liable to such an outcome, and that there should be signs of it in a hundred years from the "sail loft," seems almost a miracle of history; but who that looks about him today can fail to see the fact?
"Do not Methodists, in violation of God's Word and their own Discipline, dress as extravagantly and as fashionably as any other class? Do not ladies, and often the wives and daughters of the ministry, put on "gold and pearls and costly array?" Would not the plain dress insisted upon by John Wesley, Bishop Asbury, and worn by Hester Ann Rogers, Lady Huntington, and many others equally distinguished, be now regarded in Methodist circles as fanaticism? Can any one going into the Methodist Church in any of our chief cities distinguish the attire of the communicants from that of the theatre and ball goers? Is not worldliness seen in the music? Elaborately dressed and ornamented choirs, who in many cases make no profession of religion, and are often sneering skeptics, go through a cold, artistic or operatic performance which is as much in harmony with spiritual worship as an opera or a theatre. Under such worldly performance spirituality is frozen to death.
"Formerly every Methodist attended class-meeting and gave a testimony of experimental religion; now the class-meeting is attended by very few, and in many churches it is abandoned. Seldom do even the stewards, trustees and leaders of the church attend class-meeting. Formerly nearly every Methodist prayed, testified or exhorted in prayer meeting; now but very few are heard. Formerly shouts and praises were heard; now such demonstrations of holy enthusiasm and joy are regarded as fanaticism.
"How true that the Methodist Discipline is a dead letter. Its rules forbid the wearing of gold, or pearls, or costly array; yet no one ever thinks of disciplining any of its members for violating them. They forbid the reading of such books and the taking of such diversions [R1492 : page 19] as do not minister to godliness; yet the church itself goes to shows and frolics and festivals and fairs which destroy the spiritual life of the young as well as the old. The extent to which this is now carried on is appalling.
"The early Methodist ministers went forth to sacrifice and suffer for Christ. They sought, [R1492 : page 20] not places of ease and affluence, but of privation and suffering. They gloried, not in their big salaries, fine parsonages and refined congregations, but in the souls that had been won for Jesus. Oh, how changed! A hireling ministry will be a feeble, timid, truckling, time-serving ministry without faith, endurance and holy power. Methodism formerly dealt in the great central truth. Now the pulpits deal largely in generalities, and in popular lectures. The glorious doctrine of Entire Sanctification is rarely heard and seldom witnessed to in the pulpits."Methodist Exchange.
That the good Bishop is not unduly alarmed about the actual state of Methodism is manifest to every observer who is not stone blind. Here are two items out of many that might be culled from both the religious and secular press substantiating the Bishop's charge. They read as follows: –
"The Christian Nation is our authority for the statement that 'Mr. H. W. Knight, before a recent gathering of Methodists at the Bible House in this city (New York), said that, as an adjunct to the churches, buildings should be constructed with bowling alleys and billiard parlors and the like to counteract the influence of the rum shops.'
"A great many questionable things are done in many of the churches, ostensibly in the name of religion, but we were hardly prepared to get the announcement that things had come to such a pass that the Methodist Church would even consider such a proposition. A point made very prominent in the founding of that church was the idea of plainness and an entire separation from all worldly folly, but, having grown to be a large body and consequently popular, it is ready to entertain the proposition of having a gambling annex attached to its churches.
"Several instances are on record where young men have gained their first lessons in gambling at church socials and festivals. If they have thus learned these lessons at occasional gatherings of the church for festivity and silly games, how will it be when a permanent establishment that can be visited at any time is erected in connection with the churches? We have searched in vain for the divine commission, Go ye into all the world, and, for those who will not hear the gospel, erect bowling alleys and billiard parlors in connection with the churches, in order that they may be entertained.
"We know that this move will not meet the approval of the large majority of the members of the Methodist Church, but we are sorry to see that such is the tendency in the minds of many in the various churches at the present time; and while this is going on, should there not be a people who are seeking their power, not from some questionable means of worldly policy, but from the great source of all power, the world's Redeemer?"– Elder A. O. Tait.
"The pastor of a Methodist Episcopal church in a city noted for its beer-brewing interests has been so greatly stirred by The Voice's Church and Saloon editorials that he was constrained to seek counsel of a brother minister of his acquaintance, asking advice as follows: –
"'Dear Brother: My soul is stirred within me as I see this city wholly given up to the brewing interests. It would really seem that our churches are bowing to the liquor oligarchy. What are we to do – stay in the pulpit and keep silence, or preach Prohibition and take the consequences – abuse, non-support and persecution?'"
"'My Dear Young Friend: Your difficulty is one quite common to comparatively inexperienced ministers. I can fully sympathize with you in feeling as though you would like to fire broadsides of Gospel truth into the sin and iniquity that besiege the world on every hand. I used to feel that way myself in my early ministry, when I had occasional fits of 'enlargement of the conscience,' as I call it. It will require great care properly to suppress such impulses, and to keep the reins well in hand, so that you can manage the often none too pious men on whom you have to depend to supply the money for carrying on the Lord's work on an adequate scale.
"'The preaching of the Gospel in a way not to offend has become a science, which it behooves a young minister to study well. It has taken centuries to evolve this science in its present perfection. We are wiser than the early Christians and those of the Middle Ages, who injudiciously butted their heads against the brass walls of prejudice. They preached against particular sins, and incurred unnecessary displeasure, when they might have preached the Gospel as the never-failing remedy for all [R1492 : page 21] sin, without specifying, and thus have secured the respectful attention and endorsement even of the most hardened sinners.
"'It requires great wisdom and discretion to preach the Gospel in the present day in the way that most of the influential churches want it preached. The day of fishermen preachers is past. The young man who would serve a wealthy pulpit acceptably to-day must bring into it education, culture and refinement, and must show great deference to the opinions of the men who are looked up to, and who have influence in the church and in the neighborhood.
"'Regarding the particular question about which you inquire, you should be careful to make a broad discrimination between, for instance, a wealthy brewer and a wicked dive-keeper, who may, in the natural course of business, handle the former's wares and be under business obligations to him. Your congregation will probably stand by you in anything you may say about saloon-keepers, especially about those who conduct disorderly and disreputable resorts, but it would not do to imperil influence for good by attacking a respectable wholesale dealer, or classing him in the same category with common saloon-keepers.
"'Then, as to Prohibition, you know that question has so many bearings, especially in its political aspects, that it is well to feel your way very carefully before committing yourself to it unqualifiedly. You can safely say that you sympathize with the objects had in view by those earnest and excellent people who have become so discouraged in their attempts to keep the business within respectable limits that they even propose to do away with it entirely. I said that myself recently and it was heartily endorsed by a wealthy wholesale dealer, whose wife is a member of my church, and who is himself one of the best paying members of my congregation. Moreover, several Prohibitionists thanked me for my courageous stand against the liquor power.
"'Now, my dear brother, I have great hopes for you. I know of no young man in the denomination who stands a better chance for ecclesiastical preferment than yourself, if you will but follow the dictates of your own sober judgment guided by a few such considerations as I have mentioned. Whenever I can help you in any way, command me, and believe me,
Ever sincerely your brother in Christ,F. A. Llacy.'"
"There is considerable discussion in Pittsburg religious circles over the sermon last Sunday of the Rev. W. S. Rainsford, D.D., pastor of St. George's Episcopal Church, New York, in which he advanced some very radical views as regards the regulation of saloons. Dr. Rainsford, in substance, said that he had given the saloon question a great deal of study and that he had come to the conclusion that it is impossible to suppress saloons, at least in large cities, and the best thing the church can do is to make a compromise and countenance the establishment of places by Christian men, where beer, light wines and coffee can be sold. He also favored the opening of the places on Sunday during certain hours, and thinks the attachment of reading rooms would make them attractive. Dr. Rainsford thought that these places properly conducted would in a great measure aid the cause of temperance and lessen the consumption of spirituous liquors."
The foregoing arraignments by Bishop Foster, not only Methodists, but Presbyterians, Baptists, Episcopalians and members of all denominations may well ponder, for they apply to all alike. They come from one of the oldest bishops in the Methodist denomination. Had they come from one outside of Methodism they might be regarded as malicious reproach, but coming as they do from one high in official capacity within the denomination, they must be regarded as his honest convictions in view of the broad observation of Methodism as a whole which his position as bishop furnishes.
Its confessions ought indeed to be startling to every Methodist particularly, and to others in so far as they realize the same conditions. The Bishop accuses the membership of the [R1493 : page 21] Methodist church (1) of trying to bring the church down to the level of the ungodly by encouraging "the ball, the theatre, nude and lewd art, and social luxuries with all their loose moralities." What a charge! what a confession! Can the spirit of Christ, the love of the truth, or the joys of hope and of communion with God dwell in hearts that are so led of the spirit of the world? But does the Bishop mean that only a few such have crept into the Methodist church, while the great majority are [R1493 : page 22] otherwise minded? Evidently not, for he speaks of the membership of the Methodist church as a whole. He seems to see plainly that the whole Methodist field is overrun with tares, and that the true wheat – the saints who are actuated by the spirit of Christ – are numerically so insignificant as to be unworthy of mention.
(2) He accuses them of trying to make satisfaction for this worldliness by giving more attention to the outward forms of godliness – the keeping of Lent and Easter and Good Friday, and attending to church-decorations, etc. – in other words of having "a form of godliness without the power."
(3) He shows how the early zeal, enthusiasm, sobriety, consistency and devotion of Methodism have given place to pleasure-seeking with the world – how they are now "lovers of pleasure more than of God."
But what word of commendation has he for a faithful ministry that bravely endeavors to stem this fearful tide of worldliness in the ranks of Methodism? None whatever. On the other hand, his testimony agrees with that of the Prophet Isaiah (28:7. See also S.S. Lesson on Isa. 28:1-13, in TOWER of Jan. 15, 1892), that the ministry as well as the membership have become intoxicated with the spirit of the world, and are, therefore, as far out of the way as the people. He speaks of them as "a hireling ministry – timid, truckling, time-serving, without faith, endurance and holy power;" says they have forsaken the great central truth of Christianity and deal in generalities and popular lectures.
What an arraignment of Methodism. Doubtless the good Bishop would make some honorable exceptions among the ministry, as well as among the membership of Methodism, were he not speaking here of his outlook over Methodism as a whole. This can only be understood as his general view of the rank and file both of the ministry and membership of the great Methodist organization. In his estimation and from his specially favorable standpoint of observation, having a full acquaintance with the workings of the whole system and necessarily a large personal acquaintance with both the ministry and the membership, he plainly describes the rank and file of both as "tares" – mere imitation Christians, Christians in outward appearance, but not at heart. And, pointing to the fact that the society is only a little over a hundred years old, he declares that such a fall from the original devotion and zeal of Methodists for God "seems almost a miracle of history," and adds, "But who that looks about him to-day can fail to see the fact?"
It is high time, in view of these things, that any of the Lord's true people who still abide in the midst of Methodism and who support it with their influence, their presence and their means, should awake and consider what the Lord would have them do. We are now living in "the harvest" or "end" of the Gospel age, when the wheat and the tares which the Lord allowed to grow together all through the age must be separated. (Matt. 13:30.) The great mass of tares is to be bound yet more tightly than ever in bundles preparatory to the burning (symbolic) in the great time of trouble predicted by the Lord and the prophets and the apostles to occur within this harvest period, and which therefore can be only a very few years in the distance.
The sickle which the Lord is making use of to accomplish the separation is the truth due in this harvest period – the truth concerning the divine plan of the ages, showing both scripturally and philosophically the glorious outcome of the work of redemption in the grand "restitution of all things, spoken by the mouth of all the holy prophets since the world began" (Acts 3:19-21); and showing also the "high calling" of the Gospel Church – not the mixed company of wheat and tares which constitute the nominal gospel church, but the true and faithful saints," whose names were "written in heaven," and which have never been "blotted out" because of unfaithfulness: "The Lord knoweth them that are his." The divine plan of the ages shows how those called, chosen and faithful" ones (Rev. 17:14) are to be joint-heirs with Christ, how they are to reign with him over the earth for a thousand years, and how they with him constitute the promised "Seed of Abraham" which is to bless all the families of the earth. – Rom. 8:17; Rev. 5:10; 20:6; Gal. 3:16,29; Gen. 28:14. [R1497 : page 23]
One Sabbath morn I roamed astray,
And asked a pilgrim for the way:
"O, tell me, whither shall I search,
That I may find the one true Church?"
He answered, "Search the world around;
The one true Church is never found.
"Yon ivy on the abbey wall
Makes fair the falsest church of all."
But fearing he had told me wrong,
I cried, "Behold the entering throng!"
He answered, "If a Church be true,
It hath not many, but a few!"
Around a font the people pressed,
And crossed themselves on brow and breast.
"A cross so light to bear," he cried,
"Is not of Christ the Crucified!
"Each forehead, frowning, sheds it off:
Christ's cross abides through scowl and scoff!"
We entered at the open door,
And saw men kneeling on the floor;
Faint candle, by the daylight dimmed,
As if by foolish virgins trimmed;
Fair statues of the saints, as white
As now their robes are, in God's sight;
Stained windows, casting down a beam,
Like Jacob's ladder in the dream.
The Pilgrim gazed from nave to roof,
And, frowning, uttered this reproof:
"Alas! who is it understands
God's temple is not made with hands?"
We walked in ferns so wet with dew
They plashed our garments trailing through,
And came upon a church whose dome
Upheld a cross, but not for Rome.
We brushed a cobweb from a pane
And watched the service in the fane.
"Do prayers," he asked, "the more avail,
If offered at an altar rail?
"Does water sprinkled from a bowl,
Wash any sin from any soul?
"Do tongues that taste the bread and wine
Speak truer after such a sign?"
Just then, upon a maple spray,
Two orioles perched, and piped a lay,
Until the gold beneath their throats
Shook molten in their mellow notes.
Resounding from the church, a psalm
Rolled, quivering, through the outer calm.
"Both choirs," said I, "are in accord,
For both give praises to the Lord."
"The birds," he answered, "chant a song
Without a note of sin or wrong:
"The church's anthem is a strain
Of human guilt and mortal pain."
The orioles and the organ ceased,
And in the pulpit rose the priest.
The Pilgrim whispered in my ear,
"It profits not to tarry here."
"He speaks no error," answered I;
"He teaches that the living die;
"The dead arise; and both are true;
Both wholesome doctrines; neither new."
The Pilgrim said, "He strikes a blow
At wrongs that perished long ago;
"But covers with a shielding phrase
The living sins of present days."
We turned away among the tombs –
A tangled place of briers and blooms.
I spelled the legends on the stones:
Beneath reposed the martyrs' bones,
The bodies which the rack once brake
In witness for the dear Lord's sake,
The ashes gathered from the pyres
Of saints whose zeal our souls inspires.
The Pilgrim murmured as we passed,
"So gained they all the crown at last.
"Men lose it now through looking back
To find it at the stake and rack.
"The rack and stake are old with grime;
God's touchstone is the living time."
We passed where poplars, gaunt and tall,
Let twice their length of shadow fall.
Then rose a meeting-house in view,
Of bleached and weather-beaten hue.
Men plain of garb and pure of heart
Divided church and world apart.
Nor did they vex the silent air
With any sound of hymn or prayer.
God's finger to their lips they pressed,
Till each man kissed it, and was blessed.
I asked, "Is this the true Church, then?
He answered, "Nay, a sect of men:
"And sects, that lock their doors in pride
Shut God and half his saints outside.
"The gates of heaven, the Scriptures say
[R1497 : page 24]
Stand open wide by night and day.
"So, then, to enter, is there need
To carry key of church or creed?"
Still following where the highway led,
Till elms made arches overhead,
We saw a spire, and weathercock,
And snow-white church upon a rock –
A rock, where centuries before,
Came sea-tossed pilgrims to the shore.
My sandals straightway I unbound,
Because the place was holy ground.
I cried, "One church at last I find,
That fetters not the human mind."
"This church," said he, "is like the rest;
For all are good, but none are best."
Then far from every church we strayed –
Save Nature's pillared aisles of shade.
The squirrels ran to see us pass,
And God's sweet breath was on the grass.
I challenged all the creeds, and sought
What truth, or lie, or both, they taught.
I asked, "Had Augustine a fault?"
The Pilgrim gazed at Heaven's high vault,
And answered, "Can a mortal eye
Contain the sphere of all the sky?"
I said, "The circle is too wide."
"God's truth is wider!" he replied.
"Though Augustine was on his knee,
He saw how little he could see;
"Though Luther sought with burning heart,
He caught the glory but in part;
"Though Calvin opened wide his soul,
He comprehended not the whole.
"Not Luther, Calvin, Augustine
Saw visions such as I have seen."
While yet he spake, a rapture stole
Through all my still inquiring soul.
I looked upon his holy brow,
Entreating, "Tell me, who art THOU?"
But such a splendor filled the place,
I knew it was the Lord's own face!
I was a sinner, and afraid!
I knelt in dust, and thus I prayed:
"O Christ the Lord! end thou my search,
And lead me to the one true Church."
He spake as never man may speak –
"The one true Church thou shalt not seek.
"Seek thou, forevermore, instead,
To find the one true Christ, its Head!"
The Lord then vanished from my sight,
And left me standing in the light.– Sel.
An evidence of growth of public opinion on the subject of eternal torment was recently afforded in the Plymouth Church, Brooklyn, of which Henry Ward Beecher was formerly pastor. The Church takes up special collections for Missions, and it was decided recently that for the year 1893 no moneys should go into their usual Missionary channel, the "American Board of Foreign Missions," unless at the specific request of contributors; but that instead all should go to a missionary in Japan known to hold views in opposition to eternal torment. This motion was made by the present pastor, and only one person voted against it – a Mr. Bliss, whose name suggests his composure and joy even though all others of the race were in torment.
"I am sick and tired of going to the American Board in sufferance to aid in supporting missionaries who believe out and out in the damnation of all the heathen, and that damnable heresy that God doesn't love the heathen. I am tired of the whole miserable humbug, and I won't give a cent to spread the news of damnation. I won't let the damnable doctrine be disseminated by my money. That God is love is good news, but it is made stale old stuff by these men who drag a Juggernaut car over the heathen and want us to feed the beasts that haul it. It is my Christian duty not to give to any concern that will teach the heathen that their fathers went to hell."
This sermon of our Lord is characteristic of the great Teacher who spake as never man spake. It is wonderful alike for its simplicity, its clearness, its depth and its comprehensiveness. It is entirely devoid of anything like oratory; for evidently its object was to instruct, rather than to play upon the emotions of his hearers. Indeed, it is specially noticeable in all our Lord's public ministry that his methods of teaching were calculated to keep reason on the throne, and not to permit it to be overpowered by an unduly wrought emotional nature. In this his methods are in marked contrast with many of those in vogue to-day. We note also that his words were simple and easy to be understood, and that they appealed strongly both to the judgment and to the heart.
The sermon was addressed, not to a promiscuous congregation of saints and sinners, but to his earnest and faithful disciples who had left all to follow him – who had forsaken business and business prospects and home and friends and reputation, and who, in lieu thereof, had cheerfully accepted the reproaches that fell upon the Master, as well as the necessary toils and privations incident to such a life. Consequently its teachings apply, not to the world, nor to mere professors of Christianity, but only to those consecrated souls who have likewise left all to follow the Master whithersoever he goeth. The occasion was one of those seasons when, wearied with exhaustive labor, he withdrew from the multitudes who sought his healing touch and anxiously listened for the wonderful words that proceeded out of his mouth – "And seeing the multitudes [and being too weary to minister to them] he went up into a mountain, and having sat down, his disciples came up" (verse 1), and he opened his mouth and taught them.
A comparison of verse 3 with Luke 6:20 seems to indicate that the parenthetic phrase, "in spirit," was Matthew's comment, and not our Lord's exact words, which, according to Luke, were "Blessed are ye poor; for yours is the kingdom of heaven." The reference we therefore regard as applying to those who follow their Lord, who, though he was rich, for our sakes became poor, that we through his poverty might be made rich. Blessed are such poor ones – those who become poor in any sense of the word, whether financially or socially or otherwise, by sacrificing themselves for the blessing of others. True, we may have very little to sacrifice, but nevertheless, blessed are all the sacrificers.
The comforting words of verse 4 remind us of a similar expression of our Lord – John 16:20 – "Verily, verily, I say unto you that ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice; and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy." (See also 2 Cor. 1:7; Isa. 61:2,3.) It is those in Zion who mourn over and lament the mighty power of evil in the high places both of church and of state, and who, setting themselves in opposition to it, incur the reproaches both of the world and of lukewarm, nominal Christians. Blessed are all who so mourn; for in due time they shall be comforted in receiving the reward of the righteous and in beholding the final triumph of righteousness and truth.
Verses 5,10,11. The blessed meek ones of verse 5, who shall inherit the earth, are the same class who, according to verses 10,11, are bold and courageous enough to withstand evil and error and to champion righteousness and truth: they are meek in the true sense in submitting themselves fully to the Lord, and bold in defence of his truth and his way, even the endurance of persecution for righteousness' sake. Blessed are all such meek, persecuted and falsely accused ones; for they shall inherit the earth: theirs is the kingdom of heaven. By and by they shall reign with Christ in his throne. Rejoice, all ye, and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in heaven.
Verse 6 promises the satisfying portion of truth and righteousness in due time to all that hunger and thirst after righteousness. Verse 7 [R1493 : page 26] promises a merciful judgment to all those who exercise the same, and is thus the strongest incentive toward as lenient judgment of our fellow-men as circumstances will permit.
Verse 8. "Blessed are the pure in heart; for they shall see [Greek, horao, discern] God." [R1494 : page 26] To be pure in heart is to have pure, sincere motives and desires. Those so disposed come to the divine revelation with reverence and meekness; and such, and such only, are prepared to see the breadth and scope of the wonderful plan of God, and how far it transcends the narrowness of human theological creeds and philosophies. Having no films of prejudice or vain philosophy before their eyes, and no clouds between themselves and God, with delight they discover in his wondrous plan of the ages the worthy lines of his truly glorious character – his wisdom, justice, love and power.
Verse 9. God is pleased to own the peacemakers as his children. These are they who have first themselves found peace with God through faith in the precious blood of Christ, and who thereafter devote their energies toward bringing others into this blessed rest of faith and peace with God, and who further seek to show by word and example how a heart at peace with God always seeks peace with fellow-men under all circumstances where the sacrifice of the principles of righteousness are not involved. All such peace-makers are the blessed sons and heirs of God.
Thus, first of all, the great Teacher bids us rejoice in counting over our blessings, showing us that even here in this wilderness state our table is indeed bountifully spread and our cup runneth over with blessings.
Verse 13. "Ye are the salt of the earth," etc. The virtue of salt is its power to season and to preserve from decay and putrefaction, which power the true disciples of the Lord are here said to exercise over the masses of mankind in general. This, however, is not because we have this power in and of ourselves: it is the spirit of the truth, the spirit of Christ in us through the knowledge of the truth and obedience to it, transforming the old creature into the new creature in Christ.
According to these words of our Lord, it is by the influence of such persons, directly and indirectly, that the world has been kept from sinking to greater depths of ignorance and sin. When the spiritual life of the Church has ebbed low, the world has always suffered in consequence. For example, remember the dark ages and then the opposite effect of what is known as the Great Reformation. When spirituality revived in the hearts of God's people, the whole world began to wake up, and to receive some droppings of the shower of blessing. In the lives of God's people men see the moral distance between virtue and vice, and reason of a coming judgment when each will receive the reward that is meet, and they are thereby either shamed or persuaded to better and nobler lives.
But the possibility of losing this savor of truth and righteousness is also intimated: that is, we may retain the outward forms of godliness and lose its real power, its spirit or disposition, and thus become false representatives of the truth – hypocrites. And in such a case the question is an apt and suggestive one: "If the salt have lost its savor wherewith shall it be salted?" Or in other words, If the truth have lost its power over us, to what other power shall we look for the savor of the spirit of truth? "Sanctify them through thy truth," was the Lord's prayer, and if the truth ceases to avail for our sanctification and we turn from it, the implication is that nothing else will do it. And those who utterly repudiate its power are thenceforth "good for nothing," and their end is destruction. See also Heb. 6:4-8; 10:26,27.
Verse 14. "Ye are the light of the world," etc. The whole world walks in the valley of the shadow of death, and the Lord's disciples alone have the light of life, the blessed truth of redemption and full restitution – the good tidings of great joy for all people. "Let your light shine," says the Master. Let it dispel the nightmare which haunts so many minds – of a fiendish and all-powerful God whose purpose [R1494 : page 27] is to torment eternally nearly all of his intelligent creation. Let the light chase this and every other superstition back to the dark source whence it came. Do not hide your light, but set it forth prominently and keep it trimmed and burning, that its gracious beams may reach as far as possible through the gloom of ignorance and superstition. And, thank God, the time is coming, and is now not far distant, when all the light-bearers shall be exalted to power and great glory; for it is written, "Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father." And when this heavenly city, the New Jerusalem, is thus set upon a hill [in the kingdom] it cannot longer be hidden; but its glory shall lighten the whole world. Praise the Lord for his mercy and grace!
"These things write we unto you that your joy may be full." – 1 John 1:4.
Joy may be regarded as the effervescence or overflow of true and genuine happiness; and it is our Heavenly Father's good pleasure that his children should be so full of happiness as to bubble over all the time. To this end he has prepared a table before them, even in the presence of their enemies, and filled their cup of happiness full, even to running over. (Psa. 23:5.) This table of good things is his precious truth, to which we, who were poor condemned creatures under sentence of death, but sincerely penitent and desiring to return to God, have been graciously invited.
There, most prominently spread out before me, lies a most precious document: it is my pardon, sealed with the precious blood of Christ and signed by the great Sovereign of the Universe. It reads, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him might not perish, but have everlasting life." And thereto is appended this emphatic assertion, challenging contradiction – "It is God that justifieth: who is he that condemneth?" (John 3:16; Rom. 8:33,34.) "What?" I exclaim, "Does that mean me?" Yes, says the document, if you are one of the world – one of the condemned posterity of Adam – and willing to accept this free gift of God through Jesus Christ his Son, then this pardon is yours. And you need no one else to tell you so. Do you not hear? "It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth?"
With tears of gratitude I gladly accept the favor; and, truly, if there were nothing more on the table we might well say, Our cup is full. But no: there is more, much more; and, drying my tears, I see that side by side with this blessed document lies another which guarantees full restoration, to all the willing and obedient, of all the rights, privileges and blessings originally granted to our father Adam, but which he long ago forfeited, not only for himself, but for all his posterity. It reads, "Times of Refreshing [or renewing] shall come from the presence of the Lord; and he shall send Jesus Christ,...whom the heavens must retain till the Times of Restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began." (Acts 3:19-21.) Praise the Lord! I exclaim; that fixes a definite time when the blessings of liberty from sin and death shall begin to be actually realized.
O! how we rejoice; and even though we still wear the prison uniform of a diseased and dying body, and still abide within the prison wall of this present dying condition, we rejoice in hope of the glorious day of release.
But while clasping and holding and rejoicing in this precious hope, realizing that I am now recognized as a child of God and that in due time I shall be attired and blessed accordingly, my eye catches sight of a beautiful card. With trembling hand and a vague suspicion that this may be still another message of divine love, I lift it and read, "Hearken, O daughter, and consider and incline thine ear; forget also thine own people and thy father's house: so shall the King greatly desire thy beauty; for he is thy Lord, and worship thou him." – Psa. 45:10,11. [R1494 : page 28]
Was ever a proposal of marriage couched in more delicate and beautiful phrase? With astonishment I read it again and again. Surely it can mean nothing less than this: I am invited by the King of kings to become the bride of his royal Son – his only begotten Son and heir of all things. And since clothed with the imputed robe of his righteousness, which hides all the unrighteousness of my own robes, I am really considered beautiful in the eyes of the King, I am told, so that he desires to make me his bride – if I am willing for his dear sake to forget my own people and my father's [Adam's] house – the world in general, with all its hopes, aims and ambitions.
And while I gladly accept the offer and hasten to make ready for the glorious consummation, I find on this same bounteous table explicit directions as to how I may fit myself to behold the King in his beauty – of how I must appear in this precious robe of his righteousness which now makes me beautiful in his eyes, and that I may work out upon it the "fine needle work" (pains-taking embroidery) of an actual righteousness. Then, too, there are encouragements to perseverance in overcoming the world, to faithfulness in making ready for his appearing [R1495 : page 28] and to watchfulness against any snares by the way. Then there are warnings of the dangers and hardships of the pathway which are permitted to prove my love and loyalty by my faithful endurance. And there are copious promises of grace sufficient for every time of need. And there is line upon line to assure and reassure my faith of my Heavenly Father's good pleasure to thus exalt me to joint-heirship with his Son and to make me meet for such exaltation by making me also a partaker with him of the divine nature. (2 Pet. 1:4.) Then there are precious secrets for those thus elected of God – with reference to the time and manner and circumstances, etc., of the Lord's appearing and to the glory and honor and blessing of the coming inheritance and the blessed mission of the coming kingdom. Ah! surely, Lord, "thou hast prepared a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: my cup runneth over," and I rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.
Ah, says the inspired Apostle who wrote some of these things, and who saw the Lord and heard his teachings when he was here in the flesh – "These things write we unto you that your joy may be full. That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us (fellow-heirs of the same promises); and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ." (1 John 1:4,3.) O what condescension on the part of the divine Father and Son and what favor toward us! We all are one – one family – the divine royal family whence universal blessing shall shortly flow to all creatures in heaven and in earth.
But hold: there may be some who unworthily claim this honor while really they have no part nor lot in the matter. The only conditions upon which we can claim these precious promises are those of faith and obedience. And if we are still trusting in the finished redemptive work of Christ, and obedient to the heavenly calling, we are walking in the light of God's promises and instruction. And since in God is no darkness at all, and he has promised to guide us continually by his spirit through his Word, we cannot walk in darkness while we follow his leading. And in thus following where he leads and hearkening to his voice, and in making known our wants and our gratitude and love in prayer, which he has promised always to hear and heed, we have sweet fellowship with him and with his dear Son, our Lord Jesus. And not only so, but we have sweet fellowship also with all saints who are faithfully traveling in the same way.
"This, then," says the Apostle, "is the message which we have heard of him and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all." If we have fellowship with him we are walking (progressing) in the light – in the light which divine truth sheds about us and in the light of his approving countenance.
"If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness [walk contrary to his truth] we lie [for God does not lead his children that way], and do not the truth." Ah, there is the trouble. If any walk in darkness [away from the truth and toward error] it is not God's fault, but their own, in not obeying the truth. Dearly beloved, let us walk in the light.
I. QUAR., LESSON VI., FEB. 5th, EZRA 6:14-22.
The time of this lesson is about five years after that of the last two lessons. The Temple had been finished, although the wall of the city of Jerusalem was yet far from completed, and had been for a time abandoned.
VERSE 14 evidently refers, not only to the rebuilding of the Temple, but also to the city wall; because it mentions the commandment of Artaxerxes as well as those of Cyrus and Darius. King Artaxerxes' command went forth long after the Temple was finished, and had reference merely to the city wall, completed over fifty years after the completion of the Temple.
VERSES 15,16 draw special attention to "the house" of God, the Temple. This structure was undoubtedly built according to the specifications of King Cyrus, and if so was sixty cubits high and sixty cubits long (Ezra 6:3): it was therefore of larger dimensions than that of Solomon, although greatly inferior to it in ornamentation. Its dedication was, therefore, a very notable event with the people returned from Babylon, not one of whom, probably, had seen Solomon's Temple, which was destroyed about ninety years previous.
VERSES 17-22 describe the elaborate ceremony with which the Temple was dedicated, although it was all as nothing compared with the dedication of Solomon's Temple; however, the people now were poor in comparison, and certainly did nobly and generously, their circumstances considered. This suggests to our minds the consecration of the living Temple, and how the offering of themselves to the Lord, on the part of the "living stones," is pleasing and acceptable to God through Christ, none the less on the part of those who have few talents than of those who have many.
One point of this lesson specially worthy of note, by those who have fallen into the error of supposing that Israel and Judah were never re-united after their separation in the days of Rehoboam, and who claim that the ten tribes, styled "Israel," were all lost and that only the two tribes, Judah and Benjamin, styled "Judah," returned to Palestine after the Babylonian captivity, is that the people of Judah and Benjamin are not mentioned in this narrative, while the Levites are mentioned and the people as a whole are referred to as "children of Israel;" and it is specially stated (verse 17) that the sin-offering was of "twelve he-goats according to the number of the tribes of Israel." What better evidence could we have that all the twelve tribes were represented among these returned captives than this fact that the sin-offering was for all the tribes? None; except that our Lord and the Apostles in their day repeatedly addressed the descendants of those people as "Israel" and "Israelites."
The Golden Text is frequently misapplied by Christian people to some earthly structure of wood or brick or stone. Let us see in it the real house of God – the Church of living stones, being fitted and prepared for the indwelling of God by his spirit. Let us rejoice to enter into this, the antitypical house of God, soon to be glorified. Let us rejoice to have our names written among its members – "written in heaven." – Luke 10:20.
I. QUAR., LESSON VII., FEB. 12, NEH. 1:1-11.
VERSES 1-3. Nehemiah was an Israelite of the tribe of Judah. He was of one of those families which had not returned to Palestine under Cyrus' decree of about ninety years previous. He was an influential man, a Counselor to King Artaxerxes; for such is the significance of the title, "Cup-bearer" (verse 11). His attention was called to the pitiable condition of the returned Jews by [R1496 : page 29] his brother and certain others of his tribe [R1496 : page 30] who had returned to Babylon. The seventy years intervening between this lesson and the last had not been years of prosperity, but of adversity, to the Israelites, both in Jerusalem and in Babylon. Their enemies, taking advantage of the weaknesses of Ahasuerus, who reigned during the interim, had attacked the partially rebuilt walls and gates of the city of Jerusalem and had wrecked the former and burned the latter, which were of wood: and at Babylon, as we learn from the Book of Esther , a plot for the complete extermination of the Israelites had almost succeeded under the guidance of their enemies led by Haman – but had been prevented by divine interposition.
VERSES 4-11. Nehemiah's subsequent history proves him to have been a great man – a man of wisdom and of executive ability – and his conduct as here related testifies to the same; for he at once sought the Lord, desiring of him wisdom and grace that he might act aright – that he might perform what he felt to be his duty toward his people – "Israel."
In this we have a lesson which every real Christian's experience corroborates. Let nothing be done through strife or vain-glory (i.e., for self-glorification or honor), but let all things be done for the Lord's glory. And whoever is seeking service from such a motive will surely seek the divine wisdom to guide into the divine will and work.
Prayer is not to be entered into with a view to changing the divine will and getting it to conform to our imperfect ideas, but rather to bring our hearts and minds and conduct into conformity to the divine will, assured that therein is our greatest and truest happiness. Nehemiah's prayer was of this proper sort. He confesses the justice of the Lord's chastisement of Israel for their sins. He properly includes himself with the others of his nation. He recalls the fact that God's dealings were just – in exact fulfilment of the covenant made with that nation. (Lev. 26:33, etc.; Deut. 4:25, etc.; 28:64.) Then he refers to the Lord's promises in the same connection, That if Israel would repent he would return his favor to them. – Deut. 30:4; 9:29; Isa. 11:12.
Nehemiah was so deeply in earnest that he continued his prayers and supplication after this manner for several days; not that the Lord needed urging on the subject, but that the subject was growing upon Nehemiah's mind and heart. Gradually he was made earnest and strong enough to take an important part in the answering of his own prayer, as is shown by verse 11. His petitions closed, not with a boastful feeling that he had thought out a plan for Israel which would bless them and cover himself with honor, but with a plan which he believed to be of God, and upon which he desired God's blessing. He was about to bring the matter which was so close to his heart to the attention of the King Artaxerxes, and he prayed, "Prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy [favor] in the sight of this man" – the king.
Let us each follow this same course. "In all thy ways acknowledge him [God], and he shall direct thy paths." – Pro. 3:6.
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL: – I did not sign the free will offering or "Good Hopes" sent me last year because I could not promise as much as I would like for the cause; but as I have put aside a little each week, I send it to you to day, and will continue the same plan for next year, only hoping to do better.
When I read in the TOWER of the Brother who was wandering, I tell you, my dear Brother, it struck me hard. I love the dear Savior, but I often feel cold and distant, that I am cast off. When I go to prayer my mind wanders, and my heart becomes full of evil thoughts. I do not want to have such feelings, but it seems I cannot rid myself of them. I know I have a strong self-will which I try to overcome, but it seems I cannot. I feel all the while that something is saying to me "You need a change of heart;" and yet the more I try to do and be good, the more evil is present with me. Oh, how I would love to feel free and be rid of this feeling that troubles me so! I would love to come out boldly and work for the Master. Oh, I hope I may yet be able to overcome, and that my soul may yet enter fully into his rest.
Yours in Christian love,
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL: – As you know, I am engaged during week days in examining titles to real estate, and from this I [R1496 : page 31] derive my only income. I have for a long time desired to enter the ranks of the colporteurs, but circumstances have prevented me, and I have been obliged to await the Lord's due time. The door of opportunity for greater service seems to have opened now, for I have been enabled to effect an arrangement whereby I can use three days each week in spreading the truth, and devote the other three days to business. This will involve a considerable reduction of my income from the latter source, but I have no doubt that the Lord will provide sufficient for my expenses. Pray that I may be used always by him according to his will.
The work is progressing very satisfactorily in New York, and interest in the truth now due is growing very perceptibly. Wishing you, Sister Russell and all the dear members of the Body at Allegheny a happy new year of joy and peace in Christ, I remain, Yours in him,
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL: – I enclose a letter which is an evidence that the good work is quietly but surely going on. The writer is one of six who have become interested through Brother Benner, who himself has seen the light only about twelve months. If all would go to work as those dear Brethren the work would go on just as it should. Yes, let us all be constantly watching for opportunities to bring the truth to the attention of all having ears to hear.
While there is a good number of our brethren and sisters giving their entire time to this great work, yet there are many of us who are so situated that we cannot give all our time, yet we can all do something and so help the cause along – especially since we know that the "harvest" day is rapidly passing, and the night of confusion and trouble approaching, wherein no man can work. It will soon be too late to share in the good work; and, knowing the time, "It is high time to awake out of sleep; for now is our salvation nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light." (Rom. 13:11,12.) Yes, let us assist those who are willing to cast off the works of darkness (false doctrines), and help them to put on the armor of light (truth), in which we have been rejoicing, and which will enable us to stand in this evil day.
Your brother in the service,
Following is the letter referred to: –
F. Benner, Esq., Dear Brother: – I received the package of tracts, for which accept many thanks. Will use them in the best way I can. You may have the books sent to J. S. W__________ as soon as you can, as he is anxious for them. I would indeed like to meet Brother Weber, as you suggest; but cannot say when, as I am now here only at night. I hope to meet him soon. I am very much interested in this new light that has come to us, and hope and believe that it will be shed abroad throughout the entire world in God's "due time."
But how hard it is to get people to turn away from the creeds of their various churches that are keeping them in old ruts, while the light is shining on more and more unto the perfect day. I have not heard yet what my father thinks of "The Plan of the Ages." I am expecting to meet him soon. Am anxious to get his idea of it, and if he is not convinced, I want to prove its truth to him. I would like to see you and have a talk.
With best wishes for yourself and family, I remain, Yours in the faith,
MY DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL: – The arrival of the TOWER reminded me to forward to you the dollar for the year '93, for I should feel sad without the wholesome food it gives. Never in the experiences of almost half a century have such blessed views of God's great and grand designs so filled my soul with joy. I studied "theology," and graduated in 1858; and as I now look back upon those years they appear very unprofitably spent. Oh, such a jumble as my soul brought from the Institution! calling it faith, and trying to steady myself upon it, and calling on others to accept the same and risk their eternal interest upon it. But thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift! I now can and do rest wholly upon the blood of Jesus. I feel exceedingly unworthy, and I am quite sure the feeling can never become greater than the fact of unworthiness; but our blessed Lord is worthy, and through his merits we are called children and heirs. God is dealing very tenderly with me and mine. [R1496 : page 32]
I am trying to induce my Christian friends to read MILLENNIAL DAWN, and some of them seem to enter into the spirit of the books, while others, after reading till some superstition is exposed, return them with some disparaging remark. But it matters not. Indifference to God's truth will not destroy its vitality, or it would have been dead long ago. I stated in a recent social meeting my belief in a present Christ, and called attention to some of the huge errors that burden honest souls and hinder their prayers. Some appeared reflective, but incredulity sat graven upon most faces. My soul loves and rests on the glorious truths that our Lord is present, and that the sealing process is in progress.
I have no language to describe the beauty and majesty of the truth as it now stands forth; and I hope to be able to do something to aid the work of the TOWER TRACT SOCIETY this summer. God is greatly blessing me in spirit, while in temporal things I suffer for nothing. Blessed be his name!
May the blessing of God attend you and your colporteurs, is the prayer of your brother in Christ,
It is well for us to remember, dear Brother, that milk is for babes and strong meat for those of full age, as the Apostle expresses it. (Heb. 5:12-14.) Was it not pretty "strong meat" for your newly interested friends, for you to tell them of our Lord's presence and the harvest work now in progress? I suggest that the simpler forms of truth be given first, and the "deep things" of the divine plan as your hearers develop interest, and capacity for them. This will be following the example of the Great Teacher, who told the plan of God only as it became "meat in due season," and who once said to his disciples, "I have many things to tell you, but ye cannot bear them now." It will also be obeying his instructions to us to be "wise as serpents, but harmless as doves."
The part of the plan best calculated to arrest and interest an error-blinded child of God will be the foundation – the "Ransom for all." He has recognized our Lord's sacrifice as the ransom for the Church only. Show him that it was for ALL and is to be testified to all, in God's due time. (1 Tim. 2:4-6.) Next show the effect of the testimony in this and the next age – now a justification by faith, then an actual justification (or making perfect), by restitution process (Acts 3:19-21), for all who accept that ransom and its concomitant blessings.
Next your hearers will be prepared to learn of the Gospel age "high-calling," by route of the "narrow way" of self-denying sacrifice, to joint-heirship with Christ in the Millennial Kingdom which, by God's arrangement, is to "bless all the families of the earth."
Next show your hearers what the Scriptures teach concerning our Lord's resurrection-body and the manner of his second coming – that it will not be as a human being but as a spirit being; that flesh and blood has no part in the spiritual Kingdom of which he is the head; and that even the saints "must be changed" (1 Cor. 15:51) from mortal to immortal, from animal bodies to spirit bodies, before we can be like him and see him as he is. (1 John 3:2.) Not until all these points, with their Scriptural proofs, have been clearly seen by your hearers will they be ready to hear appreciatingly anything about the Lord's parousia (presence) and the harvest work now in progress – and this may require days or weeks or months, according to the receptiveness of the student and his previous familiarity with the Word.
However, unless very skilful as a teacher, it is generally best to call attention to reading matter bearing upon the plan, as for instance the successive volumes of MILLENNIAL DAWN. After they have read carefully, then talk on the subjects, helping them over any parts misunderstood or not clearly seen by them. Every one who attempts to teach, in any capacity, represents the Lord, the Head and teacher of his body, the Church; and, as such representative, should feel his responsibility, and should continually seek divine wisdom that he may "speak as an oracle of God." Go on, dear Brother, and God bless you! I desire by the above comment merely to increase your usefulness and that of other readers by counseling wisdom in the handling of the sword of the spirit – the Truth. – EDITOR.