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|VOL. XIV.||MAY 1, 1893.||NO. 9.|
"Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve?" – John 6:70.
RECOGNIZING our Lord Jesus as the divinely appointed and worthy head of the Church, which is his body, let us mark with what deep concern and wise forethought he considered all the interests of that body, even to the end of the Gospel age – the period of the Church's probation.
Immediately after his forty days of meditation and peculiar temptation in the wilderness, we find our Lord preaching the gospel of the coming kingdom; and from among those who heard him gladly, with hearing of faith, and who became his disciples, he made choice of twelve men to be the apostles of the new dispensation. These were men from the humbler walks of life: Four were fishermen; one was of the despised publicans; the callings of the others are not mentioned.
Concerning this choice of the twelve, we learn that, while under various circumstances the Lord called each individually to forsake all and follow him, which they promptly did, (See Matt. 4:17-22; Mark 1:16-20; 3:13-19; Luke 5:9-11.) there was also a special occasion upon which he dedicated them to their office as apostles. Of this Luke gives an account, saying that prior to this event our Lord withdrew to a mountain to pray – evidently to take counsel of God with reference to the interests of the prospective Church; and that he continued all night in prayer – "And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples [Greek, mathetas, learners or pupils]; and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles [apostolos – ones sent forth]." – Luke 6:12,13. Thus the twelve were marked as a distinct and separate class among the Lord's disciples. Verse 17 also makes the distinction very clear between these twelve and the other disciples.
The other disciples, not so chosen, were also beloved of the Lord, and were doubtless in full sympathy with this appointment, recognizing it as in the interests of the work in general. And in making the choice the Lord doubtless took cognizance, not only of the willingness of heart on the part of these twelve, but also of the circumstances and fitness of the individuals for the pioneer work that was before them. Thus, for instance, when he called the sons of Zebedee to leave all and follow him, he did not call their father. The following was to be, not merely a mental following of his doctrines, etc., but the leaving of business, home, friends, and earthly plans and prospects, etc., to go about with him or under his direction in the work of the Lord.
That our Lord at that time revealed much of the great importance attaching to his solemn setting apart of the twelve, is not at all probable, as it would have been impossible for them to comprehend it then; but these dear brethren, chosen from the humbler walks of life to be the Lord's special ambassadors, appreciated their privilege, notwithstanding the facts that privation and persecution would certainly be their immediate reward, and that the reward [R1521 : page 132] of the future could not then be clearly discerned.
Our Lord's object in selecting the twelve at that time was that he might begin with them a course of instruction and training which would fit them for their future work as apostles; for they did not fully enter upon that work until after the day of Pentecost. After their ordination the twelve were fully under the Lord's direction and much in his company; and they were careful students of his character, his gospel and his methods.
The commission of the apostles was, in the main, the same as the commission of the Lord and of the whole Church. It was to preach the gospel of the Kingdom. (Compare Isaiah 61:1,2; Luke 4:17-21; Matt. 10:5-8; Mark 3:14,15; Luke 10:1-17.) And to this work they zealously devoted themselves during the time of the Lord's presence with them, as well as subsequently; though we are not informed that their success in the work was any more marked during that time than was that of the seventy whom the Lord also appointed to this ministry, though not to the apostleship. (Luke 10:17.) But in addition to this general commission to preach the gospel of the kingdom, the Lord by and by showed the twelve that he was preparing them for a special work in the future – that they were to be his witnesses to bear testimony of him after his death. They must be witnesses, too, upon whom the people could rely as having been with him from the beginning of his ministry, and therefore manifestly acquainted with his doctrine and purpose. (John 15:27; Luke 24:48.) And not only so, but these twelve were also chosen to become, under divine providence, the founders and special teachers of the gospel Church, when in due time they should be endued with power from on high.
In other words, our Lord's object in selecting or ordaining these twelve was to so train and empower them, and to so establish their testimony concerning the truth of God, that, through them, such as hunger and thirst after righteousness might be convinced of the truth, and that from among such "a people for his name" (a bride for Christ – a Church) might be selected, trained and prepared for their exaltation as "joint-heirs with Christ" in his kingdom. This purpose in the selection of the twelve was implied in the prayer of our Lord just prior to his crucifixion (See John 17:6-9,20,21) – "I have manifested thy name unto the men [the apostles] which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them to me; and they have kept thy word. Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee; for [R1522 : page 132] I have given unto them the words [the doctrine] which thou gavest me, and they have received them....I pray for them: I pray not for world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine....Neither pray I for these [apostles] alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word [the entire gospel Church – to the end of the age]: that they all may be one [in heart and purpose and love], as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us [and then he shows the ultimate purpose of this selection, both of the apostles and of the entire body of Christ, in the following words] – that the world [that 'God so loved, even while they were yet sinners'] may believe that thou hast sent me" – to redeem and restore them.
The number of the apostles corresponded to the number of the sons of Jacob, the representatives and founders of the tribes of Israel, which in one phase of their typical character stood for the entire gospel Church, and in another for the whole world. (See Tabernacle Shadows.) And in the Book of Revelation these apostles are designated as the twelve foundations of the New Jerusalem, the glorious Church. (Rev. 21:14; Eph. 2:20,21.) Just so the foundation which sustains the Church is designed ultimately to sustain the whole world. But if these foundation stones were laid in the sand, the building reared upon them would be very insecure, and could not stand forever. (Matt. 7:25-27.) But they were not laid in the sand, but upon the sure and steadfast rock, Christ Jesus. – Matt. 16:16-18; 1 Pet. 2:4-8.
While all of the twelve were chosen early in the Lord's ministry that they might be his witnesses, [R1522 : page 133] because they had been with him from the beginning, when one of them (Judas) dropped out, having proved a traitor to his trust, the Lord supplied his place with Paul, who was made a witness of his glory after his resurrection and ascension. (Acts 26:13; 1 Cor. 15:8.) And thus the testimony, of the eleven eye and ear witnesses of the Lord's ministry, death and resurrection, and of the twelfth as to his glorious exaltation, is a firm foundation for the faith of the whole Church, to the end of the age. The election of Matthias by the eleven, to fill the place of Judas (Acts 1:23-26), was simply a human error – an over-officiousness on their part to attend to the Lord's business without his direction. It was done previous to the day of Pentecost and the descent of the holy Spirit. The eleven chose two, and asked the Lord to take his choice of them, and indicate the same by directing upon which the lot should fall. Of course the lot must fall upon one of them; but that was no indication of the Lord's will; and the Lord simply ignored their choice and in due time indicated his own in the election of Paul. And in his subsequent Revelation he describes twelve foundation stones in the New Jerusalem, not thirteen. Matthias was probably a very excellent brother; but he was not an apostle.
But, we inquire, What evidence is there that these twelve ordinary men were ordained to fill the important office of apostles in the Church? True, we see that, after our Lord's resurrection and ascension, the apostles were the strength and consolation of the infant Church. Having been the constant companions and disciples of the Lord, and eye-witnesses of his miraculous power, and having proved their loyalty and faithfulness to him by bearing his reproach with him, very naturally the saints of their day found in them props for their faith; and they rested upon their teaching, took courage from their example and wisely heeded their counsel. But were they ever intended to be more than such helps? – were they ever intended to be authoritative teachers whose words, more than those of others, would express the divine mind?
We answer, Yes; and the Lord clearly indicates that he would have the Church so regard them, and the helpful service he purposed to have them perform for the entire body of the Anointed. Let us hear the testimony: –
(1) As already noted, we have seen that these men were specially called and solemnly ordained, as a class distinct and separate from the other disciples, and given a particular and significant name – the apostles – to distinguish them from the others.
(2) We have also noticed that, although during our Lord's earthly ministry the work of the apostles differed nothing from that of "the seventy," nor were their labors any more signally blessed (Luke 9:6; 10:17), yet they were more directly and continually under his training, and that either some or all of them were the chosen witnesses of every remarkable feature and event of his course during the three and a half years of his ministry. They were the witnesses of his teachings and of his personal character and manner of life; and of his miracles and the effects of his teachings and work in his day. They were the only ones invited to partake with him of the last Passover Supper, and to receive the instructions of that solemn hour with regard to its typical significance and with regard to the changed features of that institution which would make it commemorative thenceforth of the real Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world. They were the witnesses of the agonies of Gethsemane and of his betrayal and arrest, as well as of his calm submission to the fate which he knew awaited him. They were the witnesses, too, of all the circumstances of his crucifixion, death and burial; and also of the fact of his resurrection.
(3) After his resurrection we find our Lord promptly taking up his work just where it had been broken off by his death – the work of still further preparing the apostles, his chosen witnesses, to bear reliable testimony to the whole Church. We find that while he appeared to many other disciples besides the apostles, and to upwards of five hundred at one time (1 Cor. 15:5-8), he was specially careful to very clearly establish the fact of his resurrection to the apostles. We find him carefully looking up each one of "the eleven" – sending the women [R1522 : page 134] who were first at the sepulcher to communicate the fact of his resurrection to each of them, and specially mentioning Peter, lest he should be overcome with discouragement on account of his previous unfaithfulness (Mark 16:7); opening the understanding of the two (Luke 24:27,32) on the way to Emmaus; satisfying doubting Thomas with tangible evidence; specially re-affirming Peter's commission; and fully convincing all and sending them out into the work again. – John 20:26-28; 21:15-17; Acts 1:1,2; Luke 24:52.
(4) We find further that "the eleven" were the chosen witnesses of the Lord's ascension, and that there is no evidence of the presence of any others on that occasion. Compare Acts 1:1-13, specially noticing verses 2,4,9,11. The expression, "Ye men of Galilee" signified "the eleven," all of whom were Galilaeans. See also Luke 24:48-51 and Matt. 28:16-19.
The apostles were thus the special witnesses of the Lord's resurrection, although he was seen by others; and thus the Lord made sure of having in them competent witnesses, that our faith in their testimony might be clearly established. Peter says, "And we are witnesses of all things which he did, both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree. Him God raised up the third day, and showed him openly, not to all the people, but UNTO WITNESSES CHOSEN BEFORE OF GOD, even TO US, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead. And he commanded us to preach unto the people," etc. – Acts 10:39-43. See also Acts 13:31; 1 Cor. 15:3-8.
(5) We see that, while the testimony of the apostles was at first restricted to the Jews, the Lord, after his resurrection, taught them that repentance and remission of sins must be "preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem." And then he added, "And ye are witnesses of these things;...but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem until ye be endued with power from on high."..."Ye shall receive power after that the holy Spirit is come upon you, and ye shall be witnesses unto me, both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and UNTO THE UTTERMOST PART OF THE EARTH." (Luke 24:48; Acts 1:8.) Since "the uttermost part of the earth" – America, for instance – could not be reached and thus ministered to during the life-time of the apostles, it is manifest that the major part of this witnessing was to be done through their writings and after their death. Thus they testify to us, and we consider this commission from the Lord to them to do so, and the particular training they received from him, as the best possible endorsement of their testimony and guarantee of its reliability.
(6) In obedience to the command to wait for the promised power, the apostles and the other disciples, about a hundred and twenty in number, tarried in Jerusalem, assembling together in an upper room, and waiting in prayerful expectancy from day to day until the day of Pentecost brought the promised blessing – the "power from on high," the baptism of the holy spirit. (Acts 1:14.) In this great blessing, specially promised to the apostles, apparently all of the faithful souls present with them shared. "They were all filled with the holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance." However, from Acts 2:7 it would appear that "the eleven" (all of whom were Galilaeans) were the public speakers. It evidently brought to their minds clearer visions of divine truth, filling their hearts with joy and praise; so that out of the abundance of their hearts they spoke the wonderful words of life as the Spirit miraculously gave them utterance in the various languages of the peoples represented there. And as a result of that power [R1523 : page 134] three thousand souls were converted that day. While all of the faithful waiting ones shared the special outpouring of the Spirit that day, and the same Spirit was also poured out upon the Gentiles later (Acts 10:44-47), and has continued with all the consecrated and faithful ever since, we are particularly assured that all of "the eleven" were there, and that not one of them failed to receive this gift of the Spirit without which their apostleship could not be recognized. – See Acts 1:13,14; 2:1.
(7) Although it may seem remarkable that the Lord permitted a Judas to appear among [R1523 : page 135] the apostles, while Saul of Tarsus verily thought he was doing God service as a Pharisee of the Pharisees, and was permitted to remain in ignorance of the truths of the new dispensation until all the privileges of the Lord's presence and personal instruction, etc., and even the outpouring of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost, which the others enjoyed, were entirely past, there was in this also, as we are now privileged to view it, another master-stroke of wise policy; for Paul was made a witness of the Lord's glory – "as one born out of due time" – as one "born from the dead" before the time – before the time for the Church's exaltation and glory, when, being made like the Lord, they shall see him as he is. (1 Cor. 15:8; 1 John 3:2.) And in visions and revelations the Lord more than made up to Paul what he lacked to make him a competent and reliable witness to us. – 2 Cor. 12:1-4,7; Gal. 1:11,12; 2:2.
And when the Lord himself testifies to us (Acts 9:15), "He is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel," that is all the endorsement Paul needed to put him on at least an equal footing with the others, as one of the chosen twelve. In addition to this testimony of the Lord and to the worthy zeal of Paul in bearing witness to the truth, and to the manifestation of the power of the holy Spirit in him, we have also Paul's own testimony concerning himself. He says, "I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not after man; for I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ." (Gal. 1:11,12.) And again he says, "He that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision [the Jews], the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles." – Gal. 2:8.
Paul was pre-eminently the apostle to the Gentiles, and the others more particularly to the Jews. Hence Paul has by far the more to say to us through his numerous epistles; but in their day "the eleven" were more prominent in the Church than he – Peter, James and John, as Paul says, being regarded as pillars among them. (Gal. 2:9.) Paul was the pushing pioneer, and his work among the Gentiles of his day was by no means a light, nor an honorable task, in the estimation of men. It exposed him to all sorts of danger, persecution and humiliation. And even in the Church his zeal was not fully understood and appreciated; for he had occasionally to produce the evidences of his apostleship, and to remind them, and thus prove to them that he was "not a whit behind" the others in authority and power. – 1 Cor. 9:1; 2 Cor. 11:5.
But let us inquire further as to the office of the apostles in the Church: Is it merely their historic testimony of the Lord and his teachings upon which we are to depend? or was their witnessing to include more than this?
Evidently they were to bear witness to all they knew, and to all they learned under the special guidance of the holy Spirit. Only thus would they be faithful stewards of that which was intrusted to them. "Let a man so account of us as...stewards of the mysteries of God," said Paul. (1 Cor. 4:1.) And the same intent was expressed by the Lord when he said, "I will make you fishers of men," and again, "Feed my sheep" and "lambs." Again, Paul says that "the mystery [the deep truths of the gospel concerning the high calling of the Church – the Christ] hidden in other ages, is now revealed unto his holy [justified and consecrated, and so reckoned 'holy'] apostles and prophets, by the Spirit," and that the object of its being revealed to them was "to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery [upon what terms they may have the privilege of fellowship in this mystery – of joint-heirship with Christ], which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God." (Eph. 3:3-11.) And, again, after speaking of how the Church was to be built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone (Eph. 2:20-22), he says, "For this cause [viz., the building up of the Church, the temple of God] I, Paul, [am] the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles." – Eph. 3:1.
Thus we see that the apostles were not only to bear historic testimony of Christ, but they were also specially prepared and empowered, through the influences of the holy Spirit, both [R1523 : page 136] to discern and teach the deep things of God, which they did as wise and faithful stewards of the blessings intrusted to them for the good and edification and building up of the whole Church. "Freely ye have received, freely give," said the Master; and they were careful to obey the injunction, and through them the same blessings have come down to us – even "to the uttermost part of the earth."
But still we would reverently press our reasonable investigation a step further and inquire, Are these apostles to be regarded as in any sense lords in the Church? or, in other words, When the Lord and Head of the Church departed, did any of them take the place of the head? or did they together constitute a composite head, to take his place and assume the reins of government? Or were they, or any of them, what the popes of Rome claim to be as their successors – the vicars or substitutes of Christ to the Church, which is his body?
Against such a hypothesis we have the plain statement of Paul – Eph. 4:4,5 – "There is one body" and "one Lord"; and therefore among the various members of that body, no matter what may be the relative importance of some, only the one Lord and Head is to be recognized. This the Lord also clearly taught when, addressing the multitudes and his disciples, he said, "The Scribes and Pharisees...love... to be called Rabbi; but be not ye called Rabbi; for one is your Master, and all ye are brethren." (Matt. 23:1,2,6-8.) And again, addressing the apostles, Jesus said, "Ye know that those presuming to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority over them, but it shall not be so among you; but whosoever will be great among you shall be your servant, and whosoever of you will be the chiefest shall be servant of all; for even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many." – Mark 10:42-45.
Nor have we any evidence that the early Church ever regarded the apostles as lords in the Church; or that the apostles ever assumed such authority or dignity. Their course was very far indeed from the papal idea of lordship. For instance, Peter never styled himself "the prince of the apostles," as papists style him; nor did they ever title each other, or receive such homage from the Church. They addressed or referred to one another simply as Peter, John, Paul, etc., or else as Brother Peter, John or Paul; and all the Church were similarly greeted – as brothers and sisters in Christ. (See Acts 9:17; 21:20; Rom. 16:23; 1 Cor. 7:15; 8:11; 2 Cor. 8:18; 2 Thes. 3:6,15; Philemon 7,16.) And it is written that even the Lord himself was not ashamed to call them all brethren (Heb. 2:11), so far is he from any domineering attitude in the exercise of his lordship or authority.
True, there were "bishops" (those who, like the apostles, had a general supervision and oversight of the work at home and abroad); and "elders" (those older and more advanced in the knowledge of the truth, etc., who took the general oversight and supervision of local congregations – Acts 14:23); and "deacons" (those specially charged with the temporal business matters of the various congregations – Acts 6:1-3); and "evangelists" (or traveling preachers of the Word); but they never used these terms as honorary titles. The conditions of fitness for these services in the Church are clearly set forth in 1 Tim. 3:1-13; 2 Tim. 4:1-5.
Nor did any of these leading servants in the early Church go about in priestly robes, or with cross and rosary, etc., courting the reverence and homage of the people; for, as the Lord taught them, the chiefest among them were those who served most. Thus, for instance, when persecution scattered the Church and drove them out of Jerusalem, the eleven bravely stood their ground, willing to do whatever might come, because in this trying time the Church abroad would look to them at Jerusalem for encouragement and help; and had they fled the whole Church would have felt dismayed and panic-stricken. And we find James perishing by the sword of Herod, Peter with a similar fate in view, thrust into prison and chained to two soldiers (Acts 12:1-6), and Paul and Silas beaten with many stripes, and then cast into prison and their feet made fast in the stocks, and Paul enduring "a great fight of afflictions." (Acts 16:23,24; 2 Cor. 11:23-33.) Did they look like lords or act like lords? We think not. [R1523 : page 137]
Peter was very explicit in this matter, when counseling the elders to "feed the flock of God" (He did not say your flock, your people, your church, as many ministers to-day speak, but the flock of God.), not as lords of the heritage, but being patterns to the flock – patterns of humility, faithfulness, zeal and godliness. (1 Pet. 5:1-3.) And Paul says, "I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death; for we are made a spectacle unto the world and to angels and to men. We [R1524 : page 137] are fools for Christ's sake,...we are despised; ...we both hunger and thirst and are naked and are buffeted and have no certain dwelling place, and labor working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it; being defamed, we entreat: we are made as the filth of the world and the offscouring of all things." (1 Cor. 4:9-13.) Not much like lords in all this, were they? And in opposing the idea of some of the brethren who seemed to be aspiring to lordship over God's heritage, Paul ironically says, "Now ye are full, now ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings without us;" but further along he counsels the only right way, which is that of humility, saying, "Be ye followers of me" in this respect. And again, Let a man so account of us as of the ministers [servants] of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. – 1 Cor. 4:8,1.
And, again, the same apostle adds: "As we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, who trieth our hearts. For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloak of covetousness: God is witness. Nor of men sought we glory – neither of you, nor yet of others, when we might have been burdensome as the Apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children." – 1 Thes. 2:4-7.
Nor did the apostles ever claim a monopoly of the teaching or of the pastoral work of the Church; nor did the Lord ever intimate that they should do so. Paul says, "He [Christ] gave some apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come in the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God unto a perfect man – unto the measure of the full stature of the Anointed one – that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine, ...but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ." – Eph. 4:11-15.
God has raised up these various helps, and has abundantly blessed their labors, both in the early Church and all along throughout the Gospel age. But the prominent and leading position of the apostles, as those specially empowered to minister to us in spiritual things, is clearly indicated. The Lord's personal supervision and appointment of the various orders or grades of teachers and helps is clearly indicated by the Apostle Paul's words – "God hath set [placed] some in the Church – first, apostles; secondarily, prophets; thirdly, teachers; after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, directors and diversities of tongues." Then he inquires, "Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles?" etc. (1 Cor. 12:28,29.) No: certainly not; and if we would be led of the Lord we must recognize this order of his appointment – those whom "God hath set" in the Church for its instruction and edification. And of these we must always remember that the apostles are first, though every member of the body may declare the unsearchable riches of Christ. – See Heb. 5:12.
In recognizing this priority of the apostles we are not underrating or casting any discredit upon the ministry of the other helps and helpers which the Lord provided for the edification of the Church. Thus, for instance, the testimonies of the "evangelists" Mark and Luke and Stephen are as trustworthy as those of the apostles; for they all had "the same mind and spoke the same things." And to such faithful witnesses whom the Lord has raised up from time to time all through the Gospel age, we find the apostles committing their charge ere they were called to rest. – 2 Tim. 4:1-6.
Thus, when the noble apostle to the Gentiles was about to finish his course, we find him committing [R1524 : page 138] the interests of the work to the "elders" of the Church (the faithful advanced and active ones); and his charge applied not only to such persons then living, but down even to our day. After declaring his own faithfulness as a servant of the Lord and the Church, and his solicitude for the great work, he said to them, "Take heed, therefore, unto yourselves and to all the flock over which the holy Spirit hath made you overseers, to feed the Church of God, which he [Christ] hath purchased with his own blood; for I know that after my departure shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall [ambitious] men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them....And now brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified....I have showed you all things how that so laboring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'" – Acts 20:17,28-35.
And Peter likewise exhorts the "elders," saying, "Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind. Neither as being lords of God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock." – 1 Pet. 5:1-3.
But in judging of such teachers whom we have reason to believe the holy Spirit has appointed in the Church, it is our duty always to see that their teachings are the same as those of the Lord and the apostles – of the Head of the Church and of those whom he has so clearly indicated as specially empowered to instruct us in the deep things of the divine plan, which were not due to be declared in the days of his personal presence, but which he made known subsequently to his holy apostles and prophets. (John 16:12; Eph. 3:5.) The truth, thus divinely inspired and first announced by the Lord's chosen agents, the apostles, even they themselves, had they fallen away, could not nullify. (But that none of them did fall away is manifest from Rev. 21:14.) This Paul distinctly states in Gal. 1:8-12.
The early Church rightly reverenced the piety and the superior spiritual knowledge and wisdom of the apostles, and, regarding them, as they really were, as the Lord's specially chosen ambassadors to them, they sat at their feet as learners; yet not with blank, unquestioning minds, but with a disposition to try the spirits and to prove the testimony. (1 John 4:1; 1 Thes. 5:21; Isa. 8:20.) And the apostles, in teaching them, enjoined this attitude of mind which required a reason for their hope, and they encouraged it, and were prepared to meet it – not with enticing words of man's wisdom (of human philosophy and theory), but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that the faith of the Church might not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. (1 Cor. 2:4,5.) They did not cultivate a blind and superstitious reverence for themselves.
We read that the Bereans "were more noble than they of Thessalonica in that they received the word with all readiness of mind and searched the Scriptures daily [to see] whether those things were so." And it was the constant effort of the apostles to show that the gospel which they proclaimed was the very same gospel darkly expressed by the ancient prophets, "unto whom it was declared that not unto themselves, but unto us [the body of Christ] they did minister the things now reported unto you by them [the apostles] that have preached the gospel unto you with the holy Spirit sent down from heaven" (1 Pet. 1:10-12); that it was the very same gospel of life and immortality brought to light by the Lord himself; and that its greater amplification and all the particular details discovered to the Church by them, under the leading and direction of the holy Spirit – whether by special revelations or by other and more natural means, both of which were used – were in fulfilment of the Lord's promise to the apostles, and through them to the whole Church – "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now: howbeit, when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you [the apostles first, and through them the whole Church] into all truth; for he shall not speak of himself [independently of me], but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak [R1524 : page 139] [i.e., he will be my messenger to you]....He shall glorify me, for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine [there is no conflict between us: his plan is my plan, and his way is my way]: therefore said I that he shall take of mine, and shall show it unto you." – John 16:12-15.
It was right, therefore, for the Bereans to search the Scriptures to see whether the testimony of the apostles agreed with that of the law and the prophets, and to compare them also with the teachings of the Lord. Our Lord also invited a similar proving of his testimony by the law and the prophets, saying, "Search the Scriptures,...for they are they that testify of me." The whole divine testimony must be in harmony, whether it be communicated by the law, the prophets, the Lord or the apostles. Their entire harmony is the proof of their divine inspiration. And, thank God, we find that harmony existing, so that the whole Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments constitute what the Lord himself terms "the harp of God." (Rev. 15:2.) And the various testimonies of the law and the prophets are the several chords of that harp, which, when tuned by the holy Spirit dwelling in our hearts, and swept by the fingers of the devoted searchers after divine truth, yield the most enchanting strains that ever fell on mortal ears. Praise the Lord for the exquisite melody of the blessed "song of Moses and the Lamb," which even we have learned through the testimony of his holy apostles and prophets, of whom the Lord Jesus is chief. [R1525 : page 139]
But although the testimony of the Lord and the apostles must harmonize with that of the law and the prophets, we should expect them to testify of things new, as well as old; for so the prophets have led us to expect. (Matt. 13:35; Psa. 78:2; Deut. 18:15,18; Dan. 12:9.) And so we find them not only expounding the hidden truths of ancient prophecy, but also disclosing new revelations of truth.
It may be well here to notice a further claim of that great antichristian organization, the church of Rome, viz., that Peter is the rock upon which the Gospel Church is built, and that to him and his successors, the popes, were confided the keys of the kingdom of heaven with power to open and to shut, to admit or exclude, whomsoever they will, and to bind or loose whomsoever and whatsoever they please.
The scripture upon which this doctrine is founded is Matt. 16:15-19. In reply to the Lord's question, "Whom say ye that I am?" Peter answered, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." And the Lord replied, "And thou art Peter [petros – a stone]; and upon this rock [petra – a rock, a large stone] I will build my Church." Thus, in harmony with numerous Old Testament references, such as Isa. 8:14, the Lord is seen to be the great rock upon which the Church is built, while Peter is one of the living stones in the glorious temple of God built upon that rock, which he had just confessed as the rock of our salvation – the Christ. And Peter himself freely admits the relationship of all the living stones, himself included, to the great foundation stone – the rock Christ Jesus – saying (1 Pet. 2:4,5), "To whom coming as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, ye also as lively [living] stones are built up a spiritual house," etc.
As shown in several of our Lord's parables, the Gospel Church is the Kingdom of Heaven (Matt. 13) in its incipient and preparatory state; and its privileges and powers were about to be opened to both Jews and Gentiles. It was really the Lord that opened the door into his Church: Peter was merely the agent chosen to do the work in the name of the Lord – opening the door to the Jews in his discourse on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:14,40), and opening the same door to the Gentiles in his discourse to Cornelius and his household, three and a half years later. (Acts 10:33,46.) This honorable service is what is symbolically referred to as using the "keys of the kingdom." (Matt. 16:19.) But, the door once opened, neither Peter, nor any other man, can close it. Our Lord declares that he has "the key of David" (Rev. 3:7); and the door into his kingdom will not be shut until the last member of the chosen and faithful Church has entered into its glory – viz., at the close of the Gospel age. [R1525 : page 140] The key which Peter used was the dispensational truth then due, and first made clear to the mind of Peter, by the holy Spirit.
The ability to bind and loose on earth and in heaven, was granted not only to Peter but to all the apostles; and we believe signified that God would so guide the words of the apostles in their presentation of the truth to the Church, that all the faithful might have full confidence in their teachings. Whatever they bound upon the Church as duties, we may know are so recognized in heaven; and whatever they loosed as respecting the Mosaic Law, etc., we may know that they were supernaturally directed to do so, and that the same are loosed or set aside in heaven.
Having observed with what particularity the Lord chose, empowered and commissioned his twelve apostles to serve the Church, our next inquiry is whether we are to consider their teachings as verbally or otherwise inspired. In pursuing our inquiry we would call attention to the following observations: –
(1) We notice that the promise of the Comforter, the holy Spirit, though it was ultimately to reach the whole Church through the ministration of the apostles, was specially given to them. (John 16:13-15.) This was given to the eleven on the night of the last Supper, after Judas had gone out (John 13:31); and when Paul, the twelfth, was ordained, it applied to him also with equal force, and was so fulfilled. The promise reads, "But the Comforter, which is the holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you;... and he will show you things to come." – John 14:26; 16:13.
Thus we learn that the apostolic inspiration was to be threefold in its character, consisting (a) of a guidance into all truth concerning the divine purposes and plan; (b) of such refreshment of the memory as would enable them to recall and reproduce all of the Lord's personal teaching while he was with them; and (c) of special subsequent revelations of things to come – of the "many things" the Lord had to tell them, which they were not able to bear until after his death and resurrection and the descent of the holy Spirit. – John 16:12.
(2) Beginning with the second of these propositions – the refreshment of the memory – we think it is manifest that the promise did not imply a dictation of the exact order and phraseology in which they should express those things. Nor do their writings give evidence of such dictation, although this promise is of itself a guarantee of the correctness of their accounts. In each of the four gospels we have a historic account of the Lord's earthly life and work, and in each the individuality of the writer appears. Each, in his own manner and style, records those items which seem to him most important; and, under the Lord's supervision, all together furnish as complete an account as is necessary to establish the faith of the Church (a) in the identity of Jesus of Nazareth with the Messiah of the prophets; (b) in the fulfilment of the prophecies concerning him; and (c) in the facts of his life, and the divine inspiration of all his teachings. If the inspiration had been verbal (i.e., by word for word dictation), it would not have been necessary for four men to rephrase the same events. But it is noteworthy that while each thus exercised his own individual freedom of expression, and his choice of the most important events worthy of record, the Lord so supervised the matter that among them nothing of importance was omitted, and that all that is needed is faithfully recorded and is thoroughly trustworthy, as evidenced both by the personal integrity of the writers, and also by the promise of the influence of the holy Spirit to refresh their memories. In this connection it is a noteworthy fact that the Apostle John's record supplements those of the other three – Matthew, Mark and Luke – and that he mentions, chiefly, discourses, circumstances and incidents of importance omitted by the others. A glance at the Table of Gospel Harmonies in your Bagster or Oxford "Teachers' Bible" will show this.
(3) Another proposition of the promise was, "He will guide you into all truth" (or "teach you all things" – concerning the truth). Here [R1525 : page 141] we have the promise of just what we see evidenced in the writings of all the apostles; though they were plain and unlearned men, their Scriptural exegesis is most remarkable. They were able to confound the wisdom of the wisest theologians, not only of their own time, but ever since. No eloquence of error can stand before the logic of their deductions from the law and the prophets and the teachings of the Lord. The Jewish rulers and elders and scribes marked this, and "took knowledge of them that they had been with Jesus" – that they had learned his doctrine and caught his spirit. – Acts 4:5,6,13.
We notice that a large proportion of the apostolic epistles, particularly Paul's, consists of such logical arguments, based upon the inspired writings of the Old Testament and the teachings of the Lord. And those who have partaken of the same spirit, by following the lines of argument they thus present, are led by them to the same truthful conclusions; so that our faith does not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. (1 Cor. 2:1,4,5.) But in this sort of teaching, as well as in the historic testimony, we see no evidence of word for word dictation, and that the apostles were mere mechanical amanuenses; but, rather, they clearly show that they were filled with a knowledge of the truth and with the spirit of the truth – with a holy enthusiasm to declare the good tidings, which burns and glows upon every page, and which kindles in the hearts of all of God's people the same sacred flame.
(4) The last proposition of this promise is that the spirit would show them (and by implication the whole Church through them) things to come. Thus they were also to be prophets or seers to the Church. Some of the things to come were evidently shown to the apostles by this superior illumination of the mind or quickening of the mental forces – the guidance of judgment – in the interpretation of law and prophecy and the teachings of the Lord.
(b) Paul's vision of the third heavens or Millennial kingdom (Eph. 3:3-6; 2 Cor. 12:1-4), which so wonderfully influenced his life and writings, although not due and hence not permitted to be plainly expressed in his day; [R1526 : page 141]
(c) Paul's vision of the Macedonian desire and call for his services – Acts 16:9,10;
(e) The remarkable revelation to John on Patmos, which consisted of a series of visions, portraying in sign language all the prominent features of the course of Christianity until the end of the age. This partakes more of the character of the ancient prophecies; for though John saw and faithfully recorded these visions for the future benefit of the Church, he himself could not have fully understood them because the seals were not yet opened in his day, and the truths therein symbolized were not yet meat in due season for the Lord's household. But now as it does become meat for the household, the honor of the apostles and the importance of their service for the Church in connection with it will be more and more appreciated by all who partake of its refreshment and strength – other helps and servants being now used of the Spirit in setting forth those truths.
Thus the apostles were divinely instructed with reference to the deep and hitherto hidden things of God. When supernatural means were necessary such means were used, but when the natural means were sufficient, they were directed in the use of the natural means, the Lord always guiding them into correct presentations of the truths from which he designed to feed his Church, at the hands of other servants, during the entire Gospel age. Indeed we may rest assured that the divine Word, given or elaborated through the twelve apostles, will constitute the [R1526 : page 142] text book from which the world also will be instructed during the Millennial age.
Five circumstances mentioned in the New Testament are usually considered as opposed to the thought of apostolic infallibility, which we have presented foregoing. These we will examine separately, as follows:
(1) Peter's denial of our Lord at the time of the crucifixion. It is not disputed that this was a serious wrong, and one for which Peter was sincerely penitent. But it was committed before he had received the Pentecostal blessing; and, besides, the infallibility claimed for the Apostles is that which applied to their public teachings – their writings – and not to all the acts of their lives, which were affected by the blemishes of their "earthen vessels," marred by the fall in which all of the children of Adam suffered – which blemishes are forgivable through the merit of Christ's righteousness. The Apostolic office for the service of the Lord and the Church was something apart from the mere weaknesses of the flesh. It did not come upon perfect but upon imperfect men. It did not make their thoughts and actions perfect, but over-ruled those thoughts and actions, so that the teachings of those twelve are infallible. And this is the kind of infallibility now claimed for the popes – that when a pope speaks ex-cathedra, or officially, he is over-ruled of God, and not permitted to err. This they claim as apostles – claiming that they possess apostolic office and authority. But all this is contradicted by various Scriptures: twelve alone were chosen, and not in succession, but at once (Luke 6:13-16); and when one failed and another took his office (Acts 1:26), there were still but twelve; and the last pages of inspiration show us that only the teachings of the twelve are foundations for the faith of the Church, or will he recognized as such in the New Jerusalem.
(2) The fact that Peter "dissembled" or acted in a two-faced manner on one occasion, in dealing with Jews and Gentiles, is pointed to as proof that the apostles were "men of like passions" as others, and were not infallible in conduct. Again we concede the charge, and find that the apostles conceded this (Acts 14:15); but we repeat that these human weaknesses were not permitted to mar their work and usefulness as apostles – as those who preached the gospel with the holy spirit sent down from heaven (1 Pet. 1:12; Gal. 1:11,12) – not with man's wisdom but with the wisdom from above. (1 Cor. 2:5-16.) And this error of Peter God at once corrected, through the Apostle Paul, who kindly but firmly "withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed." (Gal. 2:11.) And it is quite noticeable that Peter's two epistles show no trace of wavering on the subject of the equality of Jews and Gentiles in Christ, nor any fearfulness in acknowledging the Lord.
(3) The Lord left the apostles in uncertainty respecting the time of his second coming and kingdom – simply telling them and all to watch, that when due they might know and not be in darkness on the subject, as the world in general will be. It is manifest, too, that the apostles rather expected the second advent and kingdom within the first or second centuries; but their lack of knowledge on this subject has in no wise marred their writings, which, under divine direction, made no such statements, but on the contrary declared – "that day cannot come, until there come a great apostasy, and the man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition" – Antichrist. – 2 Thes. 2:3.
(4) Paul, who wrote, "I, Paul, say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing" (Gal. 5:2), caused Timothy to be circumcised. (Acts 16:3.) And we are asked, Did he not thereby teach falsely, and in contradiction to his own testimony? We answer, No: Timothy was a Jew, because his mother was a Jewess (Acts 16:1); and circumcision was a national custom amongst the Jews, which began before the Law of Moses and which was continued after Christ had "made an end of the Law, nailing it to his cross." Circumcision was given to Abraham and his seed, four hundred and thirty years before the Law was given to Israel as a nation at Mount Sinai. Peter was designated the apostle to the circumcision (i.e., to the Jews), and Paul, the apostle to the uncircumcision (i.e., to the Gentiles). – Gal. 2:7,8. [R1526 : page 143]
Paul's argument of Gal. 5:2 was not addressed to Jews. He was addressing Gentiles, whose only reason for desiring or even thinking about circumcision was that certain false teachers were confusing them, by telling them that they must keep the Law Covenant, as well as accept Christ – thus leading them to ignore the new Covenant. In Gal. 5:2, Paul shows them that for them to be circumcised (for any such reason) would be a repudiation of the New Covenant, and hence of the entire work of Christ.
That Paul found no objection to Jews continuing their national custom of circumcision is evident from his words in 1 Cor. 7:18,19, as well as in his course with Timothy. Not that it was necessary for Timothy or any other Jew to be circumcised, but that it was not improper, and that, as he would be going amongst Jews to a considerable extent, it would be to his advantage, giving him the confidence of the Jews. But we see Paul's steadfast resistance, on this subject, when some who misconceived the matter sought to have Titus circumcised – a full-blooded Greek. – Gal. 2:3.
(5) The account of Paul's course, recorded in Acts 21:20-26, is reflected upon as being contrary to his own teachings of the truth. It is claimed that it was because of wrong doing in this instance that Paul was permitted to suffer so much as a prisoner and was finally sent to Rome. But such a view is not borne out by Scripture-stated facts. The record shows that throughout this entire experience Paul had the sympathy and approval of all the other apostles, and, above all, the Lord's continued favor. His course was at the instance of the other apostles. It was testified to him by prophecy, before he went to Jerusalem (Acts 21:10-14), that bonds and imprisonment awaited him; and it was in obedience to his convictions of duty that he braved all those predicted adversities. And when in the very midst of his trouble, we read, "The Lord stood by him and said, 'Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome'"; and later we find the Lord again showing him favor, as we read, "There stood by me the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve, saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar: and lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee." (Acts 23:11; 27:23,24.) In view of these facts, we must seek an understanding of Paul's course in correspondence with his uniformly bold and noble course – esteeming very highly the work and testimony which God not only did not reprove, but on the contrary approved.
Coming then to the examination of Acts 21:21-27, we notice (verse 21) that Paul had not taught that Jewish converts should not circumcise their children; nor did he repudiate the Mosaic law – rather, he honored it, by pointing out the greater and grander realities which Moses' law so forcibly typified. So far, therefore, from repudiating Moses, he honored Moses and the Law, saying, The law is just and holy and good, and that by it the knowledge of the heinousness of sin had been increased; that the Law was so grand that no imperfect man could obey it fully, and that Christ, by keeping it, had won its rewards, and now under a New Covenant was offering everlasting life and blessings to those unable to keep it, who, by faith, accepted as the covering of their imperfections, his perfect obedience and sacrifice.
Certain ceremonies of the Jewish dispensation were typical of spiritual truths belonging to the Gospel age, such as the fasts, the celebration of new moons and Sabbath days and feasts. The apostle clearly shows that the Gospel of the New Covenant neither enjoins nor forbids these (the Lord's Supper and Baptism [R1527 : page 143] being the only injunctions of a symbolic character commanded us, and they, new ones). – Col. 2:16,17; Luke 22:19; Matt. 28:19.
One of these Jewish symbolic rites was that observed by Paul and the four Jews, which we are now examining, termed "purifying." Being Jews, they had a right, if they chose, not only to consecrate themselves to God, in Christ, but also to perform the symbol of this purification. And this is what they did – the men who were with Paul having made, additionally, a vow to humiliate themselves, before the Lord and the people, by having their heads shaven. These symbolic ceremonies cost something; and the charges presumably made up the "offering" [R1527 : page 144] of money – so much for each, to defray the expenses of the Temple.
Paul never taught the Jews that they were free from the Law, – but, on the contrary, that the Law had dominion over each of them so long as he lived. He showed, however, that if a Jew accepted Christ, and became "dead with him," it settled the claims of the Law Covenant upon such, and made them God's freemen in Christ. (Rom. 7:1-4.) But he did teach the Gentile converts that they had never been under the Jewish Law Covenant, and that for them to attempt the practice of Jewish Law ceremonies and rites would imply that they were trusting in those symbols for their salvation, and not relying wholly upon the merit of Christ's sacrifice. And to this all of the apostles assented. See Acts 21:25; 15:20,23-29.
Our conclusion is that God did most wonderfully use the twelve apostles, making them very able ministers of his truth, and guiding them supernaturally in the subjects upon which they wrote – so that nothing profitable to the man of God has been omitted – and in the very words of the original manifested a care and wisdom beyond what even the apostles themselves comprehended. Praise God for this sure foundation.
"How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in his excellent Word!
What more can he say than to you he hath said?
You, who unto Jesus for refuge have fled."
"THE Order of the Holy Cross, a monastic order representative of the extreme ritualistic or 'Catholic' party of the Episcopal Church, publishes a little monthly magazine, in the April number of which we find this paragraph:
"'The progress we are making toward the recovery of the full enjoyment of our Catholic heritage is very noticeable. Fifty years ago an altar raised above the floor of the sanctuary and a font properly placed called forth a warm remonstrance from a holy prelate. To-day it would be hard to find a church recently built without these and many other marks of the Catholic revival. It was pleasant to find in St. Louis, in a mission chapel supported by the Church people of the city in general, the daily mass, lights, colored vestments, wafer bread, the mixed chalice and a reverend ritual.'
"The progress of ritualism in the Episcopal Church was also shown in the ceremonies of last Palm Sunday. At Trinity Church the altar cloths and the vestments of the clergy were of a color symbolic of the Passion; and palms, which had previously been blessed, were distributed to the departing congregation. In other Episcopal churches of the town palms were also distributed, and the ceremonies generally were of so pronounced a ritualistic character that they would have shocked the Episcopalians of a generation ago as indicative of a perilous tendency Romeward. In several of them the services were marked by the pomp and the careful regard for symbolism which were formerly associated with Roman Catholicism only. Even in churches which are classified as Low or Broad, the celebration of the day was carried to a ritualistic extreme that would have provoked surprise even in the distinctively ritualistic churches as they were known thirty or forty years ago.
"The confessional is now well established in the extreme ritualistic Episcopal churches and in some that do not receive that designation. We believe, for instance, that the Rev. Dr. Houghton, of the Church of the Transfiguration, or the 'Little Church Around the Corner,' as it is familiarly known, is the 'father confessor' to great numbers of people.
"It seems that the doctrinal skepticism and theological doubt and denial of the Protestantism of this period have generated a desire for more impressive forms of worship. The religious sentiment is as strong as ever, apparently, but it finds its expression in devotional ceremonies appealing to the aesthetic sense, rather than in settled conviction as to the standards of faith."– New York Sun.
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"Very little authentic information is obtainable thus far concerning the discovery by some ladies of a palimpsest manuscript of the Gospels in the library of the Convent of St. Catherine at Mount Sinai, except that the find is looked upon by Biblical scholars all over the [R1530 : page 146] world as a most important one. Dr. Isaac H. Hall, curator of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, is a well-known student of Syriac, and knew of the discovery long before the news was made public in the newspapers. He said yesterday that he expected to receive definite information from Syria in a few weeks.
"As much as he knows now is that these ladies were visiting the convent last year, and while looking over some manuscripts saw one to be a palimpsest. This is the name given to a parchment roll from which the original writing has been erased in order that the parchment may be written on again and which has been written on again. No matter how well the original ink is removed, in the course of time the chemicals in the fluid assert themselves, and a faint marking of the original tracings can be seen.
"In the case of the present find the ladies did not know whether the parchment was of any value or not, but, being equipped with cameras, they photographed several pages and carried them back to London. There the copies were studied by Messrs. Burkitt, R. L. Bensley, and J. Rendel Harris, who found that this was a very old Syriac version of the New Testament. These gentlemen were shortly afterward sent to Mount Sinai by the Pitt Press at Cambridge to make a complete copy and recovery of the valuable Syriac text.
"They have thus far learned that the new manuscript contains the Gospels complete, but whether it contains more of the New Testament than the Gospels has not yet been told. This palimpsest omits the last twelve verses of the Gospel of St. Mark, which Biblical scholars have for a long time considered spurious, and which the two oldest Greek manuscripts omit.
"The library of the Convent of Mount Sinai has been a very fruitful field of discovery. In 1844 Tischendorf found there the famous Sinaitic manuscript of the whole New Testament and parts of an old Greek Biblical manuscript of the fourth century."– New York Sun.
Through a mistake of the binders we have on hand a large lot of cloth-bound DAWNS of the three volumes, which are not perfect matches – the color of the cloth covers is the same, dark green, but the shade varies a little.
The retail price of the DAWNS in cloth is one dollar per volume, the wholesale price fifty cents (TOWER subscribers being supplied at wholesale rate for their own use and for use in selling, loaning and giving to others). But these books are not up to the standard we wish hereafter to adopt, so we now make a special offer of them to our readers. We will sell these imperfectly matched volumes at twenty-five cents each, plus postage ten cents, or the three volumes postpaid for one dollar. Or order as many as you choose by express or freight, at your own charges, for twenty-five cents each.
This will give some, who loan many books, a chance to lend the cloth-bound, which will stand more usage and scuffing. And some who have felt too poor to have the cloth-bound edition can now get them, and have their paper covered set for loaning. Order soon!
|VOL. XIV.||MAY 15, 1893.||NO. 10.|
"Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain." – Exod. 20:7.
WHILE it is true, as the Apostle Paul states (Col. 2:14; Eph. 2:15), that the handwriting of the ordinances or decrees of the Jewish law, which was found to be only unto death, was taken away by the vicarious sacrifice of Christ Jesus, so that there is now no condemnation to them that are in him, by faith in his blood, and also that the ceremonial or typical features of the law, having been fulfilled, have likewise passed away (Rom. 8:1; Matt. 5:18), it is nevertheless true that the moral precepts of that law never have passed away, and never will, because they are parts of the eternal law of right.
Among these precepts is the above, generally known as the second commandment – "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain." It behooves us, therefore, to consider what the Lord would esteem as a vain use of his name. The expression, "in vain," signifies falsely, or, to no purpose; and, it will be seen, is a finer distinction of irreverence than either profanity or blasphemy. To profane the name of God is to use it with disrespect and irreverence; and to blaspheme his name is to revile, calumniate, reproach and abuse it. While, therefore, it is unquestionably wrong to either profane or abuse the holy name of our God, those also who in a milder sense take it in vain, are, we are assured, not held guiltless.
"Behold," says the Psalmist (51:6), "thou desirest truth in the inward parts" – in the heart; and the Apostle Paul exhorts, saying, "Let every one that nameth the name of Christ [Jehovah's representative] depart from iniquity." (2 Tim. 2:19.) "But unto the wicked God saith, What hast thou to do to declare my statutes [laws], or that thou shouldest take my covenant in thy mouth? Seeing thou hatest instruction and castest my words behind thee. When thou sawest a thief, then thou consentedst with him, and hast been partaker with adulterers. Thou givest thy mouth to evil, and thy tongue frameth deceit. Thou sittest and speakest against thy brother; thou slanderest thine own mother's son." – Psa. 50:16-20.
The prophet Isaiah (29:13) prophesied of such a class; and alas, many have arisen in fulfilment of his words. Our Lord applied the prophecy to some in his day, saying, "Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoreth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. But in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." – Matt. 15:8,9.
Seeing with what aversion the Lord regards anything short of simple candor and honesty of heart in those who claim to be Christians or children of God, with what carefulness should we take upon us his worthy name! In claiming to be the divinely recognized children of [R1527 : page 148] God and followers of his dear Son, we stand before the world as God's representatives, and, presumably, all our words and actions are in harmony with his indwelling spirit. We stand as guideposts in the midst of the world's dark and uncertain way; and if we are not true to our professions we are deceitful sign-boards causing the inquirer to lose the right way and to stumble into many a snare. To take the name of God, then, claiming to be his sons, and Christians, or followers of Christ, without a fixed determination and careful effort to fairly represent him is a sin against God, of which none who do so will be held guiltless.
"Let every one," therefore, "that nameth the name of Christ, depart from iniquity." "If I regard iniquity in my heart," says the Psalmist, "the Lord will not hear me." (Psa. 66:18.) To undertake the Christian life is to engage in a great warfare against iniquity; for, though the grace of God abounds to us through [R1528 : page 148] Christ to such an extent that our imperfections and shortcomings are not imputed to us, but robed in Christ's imputed righteousness we are reckoned holy and acceptable to God, we are not, says the Apostle (Rom. 6:1,2), to continue in sin that grace may abound; for by our covenant with God we have declared ourselves dead to sin and that we have no longer any desire to live therein. But having made such a covenant with God and taken upon us his holy name, if we continue in sin or cease to strive against sin, we are proving false to our profession.
"Shall we," then, "who are dead to sin, live any longer therein?" God forbid. Let not sin reign in your mortal body, but reckon yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. (Rom. 6:1,2,11,12.) This means a great deal. It means a constant warfare against the easily besetting sins of our old nature; and the struggle will be long and constant until the power of sin is broken: and then only constant vigilance will keep it down. A Christian, therefore, who is true to his profession is one who daily strives to realize an increasing mastery over sin in himself, and who, therefore, is able from time to time to distinguish some degree of advancement in this direction. He grows more Christ-like – more self-possessed, more meek and gentle, more disciplined and refined, more temperate in all things, and more fully possessed of the mind that was in Christ Jesus. The old tempers and unlovely dispositions disappear, and the new mind asserts its presence and power. And thus the silent example of a holy life reflects honor upon that holy name which it is our privilege to bear and to represent before the world – as living epistles, known and read of all men with whom we come in contact.
The formation of such a noble and pure character is the legitimate result of the reception of divine truth into a good and honest heart. Or, rather, such is the transforming power of divine truth upon the whole character when it is heartily received and fully submitted to. "Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth," was the Lord's petition on our behalf; and let none of the faithful fall into the error of some – of presuming that the sanctifying work can go on better without the truth than with it. We need the instruction and guidance and inspiration of the truth for holy living; and our Lord's words imply that all the truth that is necessary to this end is in the Word of God, and that consequently we are not to look for any further revelations through visions or dreams or imaginations of ourselves or others. The Word of God, says the Apostle (2 Tim. 3:16,17), "is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works."
It reveals to us the spirit, mind or disposition of God, and exhorts us to let the same mind dwell richly in us; and, in conjunction with the study of the mind of God as revealed in his Word and communion with him in prayer, we receive the blessed influences of his spirit, which bring us more and more into conformity with his perfect will. To live a holy life is not to do some great and wonderful things: it is only to live from day to day a life of quiet unostentatious conformity to the will of God, of secret communion with him in our closet devotions and daily walk, and of zealous [R1528 : page 149] activity to the extent of our ability and opportunity in his service. There is in reality no such thing as the "wonderful piety," the "eminent piety," or the "wonderful faith" of which we often hear and read. There is nothing wonderful about piety: we ought to be pious. Why not? And when our piety becomes "eminent," let us beware of self-righteousness and sanctimonious vain-glory. Neither is there anything wonderful about a clear and steady faith and confident trust in the sure promises of God. Why should we not have faith sufficiently sure and strong? The Christian who bears the strongest testimony for God is the one whose faith is just simple enough to take him at his word, and whose piety consists simply in reverent and loyal obedience to the will of God and in the faithful study of his will, with a view to personal conformity to it. Such need not hesitate to take the name of God – to declare themselves the children of God, and Christians or followers of Christ, and to openly profess that thus they are daily submitting themselves to God to be led of his Spirit.
But let us beware of the error of those whom the Psalmist in the above words describes as "wicked" – who bear the name of Christ in vain, who claim to be God's children and to be led of his spirit, but whose actions show that they hate instruction and cast the words of the Lord behind them – who make common cause with the "thieves and robbers" who are striving to teach men to climb up to life by some other way than that of God's appointment, and whose whole course is in opposition to God and his truth while they proclaim themselves his representatives and ambassadors. Let us indeed beware of such a lamentable condition – of so taking the name of God "in vain." And let all such hear the solemn inquiry and accusation of our great Judge – "What hast thou to do to declare my statutes, or that thou shouldest take my covenant in thy mouth?" etc. The words of our text assure us that such shall not be held guiltless. Nor will those be who in any way become the aids or abettors of these; for if we consent with "thieves" and become partakers with "adulterers," we shall surely share their reward of divine indignation.
The Lord would have his people separate and distinct from all such, and would not have them fellowship or aid them in any way. He does not own them, and would not have us bid them God speed. Nor would he encourage them to bear his name, to assemble with his people for prayer and praise, or to pose as his ambassadors of truth. The only proper course for such to pursue is to repeat their first works – to repent and turn humbly to God and to heed his instruction.
When we thoughtfully consider what it is to take the name of God in vain, we are overwhelmed with the thought of how many are doing it. Few indeed are applying their hearts unto instruction, yet, without the least hesitation, multitudes are taking the name of God and of Christ in vain. Some do so recklessly because it is customary among respectable people – because Christ's name is a passport of some value in social and business life. Others assume the name as a cloak for false doctrines, as, for instance, "Christian Scientists," whose deceptive doctrines sap the very foundations of Christianity, even denying the personal existence of God and seeking to mystify the very evidence of our senses as to actual human existence. And what gross and hideous doctrines have not shielded themselves under the name Christian, vainly taken? "In vain they do worship me," saith the Lord, "teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." (Matt. 15:9.) Therefore, let all that name the name of Christ depart from iniquity and apply their hearts unto instruction, and verily they shall be led of God in green pastures and beside still waters – their table will be richly and bountifully spread, and their cup of blessing and joy and gladness will overflow; while the wrath of God will in due time be revealed against all who take his hallowed name in vain, however they may band themselves together, and however loudly they may proclaim themselves heaven's appointed messengers.
"'Not my own!' my time, my talent,[R1530 : page 150]
Freely all to Christ I bring,
To be used in joyful service
For the glory of my King."
SOMEWHERE there is told a strange old story,
Of a grand young Prince of royal birth,
Who forsook His sceptre, crown and palace,
Just to mingle with the poor on earth:
Just to serve as lowliest of the lowly,
With a tender love unknown before,
Just to win the hearts of all the wretched,
And persuade them to His palace door.
For He longed to have their feet, all weary,
Find a rest upon His golden floor;
Yearned to spread a banquet for the fainting,
That they might not hunger any more;
Open all His secret, priceless treasures,
Even give the best that was His own,
Clothe them in His robes of beamy splendour,
And invite them to his kingly throne.
So it came: His feet were often weary
With the way – that others might find rest;
And His crownless head at night unpillowed,
That other heads might pillow on His breast.
And the midnight of His soul grew blacker,
'Neath the shadow of the olived gloom;
That other souls might catch the sunny glory
Falling from a grand, eternal noon.
It was He who opened living fountains,
While He drank the wormwood and the gall;
It was He who hushed His own heart's crying,
Just to hear another's feeble call.
He could give a crown of lovingkindness,
And himself be crowned with cruel scorn;
He could put on other brows a glory,
While His own still wore the stinging thorn.
While He gave the joy of heaven to others,
He himself was crushed to earth with woe;
And He spoke His words of consolation,
From an inner anguish none could know.
When the Father raised His face of glory,
And the shades of death came o'er His eyes,
He could turn to help a soul belated,
Groping for the Gates of Paradise.
Heaven and earth have taught us whispered lessons,
From the depths beneath, and heights above;
But the clear voice of the princely Teacher,
Spans the ages with its chords of love.
'Tis His voice that calls us to His service,
'Tis His hand that reaches down to lead,
'Tis He bids us set our feet, well sandalled,
In the very footprints He has made.
Everywhere "His lowly" need our caring,
All around "His blinded" need our sight;
Many a soul sits darkly in grief-shadows,
Waiting for our hand to bring the light.
Hiding deeply all our selfish sorrows,
'Neath a love that "seeketh not her own,"
Filling sunny hours with heavenly service,
We shall hear at twilight His 'Well done!'
AS shown in our issue of April 1, the resurrection of the Church will be in spirit bodies, quietly, unknown to human beings, who cannot see spirit beings. But with the world in general, how will it be? They, we have seen, will be raised human beings, and hence will be visible to all mankind; will not their resurrection cause a great commotion, and, indeed, consternation? Would not the appearing of millions of human beings, needing food and clothing and shelter, produce a general famine and shortage for all, and interrupt all the affairs of the world?
We answer: No. Although our Father's Word has not given us clear and direct information on these points, we who have come to some knowledge of his wisdom and power, and of his orderly methods of working out his great designs, can safely trust all to him.
Nor should we "speculate" on these subjects, not clearly revealed, in the sense of accepting or setting forth our ideas as anything more than our opinions or suggestions – carefully guarding lest we ourselves, or others, should take our suppositions for the Word of the Lord, which liveth and abideth forever. What follows, then, is not the Word of the Lord – nor our opinion based upon certain explicit statements of God's Word, but merely inference or mental deductions, based upon general principles, and, so far as we can see, in harmony with the scriptural declarations, touching the divine character and general dealings, past and present, and as revealed for the future. [R1528 : page 151]
Let us suppose ourselves living in A.D. 1915, or thereabouts, that we are of the world, and not of the elect Church, at that time the last member of the latter having been "changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye," to be like and with the Lord and the glorified spirit-host – although the world will not be aware of this, because the change will come in the moment of dying. By that time society will be in a chaotic condition – nineteenth century [R1529 : page 151] light, with selfishness, having worked general discontent, and led to the rejection and overthrow of good as well as evil views and institutions. The light of truth having shaken the foundations of sectarianism, which for so long misrepresented the Word of God, the natural result followed: When sectarianism began to fall, it unsettled faith in the Bible. Next followed a union or confederacy of Protestants and an affiliation with Catholics, to rule the world on lines of morality and formalism. This had its day; but finally the masses, freed from the chains of superstition, revolted against class and clerical domination, and overthrew them (probably not many years before or after A.D. 1909). Then followed various efforts to establish peace, prosperity and general welfare, according to various theories – Nationalism, Single Tax, Socialism, Nihilism, Communism and, finally, Anarchism. Each proved impracticable – all failed to do good. Altogether they proved worse than the worst of earth's despotic governments, because really based on selfishness, while theoretically built on love; leaders selfishly aggrandizing themselves, while violently declaiming against others who had done the same under previous social arrangements.
And now (A.D. 1915) the world has sickened of its own futile efforts to institute and maintain satisfactory, and peace and prosperity-giving government. The time has come for God's Kingdom to begin to reconstruct society upon the principles of righteousness and love. The spiritual Kingdom (Christ and the Church) present in the world, and having all power (but invisible to humanity), begins its work by resurrecting the faithful overcomers of the past (mentioned in Heb. 11). They come forth perfect men, because they passed their trial in this life, and that satisfactorily in God's sight (Heb. 11:39), and men, because they belonged to the human family for which God has provided restitution – to that nature whose perfections were lost by the fall. "These all" are but few; and their appearance amongst the regathering Jews in Palestine is not wholly a surprise, since all are looking for some favor of God to Israel. Their appearance, no less than their superior talents and wisdom, contrast strongly with those of imperfect men around them, and bring them at once the reverence and obedience of Israelites. Taught to believe in the resurrection, the people are ready to surmise who they are, even without their giving any explanation. Soon they are the recognized rulers of Palestine.
Such news, reaching anarchistic Europe and America, excites the sympathy of the worldly-wise for the poor Jews, so easily deluded; and the news goes the rounds that certain impostors have arisen amongst the Jews who, claiming to be "Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and the prophets," have deluded the people and seized the government. Soon, however, the news is that Palestine is prospering under these new governors; as never before attention is drawn to their laws and methods, which bring the very results so long and so fruitlessly sought otherwise and elsewhere. Finally, the world in general petitions for the same government and laws, saying (in the language of the prophet): "Come, let us go up to the mountain [kingdom] of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths." (Micah 4:2.) In some such way the earthly representatives of the spiritual Kingdom of God will come into control of the world; and then will begin the work of restitution; – the formation of the "new earth" [new social order] under the "new heavens" [the spiritual Kingdom, the glorified Church]. The "new heavens and new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness."
Now let us step about fifty years farther into the Millennial age, and take a view. – The blessings of peace and wise government by perfect rulers, in whose hearts selfishness has no place, have wrought wonders: they have really [R1529 : page 152] transformed the world; the people are happy, industrious and contented; the idle rich are gone, the unemployed poor are gone, "walking delegates" and breeders of discontent are gone; Love and Wisdom and Justice and Power are in control, under the name of the Kingdom of God. Education is general; for, under the new order, wastes are saved, and all have an abundance, and that with fewer hours of labor; besides, now wisdom is general, and saves woful waste, while yielding increased comfort. Aside from climatic changes, the wisdom of perfect rulers is causing the earth to yield great increase in quantity as well as in quality of food. Machinery now is marvelous, and the results benefit all the people. Health is good, proportionately, as people obey the laws of the Kingdom; and none now die except the wilfully perverse, who resist all the beneficent arrangements provided for their welfare, now and everlastingly. And those who do die now have no hope of future trial; – for all living now are living under the second trial secured for all by our Lord's ransom-sacrifice, and failure now means second death – "everlasting DESTRUCTION from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his power."
The knowledge of the Lord is now general: the knowledge of the Lord fills the whole earth, and none need say to his neighbor, Know thou the Lord; for all know him, from the least to the greatest. Seeing that the blessings of restitution enjoyed are the result of the ransom-sacrifice of our Lord, and that it was "a ransom for all – to be testified in due time," and that the Scriptures teach that all the world must be awakened from death and brought to a knowledge of the truth and to an opportunity thus to reach full restitution or full resurrection – up to the perfection lost – talk about this, and when and how it will come about, is general.
Finally, used to trust in the Lord and pray to him, some unite in prayer for a dear old father and mother, whom now they could make so comfortable, and so readily and gladly provide for. The Lord's time having come for this step in his plan, the prayer is answered, and father and mother walk into the home; – from whence they know not, but themselves they know. It is a miracle, but without the least confusion.
The matter will for a time be doubted by many, as faith-healings are now doubted. By some it may be falsely accredited to evil agencies, as by many now the powers of Spiritism, although Satanic, are often falsely accredited to good agencies. There will be room to doubt on the part of all who prefer to doubt – who prefer to lean to a perverse understanding, despite the abundant manifestations then provided, showing the goodness of God and expounding his gracious plan for human restitution.
It may readily be surmised that it will be those who have done the most good in life, those who have exercised and developed patience, benevolence, etc., that will first be thus tenderly thought of and longed for and prayed for. Not until nature and invention shall have made the necessities and comforts of life quite abundant, nor until the hearts of the world have become greatly enlarged with generosity and sympathy, will the viler characters of the world be remembered and prayed for. Those remembered as brutal and devilish, such as Calegnia, Nero, Diocletian, Torquemada, and thousands less notorious, may be expected amongst the last. They will "come forth to shame and lasting contempt." (Dan. 12:2.) By that time the world of mankind will be much nearer perfection than now, and, with their greater powers, will be able to read through and through the minds, the very thoughts, of these miserable, depraved, fellow-creatures. The evil tendency of their lives of selfish gratification will then be seen. They will shun the pure, the generous, the good, and will loathe themselves.
But, although in contempt with all, all will recognize that a share in the great redemptive sacrifice of Christ belongs to even these; because Jesus Christ, by the grace of God, tasted death for every man. Yet even while despising their miserable characters, all will be ready and anxious to help them to a knowledge of God and Christ, and to direct their faith and hope. And all will rejoice at every evidence of progress toward God and righteousness and [R1529 : page 153] restitution and eternal life. And whichever of these shall, by full consecration, yield himself entirely to the Lord, shall proportionately lose the contempt of the godly, and gain, instead, their love; and on those who then, after seeing righteousness and sin fully contrasted, choose the ways of sin, the wrath of God and the contempt of all who love righteousness will abide, and they "shall be punished with an everlasting destruction" – the second death.
Thus will be the "coming forth" of "all that are in their graves." And it is written that "They that hear [give attention to, or obey the voice of the Son of Man, at that time] shall live." Their awakening will not be reliving, in the full sense of the word live. Their condition, when they "come forth," will resemble the present condition of men – a dying condition. But theirs will properly be called a living state; because the merit of our Lord's great sacrifice will then be fully operative toward all, and because the general tendencies surrounding all will then be life-tendencies instead of, as now, death-tendencies. And all who under those favored circumstances do not oppose, but hear and obey, the Lord will find themselves coming more and more into man's original estate, "very good," the earthly image of their spiritual Creator, and finally be accounted worthy of perfect life.
A TOWER reader writes that she recently met some of like precious faith, who, while recognizing Sanctification as she does, did not seem to have an ecstatic joy, accompanied by great emotion, but, on the contrary, seemed to hold the doctrine of full consecration by a process of mental reasoning. She was disappointed in finding them, as she thought, too cold and calculating. She found, too, that they did not hold to an instantaneous change of character; – from sin to perfection in holiness, at one bound. She desires our expression on the subject in the TOWER.
We are glad of the opportunity thus afforded us of giving a word of caution on both sides of this question. It is a mistake with some, to cultivate and appreciate only the intellectual side of God's grace, while others appreciate and cultivate chiefly the emotions aroused by God's grace and truth. And while we should realize that these extremes result often from a difference of temperaments, this should be no reason for neglecting to alter or modify our natural tendencies, to have them conform to the Lord's pleasure, as indicated to us in his Word.
Our Lord's prayer for his people clearly indicates what is the proper means for our sanctification. He prayed, "Sanctify them through thy truth;" and then, making us doubly sure of his meaning, he added, "thy Word is truth." Those, therefore, who attempt to be sanctified by feelings or by errors or in any other way than by the truth are seeking a good thing in a wrong way; and results will surely be unsatisfactory until the Lord's method is adopted.
But that is no less serious a mistake which some others make, who, while devouring God's Word, get from it merely relief from fears and a satisfaction for their curiosity. Curiosity is insatiable; and if they fail to get what God designed to give them through the truth (Sanctification), they will ere long be devouring one error after another to feed their curiosity, and will delude themselves into supposing that they are continually feeding upon truth; – although they are well aware that each new thing devoured is soon abandoned as error, while their curiosity continues the devouring process, but never is satisfied. These the Apostle describes as "ever learning, but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth." – 2 Tim. 3:7.
The proper course unites the head with the heart in the search for truth. The heart searches that it may know or prove what is that good and acceptable will of God, that it may please and serve him. The head, as the servant of the heart, searches to test or prove the truth, that the honest heart be not deceived into believing and serving amiss. But when the head undertakes to do all the truth-seeking and feeding, the real design of the truth – sanctification [R1530 : page 154] – is not attained. The result is merely a reasoning about the truth, and not a practicing of the truth; – the word of truth is handled and dissected, but the spirit of it is not received into good and honest hearts; because it is not a heart-hunger that is being fed, but a curiosity-hunger.
But where the heart hungers and thirsts after righteousness (after right views of God and of fellowmen and of the proper use of our time and influence and talents), and the head, as the heart's servant, engages in searching God's Word, the case is different; because then each morsel of truth received is at once applied in the life, and the sanctifying work begins and [R1531 : page 154] progresses. To this true heart to know the Lord's will means to at once strive to do what is seen; and not merely to see the duty or privilege.
Where truth is seen, and when the heart falls in love with it so that it delights to conform itself to it, even at the cost of convenience or friendships, or other selfish advantages, – there the sanctifying influence or spirit of the truth is at work; – there the results sought and intended by our Lord are being attained. Joy will accompany, and peace and trust and love. And zeal will never be lacking in a thoroughly sanctified heart, although all may not manifest it in the same way. With one it may be manifested boisterously and with great activity, as a mountain stream when suddenly swollen by a cloud burst; with another it may be that deep and unshown current of spiritual life which enables its possessor to go more calmly forward in a life of sacrifice and faithfulness to duty, against all opposition; – as an iceberg, moved by the under current of the ocean, moves steadily and irresistably with that current, against all the surface currents of the ocean.
To enter into the spirit of the Lord's plan, as revealed in his Word, is to be sanctified by it; and this is impossible without some knowledge of it. And whoever catches the spirit of the truth will have some emotions, whether or not they are manifest to others. Sanctification is the truth acted upon – put into the affairs of life; and, under present-age conditions, always leads to self-denials, self-sacrificings in the service of God, and Truth, and fellow-men.
BROTHER RUSSELL: – I would like to ask a question. Knowing that the world and its ways are of the enemy, at present under his control, and that the saints have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, how are we to escape serving as jurors. We might say that we cannot conscientiously serve, but the reply is, The court knows no law of conscience. We might say that we do not believe in going to law, and that we are not American citizens; but to all these statements the court has an evasive answer. The question is, Is it proper for the saints to serve as jurors, hold offices, swear or affirm?
I believe it is not; but how to escape to the best advantage for the cause of Christ and his Kingdom, is what myself and others wish to know. About twelve or fifteen years ago, I saw that the enemy is the ruler of this world, and, as I could not serve two masters, I gave up politics, and have not voted since. Again, the Word says, "Swear not at all." I have raised these questions before the court of this district and have been dismissed; and others, also, have begun to see that they were serving the enemy when they thought they were doing God's service.
REPLY: – Serving on a jury is in no sense taking part in political affairs. A jury has nothing to do with politics. As far as judging is concerned, the Apostle Paul remarked that, since we are to be judges in the weighty affairs of the next age, we ought to be able to judge in the small matters of the present. – 1 Cor. 6:2,3.
The law governing juries is very simple. The judge instructs the jury on the points of law involved in the case, and each juror is required to reach a conclusion in his own mind with reference to the facts brought out by the evidence. In serving as a juror, he has nothing whatever to do with the law, whether it be good or bad, right or wrong: he merely decides what the verdict shall be, according to the law given by the judge. When called upon to serve as a juror, it becomes a duty to respond, and one should ask to be excused only in a case of necessity.
The above would apply even in murder cases, although in such instances most of us would prefer to be excused. But if it is necessary to serve, and if the verdict be murder in the first degree, it does not imply that the jury either [R1531 : page 155] gives the sentence or executes it. The law provides what shall constitute murder in the various degrees, and the jury merely finds to which of these degrees the facts and circumstances point. It remains, then, for the judge, as the representative of the law, to sentence the culprit, and for the sheriff to execute the laws commands.
In the matter of being sworn in as a juror: We see nothing in this to conflict with our Lord's words, "Swear not at all;" but for those who do, the law makes provision, permitting them solemnly, sincerely and truly to "affirm."
As concerns voting, the case is somewhat different, and we fully agree with you in the view expressed – that our covenant with the Lord, and our fidelity to him, practically make us aliens in our relations to all human governments, and that, therefore, we would best take no part in the election of officers or in the management of the affairs of this world.
MANY Christians refer with special delight to the day when first they realized the pardoning grace of God and the consequent peace that silenced all their fears and enabled them to realize the love of God to them personally. And well indeed may we sing with all such –
"O happy day that fixed my choice
On thee, my Savior, and my Lord."
But if we have to refer back to the day when we took our first steps as babes in Christ, as the happiest day in our life, there has been something wrong in our experience: we have not been developing as we should and experiencing that wealth of divine favor which is the privilege of every consecrated and faithful soul.
To all such the Apostle Peter sends greeting, saying, Grace and peace be multiplied unto you. If our hearts leaped for joy when we realized the first droppings of grace and peace, how should our songs abound now, with the increasing evidences of divine favor – with the multiplication of grace and peace now experienced. [R1532 : page 155] But is it really so with us? are grace and peace really multiplied to us? The Apostle indicates that such should be the experience of all who have obtained like precious faith with him (verse 1); and, further, that this increase of blessing should come through an increasing knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. – Verse 2.
Some Christians seem to look for the increase of divine favor and peace through other agencies than the knowledge of God; but such is not God's order. Our Lord prayed for his disciples, saying, "Sanctify them through thy truth; thy word is truth." The knowledge of the truth is the sanctifying power, the peace-and-joy-imparting power, and is the precious evidence of divine grace or favor. Those who expect to be sanctified without this divinely provided agency and who expect to enjoy abiding peace without it, make a great mistake. Their peace may last while the sun of prosperity shines, and so long as they do not permit themselves to think beyond the immediate present, or to consider future possibilities; or they may for a time, upon a very slight knowledge of the truth, build up beautiful castles of wood, hay and stubble, with here and there a precious stone of truth, and for a time be filled with even ecstatic joy over them; but soon such flimsy structures must fall, and the transient joy end in bitter disappointment – in a loss of both joy and peace and, measurably at least, of the realization of the divine favor.
But such disappointments are never realized by those whose peace has its fountain in the perennial springs of God's eternal truth; for, the Apostle says, he "hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue." But this knowledge of God is not only an intellectual knowledge of his great and loving plan: it includes also a personal acquaintance with God, a heart to heart communion and fellowship with him – an established sympathy of love and common interest [R1532 : page 156] and co-operation. Such a knowledge or acquaintance with God is gained through the study of his precious word with reverence and diligence, through the personal application of the principles of that word in every day life and through secret prayer and communion with God.
If we would have this inspiring acquaintance with God we must not forget our privilege of secret prayer. Remember the Lord's words, – "Enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is invisible, and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee." "The Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me and have believed that I came out from God." And again, "If a man love me he will keep my words, and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him and make our abode with him."
Thus it is our privilege to know God; but only those who have had the blessed experience can appreciate how greatly the grace and peace of God can be multiplied to us through the knowledge of him thus acquired. As we draw near to him in prayer and communion and the study of his precious Word, we are made to understand the wealth of the divine love and favor toward us who are in Christ Jesus, and who, through entire consecration of ourselves to God, have escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust [the worldly desires and ambitions]. We learn that to us are given exceeding great and precious promises, that by these we might be made partakers of the divine nature; that we are called to be heirs of God and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ; that, if we are faithful to our covenant of entire consecration to God, we shall be made like him and see him as he is; that we may behold the King in his beauty; and that through us in the ages to come God will manifest the exceeding riches of his grace. Oh, what heights of glory are we called to share with our beloved Lord; and what fathomless love is manifested toward us in Christ Jesus!
In humble thankfulness let us ponder these precious promises more and more as in secret we bow at the throne of the heavenly grace; and here let the holy spirit of God apply the instruction to our hearts, and so may we be filled with the spirit, and grace and peace be multiplied unto us.
"FROM barbarous Russia comes the news of renewed persecution of the Hebrew people. In Germany the crank and half madman, Ahlwardt, finds bigoted thousands to listen to his barbaric screeds against the sons of Abraham, notwithstanding the fact that the giant intellect of the great Bismarck points out the radical, inherent and illogical viciousness of the antisemitic cry.
"From Austria comes the flat refusal to receive as one of the representatives of our enlightened nation one whose only real offence is that his ancestors fed their flocks among the Judean hills. In our own borders, in the country's metropolis, the portals of its most noted club are closed against a man who admittedly possesses in a high degree every requisite for its membership, but is objectionable to a few miserable beings unworthy of the name of Americans or Republicans, who assign as their only objection the fact that he is of the same race as He whom they pretend to worship as the Savior of all men.
"But even more significant than all are the statements made in a discussion now going on with regard to the proselyting of the Hebrews of New York City. A young member of the race, Warzarviak by name, intended for its priesthood, in the course of his preparatory studies to that end, became convinced of the truth of Christianity and embraced that faith. He was repudiated by his parents and friends, and even his wife and children forsook him. Nothing daunted, he came to New York City and commenced Christian missionary work among the members of his race. He attracted many of them to hear his preaching, with one result, that a few weeks ago several Jewish rabbis took up the matter and made a vigorous assault upon him and his work. They claimed [R1531 : page 157] that the Hebrews who were alleged to have been converted had been bribed by money and other valuable inducements to pretend to forsake their ancient faith and that their conversion was a myth. In support of this they produced several affidavits from Hebrews claiming to have played this despicable game.
"These statements led, of course, to a lively rejoinder by the parties principally concerned and to considerable discussion and criticism of the whole subject through the city press. On the one hand it was contended that Christians should convert the heathen before seeking to proselyte a race of sufficient intelligence and civilization to judge for themselves as to their religious faith, which is also so closely related to Christianity, and also that the work was really a waste of time and money, and no true converts resulted. On the other hand such men as the Rev. Dr. Lyman Abbott contend that the work is entirely proper and that it has been largely successful in New York City.
"The claim is made that since the work commenced fully 1,000 members of the race have honestly embraced Christianity, largely through the efforts of Mr. Warzarviak, whose wife, impressed with his honesty of purpose, has rejoined him with her children, although she has not yet finally embraced Christianity. In this incident, no doubt, many will claim to see the beginning of the fulfilment of the Scriptural prophecies interpreted to mean the conversion of the Jews in the latter days."– Pittsburg Times.
II. QUAR., LESSON X., JUNE 4, ECCL. 5:1-12.
In the book of Ecclesiastes, presumably written in Solomon's later years, we have an important question raised, considered in various aspects, and answered from the standpoint of a wide and varied human experience. The question (chap. 1:3) is –
The question is an important one, especially for the young; but all would do well to carefully consider it in the light of Solomon's experience, and with the prayer of the Psalmist in their hearts – "So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom." – Psa. 90:12.
Hear the words of the Preacher. He says, "I, the Preacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem. And I gave my heart to seek and to search out by wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven: this sore travail hath God given to the sons of man to be exercised therewith. I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit." – 1:12-14.
Thus testifies one of the most successful men, from the world's standpoint, that ever lived. He had all the comforts and blessings that wealth and power and honor and fame and natural qualifications of mind and body and education, and even specially granted superhuman wisdom could bestow upon him. And all of these he used chiefly for his own personal, present gratification. He says, "I said in my heart, Go to, now, I will prove thee with mirth....I sought to give myself unto wine; I made me great works; I builded me houses, I planted me vineyards, I made me gardens and orchards; I got me servants and maidens and had servants born in my house; also I had great possessions. I gathered me also silver and gold and the peculiar treasure of kings and of the provinces. I got me men singers and women singers and musical instruments of all sorts: also my wisdom remained with me."
Thus he proceeds from chap. 1:12 to 2:26 to show how he delved into every luxury to seek full satisfaction and to find in these things the chief end of his existence. But, after all, he pronounces the whole experience "sore travail."
In chapters 3, 4, and 5 Solomon gives us the results of his wide experience and observation from a business and social standpoint. [R1532 : page 158] He sees men laboring hard to amass wealth, and wisely inquires (3:9), "What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboreth?" Then he adds – and how truthfully his experience agrees with all our own observation and experience – that "He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance, with increase. When goods increase, they are increased that eat them; and what good is there to the owners thereof, saving the beholding of them with their eyes?" (5:10,11.) So business prosperity he regards as an empty bubble, and the excessive labor to accomplish it as laboring for the wind.
In the adjustment of human affairs he further perceives that iniquity and injustice prevail everywhere, and to such an extent that there is really no redress and no comfort to those who lay it to heart, except in the thought that God is above all the judges of the earth, and that his judgments will some day be manifest and prevail. (5:8.)
Chapter 6 shows how vain and unsatisfactory is every earthly good, when there is no hope beyond the present life. Chapter 7 gives some advice which, from the standpoint of present selfish advantage, is good. It counsels such as seek merely present ease, etc., to be careful to maintain a good name (verse 1), not to be hasty tempered (verse 9), to be sympathetic with those in sorrow (verse 2), etc. But since righteousness is not rewarded in the present time with prosperity, but rather with adversity, the ease and pleasure seeker will find it to his present advantage not to be "righteous over much," neither to be "wise over much." Neither should he be either wicked or foolish. (Verses 16,17.) In other words he should keep his finger on the popular pulse, and regulate himself according to popular ideas. This is not the proper course for the children of God, but it is the wise course from the standpoint of worldly policy, which, alas! is too often adopted by his professed children. It is the policy of the "tare" element in the nominal Christian church; but it is not the policy of the truly consecrated children of God who prefer to suffer for righteousness' sake, rather than to win a good name among men by a compromising policy.
In chapter 8:16,17 and chapter 9, Solomon declares that, in view of God's mighty works, he had sought to find out the deep mysteries of his plan for his creatures, but that he had sought in vain. A knowledge of his plan was not then due; and so (chap. 9) he considered that the righteous and the wise and their works are in the hand of God, but he could not tell certainly from the book of nature whether God loved or hated them; for he said, "All things come alike to all: there is one event to the righteous and to the wicked." So from this skeptical view he concluded to take all the pleasure he could out of the present – to make merry, and live as joyfully as he could, seeking, first [R1533 : page 158] of all, his own ease and pleasure, and, secondarily, the pleasure of others so far as it did not interfere with his own. Upon these very principles Solomon acted until, surfeited with self-gratification and sick at heart, he cries out at last, as does every one who drains the cup of worldly pleasure, "Vanity of vanities; all is vanity."
Chapter 12 now turns away from the disgusting sweets of worldly pleasure, and counsels youth to pursue a different course from that the king had taken, saying, "Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth," etc., and adds that the conclusion of the whole experience of his life is that the proper course is to "Fear God, and keep his commandments; for this is the whole duty of man; for God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good or whether it be evil." – Verses 1,13,14.
Well would it have been with Solomon had he learned this lesson in his youth from the law and the prophets, instead of ignoring these and turning to poor human philosophy – his own reasonings – and then, by the experience of a wasted life, finally proving the vanity of every other course save that of God's appointment and direction, and losing the reward of divine favor which a course of entire faithfulness to God would surely have brought in due time. The course which Solomon chose and followed brought the temporal advantage which was very unsatisfactory; but it surely did not entitle him to a place among the ancient worthies, some of whom Paul enumerates in Heb. 11, who are to have an honorable position in the earthly phase of the kingdom of God. (See MILLENNIAL DAWN, Vol. I., Chapter xiv.) Then those who faithfully suffered for righteousness' sake will be exalted as princes in all the earth (Psa. 45:16), while such as Solomon will have a much lower station. [R1533 : page 159]
The Golden Text – Be not slothful in business, but fervent in spirit, serving the Lord – is the counsel of the Apostle Paul to such as have consecrated themselves to the Lord. These, devoted to the special work of the Lord, he would have remember not to be slothful or indifferent to the duties and responsibilities incumbent upon them and pertaining to the present life – such as providing for their families, etc. They should not be slothful in these things, but active, and at the same time fervent in spirit in serving the Lord.
The golden text is very suggestive of the different standpoints of the Apostle Paul and King Solomon. The latter, living before the Gospel age and its high calling began, counseled an easy course of moderation: saying, Why should one become overmuch interested in anything? Why not take life easy? But the Apostle saw a prize that inspired his zeal to the point of fervency; and he advises all who are running for the same prize to be fervent in spirit, in the service of God now open to them; – an opportunity not open to Solomon, and not then even revealed. – Eph. 3:5; 1 Pet. 1:12. [R1533 : page 159]
II. QUAR., LESSON XI., JUNE 11, ECCL. 12:1-7,13,14.
VERSES 1-5 present a vivid pen picture of old age – "the evil days" of physical decline and infirmity, "when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them." The world offers its pleasures to the young, who snatch at the delusions; but age has proved them all empty bubbles. The world has nothing substantial to offer, and therefore, unless the mind has found its satisfaction in God, there is indeed no pleasure in old age.
VERSE 2 refers to the dimness of vision, both mental and physical, and to the fact that clouds of trouble of one kind or another quickly succeed each other after every refreshing rain which brings hope of succeeding sunshine of prosperity.
VERSE 3. "The keepers of the house [the arms and hands] tremble; and the strong men [the lower limbs] bow themselves [unable to support the weight of the body], and the grinders [the teeth] cease [to perform their office], because they are few; and those [various mental faculties] that look out of the windows [the eyes] be darkened [or dimmed]."
VERSE 4. "And the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of the grinding is low." – When the work of life is done there is little in common with the rising generation, and therefore less and less communication. "He shall rise up at the voice of the bird [ – early, being unable to sleep well], and all the daughters of music shall be brought low [the failing powers cease to catch the strains of earthly enchantments]." But if he have the ear of faith, he catches the sweeter strains of heaven's melodies, of which Solomon in all his glory never knew.
VERSE 5 represents the great burden, labor and sorrow of extreme old age with all its infirmities, until all earthly desires fail and he goes to his long home – the grave – there to await the morning of the resurrection. "Weeping may endure for the night, but joy cometh in the morning." – Psa. 30:5.
VERSES 6,7 represent death – the silver cord of life being loosed, the golden bowl (the body which contained the precious life-blood), broken; the pitcher (the lungs which drew in life from the fountain, the surrounding atmosphere), broken at the fountain; or the wheel (the heart), broken at the cistern. Then, when the body can no longer perform its offices, the dust of which it is composed returns "to the earth as it was [mere inanimate dust] and the spirit [ruach, breath, wind] shall return unto God who gave it," going back into his great reservoir of wind, breath – the surrounding atmosphere; and the being, the soul, is no more, save as it is engraven indelibly upon the tablet of God's memory to be reproduced again in the resurrection at the last day – now so near.
VERSES 13,14. This conclusion of the whole matter of a life's experience is that to which all men come sooner or later. "Vanity of vanities; all is vanity" is, after a wasted life, the poor world's dying refrain, when they see it would have been better to have feared God and kept his commandments. And that they may effectually prove this conclusion is God's object in letting them have the present experience under the dominion of Sin, which even Solomon in all his glory called "sore travail:" that they may be ready for the duty of submission to God, which will be enforced in the coming Millennial age of the world's probation. This object is distinctly stated by Solomon in Chapter 1:13 and 3:10. – "I have seen the travail which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised [by experience] in it."
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL (for by that endearing name I feel permitted to call you): – I received your esteemed reply to mine of recent date, also the TOWER containing article on "The Holy Spirit," for which I desire to thank you fervently. For me it is "Confirmation strong, as proofs of Holy Writ." God grant that the truth may spread yet more widely.
I desire to express, through you, my heartfelt thanks to the young colporteur from whom I bought the DAWNS some six months ago. I saw him only for a few moments, and have not seen him since. He was trying to sell DAWNS at the house at which I had to call to collect a bill. I saw a package of books on the stoop, and I picked one up. The title was enough to attract me. I told him I had been, and was still, deeply interested in the subject, being a believer in the dear Lord's immediate coming, and my daily prayer being, "Thy kingdom come." He told me that, if I read the DAWNS, I would get the light I sought on the subject. May the dear Lord bless the young man wherever he now is. He was the direct means of bringing much light and knowledge and consequent joy and peace to my life.
I am not rich in this world's goods, but I have bread and to spare; and I think the benefit I have derived from the perusal of your article on "The Holy Spirit" demands a thank-offering: so I enclose $1.00 for that purpose.
Yours, stronger in the faith, and still hungering for the truth as it is in Jesus,
MY DEAR FRIENDS: – After much delay (which is not the result of carelessness) I acknowledge the receipt of the sample lot of Booklets, and also three copies of ZION'S WATCH TOWER which came in due succession, beginning with March 1st, and for which I tender my hearty thanks. You will remember that I expressed my intention to try the business of selling the Booklets; and on receipt of samples I spent an afternoon canvassing and secured orders for about two dozen. Meanwhile I loaned some of the Booklets, and they were circulated from house to house. Some of the people seemed so awe-stricken at the strange doctrine of a future probation, and others so unwilling to support any theory that questioned the doctrine of "eternal torment," that I decided to prepare myself, if possible, to give explanations and to meet their arguments. So I applied myself diligently to the study of The Plan of the Ages, which has been to me a source of great delight. Notwithstanding the doctrine is entirely new to me, and quite contrary, in many respects, to what I thought was my fixed opinion, it [R1534 : page 160] appears, from an increase of knowledge through the study of The Plan of the Ages, that the subject is worthy of serious consideration.
If the plan of salvation is broad and liberal enough to grant a full opportunity beyond the grave, to come to a knowledge of the truth and be saved, to all who could not or did not have such knowledge and opportunity in this life, why should any one find fault? And if it is found that those –
"Tempests of angry fire, that rollare, after all, only imaginary, why should not all the living rejoice that so many billions of our race are delivered from a fate worse than death, and that God is truly a God of love? [Why indeed?]
To blast the rebel worm
And beat upon the naked soul
In one eternal storm,"
I enclose twenty-five cents to pay for Vol. I., and I desire the succeeding volumes, as I am a humble seeker after the truth, and never expect to get too wise to be taught. I want not only your books, but your prayers – that I may understand them, and be enlightened and blessed by their teachings.
Yours in sincerity,
DEAR BROTHER IN CHRIST: – It is impossible to express my gratitude for the pleasure and happiness your explanation of God's Holy Book has given me. I believe every word of it. It fills a vacancy I have always felt, since first I tried to serve God, and it draws me nearer to him.
I recently loaned Vol. I to a retired Congregational minister. He returned it in a few days, saying that he believed every word of it. I asked him why the ministers do not acknowledge the errors they are preaching. He replied that they are tied up.
Gratefully, yours in the Lord,