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Please accept our thanks for your hundreds of letters received recently, and know of our hearty appreciation of your sympathy and confidence. The fact that you were slow to believe an evil report, and that you waited patiently for our reply, speaks well for your spiritual condition; – "thinketh no evil," being one of the fruits of the spirit of Christ, just as "evil surmisings" evidence a carnal mind. Cultivate in yourselves more and more the spirit of the truth you enjoy. So your hearts will be in that healthy condition which neither breeds a spiritual pestilence, nor is susceptible to its contagion from others.
Our thoughts were more with you than for ourselves, we feared for the younger and the weaker ones, and prayed for you all, – that your faith fail not, and that you cast not away your confidence which hath great recompense of reward. The letters referred to came as answers to our prayers, as assurances that the Lord knoweth them that are his and that none are able to pluck them out of his hand. Sister Tucker's letter came first, and was specially acknowledged at the throne of grace. This trial by which the great Adversary sought to disrupt the Lord's work and scatter the Lord's sheep is really drawing the true hearts nearer to each other and to the Lord. We realize afresh that all things are working together for good to them that love God, the called ones according to his purpose. The Lord will not forget this, your ministry of love toward us. (See Heb. 6:10; 10:32-39.) Even a cup of cold water given in the name of a disciple will in due time receive a reward from the King. Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of the least of his disciples, ye did it unto him.
We contracted with a first-class painter, during his dull season last winter, for one hundred copies of The Chart of the Ages on cloth, five feet long, mounted on a spring roller, suitable for little parlor gatherings. These would ordinarily cost about $5.00 each, for the painting alone, but by reason of the quantity, etc., – we are enabled to offer them to you at $1.50 each, delivered, at your nearest Express office.
|VOL. XV.||MAY 1 & 15, 1894.||NOS. 9 & 10.|
"And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him; for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him; for they know not the voice of strangers." – John 10:4,5.
But the changes were to be so radical and revolutionary, and so different from all human expectations among either Jews or Gentiles, that the Lord realized that its announcement would be to the Jews in general a stumbling-stone and to the Greeks foolishness, and that, under the blinding influence of the prince of this world, to the few only would it be manifestly the power of God and the wisdom of God. (1 Cor. 1:23,24.) And this few he knew would be the meek and humble-minded ones in Israel. Such he characterized as his sheep, sheeplike meekness being the chief trait of their character, the same symbol being applied also to the Lord himself – "Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world."
Upon the few who had thus far received his teaching and become his disciples, as well as upon all such subsequently, he desired to impress the lesson of meekness and to assure them of his tender care over them. Therefore he says, "I am the good Shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep," etc. And no matter how many others might claim to be the shepherd, he declared himself to be the only true one, and that he would prove it, even to the sacrifice of his life for them.
Again he said, "I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out and find pasture." But how does this harmonize with that other statement – "He that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep?" How could our Lord both enter by the door and also be the door? In this way: According to God's plan of salvation the way of man's recovery from death and of his access to eternal life was to be legally opened up by a ransom sacrifice; and when our Lord Jesus freely offered himself to fulfil that requirement of the divine plan, he thereby entered the divinely arranged door of opportunity to become the Savior of the world and the Shepherd of the Lord's sheep. He entered the door of the divine plan and thus became to us the door of opportunity, the way of access to eternal life, and was also therefore counted worthy to be the good Shepherd to lead the lost flock of humanity back to the fold of God, in whose favor is life and [R1647 : page 132] at whose right hand there are pleasures forevermore. (Psa. 16:11.) He that entered in by the way of Jehovah's appointment is thus both the door of access to God and the good shepherd of the sheep. "To him the porter [the holy spirit of God] openeth [the way to the sheep]." This opening was done in all the various ways which proclaimed him to us as the beloved Son of God, in whom the Father was well pleased, and our Redeemer and Savior – in the testimony at his baptism, and again on the mount of transfiguration; in the vailed heaven and the rent rocks on the occasion of his death; in the fact of his resurrection and its testimony by angels and eye-witnesses; in the perfect agreement of all the prominent features of his life and character with the testimony of prophets regarding him; and in the authority and character of his teaching and the simplicity and purity of his character which outshone that of every other man, so that even those who did not recognize him as the Son of God, declared, "Never man spake like this man."
And the sheep, thus assured, recognize Jehovah's Anointed as their shepherd; and thenceforth they "hear his voice." "And he calleth his own sheep by name [he is interested in them, not only as a general flock, but as individuals] and leadeth them out."
While the Lord thus proclaimed himself the true shepherd and the only door into the fold of God, he characterized all others as strangers, false and hireling shepherds, and thieves and robbers; for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we may be saved than the name of Jesus. (Acts 4:12.) Plato, uninstructed in divine truth and blindly groping about with the torch of human reason, in seeking to solve the mysteries of human life, may at times have struck a chord of the divine harmonies with thrilling effect upon thoughtful minds; but soon the clash of discords broke the spell or led the mind into channels of error. So also with Aristotle, Socrates, Confucius and other seekers after God, before life and immortality were brought to light by Jesus Christ. Such men could not be classed as false shepherds; for they evidently were seeking and following the best light they had. Rather, they, or at least some of them, were bell sheep which themselves had lost the way and were wandering upon the mountains, and leading the flocks to the best pastures and the purest waters they could find. But those who, after light has come into the world, and after they themselves have seen and realized it, love darkness rather than light, and who, instead of pointing men to Christ, direct them to the human philosophies of Plato, or Darwin, or others – all such merit the appellations which the Lord applies to them. They truly are thieves and robbers, teaching men that they can climb up into God's favor and into his fold by some other way than that which God hath appointed – through faith in the atoning sacrifice of Christ. Such teachers are the hireling shepherds to whom the Master refers; they have little or no real interest in the sheep and seem reckless of their eternal interests, their own present advantage being always of paramount importance. They want to be known as popular leaders and teachers, or original thinkers and great philosophers; or they are linked with old systems of error which furnish liberal remuneration, or at least a livelihood which they could not so easily secure in any other way.
Such are the hirelings, whose number in these days is legion. And now that the wolf of infidelity has boldly made its appearance among the sheep, these hireling shepherds are scattering in all directions and leaving the sheep to wander about alone. Some of these shepherds are fleeing away from the old systems and running after Darwin and Huxley and Spiritism and so-called Christian Science; and many of them are industriously endeavoring to dissuade the sheep from all faith in the inspiration of the sacred Scriptures. Witness the prominent cases of Dr. Chas. A. Briggs, Prof. Henry Drummond, Dr. Lyman Abbott, Prof. Swing, Dr. Smith, and the recent and startling developments in the great Chicago University where the president, Dr. Harper, and the entire faculty and all the students are boldly declaring themselves against the divine authority of the Bible, and the reliability of its records. The [R1647 : page 133] great Parliament of Religions held in Chicago last summer was a most remarkable manifestation of the disposition of prominent hireling shepherds, who sought to attract the attention of the sheep to the various heathen philosophies [R1648 : page 133] – Buddhism, Brahminism, Mohammedanism, Shintoism, Confucianism, and others, saying in effect, These, whom we have been accustomed to think of as heathen, are really about as much Christian as we are, except in name. Therefore let us receive them as brethren and make common cause with them. And the people looked in astonishment upon this new departure, scarcely knowing what to think. This great movement, as we pointed out in our issue of Nov. '93, was a most significant feature of present-day tendencies in religious circles. And now some of those representatives of the heathen religions have returned to their homes, and reports have already come back from Japan to the effect that at a great mass meeting in Yokohama the people were gathered to hear the reports from Christian America. And the returned Japanese delegates told them they had been most agreeably disappointed; for instead of having been invited to America, as they surmised, to be Christianized or perhaps indirectly ridiculed, they actually found that the Christians were in great doubt themselves about their religion, and were eager to learn what the foreigners had to say of their religions and what points of their philosophies could be engrafted upon Christianity. Indeed, they pointed to America as a hopeful field for the propagation of their faiths, and mentioned that an influential and wealthy convert had been made during the sessions of the Parliament. Thus the hireling shepherds are bewildering, confusing and scattering many of the timid sheep who are not sufficiently attentive to the voice of the good Shepherd which speaks through his inspired Word.
Yet only the wayward and heedless sheep can be harmed and scattered by these things. The obedient, trusting sheep will all be tenderly cared for by the good Shepherd, to whose voice they hearken and the softest tones of which are familiar to their ears. There are really, we thus see, two classes of the sheep, as the Lord indicates – the obedient ones just described, who are easily led by the voice of the Shepherd, and a more listless and somewhat wayward class who need some driving and guiding with the crook. The former are the sheep of this flock referred to in verse 16, while the latter are those "other sheep" whose number shall also be greatly augmented, when, by and by, the knowledge of the Lord shall fill the earth as the waters cover the sea – i.e., during the Millennial reign of Christ – when there will not be conflicting voices seeking to drown the voice of the good Shepherd.
Nor need we be surprised at the exceedingly small number who now diligently hearken and obediently follow the Shepherd's voice; for the Lord forewarned us it would be only a little flock, saying, "Fear not, little flock, it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the Kingdom." It is a choice flock the Lord is selecting now – a flock that needs no driving nor coaxing, but who meditate in it day and night. The good Shepherd does not propose to drive any sheep into his kingdom; and he desires for the high office to which he is calling them in this age only such as need no driving, and who gladly follow him through evil and through good report. "And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them [to lead, and not behind them to drive], and the sheep follow him; for they know his voice."
Of the sheep of this flock the Master says, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me,...and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand." (John 10:27-29.) How blessed is the assurance of heavenly guidance and protection now to all the sheep of this flock, the truly consecrated and obedient.
"And a stranger they will not follow, but will flee from him; for they know not the voice of strangers." If the stranger come with enticing words, saying, Let me show [R1648 : page 134] you a broader salvation than that you have learned from the apostles and prophets to hope for; that eternal salvation is to be universal, and that not one of God's creatures shall ever perish, the true sheep says, That sounds very benevolent, and yet it has not the ring of the Shepherd's voice in it; for he tells us of "wolves in sheep's clothing" and of "vessels of wrath fitted to destruction" and warns against "presumptuous sins" and of a possible destruction for all wilful sinners and "whosoever loveth and maketh a lie," and plainly says that the devil and those following him shall be destroyed. (Rev. 21:8; Matt. 25:41; Heb. 2:14.) No, this voice that prophesies smooth things, contrary to the Word of God, is not the voice of the good Shepherd.
If he come again with a show of logic and of worldly wisdom (which is foolishness with God) and says – Let me show you a more reasonable way of salvation than by the barbarous Bible method of an atoning sacrifice; viz., a salvation by a process of evolution and the survival of the fittest, according to which theory there was no original human perfection, no fall, and consequently no necessity for a ransom sacrifice – the sheep says, No, I cannot receive this teaching; for the voice of the good Shepherd tells me there is no other way than the one he opened up for us by freely offering up his life on our behalf, and I am not prepared to begin at the first chapter of Genesis and reconstruct the whole Bible after your theory.
Then he hears other voices declaring that the unalterable purpose of God is the eternal torment of a very large majority of his human creatures; some even declaring that such has been God's purpose, determined long before man's creation. No, says the true sheep, I cannot think that of God: though I cannot understand all your reasonings, nor fully combat your doctrine with the Scriptures, I surely cannot credit such a slander on my Heavenly Father's name; but this I do know – that "the Judge of the whole earth will do right," and so I will trust him where I cannot trace him, and wait for further light.
Such is the attitude of all the true sheep; and such being their attitude, God is both able and willing to shield and protect them under all circumstances and at all times; and the good Shepherd of his appointment shall lead them into green pastures and beside the still waters. They shall be abundantly fed with the "meat in due season," – with the spiritual food so necessary to their life and to their growth and development; and such temporal things as are needful will not be withheld. Truly we can say with the Psalmist, "I have never seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread."
While all the true sheep of this flock may indeed rejoice in the loving care of the good Shepherd, it is also a further cause for rejoicing that all the other sheep now lost and wandering, and blinded by the god of this world and misled by other voices, are also to be sought out and found and rejoiced over when the Lord, in his own good time, shall spread "a feast of fat things and of wines on the lees well refined." And then there shall be one fold and one Shepherd.
Though only a "little flock" is now recognized as the Lord's sheep, there shall by and by be a mighty host (John 10:16); and the redeemed of the Lord shall go forth with songs and ever lasting joy upon their heads. Glorious plan of salvation! how worthy it is of the character of our God!
"Before she travailed she brought forth; before her pain came she was delivered of a man-child. Who hath heard such a thing? who hath seen such things? Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? or shall a nation be born at once? for as soon as Zion travailed she brought forth her children." – Isa. 66:7,8.
By the prophets the name was often put for Jerusalem itself, and also for its inhabitants, sometimes called sons or daughters of Zion. It was also used in a wider sense, as was Jerusalem also, to signify the entire nation of Israel. And since fleshly Israel was typical of spiritual Israel, the Gospel Church, the symbolism applies with still deeper significance to the Gospel Church, which term, throughout the Gospel age, included the entire body of professed Christians, all of whom are on probation for full membership in the Church triumphant – the true Church, the Zion of the future, and the true Zion of the present age, the elect "little flock" to whom it is the Father's good pleasure to give the Kingdom. In the symbolic application of the term we must therefore judge from the character of the prophecy whether the reference is to the fleshly or to the spiritual house of Israel, or to both; or, if to the latter, whether it applies in its broadest sense to the nominal gospel church, or to the elect little flock, the only true Church in God's estimation.
The symbolic travail, in the above prophecy, is a reference to the great time of trouble – the travail that is to come upon the nominal gospel church, great "Babylon," from which some are to be counted worthy to escape. (Luke 21:36.) This is indicated by the preceding verse which locates the time of this prophecy as synchronous with that wherein is heard "a voice of noise [confusion] from the city" (Babylon), and "a voice [of truth and warning] from the temple" (the elect little flock of consecrated and faithful ones), and "a [R1649 : page 135] voice of Jehovah that rendereth recompense to his enemies" – in the great time of trouble.
The travail that is coming is to be upon nominal Zion – "Christendom," "Babylon;" and it will be a great and sore affliction – "a time of trouble such as was not since there was a nation." But the marvelous thing the Prophet here has to record is that a man-child is to be born out of Zion before this travail comes. This is a striking reference to the fact, elsewhere clearly taught, that the ripe wheat of the Gospel Church is to be separated from the tares, that they are to be exalted and glorified before the burning, the consuming trouble, shall come upon the latter. This man-child is, therefore, the little flock – the true Zion in God's estimation, the body of Christ; as it is written, "There shall come out of Zion [the nominal gospel church] the deliverer [the Christ, Head and body], and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob [the fleshly Israel or Zion]." – Rom. 11:26.
This is the man-child that is to bless all the families of the earth. (Gen. 28:14; Gal. 3:16,29.) The birth of the man-child is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are all they that have part in the first resurrection. Such are now begotten of God by the Word of truth, and quickened by the holy spirit (Jas. 1:18; Eph. 2:1; Rom. 8:11), and in due time – before the travail – they will be born in the glorious likeness of Christ. The birth of this man-child began over eighteen hundred years ago with the resurrection of Christ Jesus. There the head of this body of Christ came forth; and as surely as the head has been born, so surely, shall the body come forth. "Shall I bring to the birth, and not cause to bring forth? saith the Lord: shall I cause to bring forth and shut the womb? saith thy God." (Isa. 66:9.) Ah, no: "the man-child," the Christ complete, the Great Deliverer, shall come forth.
Yet "who hath heard such a thing? who hath seen such things?" for not only shall the body of Christ, the true overcoming Zion, the "holy nation, the peculiar people," be delivered out of nominal Zion, before the travail; but when she travails a great company of other children will be born. This is the great company described in the Apocalypse as coming up out of the great tribulation, having washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. (Rev. 7:14.) The body of Christ, the man-child, born before the travail, will be composed of those who heard and obeyed the call, "Come out of her, my people," etc. [R1649 : page 136] (Rev. 18:4), and who were counted worthy to have part in the first resurrection; while the many children born through the great tribulation will be those believers in nominal Zion, Babylon, who have allowed themselves to become measurably intoxicated by the spirit of Babylon, the spirit of the world, and who, therefore, are not quick to discern and prompt to obey the voice of the Lord in this harvest time. They fail to see that it is harvest time, and consequently fail to understand the separating work which the sickle of present truth is accomplishing, regarding those servants of God who wield it as enemies, and hence as opposing them and the Lord whom they serve.
The great tribulation or travail that is coming upon nominal Zion is the only thing that can convince such as these – and they include a large number of believing children of God, whose manner of life is righteous and generally circumspect, but who are nevertheless worldly-minded, and who are not rendering themselves a living sacrifice to God, following him through evil and through good report, and meekly bearing the reproach of Christ. They have respect to men's opinions, traditions and plans, and fail to fully submit themselves to the will and plan of the Lord. And only when they behold the wreck of nominal Zion – Christendom, Babylon – will they realize its gross errors and be delivered from them and it.
"Behold," says the Prophet, "I lay in Zion a stumbling-stone and Rock of offence; and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed." (Rom. 9:33; Isa. 8:14,15; 28:16.) That stumbling-stone is the doctrine of redemption through the precious blood of Christ. At that stone the fleshly Zion stumbled, and so now the nominal spiritual Zion is stumbling at the same stone; for it was to be "a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense to both the houses of Israel" – the fleshly and the spiritual. The elect little flock of overcomers do not so stumble, but recognize this as the chief corner-stone of the true Zion, remembering the words of the Prophet, "Behold I lay in Zion a chief corner-stone, elect, precious; and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. Unto you, therefore, which believe [in Christ as your Redeemer, who bought you with his precious blood] he is precious; but unto them which be disobedient,...the same is made ...a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient; whereunto also they were appointed" (1 Pet. 2:6-8); for God does not propose to deliver his Kingdom unto any of the disobedient. They need the fiery trial of the coming tribulation to bring them into a proper attitude before God; and hence must come up through the great tribulation.
While those who are truly begotten of God and who have been quickened by his spirit to the new spiritual life, and who are faithful in fulfilling their covenant of entire consecration as living sacrifices unto God, may well rejoice in hope of the first resurrection, and of being born before the travail upon nominal Zion, it is also a cause for rejoicing that many of the weaker children of God, now stumbling with nominal Zion, will, nevertheless, by and by be recovered and saved so as by fire (born) through the great tribulation (travail), in which nominal Zion shall expire, but from which they shall come forth.
"Rejoice ye with Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all ye that mourn for her." "Behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing and her people a joy. And I will rejoice in Jerusalem and joy in my people, and the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, nor the voice of crying." – Isa. 66:10; 65:18,19.
This call to rejoice with Jerusalem immediately follows the prophetic announcement of the birth of Zion, the terms Zion and Jerusalem being used here interchangeably. The birth of Zion, the exaltation of the body of Christ to kingdom power and glory, will indeed be cause for rejoicing on the part of all people; for it is for this exaltation and manifestation of the sons of God that the whole creation waits, groaning and travailing together in pain until now. – Rom. 8:22,23.
When the true Zion is thus exalted, then will follow the great work of the Kingdom. The travail upon nominal Zion immediately succeeding [R1649 : page 137] will quickly liberate the true children of God still in her, and they shall come forth to larger views and higher principles, and to develop rapidly into nobler characters. The rule of the iron rod will quickly subdue all things, completely breaking up the whole present social fabric and accomplishing the leveling process which will make ready for the peaceful reign of righteousness.
Then the great Millennial reign of righteousness will begin, when every man will have a full, fair opportunity to win eternal life by faith and obedience. And no man's opportunity will be less than a hundred years; though if he wastes all of that time without taking any steps toward reformation, he will be considered unworthy of life and will be cut off in the second death. (Isa. 65:20) But the obedient shall eat the good of the land (Isa. 1:19): "They shall build houses and inhabit them [There will not be so many houses to let in those days probably, but more improved and cultivated homesteads in which the owners shall take pleasure and comfort]; and they shall plant vineyards and eat the fruit of them. They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat: for as the days of a tree are the days of my people ["They shall renew their strength" – Isa. 40:31]; and mine elect [all the faithful and obedient then] shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labor in vain, nor bring forth for trouble; for they are the seed [the children] of the blessed of the Lord [the Church] and their offspring with them."
"The wolf and the lamb shall feed together [The reference here may be to men formerly of wolf-like or lamb-like character, or to animals, or to both – the expression signifying in any case a reign of peace]; and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock, and dust shall be the serpent's meat [ – another expression similar to, "His enemies shall lick the dust," signifying the destruction of the serpent, or rather of Satan whom the serpent symbolizes]. They shall not hurt, nor destroy, in all my holy mountain [Kingdom], saith the Lord." – Isa. 65:21-25.
Thus the birth of the true Zion will be cause for rejoicing among all who truly love righteousness: for, though it will first dash in pieces all their long cherished hopes, it is the dawn of real hope for all the world. It will humble all their pride, despoil them of all their cherished possessions and what they have come to esteem their rights, break down all their boasted institutions, civil, social and religious, and completely wreck all their order and all hope until they begin to see hope in the new order of things inaugurated by the Kingdom of God.
Yes, rejoice with Jerusalem, Zion, and be glad with her, all ye that love her, as well as all ye that mourn for her now and try to dissuade her from her course, not seeing the prize at the end of her life of faithful self-sacrifice; for soon her glory will appear, not only to her own exceeding joy, but also to the joy and blessing of all the families of the earth.
"If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honor, sanctified and meet for the Master's use, and prepared unto every good work." – 2 Tim. 2:21.
But such purging from the filth of the flesh can never render such vessels fit for the Master's use. With all their efforts at cleansing they are still unclean, and the Lord desires clean vessels for his use. It is only when, by faith, we are plunged in the cleansing blood of our Redeemer that we are clean and acceptable to God.
"There is a fountain filled with blood
Drawn from Immanuel's veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood,
Lose all their guilty stains."
But having been thus reckonedly cleansed from sin and clothed in the pure robe of Christ's righteousness, it is all-important that we strive to make this reckoned righteousness an actual thing to the extent of our ability; for only so can we prove ourselves worthy of the imputed righteousness. It is purely of divine grace that we are reckoned of God as righteous, before we have actually become so. Seeing in us the desire to be righteous and the effort to be so in his appointed way, God, accepting the will for the deed, reckons us righteous now, and treats us as sons, since we have been redeemed from the curse and have accepted this gracious provision for reconciliation.
If, however, after being thus reconciled to God and reckoned righteous, our course of conduct proves that we no longer love righteousness; if we do not endeavor to make the reckoned righteousness an actual thing by a constant endeavor to purge out the old leaven of sin; if we are content to let it remain and to work in us, and if we neglect to strive against it, then we are proving by such a course that our love of righteousness is growing weaker, and we are proving our unworthiness of the Lord's gracious reckoning in our favor. But if, on the contrary, we are striving daily to purge out the old leaven of sin, – not merely working it down occasionally and allowing it again and again to ferment and disturb the whole spiritual being and to endanger its complete souring and spoiling, – but purging it out by constantly resisting it, cleansing our thoughts, words and deeds with the truth, and cultivating the blessed fruits of the spirit of love, joy and peace, then indeed, as the Apostle affirms, we shall be vessels meet for the Master's use.
And not only so, but the Lord can honor such vessels because they honor him: they fairly represent him and his cause. If they are meek and humble-minded, not inclined to think of themselves more highly than they ought to think, but to think soberly, the Lord can exalt them to positions of trust and honor without injury either to themselves or to the cause; and thus they are more and more sanctified and prepared for every good work.
Let as many, therefore, as would be honored and used of the Master now and hereafter – as many as have this hope in them – seek to purify themselves, to purge out the old leaven of sin. In the language of another forceful illustration, let us endeavor to war a good warfare against the world, the flesh and the devil. And be assured that in these duties we have the work of a lifetime; and even at its close we will still find the necessity for the robe of Christ's righteousness to cover our remaining deformities of character.
While the purging here spoken of has reference to the general cleansing from all sin and uncleanness, the Apostle had special reference on that occasion to purging from a disposition to hearken to false doctrines of those who would subvert the faith of the Church. His counsel is to avoid foolish questions and strife about words to no profit, to shun profane and vain babblings which increase only unto more ungodliness, which savor more of bombast and self-exaltation than of truth and godliness, and, on the contrary, to study to show ourselves approved unto God, workmen that need not be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth.
There is much significance in that word "study;" and only the studious find the narrow way to the divine approval and acceptance. Study to show thyself approved – study the doctrine, study your course of conduct, to keep it in harmony with the doctrine. Study how to promote the peace and prosperity of Zion, and how to shield yourself and others from the missiles of error and from the poison of an evil, worldly spirit. Study to perform [R1650 : page 139] the duties of a faithful soldier of the cross – the seemingly insignificant, as well as the bravest and noblest deeds. A soldier has many seemingly trivial duties to perform; and he is as really doing his duty as a soldier when he is polishing his armor, foraging, cooking his meal, cleaning camp, clearing the way or building bridges for the army to pass as when he is fighting the enemy. All such necessary incidental work is entirely compatible with his commission as a soldier, and is not to be considered "entanglements" or hindrances. And these things cannot be avoided or carelessly done without a measure of unfaithfulness.
So with the Christian soldier. The routine of life, house-work, daily toil, any and everything incidental to a proper and honest provision of "things needful" for ourselves and those dependent on us for support, as well as provision for the prosecution and care of the Lord's work, – all this is a proper part of our engagement as soldiers of the Lord. The Apostle Peter was as truly serving the Lord when catching the fish from whose mouth he got the coin wherewith to pay the Lord's taxes and his own, as when proclaiming, The Kingdom of God is come nigh unto you. The Apostle Paul was as truly a soldier of the cross and doing his proper work as such when making tents (rather than be chargeable to any) as when he preached Jesus and the resurrection at Mars hill. Whatever is done with a view to the glory of our Lord, the Captain of our salvation, or for the benefit of any of our fellow-soldiers, or for our own preparation for this warfare, or in the discharge of obligations which our Captain has recognized and approved, – this is proper work for us as soldiers, and not entanglement in the affairs of this life.
But the Christian soldier must study to perform even the commonest duties in a manner creditable to his calling. Nor must he permit himself to become entangled with other things which do not relate to his duties as a soldier, and thus to be side-tracked. For instance, if a soldier knowing how to repair watches were to divert his attention from his regular duties, neglect his camp and battle duties, and the commands of his Captain and the proper work of a soldier to acquire some extra compensation by this means, he would be an unfaithful soldier. And so the Christian who turns aside to seek some personal, temporal advantage, to the detriment of his duties as a soldier, is likewise, to some extent, an unfaithful soldier and likely to be drawn out of the ranks entirely.
Study to show thyself approved. Study the Word. Study yourself that you may become well acquainted with yourself – that you may know your talents for service and in what directions they lie, and your weak points and how they may be guarded against; that you may know both your abilities and your shortcomings. Then study to avoid error and to shun all foolish questions and profane and vain babblings. Remember that only the foundation of God standeth sure, and that all other foundations are worthless and all other theories must come to naught. But "The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity."
And if any man desire honor from God, let him not fail to seek it in God's appointed way – along the pathway of humility; for the Lord giveth his favors to the humble. If you would be a vessel fit for the Master's use and a vessel of honor, humble yourself under the mighty hand of God and he will exalt you in due time. Do not be in a hurry about it either; but whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might, beginning and ever continuing to cleanse your earthen vessel, that it may be fit for the Master's use.
We have received 99 reports of celebrations of our dear Redeemer's death, upon its last anniversary, April 19th. These gatherings were of course small, – the Allegheny meeting, at which about 160 were present, being the largest; while New York and Brooklyn meetings [R1650 : page 140] consolidated report a larger than usual attendance – eighty-five, Chicago (two meetings), Des Moines, Altoona, Boston, Baltimore and Philadelphia followed in order, down to the threes and twos and even the solitary ones.
All the gatherings report blessed seasons of communion, though marred in some instances by a knowledge of the great trial which the adversary has brought upon the Church, as explained in our Extra edition, of April 25th. All this, however, only deepened the impressiveness of the impressive occasion.
The conduct of some who learned of the trial and who, though sorely grieved and perplexed by it, kept it from others and made them subjects of prayer, that their faith might not fail when the storm of trial should reach them, was indeed a beautiful manifestation of the spirit of Christ, in which we greatly rejoice. And thus we are made to understand more fully that expression of the Apostle Peter (1 Peter 1:7): "The trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold," etc.
The effect of the latest trial and sifting seemed to be to draw all our hearts nearer together than ever; and the reports show that the dear ones assembled in little groups poured out earnest prayers to the throne of grace on our behalf and on behalf of all the members of the body of Christ everywhere. These prayers, dear friends, in our case were answered. We enjoyed the peace of God which passeth all understanding. It ruled our hearts while "unreasonable and wicked men" did all that they knew how to do to injure and distract us – even circulating their slanderous circulars amongst our worldly neighbors.
Appropriate to our feelings, therefore, was our opening hymn at the Memorial, –
"Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love."
The meaning of the service was explained – we communed with the Lord in prayer and meditation, and closed with the hymn,
"Abide, sweet Spirit, heavenly dove,
With light and comfort from above."
Many who cannot go out into the Colporteur work, but who burn with a desire to tell the good tidings and show forth the praises of him who hath called us out of darkness into his marvelous light, inquire – What can we do? Can you not help us to use our limited talents and opportunities?
(1) One good plan is by a systematic distribution of Old Theology Tracts. This may be done at any time, but especially on Sundays. Have slips like No. 14 for the masses and larger tracts for the thoughtful and earnest looking, – at the hotels, in the parks, etc. And a good plan is for several to serve those who go toward or return from church service. But do not stand near the church building – go at least half a block away so as not to appear to specially seek their conversion: they will take it as an insult and resent it – for "surely it is in vain that a net is spread in the sight of any bird."
(2) Another good method is to visit your friends and tell them what great things God has done for your soul. Speak chiefly of the fruits and graces of the spirit and afterward about the truths which enlightened and refreshed your hearts and brought forth those fruits. When you come to speak of the latter – the doctrines of God's Word – be very cautious, and feed them with "milk" rather than "strong meat." Remember the Lord's words, to some under similar circumstances, "I have many things to tell you, but ye cannot bear them now." Remember to ignore yourself in telling the blessed tidings. Don't try to shine; don't try to impress your hearer with your wisdom, your knowledge of Scripture, etc. Forget self entirely, and let your whole aim be to glorify God and bless your hearer.
(3) Unless you are very well versed in the truth and apt at teaching it, your success will lie chiefly in awakening a curiosity and interest and then selling or loaning the M. DAWN or a specially selected Old Theology Tract. The gospel in print is doing many times more good than the gospel by voice in the present harvest; but the latter introduces and supplements well the former and the two together are preferable to either alone, – if the spoken gospel be spoken with wisdom and to the ignoring of the speaker.
(b) When you have done what you can for your friends and acquaintances, and when you find opportunity to enlarge your sphere of labor, attend Methodist Class-meetings, and Christian Endeavor meetings, and prayer-meetings common to all denominations. Take part in these according to the liberty accorded, confining yourself within the recognized liberties of said meetings in speaking and praying. Seek to give no offense; manifest the spirit which is from above, which is first pure; then "Let your moderation be known unto all men." Avoid wrangling; "for the servant of God should not strive," but should "speak the truth in love."
Let your light shine before them, the light of the spirit of the truth, – the light of a justified life, and more, of a sanctified life. Do not intrude doctrines, or anything else at their meetings, that a large majority present would disapprove. Speak on lines of Christian experience, etc., in harmony with their rules and habits. Leave your doctrinal explanations, etc., for private conversation or for an occasion specially arranged at which they would be agreeable. At these meetings get well acquainted with the whole hearted and pure hearted – the consecrated or those "feeling after God," and let them get acquainted with your heart. If they come to take knowledge of you that you have been with Jesus and learned of him, and that you are truly his "brethren," you will then be able to introduce to them the precious present truths which you can see to be so needful for their ripening.
(c) While always careful not to belie the truth, careful not to be mistaken for a member in any of the nominal churches, this need not hinder any from sometimes attending divine worship in any of them, if thus we may do more good than in any other way known to us. By mingling with them occasionally you may have opportunities for speaking a word in season and handing a tract or book, that you would not otherwise have.
(d) Study very thoroughly the Chart which you find in M. DAWN VOL. I., until you understand its every feature and can explain it clearly. (See explanation, Chapter xii.) Then you might procure one of our new five feet charts (See notice page 2), invite in your neighbors and friends and explain it to them; and when you have callers it may sometimes prove, not only of interest and profit to them, but a blessing to yourself; for every time we explain God's great plan to others we get a fresh blessing therefrom upon our own hearts.
II. QUAR., LESSON VII., MAY 13, EXOD. 1:1-14.
As preceding lessons showed us how God prepared a place for his people in Egypt and transported them thither and planted them in the best of the land and gave them great temporal prosperity during the lifetime of all the first generation, we now come to view them under another course of instruction – this time in the school of adversity.
In the midst of prosperity they had marvelously increased so that the second generation filled the land of Goshen; and the new king which knew not Joseph, and the new generation of Egyptians, too, which forgot the gratitude of their fathers toward Joseph and the disposition to manifest it in favor to his relatives and descendants, began to fear lest this prosperous people in their midst might some time rise up against them or ally themselves with their enemies. Hence the decree of the king mentioned in verse 10.
VERSES 11-14 tell the bitter story of their oppression, under which they were taught valuable lessons of humility and patience, of dependence upon God, and of hope for deliverance inspired by his precious promises. Here, too, their common sufferings bound them together as a people, and kept them distinct and separate from the Egyptians [R1651 : page 141] and consequently from their influence in matters of religion, etc.
But notwithstanding their hard bondage the promises of God that they should rapidly multiply (Gen. 15:5; 22:17) was being fulfilled, so that, from the handful of seventy souls that went down into Egypt, there [R1651 : page 142] came out, after about three centuries, about six hundred thousand men, which implies a population of about two millions.
To those who are able, through a knowledge of God's plan, to rise to his standpoint in viewing his dealings with his people, there is a most manifest exhibition of fatherly wisdom and care in this discipline in Egypt, as well as in all their subsequent leadings. As a wise father, God foresaw that too much prosperity would be greatly to their disadvantage – tending to pride, ambition, independence, self-gratification, self-indulgence, indolence; and to assimilation with friendly aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and the imbibing of their idolatrous principles and practices. All this was checked and guarded against by the bitter experiences of Israel in Egypt, while the opposite tendencies were all encouraged. And thus also the way was paved for a grand exhibition of God's further care and wisdom in their timely and wonderful deliverance when his purposes for them in Egypt had been fully accomplished. [R1651 : page 142]
II. QUAR., LESSON VIII., MAY 20, EXOD. 2:1-10.
This lesson presents several features of divine interposition worthy of very special consideration. (1) It calls to mind the promise of God to Jacob hundreds of years previous (Gen. 46:4) – to bring his posterity back to the land of promise, his purposes in sending them down into Egypt having been accomplished; and now he is preparing to fulfil that promise.
(2) It is another illustration (See also Rom. 9:11) of God's elections of certain individuals for special services in the present life, and the shaping of their course in view of that purpose. Like the Apostle Paul (Gal. 1:15) Moses seems to have been chosen, even before he was born. These elections were not unto everlasting life, but to a place of service in the present life. Though Paul was "a chosen vessel" to preach Christ to the Gentiles, he might have become "a castaway" (1 Cor. 9:27) so far as future honors are concerned.
(3) It affords another illustration of special divine providence in the protection, preservation and training of the chosen instruments of service. Born under the cruel edict of death, that very circumstance was divinely overruled for Moses' advantage, and through him for that of all Israel: and so the wrath of opposing men was made to advance the divine plan, instead of to retard it, as intended. It was due to this circumstance that Moses was brought up in all the learning of the Egyptians, and thus fitted for his future work as a great leader and statesman.
(4) It shows how God, while working out his grand designs on a large scale, is not unmindful of the faith and devotion of humble individuals who put their trust in him. By faith Moses' parents hid him three months, and then took him to the river's brink and left him alone in the hands of God; and confidently trusting him, "they were not afraid of the king's commandment." – Heb. 11:23.
(5) It shows how God has respect both to the character and to the natural qualifications of his chosen instruments. Thus, for instance, for the leadership of Israel he chose a good man, a godly man, one who preferred to suffer affliction with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of an Egyptian court, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt. (Heb. 11:24-27.) But for the throne of Egypt at that particular time he chose one of very opposite character (Rom. 9:17), and thus his purpose was wrought out in the fullest exercise of the free moral agency of both.
It is notable also that in choosing Moses for his great work as a deliverer and statesman, God did not choose a novice, but, on the contrary, he chose one of great natural ability and gave to him just the kind of education he needed for his work – his earliest years under the training of godly parents, whose instilling of the principles of truth and righteousness and whose instructions in the hope of Israel, were not without their desired effect in all the subsequent years of life; then the remainder of forty years under the most favorable circumstances for learning what the most enlightened nation of that day afforded; and then forty years in the retirement of domestic life, well suited for the mellowing and refining of his character and the deepening, and enriching of experience.
And yet in choosing this man of learning and ability God, as in the case of the Apostle Paul, permitted a thorn in the flesh, lest [R1651 : page 143] he should be exalted above measure by the honors of his high position. He was slow of speech – a diffident, retiring man and not at all gifted as an orator. The office, however, did not require oratory, and so the charms of eloquence were not given – his meekness coupled with great executive ability especially fitted him for it. A similar course of previous training is also very noticeable in the case of the Apostle Paul. (See Gal. 1:15; Acts 22:3; 26:24.) And the same Apostle urges all who would be used of the Lord to study to show themselves workmen approved unto God. – 2 Tim. 2:15.
(6) It is also noticeable that for special leadership God chooses the few and not the many, and more frequently only one at a time. There was only one Lord Jesus to redeem and restore our lost and ruined race. There was only one Paul to lead on in declaring the unsearchable riches of Christ to the Gentiles, and to leave his rich legacy of inspired love to the Gentile Christians of all subsequent generations. There was only one Moses to lead the hosts of Israel out of bondage and to be a father unto them and a judge, though there was a host of honored co-workers with him – Aaron, Hur, Joshua, Caleb, et al. So also in later days God has from time to time raised up special instruments, amply fitted to serve in special emergencies, and to lead in reforms, etc.; e.g., Martin Luther, John Knox, John Wesley, etc. But in every such case the present reward has been persecution. And so severe have been the trials and so perilous the positions of such men, that nothing but their zeal and devotion to the cause and its future recompenses could be a sufficient incentive to induce them to fulfil their mission.
In view of these facts, it becomes the people of God at all times to carefully observe such remarkable evidences of God's appointment, and to co-operate with God in whatever way he may be pleased to use their talents. If any man would be more abundantly used of the Lord in his blessed service, let him seek first to be fitted for it more and more. Let him imitate that beloved and honored servant, Moses, in meekness, humility, energy and untiring zeal and self-sacrificing service of the Lord. But the wise steward will seek always to cultivate along the lines of his natural abilities, and not expect the Lord to work a miracle for his advancement, and so waste valuable time seeking to develop that which he does not by nature possess. True, the Lord could work a miracle if he desired to do so; but that is not his usual method. Miracles are his reserve forces, and are only brought forward when the natural means are insufficient to accomplish the divine purpose. [R1651 : page 143]
II QUAR. LESSON IX., MAY 27, EXOD. 3:10-20.
When God would deliver Israel, he chose for his servant and representative the meekest man, Moses. (Num. 12:3.) This disposition was necessary not only for the task before him, but also because this one was to be a type of the great deliverer of all mankind from the bondage of sin – "the man Christ Jesus," who was "meek and lowly of heart;" and also the body of Christ which is the Church. – See Acts 3:22,23.
Moses' humble birth, as one of an enslaved race, would naturally incline him to humility. And this disposition continued with him, even though he became an adopted member of the royal family. His subsequent boldness and ability as an executive were due to the fact that he acted as God's agent and representative. This gave that beautiful blend to his character, of ability with humility.
It was forty years from the time that Moses was born to the time when he first essayed to help his brethren and was misunderstood (Exod. 2:11-15), and it was forty years from that time until he became their deliverer. These two equal periods seem to be typical of the two ages – the Jewish and the Gospel ages, which were also of equal length – 1845 years. At the end of the Jewish age Christ offered himself to Israel as their deliverer, but they refused him and he went away. His return is due at the end of a like period, at the close of the Gospel age. At his second presence, during the Millennial age, he will deliver all who are "God's people" from the bondage of sin under Satan, as Moses delivered his people from the bondage of Egypt under Pharaoh.
During Moses' absence he married a Gentile wife, and so in the interval between Christ's first and second advents he selects a wife from among the Gentiles – the Gospel Church, the Bride, the Lamb's wife. [R1652 : page 144]
After the long preparation of his chosen instrument – God's time had come to send [R1652 : page 144] him, and his servant was ready; and lo, from the midst of the burning bush that was not consumed, and which forcibly illustrated the power of God to preserve and use his servant in the midst of fiery trials, Moses heard the call of God to become the leader of his people out of Egyptian bondage. – Verse 10.
But how could he do it? Moses looked at himself and at the magnitude of such an undertaking, and feeling his own insufficiency he replied, "Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?" It seemed a most improbable thing that the Egyptians would give up two millions of profitable slaves for any consideration that he could present, or any power that he could bring to bear upon them. Then how could the people be induced to follow his leadership? To these misgivings concerning himself, Moses received the all-sufficient assurance of the Lord – "Certainly I will be with thee," etc. That was enough; and strong in this confidence, he went forth to prove at every step of the way the abundant sufficiency of divine grace.
Herein is encouragement also for every true servant of the Lord who humbly relies upon his promises while striving to walk in the ways of his appointment: "Certainly I will be with thee." Oh, how much we need this blessed assurance; for who, of himself, is sufficient for the responsibilities of the Lord's service?
The great deliverance was indeed wrought out by God by miracles and wonders by the hand of his servant Moses; and those modern critics who reject the testimony of miracles are simply insisting that God should always operate within the range of human understanding. But to the sincere inquirer after truth there is no clearer testimony of the divine power and resources than the testimony of miracles. The ten miraculous plagues upon Egypt did their appointed work, and Israel went out a free people under the leadership of Moses; and all the world were witnesses of the power of the God of Israel.
This deliverance of Israel from Egypt was a marvelous deliverance, and yet the prophets tell us of a still greater deliverance for the people, yet to be accomplished, when they shall be gathered out of all nations whither they have been driven, and when even the generations of them that are in the graves shall come forth, and they shall be brought into their own land and securely planted there. (See Jer. 16:14,15; Ezek. 37:12-14; Isa. 65:21-23.) In comparison with this deliverance yet to be accomplished, we are assured that the former from Egypt will seem so insignificant as not to be named any more; for that was but a type of the one to come. Then Abraham will realize the reward of his faith, when he and his posterity actually come into the land which God promised him for an everlasting possession (Gen. 17:8), and which Stephen said (Acts 7:5) he never owned a foot of in his past life, but died in faith that the promise would be fulfilled at his return, – in the morning of the resurrection.
"For this purpose have I raised thee up," is recorded of this Egyptian Pharaoh. (Rom. 9:17.) As God made choice of Moses for one purpose, he also made choice of this Pharaoh for another. He did not make the one hard and tyrannical, and the other meek and obedient; but he chose such as were so naturally and of their own free will and choice. The meek man was chosen to one position and the froward one to another. God did not let a good man come to the throne and then corrupt him; but he raised up a bad man, and thus had in him a suitable one by whom to show forth his power.
God's dealings, always just, and often merciful, have an effect upon men according to their hearts. The same providence that would move one man to repentance would move another to hardness of heart. In Pharaoh's case the plagues brought repentance, but the goodness of God in hearing his prayer and removing the plagues each time produced hardness of heart. Thus seen, it was not by exerting some bad influence upon Pharaoh's mind, but by extending his mercy to Pharaoh and his people, that God hardened his heart.
The Egyptian bondage typified the bondage of sin; Pharaoh typified Satan; and Israel typified all those who long for deliverance that they may present themselves to God and his service. The deliverance from Egypt represented this overthrow of the power of sin at our Lord's second advent. The plagues upon Egypt represented the troubles coming upon the whole world in the near future which will effectually break down the various enslaving and oppressive systems of the present time – social, political, religious and financial – and engulf them all in utter ruin.