|Vol. XX.||NOVEMBER 1, 1899.||No. 21.|
|The Volunteer Work||226|
|The Boston and St. Louis Conventions||227|
|Which is the True Gospel?||228|
|The Gospel According to Catholicism||228|
|The Gospel Presented by Calvinism||229|
|The Arminian View of the Gospel||230|
|Nehemiah's Consecration and Prayer||233|
|Nehemiah's Faith and Works||236|
'I will stand upon my watch, and set my foot upon the Tower, and will watch to see what He shall say unto me, and what answer I shall make to them that oppose me.' Hab. 2:1
Upon the earth distress of nations with perplexity: the sea and the waves (the restless, discontented) roaring: men's hearts failing them for fear and for looking forward to the things coming upon the earth (society): for the powers of the heavens (ecclestiasticism) shall be shaken. . . .When ye see these things come to pass, then know that the Kingdom of God is nigh at hand. Look up, lift up your heads, rejoice, for your redemption draweth nigh. – Luke 21:25-28, 32.
It stands free from all parties, sects and creeds of men, while it seeks more and more to bring its every utterance into fullest subjection to the will of God in Christ, as expressed in the Holy Scriptures. It is thus free to declare boldly whatsoever the Lord hath spoken; – according to the divine wisdom granted unto us, to understand. Its attitude is not dogmatical, but confident; for we know whereof we affirm, treading with implicit faith upon the sure promises of God. It is held as a trust, to be used only in his service; hence our decisions relative to what may and what may not appear in its columns must be according to our judgment of his good pleasure, the teaching of his Word, for the upbuilding of his people in grace and knowledge. And we not only invite but urge our readers to prove all its utterances by the infallible Word to which reference is constantly made, to facilitate such testing.
Those of the interested who, by reason of old age, or other infirmity or adversity, are unable to pay for the TOWER will be supplied FREE, if they send a Postal Card each December, stating their case and requesting the paper. We are not only willing, but anxious, that all such be on our list continually.
In our issue of April 15 the offer was made that wherever the friends of present truth would volunteer to serve the Lord and his brethren by distributing the booklet, The Bible vs. the Evolution Theory, to the Church people of their cities and towns the same (a 5 cent pamphlet) would be supplied free.
The motive behind this large expenditure is the hope of reaching some of the Israelites indeed, in Babylon; and we know of no better method of serving the truth to such that is open to the majority of those who have pledged themselves living sacrifices to lay down their lives for the brethren. – 1 John 3:16
Brothers and Sisters in all parts of our land and in Great Britain promptly responded; and as a result we are only now getting ahead of the home demand, and preparing a large shipment for England. Now the Transvaal war excitement makes it advisable to postpone the distribution in England; and hence we inquire for more volunteers at home, who can be promptly supplied: our British brethren can be supplied later from those now on the press.
The dear "volunteers" who have already engaged in this service report great blessings upon their own hearts in this little service for our King and his "brethren." Some, having finished the work in their own cities, are reaching out into adjacent towns. Some have been led to study the truth because of their appreciation of the faithfulness to principle exhibited by these "volunteers."
The volunteers of each town should act in unison, as much as possible. Make out your list of Protestant churches in your place, and estimate the probable attendance (not membership): then appoint one of your number your scribe to report to us the number of churches and the number of booklets you can judiciously use. All want some part in this "harvest" work. The Master says, "He that reapeth receiveth wages [blessings, now] and gathereth fruit unto everlasting life."
BLESSED seasons of spiritual refreshing both of our conventions proved to be. We have every reason to believe that the Lord not only used them as channels of blessing to the "brethren" already interested, but also to others who came with friends or through curiosity. Under the Lord's providence the daily press of both cities gave us liberal notices which reached some of the Lord's hungry sheep.
The WATCH TOWER announcement styled these "Believers' Conventions," – as signifying believers in God's Word at this time, when so many professed Christians are falling into disbelief through the influence of the Evolution theory, "higher criticism," infidelity, etc. And the word "believers" is widely known as signifying adherents to the doctrine of the Second Coming of our Lord. We are "believers" and hope always to be such, but let us beware of thinking of or using this as a distinctive or sectarian name – to distinguish and separate us from other Christian believers. We do not want to be separated from other believers, but to continue to love and cherish and fully fellowship all who with us trust in the sure Word of God, even tho they do not yet see eye to eye with us on all points respecting that Word's teachings.
The announced programs were pretty generally carried out: at Boston addresses were delivered by Bros. Thorne and Graham of the Boston company, Bro. Alexander of the Yonkers, N.Y., company, Bro. Barton of the Philadelphia company, Bro. Weber of Maryland, Bro. Lewis of Cohoes, N.Y., Pilgrim Bro. McPhail of the Chicago company (who also conducted the musical features) and by the Editor of this journal. And in the testimony meetings all had good opportunity of which very many availed themselves. Visitors about 100; attendance on Sunday about 250. Many strengthened; all refreshed; and so far as we know none disappointed and turned empty away.
St. Louis had a larger territory to draw from, being more central, and the number of visitors was about 200, and the Sunday attendance about 400. Amongst the speakers were Bro. Dann of the St. Louis company (who also conducted the musical program), Bro. Moffatt of Florida, Bro. Henninges of Allegheny, Bro. Owen of Indianapolis, Bro. Weber of Maryland, Pilgrim Bros. Willis and Draper, and a number of others. Your servant, the Editor of this journal, was obliged in obedience to the wishes of the friends, to occupy [R2524 : page 227] very much more than his proportion of the time at both conventions; – especially at the last one.
In both Conventions the spirit of love and fellowship prevailed; and if even one jar occurred or one discordant note sounded, we did not learn of it. The local churches had given careful attention to every detail of arrangement for the visiting "brethren" – including the free entertainment of those who needed such provision. Their reception committees in both instances were tireless in their loving endeavors to make all comfortable. May the Lord abundantly reward them each and all!
At Boston, symbolic baptism was administered to twenty-three, at the hands of Bro. Woodworth. At St. Louis forty-one (21 males and 20 females), at the hands of Bro. Henninges. Bro. Dann informs us that as a result of the Convention they have an increase of about 30 in attendance, and that several more desire to confess Christ in symbolic baptism. The meetings have been forced to move to the more spacious quarters at Nineteenth and Morgan streets. [R2524 : page 228]
As usual, the money question was kept out of notice. One dear brother came to us, saying, "Brother Russell, I wanted to contribute something toward the expenses of this convention, but they will not accept it. I want to get even on the matter somehow, so you must accept it for the Tract Fund." Another dear brother sent ten dollars by mail, saying that he could not attend, but wanted a share in the good work and would be glad to help meet the expenses of some of the poor in attendance. Indeed, several have since sent "Convention Thank Offerings" to the Tract Fund.
From the St. Louis Republic, Oct. 9, 1899.
Sermon delivered before the St. Louis Convention of Believers in the Second Advent, by Pastor C. T. Russell of Allegheny, Pa. at the "Tabernacle," cor. Nineteenth and Morgan streets, St. Louis, Mo. Sunday afternoon, October 8, 1899.
The speaker declared his desire to present a true gospel sermon, yet he reflected that this expression, "gospel sermon," had become so perverted that many Christian people might expect to hear the very reverse in some respects of what he would have to say on this subject. By common consent a gospel sermon has come to be understood to signify the shaking of the congregation, and indeed of nearly all mankind, over an imaginary abyss of everlasting torture, with the effort to intimidate them thereby to a thorough reformation of life in hope of thereby escaping an awful eternity. True, this gospel of damnation is not so generally preached as it once was, because the more enlightened minds of cultured people repudiate it as a fetish of the past. But it is still to be heard in country places, occasionally in a city pulpit and at a camp-meeting, and at the street meetings of the Salvation Army and at their barracks. The speaker did not wish for a moment to criticise the honesty of intention of those who thus preach. He was not speaking in criticism of persons but of doctrines, when he declared such preaching to be as far from the Gospel as the east is from the west, as he hoped to show before finishing his discourse.
Before proceeding to present the true Gospel of the Scriptures he considered it only proper that he and his audience should first hear from the general mass of Christian people on this subject. "After eighteen centuries of theological study and Christian development in thought, what does Christianity present to the world to-day as the Gospel of Christ?" The speaker begged his hearers to remember that if any remarks should be dropped which might be construed as not complimentary to any of the creeds of leading denominations, no uncomplimentary remarks would be made respecting fellow-Christians themselves, for he desired to respect every true Christian and his conscientious convictions. But in demonstration of the truth he found it necessary to hold up some of the published creeds of Christendom, and to show their inconsistencies in the light of the Scriptures and in the light of the intelligent consciences of those who subscribed to these creeds, some of whom doubtless had never realized fully to what they had committed themselves when they affirmed these creeds to be truthful representations of their Christian faiths. Everything that the speaker would say would be said in the kindest of spirit and with the best of intention to lift up the light of truth and to draw the hearts of all the Lord's people to him, and to put to shame only those elements of darkness and falsity which are contrary to the Scriptures, contrary to sanctified common sense, contrary to all that is holy and just and true. And he expected to make his remarks so moderate that not a solitary intelligent Christian within the sound of his voice could take the slightest exception. page 228
There might be said to be three distinct statements of the Gospel – leaving out those of smaller denominations. (1) We have the Gospel according to Roman Catholicism. (2) The Gospel according to Calvinism. (3) The Gospel according to Arminianism. Calvinism represents the central thought of the great denominations known as Baptists, Presbyterians and Congregationalists. Arminianism represents the thought of the Methodist family in its various branches, and of Free-will Baptists. However, there are many affiliated with Calvinistic churches who really entertain the Arminian doctrine. So we may say that Protestantism is about equally divided between Calvinism and Arminianism. Let us examine these three Gospels, which represent nominally nearly two hundred millions of the civilized world, called "Christendom."
The Gospel according to Roman Catholicism is that all men fell into sin and under sentence of eternal torment: that Christ accomplished a redemptive work which, supplemented by the sacrifice of the mass, and by prayers and penances, permits all believers (Roman Catholics) to escape that eternal torment, which will be the sure portion of all heretics, regardless of their good works or morals. As for its own people, it holds that even its highest officials, including Bishops and Popes, go to Purgatory for refinement, purification from sin and to be prepared for heaven. It claims that some will spend only a short time in Purgatory, assisted out of it by the merit of prayers, masses, etc., on their behalf by their friends after death. But their expectation is that ultimately Purgatory will be no more, its thousands of millions being page 229 prepared for a better and happier condition. But according to all the great theologians of Papacy, and according to all the papal bulls, all Protestants, all rejecters of Papacy's teachings, will suffer endless torment. This is the Roman Catholic Gospel, fairly presented as we understand it. It does not seem to us to be very good news, very good tidings, even to those who get the very best it has to offer, and it certainly would be very bad tidings to all out of harmony with Papacy.
Calvinism claims that faith in Christ is essential to salvation and it admits that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. Calvinism requires more than a mere knowledge of Christ and belief in him as a man. It requires at least some manifestation toward righteousness of life before any could be recognized as being of the elect Church. Consequently, according to Calvinism, the elect Church could not include the heathen of the present time and all the way back through the past, who have never heard of the only name given under heaven or amongst men whereby we must be saved. Stretched to its very broadest, Calvinism could not include more than one in twenty of earth's fifty thousand millions that are estimated to have lived from Adam's day until the present time. In other words, according to the broadest possible estimate of this view, more than forty-seven thousand millions of humanity were "passed by" as non-elect in the divine plan. And what does this mean? It means, according to Calvinism, that God, who knew the end from the beginning, before creating this world and mankind upon it, determined that he would "pass by" and not elect those forty-seven thousand millions of his creatures to life and happiness, but would predestinate them to an eternity of torture, and that carrying out this diabolical plan, he prepared a great place large enough to hold forty-seven thousand millions, and fuel sufficient to produce the necessary combustion there to all eternity – did all this with a full appreciation of all the facts and circumstances of the case.
Moreover, we remember the statement of Calvinism which many of us learned in our youth, to the effect that God's favor toward the elect is not because of any worthiness on their part, nor because of any works which they had done, but "of his own sovereign grace" he saves them from the horrible conditions which he has predestinated shall be upon the others. Now if the salvation of the elect is not because of their works or worthiness, but because of God's sovereign grace only, the simplest mind can see that God might without any violation of principle have extended that sovereign grace to others – to all, since it was not because of worthiness nor because of works, but merely of his own volition that any are saved, – according to Calvinism.
The celebrated Jonathan Edwards, when preaching upon this subject in New England years ago, after picturing the awful torment of the non-elect was asked the question, Would not the thought of the anguish of the lost mar the bliss of God's people in glory? His answer in substance was, No; you will be so changed that such matters will not affect you; you will look over the battlements of heaven and see in torment your neighbors and friends, yea, your own parents and children, brothers and sisters, and turning round will praise God the louder because his justice is made manifest.
Now, my dear friends, I do not charge any who are here present with having so false a view of the divine character and plan as this. Indeed, I am glad to note that our Calvinistic friends in general are repudiating this doctrine, realizing that there is in it a serious lack, not only as respects divine love, but also as respects divine justice. I was glad some years ago to note that some of our dear friends were so moved by higher and nobler conceptions of the Almighty that they wished to rid themselves of any part in so blasphemous a statement respecting his character and his plan. I was sorry, however, that when the matter of "the revision of the Presbyterian standards" was taken up it was found that only a minority was in favor of revision, and I was still more sorry to note that that minority of intelligent, godly people was willing to continue to confess to such a horrible misstatement of their true views – willing, shall I say, to continue to "blaspheme that holy name" because a majority of their brethren were unwilling that such blasphemous misrepresentations should be discontinued.
I am glad to believe that if this matter were brought to the intelligent attention of Presbyterians in general, a large majority would be found willing, nay, anxious, to undo the wrong and to make such reparation as would be within their power, by way of honoring the great Jehovah and attesting their appreciation of his love and his justice, as well as of his wisdom and of his power. This is just the point: Calvinism, in its anxiety to establish the wisdom and power of God, his foreknowledge and his ability to carry out his plan, has conceived of a plan which is far from the correct one, lacking both in justice and in love.
It may be argued that love is a grace and that its exercise is not incumbent upon Jehovah; that all that could be asked or expected of him would be simple justice, and some might be ready to claim that God's dealings with these forty-seven thousand millions whom he "passed by" was in strict accord with justice; but this we deny. We claim that having the power to create mankind would not justify their creation if the creator saw that the result would be the everlasting torture of a single creature. Justice would say that power is not to be exercised to the injury of another, and that to exercise the creative power under such foreknown conditions would be injustice. And wisdom attuned to justice would say, Better a thousand times never to have created anybody than to have created one being to suffer unjustly eternally.
This statement, dear friends, is a fair, impartial statement of the Gospel according to our beloved brother John Calvin and those who subscribe to the Westminster Confession, and their allies. This surely page 230 is not the gospel of which the Apostle Paul said, "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ." Paul would assuredly have been ashamed of such a gospel, and so are all true Christians, who have the true spirit of love and justice, – none more so, perhaps, than those who unfortunately, through circumstances of birth, etc., and hitherto without realizing what it meant, have been lending their names and influence to this great blasphemy against the divine character.
Let us now examine the Arminian view. This view is growingly popular. Its message or gospel is, God is love – he loves you; he loves everybody; he is doing all that he can to save everybody; if you are lost it will not be God's fault, but your own. On the surface, at least, this theory seems much more loving and much more just than the one already examined, but before we go far we will also find it very defective, very far from either a reasonable or a Scriptural gospel. We will find it inconsistent with its own statement – illogical. For instance, while it sounds nice theoretically to say that God is doing all that he can do to save the whole world at the present time, everybody knows that that is not true; that on the contrary you or I or any other intelligent human being, if possessed of the one-thousandth part of the divine power and wisdom could speedily accomplish the evangelization of the whole world. Nor will it do to say that God has committed himself to a certain mode of procedure through his Church, and that if the Church fails to contribute with sufficient liberality both money and evangelists the heathen will not hear of "the only name given under heaven or amongst men whereby we must be saved," but will go to eternal torment, etc. It will not do to say that God is doing all that he can do and is hampered by the lack of interest in the church; because his wisdom and foreknowledge foresaw all these conditions as they are, and he could not justly be excused from the real responsibility of the matter, since he is the Creator, and in him is vested the all-power as well as the all-wisdom. Such a claim as this would be tantamount to saying that God has erred in wisdom when he thought to leave the conversion of the world to the Church, seeing that the Church has not accomplished this. Such a claim would be merely excusing God from doing all that he can do, instead of showing that he is doing all that he can do.
But let us look more critically into this matter. If this view we are criticising is correct, if God is doing all that he can do to save the world, and if he has been doing this during all the past ages, then without question the world's conversion is a hopeless thing, and we can never expect to see better results than at present. This theory presupposes a race or battle between the Almighty and Satan, each seeking to capture the human family, and to the discredit of the theory it shows Satan the victor thus far. Starting out with one pair, both on the Lord's side, the first 1656 years ended with a flood in which the whole world of mankind was blotted out because of wickedness, and only eight persons reckoned sufficiently righteous to be preserved. Starting again with those eight persons counted sufficiently righteous for preservation, we find that there are in the world to-day fifteen hundred millions, and that out of that whole number there are about one hundred millions nominal Roman Catholics and one hundred millions nominal Protestants, and a very much smaller number of true "saints of God." What would be the lesson from this if the Arminian theory be correct, that God is doing all he can do to save the world? The lesson would be that with all his good intentions of love and mercy our God is thoroughly incapable of the work he undertook to do. And if these are the results in six thousand years, what could we hope for in the future? How many hundreds of millions of years would it be before the whole world would be converted? We answer that according to statistics it would never be, for statistics show that the natural increase of population throughout the world is far, far beyond the proportion of even nominal conversions from heathendom. Indeed, according to some good reckonings the percentage of Christians every year is decreasing, the births of heathen lands so far outnumbering the births of Christian lands – even counting all the children born in Christendom as Christians.
Is any Christian, in view of these facts, prepared to claim that our God has been doing all that he can do for the conversion of the world? If so, that Christian may as well write upon his hopes at once the word "Ichabod." If we saw that the Calvinistic view magnifies the wisdom and power of God at the expense of his justice, we find on the other hand that the Arminian view magnifies the love of God at the expense of his character for wisdom and power. The true gospel must show the divine Wisdom and Power in full accord with his Justice and Love.
But, my dear friends, we may as well now as at any time concede that there is comparatively little difference in the outcome of these two popular Protestant Gospels – the difference is merely a theoretical one respecting how the results are to be reached. The results themselves are the same in both cases – the eternal doom and torment of over forty-seven thousand millions of human creatures. For our Arminian friends agree that there is no salvation aside from faith in Christ, the only name given; and they admit also that of those who believe in Christ only the sanctified are of the real Church; and their gospel is also that only the real Church is to be saved and that all others are to be eternally and most horribly tormented; – some claim in literal flames, others say by the torments and gnawings of conscience and remorse, which they proceed to say will be worse than the literal flames, – and we respond, if worse, so much worse for the argument. All will surely agree as respects these two theories or gospels held out to the world by Protestant Christendom that it would make no difference to the poor tormented creatures of the forty-seven thousand millions, whether they got into that awful state of hopeless woe by divine predestination and lack of love and justice, or by divine incapacity and lack of foreknowledge and proper arrangements. We believe that no true Christian will be ready after examining the subject thus far to say that he approves either of these page 231 theories, and that he is not ashamed of both of them.
The word "gospel" itself should be the clue – should save the intelligent Christian from being misled by the various theories that are propounded under this label. The word "gospel," as is well known, signifies "good tidings," "good news," and we want to say here that if any one thinks it good news that one out of a thousand of the human family is to be saved and the remaining 999 to be eternally tormented, he is either not a Christian at all, or is decidedly undeveloped in Christian character, in mercy, in love, in justice. In our opinion he is at most only a "babe in Christ" who has need first of the milk of the Word and subsequently of the "strong meat" thereof, that he may grow up into Christ in all things, and be able to comprehend with all saints the lengths and breadths and heights and depths of the love of God which passeth all understanding.
When occasionally we come across some one who gives evidence of being a Christian, and who still entertains such horribly blasphemous views respecting the heavenly Father's character, we feel like quoting to him the Lord's words through the Prophet, "My ways are not as your ways, nor my thoughts as your thoughts, for as the heavens are higher than the earth so are my ways higher than your ways and my plans higher than your plans." (Isa. 55:8,9.) And part of our object in this discourse, dear friends, is to have those, whose eyes are anointed of the Lord that they may see spiritual things, discern some of the Lord's higher ways and higher plans which he presents to us in his Word under the name gospel – good tidings.
The Apostle tells us that God preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, "beforehand" signifying before it was due to begin; for the gospel did not begin with Abraham, but with our Lord Jesus Christ, as the Apostle again declares, "This salvation began to be declared by our Lord and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him." (Heb. 2:3.) All that ever went before our Lord's preaching was not the gospel, but merely types and promises which foreshadowed it. Let us notice next what the Apostle says was this forestatement of the gospel to Abraham: he says that it was couched in the words, "In thee shall all nations be blessed." (Gal. 3:16,29.) Notice this carefully: it does not say, In thy seed shall one out of a thousand out of the families of the earth be blessed, and the remainder all be doomed to an indescribably horrible eternity, but the whole gospel is a gospel of blessing, applicable to all the families of the earth – through Christ, the true seed of Abraham.
When our Lord Jesus was born into the world, the heavenly Father sent a message respecting him, and the angels who bore that message declared that it was a gospel message. Let us hearken that we may note what they say about the eternal torment of the vast majority of our race. They said to the shepherds, "Behold we bring you good tidings [gospel] of great joy, which shall be unto all people." (Luke 2:10.) Let it be distinctly noted that the gospel of the angels, like the gospel communicated to Abraham, contains no reference to the damnation and eternal misery of any of the Lord's creatures, and consequently our friends of the Salvation Army and others, who in ignorance preach damnation and call it the gospel, are doing so in utter violation of the meaning of the word and of all the uses of that word throughout the Scriptures. However well they may mean, they are certainly in this committing a wrong, a grievous wrong, and we long to see the light of the knowledge of the goodness of God shine into their hearts and relieve them of this blindness which comes not from God nor from his Word, but from the prince of darkness. – 2 Cor. 4:4.
It will require all of the Millennial age (which is to follow this gospel age in which we live) to bless all the families of the earth with the joyful knowledge of divine grace in Christ. Just so surely as the forty-seven thousand millions went down into death without hearing of the Savior, without coming to a clear knowledge of the truth, without the good tidings of great joy reaching their ears, – just so surely must they all come forth from the grave that this very gospel message of "good tidings" may be declared to them, and that they may be tested thereby and either be accepted to eternal life or destroyed, as unworthy of life, in the Second Death. We say just so surely, for three reasons: (1) The announcement of the gospel to Abraham says, "In thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed," and all of these forty-seven thousand millions belong to this very class specified, the families of the earth – and they have not yet been blessed with this knowledge of the only name wherein is the blessing. (2) The same is true of the message by the angels, – the good tidings of great joy is for all people, and these forty-seven thousand millions of humanity are surely the great bulk of all people. (3) We are sure that this testimony must be given to them in the future, because the Scriptural declaration is that "Christ died for the ungodly," "he tasted death for every man," and as a consequence every man must have an opportunity granted him for the purpose of benefiting by that death, and of availing himself of the privilege of opportunity to have eternal life which was secured by our Lord's ransom sacrifice.
But some one would perhaps say, Christ died only for the sins of the Church and not for the sins of the world, and consequently the sins of the world cannot be forgiven them. We answer, No; the Scriptural declaration most positively is not only that "Jesus Christ by the grace of God tasted death for every man," "to be testified in due time," but additionally the Apostle says, "He is a propitiation [satisfaction] for our [the Church's] sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." (1 John 2:2.) What could be plainer than this? If the price for the sins of the whole world has been paid to Justice, we may rest well assured that Justice will furnish opportunity through the Redeemer whereby all these whose sins were atoned for may come to a knowledge of Christ, and to an opportunity of accepting divine grace through him.
But some one will say, "Why should God adopt a plan which would necessitate a resurrection of the page 232 dead, and a post-resurrection trial for eternal life? We answer, first, that it is not for us to inquire why the Lord adopts certain plans which differ from those which our poor finite minds might claim for him; rather it is for us to acknowledge that our wisdom is insufficient on such a subject and that we should come humbly to the Lord to hear from him whatever he may be pleased to inform us respecting his purposes. And as a matter of fact only those who approach the question from this standpoint need expect to see the truth or to "comprehend with all saints the lengths and breadths and heights and depths of the love of God." – Eph. 3:18.
God has pleased, however, to reveal to us some of his reasons for arranging his plan as we see it. He assures us of his full wisdom and power to manage every feature of his own work according to his own good pleasure, assuring us that he knows the end from the beginning, and that the end will fully justify every step that he has taken. His Word, no less than observation, shows us that during all these six thousand years the world has been getting a lesson respecting the exceeding sinfulness of sin and its wages of sorrow and death. His Word assures us also that during the next age, the Millennium, the whole world will be brought to a knowledge of the way of righteousness and love and peace, and will see this law in practical operation, and will see its beneficent results in all those who will then come into harmony with the great Mediator. Thus mankind learns the lesson of evil and its consequence first, and then of righteousness and its blessed results under divine providence; and thus fully equipped with knowledge on both sides of the question and instructed by the Royal Priesthood, mankind will be ready for the tests, that will be applied by the Lord Jesus, under which the obedient and faithful will be granted full perfection and eternal life, and the disobedient and incorrigible will "be destroyed from amongst the people." – Acts 3:23.
Another matter, and really the key to the whole question which we are discussing, is revealed in God's Word, viz., that in the divine purpose the promised "seed of Abraham" that should perform the great work of blessing all the families of the earth, is to be one, in the sense of one kind, but not in the sense of one person – that is to say, that the seed of Abraham consists of Jesus Christ the Head of the Church, and of the Church which is his body. Not the nominal or professing church, but the true Church, "whose names are written in heaven," and who walk in the footsteps of their Lord, and are found faithful unto death and shall be granted with their Lord the crown of life. This Gospel age intervening between the time of the great sin-offering and the time when the blessing of earth's billions will commence, God has set apart for the work of selecting or electing the body of Christ, the Church, the Bride, the "little flock," the "royal priesthood," the joint-heirs with Christ in his Kingdom. These, like their Head, are called with a "high calling," a "heavenly calling," and the salvation provided for them is higher than that which God has purposed for the world in general. He is selecting this "little flock" and trying them and proving them, fitting them and polishing them for the heavenly Kingdom, and to these, as the Apostle Peter declares, God has given "exceeding great and precious promises [far beyond any promises given to any other of his creatures] that by these [promises] we might be partakers of the divine nature," and joint-heirs with his Son. This is denominated a "heavenly calling" in contrast with the earthly salvation intended for whosoever will, in due time.
This is another feature of the Gospel, dear brethren and sisters. If it is splendid, good news to know that ultimately all families of the earth are to be blessed through the Christ, it is still an additional feature to the good news to know that God has invited us to become members of the Christ company, "members in particular of the body of Christ." No wonder the Apostle calls this "our high calling," our "heavenly calling;" and it is to the attainment of this that the Apostle exhorts all the faithful to lay aside every weight and every besetment and to run with patience the race set before us in the gospel, looking unto Jesus the author, until he shall have become the finisher of our faith.
This is the gospel, dear friends, the one we find set forth in the Scriptures, set forth by Paul himself, and of which he was not ashamed. This gospel shows the character of our Creator in a most wonderful light, – his Wisdom, able to discern the end from the beginning; his Power, able to accomplish that which he pleases; his Justice, squaring every feature of the plan from first to last, according to the most absolute features of righteousness; his Love, whose lengths and breadths and heights and depths we have not yet been able to explore; a love which sympathizes with his creatures in their fallen estate; a love which provided a Savior, and a great one; a love which prompted that Savior to give his life as our ransom price; a love which met all the requirements of divine Justice for us; a love which still pursues mankind, and in this Gospel age calls us to joint heirship with his Son in a nature and Kingdom far above angels, principalities and powers, of which the Apostle says, "Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us that we should be called the sons of God." This love, still pursuing, will use the "elect" glorified house of sons, of which Christ Jesus is the Head (Eph. 1:22), in blessing all families of the earth with full opportunity of knowledge and full assistance up the highway of holiness (Isa. 35:8) that so many as will may have restitution to all that was lost in Adam by coming back into harmony with God through the great Mediator. – Acts 3:19-21.
Verily, dear friends, of such a gospel we are not ashamed, "for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth." It has in our hearts a transforming and renewing power, a sanctifying power which no error could possibly have, and which all the theories of eternal torment have never equalled and never will. Let us more and more "show forth the praises of our God, who hath called us out of darkness into his marvelous light," by renouncing all God-dishonoring creeds and theories, and instead hold forth the Word of life, and witness the good confession – the "good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people." page 233
All who will declare the true gospel will need to be well shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace (gentleness, patience, meekness) for, strange to say, they will find bitter opposition from professed servants of the Lord who have been blinded and prejudiced by Satan's misrepresentations of the gospel, by which he seeks to drive from the Lord all who have a remnant of reason and will use it in their religious thinking. But all who have ears to hear, and who do hear the true gospel, will quickly distinguish it from the miserable counterfeits which for so long have passed current among God's people. Let all such remember that ability to see is an evidence of divine favor, and let them not be ashamed, but glorify God on this behalf. Let such remember, also, that their acceptance of truth as due in the face of unpopularity is a part of their testing. The Lord puts his plan, his Word, as his representative, saying – He that is ashamed of me and my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with his holy angels. – Mark 8:38.
Dr. Howard Crosby calls attention to the fact that altho the Book of Nehemiah is strictly historical, it nevertheless in a very remarkable manner outlines or shadows in various parts a Christian's experience. He says: –
"It is interesting to see how admirably the Book of Nehemiah tells the story of the soul's renewal. In the first chapter is the conviction and confession of sin and unrighteousness; in the second, the determination to rebuild with God's grace; in the third, the actual rebuilding of the soul's defences in sanctification; in the fourth, the attacks upon the soul from without; in the fifth, the assaults from within; in the sixth, the sly temptations of the Adversary, in the guise of reasonableness; in the seventh, the successful accomplishment of the spiritual work and ordering of the soul in godliness; in the eighth, the study of the Word; in the ninth, the Christian's faith confessing its weakness; in the tenth, the covenant relationship emphasized; in the eleventh, the systematizing of the advanced soul in the godly life; in the twelfth, the thankful acknowledgement of God in everything; and in the thirteenth, the sad exhibition of the Christian's fall, and need of the renewed influences of the spirit. When, on the close examination of the book, we see how exactly this outline is filled up, we can hardly believe that such a spiritual application was not intended in the recorded history. It is probable that Bunyan took his Mansoul from the study of this book."
Nehemiah informs us that he held the office of Cup-bearer to the king of Persia, at his palace, Shushan – the principal of the three Persian capitals. In ancient times the Cup-bearer was a confidential favorite with the monarch, highly trusted; he had access to the king's presence continually, and not merely on state occasions, as the political officers. His office was in the nature of trusted friend and counsellor, through whom instructions were sent, not only to the king's household servants, but also to ministers of the realm. Such trusted servants were expected to have a general oversight, especially of the household, and to be able to guarantee the king against conspiracies upon his life; he was expected to taste of the king's food in his presence as an assurance or guarantee that it had not been poisoned. In presenting wine to the king, it was the custom for this officer to pour out a sample for himself, and from this probably originated the title of Cup-bearer. Somewhat similarly, in Great Britain, various persons of high rank are known as [R2525 : page 233] Chamberlain, Master of the Household, etc.
It may be inferred from various statements of chapter five, especially vss. 16-18, that Nehemiah had inherited great wealth, and we must think of him as a young man, gifted, educated, and highly honored by the monarch in the position which he held. That it was not impossible for Hebrews to occupy confidential and high positions in the Persian empire is shown in the cases of Daniel, Esther and Mordecai.
We saw in a previous lesson (August 27) that those who returned to Jerusalem under the proclamation of Cyrus were for the most part the poorer of the captives who had not prospered exceedingly in the provinces of Babylonia. Nehemiah's parents had [R2525 : page 234] possibly been too comfortably situated and too prosperous to take a deep interest in the return. Nehemiah himself, as a young man in good position, had probably not given great thought to the fact that God's chosen nation was at this time for the most part a homeless people, and that the holy city was in a deplorable condition. Josephus informs us that while walking outside the city wall Nehemiah noticed some travel-stained strangers, was attracted to them by their Hebrew language, and conversing with them found one of them to be a relative of his, and that they had recently returned from Jerusalem, which they described as being in a deplorable condition.
The Lord evidently permitted this circumstance, which exercised a great influence upon the mind of Nehemiah, stirring up the naturally good soil of his heart not only to sympathy with his persecuted co-religionists at Jerusalem, but also to consider the whole question of Israel's rejection from divine favor, and the forewarnings of this rejection given in the Law and the prophets, and the promises of a return of divine favor with the return of Israel to a proper condition of heart. As he thought upon the question his entire nature was stirred, plowed to its very depths; and he resolved that he would not only pray the Lord for divine blessing upon the true holy city, but that he would consecrate himself and the wealth which God had committed to his care, and his favored confidential relationship with the king – all these he would devote to the answering of his own prayers.
He realized, however, that the work he was undertaking was of no small magnitude: he realized that to express to the king a sympathy for his own nation and its captive city might readily be misunderstood to be a lack of loyalty, and that thus he might not only fail to have the king's favor and assistance in connection with the project, but might, on the other hand, arouse his opposition and enmity, not only against himself, but also against his people. And at that time for a Chamberlain to arouse his monarch's ill-will might readily mean, not merely his removal from office, but the confiscation of his property, or even the taking of his life.
With these facts before our minds, we not only gain an exalted opinion of Nehemiah's consecration to the Lord and the service of his people, but we also perceive the reasonableness, nay, the necessity, for his continuing in an attitude of mourning, fasting and praying, and waiting for the Lord to open a favorable opportunity for nearly four months before that opportunity came. – Neh. 1:1; 2:1.
The mourning probably came first; then followed the fasting, self-denial, self-correction, that he might know the better the mind of the Lord on the subject; then discerning what he concluded was the Lord's will in respect to himself, the use of his time, talent, influence and means in the relief of his brethren, and consecrating his all fully to this service, his mourning, fasting and praying continued until the day that the Lord opened to him the door of opportunity, thus accepting his offer, his sacrifice.
We may pause here to note the fact that all Christians to-day should have much of the spirit, the disposition, of Nehemiah. Being Israelites after the spirit and not after the flesh, their interest will chiefly be in the prosperity of spiritual Israel. Numbers of these, like Nehemiah, are still in Babylon, and a few of them, like him, possess wealth and influence there. Such as take note of the dishonor and contempt and abuse aroused against their faithful brethren will be touched with love and sympathy for the brethren. Their hearts will thus be turned longingly to look for the promises of God respecting spiritual Zion and her ultimate deliverance, and they will feel an earnest desire to be with and of the Lord's faithful ones, and such true fellowship will make them ready to sacrifice their temporal interests in the Lord's cause as well as to fast and pray for it. Those with such a spirit will be sure to have an increase of divine favor which will permit them to sacrifice their all and to share the privations and oppositions to which their brethren are subject, and being in a right condition of heart they will appreciate this as being a great privilege, a great honor.
Such, however, will do wisely if they follow Nehemiah's course of earnest prayer and constant seeking for the opportunity which will permit them not only to make their sacrifice, but to make it most effectively as respects the Lord's cause.
Our previous studies on this subject showed us that the wall of Jerusalem had been considerably repaired after the return from Babylon, but this repair work had been discontinued by imperial decree because of the representations made by the rulers of the Samaritans, who, we remember, were provoked by the refusal of the Israelites to permit them to join in the work and to consider them as Israelites; subsequently this hatred was intensified by Israel's course in instructing the people that those who had married Samaritan wives had violated the divine command. We cannot doubt that the return of these wives would be taken as a gross insult by the Samaritans, who evidently felt that under all the circumstances they were at liberty to oppose these poor Jews in every way in their power, even resorting to open attacks upon the people and the breaking down of the walls, the burning of the gates, etc. They felt secure in this lawlessness, because the imperial government of Persia showed the Jews no favor. [R2525 : page 235]
However, we see that God used this very matter of trouble upon the Jews to raise up for them wealthy and friendly brethren yet in Babylon to come to their relief. Just so it is sometimes with the spiritual Israelite – the trials and difficulties which seem most discouraging and disadvantageous are often the very means which God employs for stirring up others of his people and bringing them needed relief. This again emphasizes the lesson which is taught throughout this narrative of Nehemiah respecting trust in the divine supervision of his people's interests, and the propriety of our not only trusting God but seeking to cowork with him along the lines of his providence.
The condensed statement of Nehemiah's prayers which he furnishes us is interesting and instructive. The opening sentence reminds us of the opening statement of that which we designate the Lord's Prayer: "Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name." It is an acknowledgment of the divine greatness and relatively of the petitioner's littleness. It is a recognition also of God's faithfulness: His name is honorable, his character is unassailable, his ways just and true. Nehemiah, after acknowledging God's faithfulness toward those who love and obey him, acknowledged that the entire difficulty which had led to all the trouble upon Israel resulted from their sins – their neglect of God and his promises, their failure to keep their part of the covenant.
And properly he included himself in this matter, for heretofore he had been like the others, chiefly careful for the things of this life, and tho doubtless honest and honorable in his dealings, he had been neglectful of the great promises of which he was an heir with the others of his nation. Altho he had not been sharing personally in the severe afflictions, he now shared them sympathetically with the faithful ones who had returned to the Land of Promise, and he might therefore voice a prayer for all. He summarizes the divine threatenings and promises expressed by Moses' lips (Deut. 28), expressing his thorough confidence in the Lord, that as the punishments predicted had been meted out to Israel as a people, so assuredly the promises of the regathering could be relied upon implicitly. – Rom. 11:29,32.
There are lessons here profitable to all Israelites indeed who are in trouble because of past unfaithfulness to their covenant. All such should remember that the very fact that their indifference and neglect of the Lord has separated them from him according to the declaration of his Word, only proves the fact that God who is the same yesterday, to-day and forever is ready and willing to receive them back into harmony and favor if they but retrace their steps. To all such the Lord says, "Draw nigh unto me and I will draw nigh unto you."
Nehemiah's prayer reminds us also of the fact that Israel was not gathered at the first advent because as a nation they did not come into the attitude of heart here exemplified by Nehemiah. Had the whole nation been of Nehemiah's attitude at our Lord's first advent the gathering of the elect would have been accomplished there: the Bride class would have been selected from the twelve tribes, the Kingdom would have been established, and the work of blessing all the families of the earth would have begun there. But as we have already seen* the unreadiness of that nation resulted in their receiving a "double" of chastisement from the Lord – so that they have since received as long a period of punishment without favor as they previously received with favor. And now their "double" being ended, the Lord's message to [R2526 : page 235] them is, "Comfort ye, comfort ye my people; speak ye comfortably unto Jerusalem, and cry unto her that her appointed time is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned, for she hath received at the Lord's hands double for all her sins." (Isa. 40:1,2.) Now the recovery of Israel is due and is in progress, and as soon as the spiritual Israel is complete and glorified the light will begin to shine upon fleshly Israel. – Rom. 11:25-27.
Thus we see that Nehemiah's prayer has not yet been fully answered. The Lord has not yet gathered the natural seed of Abraham, who have faith in him, from the uttermost parts of the earth: but we do see that he is ready to do this quickly now, so soon as he shall have gathered the spiritual seed to heavenly conditions through the first resurrection. The gathering of natural Israel will not of course include all Jews, but merely such of that blinded people as maintain their Abrahamic faith in the divine promises. And these doubtless will be gathered through a great time of trouble through which fleshly Israel may still expect to pass. Their favor-time has commenced, and hence the "Zionist movement," but it will be requisite as a part of the favor, which shall bring them near to the Lord and back to the Land of Promise, that they shall endure great persecutions, from which the Lord shall deliver them.
But altho Nehemiah's prayer was not fulfilled on the large scale he had before his mind, because the Lord's due time had not yet come and because the people were not then ready for such blessing, nevertheless his prayer was answered, for he was granted the desired opportunity to devote himself, his influence, his wealth and his time to the Lord's cause. And even tho the results were far from what he expected, [R2526 : page 236] we may be sure that they brought to his heart a rest and a blessing: and we may be sure also that they brought him into that condition of mind which was pleasing to the Lord, and we may reasonably expect that Nehemiah will be one of the class mentioned by the Apostle in Heb. 11:39,40, for whom is reserved a share in the earthly ministration of the Millennial age under the glorified Church.
A lesson for the spiritual Israelite in this is that altho his prayers may not be answered in the manner he had anticipated, nevertheless he may rest assured that all things are working together for good to him; and that the Lord's way eventually will work out a far more exceeding and an eternal weight of glory. Therefore let us, as spiritual Israelites, perform our consecration and pour out before the Lord our prayers in harmony with his promise, and realize that in the end, when we shall know as we are known, we will see clearly that the Lord was answering our prayers in the most efficacious manner.
"Watch and pray." – Matt. 26:41.
"The answer came (1) through an arbitrary, self-willed and passionate king, who a few years before had issued an edict against Jerusalem, and put a stop to the building of its walls. (Ezra 4:8-24.) (2) It came through Nehemiah himself, and the feelings which prompted his prayer. The burden of his spirit and the earnestness of his fasting and praying left their marks on his countenance. Usually he was able to conceal his heart's sorrow (2:1); or during these four months it was the turn of others to serve the king. When he came again before the king the change was apparent, and the king noticed it. 'Why is your countenance sad?' No reply. 'You are not sick?' Still no reply. 'This is sorrow and nothing else.' Then Nehemiah was sore afraid, and I will tell you why. His life was in danger. Even a modern autocrat like Louis XIV. expected everybody's face to shine if he did but appear, and how much more an Artaxerxes. If he had ordered this melancholy visage away to prison or death it would have been justified by precedent."
God gave Nehemiah favor with the king so that he not only was permitted leave of absence to engage in the work which his heart yearned for, but in addition he was appointed Governor of Judea, with letters instructing other governors en route to Jerusalem to grant him necessary aid, together with a safe military escort. Apparently the preparations for the journey occupied nearly a month, and the journey itself about three months, bringing Nehemiah and his retinue of servants to Jerusalem about July.
It will be remembered that Ezra, in making this journey through a country infested with thieves and brigands, would not ask a military escort from the king lest it should seem a reflection against the divine providential care, of which he had spoken to the king: but Nehemiah, being offered the escort, did not permit any spirit of bravado to hinder his acceptance of it. In both cases we see that the right course was pursued, tho in some respects the conditions were opposites. Spiritual Israelites need to learn both of these lessons – to trust fully in the Lord's provision, be it great or small, and in no case to refuse reasonable safeguards, when under the Lord's providence they are furnished. We remember that one of our Lord's temptations was along this line – to perform a hazardous action for which there was no necessity – to leap from the pinnacle of the Temple. Frequently the Lord's people are beset by the great Adversary to attempt foolish or impossible or unnecessary things, simply to show their faith. Such should take a lesson from our Lord's reply in his temptation, "Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God:" – we are not to tempt divine providence, nor to expect miracles to be wrought on our behalf where the divine arrangement has not made them necessary.
Arrived at Jerusalem, Nehemiah did not at first tell the chiefs of the Jews of his purposes; but secretly, in company with his personal attendants, he took a survey of the condition of the city walls by moonlight for three nights, meanwhile maturing in his mind the plan he was about to suggest. There is a valuable lesson here for spiritual Israelites: how necessary it is that if we desire to do a good work we first thoroughly inform ourselves respecting the needs of the case, so that our course of conduct may be both reasonable and efficient. This is none the less true and important if the walls which need repairing and building are the walls of spiritual Zion, the Church of the living God, the holy Jerusalem; nor less so if they are the walls of our characters, our own hearts, our own dispositions. We want to take a full survey of [R2526 : page 237] the weaknesses and deficiencies in order to be able, under the Lord's direction and by his assistance, to build up ourselves in the most holy faith, and to similarly build up others of the true Zion. Inspection properly precedes intelligent and profitable reformation of any kind.
Nehemiah did not begin his work by chiding his brethren with unfaithfulness to God or lack of enterprise, etc.; such a course would have further discouraged them, and would have made them feel antagonistic, and perhaps to say, "You will see how it is yourself when you are here a few years," and some would then have taken pleasure in his failure to do more than they had accomplished. Neither did he begin by boastfully saying, "I have come here to do such a work, and within an incredibly short time you will see it accomplished; I will accomplish in days what you have failed to accomplish in as many years." To have taken such a course would have been to arouse the opposition of the very ones without whose aid his mission, humanly speaking, would be sure to be a failure.
Many Christian people can learn a valuable lesson here: the lesson that whoever desires to be a co-worker with God should work in the Lord's way and be guided by the spirit of love – for love does not think unkindly or ungenerously or slightingly of the efforts of others, nor is it boastful. On the contrary, its trust is in the Lord, and its boast therefore must be in him. This lesson is valuable to us also in respect to individual efforts in our own hearts – to build up good characters acceptable in God's sight through Christ Jesus. We are to remember that nothing is gained, but much to be lost, by thinking or feeling boastfully of what we hope to attain in self-control and character-likeness to the Lord: nor is much to be gained by mourning and weeping over misspent opportunities of the past. The proper course is to begin work afresh with confidence, not in ourselves, but in him who called us and who has given such exceeding great and precious promises. This is our way to success in individual development, and also in our labors upon the walls of Zion, as it was Nehemiah's successful method for the building of the natural, typical Jerusalem.
In answer to his prayer and earnest study, God gave Nehemiah great wisdom and tact in his work, and calling together the chief representatives of the people he laid before them his plans, in which they [R2527 : page 237] were all to be associates and partners in whatever blessing and honor might accrue from this service. His plan was to divide the work on the wall so that each person of prominence and capability should have a certain share of the work and the responsibility, as well as of the subsequent honor of success. Moreover, his plan was that each should undertake the building of the wall nearest to his own residence: he would not only be interested in having the work done, but also in having it substantial, (1) because of the credit for the rapid and good workmanship, and (2) because he would be anxious that the wall should be strong in the vicinity of his own home.
There is a lesson here for us: our Lord declares that he gave "to every man [in the Church] his work" (Mark 13:34), represented by his talents, and each should seek to know his talents and to use them, and should not attempt the use of talents not given him, and a work therefore not committed to him. Again, each of us should begin "over against his house:" we, too, should begin our reform work at home.
In our experience in character-building, the same lesson of turning everything to good account may be profitably applied; for instance, if by nature we are quick and impulsive, let us not only seek to restrain such impulsiveness from speaking evil and wrong, but let us exercise it in the speaking of that which is good and profitable for edifying, gradually accustoming ourselves to use this talent in a favorable and not in an unfavorable manner. Have we large combativeness, let us, while seeking to restrain this quality of our being as respects evil doing and injury to others, learn to exercise it kindly, lovingly, in opposing wrong, "in contending earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints." And so with all the so-called baser organs of our fallen, unbalanced condition – they may all be turned to usefulness and helpfulness if but rightly directed by our wills and the spirit of a sound mind – "the mind of the Lord."
The text of our lesson particularly relates to the difficulties and emergencies which arose after Nehemiah had wisely gained the assent and cooperation of the leaders of the people, inspiring them with his enthusiasm – after the work of building the wall had been begun. Then it was that enemies and oppositions began to show themselves. The leaders of the surrounding peoples had for centuries cultivated a hatred of the Jews, (1) on account of their exclusiveness when obedient to the Lord's command; (2) because of their racial differences and animosities, including the differences of their religions; (3) they had all experienced the fact that the Israelites, when under divine favor, were prosperous and capable beyond themselves – the same reason which to-day causes such a hatred of the Jew throughout Europe: (4) like birds of prey, they had been fattening at the expense of the Jews, and this marauding would be interfered with by the rebuilding of the wall and the establishment of a more permanent government in Jerusalem.
Just so it is with individuals who, having learned [R2527 : page 238] the weaknesses of their own characters, resolve by the grace of God to build themselves up along the lines of justice, meekness, patience, love. They immediately find themselves beset with enemies bent on hindering their work for selfish reasons; the lust of the flesh and the eye, and the pride of life, like Philistines, Ammonites and Arabians, take council together against the building up of a character with which they would not be in accord, and which would hinder the exercise of their depraved instincts. Such a uniting of forces, such a conspiracy against the "new creature," is not begun until he begins the work of rectifying, building in his life the wall of righteousness.
Similarly, this illustrates the position of the Lord's people as a Church; so long as they live carelessly, drowsily, inattentive to the doctrinal and the practical bulwarks of Zion, they are not subjected to specific attacks from the great enemy and his deluded servants; but from the time that they realize that in the rubbish pile of human tradition and falsity are to be found gold, silver and precious stones for the erection of the walls of Zion – from the moment that they begin to use the same, and to build according to the original pattern, contending earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints – from that moment, we say, they are subjected to the conspiracies of the great deceiver and his Philistine and Ishmael hosts – Babylon – and then for the first time every faction and party is ready to conspire and unite against them, wroth, angry, not because injury has been done them, but because the progress of the truth is of itself a rebuke to all who are not of the truth.
Apparently the most zealous of the Israelites resided in Jerusalem, or near it, while others, less zealous, resided in various favorable localities nearer to the Samaritans, etc., and were more or less influenced by their customs, methods and views, and therefore were less in sympathy with the repair work at Jerusalem. These seemingly are referred to as Judah (vs. 10), and expressed their doubts respecting the prosperity of the work, saying that it was useless to attempt so great a work because of the amount of rubbish requiring to be handled and disposed of, both to make ready for the work on the foundations and also to secure the suitable building stones. These early proclaimed that the laborers would soon weary of their task, and the builders be forced to suspend the work. They were not enemies of the Jews, and are not here classed as their adversaries, but they were lacking in faith, and hence were hindrances to the work by reason of their discouraging suggestions. Just so in the individual case, where reforms and character-building are commenced, he finds in himself various disheartening suggestions respecting the difficulties and impossibility of the work he is undertaking. These must be resisted. Similarly, in the work of Zion, in building up the waste places, reassembling the stones of precious truth from the rubbish-heaps of sectarianism: there are those who are in sympathy with the apostolic teachings who nevertheless clearly discourage the builders, and are thus, without intending it, to a considerable extent adversaries of the work.
As for the open adversaries, their first attempt was to stop the work with ridicule (2:19; 4:1-3), "Even that which they build, if a fox go up he shall even break down their stone walls." Sarcasm is one of the most successful of our Adversary's weapons, and with it he slays many and hinders many from progress in the work of building their own characters and from the work of building upon the walls of the true Zion: but the faithful are not to be disconcerted by scorn or ridicule or irony; they build on and their Adversary becomes the more aggressive as he finds that he cannot stop them with ridicule. So it was with these open adversaries of Nehemiah and his faithful co-workers. They planned a sudden assault by which they would take the builders unawares, and by killing off some of their leaders would stop the work.
The people of Judah who did not favor the building and who lived amongst the Samaritans, etc., learned of this conspiracy, and having a brotherly interest in the builders, sent them word, apparently advising them to desist from the work lest it would bring against them the destruction contemplated. But the builders were not to be thus intimidated, and instead of stopping the work they armed themselves for defence, Nehemiah setting bodies of men upon the eminences behind the lowest parts of the unfinished walls, the points where the attack would most likely be made, and where their enemies would most surely see them ready for defence. But finding them forewarned and forearmed, the projected attack was abandoned.
Just so it is with the individual: when he cannot be dissuaded from his work of character-building by sneers and sarcasm, the attempt is made to vanquish him before he has gone far in his reformatory work. He is attacked along the lines of his weaknesses by the great Adversary, and finds necessity for the armor of the Lord, the shield of faith, the sword of the spirit, the helmet of salvation, etc., that he may withstand the attacks from the fiery darts of the wicked one. And just so it is with the Lord's people as they unite together for the study of his Word, as he has counseled them – "forgetting not the assembling of themselves." The Adversary will attack them as a little company, endeavor to frustrate the object of their assembling, endeavor to dishearten them before they have made much progress in the knowledge and practice of the [R2527 : page 239] truth. But if they will only go to the armory they will find that the Captain of our salvation has made abundant provision that we should not be helpless in the hands of our Adversary, for, as the Apostle declares, "we are not ignorant of his devices." And here it is well to remember what proved so helpful to Nehemiah and his faithful little band, of which he says, "We made a prayer unto God and set a watch against them day and night." This is our Captain's instruction to the Christian soldier, "Watch and pray." Let us not forget either of these important prerequisites to safety and victory. – Eph. 6:10-17; Heb. 10:25; 2 Cor. 2:11.
Not only did Nehemiah see to the arming and preparation of his band, but additionally he stimulated their faith, saying, "Be not afraid of them: remember the Lord, who is great and terrible, and fight for your brethren," etc. We are to remember, as soldiers of the cross, that our Captain has instructed us that to be full of faith, full of good courage in our reliance upon him, is a matter of primary importance in respect to our work and victory. His word is, "This is the victory that overcometh the world, even your faith." In our battle against sin and everything that would hinder the work to which the Lord has called us, and to which we have consecrated ourselves, we fight for the new creature, not for the old; yea, we expect to lay down the old nature in death, and already we reckon [R2528 : page 239] it dead, and put forth all of our efforts on behalf of the new creature. And similarly our brethren for whom we are fighting are contending earnestly for their deliverance from the thraldom of sin and of error – these brethren are also new creatures, brethren of Christ, sons of God; and the Apostle exhorts us, saying, "We ought also to lay down our lives for the brethren." – 1 John 3:16.
As is often the case, the preparation for the conflict was all that hindered it; and so with the Lord's people, those who most carefully prepare themselves with the armor of God are much less frequently attacked than those who neglect the armament.
Thenceforth, not only Nehemiah's servants, but all the people, seem to have maintained their armament, while they prosecuted their work, and so must the Christian Church and Christian as an individual maintain their defensive armor and keep watch against the Adversary while seeking to build up themselves and others in the most holy faith. Our faith and our works must cooperate to bring the desired success, and as success attended Nehemiah's efforts and that of his coadjutors, so success is sure to come to all of the Lord's people who follow this prescribed course. "If ye do these things ye shall never fall, but so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." – 2 Pet. 1:4-11.
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL: – Many thanks for VOL. V. It is truly a wonderful book and inspired me with awe when I read it and wonder why God has permitted me to understand his wonderful plan even as well as I do. My husband is reading it every spare moment. Sister Mooney has not yet received her copy of DAWN V. and thinks her subscription paid. Please have it seen to.
DEAR SIR AND BROTHER: – I have just completed the first reading of VOL. V. and it is not necessary to commend it. It commends itself to every thinking mind that will weigh its arguments. There is however one position taken on page 352 in reference to 1 Thes. 4:14 that confuses me and if your position be the correct one and the sleepers referred to in verse 15 are the same sleepers referred to in verse 14 it would imply that the general resurrection of all the dead must take place before the glorification of those of the Church who are alive at that time. I state the matter as clearly as I can in the hope that you will point out wherein my difficulty lies.
Yours in the hope founded on the Ransom,
[REPLY. – Your favor of the 6th is at hand. I am glad to know that you have enjoyed thus far the study of DAWN VOL. V., and that it commends itself to your heart and head, except on the one point mentioned. On that point I would say:
We must distinguish as between references to the Church and references to the world. Both classes die, both classes sleep, both classes need resurrection, yet they are different classes in every respect. In 1 Cor. 15 the apostle points out that "as by a man came death, by a man came also the resurrection of the dead." He further points out that "As all in Adam die, even so all in Christ shall be made alive," but "every man in his own order" or class. Some will be made alive in Christ now at the end of the present age as his bride and joint-heir, and will be of the first order or first resurrection: others will be made alive in Christ during the Millennial age, completed at its close as his children, and will constitute the second order or subsequent resurrection. Both orders are referred to in the same connection.
Now in reference to the text which troubles you, 1 Thes. 4:14,15. Verse 14 refers to mankind in general, and verse 15 to the Church. All mankind "sleep in Jesus" as we show on page 352 of VOL. V., and all mankind are to be awakened, but not all in the first order or first resurrection. The apostle passes from the consideration of the general fact to the consideration of the first order, the Church, which is always made most prominent throughout the New Testament [R2528 : page 240] as most interesting to the Lord's people. Thus in verse 15 he speaks of the last members of the Church at the close of this age, indicating that the change of the remaining members will not precede that of the same class who have already fallen asleep. That this second class refers not to the world in general who "sleep in Jesus," but to the saints, is clearly indicated in the 16th verse, where they are spoken of as the "dead in Christ." The whole world sleeps in Jesus in the sense that Jesus bought the whole world, and is to be the quickener or lifegiver to the whole world; but only the saints are dead in Christ – members of Christ's body, the Anointed body. I trust this will make the subject more clear to you. – EDITOR.]
MY DEAR BROTHER: – Inasmuch as it has been something more than a year since I have written you I feel at liberty to trespass upon your time for a little while now to thank you for VOL. V. of MILLENNIAL DAWN. It is, in my judgment, with the possible exception of VOL. I. the most instructive of the DAWN series yet published. I feel assured that members of the household of faith privileged to peruse its pages will with myself acknowledge having received from it a blessing and spiritual uplift.
While my most earnest studies during the past years have been to be thoroughly clear upon the foundation stone of the gospel – the Ransom, yet in this work I have been permitted to see many new beauties of the height and depth and length and breadth of God's love through our dear Redeemer toward us as a class and the entire race as a whole. Many of the points brought out in the chapters devoted to the operations of the Spirit, as for example, "the spirit of fear," as treated on pages 213 and 214, must of necessity be exceedingly helpful, as I feel confident all true children of God have had similar tempting and discouragements.
The short chapter upon "the spirit of a sound mind" also will be especially helpful to other dear ones who like myself are found by the truth a little lower down the scale of Christian character than the majority of professing followers of our dear Master at least appear to be. All of the company here in Philadelphia are quite hearty in their praise of the whole subject from first to last and acknowledge having received great blessings from it for which we thank our heavenly Father sincerely.
We continue to have excellent meetings at which the spirit of our dear Master is displayed by all. The number attending and interest shown is, I think, all we could look for, inasmuch as we are so scattered.
Yours in the love and service of our Redeemer and King,
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL: – I have received VOL. V. of DAWN and I am reading it very carefully. I think, as do all with whom I have talked, that it is "meat in due season" and my prayer is that all may benefit by it and be able to "give a reason for the hope that is in them." There are some who have not received theirs as yet. Will you let me know when you can let me have 25 or 30 of them and the price, paper covers? There are a great many who have read the four volumes that do not subscribe for the TOWER that are anxious for it. I consider it good for those who have never read any of the other volumes. The "atonement" is a grand theme for every Christian to fully understand. Please find checks and orders. And may that peace and fellowship of Christ which prevailed at our Boston Convention remain with us forever, is the prayer of, Your Brother in Christ,
[We now have DAWN VOL. V. in good supply. For prices see second page of this journal. Encourage all who manifest any interest in present truth to become WATCH TOWER subscribers. Assure them that if too poor to pay they are thoroughly welcome to its visits free upon the terms stated on page 2. Those who hope to be able to pay in the future may say so and have it continued year by year indefinitely; so long as they continue to ask for it. We desire that so far as possible the WATCH TOWER lists may represent all who are interested in the Divine plan of salvation as presented in MILLENNIAL DAWN: nevertheless we are all aware that this would increase its issues three or four fold. And this is what we desire – not for our gain but for the assistance which we believe would thus be rendered to many who need it. – EDITOR.] page 240
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL: – It gives me pleasure to write you again. You will find report of meetings, etc., on list sheets, therefore will not say anything about them in regular letter, except that some interesting meetings have been held since I left St. Louis.
Words would fail to express the amount of spiritual and intellectual benefit I derived from the convention. It was indeed "a feast of fat things" to me, and I think also to all the other interested friends present.
Since the Council Bluffs Convention (held a little more than a year ago), I have met quite a few of the friends who attended it and all confessed that it was a means of great spiritual blessing to them.
I am more and more convinced that these conventions are being greatly blessed of the Lord to the edifying of his people, and the dissemination of "harvest" truths amongst many, who will be benefited by them later. There are four results of such gatherings in which I greatly rejoice: (1) the direct benefit to the Church, by way of instruction, fellowship, etc., (2) the distribution of DAWNS, Tracts, etc., (3) the newspaper reports, many of them more or less favorable, and (4) it gives to many of the Lord's dear people, that you otherwise might not meet in the flesh, an opportunity to become personally acquainted with you.
With much love in the Lord, your brother and servant,
|Vol. XX.||NOVEMBER 15, 1899.||No. 22.|
|Views From the Watch Tower||243|
|Zionism Making Progress||243|
|Time's Secrets Revealing||245|
|The Power of the Word of God||246|
|"Wine is a Mocker"||249|
|Noah's Intoxication Excusable||250|
|Nehemiah's Correction of Sabbath-Breaking||252|
|Some Neglected Facts of Human Biological History||254|
|Items: – Millennial Dawn, Vol. V –|
|The Musical Tower||242|
|A New Price List of Bibles||242|
Those of the interested who, by reason of old age, or other infirmity or adversity, are unable to pay for the TOWER will be supplied FREE, if they send a Postal Card each December, stating their case and requesting the paper. We are not only willing, but anxious, that all such be on our list continually.
Copies of DAWN V. (500 pages), have been sent to all on the WATCH TOWER lists whose subscription is not in arrears – including all of the "Lord's poor," who applied as per above terms, during the present year. Any who expected it and have not received it, and whose reckonings would thus appear to be different from ours, are requested (1) to ask their postmaster to look for it in his office, and then if not found (2) to at once notify us, mentioning date of last remittance and how money was forwarded.
Some time ago (Feb. 1, '96) we issued a musical number of this journal containing eleven very choice hymns with music very expressive of our grand hopes and joys. We published a large extra edition but it is gone and in response to many calls we have gotten out a new edition, – for we know of none better. Furthermore, believing, trusting that the singing of these truly gospel hymns at your firesides is likely to favorably instill present truth, we have concluded to make the price of this issue 2 cents each – post free. At regular sheet-music rates these would cost 25 to 50 cents each.
The publishers will no longer permit this work to be sold by anyone, under their list price, – $5 in cloth binding. However we will DELIVER IT by mail or express for the above price, and additionally will give the purchaser as a premium five copies of MILLENNIAL DAWN in paper covers – any volume.
ZIONISM is not dying out, as some of its enemies predicted it would. It progresses steadily – the last of its three annual congresses at Basle (Aug., '99) being the best attended of all and one of deep interest. Three hundred representative Jews gathered from all parts of the world – some of them quite influential rabbis.
Three different sets of ideas prevail among Jews interested in Zionism. Some of them view the matter [R2529 : page 243] as a political measure, believing that the Jew would be more respected if he had a home of his own. Others favor it as a social move essential to the future welfare of Israelites all over Europe: they see a growing Jew-hatred in Russia, Austria, France and Germany, and even some signs of ill-will in England and the United States, and they argue truly that the day is not far distant when a still more open persecution will compel extensive emigrations of Jews to somewhere; and that Palestine has some attractions over and above any other land. The third class views the subject from the religious standpoint, looking longingly for a fulfilment of the promises of God through the prophets, recorded in the Bible. And with this view are more or less intermingled Messianic hopes: some however hold that the nation of Israel restored is to be the Messiah for the other nations. The religious standpoint of interest seems to be growing – even Dr. T. Herzl at one time regarded as an agnostic – an infidel – is of late giving evidence of a deep interest in the movement as a prophetic fulfilment.
The religious view in Zionism is reinforced by practical experience. Baron Hirsch, disregarding the religious or prophetic view, spent millions of dollars in planting Jewish colonies in Argentina, South America, and in New Jersey, U.S., etc., but these are all failures, tho not yet wholly abandoned. On the other hand Baron Rothschild and others planted colonies in Palestine which have flourished exceedingly. If trials and discouragements arise there, they do not utterly dishearten, for the prophetically inspired hope prevents this. It is said that a portion of the Baron Hirsch funds will be hereafter used in Palestine.
The subscriptions to the Zionist Bank stock come in but slowly, however, and mostly from the poorer classes, – a little over one-seventh of the £2,000,000 ($9,750,000) being thus far taken. On this bank fund depends the present project, humanly speaking; for the scheme of the projectors seems to be to use this bank's capital in assisting commercial enterprises in the Holy Land. It is not the intention, as we understand the matter, to collect this money as a banking capital and then to offer the sum to the Turkish government as a purchase price for the freedom of Palestine: no, but to collect the sum and then, showing the facts to the Sultan, to request of him civil, commercial and religious liberty for the Jews in Palestine: guaranteeing him by this sum raised throughout the world that the territory would not be inundated by pauper Jews from whom no revenue could be derived, but by a thrifty, intelligent people, whose yearly taxes would double the imperial revenues from that quarter. When the Lord's time arrives, wealthy Jews will take a hand, and the door to Palestine closed to the Jew since 1891 will be opened.
"A great step in the Zionist movement is the establishment [R2529 : page 244] of our bank. Of this Dr. Wolffson of Cologne is president, and there are seven directors, who founded the bank at a cost of $40,000 and paid the sum out of their private purses. Since the shares of the bank have been placed on sale 300,000 have been sold; $200,000 having been taken in Russia, $40,000 in Roumania and the rest by Jews all over the world, so that now, when asking the Sultan to give Palestine to us, we have a cash guarantee with which to back our good faith.
"When Palestine is ours, every office will be filled by the elective vote of the people. It will be much the Biblical form of government; the head being a governor, supported by a privy council and a legislature. The Jewish authorities will levy taxes, and the people will reap the fruits of them.
"Turkey will derive then a greater revenue from Palestine than she does now. We have great faith in the Turks. No one who has ever lived among them will fail to uphold me when I say that there is no race more honorable nor whose word is more sacred. Their laws, if rightly administered, are even wiser and more liberal than those of the United States. And I say, and have authority for the statement, that the Turkish government never has molested, for religious reasons, a race over which they had power. The Armenians brought their troubles on themselves. Jerusalem and Palestine now are downtrodden by the Turkish officials, but unscrupulous officials are to be found in every land.
"Jerusalem is, unfortunately, a kind of a festering sore. It is there, first of all places, that 'sanitation' must take place. It is filled with beggars and with old men who have gone to lay their bones there. When my people went to Palestine, I said to them, 'Go north, for in the south are those who have gone there to die. You go to live.' In Jerusalem three religions meet, and that is a ticklish thing, and mixed with it is the depravity of the officials, living on money extorted from those under them.
"It will be a flood. They will go in millions: that is the great danger. The persecution of the race has spurred them on. They are enthusiastic now – then they will be wild. It will be a rush that I tremble to think of. Why, our shares, now placed on sale, are being bought up by people all over the world. They are being taken by men in the mines of Siberia, in South Africa, in Russia, in the west, the United States. When a London Jew has put aside a pound he comes and buys a share, and so it is all over the world. It is the poor Jews who are buying the shares, not the rich ones. The rich are not all with us. Our movement makes them remember the past of their race, and they do not wish to remember it. They have for years been trying to open the door of society with a gold key, and they want society to forget their history. They argue against us, and say that patriotism to their native land would interfere with their new nationalism.
"We must find some way of checking this rush to Palestine when it comes. When the Jews realize that there is a land – and that their mother country – with Jews forming its government and peopled by their race, Europe will be almost depopulated by them. And when we have gone, Europe will look around her in bewilderment. The war between capital and labor is coming – it is now begun, and the Jew in Europe is its natural scapegoat. When that scapegoat is gone the two powers will have to face each other.
"And nothing except Palestine will satisfy us. At Basle, when Mr. Trietsch, the American, asked for my support of his scheme to form a Jewish colony in Cyprus, I said: 'That plan now has advantages over a hasty colonization of Palestine, and I will aid you in it, but not under the flag of Zionism. Zionism means Palestine, or it means nothing.' And when he proposed his plans before the congress, the people were enraged. No sooner was his purpose put into words than every delegate was on his feet, crying as one man, 'Down with him!"
Many exaggerated statements are made respecting the numbers of Jews now in Jerusalem and Palestine: old reports are taken as a basis of a guess-work calculation – in ignorance of or overlooking the fact that no Jews have been allowed to locate in Palestine for more than six years. The Hebrew Almanac, published in Jerusalem in 1897, gives that city's population as 45,420 – composed of 28,112 Jews, 8500 Mohammedans and 8780 Christians. The population of the whole land is estimated at 650,000, and of these about one-twelfth are Jews, viz., 55,000.
"Anti-Semitic riots broke out at Halleschau, Moravia, yesterday evening. Jewish houses were stoned, stores were pillaged, a house was burned and the gendarmes charged the rioters, killing three persons, and injuring several others. The military finally restored order."
Strange to say, the basis of these persecutions is the old charge of using Christian blood for baking, for washing and for religious ritual, – the same charges brought against these innocent people in the persecutions of the long ago, without a shadow of reason. If the word blood were used figuratively as when we speak of blood-money, there would perhaps be something in it: but literal blood is meant and charged, of course by ignorant people.
Rabbi Doctor Gudeman, Jewish leader in Vienna, who opposed the Zionist movement, is now astounded and is holding public meetings at which he makes oath that nothing in the Jewish ritual sanctions blood, and points out that the Jewish law in every sense is to the contrary – pointing out that all Christians have that same law in their Bibles and well know that it sanctions nothing of the kind. Speaking of the charge the Rabbi characterized it as "low, shameless falsification of the truth," and has drawn against himself considerable bitterness. Perhaps thus the Lord is teaching him and [R2529 : page 245] others the necessity for Zionism. We expect much more persecution before the Jews get thoroughly awake to the fact that "the time to favor Zion" is at hand.
Scientists and "higher critics" have for years been declaring the Bible narrative incorrect, especially its chronology; – that the histories of China and of Egypt proved this conclusively, showing that the world is several thousand years older than the Bible chronology would indicate (now 6027 years A.M.). Great stress has been laid on the testimony of papyrus records found in ancient Egyptian cities, whose ruins are being exhumed: these proved the XII. Dynasty of Egypt, [R2530 : page 245] according to M. Maretta, to have held sway in 3064 B.C. or about six hundred years before the Bible's date for the flood – with no destruction of those ruins by the waters of the flood and no record of a blotting out of Egypt's population. According to Prof. Lepsius the XII. Dynasty of Egypt flourished B.C. 2380 or about 88 years after the deluge date furnished by the Bible's chronology: and of course it would be impossible for eleven dynasties to have flourished in so short a period and for Egypt to be the great country it evidently was at that time – with its pyramids already built. Hence "science" laughed the Bible to scorn and ridiculed the idea of divine providence in its preparation.
But now, what? The ruins of Egypt are contradicting the scientists and confirming in a general way the Bible chronology, by the showing of papyrus documents that were written during the reign of Usertesen III. of the XII. Dynasty of Egypt, and prove their date to be 1872 B.C. (possibly 1876) – six hundred years after the Bible's date for the deluge* and about fifteen years before Joseph was sold into Egypt.
"The first fixed date in human history has been discovered. It is disclosed in Egyptian papyri nearly 4000 years old. Announcement of its discovery has just been made at the twelfth international congress of orientalists, now being held in this city.
"Last winter Dr. Borchardt, scientific attache of the German legation in Cairo, and Dr. Shaefer, assistant director of the Egyptian Museum in Berlin, discovered a mass of papyri near the pyramid of Usertesen III. at Illahun, about fifty miles above Cairo and about 175 miles above the mouth of the Nile.
"These papyri have proved of the greatest interest. They consist of a series of temple archives and records of temple administration in the twelfth dynasty, about 2000 years before Christ. They have been deposited in the Royal Museum at Berlin, and there Dr. Borchardt has spent the past summer in giving them a preliminary examination and classifying them.
"The lists of temple offerings and temple officials are chiefly of interest to the specialist, but there are many letters from one official to another particularly interesting as showing how these functionaries did business in the days of Abraham.
"It is of one particular letter in this collection, however, that I wish to speak – the letter by means of which the date referred to is established. There was no more important religious feast among the Egyptians than the celebration of the rising of the star Sirius, or, as the Greeks called this star, Sothis. It is easy to understand, therefore, why the chief temple-official should write the accompanying letter. It is in hieratic, that is, the handwriting of the ancient Egyptians, as distinguished from the elaborate hieroglyphic used in stone inscriptions. I translate the essential portions of a letter sent to Pepy-hetep, the chief ritual priest, twenty days before the rising of Sothis, in order to give him ample time to make ready for the feast:
"'Copy of the letter...which the prince, the overseer of the temple, Nub-Kau-Re, sent, saying to the chief ritual priest, Pepy-hetep: "Take note that the rising of Sothis occurs in the fourth winter month, on the xvith day. Give notice to the lay priests...and post this letter upon the bulletin board of the temple."
"When this fact is established the chronological reckoning is very simple. The Egyptian calendar year contained 365 days, being one-fourth of one day shorter than the astronomical year. The calendar year therefore gained a quarter of a day each year on the astronomical year, or an entire day every four years. This can be made very simple in this way: Suppose we have a clock which gains a quarter of an hour every day. In four days it will have gained an hour, and in eight days two hours, etc. You will see that by comparing this clock with correct time and exactly measuring the gain, you can instantly compute how long it took the clock to make that gain. It is just so here. The occurrence of the rising of Sothis, an astronomical event, is here given in terms of the calendar year; we can thus check off this calendar and tell how far it has run ahead of real time, as we did with the fast running clock. Doing so, we find it has run ahead in all four months and nineteen days. The question now is, how long did it take the calendar to gain four months and nineteen days at the rate of a day every four years?IN 1872 OR 1876 B.C.
"This is the oldest fixed date in human history. There are dates which belong at least 1000 [?] years earlier in Egyptian history, but we are unable to fix [!] them; they may be anywhere within a period of 500 or 600 years, so wide apart are the limits of possible variation.
"The date of Sargon I. in Babylonian history claimed as fixed at 3750 B.C. by many Assyriologists is supported by only one document, written over 3200 years later than the date which it is quoted to support, and as far removed in time from the date of Sargon, as Queen Victoria is from Moses. It is properly looked upon with distrust by many orientalists.
"But the date 1872 (or 1876) B.C. established by the new papyri rests upon contemporary evidence. There is no doubt of its correctness; and with this remarkable discovery we enter upon a new epoch in the chronology of oriental history.
"To Chicagoans this discovery is of especial interest, for the new date belongs to the reign of the same king whose funeral barge (or that of his family) is in the Field Museum. All will recollect the large Egyptian barge standing in the east hall of the museum. It was acquired by the enterprise of Mr. Ayer and the generosity of Mrs. McCormick. The king to whose funeral furniture this barge belongs was a Usertesen III. of the twelfth dynasty.
"The second document is dated in his seventh year – that is, 1872 or 1876 B.C. From the middle of the nineteenth century B.C. to the end of the nineteenth century A.D. the barge lay covered by the Sahara sands beside the king's pyramid, some thirty miles above Cairo. In 1894, after its discovery by De Morgan, it was removed to Cairo and thence to Chicago. This now certain date of the barge is several centuries later than that posted on the large gilded sign hanging over it in the museum.
"Of course the announcement of this new date created great interest among the members of the congress. Unfortunately, Dr. Borchardt was called away by official duties in Egypt before the date for reading his paper announcing his discovery. The paper was read by Prof. Erman, in Borchardt's absence, and Professor Erman accepted for him the warm congratulations of the congress. – Rome, Oct. 14th, 1899."
"The ears of all the people were attentive unto the book of the Law." – Nehemiah 8:3.
As illustrating different methods of serving the Lord, and how some methods are wiser and more successful than others, and as a means of adding to our own wisdom respecting methods of serving the truth, let us here contrast the efforts of Nehemiah with those of Ezra. For instance – Ezra seemed to find only faults in the chiefs of the people, and berated them as tho they had nothing commendable in them. Nehemiah, on the contrary, began his work by ignoring some of the evils which he doubtless quickly discerned, and sought the cooperation of the nobles in the general cause. Subsequently at a favorable opportunity, when [R2531 : page 246] the people cried out because of usury and oppression, he very wisely yet very moderately remonstrated against their course, pointing out in kindly words yet boldly their wrong, and he was successful in correcting the wrong without antagonizing the wrongdoers. (Neh. 5:7-13.) Ezra, full of zeal and anxious for quick reform, convened the people, in the rain, without shelter. (Ezra 10:9-13.) Nehemiah, on the contrary, not only chose the pleasant season, but also the accustomed occasion, for his gathering of the people. Ezra attacked the one particular sin of intermarrying with the surrounding peoples, and thus held up one particular class of the people to special shame and confusion: Nehemiah seems to have taken a broader view and to have assailed sin in general, showing that all were sinners in some respects, and that all needed reformation. Ezra's method was the more aggressive, accompanied by legal prosecutions, penalties, etc. (Ezra 10:8,14.) Nehemiah's method was to make general a knowledge of the divine law, and through it to appeal to the awakened consciences of the people, that each might act for himself, heartily as unto the Lord. Without finding fault with Ezra's intentions, all reformers may profitably apply the lessons of this contrast to themselves, and seek to use Nehemiah's wise and gentle method in dealing with those who are in error, either doctrinally or otherwise.
With the completion of the wall and the security thus realized and the faith and hopes thus inspired, it was but reasonable that the event would be celebrated with feasting and rejoicing. But Nehemiah wisely waited this until he had reorganized the people socially according to the heads of their families, especially the priests and Levites, who were the divinely appointed ministers and teachers of the people. (See Chap. 7:63-73.) [R2531 : page 247] Meantime also, donations were received for the Temple and its service, and Nehemiah, himself very wealthy, setting an example of liberality in his large gifts, was imitated by many. By this time the "Feast of Trumpets" on the first day of the seventh month drew near. It was a time for the general gathering of the people, the beginning of their civil year, announced by trumpet blowing. Here the narrative of our lesson begins, with the spontaneous gathering of the people in an open place, a plaza, near the water gate, called here a "street."
In all probability this congregation of the people was instigated, first by Nehemiah, the Tirshatha (Persian for provincial governor), and secondly, through the heads of the people and the priests and Levites. Evidently preparations had been made for such a gathering, for a large platform, called a "pulpit," had been erected. When the people assembled and called for the reading of The Book of the Law of Jehovah, appropriate at this season, all things were in readiness, and Ezra the priest, accompanied by thirteen men, evidently chiefs of the people, representing the various tribes, took their appointed places on the platform or "pulpit" to give dignity and importance to the service.
Apparently the convention was opened with prayer. "Ezra blessed Jehovah the great God. And all the people answered, Amen, with lifting up their hands: and they bowed their heads and worshiped Jehovah with their faces to the ground." They were about to begin a study of the divine Word, as expressed in the Law, and no one is in the proper attitude of mind to be taught and blessed by the Lord's Word unless he be in the attitude of heart which appreciates the greatness of God and the unworthiness of himself. Such a condition of heart is essential to true hearing and understanding. And here we have the secret of much of the failure to understand God's Word – today as well as in times past. "He that seeketh findeth; to him that knocketh it shall be opened," and the "seeking" consists not merely in church attendance or Bible reading, but in a heart-hunger to know the truth and to obey it.
The service began early in the morning, "From the morning [daybreak] until midday," and during that time we are told that "the ears of all the people were unto the book of the Law," that is, they gave close attention to hear and to understand every word. It was not only necessary that they should desire to know and that they should be in the attitude of heart to implore divine blessing and assistance, but it was also necessary that they should be attentive, giving ear. And more than this, it was necessary that there should be amongst them teachers capable of expounding the Law, explaining the meaning of words, and how the divine Law was to be applied to the daily life, and what it signifies. Thirteen teachers (Joshua and twelve others) are indicated by name. These probably were priests, and the statement is that associated with him were "the Levites." These "caused the people to understand the law, and the people stood in their place." We are not to understand that the people stood for five hours: they stood while the Law was being read, and sat down, after the eastern custom, on their haunches, during the time explanations were being given. The expression "all the people stood in their place" signifies that the teachers mentioned moved about amongst the people, instructing them, answering their questions, making plain the meaning of the features of the Law just read, while the people remained in their places.
There is a lesson here for God's people of today – all who are interested in the welfare of Zion and in the repair of her walls of righteousness. As Nehemiah looked up the genealogies of the priests, it is appropriate for us to recognize the difference between the consecrated, whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life, and the unconsecrated, whose names assuredly are not so written, and who therefore cannot be recognized as religious teachers in any sense. So also today our Governor, the Lord Jesus, is searching amongst the people and separating to himself those whose names are written – the consecrated – for his kings and priests – a "royal priesthood." Arrangements are already made for the great antitypical "Feast of Trumpets," and the beginning of a new civil year or Millennial era for mankind – for all who desire to be the Lord's people, to hear his Word and to obey it. Raised above the people, on a higher plane of being, will be Christ, the great Priest, and his associates, spiritual Israel, to declare the Word of Jehovah, the Law of righteousness, the Truth; and amongst the people, to teach them and to expound the Law to them, will be the ancient worthies, representatives of Israel in the flesh, and the Levites, all who believe, the entire household of faith aside from the elect and then glorified Church.
The blowing of the trumpets announcing the beginning of the antitypical Jubilee year will soon be heard throughout all the world, and the true-hearted will speedily respond. Meantime our great and wise Governor is instructing the Royal Priesthood, and thus preparing for the great work of the future. The arrangements are all so perfect and so complete that when the declaration comes the people will all hear the word of the Lord "distinctly," and they will get the "sense" and "understanding" of it. It will no longer be as in the past and at the present time, a din, a Babylon of confused noises, misrepresenting the divine message, and confusing those who desire to know the will of the Lord. The first result of that presentation will be weeping [R2531 : page 248] and mourning for sin, but the message of the great Priest and Governor will go forth to the people, to the effect that they need not weep and mourn, because the great sacrifice for sins has already been offered, "the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world," and that in consequence the Millennial Day in which they will be living is not to be a day of mourning but a day of rejoicing, a day of acceptance of divine favor, a day of newness of life and of consecration to the Lord.
The message will then be similar to the one which Governor Nehemiah promulgated, "Go your way, eat the fat and drink the sweet [enjoy the wonderful provisions of God's bounty with thankfulness and pleasure] and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared [cause the knowledge of the Lord to fill the whole earth], for this day is holy unto the Lord: neither be ye sorry, for the pleasure of Jehovah is your strength" – rejoice that you are restored to divine favor. And all the people will rejoice, because they will understand the words of the divine Law – because they will see and appreciate the divine arrangement, and find it to be indeed "good tidings of great joy, which shall be unto all people."
These blessings which will be to the world in the future may already be appropriated in a measure by the Lord's consecrated people – the Gospel Church, the Royal Priesthood. By faith we are permitted to hear the words of the divine Law in advance of their public proclamation, to the whole world, and therefore blessed are our ears which hear and our eyes which see, for many have not seen and have not heard, – the god of this world at the present time blinding their minds so that they cannot. To us, too, the first hearing of the divine Law should perhaps bring remorse and tears as we realize our shortcomings, and that with our very best efforts we cannot measure up to the perfect standard. But to us also comes the Lord's message, through his servants our brethren, saying, Weep not, but rejoice. Behold the goodness as well as the severity of God, behold his Love as well as his Justice, and that he has made through Christ a full propitiation, not only for the sins that are past, but also for the inherited weaknesses and blemishes of the present and future – that all of our blemishes have been covered with the great sin-offering finished at Calvary. [R2532 : page 248]
It is our privilege, therefore, to dry our tears and to rejoice in the God of our salvation, and to eat of the fat things of his Word, the exceeding great and precious promises given to us, and to drink of the sweets of his favor, and to send portions of this our blessing to others who have not yet seen and have not yet heard and who have not yet tasted of the riches of divine grace. And whoever receives the grace of God not in vain will be prompt and zealous, not only in his own rejoicing, but also in his endeavors to communicate his blessings to others.
Another lesson here is that while God has all power he nevertheless uses human instrumentalities. He could have spoken from heaven, instead of sending Nehemiah; but he did not. He could have thundered his Law without having it read by Ezra; but he did not choose to do so. He could have instructed the people without using the priests and Levites or any human instrumentality for exposition; but such was not his method. And the Lord's dealings in the past are our best guides respecting his mind on such subjects and respecting what are likely to be his methods for the present and the future. In full harmony with this thought is the apostolic statement that "God has set the various members in the body [the Church] as it hath pleased him." Are all apostles? are all teachers? are all orators? Evidently not! And amongst the Lord's people the desire should be to know the Master's will, to know what talents have been entrusted to him, and to use those zealously, and to wait for others to be given, rather than to neglect the talents possessed or to seek to use those not possessed. "Do with thy might what thy hand findeth to do."
"The Word of God is quick and powerful." (Heb. 4:12.) There is much need that this lesson be thoroughly learned by the Lord's people. Nothing can take the place of the Lord's Word; and all teachings, whether oral or printed, should be recognized as secondary to the inspired Word, and should be received only as corroborated by the Scriptures. Or rather, they are to be appreciated only as they unlock the treasures of wisdom hidden in the Bible – riches of which the world in general is ignorant, and of which even the majority of Christian people, altho they have Bibles by the million, know comparatively little. Indeed, as Bibles become more numerous the great Adversary seems to be permitted to have the greater power to deceive and to mislead respecting its teachings; so that today, with its greatest opportunities, is witnessing a general decline of faith in the Scriptures – "a great falling away," led by some of the principal luminaries in the nominal systems – falling from their steadfastness of faith, falling into scepticism and into the radically anti-Biblical theory of Evolution – under the lead of so-called "higher criticism" and scholasticism.
The more the Lord's people shall be able to discern that we are already in the "evil day" mentioned by the Apostle, in which many shall stumble and fall from their steadfastness of faith, the more should they give earnest heed lest they should let slip the precious things of the divine Word, which is a lamp to their pathway, and through which God supplies the needed aids for walking the narrow way which leads to the [R2532 : page 249] Kingdom. – Eph. 6:13; Heb. 2:1; Psa. 119:105.
And let us beware also in this day of the "new lights" and of many presenting themselves as special teachers, that we permit none to lead us away from the Lord's Word, and to confuse us in our understanding. "Let us hold fast the confidence of our rejoicing [in Christ and his redemptive work – and not in our righteousness] firm unto the end." Let us earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints, of which the ransom is the very center or hub into which and from which every other truth must and does fit perfectly. And let us remember that whatever assists us in this direction is a teaching that is from God, while whatever leads in another direction must evidently be not of God but of the Adversary. While proving the things which we receive, by their harmony with the Scriptures and their ability to unlock them and make clear their meaning, we may well remember the Master's words: "He that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God," – and the reverse of this is evidently equally true. – John 3:20,21; Heb. 3:6; Jude 3; 1 Thes. 5:21.
"Wine is a mocker; strong drink is raging, and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise." – Prov. 20:1.
An intelligent and very earnest reader of the WATCH TOWER publications remarked the fact that he had been struck with the absence of all appeals on the liquor question, the tobacco question, gambling, etc., and yet he said – "When I began reading these publications I was a moderate drinker, an habitual smoker and chewer of tobacco, and altho not a gambler I was well versed in cardplaying as a social diversion and time-killer. But since reading the WATCH TOWER publications my life has undergone a complete change in respect to all of these things. I asked myself the question, Have I or have I not consecrated my all to the Lord, covenanting with him to use life, voice, strength, influence, and means to his glory, to the best of my knowledge and ability? I answered, Yes. The question then came, Can you see in what manner your drinking of wine or smoking or chewing tobacco or playing a social game of cards will be to the Lord's glory, to the increase of your influence for righteousness, or a proper expenditure of time and money, in harmony with your covenant? I was obliged to answer myself, No; that these things would all be contrary to my covenant, and I therefore abandoned them in the Lord's name and strength. But now what I want to know is, what was the nature of the influence exercised upon my mind by the reading of MILLENNIAL DAWN which produced or helped to produce these results? for, as I said before, I cannot remember anything directly upon these subjects in this reading matter, and on the contrary, other books which I have had and read which did deal with these subjects pointedly and explicitly, failed utterly to make any impression upon me. Why is this? How is this? What is it that has such influence over me?"
We answered, that undoubtedly the good influence exercised was the spirit of the truth, operating upon the good ground of an honest and consecrated heart. We pointed out that the effort of our publications is to strike the axe of truth at the root of the evil tree, instead of attempting to lop off the various evil branches. A thorough consecration to the Lord is in opposition to every form of sin and in harmony with everything that is good, noble, true, pure. The difficulty with a majority of those who are truly consecrated to the Lord is that they have been mistaught. They have been misled to believe that Christianity is merely morality and civilization, instead of being taught by the divine Word that Christianity is a following of Jesus' footsteps in full consecration to the Heavenly Father's will in all matters.
They have been taught that the chief work of the Christian is to get saved and to save others; and by saved is generally understood a breaking off of the [R2532 : page 250] gross immoralities, a conformity to civilized usages, and a membership in some earthly church. False views of the Church's mission evidently have much to do with this setting up of false standards in the name of Christianity. Thinking men have realized the impossibility of securing the conversion of the world along the Scriptural lines of full consecration to the Lord. It was realized long, long ago that such hopes are baseless from what we know of humanity in general, and having in mind the erroneous thoughts that God had committed the conversion of the world to the Church, the effort was made to bring about at least a partial reformation of the conduct of the world. Thus the high standard for the Lord's people as set forth in his Word has been, to the majority of Christian people, a dead letter, and to the majority of ministers an unknown or at least an untaught lesson, because in violent opposition to their cherished but unscriptural theory respecting the conversion of the world by human agencies.
Thus we see what a great loss true Christianity and true Christian teaching sustained through the introduction [R2533 : page 250] of a false hope, a false theory, and through the abandonment of the original hope set before us in the gospel – the faith, the hope, that God is now electing, selecting, polishing and preparing a little flock of faithful covenanters, who in his own due time, as the body, the bride, the joint-heirs with Christ glorified, will be given the power and great glory necessary to the establishment of righteousness in the world, – the binding of Satan and of sin, the opening of the blind eyes of corrupted humanity, and the unstopping of the dull ears that all may hear, and know the truth respecting the divine character and gracious provision of our Heavenly Father's plan for the world's salvation – and to an opportunity of sharing in that salvation everlastingly, if they will.
While still adhering strictly to the same principles, viz., the pointing out of the necessity for full consecration on the part of those who would be of the Lord's flock, we nevertheless think it not amiss to occasionally draw attention to the Scriptural presentation on the subject of intemperance in the use of intoxicating liquors. It is neither necessary nor proper that we should take the radical and unscriptural ground seemingly taken by so many who advocate total abstinence, viz., that to even taste liquor is a sin, a grievous sin. We can go no further on any point than do the Scriptures, when they declare, "Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging; and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise." In harmony with the intimation of these inspired words is the thought that whoever trifles with this mocker is in danger of being deceived by it, of being ensnared, of being injured, of being wrecked.
Of course, the dangers are greater to some than to others, but dangers there are to all: and especially as our race has grown weaker physically and more nervous through the changed conditions peculiar to our times. Undoubtedly under present circumstances and conditions the movement toward total abstinence is an excellent one; we merely urge that the claims for total abstinence should be presented on their own true, proper basis, and not upon any misrepresentations of the Scriptural teachings on this subject.
We can certainly without impropriety urge upon the Lord's people the language of the Apostle, "Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess, but be filled with the spirit [the new wine, the new exhilarant, the new antidote for care and pain and trouble]." (Eph. 5:18.) Realizing the nervous pressure of our day we may certainly urge that each should consider for himself whether or not the use of wine at all under present conditions might not be improper, as being dangerous. And it would appear that those who get most thoroughly filled with the spirit have in it the new wine, the new exhilarant of the new nature in which they can rejoice most, and of which they cannot partake to excess and injury.
It is in place here for us to remind ourselves of our Lord's words, through the Apostle, that no drunkards shall inherit the Kingdom of God. (1 Cor. 6:10; Gal. 5:21.) We are not to understand these texts to teach that no one who has ever been drunk can enter into the Kingdom of God, but rather that whoever has come under the influence of the Gospel call and been begotten of the holy Spirit must of necessity receive so much of the spirit of a sound mind that he would not be deceived by the mocking wine and the insane influence of strong drink. (2 Tim. 1:7.) On the contrary, if any had been unwisely addicted to the use of liquors to intoxication he must, under the instructions of the Lord's Word and the leadings of his holy Spirit, become more thoroughly instructed in the way of righteousness, and sanctified to God, else he can never be accepted as one of the overcomers, one of the "little flock," who through the wisdom that cometh from above, and in laying hold upon the power of God in Christ, are enabled to break the bonds of Satan which have enslaved them.
For the sake of some who may be inclined to excuse a certain amount of dissipation in view of Noah's drunkenness (Gen. 9:20,21), we should say a word in defence of the patriarch. The record is that Noah was a God-fearing man whom God recognized and especially favored because of his righteousness; and the fact that he became intoxicated after having had six [R2533 : page 251] hundred years of experience has not only struck Christian people with astonishment, but has inclined some weaker characters to excuse their own unwisdom by his course.
In Noah's defence we call attention to the fact that his intoxication was after the flood and was purely accidental. The flood itself was a part of a great change in the aerial conditions of our earth: to our understanding the flood was produced by the precipitation to the earth of an immense quantity of water which previously had surrounded the earth at a distance as a cloudy canopy.
The breaking of this canopy or envelope of water not only produced the flood, but altered the conditions of nature so that storms, rains, etc., resulted, things which had never been before. (Gen. 2:5,6.) Another result, we believe, was the production of an aciditous condition of the atmosphere tending toward ferment, which directly affected human longevity, so that according to the Scripture records the average of human life quickly decreased from eight and nine hundred years to one hundred. This ferment from the changed atmosphere, affecting the grape, produces "must," and thence the alcoholic condition which produces drunkenness. According to the record, Noah's drunkenness was the result of the first vintage of grapes after the flood, and it evidently was contrary to all his experiences preceding the flood. As we have no record of his ever having become intoxicated afterward we are justified in supposing that this one instance was the result of ignorance respecting the changed character of the grape product fermented. From this standpoint nothing will be seen in Noah's conduct calculated to encourage or excuse drunkenness on the part of those who know very well that "wine is a mocker."
Those who have received the holy Spirit and who have found it to be the spirit of a sound mind should seek to inculcate some of their new soundness of judgment on all matters to others as they have opportunity – especially to their children, who subsequently learning the source of that sound judgment may be the more favorably influenced toward a full consecration of themselves to the Lord, thus saving them from many disasters, moral and physical, to which they may be exposed if left without the wise counsel of those to whom they should and do look naturally for lessons of instruction and for helps in the way to nobility of life and character.
We give below a portion of the lesson under consideration in the form of a wine glass, and some remarks of an unknown author in the form of a decanter, which may be interesting to the children and impressive to their memories.
"Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy." – Exod. 20:8.
This led to more mixed marriages, and correspondingly to a growing lack of interest in the divine law and worship. The high priest's grandson, Manasseh, married the daughter of Sanballat, once a prominent enemy of the Jews, and a man of influence; and one of the tithe-chambers of the Temple was desecrated by fitting it up as a dwelling place for Tobiah, the Ammonite, who by marriage became related to the high priest: and this policy, sanctioned by such high authority, was greatly followed by others. (Neh. 13:4,5,28; Mal. 2:14-16.) It is not surprising that such disregard of divine law led naturally and quickly to the neglect of tithes for the support of the ministers of the Temple, leading also to further selfishness, which, if it brought a sacrifice to the Lord at all was disposed to bring the poor, the lame and the blind of the flock, not the unblemished fatling. It is no wonder, either, that there followed in the wake of these things sorcery, adultery, false swearing, oppression, defrauding of widows and fatherless, etc. – Mal. 1:7,8; 3:5,9.
But our lesson deals particularly with another evil of that time – Sabbath-breaking. The policy of those who succeeded Nehemiah on his return to Persia was, as we have seen, to conciliate foreigners, and this, no doubt, largely in the interest of commerce. With the coming of heathen wives and the relaxing interest in the Lord and his commandments, and the frequent intercommunication with heathen who observed no Sabbath day, Sabbath day regulations were quickly broken down.
We may draw a lesson here for Spiritual Israel, and apply the Apostle's words, "Evil communications corrupt good manners," and our Lord's words, "Ye are not of this world, even as I am not of this world." The Spiritual Israelite is commanded to be separate from the world, and to seek his fellowships with his own people, the Lord's people, and not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers. (2 Cor. 6:14.) We may apply this specially to marriage, but to some extent it might be regarded as applicable also to business partnerships, etc. As the heathen peoples surrounding Israel exercised a continual pressure upon them, so worldly influences surrounding the Spiritual Israelites continually press them with the spirit of worldliness, which needs to be continually repelled; for once this spirit is admitted to the citadel of the heart it wars against the spirit of holiness, devotion to God, etc., and to whatever extent the worldly spirit invades the family, in that proportion the sanctifying of the spirit of truth is antagonized and off-set. Let us, as Israelites indeed, be continually on guard against all alien and alienating influences of the world, the flesh and the devil.
Nehemiah, on his return to the governorship, at once addressed himself to the rectification of the disorders described, beginning with the cleansing of the Temple, the restoration of its service, and the proper supplies for its ministers. Then he came to the question of Sabbath desecration, with which our lesson particularly deals. He remonstrated with the nobles against such a violation of the divine command – the fourth in Israel's Decalogue. He pointed out to them the fact that Sabbath desecration had much to do with their Babylonish captivity. It will be remembered that in explaining the seventy years' desolation of the land of Israel the Lord declared that he would make it desolate seventy years until it should have fulfilled its Sabbaths – its Jubilee years. (2 Chron. 36:21.) True, those were year-Sabbaths, and not day-Sabbaths, but we are to remember the Sabbath system (the seventh day and the fiftieth day, the seventh year, and the fiftieth year) was a connected whole: and doubtless had Israel properly observed their Sabbath days they would also have properly observed their Sabbath years and Jubilees.*
Nehemiah, after thus discoursing with the nobles on the propriety of the matter and the danger to the nation of thus violating the divine Law, began a reformation by closing the gates of Jerusalem at sundown of the sixth day of the week (Friday), and keeping them closed until sundown of the seventh day of the week (Saturday). The foreign tradesmen coming for business on the Sabbath were disappointed and obliged to camp outside the city; but in expectation that the reformation would be shortlived they came in like manner the next Sabbath. Nehemiah then warned them that to come again for Sabbath trade and to keep up a commotion around the gates of the city on the Sabbath day would subject them to arrest as disturbers of the law and peace of the city, and they were thus restrained. [R2534 : page 253] We must all commend Nehemiah's devotion to the divine Law and must concede that he in no sense of the word exceeded its requirements.
The Spiritual Israelite, altho in no sense of the word under the Law of Sinai, which was given exclusively to the fleshly Israelite, has nevertheless his Sabbath day – his rest day. It is a larger and a fuller day than was the Jewish one, as his rest is a grander and more perfect rest than the physical one of the Jew. The spiritual Israelite rests in faith, rests in Christ. Having taken upon him the yoke of this new Master he finds, as was promised, rest to his soul, and not merely rest to his flesh – mind-rest, not merely bodily rest. (Matt. 11:29.) This is the rest or Sabbath mentioned by the Apostle (Heb. 4:3) saying, "We which have believed do enter into rest." Our rest in the Lord is as complete as is our belief in him. He who believes fully rests fully; he who believes only partially rests but partially. The ideal condition of the spiritual Israelite is the attainment of a perfect rest, a perfect Sabbath-keeping, in his present experience, and a waiting and laboring for another and still more complete rest – the actual rest of the perfected condition – the rest that remains for the people of God. "Let us therefore labor to enter into that rest [Sabbath], lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief [of fleshly Israel.]" – Heb. 4:9-11.
While the Spiritual Israelite should never lose sight of these, his real Sabbaths, the antitypes of fleshly Israel's Sabbath days and Sabbath years, and while he should never forget that he is completely freed from the Law of Sinai respecting any and all Sabbaths, holy days, new moons, etc. (Col. 2:16), nevertheless he does rejoice in and should avail himself of any arrangements of nominal Christendom which may appear to be favorable to his spiritual resting, his continual Sabbath-keeping.
It so happens that nominal Christendom has set apart one day in seven as a Sabbath of rest – not the seventh day, which was commanded to the Jews, but the first day of the week, which was never commanded to anyone by divine authority. No matter by whatsoever misconception this first day of the week, called Sun-day in commemoration of the ancient heathen worship of the sun, was originally set apart as sacred and is still set apart by the laws of Christendom, it contains a great blessing, not only to the people at large but especially to the true Israelites.
(1) To the people at large it means a day of rest from toil, a day of recreation, refreshment, change; a day for different sights and sounds, a day different from other days immersed in toil; a day of opportunity for mental development according to the best lines they may have knowledge of and be willing to follow. For a time some laborers, mechanics and merchants regarded the compulsory cessation of toil as a hardship, injurious to their interests, but they very generally have come to see that there is an over-supply of labor anyway, and that as far as the whole people is concerned, the labor of the six days will be worth exactly as much as the labor of seven. Consequently we find that now labor organizations are earnest for the enforcement of Sunday laws, and that practically the only persons of contrary mind are those who own and operate machinery. In 1886 a thousand carpenters in Berlin petitioned the government for protection against Sunday labor; in the same year a Socialistic congress in Belgium propounded as one of its chief demands Sunday rest. In Holland there is at present in progress an effort for emancipation from Sunday work; and recently in Wisconsin a Law and Order League was organized to enforce Sunday laws, etc. Working men are finding that in losing Sunday they gain nothing to compensate them.
While the fourth commandment to Fleshly Israel was chiefly in the nature of a type, foreshadowing the rest coming to Spiritual Israelites, nevertheless, like every divine law, it was in no wise injurious, but on the contrary very beneficial to Fleshly Israel to observe the seventh day, even as it is now beneficial to all mankind to observe a seventh day – whether the first day of the week, observed by Christendom, or the seventh day of the week observed by the Jews. Experience proves that such a rest is necessary from the human and physical standpoint. [R2535 : page 253]
(2) To the true Spiritual Israelite Sunday is and for long centuries has been a great boon, a great blessing – the only drawback has been that not infrequently he has been mistaught to believe that Sunday is the Jewish Sabbath or a divinely appointed substitute for it, and in consequence has been brought under a bondage – the bondage of the Jewish Law, with which really the Spiritual Israelite has nothing whatever to do, he being under a new covenant with a new law and a new Mediator. (Heb. 8:6.) But the Spiritual Israelite, already resting in heart (Sabbath-keeping antitypically, by faith in the Redeemer's finished work), rightly understanding the matter and appreciating the privileges which a general Sunday observance brings, may use this day to wonderful profit and blessing. And the fact that he has an opportunity so to do means to him an obligation so to do; because, tho without stipulations of law to bind him, he is under the general Law of Love, and by it is obligated to do with his might what his hands find to do – to glorify the Lord, to bless the brethren, and to do good unto all men as he may have opportunity: and the day and customs are favorable to his exercise in all these respects.
The Spiritual Israelite is to esteem that whatever mistaken notions humanity may have had which led [R2535 : page 254] them to set apart the first day of the week, the matter has nevertheless been evidently of divine providence to present special opportunities for profit and progress to the Spiritual Israelites now called to be of the Royal Priesthood. And such are prompt to avail themselves of these privileges and opportunities; to assemble themselves for the study of the divine Word, for praise, for prayer and for spiritual fellowship, – building one another up in the most holy faith.
In view of the fact that the majority of the Lord's consecrated people are poor, – not many great, not many wise, not many learned, not many rich – how necessary it has been that the Lord should provide such an opportunity as this day affords for release from earthly toil and spiritual refreshment; and how fortunate it is for such that the masses of Christendom esteem rest on this day to be compulsory from the divine standpoint.
Of all the people in the world, therefore, those who enjoy the light of present truth and recognize this day as a God-given privilege, and not as compulsory, should be the very last to either do or say anything which would bring discredit on the day and its sacred observance as a day of rest. This, of course, does not mean that we should advocate its observance with the usual arguments; but it does mean that all such should be careful in their observance of the day for three reasons:
(2) Because they would not wish to do anything which would lead others to a violation of a less enlightened conscience, remembering that the conscience is the most valuable as well as the most tender and easily injured quality of the human nature.
(3) Because they do wish to maintain a proper religious influence with their neighbors, whose minds are not clearly and fully enlightened on this subject – to the intent that they may exercise the greater influence for good and for the truth as time and opportunity shall offer.
For all these reasons we urge upon the readers of this journal a glad and careful observance of Sunday as a sacred, a holy day, providentially set apart by human law. Let it be entirely separated from business, and so far as possible from all labor not actually necessary; let it be employed in the upbuilding of themselves, and their families, and the household of faith, and as many as the truth shall draw into their sphere of influence, – in moral and spiritual directions.
In the concluding verse of the lesson Nehemiah asks the Lord's blessing upon himself, in view of the work which he had done in the name of the Lord. He was fighting valiantly for God's cause, and thereby making many enemies; and hence while not flinching from his duty it was not unreasonable, but very proper, that he should think of the Lord's faithfulness toward all faithful to him. Had Nehemiah lived in our day, with its Gospel high calling and privileges, we doubt not he would have been one of the "saints," and then, assuredly, he would have known definitely and clearly of the exceeding great and precious promises given to the Gospel Church. But he lived before the "high calling" began, before the exceeding great and precious promises were made. He knew not what he would receive of the Lord for his faithfulness, but we may know, because instructed of the holy Spirit through the Apostle's writings. We may be assured that if Nehemiah continued faithful to the end of his career he would be amongst the worthies of the past mentioned by the Apostle in Hebrews 11 – those who wrought righteousness, and were valiant on the side of God and his Law. We are assured that these were acceptable with God and will ultimately be made perfect – in the future, after the Church, the elect body of Christ has been completed, been made perfect, and glorified in the heavenly Kingdom. – Heb. 11:39,40.
"STUDENTS of Human Physiology, Pathology and Dietetics have hitherto persistently ignored certain facts in man's history which have a controlling influence on present conditions. To ignore these historical biological facts is as irrational as it would be to attempt to study the present civil institutions of our country and ignore our past history.
"In regard to man's early biological history we have records of the highest credibility. There records are corroborated by all the facts within the reach of present observation. That present theories and speculations are contrary to them has no weight with a truly scientific mind, which cares for facts alone.
"These records do not inform us what was the method used in the creation of man. They thus leave the field open for interesting speculation as to whether it was by an evolutionary process or otherwise. We do learn that the first progenitors of the human race were perfect human beings, a man and a woman of the highest organization, both physical and mental, lacking in nothing except character, something which could only be developed by experience and the exercise of their faculties. We are also informed that the woman was developed from the man by the method of reproduction known as gemmation or budding; this, however, being an exceptional case, all subsequent reproduction in the human race being by the sexual method.
"This perfect human pair were placed in a perfect environment, called the garden of Eden, or Paradise. This was a small portion of the earth's surface specially prepared for the abode of man, who was specially favored above the rest of the animal kingdom, having been endowed with an organization so much superior to that of any other animal that he possessed the powers of reason, conscience, imagination, generalization and free will to a high degree, thus making him an earthly image of spirit beings.
"So exalted an animal was worthy of a more prolonged existence than the lower animals, consequently [R2535 : page 255] he was endowed with the privilege of continued life on earth, being so constituted that as each cell of his structure became worn out and effete it was removed and a new cell put in its place, thus keeping his tissues always young and free from senile decay.
"The design of the Creator being that the human race should be 'Sons of God' and not merely 'works of his hand' like the lower animals, the announcement was made to Adam that the law of limited existence and death which he saw controlling the lower animals should not prevail against him or his offspring, but that he would be permitted to live on everlastingly in his perfect environment, provided he developed a character which would love and pursue righteousness and eschew evil; otherwise the gift of lasting life would be taken from him and he would be brought under the law of limited existence and death, everlasting life being a curse to an evil being and not a blessing.
"As we have seen, man, being a perfect being, endowed with the power of rejuvenating his tissues so that he could always remain young, was placed in a perfect environment, called Paradise. Here the climatic conditions were perfect, the sanitary conditions were perfect, and, last but not least, he was supplied with a perfect diet.
"As a simple and suitable commencement of the disciplinary training necessary to develop his character and test his obedience, he was placed under a single prohibition. He was given the 'herb bearing seed' for food and allowed to eat of the fruit of every tree in Paradise with one exception. 'Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil thou shalt not eat;' and he was warned that if he disobeyed this command he would surely die. Perhaps if man had not been influenced towards the wrong course he would have stood this simple first test successfully, but there was present a spirit being of a high order whom ambition and selfishness had led into rebellion. By a line of specious reasoning he succeeded in seducing Eve, 'the [R2536 : page 255] weaker vessel,' into a violation of the prohibition. Adam knew that the penalty for this was death; that his beloved and only congenial companion must cease to exist. Feeling that he would rather die than live without her, he also took of the forbidden fruit in order that he might share her penalty, preferring the nothingness of death to life without her who was his other self, 'bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh.' We are expressly informed that 'Adam was not deceived.' What he did he did with his eyes open. In effect he committed suicide for love.
"The laws of God are unchangeable, and the penalty of death once threatened for this disobedience must be executed. Adam and Eve were put to death, within the limits of one of God's 'thousand year days,' as He had said, 'In the day that thou eatest thereof dying thou shalt die.' God had made man on a plan which permitted continued existence in a suitable environment, and man would have continued to live on, even in sin and rebellion, if he could have remained in Paradise. In order to put the sentence of death into execution it was necessary to drive man out of Paradise into the 'cursed' or unfinished part of the earth 'lest he put forth his hand and eat of the tree of life and live forever.' In the unfinished earth he was exposed to climatic vicissitudes, to accidents and catastrophes, to the attacks of disease germs, to wearing and unwholesome forms of labor. Above all, he was deprived of his natural food.
"Since the day when Adam and Eve were driven from Eden, 'the world being all before them where to choose,' and the cherubim, armed with the revolving sword of flame, took its station at the gate, no human being, so far as we know, has ever tasted a mouthful of man's natural food. Thus Adam and all his race have died, altho originally adapted to everlasting life on earth: Adam being put to death as the penalty of his sin, and all his posterity because the germs of the whole race being in Adam's body when he commenced to die, by the natural law of heredity they could only receive what Adam had to give them, which was death and not life.
"These, then, are the controlling facts of man's biological history, a life history which is not paralleled by that of any other animal, namely: the possession of an organism built so as to be capable of running on forever if surrounded by a special environment and supplied with a special food, but separated from his special environment and deprived of his special food by a judicial decree: and the medical profession will fail to solve the problems of pathology and dietetics as long as they ignore these facts. With man every condition is pathological, every environment is unnatural, every article of his diet is abnormal. That the race did not become extinct long ago can only be explained by the history given above.
"The mental condition of man depends upon the physical. There can be no mind without a body. Therefore, man's mind is unsound as the inevitable result of his physical derangement. This is why man, altho endowed with reason, everywhere acts in an irrational manner. Some men are insane, but all men are of unsound mind. There have been only two human beings who possessed perfectly sound minds. One was Adam, but his mental and physical health continued for only a brief period, perhaps not more than one year. The other was Jesus, the Christ. Altho not of Adam's race, he was a perfect human being; perfect mentally as well as physically. Imperfect men who attempt to conform their ideas and their conduct to his perfect standard are said by Paul to have the 'spirit of a sound mind.' It is the highest attainment of depraved humanity to have the spirit or disposition of a sound mind. Puck was fully justified by the facts when he exclaimed, 'What fools these mortals be!' Our weakened and unsound minds can make but little progress towards the truth on medical subjects or any other until we obtain 'the spirit of a sound mind' and endeavor to see man's condition in its true light.
"I do not like to leave this subject without adding that the fall of man was foreseen and provided for in the Plan of God, and he has not changed in the least his purposes to have on earth a Paradise populated by perfect men. At the time appointed that purpose will be accomplished. The race of Adam will share in it, for altho the death sentence has been executed upon them and they have been consigned to the grave, they have been ransomed from the grave and will live again. All in Adam die, but all in Christ will be made alive in the future. [R2536 : page 256]
"I can speak with positiveness on these points, thanks to the light thrown on these hitherto dark questions by that wonderful book, The Plan of the Ages. It is a key to that sublime treasury of facts, the Bible, enabling us to reduce its facts to a system, 'having the completeness of a science, the precision of algebra.' The author's discovery of The Plan of the Ages has done for Bible phenomena what the discovery of the heliocentric character of the solar system did for astronomy. In another generation this will have displaced all other theology and philosophy as completely as the Copernican astronomy has displaced the Ptolemaic."
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL: – Your welcome letter hand. The interest and love which your letters show are a great blessing to me. Praise God for all the lovingkindness he shows me. If I had the ability (and if I were not afraid to weary you and take up your time) I would try to tell you how grateful I feel toward you also.
Concerning the "harvest" work in Sweden: since I first recognized this work, and that the proper time for it is now due, I have, so far as I have been able, been spreading the precious truths with which the Lord through DAWN has honored me, to such as are professedly his people. Have had a number of encouraging experiences in the work, and feel that the Lord is constantly making me more fit for it.
A few days before I started from Stockholm I enjoyed a visit from Bro. Winter. He is helping me greatly by writing me letters, the contents of which gladden my heart. May the Lord bless him! His health is poor, or maybe he would have gone along on this "missionary" trip.
Since I left Stockholm I have sold 89 copies of VOL. I., but only a few copies of the other two; have distributed a good many tracts and have through conversation sought to interest the Lord's people whenever opportunity afforded. I visit preachers and teachers in "Babylon," even the priests of the state church. Pray that the Lord may give me wisdom and in all things be my leader.
Have met with some people who have never heard of M. DAWN, but yet discern something of the true state of affairs in the churches, and hold views in considerable harmony with the DAWN teachings. I met a brother who reads the TOWER. He is deeply interested in the truth. Some who have received the DAWN through me have begun to work to help spread it. A lady of some prominence is acting as my "agent" in Stockholm; also another sister is zealously working in this service.
My stock of books is kept by a firm of merchants, both believers, and personal friends of mine. They forward books as I need them. Have stamped their names on the tracts and books, and they fill all orders for books. The opportunities which I have for doing "harvest" work are many, and the knowledge that these opportunities will soon be gone spurs me on to harder work if possible, in the "harvest" field. God grant that I may have the proper wisdom to make the best of these opportunities as they present themselves.
Up to date I have sold 248 copies of VOL. I., 37 copies of VOL. II. and 27 copies of VOL. III.; total, 312 copies. My "helpers," mentioned above, have sold some, but how many I am not able to say just now.
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL: – Brother Weber was with us Saturday and brought an account of the grand feast you all had at St. Louis. I am in communication with the Trunk Line Association regarding a Philadelphia Convention.
We are getting great blessings from VOL. V., and rejoicing in the light thrown on so many Scriptures. May the dear Lord continue to use you in dispensing such food to us all, is my constant prayer. When you said, at the Boston Convention, that you thought in the next few years a great many would come into the truth after seeing the pronounced unscriptural views of the nominal ministry I was somewhat surprised at first, as I had thought the wheat was pretty well sifted from the denominations, but your reasons were very convincing, and since then I have had many opportunities to note its harmony with the Word and the signs of the times. Corroborative evidence is furnished, I think, in the splendid newspaper accounts of some of the Boston and St. Louis meetings. The account of your discourse in Monday's St. Louis Republican was without a flaw so far as I can recall, and such articles must certainly be intended by the Lord to cause some to search further for the light.
The adversary is also active. The friends in Philadelphia received postals, notifying us that E. C. Mott would speak here. I am so thankful, however, that his erroneous teaching is so well known to the brethren here that it seems most improbable that he could move them from their steadfastness if they heard him. He has for some time been teaching that none are justified but those that are spiritually begotten – basing it upon an erroneous interpretation of 1 John 5:1, and wresting all other Scriptures to suit his theory. It is a terrible thing to be so influenced by a desire to bring out something new that we reject the Old Theology in order to glorify self. I pray for grace and humility that I may not be led away by pride.
Yours in the service of the Truth,