|VOL. XXI.||SEPTEMBER 1, 1900.||No. 17.|
|Views From the Watch Tower||259|
|The Chicago Love Feast||259|
|Southern Presbyterians Disappointed||259|
|Poem: Gather All Thy Children Home||260|
|"Do Ye Even So to Them"||261|
|Is the Golden Rule Incumbent?||262|
|Divine Strength Perfected in Human Weakness||263|
|Watching and Its Reward||268|
|"Be Ye Doers of the Word"||271|
|A View of "Bible House"||272|
'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.
TRACT No. 50 is the German translation of No. 49, "Which Is The True Gospel?" Copies have been sent to our entire list, as usual. You have German friends or neighbors to whom these may be acceptable. Order additional copies as desired.
Friends of the truth residing in the vicinity of Saratoga Springs, N.Y., advise us that a Floral Fete will be held there Sept. 3-6, which will have very low rates of railroad fare from all points in New York and New England. They request a gathering of the friends of that vicinity, – and as many others as can conveniently meet with them on Sept. 4 and 5. The Editor has promised to attend on the 4th, and if possible to remain also the 5th. Purchase Excursion tickets to Floral Fete.
Comfortable accommodations can be secured at one dollar a day including board. Notify the WATCH TOWER office at once by postal card, when you will arrive, by what road, and how many will be of your party. On arrival go at once to the New Prohibition Hall, No. 464½ Broadway. – But first look out for the Reception Committee at the door of the "Ladies' Waiting Room," displaying a copy of the WATCH TOWER.
At all Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society Conventions provision is made for the free entertainment of the Lord's "brethren" able to attend, but unable to pay for hotel accommodations. In notifying us of your coming, mention if the Lord's providence has made it expedient for you to accept the free hospitality.
A LOVE FEAST from beginning to end! This was the public expression of many, and apparently the sentiment of all in attendance. Our Lord surely poured us out a grand spiritual blessing and refreshment. Surely if any went away empty it was in part or in whole his own fault. None of our conventions ever exhibited more love for the Lord and his truth and his brethren. Indeed each succeeding one seems just a little better than its predecessors, however grand they were. And may we not expect this, as we approach nearer and nearer in our journey toward "The General Assembly and Church of the First-borns?" It would be but reasonable that the ripening of the hearts of a larger number should be more and more manifest in the exhibited fruits of the spirit.
It lasted for three days, continuously – except for intermissions for food and rest – and was followed by a colporteurs' session in the interest of those already in that service, or about to enter it.
The attendance was the best we have ever had; – three important items contributing: (1) Chicago's large population and the goodly number already interested in the truth there. (2) The city's central location. (3) The unusually low rates of railroad fare granted from every direction and over all roads. The number in attendance was estimated at between 500 and 600, and of these about 300 were from outside Chicago.
We had a grand time! The Lord be praised! May the blessing so abundantly poured out not only be lasting in its effect upon those who received it, but may it overflow from them upon the brethren at their various homes, and thus become wide-spread. We know well that we had the loving thoughts and earnest prayers of many thousands not privileged to meet with us. Eighty-two symbolized their consecration to death by water baptism (46 brothers, 36 sisters). It was a grand sight, such as is seldom witnessed on earth. We may be sure that our Lord, the great Chief Reaper, and the saints who have already joined him "beyond the vail," and also our guardian angels who continually minister unto those who shall be heirs of salvation, looked upon that scene with deep interest, as did some three hundred brethren in the flesh who were witnesses.
The split between Northern and Southern Presbyterians during the Civil war made of them practically two distinct bodies or denominations. The troubles and suggestions respecting the Confession of Faith have all been amongst the Northern brethren, until lately. However, at the last "General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (South)" a petition was received from the Presbytery of Brazos, Texas, requesting that the Assembly "modify the statements of the Confession regarding the eternal damnation of non-elect infants."
The resolution was strangled in committee which reported adversely to any discussion of the Confession, fearing no doubt that the question once opened never would close. The representatives of the Brazos Presbytery asked an amendment to the Confession reading thus: – "All dying in infancy are elect infants, and [R2687 : page 260] are regenerated," etc., Chapter 10, paragraph 3.
Note now the shrewd but dishonest treatment of that petition (formulated by the committee and adopted by the Assembly) in these words, – "We recommend that the prayer of the overture be declined, inasmuch as the present language of the Confession cannot, by any fair interpretation, be construed as teaching that any of those who die in infancy are lost."
Let us read over this paragraph 3, Chapter 10, of the Confession and see whether or not the Brazos brethren and humanity in general have mis-read it. Here it is: "Elect infants, dying in infancy, are regenerated, and saved by Christ through the Spirit, who worketh when, and where, and how he pleaseth. So also are all other elect persons who are incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word."
If the General Assembly were sincere in averring that in their judgment these words do not teach that there are non-elect infants who dying in infancy are lost, then it follows that these brethren have totally repudiated the doctrine of election taught in other paragraphs of their Confession of Faith. For if all infants are elect, or if the election does not take place until after the period of infancy, then they must deny all that Calvinism stands for in the way of Predestination and Foreordination. Otherwise they would be forced to the position that only elect persons die in infancy and hence must assume that God specially intervenes to prevent the non-elect from dying in infancy, specially supervising the deaths of the millions of infants dying annually from infanticide, lack of care, etc.
But to think of the General Assembly taking any of the above positions would be altogether unreasonable, and hence we are unwillingly forced to think of their resolution as lacking in honesty, lacking in truthfulness, which they no doubt excused on the Jesuitical plea that – It is right to do wrong if thereby you can serve God and the Church. However, the Church is not served by this false statement, even if a sect is thereby held together a little longer. The true Church "whose names are written in heaven," and which will eventually include all the truly "elect" "little flock," is never benefited or served by error or falsehood; but, as our Lord declared, only by the truth – "Sanctify them through thy truth, thy Word is truth." Nor is God served or honored by such false representations of his Word and plan.
Furthermore, the specification of "elect infants" implies that the framers of this Confession had in mind non-elect infants who die in infancy, whose fate they left to be implied by the intelligent reader, who, if he accepted this Westminster Confession as a whole, would believe in elect and non-elect adults, and coupling this with the specifications of the same Confession on predestination would conclude that every non-elect adult must at one time have been a non-elect infant, who dying in infancy would have died non-elect and unregenerated and unsaved by Christ through the spirit who worked not upon them at any time nor anywhere nor anyhow, because he pleased not so to do, they being non-elect.
One would suppose that our dear Presbyterian friends, finding themselves in such inextricable confusion on this doctrine of election, and yet finding much on the subject in the Bible, would be ready, yes anxiously and hungrily waiting for the reasonable Bible-solution of the subject presented in Millennial Dawn. Yet comparatively few of them seem to be so. The only reasonable explanation is that the majority are not sufficiently honest with themselves and with each other, and with God and his Word. They do not sufficiently love the truth – error is preferred. They do not hunger and thirst after right. Hence also the comparatively few who are "sanctified through the truth" – the large number failing to make their calling and election sure, because unsanctified by reason of their false doctrines.
Friends of the cause naturally feel a deep interest in everything connected in any manner with the harvest work. We have frequently been urged to publish the Editor's picture either in the DAWNS or in these columns; but have as persistently refused. It is the truth rather than its servant that should be honored and proclaimed. There is too much disposition to credit truth to the preacher, forgetful that all truth is of God, who uses one or another servant in its proclamation as it may please him.
However, when requested to publish a photo of our work-shop, the "Bible House," we could think of no reasonable objection, and hence it appears on the last page of this issue. The third floor is the chapel in which Sunday and other services are held. On the top floor, centre, is the Editor's study: his usual seat being near the window at the head of the spiral fire escape.
"All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them." – Matt. 7:12.
We would be glad to see the maxim of Confucius received and acted upon throughout the whole world by every creature, and undoubtedly the result would be a great blessing to mankind – a great improvement over present conditions, in which almost everybody except the saints who seek to walk in the footsteps of the Lord are continually doing every day the very things which they would not wish their neighbors to do to them. But even tho so great a reformation could be brought about, it would still leave much to be desired; it would still leave the world far from the condition suggested by our Lord's prayer, "Thy will be done on earth, as it is done in heaven." For men might, through policy or for other reasons, deal justly with each other, refraining from the doing of such things as they would not wish done to them, and with all that their hearts might be very full of selfishness, meanness, covetousness, etc., and very far from the condition of love.
But when we note the comprehensiveness of our Lord's Golden Rule, we find it is absolutely a love-rule; and that it leaves nothing to be desired: nothing could possibly be added to it; it is complete. It is not merely a negative law: "Thou shalt not" do an injury; it is a positive law: "Thou shalt" do good. Thou shalt do thy neighbor all the good, all the kindness, all the service, that thou wouldst have him do to thee. This law, which the Apostle calls "the law of liberty," the perfect law, this Golden Rule for life, has no parallel anywhere, in any writings, and could not possibly have a superior, – a grander sentiment could not possibly be expressed. But how few there are who rightly appreciate and love this rule, and use it daily in the measurement of their own conduct! As already noted, the majority, even of the best people in the world, the vast majority of Christians, fail to discern its lengths and its breadths, and consider it merely an injunction not to do injury to others. How few, then, joyfully and appreciatively grasp its sentiment, and seek from the heart to conform their lives thereto – none but the saints, none but the "elect," we may be sure, are thus in heart-harmony with the essence and spirit of their Heavenly Father's law of Love.
There might be danger of some of the Lord's people using this rule amiss and to their injury, by being overgenerous toward others and not sufficiently careful of themselves; but such instances are very rare, because in our entire race the general result of the fall has been to crowd out love and benevolence, and to fill us with selfishness. So much is this the case that it has become a worldly proverb that "Self-preservation is the first rule of life;" that self is always to be number one, and to be cared for well and thoroughly before others are to be even considered.
Even after we have been begotten of the holy spirit, as new creatures, after the transforming of our minds has begun, we all know from experience that the selfishness of the old nature is so deep-grained that it is likely to hold its own with us to the very end of life. We have, however, known of some who, in their desire to conform themselves fully to the Lord's will, have taken an extreme view of this Golden Rule, and have understood it as tho it said, "Thou shalt do to thy neighbor as he shall wish thee to do to him" – not noticing that this would be a very different rule, and one which might operate very unfavorably in every way. While few are in danger of making a mistake in this direction, many are inclined to reason on the matter from this standpoint, and to say: We could not possibly carry out this Golden Rule in the ordinary affairs of life, because, for instance, if I were to do to my neighbor as I should wish him to do to me, I should sell him a five-dollar pair of shoes for one dollar; or a twenty-dollar suit of clothes for five dollars; or what he might want of wheat or oats at half the usual price. And if I adopted such a rule with one, I should properly adopt it with all, and this would soon mean bankruptcy in my business; so, evidently, the Golden Rule cannot be used in human affairs at the present time.
But we answer that this is a mistaken view of the Golden Rule, and whoever examines it should see that the difficulty probably lies in the selfishness of his own heart. He thinks his neighbor might expect goods at less than cost, because he thinks that he himself would be willing to receive goods at less than cost from his neighbor. The application of the Golden Rule should show him his difficulty; should teach him [R2688 : page 262] the lesson that when he goes to his neighbor to buy shoes he must do to his neighbor as he would that his neighbor should do to him: he must pay his neighbor a reasonable price for his shoes; a reasonable, living profit. And likewise in every other transaction: the Golden Rule teaches us that we should be willing to pay the farmer for his produce, and the manufacturer for his, as we would think just if we were the manufacturer and making the sale. Likewise, if we were making the sale, we should not think of charging our customers a larger profit than we would think reasonable if they were the sellers and we the customers. Whoever of the Lord's people, therefore, gets thoroughly into the way of using this Golden Rule in all of life's affairs will certainly find that it will elevate their conceptions of justice, righteousness, equity; and these godlike qualities will become more and more developed in them, as parts of their characters, until they will obey them not merely because of their harmony with the Master's Golden Rule, but because they will recognize their true beauty and grandeur, and because their hearts will be in harmony with them.
But this rule, while thus inculcating justice, goes beyond this and inculcates benevolence; – such benevolence and so much of it as we, with properly balanced minds would be disposed to ask of others if we were the ones in need, in straits. O how grandly rounded out in spiritual character would all of the Lord's true saints become, under the influence of this Golden Rule! It would not only affect the actions of life, making them first just toward all with whom they had dealings, then, benevolently disposed toward all needing their assistance to whatever degree they were able to render assistance without doing injury to others, – and, additionally, the same law in force would extend also to their every word. Under the regulations of this golden measurement how few bitter or angry or slanderous words would be used – for how few would like to have others use such to or of them – to speak to them in anger and with bitterness and rancor, or to slander them. No wonder the Apostle tells us that those who have put on Christ must put off all these – anger, malice, hatred, strife, envy, slanders, etc. Additionally, this Golden Rule would lead to kind words, gentle actions, considerate demeanor; for who would not wish such from his neighbor? As the Apostle again declares, we are to put on as Christian graces, – gentleness, meekness, patience, longsuffering, brotherly kindness, love. – Col. 3:8-10,12-15.
This Golden Rule, beginning with the outward actions, and progressing to our words, would very quickly extend to our thoughts; and as we would not wish to have others think ungenerously or meanly of us, nor put a bad construction on our every act of life, but would rather that they would view our words and deeds generously and lovingly, so we in turn would [R2689 : page 262] find, that under the influence of this Golden Rule, our thoughts of others would become more generous, more noble, less suspicious, etc.
This Golden Rule is assuredly the divine law which our dear Redeemer expressed in other words at another time, saying, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." We may safely consider, therefore, that the one rule interprets the other, and that to love our neighbor as ourselves signifies that we should love him and do for him as we ourselves would wish him to love us and to do for us. And we could not understand it to mean more than this. God expects of us that we will make reasonable provision for ourselves and for those for whom, by legal or natural ties, we are responsible – our families, our relatives, as the Apostle says: "He that provideth not for his own, and especially they of his own house, hath denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." – 1 Tim. 5:8.
Evidently, therefore, our own households are our first charge and responsibility, and must have reasonable attention before we could hope to do for our neighbors. This would indeed be putting a difference between our neighbor and ourselves, and between our neighbor's family and our own family, but the matter is well adjusted by the Golden Rule, rightly interpreted, which requires of us that we shall do for our neighbor, in his want and extremity, as we would have him do for us, were we in his circumstances and he in ours. And our minds being leveled up to a plane of justice, we should expect that if we were in distress our neighbor would first make reasonable provision for his own family, and not give to us to the injury or deprivation of those more immediately and more closely dependent upon him.
But some one may inquire: Is it necessary for us as Christians to attempt to carry out this Golden Rule in our daily lives? When we see that very few even of Christian people appreciate the rule, or to any extent seek to carry it out, may we not consider that it is a very good rule, but that its observance is not made incumbent upon us, and that our attainment of eternal life and heavenly glory are not linked with the observance of this Golden Rule? May we not consider it rather as a good standard to have in mind as the perfect law, but consider that we are not to live up to that standard in any sense of the word?
We answer that this Golden Rule was the one by which our dear Redeemer's every action was measured, the one according to which he lived, and under [R2689 : page 263] which he laid down his life on our behalf, and it is essential to and incumbent upon all those who would be his disciples, his followers. All who hope to become his joint-heirs in the Kingdom are required to walk in his footsteps as he set us an example (1 Pet. 2:21), or, as another Apostle declares, God has foreordained to have an elect Church to be joint-heirs in the Kingdom with Christ, but he has equally foreordained that none shall ultimately be acceptable as members of that glorified Church except such as shall, in the present life, become copies of God's dear Son, our Lord Jesus: and to copy him means to copy the Golden Rule, which was exemplified in him and in his course. It follows, therefore, that whoever expects to share the Kingdom must give diligence to the formation of character, and that this Golden Rule is necessary in such formation of character – to develop in us not the principles of equity, or justice only, but also the spirit of love, of unselfishly doing good to others. – Rom. 8:29.
But here again comes in the question, How can those who by nature are fallen and imperfect, and full of inherited selfishness and meanness, ever hope to keep this Golden Rule, which is the full measure of a perfect man's obedience, and which, with all his well-doing and sacrificing, was not more than fulfilled by our Lord Jesus himself? How could we hope to be approved as keepers of this Golden Rule, in the sight of him who can read, not only the outward conduct, but also the thoughts and intents of our hearts?
We answer that here comes to our relief the gracious arrangement which God has provided for this Gospel age, viz., justification by faith. Our justification not only covers "the sins that are past" (Rom. 3:25), and makes us acceptable to God in Christ, so that we can offer ourselves as living sacrifices upon his altar, but, more than this, it stands with us all the way down the journey of life, and according to God's grace in Christ it compensates for, or makes up for us all of our unintentional deficiencies, so that, as the Apostle says, "The righteousness of the Law [expressed in the Golden Rule] is fulfilled in us who walk not after the flesh but after the spirit." – Rom. 8:4.
Since we are not all alike fallen, not all alike selfish, it follows that some walk much nearer to the spirit of the divine Law, attain much closer to the measurement required by the Golden Rule, than can others; yet no fallen creature can walk fully up to the requirements of the Golden Rule, so long as handicapped by the various weaknesses of the flesh: and here the grace of God in Christ makes up our deficiencies; those who are able to follow the pattern most closely are still far from following it absolutely, and consequently need to have the merit of the precious blood of Christ imputed to them to make up for their shortcomings; and those who are still more fallen, and who, with their very best efforts, are still further from measuring up to the grand standard of the Golden Rule, need that much more of God's grace to compensate for their deficiencies. Hence the Apostle declares that where sin and imperfection abound the most, there God's grace correspondingly abounds the more; so that to those who are in Christ and seek to walk in his footsteps, who are in their hearts measuring themselves with the Golden Rule, and seeking to the best of their ability to live up to its requirements, may be succeeding variously in their endeavors, from the worldly standpoint; but from the divine standpoint all such are reckoned as having their blemishes fully covered with the merit of our dear Redeemer's sacrifice, and that therefore the righteousness of the Law, its true meaning, its spirit, and the true measure of the Golden Rule, is reckoned as fulfilled in them to divine acceptance, – perfectly.
But it is not merely to have this Golden Rule thus reckonedly fulfilled in us for a day or for a week or for a month that counts us "overcomers," but that we shall faithfully continue to walk as closely in the Lord's footsteps as we may be able, faithfully continuing to use his Golden Rule to the best of our ability; and that we shall do this day by day and year by year with continued and increasing zeal, until our Master, watching the process of development of character, shall say, It is enough; the character is fixed; the love for righteousness is permanent and thoroughly developed; the spirit of love is indelibly marked, and altho there still remain in the flesh traces of selfishness, yet they are dim and faint in comparison with the original mark, and give good evidence of victory gained, not in the flesh, but in the heart, in the will.
"They shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels." – Mal. 3:17.
Undoubtedly the Golden Rule has, to a considerable extent, exercised an influence over even worldly people (nominal Christians), where such have come more in contact with the true saints who endeavor with more or less zeal to recognize and to use the Golden Rule in the measurement of their daily conduct, without their being keepers of it as a rule, or even professing so to do. And even amongst Christians who have given themselves to the Lord, and who fully desire that his will in every particular shall be done in them, [R2689 : page 264] and who recognize this Golden Rule as a grand expression of the divine will, we believe there are serious misapprehensions respecting the proper manner of its use. For instance, among the noblest of the Lord's people are some who say, We will turn our backs on society and worldly enjoyments, and devote what time we have at our disposal to the improvement of the fallen – to moral reforms, social reforms, financial reforms, the reforming of drunkards, etc. And still others, imbued with the same spirit, and with the same desire to fulfil this Golden Rule, say, We will leave home and friends, and go into far-off lands as missionaries, to preach Christ to the heathen.
We are bound to appreciate such noble sentiments, whether we can agree with the conclusions as to methods of work, etc., or not. We love the noble principle which, if not in every instance, at least in many cases, lies at the foundation of such sacrifices of time, influence, convenience, etc.: it is an outworking of the Golden Rule in these dear friends, saying to themselves and to others, If we were in the slums or in heathen degradation, we should wish that some of God's children would come to us, to lift us up and enlighten us, and hence we should do so to others, even as we would, if our conditions were altered, that they should do to us.
This is sound reasoning and a proper application of the Golden Rule, and yet also, we believe, a mistaken or wrong one. One of the first lessons that the Christian is called upon to learn in the School of Christ is, that his judgment is defective; that not only our physical powers have degenerated through the fall, but that likewise our mental powers have suffered; so that the whole world today is not only unsound of body, but also unsound of mind, unsound of judgment. [R2690 : page 264] The primary lessons of God's children in the school of Christ are to the effect that we all lack wisdom, and that for this very reason he has provided his Book, the Bible, – "that the man of God may be thoroughly furnished." – 2 Tim. 3:16,17.
We are taught in the Book that the work of salvation is one too great for humanity itself, and that therefore God has undertaken the work; we are taught that he has not left the matter to operate itself at random, neither has he left it to our imperfect judgments and puny efforts: we are taught that the great Savior of the world planned his work "from the foundation of the world," and yet that it was four thousand years and more before he took the first great step for its accomplishment, namely, the giving of his Son to be the redemption price of Adam and his race (1 Pet. 1:20); we are taught that having begun this work of salvation God has not abandoned it, and does not intend to abandon it, but that eventually "he shall bring forth judgment [trial] unto victory;" – and that eventually our Lord Jesus shall see the fruit of the travail of his soul on man's behalf, and shall be satisfied; – that eventually the knowledge of the Lord shall fill the whole earth, and all shall know him from the least to the greatest; that eventually he shall bring in everlasting righteousness, so that the time shall ultimately come when all the families of the earth shall be blessed with the knowledge of God's goodness and grace, and with an opportunity to benefit thereby; that eventually whosoever will not obey the great Prophet-King shall be cut off from amongst the people in the Second Death; that eventually there shall be no more dying, no more sighing, no more crying, no more pain there, because the former things of Adamic sin and its penalty and blight shall have been done away. – Isa. 14:24,27; 55:11; Matt. 12:20; Isa. 53:11; 11:9; Jer. 31:34; Acts 3:19-23; Rev. 21:3,4.
But many of God's dear people overlook these gracious provisions and promises of his Word, and partaking to a considerable extent of the spirit of love they forget that God's love is still greater than their own, even as God's wisdom is greater than theirs; hence they lose sight of the fact that the entire plan of salvation is of God, and that he has not abandoned it to others, but will carry it out himself in his own due time. It is because they forget this that they become burdened with the weight of responsibility, and feel as tho the salvation of the world rested upon themselves, – and, impressed with this feeling of self-importance and forgetfulness of God's Word, they go into the mission work, slum work, and to the heathen. They forget, and are greatly disadvantaged by so doing, that God has already declared, "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my plans higher than your plans, and my ways higher than your ways." – Isa. 55:8,9.
As a consequence of this oversight and misdirection of effort, these dear friends are doing works now which God intends shall be done in a future age, and which can and will be done then to very much better advantage every way. God has appointed the Millennial age for this work of lifting up the weak, opening the blind eyes of the barbarians, and unstopping their dull ears to hear the message of divine grace. God has appointed that when his time for this great work, in which he is more interested than any of his creatures possibly could be, will come, the conditions will be favorable to the success of his plan, which he guarantees us will succeed, and will bring blessing to all the families of the earth, and will enlighten every man born into the world. – Gal. 3:16,29; John 1:9; Acts 3:19-21.
God's Word informs those who seek his counsel, [R2690 : page 265] that at that time Satan shall be bound so that he may deceive the nations no more, as he is now doing (Rev. 20:1-3): that during that period of Satan's restraint those whom he now blinds (2 Cor. 4:4) with various false doctrines, sophistries, superstitions, etc., will be freed from these, and have the eyes and ears of their understanding opened. It informs us also, that at that time he will establish as the King over all the earth his honored agent, who gave his life as a ransom for mankind; and that our Lord Jesus will establish the Kingdom of God amongst men, a Kingdom not merely in name, but also in power and in fact; one which shall rule the world, forcibly putting down sin, oppression, ignorance, superstition, darkness; and raising up righteousness, truth, and every good principle and influence for the blessing and uplifting of those whom he purchased with his precious blood. It informs us that under his beneficent reign all evil shall be subdued, that even death shall be conquered: and that all mankind, freed from the Adamic sentence of death, may, if they will, then attain unto eternal life and full human perfection, and that only the wilful sinners against light and opportunity will be utterly destroyed in the Second Death. – 1 Cor. 15:24-28; 2 Thess. 1:8,9; Acts 3:23.
The same Word instructs us that the Lord's plan for the present age does not purpose the conversion of the world; nor its salvation in any sense of the word; nor its uplifting; but that his plan, on the contrary, is simply the development of the Church, the foreordained and predestinated number, a "little flock," who must all be selected from amongst men, and every one of them be copies of God's dear Son. (Rom. 8:29.) It also informs us that this work of God in this age is the work in which we are invited to be co-workers together with God. It points out to us that this is the work of the Bride – to make herself ready for the marriage (Rev. 19:7); that the special work in this present time consists not only in the "calling" of the Church, but also in the building up of one another, among the called ones, in the most holy faith; – helping one another to perfect holiness in the reverence of the Lord, – showing us that a large part of our work is in our own hearts, cleansing ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and of the spirit, helping one another to make our calling and our election sure, by perfecting in our hearts the Golden Rule. – 2 Cor. 7:1; Jude 20.
But overlooking the particular service marked out for those who would be co-workers with God in this age, our dear friends, now criticised, misuse their Golden Rule, by applying it outside of the class for which the Lord intended it in this age. It will be applicable to all the heathen world and the sub-stratum of society in the Millennial age, but now it is applicable chiefly to the household of faith. True, if we could accomplish all that the Lord would have us accomplish for the household of faith, it would then be very proper for us to extend our efforts to the heathen and lower strata of society, rather than to sit down in idleness; but so far from finding that we have not enough to engage our time in the household of faith, we find that we are in the harvest-time of the age, and that the harvest is great and the laborers are few, and that there is much more than enough to engage all our time and energies among the "brethren" whom the Lord our God has called. Hence the Golden Rule calls us to be exercised chiefly amongst these, and not amongst those whom the Lord our God has not yet called, but who are left, in the divine plan, for a calling and blessing of another kind in the next age – the Millennial age.
Looking back we see that our dear Master, who gave the Golden Rule, observed it in the manner we are now advocating. Living in the end of the Jewish age, and knowing that the divine favors and blessings at that time were confined to fleshly Israel, our Lord, with a full appreciation of the Golden Rule, nevertheless used it in strict harmony with the Father's plan; and accordingly instructed his twelve apostles also, saying, "Go ye not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not; for I am not sent save to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." (Matt. 10:5,6; 15:24,26.) Likewise the apostles understood that while, at the death of Christ, the middle wall of partition, which had heretofore separated divine favor from other nations, was now broken down, so that, so far as God was concerned, the Gospel message was open to every creature, – nevertheless, that every creature had not open ears for the Gospel, and that according to the Lord's plan he would not open their ears until his due time, the Millennial age, and hence it was that the apostles sought for the class to whom the present message, the high calling for the Church, was intended, – "He that hath an ear, let him hear."
Pursuing this policy of searching for those who had ears to hear, the Apostle Paul, sent by the Lord to be the great messenger of grace to the Gentiles, did not say within himself (as some of our dear missionary friends seem to say within themselves), I will seek out the most illiterate and degraded people in the world, that I may lift them up. Had this been the Apostle's sentiment he doubtless would have hastened, with his coadjutors, southward from Jerusalem into darkest Africa, or eastward from Jerusalem into India, with its hundreds of millions, and still further eastward into China, with its hundreds of millions, in utter ignorance of God and steeped in superstition. [R2691 : page 266] But the Apostle had made a better study of the divine plan, and knew that the times of restitution, the Millennial age, was set apart by God for this general uplift of mankind; and that it would be a waste of effort to undertake to do that work in advance of God's cooperation; in advance of his time and in advance of his arrangements, which his wisdom foresaw would be necessary to the accomplishment of that work.
The Apostle reasoned, on the contrary, "God hath appointed a day in the which he will judge the world in righteousness" (Acts 17:31), and that appointed day is a future day, the Millennial day; and if God has appointed that day to be the time for the world's judgment, it would be folly on my part to attempt to bring in a judgment of the world sooner than God intends it, even if I were able to do so. He reasoned, further, that if God has appointed a future day for judging the world in general, then the world in general is not on trial or under judgment in the present Gospel day, and hence might just as well be left in their heathen darkness a little longer, as God already had left them in heathen darkness for more than four thousand years; – and he reasoned wisely, logically. He was instructed of the Lord, and hence he had the spirit of a sound mind, and did not attempt to do an utterly impossible and hence a foolish thing. He did not attempt to be either wiser or more loving than the Heavenly Father, but trusting to the Heavenly Father's wisdom and love he sought to know the will of God now, in this present age, that he might thus be an ambassador for God and a co-worker together with him.
Nor was he left in darkness. He was instructed of the Lord, and he in turn instructs us, that the work of the present age is the work of preparing the judges of the world, who, when the great day of the world's judgment or trial shall have dawned, will be prepared to execute judgment and justice in the world, and to bless with a righteous rule all the families of the earth. He informs us that the saints now being tried (judged), tested and developed in character are undergoing this severe process, and are required to walk in the "narrow way," to the intent that they may be fit to be instruments of God for judging the world in righteousness when the due time for that judgment shall have come. (1 Cor. 6:2,3.) Consequently, we find that the Apostle's energies, so far from being directed to the substratum of society, the heathen and the barbarians, were directed to the very opposite class. He sought the best people in the world; the most moral people and the most intelligent; the people most advanced in every sense of the word – believing, and rightly, that the reasonable and gracious plan of God would commend itself better to such than to the sodden and benighted and stupefied and degraded minds of the barbarian heathen. Conservatively, the Apostle first sought the intelligent classes of Asia Minor, and after having gone through various cities (not attempting nor expecting to convert the people en masse, but merely hoping, in harmony with the divine program, to find a few, a little flock, and to establish these in principles of righteousness and in the School of Christ, to learn of him and to develop character, and to be prepared for the future work of judgeship and joint-heirship with Christ in the Kingdom) – the Apostle pressed on to find still others who had "ears to hear."
The declaration of the Scriptures is that he and his company purposed to go into Asia, but that under divine providence he seemed to be hindered from going there, and that then God specially directed him in a dream, and sent him into Europe with the message – sending him, not to barbarians, but to the most enlightened and most cultured people of the then civilized world, the people of Greece. (Acts 16:7-10.) And we remember that later on the Lord sent the Apostle to Rome, telling him in advance that this was his purpose, and seemingly in order to keep the Apostle in Rome he was sent there a prisoner, yet for three years was permitted to have full liberty to preach Christ to as many as had ears to hear. And let us not forget a circumstance which occurred in connection with the journey to Rome, when the Apostle was shipwrecked on the Island of Mileta. (Acts 28:1-10.) He found there a people who, so far as we are able to judge, were on the average better prepared for the truth than the Chinese, Malays, etc., and of these the record says, "The barbarians showed us no little kindness." We might suppose that barbarians who were disposed to be kind and generous to people who were shipwrecked on their coast, would be a rather more favorable class to approach with the gospel of Christ than cannibals, to whom missionaries of to-day frequently go.
And yet what do we find as the result of the Apostle's stay in the midst of that people all that winter? Do we read that he left several flourishing little missions? Do we read that he preached day and night unto the barbarians? Not a word of it; no mention is made of the slightest effort to reach them. The Apostle seemingly knew that they were too degraded to have any ear to hear the Christian message, or to be called with the high calling which God during this age is sending forth, to gather the Bride for his Son. We have every reason to believe that the Apostle made no effort whatever to make known the Gospel of Christ to those heathen people. Quite possibly while he was there forcibly detained in their midst, and unable to reach those who would have an ear to hear the good [R2691 : page 267] tidings, he may have attempted to suggest to them certain moral reforms, or how to live more comfortably, or something else that would come within the range of their measure of intelligence. But apparently he had no thought whatever that the gospel "High Calling" was for such, and hence the Golden Rule, operating in his life and governing his conduct, was limited accordingly – limited to act in harmony with the divine revelation and the divine plan.
Why is it that the example of Jesus and his inspired apostles is overlooked by so many of our dear Christian friends to-day? Why is it that they use their Golden Rule without respect to the divine plan and divine promise? We answer, It is because some of them are leaning to their own understanding, instead of seeking the divine Word, and to be taught of God; they think they know what ought to be done without inquiring of God's Word, and they are going about to do what they think should be done, rather than seeking to follow heaven's directions and Apostolic example. Many of them, indeed, are not self-conceited to the extent of being careless respecting advice; indeed, many of them are quite lacking in thought on their own part, and only too willing and too anxious to take advice of others; but they are not sufficiently careful where they get the advice.
They say to themselves, We belong to the Presbyterian body: look at its millions; look at its education; look at its influence. Or, We belong to the Methodist body: look at its numbers, influence, etc., etc. The same is true of the others. And then they ask, Is it possible that all these wise and learned men should be mistaken? Do they not all advocate that we should thus go out to preach the gospel amongst the heathen? Yes, we answer; this is a part of the delusion: many of the great and worldly-wise have adopted a theory, and are attempting to operate the Golden Rule wholly outside of and in utter neglect of the divine plan. Their theory is that God's Kingdom has come, and they point to the civilized nations of Europe and America as evidences and proofs that God's Kingdom has come, and they say, What all zealous Christians should now do is to convert the Chinese nation, the Japanese nation, India, and all the tribes of the earth, that these also may become Christian nations like those of Europe and America, and thus the whole world will become God's Kingdom.
But we answer, This is false, utterly false; the nations of Europe and America are not God's Kingdom, notwithstanding the fact that they claim to be Christian nations, and that they put upon their coins that their monarchs reign by the grace of God. They are all, at best and at most, "kingdoms of this world," under the control of Satan, "the prince of this world." (John 14:30.) These are the kingdoms which at the advent of Christ's Kingdom he declares shall be broken in pieces as a potter's vessel, as being utterly unfit for his service, and utterly out of harmony with the principles of righteousness which will be established in his Kingdom. – Rev. 2:26,27; Dan. 2:45.
Alas! if these kingdoms of so-called Christendom be the fulfilment of our dear Redeemer's prayer which he taught us as his disciples, "Thy Kingdom come; thy will be done on earth as it is done in heaven" – if we must accept these as God's Kingdom, if we must think of their rule as being God's will done on earth as it is done in heaven – then some of us are greatly disappointed, for we find that God's will is very little done on earth, and consequently heaven, if no better than this, must be a pandemonium in comparison to what we had hoped for.
But we are not mistaken; the Lord's Word everywhere teaches that the present Gospel age is for the selection of the Kingdom class, the saints, who by and by, in God's due time, shall be joint-heirs with Christ in his Kingdom, and inheritors with him of the great promises made to Father Abraham, that this seed, Christ (head and body – Gal. 3:16,29), shall bless all the families of the earth, as God's Kingdom bringing in everlasting righteousness. Would to God that we could assist to some extent in opening the blinded eyes of Christendom on this subject: and yet we could not hope to render any assistance to the general mass of churchianity, – for it is the divine plan that not the "tares," but only the "wheat," shall now understand. – Dan. 12:10; 1 Thes. 5:3-5.
All we can hope for is that those who are the Lord's true saints are not, and never have been, fully [R2692 : page 267] satisfied with the position in which they are, and the work which they are doing; but realize a heart-hunger for something better, more satisfactory, and more in harmony with the divine character and power – that these who have ears, and who have already heard to some extent the true gospel, might now hear the true ring of the Shepherd's voice, and thus be called away from Babylon and its confusion of error, its jargon of contradiction and insincerity, to the green pastures and still waters of divine truth – present truth – that thus separated (delivered from Babylon's bondage) they might be more fully united with the Shepherd himself, and become co-workers together with God in his work, learning to exercise the Golden Rule in their own hearts, in their own lives, and to help others of the household of faith and the Bride of Christ to do the same.
Nor are we to overlook the fact that while the present Gospel message is for the highest types of men, it appeals specially to the middle class of these – the humble but intelligent rather than the rich or great. "Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight." – Matt. 11:25,26.
GOLDEN TEXT: – "Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation." – Matt. 26:41.
Our Golden Text suggests, however, that more than praying is necessary. Praying that does not fully represent the sentiments of the heart is apt very quickly to degenerate into a mere form of words – drawing nigh to the Lord with the lips while the heart is far from him, – perhaps enwrapped in business or pleasure or sin. Whoever, therefore, would make progress in the spiritual way must not only pray with the spirit and with the understanding, but he must also watch – against the sinful tendencies of his own flesh – self-gratification, selfishness; also against the allurements of the world toward so-called worldly pleasures, worldly ambitions, honor amongst men, the love of money, etc.; also against the wiles of the Adversary, whose deceitful attacks usually come upon the Lord's people as "an angel of light" – to deceive them into forms and ceremonies of Churchianity, substituting before the mind and affections and consecrated intentions, human sentiments and methods and works and objectives, as instead of "the hope set before us in the Gospel" (Col. 1:23) and its various exceeding great and precious promises, by whose incentive the Lord has called us to walk and to run, by faith and not by sight, following in the footsteps of our Redeemer.
Our lesson itself deals particularly with the watching; but in harmony with the Golden Text we know that all true watchers must also be prayers, and that all fervent prayers will also be watchers. Prayer represents the faith; watching represents the works which must accompany it, so long as it is a living faith; for, as the Apostle declares, Faith without works is dead – it speedily loses its vitality, its value, its very existence.
A wealthy householder is represented as absent for a considerable portion of the night at a wedding-feast, and expecting on his return that the servants of the household would be awake and alert to receive him and any company he might bring with him. It was expected of such servants that they would not only not retire to bed, but that they would not even get drowsy. To give their master a proper reception they should be thoroughly awake, quick to hear and to respond to his knock, and to "open unto him immediately." Hence, in the parable, such servants are represented as having their loins girt about and their lamps burning brightly. The custom of Orientals at that time was to wear long, loose, flowing robes. These, when they were resting, were loosened at the girdle, but when attending to business they were drawn tightly at the waist with a girdle or belt, preventing them from interfering with proper service. Lamps, which were the mode of illumination, were also necessary in the night, and should not be permitted to grow dim, but be trimmed as necessity required.
Our Lord points out that such faithful servants would be appreciated by their master, and that he would give them a reward – he would honor them by treating them as his friends, and bring forth to them of the good things from his pantry. He would indeed gird himself as a servant and serve these faithful ones: and for the master of the house to do this would imply the bringing forth of the very best that he possessed. But in order to fulfil the conditions and be thus acceptable to their master they must be ready in whatever hour of the night he might come.
The parable, without question, refers to the second coming of our Lord Jesus, and points out to all of his faithful servants the proper attitude of watchfulness and preparation to receive him at whatever time his second advent should occur. It also indicates that it was the Lord's good pleasure not to reveal definitely and positively to his people when to expect his arrival, but rather that all the way down through this night-time which we designate the Gospel age, and which must necessarily precede the morning of the Millennial day, they should be continually awake, alert, waiting for him, ready to receive him at any moment. They should have the loins of their minds girt up and be active in thought, in word and in deed, in every matter pertaining to the Master's service, that they might be approved of him; – the lamp of the divine Word, so necessary to their enlightenment, should be with them, and well supplied with the oil of the holy spirit – and well trimmed, in the sense of rightly dividing the word of truth, and seeking to understand through it their proper attitude of heart and conduct, to be pleasing to their Master. [R2692 : page 269]
The parable is a very simple one, and could scarcely be misapprehended by the class for whom all parables are intended – the consecrated Church. These realize at once that the central thought with them, as the Lord's servants, must be such readiness of heart and mind and character as will be pleasing to the Master when he shall come to gather his "jewels," – his watching, faithful servants. This thought of the return of the Lord, and of the blessings which he has promised to his faithful ones at that time, is the great incentive set before the called ones of this Gospel age. It is for the Master's favor and the consequent exaltation with him to a share in his Kingdom, then to be established, and a share in the great work of blessing the world of mankind, then to be accomplished, that all of the saints are seeking, watching, praying, striving.
Well has the Apostle said, "He that hath this hope in him purifieth himself even as he [the looked-for Master] is pure." It is this hope that leads the faithful servants continually to the lamp of the divine Word, to trim it and to thereby keep themselves thoroughly awake, quick of ear and quick of eye in respect to any and every thing relating to the will of the expected Master, and such conditions of heart-purity and robes of righteousness as would be pleasing and acceptable in his sight at his arrival.
Let all watchers fully appreciate this parable, and be on guard against every ensnarement of the Adversary, and against the stupefying influence of the world and its spirit, and against the selfishness and weaknesses of his own flesh; and let each put on the graces of the spirit, and assist his fellow-servants in these preparations, that thus an entrance may be ministered to him into the everlasting Kingdom of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. – 2 Pet. 1:4-12.
What great blindness and spiritual stupor respecting so simple a parable is manifested by many who are regarded as teachers in nominal Zion, in respect to this lesson! Note the interpretation of it offered by one of the leading "Helps to Sunday School teachers." The writer evidently is not so blind as to fail to see that the parable relates in some manner to the second coming of our Lord; but he is so blinded by misconceptions, [R2693 : page 269] false doctrines, etc., as to give the following as an explanation: –
"The comings of the Lord are ever unexpected to us, – his coming at death, his coming to judge the world, his coming in his Kingdom, his coming in the harvest-times of men, his coming in the crises of our lives, his coming with opportunities and open doors, his coming with the power of the holy spirit."
This blind teacher thus believes in seven comings of Christ, additional to his first coming eighteen centuries ago. More than this, the words we quote signify that the writer believes that a coming of Christ occurs every time a death occurs (or possibly he limited this to the death of his saints; but other teachers of the same school of darkness, when preaching funeral sermons, are accustomed to announce the Lord's coming in the death, not only of saints, but of pretty nearly everybody). This writer further claims a coming of Christ in all the crises as well as in all the opportunities of human life. He evidently believes (may we not say, dreams? – he surely is not awake, and surely his lamp is not trimmed and burning, nor the loins of his mind girt about) that there are millions of comings of Christ. Moreover, speaking (in his dreams) as a mouthpiece of the great Adversary, he speaks of the harvest-time of men – evidently to direct attention away from the Master's explanation that the harvest-time will be "the end of this age," in the which he himself will be the great Chief Reaper, and will associate with him his faithful servants in the work of gathering the wheat (his faithful) into his barn (the spiritual condition). – Matt. 13:30.
Note another method of wresting the Scriptures, and of attracting the minds of the Lord's people away from the great truth everywhere set forth in the Scriptures, and particularly enunciated in this parable, viz., the second coming of our Lord as King, and the duty of all his faithful ones to be ready, expecting and joyously waiting for that event. This perversion and wresting of the Scriptures is in the interest of temperance, and represents the watching as implying temperance work, thus: "Not only those who are laboring and praying for temperance reform, but the young people especially, should be wide awake and watchful in regard to temperance. They should watch the effect of strong drink upon others. They should watch its effect upon the community. They should be on their guard against the smallest beginnings of the habit of using intoxicating liquors. They should watch for opportunities of helping on the cause of temperance by word and by example, in public and in private."
Is it any wonder we hear the Master prophesy respecting the unfaithfulness amongst his professed people at this time, saying, "When the Son of Man cometh, shall he find the faith on the earth?" The form of the question implies the answer, No; he will not find the faith flourishing in the earth, – not predominating. Other Scriptures, however, assure us that at the time of his coming he will find a little flock of faithful watchers – not many great, wise or learned, but chiefly "the poor of this world, rich in faith, heirs of the Kingdom." As for Babylon in general, she is saying, with louder voice than ever, Have we not done! done! done! Are we not rich and increased in goods! Are we not compassing sea and land to make proselytes! [R2693 : page 270]
But the Master will say, Thou art poor and blind and miserable and naked, and knowest it not! (Rev. 3:17.) Thy colleges, of which thou dost boast, are they not the very hot-beds of infidelity, denying my Word – denying that my work was perfect in the beginning, and that present conditions of sin and degradation and death are the penalties of violation of my righteous law; denying also the value of my sacrifice for sins, given that the heavenly Father might be just and yet the justifier of him that believeth in me; denying that holy men of old spake and wrote as they were moved by the holy spirit, and claiming a superior wisdom as "higher critics," by which they determine that myself and my chosen and inspired apostles were ignorant and incompetent and deceived, when we quoted the words of the prophets and applied them; denying also my second coming, to gather my little flock, the Church, to associate them with me in the Kingdom promised through the prophets, which shortly shall bless all the families of the earth; claiming, on the contrary, that all things continue as they were from the beginning, – that a process of evolution is in progress, and that no Redeemer, no redemption and no restitution are necessary – some of them going so far as to claim that no personal deity is necessary, but that what they call the laws of evolution are the creator, preserver and savior of the race.
Is it any wonder that under such false teachings in high places, and the same teachings repeated with more or less of ability throughout the length and breadth of Babylon – is it any wonder that my people are "perishing for lack of knowledge"? (Hos. 4:6.) They have "hidden the key of knowledge," and not only fail to enter into the privileges and opportunities of this Gospel age and its call, but them that would enter in they hinder by their false teachings and misrepresentations, putting darkness for light, and light for darkness. – Luke 11:52; 2 Pet. 2:1; 3:3,4; Amos 8:11; Matt. 23:13; Isa. 5:20.
Alas! that any whose eyes of understanding have been opened in any degree should be deluded into supposing that he can do God service by cooperating with Babylon in any measure, sense or degree. Surely they are under the blinding and stupefying influence of the Adversary when they do not hear sharply and distinctly the Lord's message to all of his true people at this time, to come out of Babylon and be not partakers of her sins, her errors, her false teachings, and the crime implied in these, and on account of which severe scourgings are coming upon Babylon, and will fall with special severity upon those who had known better, and who for any reason have refused to obey the voice of him that speaketh from heaven – our present Lord, King, Bridegroom. – Heb. 12:25-27; Rev. 18:4.
Our Lord applied the parable in few words, saying, "Be ye, therefore, ready also, for the Son of Man cometh at an hour that ye think not." That is to say, watchfulness for the great event of the King's return would be absolutely indispensable, and would constitute a mark or indication of those worthy to be called true servants or "brethren." We are not to make the mistake of supposing our Lord to mean, Watch incessantly, for you will not know when I do come. This would be an absurdity. The central thought of the parable is that the faithful servants, awake and watching at the proper time, will hear the knock, will recognize the Lord's presence, will open to him, in the sense of believing and accepting his presence, and will be rewarded by him in the time of his presence by being supplied special knowledge respecting heavenly things which would be "meat in due season" to their comfort and joy. All who are faithfully watching shall know when the event occurs, so surely as those who do not watch shall not know.
The Apostle Paul speaks of this same great event and of the same class of watchers, designating them brethren; and after explaining that the second coming of our Lord would be upon the world as a thief and a snare, and that the world will not escape certain trouble and overthrow of their systems and politics, he explains that, on the contrary, "Ye brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief" – you have your lamps trimmed and burning. As he further explains, the brethren worthy to know and to escape the troubles incidental to that time do not sleep, as do others; they are watchful; they are alert, and because thus alert they know of the Bridegroom's arrival, of which the world knows not; and in the time of his presence these brethren are fed with special spiritual food, which the world knows not of. The Master himself is sending forth, at the hands of his servants, the needed meat in due season, things new and old for the strengthening of his household for this present time of trial and for the perfecting of the saints for the work of ministry, to which he has called them. – 1 Thess. 5:1-6.
This was Peter's question. He wondered whether or not the Lord meant that the specially chosen twelve apostles were these servants who must watch and wait for him at his second coming, or whether the parable was of general application, and meant that everybody should watch. Our Lord did not answer this question directly, for to have done so would have been contrary to the divine plan; to have answered directly, to have shown that our Lord was not coming in the early watches of the Gospel night, would thus have been in contradiction [R2693 : page 271] of the very teaching of the parable, that he must be watched for all through the Gospel night.
Evading this feature of Peter's question our Lord embraces the opportunity to give some further instruction, and explains to Peter and to us all that at that time, "then," i.e., at the time of his return, his second advent, he would look out and appoint a steward for the dispensing of spiritual food to the household of faith; and that a special blessing would be with that steward in the event of his faithfulness, and that he would be removed from the stewardship in the event of unfaithfulness. Faithfulness on the part of this steward would imply larger and continued service in dispensing [R2694 : page 271] the meat to the household of faith at that time. But unfaithfulness on his part, and a disposition to tyrannize the household, would be sure to result in his being cut off from further opportunities for serving the household, and lead to his having a severe experience with the unbelievers in the time of trouble then to come upon the world. And altho it is not stated, it is fairly inferable that such an one being deposed from stewardship, another would take his place, subject to similar terms and conditions as to faithfulness.
In certain senses of the word, and in certain respects, every child of God is a steward – a steward of his own talents, opportunities, privileges, abilities in the Lord's service; and each one is to recognize that his responsibilities as a steward in these respects is toward the Master who gave him the talents, and who will require at his hands an account thereof – an increase by reason of proper use. We are not, therefore, to understand our Lord's answer to Peter to imply that none of the household but the one are in any sense of the word regarded as stewards. Such an interpretation would be in conflict with numerous Scriptures. We are to notice that the stewardship mentioned is not a stewardship of talents and opportunities, but a stewardship of spiritual food merely.
Neither does it imply that in the end of this age, and at the time of our Lord's presence and the sending forth of meat in due season that the special steward alone will have to do with the dispensing of the food for the household, for, as shown in Matthew's account of this parable (Matt. 24:45-51), there are "fellow-servants" whose duty and privilege it will be to cooperate with this steward in the dispensing of the viands, the feeding of the household of faith. The thought would seem to be that in the interest of the household, and for its comfort and joy and blessing, the Master at an appropriate time would furnish to some one of his servants a key to the precious things of his Word, thus providing bountifully "things new and old" for the sustenance and joy of the household, and minister these through numerous fellow-servants, as well as through the one to whom the key of this stewardship would be specially entrusted.
In this connection we are to remember that every stewardship brings with it weighty responsibilities, and while such responsibilities are not to be shirked, neither are any of them to be undertaken lightly, without appreciating the fact that every one who becomes a servant of the household of faith has thereby a larger degree of responsibility, not only toward the household, but toward the Master of the house, from whom comes every commission. And every servant is to remember that unfaithfulness would surely lead to his removal, even as every manifestation of humble faithfulness on his part will endear him to the Master and to every faithful member of the household, and imply his continuance in the service until the Master shall say, "Well done, good and faithful servant; enter into the joys of thy Lord."
"Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves." – Jas. 1:22.
Reviews are frequently profitable, and especially so when conducted in the light of this Golden Text; with a view to noting to what extent we have heard the voice of the Son of Man, and to what extent we have been obedient to his messages. To fancy ourselves as making spiritual progress merely by gaining information respecting the Lord, his miracles, his teachings, etc., is to get the nut and crack it and drop the kernel, the thing of real value.
It is in harmony with this thought that our Lord declared, "The dead shall hear the voice of the Son of Man, and they that hear shall live." The dead are the entire human family, all of whom must hear the voice, the teaching of this great Prophet, whom the Father has sent, not only to redeem, but also to restore so many of the human family as will accept his favors upon his terms. All must hear eventually, but comparatively few have the hearing ears at the present time. The prince of this world blinds the mind, closes and stupefies the ear, or makes what may be heard of no effect through traditions of men, or through hardness and selfishness of the hearer's own heart. Blessed are our eyes if, seeing and hearing of the Lord's grace and goodness toward us and toward all of his creatures, we at once fall into obedience to the spirit of the great Teacher's instructions. In so doing we will have passed from death unto life – gradually, until, under the ministry of the great Prophet, as sharers in the first resurrection, we shall be perfected and possess life in perfection, yea, life more abundantly, – immortality.
|VOL. XXI.||SEPTEMBER 15, 1900.||No. 18.|
|Views From the Watch Tower||275|
|What is the End of Life?||275|
|The Spread of Mohammedanism||275|
|Methodism and Higher Criticism||277|
|Presbyterians Being Sifted||277|
|High Church Performances||279|
|Calamities – Why Permitted||279|
|Times of Refreshing||280|
|The Christian's Course Delineated||280|
|The Dallas, Texas, Convention||283|
|Sabbath Dinners and How to Utilize Them||283|
|The Proper Kind of Table Talks||284|
|A Royal Banquet Declined||286|
|"Zion's Glad Songs"||274|
|The Volunteer Work||274|
'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.
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.
OUR dear Brother McPhail, who has quite a talent for music, has collected a number of new and beautiful hymns, – the music to the majority being his own composition. These, fifty-four in number, are well printed, and appropriately bound in paper covers, – price 10 cents each, or $1 per dozen, postage free.
This little book, entitled "Zion's Glad Songs," has another feature which we are sure will be appreciated by many, viz., the addition of the music for twenty-eight old tunes, long, short, common, and peculiar meters. These are inserted in the interest of our regular hymn book, "Poems and Hymns of Dawn," the tunes of the remainder being copyrighted.
It is not at all the thought that the new book will supplant the old one; for many of the grand old hymns cannot be equaled by any new ones, either in words or tunes. The thought is to make it supplementary. As such we recommend it to you all. Our first edition of 6000 is now ready and orders will be filled as received.
This branch of the service has lagged a little during the hot weather, because of small attendance at church services. Now that cooler weather has come we expect that it will revive. Some who have finished their own cities are branching out – endeavoring to serve nearby towns. This is commendable. Every faithful soldier of the cross is sure to receive blessings both now and hereafter from "the Captain of our salvation." Let us be faithful. page 274
THE END OF LIFE is not to do good, altho so many of us think so. It is not to win souls – altho I once thought so. The end of life is – to do the will of God. That may be the line of doing good or winning souls, or it may not. For the individual, the answer to the question, "What is the end of my life?" is "To do the will of God, whatever that may be."
Spurgeon replied to an invitation to preach to an exceptionally large audience, "I have no ambition to preach to 10,000 people, but to do the will of God" – and he declined. If we could have no ambition past the will of God, our lives would be successful. If we could say, "I have no ambition to go to the heathen; I have no ambition to win souls; my ambition is to do the will of God, whatever that may be," that would make all lives equally great or equally small, because the only great thing in a life is what of God's will there is in it. The maximum achievement of any man's life, after it is all over, is to have done the will of God.
Therefore, the supreme principle upon which we have to run our lives is to adhere, through good report and ill, through temptation and prosperity and adversity, to the will of God, wherever that may lead us. It may take you to China, or you who are going to Africa may have to stay where you are; you who are going to be an evangelist may have to go into business; and you who are going into business may have to become an evangelist. But there is no happiness or success in any life till that principle is taken possession of. And the highest service is first, moment by moment, to be in the will of God. It may be to work or to wait; to stand fast or to lay still. 'Tis he, our blessed Lord, who will keep us in his will, if our eyes are fixed on him.
Acts 13:22 – "A man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will."
Heb. 10:7 – "I come to do thy will, O God."
John 4:34 – "My meat is to do the will of him that sent me."
Mark 3:35 – "Whosoever shall do the will of my Father in Heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother."
Psa. 143:10 – "Teach me to do thy will, O my God."
Psa. 40:8 – "I delight to do thy will, O my God." A whole life can be built up on that vertebral column, and then, when all is over,
1 John 2:17 – "He that doeth the will of God abideth forever."
If reports are to be believed Mohammedanism is spreading in Asia and Africa much more rapidly than is Christianity. This is credited to three reasons. (1) Its simplicity of doctrine, which makes it commendable to persons of low intellectual capacity – [R2695 : page 276] Believe in Mohammed and obey his simple law and have an eternity of sensuous bliss. (2) Its permission of polygamy, common throughout those countries. (3) Its uniform requirement of total abstinence from intoxicants.
Recognizing the fact that Christianity makes few proselytes from Mohammedanism, and that the latter is growing rapidly in numbers and influence, the British Government has of late years been attempting to gain the confidence and support of her Mohammedan subjects, whose number is estimated at one hundred and fifty millions – fifty millions more than all denominations of Protestant Christians in the whole world.
Doubtless this change of attitude toward the very religion against which all the Crusades of medieval times were waged, tho due to political policy, is backed by the changed religious sentiment of our day; – which under the lead of the higher critics has declared, –
"The hope of the race lies in a deeper study of the great, inspired writers of the past, such as Shakespeare, Homer, Dante and a few others, whose works have charmed the minds of people of culture. The Bible, also, though a little out-of-date, has been recognized, in the past, as a work of inspiration, and you may find it helpful to include it in your course of reading."
General sentiment, therefore, resolves itself into this, – Since our wise men tell us that the Bible is unreliable, and that the death of Christ Jesus no more redeemed the world than did the death of other reformers; and since they tell us that future happiness depends upon the cultivation of our mental and moral qualities, and that Shakespeare's and other writings are quite as good or better than the Bible for such culture, how do we know but what the Mohammedan's Bible – the Koran – is as good or better than our own, and they as right as we or more so? Therefore let us not any longer say with the Bible that there is no other name than that of Jesus given under heaven or among men whereby we must be saved; but let us say, Get morality and education in the name of Mohammed or Jesus or Confucius or whomsoever you please.
Such would be the logical outcome of such teachings; and thereby we are reminded of our Lord's words respecting these times – "When the Son of Man cometh shall he find the faith on the earth?" – Luke 18:8.
Shortly after the capture of Khartoum by General Lord Kitchener, and at his instance, a Mohammedan college was founded, known as Gordon College, and more recently another Mohammedan school was founded at Sierra Leone, on the west coast of Africa. This latter institution was opened with considerable ceremony under the auspices of the acting-governor, Major Nathan, and of it the New York Sun says editorially: –
"The ceremony began with a prayer in Arabic offered up by the Imaum of the mosque, Alfa Omaru, who afterward gave a short account of the efforts to promote education made by the Sierra Leone Moslems. He referred to the years 1839 and 1841, when the Mohammedan religion was considered as a danger to the colony, when Moslems were persecuted and their mosques pulled down by excited mobs. Thanks, however, to an enlightened policy, matters were set right, and for more than fifty years the Moslems have enjoyed full toleration and the protection of the British Government. In 1872 the festival of the Lesser Bairam had been attended by the governor, Sir John Pope Henessy, with a military escort, and in 1879 another governor, Sir Samuel Rowe, had entertained seven hundred Moslems at Government House on the occasion of the Bairam Festival of that year. In 1891 Governor Hay handed over a fine property with commodious buildings to the Moslem community for educational purposes, accompanied by a grant for the payment of the teachers. These successive events were important epochs in the history of Islamism in West Africa, and the Imaum looked forward to the day when the present elementary school would become the stepping-stone to a college."
"He wished them to perfect themselves in Arabic in order that they might know what real Mohammedanism is. When they understood the Koran, he said, they would see that their religion was one telling them how to live, and not a religion of charms and gewgaws. Knowing English, they would have the literature and wisdom of the white man open to them: and with Arabic, they would be able to read not only the Koran, but the 'Makamat' of El Hariri, known already to some of them, and the 'Alif Lailat wa Lailah,' the translation of which English people read with pleasure. In concluding, Major Nathan urged them not to rest content until they had in Sierra Leone a Moslem college whence wisdom and knowledge might go forth over the whole of West Africa."
"The news of the official encouragement given to the Mohammedan religion and the culture of its sacred language, Arabic, will in a very short time spread from the Atlantic to the Red Sea, and the wisdom of the policy that dictated it will be justified by the resulting spread of British influence among the Moslem populations of North Africa. In all probability it will lead to a corresponding rivalry on the part of the French, whose hold on the Arabs of Algeria is none too strong, owing to mistakes in policy and the want of character of many of those appointed to office. [R2695 : page 277]
"The next century no doubt has many surprises in store; but whatever they may be, not the least strange will be the spectacle of the two Western nations that led in the crusades promoting, for political and territorial reasons, the creed they then tried to crush."
However peculiar all this may appear from the standpoint of nominal "Christendom," it is perfectly clear to all of the "royal priesthood." We see the fallacy of the claim that European kingdoms are Christ's kingdoms – that the Word of God never did recognize them as anything but "kingdoms of this world" ruled by "the prince of this world." We see that the nominal churches are not the one true Church of "saints," whose names are written in heaven. We see that the Crusades, Inquisitions, and all similar attacks upon human beings and their moral and religious liberties were never authorized by the Lord; but were wholly contrary to his Word and spirit. We see that it is perfectly proper and consistent for worldly people and governments (English, French, German or what not) to favor any system or all systems of education and religion that will in any degree counteract vice and immorality, and preserve peace.
True, we who have had the eyes of our understanding opened to see matters clearly from the Bible standpoint could do nothing against the truth and in favor of error – nothing to foster and encourage the error or even to apparently bid it Godspeed. But we are not in official positions where such questions could come to us: because we are "not of this world" even as our Redeemer was not (John 17:16), therefore the world disrespects us (John 17:14), and offers us no places of public influence. Fidelity to our Lord's principles thus saves his faithful from perplexities: they have died to worldly politics and its aims and duties and methods, and have been "translated into the Kingdom of God's dear Son," and are thus members of the "holy nation" which has not yet come into power and ruling authority – waiting for their King to exalt or set them up in power and great glory at the time when his Kingdom shall be revealed to the world as the supplanter of all kingdoms of this world.
"The 'heresy' case of Professor Mitchell (see The Literary Digest, January 27), has been effectively disposed of for, at least, some years to come. By the recent General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church at Chicago it was referred to the bishops, who, apparently finding it as embarrassing a subject to handle as did the Conference, referred the matter of Dr. Mitchell's retention to the trustees of Boston University, by making him eligible to re-election for five years – until, conveniently, after the next meeting of the General Conference. The fact that the trustees of one of the leading Methodist theological seminaries have now unanimously re-elected Dr. Mitchell, who is one of the most prominent American exponents of the higher criticism, and has been accused of deviating widely from the traditional view as to the authorship of certain Old Testament books, is regarded as an event of significance. The largest Protestant denomination in America thus tacitly votes to retain an upholder of the higher criticism as official instructor of her young clerics." – Literary Digest.
The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church recently in session in St. Louis, in reply to overtures for a revision of its Westminster Confession of Faith, referred the matter to a committee, whose business it shall be to learn the opinion of the local Presbyters and to report to the Assembly of 1901. The Presbyterian weekly journals give the best clue to the results, for they are generally under the care of the leaders amongst the ministry, who generally "try to be on the winning side."
From the trend of comments by these journals (The Interior and The Herald and Presbyter alone seem to urge revision) we opine that the Confession will probably not be revised but reaffirmed. The result of this course would be to sift out the honest but deluded souls in pulpit and pew who for years have burdened their consciences (and in many instances hardened them) with slander against the divine character and deceit toward all mankind in professing the Westminster Confession. These have for years consoled [R2696 : page 277] themselves with the thought that (1) the Confession is a dead letter anyway, which today nobody believes, and (2) that it would soon be changed, "perhaps next year, – and my conscience can stand the strain that much longer." If now that Confession is reaffirmed by the denomination these will be thereby forced out to maintain even a vestige of peace with God and a good conscience toward God and man. The pity is that their consciences are not more tender and their hearts more loyal to God and his truth that they should act more promptly.
"The children of this world [the "tares"] are wiser in their generation than the children of light [the "wheat"], said our Lord. And so in this case undoubtedly the reaffirming of the Westminster Confession is the wisest course so far as the preservation of the "tare" organization is concerned. For tho, as above suggested, this will drive out some of the most conscientious, it will be found that they all told are but few. On the other hand were the Confession revised or repudiated it would mean to the rank and file of Presbyterianism, "We have lost our gods! We
[R2696 : page 278]
have admitted that we were all wrong in respect to our faith – blind men who for centuries have attempted to lead the confessedly blind world into truth, and now confess ourselves bewildered, yea totally blind as respects the divine plan!" Every Presbyterian would feel abashed at such a confession, and hence it is that such a revision of creed is improbable: and if it were seen to be inevitable many would transfer their "good names" and titles to other denominations before the funeral.
"THE PRESBYTERIAN" ARGUES AGAINST REVISION THUS, –
The people would have little difficulty in deciding the meaning of that very explicit and carefully worded "Westminster Confession," were it not that the theologians having told them, "These be thy gods, O Presbyterians!" are fearful that the pews (more honest than the pulpits) shall discover how terribly homely, yea, devilish, are these gods which they have so long worshiped and served.
Continuing, The Presbyterian says, "Others who regard the false constructions put on them as the work of adversaries, now find that even Presbyterian ministers are declaring them legitimate inferences. Damage is being done by the outgivings of radical revisionists. The church is suffering, and will continue to suffer in name and in accomplishment, with years of revision agitation. Her interests would be far more advanced, in our judgment, by standing by the old standards of faith and by their reaffirmation by our Presbyteries and General Assembly."
For a long time now our ministers and religious editors have presented a solid front to the world, and by claiming that black in the creed is white they have succeeded in convincing Presbyterians, at least, that the black parts are at very most not darker than grey or mist and fog color. But now this discussion is in danger of disillusionizing the people. Already it is giving us great trouble and is likely to cause more disturbance and dissatisfaction, not only with our Diana, but also toward us, the well-paid and honored shrine-makers and servers. We are not thinking about the truth and its service, nor about the interests of the true Church, whose names are written in heaven; we are merely considering the interests of our sect, the Presbyterian Church, and how these matters will affect her interests and worldly prosperity. We feel provoked that Presbyterian ministers who have stifled their consciences for years should be so weak, so pusillanimous, as now to show the white feather and confess that they and we all have for years been hoodwinking and deceiving the Lord's flock who gave us liberally of their golden fleece to lead them into pastures of truth. As for us, we are committed to the prosperity of Presbyterianism – all of our name and title and earthly hopes are attached to it, and hence, false tho the Confession be to every instinct of justice and love, we must stick to it – sink or swim, live or die, survive or perish!
Does the foregoing seem to be an uncharitable paraphrase of the Presbyterian's position? Let those who so think read carefully the following extract from the Confession and decide then whether anything better or nobler than policy leads it to defend and call for a reaffirmation of those sentiments of a darker period. We have too much respect for the Presbyterian's brains to suppose that it does not comprehend the language, and too much respect for its heart to suppose that it at heart endorses the presentation as true and just: hence we can only conclude that its advocacy is insincere and for policy's sake. The policy, as already suggested, is worldly-wise and will serve to keep together a little longer one of the most respected of the human organizations falsely styled churches; but the end of all such is not far distant, as clearly shown in God's Word and pointed out in MILLENNIAL DAWN, VOL. III., Chaps. 4 to 7, and VOL. IV., Chaps. 11 to 13.
"By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life and others foreordained to everlasting death. These angels and men, thus predestinated and foreordained, are particularly and unchangeably designed; and their number is so certain and definite that it can not be either increased or diminished.
"Those of mankind that are predestinated unto life, God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to his eternal and immutable purpose and the secret counsel and good pleasure of His will, hath chosen in Christ unto everlasting glory, out of His mere free grace and love, without any foresight of faith or good works or perseverance in either of them, or any other thing in the creature, as conditions or causes moving Him thereto; and all to the praise of His glorious grace.
"As God hath appointed the elect unto glory, so hath He, by the eternal and free purpose of His will, foreordained all the means thereunto. Wherefore they who are elected, being fallen in Adam, are redeemed by Christ, are effectually called unto faith in Christ by His Spirit working in due season; are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by His power through faith unto salvation. Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified and saved, but THE ELECT ONLY. [R2696 : page 279]
"The rest of mankind God was pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of His own will, whereby He extendeth or withholdeth mercy as He pleaseth, for the glory of His sovereign power over His creatures, to pass by and to ordain them to dishonor and wrath for their sin, to the praise of his glorious justice."
"In a ministerial body of say seven thousand there are perhaps several thousands of us that nobody will hear preach: many more that are heard by good people under stress of duty; and comparatively few that are heard gladly....
"The psychology of the average educator is fundamentally defective, and hence his pedagogics must be fatally false. He recognizes the existence of a cognitive faculty, the power of acquiring the simple elements or raw materials, so to speak, of knowledge, in perception external and internal; of a conservative faculty, or memory, the power of keeping knowledge so acquired for future use; of a comparative faculty, the power of thought for working up the knowledge acquired and conserved into conceptions, judgments, and reasonings. But just there his psychology of the intellect strikes a dead wall which it seems powerless to pass. He fails to recognize the existence of the supreme intellectual faculty, to which all the others are merely subordinates and for which alone they exist – the constructive or systemizing faculty. He does not find it in his text-books; it has been practically ignored in educational aims and methods...."
This is too highflown language for the majority of readers; we give its sense in few words thus, – The average minister learns at college to collect certain facts and theories, and to memorize them; but he never learns how to systemize what he has learned.
We reply that this is true; nevertheless, it is the bulwark of Churchianity; for had honest ministers or laymen attempted to systemize their theology (the errors so largely predominating) they would have found long ago that all their theories are as irrational as they are unscriptural. No theology but the old theology of the Bible – the divine plan of the ages – can be systemised; and it is system and plan and order and beauty throughout, and thus bears the impressions of its divine Author, Jehovah.
"The mass 'for the repose of the soul' of the deceased was celebrated, and at the funeral service in the church all the accessories of Vatican mummery were observed. Each of the congregation of ten received a little candle, which was lighted before the Gospel was read, and blown out after the reading. The people's candles were rekindled at the Sanctus, after incense-burning. After mass the celebrant left the chair, and at the sedilia changed his chasuble for [R2697 : page 279] a black cope with yellow orphreys and then headed a procession with a crucifix. The catafalque was sprinkled with holy water, and censed, while petitions were mumbled for the soul of the deceased. After the clergy were gone the people were invited to asperse the catafalque with the holy water."
The inundation of the city of Galveston, Texas, accompanied by great loss of life and property, has shocked the world. And no wonder; it was surely a great calamity that five thousand human beings should so suddenly be swept into death – the grave. Yet the real horror, affecting many minds in connection with this matter, is never even hinted at in the great headlines of the daily press announcements. What a shock it would give if these papers were edited in so-called orthodox style, thus: –
JESUS CAME TO 5000 GALVESTON PEOPLE. OF THE NUMBER HE FOUND ONLY ABOUT 100 SAINTS FIT FOR THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN. THE REMAINDER, 4900, HE BANISHED TO ETERNAL HOPELESS AGONY IN TORMENT, PREPARED FOR THEM, ACCORDING TO HIS FOREKNOWLEDGE AND LOVING DESIGN, BEFORE THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD.
If our dear friends who profess to believe such blasphemous things respecting our Heavenly Father's plan would come out honestly and state their views thus plainly we should be glad of it. It would be a great service to the truth. It would act upon many as an emetic, and help them to get rid of the unhealthy mass of error which now sickens them and hinders their appetite for the true heavenly manna of the divine Word, which then would be to all the Lord's true people "sweeter than honey."
Tract No. 2, of the "Old Theology" series, treats this subject of "Calamities and Why God Permits Them." We recommend its liberal circulation at times like this when great calamities awaken thoughts respecting divine providences, etc. And we might here remark that we will not be surprised if the next fifteen years shall witness an increasingly large number of calamities. To our understanding there are physical changes necessary to the full introduction of Millennial conditions: these will probably come about gradually, and incidentally cause great trouble and losses. These we understand are so timed as to form a part of the great time of trouble with which our age is to end, which, however, the Lord designs shall prepare man as well as the earth for further, future blessings. "When the judgments of the Lord are abroad in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness."
THE GATHERING at Saratoga Springs, N.Y., was not expected to be a large one; because the railroad excursion rates extended over only a very limited area. It was therefore a local rather than a general meeting; but as such it served its purpose grandly, and brought to many clearer views of the divine plan, and fresh energy in its service, because of renewed consecration to the great Giver of all good.
About one hundred were in attendance, and these were nearly all visitors from abroad, as only about three WATCH TOWER subscribers reside there, and few outsiders attended. The Lord was with the Convention and blessed the two days of its session greatly; and we believe that the grace there experienced will not only be a lasting blessing to those in attendance, but that its overflow upon others not privileged to attend, will be a lasting joy and benefit.
En route we spent Sunday at Toronto, Canada, where another local Convention of about one hundred had gathered. This also was a feast to our souls. We thanked God for the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love – and realized afresh that –
"The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like to that above."
The home route permitted a meeting between trains with some of the dear friends at Washington, D.C., where about thirty were hastily convened, to whom we spoke on "Pressing toward the mark for the prize of our high calling." Departing, we thanked God for the fulfilment of Mark 10:30; and felt that if faithfulness to the truth had gained us many bitter enemies, it had also brought us such devoted friends as very few in this world could boast of.
We arrived home, at Allegheny, in good season for Sunday services (Sept. 9), where our joy further abounded in addressing about two hundred of the home congregation, and in receiving their hearty welcome back after an absence of two Sundays. We can only wish and hope that each of the one thousand dear brethren and sisters "scattered abroad," with whom we communed and shook hands during the past two weeks (beginning with the Chicago Convention and ending at Allegheny), experienced one-half the blessing that has come to your pastor. He most heartily thanks you all for your many kindnesses and expressions of Christian love extended to him and the associated "Pilgrims;" and he thanks God for the privileges enjoyed in serving his flock, in Jesus' name.
DAVID, the Prophet, in the first Psalm, has significantly marked out the proper Christian course and its blessings and outcome. In the first verse he designates three classes from whom the Lord's people should stand aloof – three classes with whom, if they have fellowship, it will be to their detriment. (1) The ungodly, or more properly, the wicked (margin, Leeser, Young). (2) Sinners. (3) The scornful. "Blessed is the man who walketh not in the counsel of the wicked, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful." – Psa. 1:1.
Applying this Psalm prophetically, it is proper that we should determine what classes of persons are meant by the wicked, the sinners and the scornful. We suggest that under the terms of the present Gospel age, not murderers and thieves, etc., can be meant by the wicked, for such, generally at least, are deluded and "blinded by the god of this world," so that they have never seen the true Gospel light; and not seeing it they have not had such responsibilities in connection with it as would properly brand them as wicked from the divine standpoint. The "wicked" are to be looked for in the Church, and in harmony with this thought is our Lord's parable which, referring to the Church and the talents bestowed upon its members, declares respecting the one who received the talent of the Lord, but failed to use it – "Thou wicked and slothful servant." The "wicked" of this age would seem to be those who have enjoyed the light of divine favor, who have come to a knowledge of the truth, been made partakers of the holy spirit, etc., and who then, despite all these favors and blessings, [R2698 : page 280] and despite their covenant with the Lord to be his servants and to lay down their lives in his service, neglect the same.
The Apostle also points out a certain class in the Church as wicked, saying of them that if they fall away "it is impossible to renew them again unto repentance" (Heb. 6:6), "for it had been better for them that they had never known the way of righteousness, than that having known it they should turn from the holy commandment." (2 Pet. 2:21.) The same class is again described as those who sin wilfully after receiving a knowledge of the truth, and for whom, consequently, no further share in the sacrifice for sins remains; and consequently no hope for them in the coming age. (Heb. 10:26.) In a word, then, [R2698 : page 281] the wicked class of the present age would seem, from the Lord's standpoint, to be those in the Church nominal who have received clear light and knowledge respecting the divine plan, and who have either sinned wilfully by turning away from a life of righteousness to a life of intentional sin, or those who repudiate the precious blood of Christ and the atonement made for them by the same, counting the blood of the covenant wherewith they were sanctified a common or ordinary thing.
If then we have found a class denominated "the wicked," let us consider what can be meant by the injunction that the blessed of the Lord should not walk in the counsel of these wicked ones – should not follow their guidance, their suggestions, their instructions, their leading.
Every man and every woman has more or less of an influence which attracts others to walk in his way. And all who repudiate the ransom, all who deny original sin and its sentence of death, and the necessity for our redemption from sin and death, – all who thus deny the foundation of the Gospel, the "wicked" above described, seem to make it their special business to endeavor to seduce the minds of others – to lead others astray by their evil counsel. If they cannot secure prompt attention, they invariably suggest, – Walk with us awhile, keep our company, and see whether you will not gradually come to believe as we do, that we were not bought with a price, even the precious blood of Christ – that man needed not to be bought; that he did not fall from perfection; that he was not sold under sin by our first parents; and, hence, that he needed not a redemption in any sense of the word, and therefore the Scriptures are false and misleading in making this the centre and pith of the Gospel.
Their false suggestion is that our only need was a good and holy example. They are blind to the fact that all through the past there were many noble examples, and that there are many today, far beyond the ability of the average natural man to follow, and that we needed something decidedly more helpful and efficacious than an example. They seem blind to the fact that an example would never justify to life one who was justly condemned to death. They do not seem to realize that God was just in pronouncing the penalty against our race, and that he could by no means clear the guilty through any process of injustice; and that, therefore, it was necessary that a ransom, a corresponding price, should be paid before the resurrection and reconciliation were possibilities. (Rom. 3:26.) But they say, Walk with us in our counsels and see; and, as the Apostle suggests, many follow their pernicious ways, denying the Lord having bought them. – 2 Pet. 2:1,2.
Those who would be of the class pronounced "blessed" of the Lord, in our text, must not follow the counsel of these "wicked," but, on the contrary, should stand firmly by the Gospel of the redemption, and seek no other. Let all who desire to be blessed of the Lord mark well this counsel and follow it, and have no fellowship whatever with the "wicked," nor in any degree walk after their counsels.
"Sinners" are mentioned as another class, separate and distinct from the "wicked" above referred to, and they are evidently a class whose transgressions are much less heinous in the sight of the Lord: these sinners we must look for in the Church also, not in the world. Since the world is not yet on trial there is nothing to demonstrate the standing of any of its people. The "sinners" of our text we would understand to be those who, without repudiating the covenant, without denying the Lord that bought them, and thus falling utterly from divine favor, are nevertheless failing to live according to the terms of their covenant, their consecration. These would seem to be sinners against the covenant they have made – those who fail to carry out the covenant of self-sacrifice. This class possibly includes some who are described by the Lord as "overcharged with the cares of this life and the deceitfulness of riches," and who for these reasons are sinners against their covenant, violators of it. The Lord's people who would be of the "blessed" of the Lord, and receive his ultimate "Well done," are not to stand with these covenant-violators even. To stand with them might imply to treat them as companions, to enter into their plans and schemes; and surely all who would thus do would be likely to become partakers of their spirit, and to become careless of their consecration vows, and overcharged with earthly cares and ambitions.
The "scorners" are designated as a still different class, and might possibly represent some not of the Church, but possessing more or less knowledge of holy things and rejecting them, speaking of them lightly and scornfully. The Lord's people are not to be intimately associated with such, nor make them their companions and friends. They cannot have fellowship with such without receiving injury; hence, so far as possible the Christian is to avoid this class, in business partnerships, in society, and especially in marriage. No one who could speak lightly or scornfully of our Heavenly Father or of our Lord Jesus or of the exceeding great and precious things set before the Lord's people in his promises, could be other than a hindrance to those who are seeking to gain the prize of our high calling. He therefore who would be blessed of the Lord, and who would attain that for which he was "called," should take heed to the instructions and avoid the scornful. [R2698 : page 282]
This does not signify, however, as the Apostle points out, that we are to have no dealings in the world with any but saints, for, as he tells us, in that event we would needs go out of the world (1 Cor. 5:10); but it does imply a recognition of the principle that evil is contagious, and that the Lord's people cannot be too careful to avoid every contact with evil. They should separate themselves to the Lord, to holiness, and seek to place themselves under influences in harmony with their holy and true and pure aspirations, begotten by the holy spirit.
The Prophet implies that those who have fellowship with the scornful and with covenant-breakers and with the wicked who deny the precious blood of the covenant, cannot be blessed of the Lord, because they are in a wrong attitude of heart; for, as his words imply, those who are in the right attitude of heart to be blessed of the Lord can readily find something much better, much more interesting, much more profitable, than fellowship with any of these classes; "Their delight is in the Law of the Lord, and they meditate in his Law by day and by night."
This does not imply a reading over of the Ten Commandments, nor of the Mosaic ritual, but to the Christian it implies a delight in the Law of righteousness, which law is briefly comprehended in the word "Love." The right-minded Christian who is in the line of heavenly blessing now, and of heavenly glory by and by, has found and will continually find in the great Law of Love something well worthy of his time and his study. He finds this Law applicable to every relationship between the heavenly Father and himself; he sees that all of his conduct, his every service toward God as a son, adopted into his family, must be the result of love. He sees also that love is the Law which must govern all of his conduct toward the brethren in Christ and toward all men; and he finds in this abundant and satisfactory food for reflection in his leisure hours, so that he is interested neither in the speculations and quibblings of the "scoffers," nor in the worldly matters which overcharge the "sinners," nor in the false Gospel which engages the attention of the "wicked," who deny the ransom.
He finds that this Law of God contains, or is related to, every feature of the divine plan; and hence his meditations and studies of its various ramifications lead his thoughts hither and thither, in contact with all the exceeding great and precious promises which God has bestowed upon them that love him, both as respects the life that now is and also that which is to come. And the more this is his attitude the more is he blessed of the Lord; and the more blessed he is of the Lord the more surely will this be his attitude and experience.
Such an one, the Lord declares through the Prophet, will be like a tree planted near rivulets of water, which will always be abundantly refreshed and never fail in his yield of the fruits of the spirit, which under such circumstances must grow and flourish exceedingly. And as his fruit will be abundant, so his leaf (his hopes) will be ever green; he can and will have faith in him who promised the coming blessings, and whose riches of grace he comes to appreciate more and more daily.
"All that he doeth shall prosper." This is literally true, tho not, perhaps, in the way in which the world might view the subject. But what is it that such a child of God doeth? What is his aim? What is his object in life? Wealth, fame, worldly honors? No, none of these. His aim, that which he doeth, that which he seeketh, is to glorify his Heavenly Father and eventually to attain to the glory, honor and immortality [R2699 : page 282] which God has promised to them that love him. (Rom. 2:7.) If then the Christian but attain these his objects, surely all his experiences will have been prosperous, and that abundantly. What matters it to him if under divine providence he was permitted to err in judgment respecting some business venture, so that instead of earthly prosperity it brought financial loss, if it worked out spiritual gain? To this blessed man the loss was prosperity, and he proved the truth of the divine promise, that all things shall work together for his good. Under such a promise, under such guidance of divine wisdom in his affairs, guaranteeing him just such experiences, trials, difficulties, earthly disappointments and disadvantages as will, under the Lord's providence, bring him richest blessing in the attainment of the great prize of the future which he seeks, and for which every other thing, interest, hope and aim has been sacrificed, how could any be considered otherwise than prospered? (Rom. 8:28.) Surely indeed, all that he doeth shall prosper – not because of his own wisdom, not because of infallibility in the management of his affairs, but because his infallible Lord is supervising his interests, and outworking them for good to him.
It is this same class of blessed ones that our Lord addresses, saying, "Blessed are ye when men shall revile you and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake" – things may seem to be going contrary to your welfare, and hence to be working out incalculable harm; but have faith – "Rejoice, and be exceeding glad; for great is your reward in heaven:" and it is this heavenly reward for which you have been called, and for which you have entered the race, and the attainment of which will be exceedingly abundant above all that you could ask or think. – Matt. 5:11,12; Eph. 3:20.
Our Convention will take advantage of the cheap rates of fare granted on account of the "Dallas Fair," and such tickets should be called for. If you desire to attend, inquire of your ticket agent at once for rates, train time, etc., and as soon as possible let us know on which road and train you expect to arrive; and how many will be of your party, males and females; if colored, mention it. State if you desire room and board at one dollar per day. Those who cannot afford even this moderate expense will please say so, and some comfortable arrangement will be made for them also.
"WOODMEN'S HALL" has been secured for the use of the Convention. It is centrally located at No. 349 Main Street. It is an easy walk from all depots, but those who desire can use electric car direct from the depots to the door of the hall.
A RECEPTION COMMITTEE will so far as possible meet all who arrive on the morning of Sept. 29th; but any failing to be recognized near the Ladies' Waiting Room door can readily find Woodmen's Hall as above and should proceed there at once.
We hope for a good attendance and warrant a warm welcome and a rich blessing to all true soldiers of the cross; and to those seeking to find and put on the whole armor of God. Come, intent upon doing good unto all – especially to the household of faith, as well as praying a blessing upon yourself, and you surely will not go away empty.
Evidently before entering the dining room, probably in the court-yard, our Lord, while surrounded by many notables of the scribes and Pharisees, noticed a man afflicted with dropsy; and it would appear that our dear Redeemer was so full of love and sympathy that he had a desire to bless and to heal every such person with whom he came directly in contact. The loving character thus manifested gives us assurance that when the Kingdom comes and our Lord shall take unto himself his great power and reign, he will assuredly bless and uplift so many as will accept his favors in a proper manner – so many as really desire to be blessed by him. Thus our Lord's general character fully substantiates and corroborates all the prophetic statements made respecting him and the character of his Millennial work of blessing all the families of the earth.
Our Lord well knew the extreme of fanaticism to which the Jews had gone, especially the outwardly pious and formal ones, representatives of whom were now gathered about him. He knew that they would regard the healing of the dropsical person as a violation of the Sabbath. Indeed, as illustrating the sanctity of the Sabbath, the Jewish Talmud tells of an instance in which a house took fire, and three young girls were burned to death, simply because their friends and neighbors interpreted the law against making a fire as implying also that it would be wrong to quench a fire on the Sabbath day, and when expostulated with respecting the matter, the answer was that it was "a sacrifice acceptable to God, who would reward them for having allowed their dear ones to perish rather than break his commandment!"
Jesus wished not only to correct such a false interpretation of the Law, but also, in harmony with his [R2699 : page 284] custom, to do a large proportion of his miracles on the Sabbath day; because that day typified the coming Millennial day, the great seventh thousand-year day in which, his Millennial Kingdom being established, he will scatter blessings of healing, mental, moral and physical, amongst all the people. By way of instructing his disciples and the Pharisees respecting the improper view of the Sabbath generally entertained them by religious teachers, our Lord enquired of the Pharisees what they had to say on the subject: Is it or is it not lawful to heal on the Sabbath day? They made no reply; no doubt feeling themselves somewhat incompetent to discuss any question with one whom they had all learned to recognize as a great Teacher, however much they rejected his Messiahship.
Then Jesus, as showing his own understanding of the matter, that it would be right, that it would be in full harmony with the spirit of the Law to heal a man on the Sabbath day, touched the dropsical man and healed him. Then, by way of pointing out to his auditors the inconsistency of their line of thought on this subject, he reminded them that it was a recognized privilege and duty of every Jew to deliver his ox or his ass, fallen into some pit or difficulty, and to consider this a work of necessity and mercy, not forbidden [R2700 : page 284] by the fourth commandment of the Jewish Law. He allowed his auditors to draw the inference from this illustration, that as it could not be wrong to assist a dumb animal out of difficulty on the Sabbath, much less could it be wrong to relieve the distress of a human being made in the image of God. Thus he would show that God's laws are not arbitrary, but that it is always proper to do good.
Every Christian family should utilize the excellent opportunities afforded for social converse at meal-times. Not only does pleasant and profitable conversation assist digestion, and thus prove physically helpful, but, additionally, these regular family gatherings should be recognized as opportunities for mental profit and for growth in knowledge respecting both temporal and spiritual things. Particularly for the last fourteen years this has been the custom of the Bible House family at Allegheny, – and a very profitable one. Our topics are usually propounded in the question form, the privilege of questioning being open to all at the table. Answers to the questions are sought from each one present, thus stimulating thought and a proper expression of it, very helpful to all, as subsequently they may be called upon to answer such a question before others in public or in private. We commend the plan to all of our readers, suggesting that in such a gathering the one supposed to be most conversant with such matters reserve his reply for the last.
Where the family is composed wholly of "new creatures" the questions would properly differ somewhat in general character from what they would be if it were a mixed company: nevertheless, appropriate subjects should not be refused from anyone present; as, for instance, questions respecting table etiquette, good breeding, proper language, the events of the day that do not partake of the nature of gossip, etc. It is a shame that Christian people, even in the humblest walks of life, and when perhaps surrounded by poverty, have no thought of what valuable opportunities are afforded at such times of breaking of bread – to break to their families mental or spiritual food also, strengthening and elevating.
In proportion as Christian people realize their privileges and duties in such matters they will find that coarseness and rudeness at the table will disappear, refinement and intellectuality gradually displacing them. And one of the features most conducive to true table etiquette, and the drawing together of hearts and minds in true fellowship and intellectual enjoyment at the times of physical repast, will be found to be the giving of thanks to God – the recognition that every good and every perfect gift cometh down from our Father. The family which at table neglects to return acknowledgement to the Giver of every good, will scarcely succeed in properly recognizing each other and having intellectual fellowship one with the other.
That our Lord was prompt to avail himself of all such table-talk opportunities, is very manifest. On each occasion of his attendance at a banquet we find him utilizing the opportunity for the inculcation of some truth – natural or spiritual. In the present instance he evidently did not consider his hearers to be in a favorable condition for high spiritual teachings, and hence his table-talk was on a lower plane, adapted to the natural man, yet nevertheless inculcating lessons which, if learned, would prepare the learners for the heavenly things. And this should be the thought in every family circle, – that the tendency of all conversation should be ennobling as well as instructive – leading upward as well as outward.
The guests had been invited to the table, and our Lord noticed how they were each seeking the seats of chief honor, thus showing the pride and ambition of their hearts. We may safely assume that our Lord and his disciples took the less distinguished seats, in harmony with the Scriptural injunction, "In honor preferring one another."
A favorable opportunity offering, our Lord indirectly called attention to the wrong self-seeking course, – not by saying anything against the action in this particular case, but by suggesting a propriety of conduct in a general way; he based his illustration upon [R2700 : page 285] a marriage feast, at which, more than any other, distinctions as to title, honor and position, received much consideration. As was his custom, he taught by a parable, permitting his hearers to draw the inference and make the application in some measure to the banquet to which they were then gathered; and he wound it up by making this a great lesson on a general principle; viz., that "Whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased, and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted," – a lesson of vital importance to all who would be ready for and enter the Kingdom.
This is a great lesson applicable, not only to the natural man, seeking progress back to fellowship and harmony with God, but there is in it also a lesson to the "new creature" all through life's journey, – that if divine favor is desired and to be expected it must be sought; not in pride, not in self-sufficiency, but in humility. The Lord resisteth the proud, the self-sufficient, the boastful, and showeth his favors unto the humble. The Apostle James likewise calls attention to the importance of this grace of humility, assuring us that no true progress can be made in the way to God, except by the humble. (James 4:10.) And the Apostle Peter, after exhorting to humility, saying, "Yea, all of you, be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility," adds, "Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time." – 1 Pet. 5:5,6.
If the hearers had received the message and been corrected by it, it might indeed have worked considerable difference in their standing amongst their brethren, the Pharisees, but it would also have worked a considerable difference in their favor with God. By receiving such a spirit of humility they would be coming into that relationship with God and the truth which would have divine approval, and be thus the stepping-stone to further favor, by preparing their hearts to receive the good things which God has to give, but which cannot be received by any except the humble-hearted. Indeed, we know of nothing today that is so great a stumbling-block to the majority in nominal Christendom as the prevalent spirit of self-seeking. It is a great barrier before the minds of many, in and out of the pulpit, continually hindering them from seeing, hearing and obeying present truth – they love the approval of men rather than that of God.
The table-talk later turned in another direction, probably considerable being said in the interim that is not recorded, not pertinent; but before the feast was ended an appropriate opportunity came for the Lord to present some words of counsel to his host, and this was done in so kind and so wise a manner that it surely could give no offence, but, on the contrary, must have led the thoughts of all the hearers to higher and heavenly things. He advised that the banquets of the well-to-do in this world's goods be extended to their poorer, less fortunate neighbors and friends; assuring his hearers that such a course would bring the greatest blessing, as every good deed brings its blessings, forthwith – in the consciousness of having done good; and in the reactionary effect upon one's own heart of every good deed, every benevolence. And, in addition to these blessings, our Lord pointed out that for such an one there would be a blessing in the future also – a reward that would fully compensate every such benefaction.
Our Lord's words were in part a commendation of the course pursued by his host in inviting himself and his apostles to dinner, for they were poor. Indirectly his remarks meant that if that very feast were given with a proper sentiment of heart, as we have every reason to presume was the case, his host might expect a reward for his conduct in the future – besides the blessing that had already come to his house through our Lord's presence and words of instruction.
Sunday School lesson comments will be found to misinterpret the blessing which our Lord declared would come to those who received the poor. One of these commentaries says, on this point, that "Our Lord refers to the first resurrection, mentioned in Rev. 20:4,5, assuring him that he would be raised in that resurrection as one of that glorious class. He would have the rewards that God gives, and can give only, to those who are righteous."
This is a grievous mistake, a misapprehension of our Lord's meaning. The first resurrection is not to be attained merely by the doing of kind acts to either the worthy or the unworthy poor. As explained in the connection (Rev. 20:4) none will have part in the first resurrection except those who have been "beheaded for the witness of Jesus and for the word of God." And, altho this beheading is figurative and not literal, it nevertheless has a deep significance, implying much more than making a feast to the poor. It signifies, not only death to self-will, but also to be cut off from all other heads, governments and law-givers, and to recognize no "head" but Jesus, whom God hath appointed to be the Head of the Church which is his body – the head of every member of it.
It means, not only to be cut off from institutional heads and authorities, but also to cease to have heads and wills of our own, and to accept, instead, the headship, the will, of our Lord Jesus. It is the same thought that is drawn to our attention by the Apostle in Romans 6:3, where he declares that we are baptized into the body of Christ, as members of that body, under the one Head, Christ, by being baptized into his death, – a full consecration of our wills, and [R2701 : page 286] ultimately a full laying down of our lives, faithfully unto death. The attainment of this first resurrection and its joint-heirship with Christ in the Millennial Kingdom was clearly understood by the Apostle Paul, and was his aim: and respecting it he said, "I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ....That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection." (Phil. 3:8,10.) Had St. Paul understood our Lord's words as the above quoted Sunday School lesson commentator did, he would have chosen the easy and pleasant plan of feasting the poor, rather than the years of privation and self-sacrifice in the narrow way which he pursued. And to this our Lord's words on another occasion agree, "Through much tribulation shall ye enter the Kingdom."
What, then, did our Lord intend to promise as a reward for a good deed – done without hope of reward in the present life? We answer, that he meant to promise the same thing that he promised to anybody who would give even so much as a cup of cold water to one of his disciples. He wished to assure them that all such would by no means lose their reward. (Matt. 10:42.) Not a reward of glory, honor, immortality and joint-heirship in the Kingdom of God, but a good reward, more than compensating for the kindness they performed. This rewarding of everyone who has done good, either to the poor of this world or especially to the Lord and his faithful brethren walking in his footsteps, will come to them, not in the first resurrection, but at that time; – after the first resurrection shall have glorified the Church and inaugurated the Kingdom, then Millennial blessings and the reign of righteousness beginning will bring rewards to everyone who has done kindnesses, helping them forward and abundantly rewarding them; while all who have done evil shall have some measure of "stripes" in compensation and retribution.
Thus gradually the minds of the company present had been led from earthly things and from commonplace matters and social chit-chat, which might have occupied their attention, to the consideration of the gracious promises of God. And undoubtedly this was our Lord's very object in accepting the Pharisee's invitation, and in leading the conversation gradually in this direction. Now he had an opportunity to teach something respecting this Kingdom and its blessings and the call to share it; and he improved it. His hearers, if they had in mind Isaiah's prophecy and God's promise to Abraham, would understand that the Kingdom or mountain of the Lord would be the house of Israel, in some glorious and exalted condition under Messiah, and that it was in and through this Kingdom that the feast of divine blessings, for all nations, was to be spread. Our Lord now, by a parable, drew attention to the Gospel call of great blessings and privileges, and would have his hearers note the fact that while in a general way they would all assent to the statement that the Kingdom would be a blessed one, and the feast there something to be greatly desired, nevertheless when the offer of that Kingdom would be made them temporal things closer to their hearts would make it of no effect to the majority.
The parable represents a great feast, with a large number of friends of the host invited in advance, that they might be ready at such a time as the feast would be ready and announced. God himself is the host in this parable, and the Jewish nation were his friends to whom, as a people, he had given much advantage every way, chiefly in that to them were committed the oracles of God, – much knowledge of the divine plan for human salvation and the promises that if they, as the seed of Abraham, were faithful, they should have the invitation and privilege and opportunities of this great feast. The Lord addresses them through the Prophet, saying, "You only have I known [recognized] of all the families of the earth." (Amos 3:2.) Israel only was invited to this feast; but the feast was not ready until our Lord's day, and hence the invitation [R2701 : page 287] to partake of it did not go forth until then. Finally, however, the time had come; Christ, as represented in the bullock of the sin-offering, had already given himself, – the sacrifice being counted as accomplished from the time of its offering, when our Lord presented himself to John at Jordan, making a full consecration of his entire being, even unto death. In view of this sacrifice for sins, God could begin at once to call the already promised guests to the great feast of blessing and manifestation of divine favor toward those to whom he had promised it so long before, through their father Abraham.
And thus it was that when Jesus came and called his disciples and sent them forth, the message was, "The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand;" the great feast of fat things for this nation, that God has so long promised, is ready; and whosoever wills may come and be received and participate in it. The message of Jesus and the twelve, and later the seventy, throughout all Judea, was the invitation of that favored people to come and enjoy the great feast for which they had impatiently waited and hoped and prayed for over sixteen centuries, – the great privileges and opportunities of the Kingdom.
But as the parable shows, when the offer of the Kingdom was really made, when the invitation to partake of the blessings of the great Feast was really put before them, it proved that they loved the Kingdom and the future things far less than they and others might have supposed. On the contrary, the unanimity with which the invitation to the Kingdom was rejected made it appear almost as tho the rejectors had acted in concert in the matter. Their excuses for so little interest in the things which God had promised, and which they claimed to be eagerly longing for, were the apparent pressure of other duties which they must attend to, and which left no time for responding to the divine invitation to the Kingdom. With one the pressure came in the direction of seeing to his farm, and thus being not slothful in business; another felt that it might do very well for people who had nothing else to do, to give attention to a spiritual feast, but as for him, his time was fully occupied with his property, his oxen, sheep, store-business, and what not. Another felt that his duties, social ties, wife, children, etc., demanded all of his attention, and that therefore he could not accept the Kingdom privileges.
And this, which was the sentiment of fleshly Israel, is largely that of spiritual Israel, also, now that the spiritual Kingdom is announced. Many seem to feel that what they would call the real and practical things of life need all of their attention. They want to "get along" in this world's affairs, and to be somebodies in it, and they find such interest in social and material matters a great hindrance to any response to the divine invitation to a share in the glorious Millennial Kingdom, as joint-heirs with Christ, – the great feast, the high calling which has come to us. Well, in one sense of the word this is all right, for it merely keeps out of the Kingdom a class which the Lord does not desire should be in it, and which if it did come in would need to be sifted out, later. Altho God has bidden many, he is seeking for this feast only such as will highly appreciate it above all other privileges – those who would be willing to sacrifice any and every other thing in order to share it.
The first invitation to the feast, recounted in the parable, represents the first years of our Lord's ministry, which were specially directed toward interesting the scribes and Pharisees and Doctors of the Law, who, as the leading men of that nation, and as our Lord said, occupying Moses' seat, really represented that nation as a whole; and the rejection of the invitation by these meant the rejection of it by that nation as a whole. Thus our Lord was careful to bring before the priestly class of that time the evidences of his Messiahship, so that when, for instance, he healed the ten lepers, he charged them to tell no man, but go and show themselves to the priests. Thus the priestly class was informed respecting the miraculous work of our Lord, perhaps more particularly than others. They therefore had the invitation to the feast more particularly than others. However, the fact that the chief [R2702 : page 287] representatives of Israel were unready for the invitation was not permitted to hinder, and our Lord, through his disciples, subsequently extended the invitation to another class.
The trial of the nation as a whole, represented by its leaders, ended at Calvary, or rather five days before Calvary, when our Lord rode on the ass and wept over the city of Jerusalem, saying, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets and stonest them that are sent unto thee: how oft would I have gathered thy children, as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate!" As a nation, as a people, you have rejected the divine invitation to the great Feast, and as a nation you cannot taste of it. Nevertheless, according to divine intention and promise, through the prophets, God extended mercy to various individuals of that nation, after the nation as a whole had proven itself unworthy of the Kingdom privileges. The apostles were sent to gather, not the nation, but such individuals as were of humble mind, to share in the feast, and this calling of individuals, instead of the nation of Israel, was responded to exclusively by those who realized their own unworthiness, – the lame, the halt, the blind, who confessed that they were not perfect, [R2702 : page 288] but who desired perfection, and who rejoiced in the call to partake of the Kingdom privileges, and gladly forsook all else for it. Amongst them, we are assured, there are not many wise, not many great, not many learned, but chiefly the poor, for altho the poor are not always humble by any means, yet amongst them proportionately more were found who were of acceptable character; amongst the rich and the great humility would appear to have been at all times correspondingly scarce.
This second invitation to the poor, the halt and the blind, in the streets and lanes of the city, as a picture would be very difficult to appreciate in our day of hospitals and almshouses, etc., provided by general taxation; but in the days of our Lord it would be very easy indeed to have collected a large crowd of indigent and infirm in short order.
It will be observed that both of these first calls belong to the city – that is, Israel, the nominal Kingdom of God. But the two calls failed to find the sufficient number which God had predestinated should constitute the Kingdom class. He could indeed have induced others to come in, but, on the contrary, he purposely put the invitation to the Feast in such a form as would repel those who were not of the right attitude of heart – in such a form as would attract Israelites indeed, who felt and acknowledged their own unworthiness, and who would be glad, on entering the feast, to have on the robe provided for the guests (symbolical of Christ's righteousness), to cover the filthy rags of their own imperfection. But now, because a sufficient number was not found in Israel to complete the elect number, the message must be sent outside the city, outside of Judaism, – to the Gentiles; and thus the third message was, "Go ye into the highways and whosoever you meet, compel them to come in." The word "compel," however, gives a wrong thought here: it should properly be rendered, urge, persuade.
And thus it has been that throughout the Gospel age, since the bringing in to the Gospel favor of as many Jews as were ready for it, the message has been turned to the Gentiles, "to take out of them a people for God's name," to partake of the great Feast with the remnant of Israel. As the Apostle Paul said to some of the Jews in his preaching: "It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you; but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles; for so the Lord hath commanded us." (Acts 13:46,47.) They showed themselves unworthy of this great blessing or gift, in that they were interested more in the things that perish than in the glorious promises of the everlasting future.
The Apostle Paul calls attention to this fact in Rom. 9:27: "Tho the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant [only] shall be saved." The Apostle further shows that the call of the Gentiles to be sharers in the Kingdom is merely the continuation of the original call, and that we are called in to take the places of those who neglected so great salvation and privilege. He illustrates this by the olive tree, saying that the natural branches were broken off that we, who by nature were wild, might be grafted in and become partakers of the root and fatness of the olive. – Rom. 11:17.
This third call to the great Feast of the Kingdom blessings and privileges has progressed throughout this Gospel age, and to our understanding is now nearly complete – nearly all the places at the table have been provided with guests; only a few are yet vacant; and so soon as these places are filled, the great feast will begin, and we shall indeed enter into the joys of our Lord, and not only be privileged to feast ourselves, but to carry of its bounties and blessings to all the families of the earth.
The same matters which hindered the Jews, under the first call, from accepting this invitation, have hindered to a large extent also many of the Gentiles who have heard the third call. It is impossible to be thorough-going business men, wealthy, influential, etc., and at the same time follow in the footsteps of Jesus, giving all of our hearts, talents and energies to the Lord in acceptance of his invitation to this Feast. The acceptance of the invitation to this Feast means a deep interest in it, beyond everything else, so that all other matters, whether houses or lands, father or mother, wife or children, shall be secondary to the interests of the Kingdom, and to our responsibilities to the terms and conditions of the invitation. Consequently, what was true respecting Israel has been true as respects the Gentiles, viz., that the call to the Kingdom has been generally rejected by those who had a considerable measure of this world's blessings and advantages – those who are rich, either in honor of men or social position or talents or reputation or money, have found it difficult to leave these all to follow Jesus in the narrow way: and, consequently, the Scriptural assurance is, not only that those elected in the end of the Jewish age were chiefly the poor and lowly, but that the same has been true amongst the Gentiles, and is true to-day: "Not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble;" but chiefly the poor of this world, rich in faith. – 1 Cor. 1:26; James 2:5.
This does not debar those who have riches of any kind, but really gives them all the greater privilege and opportunity; for they have that much greater talent which, if they will, they may sacrifice, and thus the more fully demonstrate their appreciation of the invitation and of the Feast, and be correspondingly appreciated by the Host. Let us all, like the Apostle Paul, lay aside every weight, every hindrance, every besetment, everything precious to us of an earthly kind, that we may run with patience the race set before us, in response to this invitation to the great Feast of joint-heirship with our Lord in the Kingdom. – Heb. 12:1,2; Rom. 8:16-18; 12:1,2.