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SUBSCRIPTION PRICE, $1.00 A YEAR, IN ADVANCE,
INCLUDES ALSO A SUBSCRIPTION, FOR ONE YEAR,
TO "THE OLD THEOLOGY" (TRACTS), QUARTERLY,
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N.B. – Those of the interested, who by reason of old age or accidents, or other adversity, are unable to pay, will be supplied FREE, if they will send a Postal Card each December, stating their case and requesting the paper.
Responses so far received indicate that we will have a good attendance. Colporteurs, and those proposing to enter that work, should sacrifice something in order to attend. We expect a blessing and a fresh impetus to the general work. Let all the consecrated pray for themselves, and especially for all who shall attend the Convention, that selfishness and pride may be swallowed up in love and humility – that the blessing may be general. [R1559 : page 226]
Joseph Rabinowitch, of Kishenev, Russia, is well known to our readers as by birth a Hebrew, but a convert to our Lord Jesus, who is laboring for the conversion of the Jews. He is stopping with the editor for a couple of days, resting. Mr. Moody was instrumental in bringing him to Chicago, with a view of having him aid in work for the Jews in that city.
Brother Rabinowitch addressed a meeting of about 500 Jews at Warszawiak's Mission in New York. (Hermann Warszawiak is a converted Russian Jew who is preaching Jesus to his country-men here.) In Chicago he several times addressed above 200 Jews, and on his way back he is to address about 600 Jews at Gaebelein's Mission in New York. We were agreeably surprised to learn of so many Hebrews in this country interested in Jesus as the Messiah – even though all are not converted to him.
When asked his opinion of the work being done for the Hebrews in the United States, Brother Rabinowitch said: "I am pleased with what I have seen; but it is rather raw yet. It needs more system, and a better system. My theory and plan are somewhat different; and I think better for reaching the heart of the Jew. I do not introduce the Jews into any denomination of Christians, nor to any creed of Christendom. Rather I introduce them to Jesus as the King of the Jews – their own brother, their own lineage. I show the fulfilment of prophecy in him; and seek to have them accept him as Redeemer and Messiah. I leave out all those special doctrinal features which separate the denominations of Christendom, and preach Christ Jesus the Jew, crucified as our Redeemer and resurrected to be our King, our Deliverer from sin and death, in God's due time."
The price of land about Jerusalem is something surprising when we consider that the place has almost no manufactures, very little foreign commerce, and that the city contains a multitude of poor people. Two acres that were sold in 1890 for $250 per acre sold in 1891 for $750; twelve acres sold in 1890 for $435 per acre sold in 1892 for $2,178; seven acres sold in 1886 for $363 per acre sold in 1892 for $6,534; two acres sold in 1886 for $1,200 per acre sold in 1892 for $3,000; half an acre sold in 1871 for $200 sold in 1892 for $3,700, that is, for the half acre; one acre sold in 1872 for $40 sold in 1892 for $12,000; two-thirds of an acre sold in 1886 for $100 sold in 1891 for $3,600; one acre sold in 1865 for $1,000 sold in 1891 for $24,000. These are not in one section or locality, but in different directions about the city, varying from one-fourth of a mile to one mile distant from the town.– Scribner's.
"A correspondent in Jerusalem informs us that the Sultan's government has again licensed Jewish real estate brokers and purchasers to acquire landed property in Palestine without being Mussulmen, and secures to all settlers the protection of the high porte and equal rights with the natives of the land. This opens that country to foreign immigration and will attract thousands from Roumania, Russia and Morocco."– American Israelite.
|VOL. XIV.||AUGUST 1, 1893.||NO. 15.|
"Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory." – Psa. 73:24.
If these three principles – viz., the divine goodness, the inviolability of human free-agency, and the necessary consistency of the divine providences with the divine purposes – be always borne in mind, they will save, both from skepticism on the one hand, and from fanaticism on the other, as well as greatly assist the believer to a clearer understanding and fuller appreciation of God's dealings, both in general and in particular.
The Psalmist says, "The Lord is good to all, and his tender mercies are over all his works." (Psa. 145:9.) This sweeping statement takes in the utmost bounds of the material universe and also the humblest, as well as the most exalted, sentient being. The whole creation is his care. Jehovah, our God, is the great Emperor of the whole universe, and his wisdom, power, goodness and benevolence are abundantly equal to all the responsibilities of so exalted an office. The human mind staggers in its efforts to comprehend the mental resources of a being who is able to assume and to bear such responsibility. Think for a moment of the memory that never fails; of the judgment that never errs; of the wisdom that plans for eternity without the possibility of failure, and that times that plan with unerring precision for the ages to come; of the power and skill which can harness even every opposing element, animate or inanimate, and make them all work together for the accomplishment of his grand designs; of the tireless vigilance that never ceases, nor seeks relief from the pressing cares of universal dominion – whose eye never sleeps, whose ear is ever open, and who is ever cognizant of all the necessities, and [R1560 : page 228] active in all the interests, of his broad domains.
Well has the Psalmist said, in consideration of the immensity and the minutiae of God's providence over all his works – "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me: it is high, I cannot attain unto it." (Psa. 139:6.) No, we cannot; but Oh, what a thrilling sense of mingled reverence, love and adoration fills the heart, when thus we catch a glimpse of the intellectual and moral glory and majesty of our God! As we thus contemplate him, all nature becomes eloquent with his praise: the heavens truly declare his glory, and the firmament showeth his handiwork: day unto day uttereth speech and night unto night showeth knowledge. (Psa. 19:1,2.) They tell of the order and harmony of the circling spheres, and the benevolent purpose of their great Creator and Controller, as the changing seasons and the alternating days and nights fill up the copious horn of plenty and refresh and invigorate the animate creation.
Since we are distinctly told that his tender mercies – his kind providences – are over all his works, that all his wise purposes shall be accomplished, and that the ultimate design in all his works is the firm establishment of universal harmony and peace, and the eternal happiness of all his subjects (Psa. 145:9; Isa. 55:8-13; 1 Cor. 15:24,25), whatever inharmonies we now see in nature must be viewed as incidental to the preparations for the perfection of all things, which is not due until "the dispensation of the fulness of times," following the Millennial reign of Christ. (1 Cor. 15:24,25; Eph. 1:10; 3:11,15.) And since we are enlightened by a knowledge of the divine plan of the ages, we see, further, in the introduction of the human race upon the earth before the physical perfection of nature has been attained, a wonderful display of wisdom. This measure has furnished the necessary condition for the experience and trial of the human family, and has made use of the labor of the race, while under condemnation, to urge forward the work of preparing the earth for its final glorious condition, as prefigured in Eden, by the time the race will be fully recovered from the fall and established in righteousness.
If we keep this thought in mind, and do not lose sight of the ultimate purpose of God, and of the fact that the present is only a preparatory state, progressing toward final completeness, we need never be skeptical about an overruling providence which now permits a cyclone, a tornado, an earthquake, a volcanic eruption, or any other of nature's throes and distresses. They are all means working toward the grand ends of eternal peace and glory and beauty. Even that widespread calamity of Noah's day, which deluged the world and wiped out the whole mongrel race with which sin had peopled the earth (Jude 6; 2 Pet. 2:5), sparing only righteous Noah (who "was perfect in his generation" – Gen. 6:8,9 – and not of the mixed or hybrid race), and his family, was probably part of the natural process of preparation of the earth also for the new dispensation which began, with Noah and his family, after the flood.
But while God's tender mercies are over all his works, and the whole creation is his care, we must not overlook the fact that man, by sin, has forfeited all claims upon the divine providence. As a son of God, Adam had a son's claim upon his heavenly Father's benevolent providence; but when God condemned him to death on account of sin he thereby rightfully repudiated all human claims upon his fatherhood. The creature was thenceforth unworthy of life, and of the divine providence which alone could sustain it. Therefore the condemned world has no right to question why God permits one calamity after another to overtake them and to sweep them into oblivion. They have no right to expect anything else; and if calamities do not hurry them off, they are perishing just as surely by more gradual processes, in consequence of the curse pronounced on account of sin.
The condemned world is thus left to its fate – to reach the tomb by gradual or by hurried processes. Sometimes the death-penalty is executed by the disturbances of the elements of nature incident to its yet imperfect condition; – such, for instance, as tempests, cyclones, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, lightning shocks, etc.; – sometimes by the aggravated results of [R1560 : page 229] sin entailed by inheritance; sometimes by the sinful war of angry human passions, resulting in wars and in private and domestic feuds and revenges; and sometimes through lack of good judgment in discerning and avoiding danger, such as fires, railway and ocean disasters, etc. All of these are the executioners of the just penalty for sin, pronounced against the whole race.
Then why should any expect God to interfere and interrupt the course of justice? – especially in the case of those who still continue unrepentant and utterly regardless of his holy law, and who have no desire to return to his favor and control? True he might, and sometimes does, temporarily interfere with the present course of evil in order to facilitate his own wise plans; but man has no right to expect such interference in his behalf, nor would it be an evidence of divine favor toward the sinner. Sometimes, but not always, sudden calamities are the servants of some special purpose of God – as, for instance, the deluge, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the fall of the tower of Siloam (Luke 13:4), etc.; but usually they are only serving his general purpose as executors of the death-penalty upon the condemned.
While the condemned world of mankind is thus left to its fate, men are permitted largely to pursue their own course in the management of their affairs. They may take such advantage as they can of the elements of nature, or of their own medical and surgical skill and ingenuity, to prolong their days and to ameliorate their condition under the curse; they may control their evil passions for their advantage, or give them loose rein, to their individual and mutual detriment; they may institute and maintain such forms of civil jurisprudence as they can agree upon, subject to the secret and cunning intrigue of the wily and powerful, but unrecognized, prince of this world, Satan. But their course is their own course, and God is not in it. Hence God has no responsibility with reference to it; nor can he in any sense be held [R1561 : page 229] accountable for the misery that men bring upon themselves and each other in pursuance of their own godless and evil way. Yet God could, and undoubtedly would, put a sudden end to the sin and misery that is in the world, were it not that his far-seeing judgment counsels its temporary permission for a benevolent ultimate purpose, toward which even the wrath of men is unconsciously ministering.
But the case is quite different with those who have renounced their own way and turned to the Lord, who have accepted of his forgiveness through Christ, and who have thus been restored to their original standing (as in Adam before sin) as sons of God. All so recognized of God are again the heirs of his favor through Christ – "If a son, then an heir." (Gal. 4:7.) And it is to such, and such only, that the promise of divine guidance, referred to in our text, belongs: – "Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory."
What advantages, then, should be looked for in the cases of these sons of God, who have separated themselves from the world and its spirit? By natural inference, we should expect the return of God's favor to restore again the blessings lost by the fall – the blessings of lasting life, health, peace, prosperity and happiness. Yet what do we see? We see these justified ones suffer and die just like other men. Evils befall them; disease lays hold of them; poverty hampers them; friends desert them; and death overtakes them, as well as other men; and, the whole course of the present evil world being against them, their pursuit of righteousness is attended with great difficulty and privation. Wherein, then, are they profited?
The world cannot see that they are profited at all; for the profit is discerned only by the eye of faith in the counsel of God's Word. That counsel, all the sons of God take for their guidance. It describes the present life as a preparatory state, which, if rightly used, prepares for the truly glorious condition designed for sons of God hereafter. It is in view of this instruction of the Word of God, that the Psalmist, in the words of our text, expresses his confident realization of present guidance and of the eternal glory to follow. The present life, being preparatory, is a time for the schooling and discipline of the sons of God; and their subjection to the present ills, [R1561 : page 230] while it is often painful, is recognized by them as necessary, in the providence of God, to work out for them an exceeding and eternal weight of glory. (2 Cor. 4:17.) In this confident realization they have peace, and even joy, in the midst of present tribulation. And this present peace and joy in a realization of the divine forgiveness and favor, and the privilege of present experience, discipline and instruction under the divine tutorship, is the present advantage of the sons of God, while an eternal weight of glory is in store for all who prove faithful under it.
The providence of God over these, his sons, is a very particular providence: – All their steps are ordered of the Lord (Psa. 37:23); and the very hairs of their head are all numbered (Luke 12:7.) His eyes are ever upon the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayers. (1 Pet. 3:12.) All the angels are ministering spirits sent forth to minister to these heirs of salvation. (Heb. 1:14.) All things are made to work together for good to these, who love God and are called according to his purpose (Rom. 8:28); and no good thing is withheld from them. (Psa. 84:11.) How wonderful and particular is this care; and they have the promise of it to the end of their trial state. God is indeed a Father to all that put their trust in him; but there is a wide difference between those who are his sons, and those who remain aliens, and even enemies.
While we thus view the present providence of God and his opposite attitude toward the world and toward those who are now recognized as his sons, we may rise to a still higher altitude. Here we observe the breadth and scope of the divine plan, and see that even now, while God does not and cannot treat the world as sons and grant them his fatherly grace and blessing, he is nevertheless preparing to bless them with his favor as soon as they come to the proper attitude of sons.
He has devised, and already partly executed, a plan for the redemption and restitution of all who will by and by repent fully and submit themselves to his righteous requirements; and, in their present alien and outcast condition, he is giving them such experiences as will in time bring them to realize their own helplessness and to desire and seek the favor of God. In the working out of his grand general plan, which has for its ultimate end the blessing of all the families of the earth, all the bitterness of sin and evil that men have experienced have had a part. To this end God has also been over-ruling the affairs of men for the past six thousand years. That is, while he has been permitting men to rule themselves according to their own ideas, he has been, unknown to them, so over-ruling as to make even their blind and evil course bring to pass circumstances and events which they did not foresee nor contemplate, but which in the long run of his plan ministers to his purpose. Thus, for instance, the world's present blind and wrong course is bringing about a great time of trouble, which God foresaw and will permit, whose final outcome under the overruling of God, will be the overthrow of human governments and the establishment of the divine. In the past men have had their affairs their own way to the extent that they could agree among themselves, to the extent that the unseen prince of this world, Satan, did not interfere and overpower them, and to the extent that their plans were not interfering with the purpose and plan of God.
Thus, though men have not been aware of it, and have conducted their affairs regardless of both God and Satan, God has all the while been overruling both man's and Satan's designs in the affairs and destinies of nations, so as to give to men the largest possible experience with sin and its consequences, thus to prepare them eventually for willing submission to the righteous reign of the Prince of peace. They have had experience with every shade and form of government; and now, as the end of Gentile times approaches, the world is preparing to express its complete dissatisfaction with all, in general and world-wide anarchy. The crisis is fast approaching and the end is nearing when the wayward, prodigal world will come to its last extremity. But man's extremity will be God's opportunity; and to this extremity he is therefore permitting them blindly to drift. But when, with broken and contrite hearts, they turn to the Lord, they will [R1561 : page 231] prove the joys of his forgiving love, and mark how, even before they called upon him, he was preparing to answer (Isa. 65:24) – first, in the redemption provided; and secondly, in the necessary, hard experiences which shall have brought them to repentance and to a full realization of their need of God's fatherly providence, and to humble, grateful dependence.
These overrulings of God among the nations are not to be regarded as providences over, and favors to, sinners, but rather as measures preparatory to the blessing of future repentant and obedient sons, who will profit by contrasting the coming good with the present evil; and also as measures necessary for the present welfare of those who are now his sons.
With these thoughts in mind, mark the stately steppings of our God along the aisles of history – how even the wrath of man has been made to further the interests of the divine plan. The rise and fall of empires and the wars and revolutions that have unsettled and disturbed the world, while they were great evils in themselves, nevertheless saved men from sinking lower and lower in lethargy and vice: they roused ambitions; they kept the human mind awake, and set men to thinking and planning to improve their conditions. They brought men of different tribes and nations together, sharpened intellectuality, stimulated ambition, led to discoveries and inventions, and thus helped to keep the race above the level of the brute creation. Even the infamous slave trade, which brought thousands of black men from Africa to this favored land, was, as viewed in the light of God's overruling providence, a blessing in disguise; for the black man in America has enjoyed advantages of civilization here that he would never have known in his native land. And similar providences we can also mark in the great persecutions and distresses of the old world, which drove the lovers of liberty to our shores, here to establish a free government and conditions of society specially favorable to the consummation of God's great purpose to gather a people for his name. The subject is too large for extended discourse here, but with this brief suggestion the reader will mark thousands of instances where God's overruling providence can be seen in history working together to the predetermined end; and yet in it all the world is still pursuing its own wilful and wayward course, and will continue to do so until the judgments of the Lord overtake and subdue them.
No nation on the face of the earth can now be said to have God's special fatherly providence over it; for there is no nation even claiming to be the sons of God. Consequently, no nation can claim his care and protection. All are alike exposed to the fortunes or misfortunes of the course they pursue; and God will not interfere, except in so far as to shape the end toward the final accomplishment of his great work; and that shaping, we are informed, will soon require the overthrow of all the thrones of earth and a great time of unprecedented trouble. – Jer. 25:15,16,26,27; Dan. 2:44; 12:1; Hag. 2:21,22; Heb. 12:26,27; Rev. 11:15.
But let the surges of trouble rise: God's people – his sons and daughters – can still claim the precious promises of guidance with his [R1562 : page 231] counsel. They are his "peculiar people," "a holy nation," unrecognized by the world, as yet, but soon to be manifested in power and great glory. Previous to the Gospel age the Lord had a special holy nation, and his special providence over that nation was illustrative of a similar providence over the antitype, the Gospel Church. But let us not overlook the fact that the providences of God over typical Israel were of a disciplinary character, as are those of the Church, the spiritual Israel, now. They were led, instructed, chastened and encouraged according to the necessities for their development and perfecting as children of God. And those of that age who meekly submitted to the Lord's providential care and leading, walking by faith as we do now, though they received not the reward of their faithfulness then (Acts 7:5; Heb. 11:39,40), were laid away to rest until God's set time to recall them, and were marked by him as the precious heirs of his loving favor to be granted in due time.
A similar course has been pursued all through the Gospel age, wherein consecrated believers [R1562 : page 232] have experienced the favor of God's providential leading, teaching, chastening and encouragement; and, having received the seal of sonship, they too have one by one been laid away to rest until the day of his appearing and kingdom – and "Precious in the sight of the Lord has been the death of his saints." (Psa. 116:15.) They have been guided by his counsel, and shall in due time be received into glory – those of the Jewish age into the glory of the earthly phase of his kingdom; and those of the Gospel age into the glory of its heavenly phase. (See MILLENNIAL DAWN, Vol. I., Chap. xiv.) In our treatment of the S.S. Lesson for July 2nd, attention is further called to the special providences of God in the general direction and course of the work of the Gospel Church, which on that account we omit here.
In this reasonable and Scriptural view of divine providence, the humble and believing children of God will realize that, while they may not be able at all times to understand the Lord's ways in all his dealings, they can know of his wisdom, love and care, and that they can therefore trust him where they cannot trace him. We should not expect to be able always to comprehend the divine wisdom, which is so much beyond our own; yet we can often see it afterward. Sometimes his discipline may be severe, and by no means easy to bear, yet "afterwards, it yields the peaceable fruits of righteousness." After the bitter comes the sweet; so let us take the bitter patiently, and rejoice in hope of the sure fulfilment of all the exceeding great and precious promises to be realized in due time by those who patiently continue in well doing – in submitting without reserve to the providence of God, to the guidance with his counsel.
The Psalmist represents a large class of the immature, inexperienced and only partially instructed children of God, when he says (Psa. 73:2-12), "But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped: for I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked....Their eyes stand out with fatness, they have more than heart could wish. They are corrupt and they speak in the wickedness of oppression. From on high [from the chief places of power and control] they speak. They set their mouth against the heavens, and their tongue walketh [their influence hath free course] through the earth. Therefore do his [God's] people turn away hither [into the wilderness condition of separation from the world] and waters of a full cup [of affliction and persecution] are wrung out to them. And they [the ungodly] say, 'How doth God know? and is there knowledge in the Most High?' Behold, these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world; they increase in riches."
The picture is a true one of the present reign of evil. (See also Mal. 3:15.) It is those who selfishly seek their own present aggrandizement, regardless of the interests of others, that are most prosperous now, and that occupy the chief places of control – political, financial, and even religious; while the godly, who despise oppression and love righteousness, and who, therefore, live contrary to the course of the present evil world, become the subjects of oppression.
Taking a narrow or merely human view of the matter, we might well question why God permits the wicked so to triumph at the expense of the righteous. The Psalmist says (verses 16,17), again speaking for the same class of God's children, that the problem was too difficult for him to solve until he went into the sanctuary of God (into the Holy Place of entire consecration to God, typified in "the holy" of the Tabernacle. See Tabernacle Shadows of Better Sacrifices.) There, being specially taught of God through his Word and his providences, we are made to understand the reason for the present perverse order of things – that for a wise purpose it is permitted for a time; but that by and by there will be a great change, when the righteous, now being tested and tried under the reign of oppression, will come forth to honor and glory and power.
It is indeed impossible to understand this – to rightly appreciate the deep philosophy of God's plan of the ages and our privilege of trial and discipline under the present reign of evil – until we come into the sanctuary condition of entire consecration to the will of God, [R1562 : page 233] where the meat of the Word and the light of the holy Spirit are granted to us. Then, like the Psalmist (verse 22), we see how ignorant and foolish we were in being envious of the prosperous wicked. And though, in our former ignorance and foolishness, our feet were almost gone, and our steps had well nigh slipped, we have reason to thank God that he held us by the right hand and did not suffer us to fall. And in view of such care in the past, we joyfully and confidently trust him, not only in the midst of the present trial state, but also for the future outworking of his plan with reference to ourselves and all mankind. The Psalmist has well expressed the present confidence thus acquired, and the grateful adoration of all the consecrated or sanctuary class, saying, (verses 24-26), "Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee. My flesh and my heart faileth [the flesh is too weak and the heart too faint to pursue the course marked out for the righteous in this present evil day, except as strengthened and upheld by power from on high]; but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever.
When God's wonderful plan of the ages is understood, every thing in nature and in experience bears testimony to the overruling of his providence. The heavens declare the glory of God and the earth showeth his handiwork; all speak of an intelligent Designer, wisely adapting means to good and benevolent ends, and ministering to the necessities of his intelligent creatures. Every leaf and every sunbeam bears a loving message of divine providence to the thoughtful. And every inharmony of nature, when viewed in the light of God's plan, is seen to be but a part of that great process whereby God is preparing for the perfect order of things which shall continue forever, when sin and its entailments shall have been banished under the successful reign of Christ; and even the long permitted wrath of man and Satan will eventually be to God's praise.
"Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life." – Prov. 4:23.
The apostle wrote, "A double minded man is unstable in all his ways." A man whose affections are not centered in God, but which are divided with others, or centered on self and its varied whims, cannot be otherwise than vacillating in his course through life, just as a ship's course would be irregular had it two rudders, one before and the other behind, and operated by two masters whose ideas as to course were generally different. They never could accomplish results satisfactory to either.
If we attempt to steer our course acceptably both to the world and to God, we will fail to please either. And, further, the Lord will be a party to no such contract; and, when he steps out, the influence of the other master, the world, will increase, and the result will be slavery to the world. This is the mistake which so many make after coming to recognize the Lord's goodness. Being justified by faith in Christ's redemptive work and realizing peace with God through the merit of the precious blood, they do not make a covenant with the Lord, giving up to him their little all of both the present and the future. Feeling their freedom from the slavery of sin, the temptation is to stand free from God as well as free from Satan, and to do their own pleasure – serving either [R1562 : page 234] God or self, or, to some extent, both God and self.
Such generally agree that obedience to God, even to the extent of sacrifice, would be a reasonable [R1563 : page 234] service in view of his favor in their redemption; yet somehow they feel a disinclination to so fully surrender all to God, lest this should imply too great a sacrifice of self-convenience and self-will. But let no one so minded conclude that he has given his heart to God. To give the heart to God is to surrender the whole being to his will at any cost, even of self-sacrifice, if his will and his work should require it. To give the heart to God is, therefore, to meet and measurably overcome all the coming temptations at once, by a complete surrender of the affections, and consequently of the will, to God. It will settle every question of right and privilege, and make no attempt to distinguish between God's positive commands and his intimated wishes, finding its meat and drink to be the doing of his will, whether pleasant or unpleasant to the flesh, and whether the outcome can be fully seen or not.
This giving of the heart to God, this full complete consecration of every interest, hope and aim, present and future, is sanctification. And those thus fully sanctified may implicitly trust divine wisdom, love and power, and hold fast the exceeding great and precious promises. God will never leave them nor forsake them, nor suffer them to be tempted above what they are able to bear and withstand. All things shall work together for good to such. Only those thus consecrated can and do have the deep peace and joy of heart which the passing storms and difficulties and tribulations of the present time cannot disturb.
Though but few take this step of entire consecration to God's will, still fewer live it out practically, keeping their hearts constantly submissive to the Lord's will only; hence few keep their hearts fully in the love of God (Jude 21); and hence it is that so few enjoy the full measure of the joy and peace and communion with God, which is the privilege of all the fully consecrated and faithful. To maintain our hold upon our new relationship as consecrated sons, to maintain the spirit of adoption now, and to realize in due time our promised joint-heirship with our Lord Jesus in the divine glory, we must let, permit, and not oppose the Lord's plan and leading – let our wills remain dead to self and subservient to God's will, and let God's will direct and rule all our course of action according to his plan. It is thus that we are to fulfil the apostolic instructions – "Let the peace of God rule in your hearts;" "Let this mind [this disposition of heart and consecration of will] be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus our Lord." – Col. 3:15; Phil. 2:5.
And it is in anticipation of our joint-heirship with Christ in glory, that the fully consecrated rejoice to partake of his affliction, as the Apostle exhorts, saying, "Rejoice, inasmuch as [or to the extent that] ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy." – 1 Pet. 4:13.
I do not ask, dear Lord, that life may be
A pleasant road;
I do not ask that thou wouldst take from me
Aught of its load;
I do not ask that flowers should always spring
Beneath my feet;
I know too well the poison and the sting
Of things too sweet.
For one thing only, Lord, dear Lord, I plead:
Lead me aright,
Tho' strength should falter, and tho' heart should bleed,
Through peace to light.
I do not ask, dear Lord, that thou shouldst shed
Full radiance here;
Give but a ray of peace, that I may tread
Without a fear;
I do not ask my cross to understand,
My way to see;
Better, in darkness, just to feel thy hand,
And follow thee.
Joy is like restless day, but peace divine
Like quiet night;
Lead me, O Lord, till perfect day shall shine,
Through peace to light.
DEAR SIR: – I am endeavoring to "walk in the light, as He is in the light," believing myself fully consecrated, and solicitous to understand his will concerning us. I read the TOWER with pleasure and profit, and quite approve of most of its utterances. Here is one, however, I wish you would further explain and justify:
"As concerns voting, the case is somewhat different, and we fully agree with you in the view expressed – that our covenant with the Lord, and our fidelity to him, practically make us aliens in our relations to all human governments, and that, therefore, we would best take no part in the election of officers or in the management of the affairs of this world." – Z.W. TOWER, May 15, 1893.
Another brother writes urging that the Prohibition Party should have our votes and influence. He claims that the reform that it is attempting to bring about is in perfect accord with our teachings relative to the character of the Millennium; and that it is, therefore, evident that the Prohibition Party is of the Lord's institution, and that to fail to support it is to fail in that degree to serve the Lord.
These two brethren present their side of this question in its best form – pure patriotism – the welfare of the people. And we confess that, if we considered it possible to bring in the blessings of the Millennium by political reform, there would be a great temptation to help it on by voting.
But we see no reason for supposing that a majority of the people, of this or of any other country inhabited by the fallen race of Adam, will join in the interest of righteousness and establish it. Some of the vast majority are wicked; more are blind and stupid and easily misled in judgment; and nearly all are ruled by selfishness, which is the very spirit of Satan.
Hence we have no confidence in the flesh, nor that any government that the majority of fallen men could institute would be anything more than relatively good – and that in comparison with the terribly bad institutions, which have for centuries more or less abused power and oppressed the masses, especially the meek.
Not only is this our judgment based upon the history of centuries, but the infallible Word of God more than corroborates this view. It declares that present governmental institutions are simply human efforts and not of God; and that because mankind in general are sold under sin and blinded by Satan, and thus his dupes, therefore, Satan is really "the prince of this world" or age. It pictures present governments as beastly, and bids God's saints rejoice in the promise that soon Christ will overthrow all these, and on their ruins establish the long promised and prayed for Kingdom of God. – Dan. 2:44.
The testimony is that it will not be by a bloodless revolution at the ballot box, but by "a time of trouble such as was not since there was a nation;" in which the Lord will dash the Kingdoms of this world to pieces, as pottery is shivered before the blows of an iron rod. – Dan. 12:1; Rev. 2:26,27.
True, all who love righteousness should feel, and do feel, a sympathy for every moral reform which gives the slightest promise of helping roll away the curse which now rests upon the world by reason of the reign of sin and death. But those who get into the Lord's confidence, and are granted an insight into His Word, are there informed regarding the divine plan; for the "secret of the Lord is with them that reverence him." And thus getting the spirit or mind of the Lord – "the spirit of a sound mind" – they are saved from following the various delusions, which swallow up the time and energies of many well-meaning people; and are enabled to give their time and energy in harmony with the great plan which God is out-working, viz., the call and "perfecting of [R1563 : page 236] the saints," thus making ready the kings and priests who, under Christ, their "head," shall soon rule and bless all the families of the earth.
It is therefore a mistake to suppose that the Prohibition Party is God's Party, laboring under his direction, and that he will bring to its efforts success. While it is less selfish than other parties, and while it probably contains proportionately a larger number of good people than do other parties, yet it is only man's [R1564 : page 236] party carrying on man's idea. It is going about to establish righteousness, etc., on its own lines, and has not submitted itself to the divine plan for establishing righteousness, presented in God's Word.
Let us not forget to look to the Lord and the apostles as our patterns in this as in every matter: There were many moral, social and political reforms possible in the days of our Lord and his apostles, but we do not read of any effort on their part either to inaugurate or to assist in such movements. Why? Because they knew that such was not God's plan; and they desired to be and were co-workers with God in his plan. If God had seen fit to give the four great empires, pictured in Daniel, the control of the world "until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled," why should they attempt to take it from them sooner. If God saw fit to permit the groaning creation as a whole to continue to groan and to gain experience for a few years longer, until the Kingdom Church has been selected and set up in power and great glory, cannot his children acknowledge the wisdom of his plan and co-operate in it by giving their energies, as he directed, to the selecting and polishing of each other as members of that Kingdom Church? "Trust in the Lord, and wait patiently for him;" for all his purposes shall be accomplished in his own due time. Let us work with him as much as we can, and follow in the footsteps of our Lord and the apostles by preaching God's Kingdom (and not moral reforms) as the hope of the world, and let us seek to perfect the members of that Kingdom.
Furthermore, looking at the subject from another stand-point, we remark that, He who votes at an election is morally bound to sustain the government he has participated in making – even to the giving of his life in its defense. On the contrary, soldiers of the cross are not to battle with carnal weapons, but have consecrated their lives even unto death in the service of another kingdom, whose interests are often against those of all the kingdoms of this world.
III. QUAR., LESSON VIII., AUG. 20, ACTS 24:10-25.
The clamor against Paul, started at Jerusalem, was a determined one, and his enemies persistently sought his life. This lesson finds him in Caesarea (Acts 23:23,24) before Felix, the governor of the province; and Paul, in the presence of his accusers – the high priest Ananias, with a deputation from the Sanhedrin and a professional advocate, Tertullus – was permitted to speak for himself. The charges brought against him were, (1) that he was guilty of sedition, and so of disloyalty to the Roman government; (2) that he was guilty of heresy; (3) that he was guilty of profaning the temple, and thus of affronting a religion which was under the protection of the Roman government.
VERSES 10-13. The first and last charges Paul positively denies, and challenges them for proof of their impious assertions.
VERSE 14. To the charge of what they call heresy he freely pleads guilty; but intimates that their calling it heresy does not prove it to be such. In those days, as well as to-day, the truth is generally classed as heresy. The truth never was, and never will be, popular, until the Kingdom of God is established in the earth. And yet all that is termed heresy is not truth. For instance, [R1564 : page 237] while the so-called orthodoxy of to-day, with all its confusion and contradicting testimony, its unscriptural and unreasonable claims, and its poor human philosophies, however popular, is manifestly untrue, there are other vain philosophies and human speculations called heresies, as truly they are, which go even farther astray from the Truth. The Briggs doctrine is one of these, and their number is constantly increasing.
But Paul's kind of heresy is the kind that all the saints should have – the kind which worships the one true God, believing "all things which are written in the law and in the prophets." The teachings of the Lord and the apostles never conflict with these; but together they form one harmonious system of divine truth worthy of all acceptation.
VERSE 15. The doctrine of the resurrection, both of the just and the unjust, at the second coming of Christ, was the Apostle's special theme. He defined it, showed it to be the legitimate result of the ransom paid for all mankind, and held it forth as the blessed hope for the Church and for the world, and bade the Church rejoice in the special privilege of the first resurrection. See our treatment of this subject in our issue of April 1st.
VERSES 17-21. With reference to the last charge, Paul brought forth the clearest proof of innocence. He was found in the temple purified, according to the Jewish ceremonial, which symbolized full consecration to God. And also in the presence of the Jewish council he had showed no disrespect, and this whole tumult had been excited by the strife of the two parties – the Pharisees and the Sadducees which composed it – when he declared his faith in the resurrection, which the Pharisees believe, but which the Sadducees deny.
VERSES 22-26. Paul improved his opportunity when brought before Felix, the governor – who was notoriously avaricious, cruel and licentious, and who, Josephus says, was one of the most corrupt and oppressive governors ever despatched from Rome to Judea – to reason of righteousness, self-control and judgment to come. And his reasoning was such as commended itself to the hardened sinner before him. Felix trembled with fear before his own self-accusations and in view of the judgment to come, although there was no repentance in his heart. The reasonable inference of a judgment to come is most manifest from the established truth of a just and holy and powerful God; but the world sees no reasonableness in the false doctrine of eternal torment, which Antichrist has invented to scare men into a profession of godliness and an assumption of its forms. But the true doctrine of a coming judgment, which will require men to render an account for all their sins against any measure of light, may well cause men to tremble when forced to consider their crimes, and the reasonable inference that God will not always permit sin to go unpunished, neither will he allow virtue to lose its reward.
DEAR SIR AND FRIEND: – "Honest confession is good for the soul." This maxim is an old one, and I have believed it as far back as memory can reach. I have a confession to make, and as there are none near me willing to lend a sympathizing ear, I come to you – personally a stranger – feeling that you can understand fully what my friends will not even listen to.
My parents were what may be termed strict Methodists, and in that faith I was reared. Duty to them compelled me to attend the church and Sabbath-school of that denomination, though I comprehended but little, as the teachings were too deep for my immature mind. The doctrine of eternal torment, however, was preached and taught me so persistently, and was so vividly illustrated to me, that through fear I believed or thought I believed it. These teachings were undoubtedly meant for my good; but from a retrospective glance I am forced to admit they [R1565 : page 237] have worked the opposite; for, from hearing so much of them, I made up my mind, when but a mere boy, that as soon as I became released from parental control, I would keep clear of churches in general and the Methodist one in particular. This liberty came to me more than a dozen years ago, and during the intervening period I have remembered my resolve. Until three months ago, I had attended church only about four or six times. I drifted here and there, paying attention to nothing but pleasure [R1565 : page 238] and bodily comforts, a very heathen in fact, until about three months ago. Conscience told me I was leading a wrong life, and that in duty to myself and my children I should change my mode, and give them a good example, if nothing more. I tried to hush its voice by applying myself to congenial tasks, but it would not be hushed. Finally, I made up my mind that attendance at church would satisfy this silent monitor, so to the Protestant Episcopal church I went, and I have attended it regularly ever since.
About two weeks after I had resumed church attendance and my mind had become reasonably easy, I was putting my wardrobe in order, and found two OLD THEOLOGY tracts, entitled Thy Word is Truth, and Dr. Talmage's View of the Millennium. I read them, carelessly at first, then again with more attention. They were something new to me, and seemed to appeal to common sense and reason. I inquired of my wife where they came from, and was informed that they had been left by a Mrs. Bergner, who had promised to send a paper bearing on the same subjects. This paper came in due time and proved to be the February number of the TOWER, containing an article entitled "What say the Scriptures concerning Hell." This article riveted my attention, and I read it over and over again, and confirmed it with the Bible. It was a wonderful new doctrine to me, and upset all former beliefs on this subject. These readings prompted me to send for the three volumes of MILLENNIAL DAWN. I have read them all very carefully, and, I believe, understandingly. I have proved them by the Bible, and my faith in their truth is as firm as the Rock of Ages; for if the plan of the ages is not true, the Bible is not; and I have always reverenced that grand old book, though previous to reading DAWN I never understood it, but persistently misapplied the grand truths it teaches, and used to take great pleasure in pointing out what I foolishly called its contradictions.
Now, how shall I attempt to describe the conflicting emotions the reading of the DAWN series has caused to arise within me, when I cannot understand their meaning myself? My earnest wish is to be able to do something in God's service, but my will does not seem to be strong enough to put the wish into execution. Am I to persevere in trying in my weak way to grasp that prize which seems so far above my reach? Is there any hope of my ever being able to attain that blessed peace of mind possessed by so many of the TOWER readers, and breathed in every line of the correspondence column? I sincerely ask that you join your prayers with mine, in asking the Great Father above that he will give me abundant light to dispel the present darkness. As one hoping and trusting, I beg to remain,
DEAR FRIENDS: – It is with the deepest gratitude that I write, for I have to tell the same old story that others have often cheered you with before: light where there was darkness, understanding and clear sight where before there was but dim vision and uncertainty; and this through the guidance of our loving Lord in putting it into the heart of a dear friend to spread the truth he had already found. He sent three sets of the DAWNS to his friends in this far-away valley. Two have found good soil wherein to grow, and it is our prayer that the third will also be heeded and the truth diligently sought after. Pray that my life may testify to the reality of the faith that is in me, that others may be led to inquire and learn of Christ Jesus.
I have also seen a few copies of the TOWER, which is a great help to the study of the Scriptures. I enclose my subscription, and an order for DAWNS, as some are willing to read them. My whole life, with the exception of nineteen years, which have only been completed, is before me, and I am waiting for God to open the way to a life of service and witnessing for Christ. I did not like to send a bare order, without letting you know how the Truth is spreading in this part of the country.
Yours in sincerity,
MY DEAR FRIENDS: – True friends and helpers indeed! With all my heart I thank the Lord, and with my whole life I will thank him and praise him, for the light I have received from the reading of the three volumes of MILLENNIAL DAWN; and to you also, I owe a debt of gratitude. It is the Lord who thus blessed your heart, awakened your understanding and filled your hands to sow the good seed and spread the glorious truth – God's living truth. I feel it from line to line, from sentence to sentence, that this is not the outcome of speculation, not the scheme of human intellect, not an uncertain page 239 grasp for truths and teachings, but a living stream of water out of the living fountain. That the Lord may guide you and strengthen and uphold you is, and will henceforth be, my daily prayer.
Yours in Christ,
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL: – I received the first volume of MILLENNIAL DAWN, and was well pleased with it. Before reading it, I was a Universalist; but its plain teaching of the Second Death has convinced me of my error. Since God's plan is to save all men through the second Adam, Christ, from all that was lost in the first Adam, it follows that when every child of Adam has been brought to a full knowledge of God's plan and a full opportunity for forgiveness and restitution to divine favor, all will have been saved from death. Then, however, their individual trial begins; and the length or brevity of salvation depends upon their own (not Adam's) course. If, after all that, they sin wilfully, the death-penalty will be the result of their own, and not Adam's sin – for which Christ died; and there is no authority in the Scriptures for the statement of some that our Lord's death was for, or that it will have any effect upon, those who will die the second death.
DEAR BROTHER: – Permit me in a few words to tell you how I have enjoyed the "meat in due season" which the Lord has provided for me (us) through your instrumentality. I have had The Plan of the Ages on my shelves for years, but, I cannot explain why, without reading it until a few weeks ago. I know, however, that before now I have not been prepared to appreciate it, having had, last winter, a most precious, new experience of the grace and power of God through Jesus Christ. The reading of Vol. I. only sharpened my appetite for the other volumes, although on beginning to read it I remarked to my wife that I feared it was "heretical." I read and pondered, read and wondered, all through the first volume, bought the other two, subscribed for the WATCH TOWER, and found out before long that I had either to surrender to the Truth, or else to reject the whole Bible; and I assure you it was an unspeakable pleasure to me to surrender. I have done it enthusiastically, heartily and gratefully. These things are just what I have been yearning for, unknowingly, for years. I have been praying God to lead me, teach me, and how wonderfully he has redeemed his promises. He had been drawing me slowly, but surely, out of the bonds of sectarianism. I had, so to speak withdrawn one foot from the denomination (Baptist), and was on the verge of taking the other step; and now I know I shall not be tolerated among them. But thanks to God for the Truth; how it liberates!
When in 1880, I was immersed, and joined the then (in Denmark) despised "Baptists," I did it on conviction of truth, and meant to pursue it even unto death; and the Lord has been leading me on until I now have left most of the Baptists behind – many of whom I trust will follow in due time. When I read your article on "Baptism and its Import" in the TOWER, I thought it was the way every Baptist desired to put it, but had failed for stopping short in the progress of Truth.
I was very glad to see announced that a Dano-Norwegian translation of Vol. I. is in the type-setters' hands, for I am anxious to have this marvelous knowledge of the Truth given to my countrymen here and in Denmark. Is any work being done among them? I could use some tracts.
Yours in the Lord,
DEAR SIRS: – Have you any special form of application for colporteurs? If so, I would be obliged if you would send me one; and, at the same time, please give me the cost of the complete outfit for the sale of your books, tracts, etc. I have for some years been watching for an opportunity to engage in some work which would furnish me occupation, in which I might find satisfaction, which would be of actual benefit to others, and in which the gain of money should not be any incentive to work. I am an invalid, but there are many days I am able and willing to work, and would be glad to do so in such a suitable and satisfactory labor as I believe the sale of your books would give me.
I have had the three volumes of DAWN in my possession for nearly a year, and would sooner have notified you of the indescribable blessings I have experienced by their study, but I deferred any such expression until I had critically examined and studied all that is therein written. Not that my opinion is of any value, but because I did not want again to expose myself as a victim of premature enthusiasm page 240 over something new I had found – which I have done several times during many years. My last and most disappointing effort was with "Christian Science." Of your DAWNS I do now boldly declare that they are not only the most wonderful exposition, but the only one I have ever found strictly and perfectly in accord with God's revealed Word.
I have been greatly comforted in my confinement by the study of your Tabernacle Shadows. You have certainly made very clear the things to come by your excellent explanation of the types of the real. With such a model before me I can locate myself on my journey toward the celestial city or "the Most Holy."
Very truly yours,
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL: – I enclose fifty cents for the WATCH TOWER for the next six months. I am a new subscriber, but I have read a few copies kindly lent me by brother T. Mitchell, and I beg to say I am much interested in them. Day by day they bring new light. It is about eighteen months since I commenced to read MILLENNIAL DAWN, and I thank God that I was brought in contact with the precious food. I have been convinced for several years that the nominal church under her present system could not be in accord with divine revelation, and that she is daily drawing nearer to the world.
I am doing all I can to bring the precious Truth to others, and I thank God that one dear friend of mine has been brought to see the Truth. He has been an agnostic for about fifty years. He told me recently that he has a sister in London who has been praying for him for years, and that he wrote her about three weeks ago that he was loving the same God as she loved, and had been converted by reading the TOWER on "Hell."
Dear Brother, believe me to be yours in Christ,
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL: – Anyone who has been led out of darkness into the marvelous light of the glorious gospel, always feels kindly toward the medium through which he was delivered. Therefore, and understanding that you are always glad to hear from the interested, I send a few lines with my order for books.
Some years ago, before I had heard of your writings, I had concluded that denominationalism was wrong and caused only strife and contention; and, failing to find in the Scriptures anything about organizing and joining churches, I determined to have nothing to do with anything of the kind. So I withdrew from the Christian church, against the protest of my friends (a very hard thing to do), and have ever since been trying to learn more truth. Brother Roberson, of Texas, obtained my address through a paper, and wrote to me persistently until he got me to studying your books; and by his help I found it was the very thing I had been so long looking for. While I can not understand all, yet I find it a grander and more sublime theme, with more harmony in all its details, than I thought was possible. I will ever feel grateful to Brother Roberson and yourself for this help in time of need.
May God's richest blessings rest on you and Sister R. and all co-laborers.
DEAR SIR & BROTHER: – Pardon my familiarity in thus addressing you without a formal introduction; but after reading your three volumes of MILLENNIAL DAWN, the contents of which are so near my own convictions of the present state of affairs, it seemed to me when reading them that I was receiving a long-prayed-for light upon various topics that had hitherto been quite dark, and I wish to express my appreciation of this light and joy. It seemed as if great scales were being taken from my eyes, and I began to see men as trees walking. Being very desirous to obtain more light and meat in due season, I would kindly ask you to send me your paper and such books as bear upon the subject in hand. It is my earnest desire to know just what Christ's will is concerning me.
Yours in Christ,
I wish to ask you in regard to "particulars" concerning arrangements for those wishing to help in their distribution. I cannot afford to order many copies for free gifts; but am anxious that the works shall be read. I was so discouraged and disheartened myself, and every effort to "search the Scriptures," on my part, was so frowned upon by ministers and church members, that I cannot but feel that your books have saved me from Infidelity.
Earnestly your well-wisher,
PUBLISHED TWICE A MONTH.
SUBSCRIPTION PRICE, $1.00 A YEAR, IN ADVANCE,
INCLUDES ALSO A SUBSCRIPTION, FOR ONE YEAR,
TO "THE OLD THEOLOGY" (TRACTS), QUARTERLY,
By Express Order, Postal Money Order, Bank Draft, or Registered Letter. Foreign only by Foreign Money Order.
N.B. – Those of the interested, who by reason of old age or accidents, or other adversity, are unable to pay, will be supplied FREE, if they will send a Postal Card each December, stating their case and requesting the paper.
From present indications it seems evident that our convention will be well attended; – addresses of intending comers are from every quarter of the Union, and from Canada. Let all come hungering and thirsting for righteousness (for a right life, as well as for a right faith); for only such have the promise of being filled. Come prepared to do good to others as you may find opportunity, as well as to get good from contact with others of like precious faith.
Some of the colporteurs write that they long to be there, but many of them fear that they cannot incur so much expense – boarding and lodging, in addition to railroad expenses. To all regular colporteurs, who for more than a month past have been giving their time exclusively to this work, we would say: This will be a special occasion! We want to meet and greet every one of you! It will be profitable to you, not only spiritually, but temporally; for after the meeting you can get instruction in the successful methods of colporteur work: instructions which will help you in coming years to make the work a success, and thus will greatly increase your talents as stewards. Therefore, if necessary to the meeting of your rail-road fare, we will give you a little longer credit on DAWNS. And, if you need it, your boarding and lodging expenses during the period of the Convention will be paid out of the Tract Fund. Surely come!
To all we would say: Bring none with you that you have not previously mentioned to us by letter, as our lodging quarters must be arranged for in advance. And please remember that only those who believe in Christ as man's redeemer, substitute, corresponding price, are at all invited. For what communion hath light with darkness, or believers with unbelievers? Make a distinction, therefore, between the clean and the unclean; – between those who stand washed by faith in the precious blood, and those who stand uncleansed, in the filthy rags of their own righteousness.
Uncertainty as to the number who will attend, and other matters, have prevented our completing arrangements so as to be able to give particulars at this date. But cards with instructions will be mailed, in due time, to all who write accepting the invitation. These should be preserved and brought along to the Convention. They will serve to identify you to the person having the lodging arrangements in charge. For further particulars see July TOWER, page 216. page 242
Our readers will be glad to learn that our dear Brother von Zech, full of zeal for his country-men, that they should enjoy the meat now in due season, has just finished the translating and publishing of DAWN, VOL. III., Thy Kingdom Come.
The work is in every way very creditable. The prices are necessarily a little higher than the English, but still are lower than prices usually charged for similar works. In paper covers, 35 cents. You may have friends who cannot read English, or who cannot understand it so well as German. Remember these for such.
We have heretofore mentioned the fact that Brother Zech edits and publishes, in German, Die Ernte Sichel, semi-monthly. Having no knowledge of German, we cannot speak of it intelligently; but we are pleased to be assured by others that it is on the same line with ZION'S WATCH TOWER, and loyal to the doctrine of the ransom finished at Calvary.
Address, Sichel Publications Haus,
LANGUAGE is but a medium for the communication of thought, and words are but symbols of ideas. When words are so framed in sentences as to express an impossibility or an absurdity, when considered literally, but to forcibly illustrate a known truth, when symbolically interpreted, we instinctively recognize the figure, and are instructed by it. In this way many of the deep things of God – the spiritual things – are expressed to us, since they are often forcibly illustrated by things familiar to us on the natural plane. Thus, for instance, the resurrection, both natural and spiritual, finds an illustration in the processes of vegetation (1 Cor. 15:35-38); and the processes of the beginning, development and final perfecting of the spiritual sons of God find a remarkable illustration in the begetting, quickening and birth of the natural man. (James 1:18; Eph. 2:1; John 3:3.) But if, when we read these symbols or illustrations of spiritual things, we pervert and dishonor our God-given reason by accepting palpable absurdities as their interpretation, we deceive ourselves, and in so doing are not blameless. In parables and dark, symbolic sayings our Lord opened his mouth and taught his disciples, expecting them to use their common sense in either interpreting them themselves, or in judging of the correctness of any interpretation offered by others as they should become meat in due season. And when on one occasion, instead of using their brains to draw from it the implied lesson, the disciples asked for the interpretation of a parable, Jesus suggestively and reprovingly replied, "How then will ye know all parables?" (Mark 4:13.) He would have us think, consider and put our God-given mental faculties to their legitimate use.
Bearing in mind these wholesome reflections, together with the fact that the Scriptures abound in these symbolic expressions of truth, let us consider the Apostle's meaning when he speaks of "Christ in you, the hope of glory." He uses the same figure again in his letter to the Galatians (Gal. 4:19), saying, "My children, whom I am bearing again, till Christ be formed in you," etc. Here the Apostle is likening his care and labor and endurance, for those who had been begotten by the Truth to the new nature, to the physical endurance of a mother in nourishing and sustaining the germ of human life until the new human creature is formed and able to appropriate for itself the life-sustaining elements of nature, independent of her life. So the Apostle sought to nourish and sustain those germs of spiritual being with his own spiritual life until, apart from his personal work and influence, they would be able to appropriate for themselves the God-given elements of spiritual life contained in the Word of Truth, until the Christ character should be definitely formed in them.
In no other reasonable sense could the Apostle bear those Galatian Christians; and in no other reasonable sense could Christ be formed in them, or in us. The thought is that every true child of God must have a definite individual Christian character which is not dependent [R1570 : page 244] for its existence upon the spiritual life of any other Christian, but which, from the Word of Truth, proclaimed and exemplified by other Christians, has drawn those principles of righteousness and those elements of life which give him an established character, a spiritual individuality of his own. So positive and definite should be the spiritual individuality of every one, that, should even the beloved brother or sister whose spiritual life first nourished ours and brought us forward to completeness of character fall away (which the Apostle shows is not impossible – Heb. 6:4-6; Gal. 1:8), we would still live, being able to appropriate for ourselves the spirit of truth.
Paul feared, and had reason to fear, that the Galatian Christians had not yet come to this condition of established character – that the Christ life was not yet definitely formed in them. He said, "I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labor in vain" (Gal. 4:11); for already they were giving heed to seducing teachers and departing from the faith, showing that they were not established in the Truth, and consequently not established in the spirit of the Truth, which is the spirit of Christ, and hence that Christ was not yet formed in them. – Verse 19.
Alas, how often we see among those who bear the name of Christ, and who have truly received the spirit of adoption as sons of God, that Christ is not yet formed in them: that they have not yet reached that degree of development which manifests a distinct spiritual individuality. They depend largely upon the spiritual life of others, and if their spiritual life declines these dependent ones suffer a similar decline; if they go into error, these follow, as did many of those Galatian Christians to whom Paul wrote. How is it, beloved, in your several cases? Apply the question to yourselves – Is Christ formed in you so fully that none of these things move you? that, however they may grieve you at heart, they cannot affect your spiritual life? This is what it is to have "Christ in you, the hope of glory."
A cloak of mystery and superstition has been thrown around this expression of the Apostle, evidently by the great adversary of the Truth and the Church, to the effect that in some secret way, known only to the initiated, Christ personally comes into the consecrated soul and uses that soul simply as a machine; and that consequently the machine is about infallible, because Christ is using it; that for them to speak, or think, or act, or interpret the Scriptures, is for Christ to do it, in whose hands they are merely the passive agents. With this idea they generally go further, and claim that Christ personally talks with them and teaches them independently of his Word; and some go so far as to claim that they have visions and special revelations from the Lord. Some speak of this presence as Christ; some as the holy Spirit; and some speak of them interchangeably.
While there is a semblance of truth in all this, and while we remember that Jesus said, "He that hath my commandments and keepeth them...shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him; ...and we will come unto him and make our abode with him" (John 14:21,23), it is true that a more serious error could scarcely be entertained than this idea of personal infallibility because of the supposed mysterious presence of another being within.
Notice that this promise of the abiding presence of the Father and the Son is to those who have and keep the commandments of the Lord Jesus. Those, therefore, who ignore the Word of the Lord and have not his commandments – who do not know what they are, and hence cannot keep them, but who hearken to the voice of their own imagination and note all the changing states of their own feelings, mistaking them for the voice of the Lord, and following the impressions arising from this source, instead of the commandments or teachings of the Lord – are quite mistaken in claiming this promise. Under their delusion they are following another spirit than the spirit of truth; and unless recovered from the snare they must inevitably plunge deeper and deeper into superstition and error.
The first difficulty we meet, in attempting to dispel this delusion from the minds of those infatuated with it, is the claim that this is a higher attainment in the spiritual life, up to which we [R1570 : page 245] have not yet measured. If the testimony of the Scriptures bearing on the subject is brought forward they say, "Oh, I see you have the head-knowledge, but you have not the spirit, you have not Christ in you." They then proceed to tell how Christ is in them, and that he is "teaching them wonderful things," which we shortly discover to be quite out of harmony with the Word of God. The case is indeed a sad one when all Scripture testimony to the contrary of their belief is set aside with claims of superior revelations of Christ or the holy Spirit which other children of God do not enjoy, and that Christ personally dwells in them, etc., etc.
Who but these deceived ones cannot see that, if their theory be true – if God talks with them and answers all their queries aside from his written Word, the Bible, through mental inspiration, or by dreams, or by audible sound – then the Bible is to such a useless book; and time spent in its study is so much time wasted. Who would "search the Scriptures" as for hid treasures, as the Lord enjoined and as all the apostles searched, if they could shut their eyes, or kneel, and have God make a special revelation to them, respecting the information desired. Surely any sensible person would prefer a special revelation on a subject, rather than spend days and months and years examining and comparing the words of our Lord and the apostles with those of the prophets and the Book of Revelation ("searching what or what manner of time the spirit did signify"), if they could ask and have an inspired and infallible answer in a moment. None of God's consecrated ones should be thus misled of the Adversary. It is the stepping-stone to pride and every evil work; – to pride, because those who are thus deceived soon feel themselves honored of God above the apostles, who even in conference judged of the mind of the Lord as read in his Word and in his providential leadings in harmony with his Word (Acts 15:12-15); to every evil work, in that those thus puffed up fancy themselves infallible, and, separated from the anchor of truth, the Bible, Satan can soon lead them rapidly into the outer darkness of the world, or into yet darker delusions.
But the testimony of the Scriptures is quite to the contrary of this vaunting spirit. Paul says, "Know ye not...that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates;" and then he exhorts that we examine ourselves whether we be in the faith, or whether we have rejected the faith and thus become reprobates – no longer acceptable to God. (2 Cor. 13:5.) Every true child of God has respect to the commandments of God: he searches the Scriptures that he may know them, and is not left in ignorance of them; and, learning them, he endeavors to keep them, and the abiding presence of the Father and the Son is with all such so long as they continue to hold and to keep (obey) his commandments – to hold the truth in righteousness.
To have the truth and to keep it is not merely to accept it on the recommendation of some friend, and because it gives some comfort and costs nothing, and to hold it until some other presumed friend dazzles the unsettled mind with some fanciful theory. The promise of the abiding presence of the Father and the Son is not to such. Christ is not in them; Christ is in the humble and sincere ones. He and the Father love and abide with them.
But how? To illustrate – a friend accompanying another to a railway station said, as he was about to board the train, "Remember, I will be with you all the way." He meant that his thoughts would be with his friend and that he would be concerned for his welfare, etc. In a similar, and yet in a fuller and broader sense, the Lord is ever present with his people. He is always thinking of us, looking out for our interests, guarding us in danger, providing for us in temporal and spiritual things, reading our hearts, marking every impulse of loving devotion to him, shaping the influences around us for our discipline and refining and hearkening to our faintest call for aid or sympathy or fellowship with him. He is never for a moment off guard, whether we call to him in the busy noon hours or in the silent watches of the night. And not only is the Lord Jesus thus present, but the Father also. How blessed the realization of such abiding faithfulness! And no real child of God is devoid of this evidence of his adoption. Sometimes it is more [R1570 : page 246] manifest than at others; as, for instance, when some special trial of faith or patience or endurance necessitates the special call for special help, and forthwith comes the grace sufficient with a precious realization of its loving source. Thus
"E'en sorrow, touched by heaven, grows bright
With more than rapture's ray,
As darkness shows us worlds of light
We never saw by day."
Every true child of God has these precious evidences of sonship, and the roughest places in his pathway are so illuminated with divine grace that they become the brightest, and memory continues to refer to them with thankfulness; and faith and hope and love grow strong and inspiring.
Our Lord always links the progress and development of our spiritual life with our receiving and obeying the truth, and every child of God should beware of that teaching which claims to be in advance of the Word, and that Christ or the holy Spirit speaks to such advanced Christians independently of the Word. The snare is a most dangerous one. It cultivates spiritual pride and boastfulness, and renders powerless the warnings and expostulations of the sacred Scriptures because the deluded ones think they have a higher teacher dwelling in them. And Satan, taking advantage of the delusion, leads them captive at his will.
These symbolic expressions of the Scriptures must be interpreted as symbols, and to force any unreasonable interpretation upon them manifests a culpable wilfulness in disregarding the divinely appointed laws of our mind, and the result is self-deception. When we read, "He that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him" (1 John 4:16), the only reasonable interpretation is that we dwell in the love and favor, and in the spirit or disposition of God; and that his spirit or disposition dwells in us. Thus God by his indwelling spirit works in us to will and to do his good pleasure (Phil. 2:13); and we are reckoned as not in the flesh, but in the spirit, if the spirit of God dwells in us. – Rom. 8:8,9.
Let us endeavor to have more and more of the mind, the spirit of God – to have his word abide in us richly (John 15:7; Col. 3:16) – to have and to keep his commandments, that the abiding presence of the Father and the Son may be with us; and that, realizing that the Christ character and life are definitely formed in us, the hope of glory may be ours; for our Lord said, "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven." (Matt. 7:21.) How careful then should we be in seeking both to know and to do the will of God. Many indeed will come forth with the plea of their wonderful works, hoping to be admitted into the kingdom, but only those will be recognized who have done the will of the Lord, and who have no theories or works of their own whereof to boast.
Perhaps 'twill be in coming years,
It may be in the better land,
We'll read the meaning of our tears,
And thus, sometime, we'll understand.
We'll catch the broken threads again,
And finish what we here began;
Heav'n will the mysteries explain,
And then, ah! then, we'll understand.
We'll know why clouds instead of sun
Were over many a cherished plan;
Why song has ceased when scarce begun;
Ah, yes! sometime, we'll understand.
Why what we longed for most of all,
Eludes so oft our eager hand;
Why hopes are crushed and castles fall –
Anon, sometime, we'll understand.
God knows the way, he holds the key,
He guides us with unerring hand;
Sometime with tearless eyes we'll see;
Yes, there, beyond, we'll understand.
Then trust in God, thro' all thy days,
Fear not, for he doth hold thy hand;
Tho' dark thy way, still sing and praise;
Sometime, sometime we'll understand. – Sel.
IN these days, when rampant Infidelity and stolid Conservatism are each striving for the mastery among professed Christians, it would be well for all to carefully observe the divinely appointed metes and bounds of human reason, especially in its relationship to divine truth.
The reason is the noblest faculty of the human mind. It is the prominent mark of the divine likeness in humanity: it is this which gives to man his superiority over the brute creation: it is this which makes him a creature worthy of eternal life: it is this which also makes him capable of communion with God, and capable of knowing and loving and serving him. "Come, let us reason together," says the Lord, because we are thus created in his own likeness.
To ignore or depreciate the human reason is, therefore, to greatly undervalue God's gift – our greatest blessing and highest endowment. That God would not have us do so is very manifest from his constant appeals to the human reason in the presentation of his truth. Divine truth is set before us as a complete and philosophical system, consistent with itself and with the divine character in every element and feature; and when God would reveal it to his people, he inspired his specially chosen and prepared Apostle (Paul – Gal. 1:15; Acts 9:15) to present it to us with all the power and force of logical deduction, so that our faith in his plan might be a reasonable faith, and that we might be able to give to our fellow-men a reason for the hope that is in us.
The Apostle Paul, it will be noticed, was an acute logician. From the text books of the law and the prophets, and the histories of God's typical people, Israel; and from the teachings and the life and death of Christ, and the special revelations made to himself as an apostle, he reasons out the whole plan of redemption, and shows how, step by step, its various features logically follow. He points to the original perfection of man and to his fall into sin; and shows how, by the law of heredity, all the race were involved in the fall and in the sentence. (1 Cor. 15:21,22; Rom. 5:17-19.) He then vindicates the justice and wisdom of God in instituting such a law for the propagation of the race as would involve all in the Adamic fall and penalty and all the present distresses, pointing out the final and glorious outcome by means of the redemption of all by the one offering of Christ, and the wisdom whereby the blessed results of redemption and restitution are secured for all. – Rom. 11:32,33.
He shows how necessary was the death of Christ to this grand scheme of salvation. (Heb. 9:15-28), and, by logical deductions, how far-reaching will be its results (1 Tim. 2:3-6); and how, on philosophical principles, those results are as sure to follow that cause as the results of mathematical propositions follow their antecedents. (Rom. 3:10,21-26,29. See also 1 John 1:9.) Then he forestalls any charge of injustice on God's part in permitting the [R1566 : page 247] sacrifice of his Son, by pointing to the fact that the Son of God undertook the heavy task of his own free will, and "for the joy set before him" by the Father, who in consequence highly exalted and abundantly rewarded him. – Heb. 12:2; Phil. 2:9.
He then sets forth the high calling of the Gospel Church, to follow in the Lord's footsteps of humiliation and sacrifice, with the prize in view of being joint-heirs of his glorious inheritance. (1 Cor. 1:26,27; 2 Tim. 2:11,12; Rom. 8:17.) He shows that their consecration to the Lord's service is "reasonable" (Rom. 12:1), and how the glorious end will more than compensate for the present comparatively "light afflictions." (2 Cor. 4:17.) Thus reason is continually appealed to and satisfied with reference to divine truth; and law and prophecy and type and history are all brought forward to minister to the same end; for, for this very purpose they were given – that in due time for the instruction of the Church, all should bear their parts in confirming the faith of God's elect, the bride of his dear Son.
Thus we see that the faith which God expects [R1566 : page 248] his people to exercise is a reasonable faith: it is drawn by logical deductions from established premises, and there is no cause for uncertainty or superstition in it. It is a reasonable confidence in that which God has done, or offered, or promised, backed by a knowledge of his general character and grand plan, which inspires a full reliance upon his promised providence and leading, even when our short-sighted judgment cannot trace all his doings.
It is further noteworthy that when the Lord Jesus opened his mouth in parables and dark sayings, and even when he gave a special revelation to his Church in strange and difficult symbols, he left it for reason to discern their deep significance, when in due time they should be made manifest.
Thus we see how the Lord honors the human reason, and that while it is true that without faith we cannot please God, it is none the less true that without reason we cannot please him. Jesus expected his disciples to draw the reasonable inference from his parables, and on one occasion, when they asked for the interpretation, he reprovingly inquired, "And how then will ye know [understand] all parables?" (Mark 4:13.) And to some of the Jews who accused him of performing his miracles by the power of the devil, instead of by the power of God, which was so manifest in their good and benevolent character, he administered a severe rebuke for so unreasonable and therefore unjustifiable a conclusion. (Matt. 12:24-34.) Again says the Lord by the mouth of the Psalmist (Psa. 32:8,9), "I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will counsel thee; mine eye shall be upon thee. [But] be ye not as the horse or as the mule, which have no understanding, whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle," – i.e. God would have his reasoning creatures serve intelligently and without force.
Since God thus honors the human reason, this likeness to himself which he has bestowed upon his human creatures, who are we that we should despise it, ignore it, or degrade it, or teach others to do so? Rather let us give it its appointed place, and thus honor our Maker; for we are awe-fully and wonderfully made (Psa. 139:14): we are noble creatures, in the image of our God, except as marred by sin. We cannot, therefore, despise or degrade these human faculties without dishonoring our Maker, whose workmanship we are, or were originally, the defects resulting from the fall being no part of his work, but a marring of it.
But while we honor the human reason as the workmanship of God, and recognize its present nobility and use, as did the Lord, even under the circumstances of our present lapsed condition, we show a great lack of both wisdom and humility if we do not recognize the manifest limitations of human reason; that it can only exercise its power within the range of human perception and conception, and that though it is an image of one of the attributes of God, it is of necessity vastly inferior in scope and power to his reason. This would be the reasonable inference of the creature in comparing himself with his Maker; but, in addition to this reasonable inference, we have the Lord's own statement – "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." – Isa. 55:9.
In view, therefore, of this superiority of the Creator over the creature, and also of the filial reverence and subserviency we owe to him as our benevolent and loving Father, it is right that we should always hold the deductions of our reason in abeyance to God's superior wisdom, as he may reveal it. Especially is this our proper attitude in our fallen condition, when we remember that all our faculties have suffered a decline of power.
In failing to recognize this limitation and subserviency of the human reason to the divine, many have gone to an opposite extreme of error from that of ignoring the human reason, to that of unduly glorifying it. The former error tends to superstition, and places its subjects at the mercy of the adversary's many deceptions, while the latter tends to egotism, pride and infidelity. A large class of the professed children of God are bound by the former error, and an increasingly large number are rapidly drifting to the latter extreme; among them [R1566 : page 249] recently some of the most prominent of the clergy of all branches of the nominal church.
This error, however, is the inevitable reaction which always follows in the wake of the error of ignoring reason. Thus, for instance, in France, when reason, long fettered by Papacy, had given place to wide-spread superstition, and superstition had reigned until its absurdities became palpable, a terrible reaction followed, in the French Revolution, which shook the domains of superstition from center to circumference, and led to an extreme glorification of the fallen human reason under the control of ignoble and selfish principles, finally enthroning a profligate woman as the Goddess of Reason and producing a reign of terror. Infidelity soon stamped out the hated superstitions with which the people had been surfeited, and with it reverence for God and religion. Poor human reason soon lost its balance; and insane results followed, when it forgot to recognize the superiority of the divine and to submit thereto.
The trend of the present times is in the same direction: the reaction from a state of lethargy and of blind superstitious reverence for religious teachers and their teachings, and for the Word of God from which all the various conflicting creeds of "Christendom" claim to emanate, has commenced, and is making rapid headway toward open and world-wide infidelity. The reason, so long divorced from faith, has come to be regarded as a separate and antagonistic element. And, vice versa, faith is regarded as antagonistic to reason. Many devout souls are striving to hold on to their blind faith, and to silence the protests of their reason against it, while others – a constantly increasing number – awakened to a sense of the absurdities of their professed faith, cast it away entire, and determine to follow reason. They then set about laying down certain principles which seem to them reasonable, and make these their standards in judging every thing, even the Word of God not excepted.
Miracles, say they, are absurd and unreasonable: therefore we cannot accept the miracles of the Bible as true. Prophecy, they regard as merely human judgment forecasting the future, sometimes correctly and sometimes erroneously. The Law of Moses, they esteem merely as the culmination of the human wisdom of that time, gained in the school of past experience. The teachings of the apostles, they regard as the counsel of well-intentioned men, to be heeded only in so far as seems to them reasonable. The doctrine of the atonement, through the vicarious sacrifice of Christ, which the various creeds have taught, they regard as absurd and unreasonable, and therefore reject it. The doctrines of the fall of man, and of the necessity for an atonement, they reject as incompatible with their, to them, more reasonable theory of evolution; and so they proceed through the entire volume of the sacred Scriptures, expunging from it everything for which their untutored and short-sighted reason cannot account. And since the spiritual things therein revealed cannot be understood by those who have not the mind of the Spirit of God, it is manifest that their inability to grasp and reasonably comprehend the deep things of God is an evidence, not of the unreasonableness of divine truth, but of the lack of the power to comprehend its reasonableness. Thus do these blind leaders of the blind arrogantly exalt human reason above the divine wisdom set forth in the Word of God.
Thus these two extremes, of underrating and of overrating human reason, are seen to be fraught with evil consequences – with the loss of the truth, of the divine favor, and of the blessings which can reach us only through the channels of inspired truth. Let us, therefore, heed well the counsel of the holy Scriptures on these two extremes – "Be ye not as the horse or as the mule which have no understanding, whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle;" but, "I [Paul] say to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly." "See, then, that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise." (Psa. 32:9; Rom. 12:3; Eph. 5:15.) The truth of God, when clearly understood, is seen to be in accord with the highest development of human reason; but let us not forget that human reason cannot attain full development except under [R1566 : page 250] the divine instruction; and only the meek can receive such instruction and be truly wise; [R1567 : page 250] and it is these wise that the Prophet Daniel said should understand. (Dan. 12:10.) Human reasoning which fails to recognize the metes and bounds of divine revelation is earthly, selfish, and eventually devilish, leading to envy, strife, confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above, that reasons on the basis of a proved divine revelation, is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. – Jas. 3:15-17.
"Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light." – 1 Pet. 2:9.
This peculiar people is a new and chosen generation. They were first chosen out from among men, "through sanctification of the spirit and belief of the truth." (2 Thess. 2:13.) Or, in other words, having believed the message of salvation through Christ the Redeemer, and having gratefully accepted the same, and being earnestly desirous of perfect personal conformity to the divine will, and having therefore humbly submitted themselves entirely to God, they were chosen of God to be his peculiar people.
That which renders this people peculiar as compared with all other people in the world is a very radical change – a change of nature, from the human to the divine. (2 Pet. 1:4.) This change of nature has been brought about by the power of the Truth, which leads those who are rightly exercised by it to a full consecration of heart and life to the will and service of God, even unto death. This change of nature is, however, only begun in the present life and consists as yet only of a change of mind and a consequent change of character and action in harmony with the new hopes, aims and aspirations generated by the "exceeding great and precious promises." No wonder is it that a people actuated by such hopes and aims should be a peculiar people – a people separate from the world – in the world and yet not of it.
They are indeed a new "generation" – i.e., a new race, of a new and noble nature, distinct and separate from the human race, although as "new creatures" they are as yet only begotten and developing in the embryo state, the full development or birth being due at the resurrection. Wonderful indeed is this truth – "Ye," brethren, "are a chosen generation" – a new order of beings and chosen of God as the heirs of his special favor. And not only so, says the Apostle, but ye are a priesthood, a royal priesthood – a people to be clothed with authority and power to stand between God and fallen humanity to lift humanity up from its degradation and restore it to the divine likeness and favor. Ye are indeed a royal priesthood, whose power and glory will appear in due time to the glory of God and the blessing of all the families of the earth.
But further, says the Apostle, Ye are "a holy nation." In what sense can this people be called a nation? A nation is a body of people united under one government and having common interests and bound by mutual obligations and mutual consent, either expressed or implied, to conserve those interests. Truly such a people, such a nation, are we under Christ Jesus our King, and our interests are indeed one: they are the interests of the truth concerning the establishment of Christ's Kingdom [R1567 : page 251] in all the earth. Our national policy is aggressive, and contemplates the complete subjection of every other power; but its object, unlike that of all other ambitious powers, is not the glorification of selfishness, but the exaltation of meekness and righteousness and the establishment of universal peace and happiness. Every loyal citizen of this nation is deeply interested in its politics, and is ready to take up the sword for its defense at any moment. However, we remember that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but they are mighty, through God, to the pulling down of strongholds. Our sword is "the sword of the spirit, which is the Word of God," and an everyday exercise and drill in its use makes us able soldiers.
Let all the members of this "chosen generation," this "royal priesthood," this "holy nation," this "peculiar people," seek more and more – by vigilance, by faithfulness and by holiness – to separate themselves from the spirit of the world, to submit themselves to the transforming influences of the spirit of God, and to discipline and drill themselves in the use of the sword of the spirit, that so they may "show forth the praises of him who hath called them out of darkness into his marvelous light."
This peculiar people the Apostle likens, in the beginning of their life of faith, to babes. Though they may be men of mature years, they are but babes beginning a new life. And the Apostle counsels them, as new born babes, to earnestly desire and seek for the sincere milk of the Word of God – the simple truths, the foundation doctrines. These are the plain clear statements of the Scriptures – (1) of the original perfection and glory of humanity, created in the image of God – Gen. 1:27,31; (2) of the fall of Adam and the race represented in him in trial – Gen. 3; 1 Cor. 15:22; (3) of the death penalty – Gen. 2:17; 3:19; Rom. 6:23; (4) of the redemption of Adam, and therefore also of the race represented in him, by the payment of an equivalent price – the sacrifice of "the man Christ Jesus who gave himself a ransom for all – 1 Cor. 15:22; 1 Tim. 2:6; (5) of the actual deliverance of the redeemed race in God's due time and order. – Acts 3:19-21.
Those who in simple faith accept these truths and who, laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speaking, endeavor to live worthy of this salvation, esteeming it as only a reasonable service to devote themselves thenceforth to the service of God, are accepted of him as sons and heirs – as spiritual sons. And precious indeed are [R1568 : page 251] these little ones in the Lord's sight. It was with reference to such that the Lord said to Peter, "Feed my lambs;" and again that he gave warning to false teachers, saying, "Whoever shall ensnare one of the least of these who believe in me, it would be better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck and that he were sunk in the depth of the sea." (John 21:15; Matt. 18:6.) And again, under the figure of a tender shepherd caring for a weak and straying lamb, he shows his tender solicitude for these babes of the family, saying, "It is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish." – Matt. 18:14.
But while the babes in Christ, because of their very feebleness and inexperience, have much special care bestowed upon them, and are dearly beloved of the Lord, and while their meek and teachable spirit is commended to all (Matt. 18:4), it is not the will of God that they should always remain babes. The very object of his commending to them the milk of the Word is that they may grow thereby out of this infantile state, up to the maturity of spiritual life – "that we be no more children tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine." (Eph. 4:14.) There should come a time in the experience of every healthy growing child of God, when he should be able to leave the principles of the doctrine of Christ – the foundation doctrines – having them firmly established and settled in his mind, and therefore not needing to dig them up and lay them over again – and go on growing in grace and in the knowledge of the truth unto perfection. – Heb. 6:1.
The Apostle Paul reproved some of his day because they did not thus grow, saying, "For when for the time [spent] ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk and not of strong meat: for every one that useth milk [only] is unskilful in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe." (Heb. 5:12,13.) We are not to live continually on the milk diet, "but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." (Matt. 4:4.) Some of these words are the simple truths above noted – the milk; and others are deeper truths, [R1568 : page 252] the strong meat for those who, nourished by the pure milk, had grown and had developed considerable firmness and strength of Christian character. This "solid food," says the Apostle (Heb. 5:14), is for adults – for those possessing faculties habitually exercised in the discrimination of both good and evil. He also warned them of the dreadful result to them if they should fall away. – Heb. 6:4-6.
If the babes in Christ are fed on adulterated milk – a confused mixture of truth and error concerning the above mentioned foundation doctrines – the result will be that they will sicken and die, unless the unwholesome diet is speedily removed and the sincere, pure milk is sought after and used. As a general thing there is not sufficient care on the part of the babes in Christ about seeking the pure milk of the Word; and many of the adults are too careless about setting the impure milk before them. Let those who are truly the Lord's little ones bear in mind the Apostle's counsel to desire and seek after only the pure milk of the Word and to resolutely discard all else. Any theological views which will not rest squarely upon the above named foundation doctrines, so plainly enunciated in the Scriptures, but which attempt to pervert and to shift and to make them void, do not constitute the pure diet for the Lord's children. Let them cautiously beware of all such adulterations, and feed only upon the pure milk, and by and by upon the more solid food – that is food indeed to those who have their faculties exercised – and thus grow up to maturity, to a full development of Christian character and faith.
The Apostle then shows (1 Pet. 2:4-8) that such consecrated and faithful children of God have the privilege of becoming members of a grand spiritual house, of which Christ Jesus is the head. The shape of the building to which reference is made, evidently, is that of a pyramid, and was probably suggested to his mind by the words of the Prophet Isaiah (28:16) to which he refers, saying, "Behold, I lay in Zion a chief corner stone, elect, precious;... the same is made the head of the corner, and a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the Word, being disobedient, whereunto also they were appointed."
The chief corner stone in a pyramid is the top stone, which is also the model after which the whole building is being fashioned. The Prophet Zechariah (4:7) calls it the head-stone, and Isaiah (28:16) calls it a foundation-stone. At first thought these figures seem incongruous, but they are not really so when we consider that this building is not an earthly, but a heavenly building, having a heavenly foundation, and that it is held together, not by earthly, but by heavenly attraction. And it is in accordance with this thought that we are invited to come unto Christ, the chief corner stone, to be built up under him and to be fashioned for our places as living stones in this building, in accordance with the lines and angles seen in him who is the model.
The great work of preparing these living stones for their places in this building of God is still in progress, although it is almost completed. This is the painful part of the work to every one of the stones. The blows of the hammer and the chisel – the hard discipline of experience – are not desirable except for the effects – the peaceable fruits of righteousness. And if we would have the results, we must patiently submit to the painful processes, and see to it that no cross-grained wilfulness on our part shall interfere with the work; for such interference would sooner or later be the occasion for abandoning us, and the builder would substitute another stone more pliable and easily worked; for the time is short, and what is to be done must be done quickly.
The Prophet further showed that the foundation stone of this great building would be a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence to many until the time of its exaltation. Those who will stumble over it, says the Apostle, are not those faithful and loyal to the Word of God, but those who stumble at the Word, being disobedient, and who will not accept its plain and simple teaching relative to the great foundation of our faith – Christ Jesus, who gave his life a ransom for many. (Matt. 20:28.) And this class, he assures us, were appointed to stumble – that it does not happen so, but that God designed that they should stumble, because they are unworthy to stand, being disobedient.
God lays great stress upon loyal and loving obedience on the part of all his children. It was only a little matter of disobedience that cost Adam and his posterity so dearly; and that will bring similar results to all those who, having once escaped the condemnation of death through faith in Christ the Redeemer, thereafter refuse to stand before God in the robe of his righteousness, but prefer to appear in their own. All such were appointed to stumble; but blessed are the meek, for they shall stand. "The Lord knoweth them that are his."
New York papers give lengthy accounts of a peculiar blending of three creeds under the roof of the East Avenue Baptist Church of Long Island City. It appears that St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church of that city was recently destroyed by fire; whereupon the pastor and trustees of the Baptist Church tendered them the use of the Baptist Church until such times as they can rebuild or repair their edifice.
The Catholics accepted the invitation, and celebrated mass in the Baptist Church last Sunday (July 31) four times – a temporary altar, erected for the purpose, surmounted by holy candles and crucifix, being used. The altar, candles, etc., were removed in time for the service of the Baptists and Methodists, which followed the 9:30 A.M. mass.
The presence of the Methodists is explained by the fact that the Baptist and Methodist pastors had arranged that, during their vacations, their congregations would unite, and the services be held in the two churches alternately.
Roman Catholicism has written her view of Protestantism in characters not to be mistaken; – with sword, and fagot, and rack in the past, and with threats, curses, anathemas and declarations of eternal torment in modern times.
Baptists and Methodists both have professed to recognize Papacy as the very Man of Sin – Anti-Christ – pictured in the Scriptures; and the mass has been seen, by some at least, as the very center of error (See M. DAWN, VOL. III., pages 64, 98-104), the "abomination that maketh desolate."
Not only so, but Baptists have long claimed that in their view immersion is essential to a membership in Christ's Church, and hence that all not immersed, and not members of the saved Church, would be eternally lost.
While, therefore, many will applaud the action of the Baptists as liberality, thinking people will see in it inconsistency and a denial of all the principles involved in the names Christian and Protestant. It is significant of the coming federation foretold in the Scriptures, as one of the signs of degeneracy of faith of this harvest time of this Gospel age, and frequently pointed out in these columns.
III. QUAR., LESSON IX., AUG. 27, ACTS 26:19-32.
For two years Paul remained a prisoner in Caesarea, during which time Porcius Festus was appointed in the place of Felix, as governor of Judea. As a judge, he evidently desired to do right, and also to conciliate the people and maintain peace.
As soon as Festus was installed in office, he was besieged by leading Jews, to send Paul to Jerusalem for trial, their intention being to murder him on the way. (Acts 25:1-3.) But Festus preferred to have the man tried before him, and told them they might come down to Caesarea and prefer their charges against him. This they did, but their false accusations were all refuted by Paul, who was permitted to answer for himself. Then Festus, anxious to conciliate the Jews, answered Paul, and proposed that, since the accusations pertained principally to the Jewish religion, he go up to Jerusalem to be tried. But Paul was on his guard, and having in his hand, as a Roman citizen, the power of averting the danger of the governor's compliance with the desire of the Jews, viz., the right of appeal to Caesar, he refused to be tried at Jerusalem, saying, "I stand at Caesar's judgment-seat, where I ought to be judged. To the Jews have I done no wrong, as thou very well knowest: for if I be an offender, or have committed anything worthy of death, I refuse not to die; but if there be none of these things whereof these accuse me, no man may deliver me unto them. I appeal unto Caesar." (Acts 25:4-11.) The case was therefore postponed for a hearing at Caesar's judgment-seat, and Paul was to be sent to Rome [R1568 : page 254] under military protection. – Acts 25:12; 27:1.
Before the prisoner had been dispatched to Rome, Herod Agrippa, king of the country east of the upper Jordan, came to pay his respects to the new governor of Judea, and on hearing from him of the peculiar case of the Christian prisoner, against whom the [R1569 : page 254] Jews were so incensed, but against whom Festus was unable to formulate any charge to present before the court of Caesar, Agrippa consented to have Paul brought before him, that they might determine what charges to make against him. – Acts 25:25-27.
Accordingly, at a set time, Paul was permitted to speak for himself before the assembled royalty. (Acts 26:1-29.) With the respect and decorum due to the civil powers, Paul began his address; but he seemed to forget that his life trembled in the balance, while he used the opportunity to preach Christ. The address was full of logic, eloquence and pathos. He recounted the circumstances of his conversation, declared his zeal for the cause of Christ, showed this to be the cause of the opposition from the Jews, and attributed his protection thus far, and his liberty to preach the gospel in Caesarea for the past two years, to divine interposition and providence. So mightily did he show forth the truth and with such vehement eloquence, that with a loud voice Festus cried out, "Paul, thou art beside thyself: much learning doth make thee mad." – Verse 24.
The Apostle's reply was a clinching exhortation which almost persuaded even Agrippa to become a Christian; but how hardly the rich enter into the kingdom! During the two years in Caesarea Paul had witnessed to both small and great, but as usual with more effect among the small – the poor and middle classes.
His preaching was from the text book of the prophets, and was shown to be in harmony with all their teaching, so that those who truly believed the prophets must of necessity accept the fulfilment of their predictions in Christ. The force of this truth is seen in Agrippa's reply to his searching question – "King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest. Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian" – for to believe the prophets is to believe in Christianity. The Lord's prophecy and promise of Matt. 10:18-20 was strikingly fulfilled to Paul.
As we read this account, the burning eloquence of this Christian orator seems almost to fall on our ears, and we seem to see the light of a countenance radiant with heavenly enthusiasm as the Apostle exclaims, "I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds." – Verse 29.
The conclusion of the examination was that no true charges could be made against the Apostle; and had he not appealed to Caesar he might have been immediately released. But nevertheless it was well that he had appealed to Caesar; for had he been released, he would again have been at the mercy of the Jews. During the two years of his detention in Caesarea he had enjoyed the greatest liberty to preach the gospel, all the while under the protection of the government as an imperial prisoner. And now he was to be conveyed under the same protection to Rome, to enjoy similar privileges for the truth. Thus all things worked for good in the furtherance of the gospel. [R1569 : page 254]
This chapter finds Paul under a military guard, in company with other prisoners, on his way to Rome to appear before Caesar's judgment-seat. The journey which can now be accomplished in a few days with improved steam navigation, then required as many weeks – sails and oars being the only propelling powers. In this case, the journey was an eventful one, and one of special blessing to all on the ship, because one of the Lord's elect was on board, and God was with him, making every circumstance of his consecrated life a blessing to himself and others.
The strange prisoner, against whom no real charges could be made out (Acts 25:27; 26:31,32), found favor in the eyes of the captain of the guard, and by his permission enjoyed special liberties which he used for the comfort and cheer of the believers at Sidon. (Verse 3.) When a great storm overwhelmed the vessel, threatening shipwreck and death to all on board, this calamity was made the special occasion of a gracious message for all from God, through, and on account of, his faithful Apostle. The angel of God stood by him, saying, "Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar: and lo, God hath given thee all them that sail [R1569 : page 255] with thee." That is, on his account, all the passengers and crew should escape with their lives from the wreck. – Verses 23,24,34,44.
The lesson which we are warranted in gathering from this circumstance is a very comforting one, viz., that God is not unwilling to let some droppings of his favor fall upon those associated with his saints – not because they know him or seek his favor, but because he so loved the world that he not only gave his Son to redeem them, but he thus sends to them his living witnesses to bear testimony of his love and grace, and to call them to repentance, that they may place themselves in a proper attitude to receive his favor. This remarkable interposition on behalf of Paul and his fellow-passengers was an impressive lesson never to be forgotten – a testimony to the power and love of God.
In view of God's willingness, thus manifested, to show favor to those associated with his people, even though they know him not, it is plainly our privilege to request such favor toward our dear ones who are yet aliens to the commonwealth of Israel, and even enemies. But in so doing, let us not forget that severe chastenings of such are often, necessarily, the only marks of favor which divine wisdom can bestow for the good of the wandering and erring. And for these we should therefore be thankful, and not repine against the kind providence which discerns such necessity. While the heavy strokes of discipline fall upon the erring for their correction, God's children, through whose interposition they are thus specially brought under divine supervision, must endeavor to take God's standpoint in viewing the necessities of the case, and thankfully say, Amen! to all his wise, though often severe measures.
Sometimes, as in the instance of this lesson, the favor shown to the unconverted associates of the saints is a more manifest favor; but in either case, like Paul, we should co-operate with God to the end of enforcing and emphasizing the lesson.
VERSES 30,31 show that Paul understood the promise of God revealed in the vision (verse 24) to be of necessity subject to certain conditions – viz., that the deliverance would not be forced upon them, nor would it be granted to them without their co-operation. The promise presupposed both the desire and the effort of all to obtain deliverance, which desire and effort would, by divine interposition, be rewarded with success. But when the effort of the crew, which had assumed the responsibility of bringing the vessel into port, was directed to a mean and selfish purpose which ignored their responsibility and sought only to save themselves and leave the rest to their fate, Paul understood that God would be a party to no such selfish course, and he therefore told the soldiers that, notwithstanding the revelation of the vision, they would perish unless these pursued the proper course of sticking to the ship and making use of the means for averting the impending disaster. This teaching of the Apostle is quite contrary to the ideas of some Christians to-day who excuse themselves from active co-operation with God, idly expecting him to work miracles on their behalf. But such is not God's purpose; and the apostles taught quite to the contrary.
The soldiers took immediate measures to frustrate the selfish scheme of the shipmen by cutting the ropes and letting the life-boat drift away, that so the crew would be obliged to use their efforts for the salvation of all; and in the use of their utmost means and efforts God saved all. Doubtless the impression made upon the minds of all was a deep one, which will be remembered when, in the times of restitution, they are brought to a clearer knowledge of Jesus Christ whom Paul preached unto them. – Acts 3:19-21.
VERSES 33-36 bring into marked contrast the comforting faith of the children of God and the disquiet and unrest of those who lack that faith. Yet the steady faith of the Christian in the midst of trials is an inspiration, as well as a testimony, to those of the world about them. All the frightened and weary passengers and crew took courage from Paul's words and example, and were strengthened. "Ye are the light of the world," said the Master, "let your light shine." The poor world has its heavy load of sorrow. Give them all they will take of your comfort and cheer.
VERSE 42 again reminds us of the contrast between ignoble selfishness and benevolent love. The soldiers were plotting to kill their prisoners, Paul included, lest they might escape, and they, according to Roman law, might have to forfeit their own. From this plot, also, Paul and those with him were saved, through the favor of the centurion, and all, by the blessing of God upon their efforts, reached the shore in safety. [R1569 : page 256]
In considering this lesson we are forcibly reminded of the Apostle's advice to Timothy (1 Tim. 4:16) – "Take heed unto thyself [unto thy walk and conversation before men], and unto the doctrine [ – Declare it and defend [R1570 : page 256] it on every proper occasion]; for in doing this thou shalt save both thyself and them that hear thee [from sinking into error and sin and reaping its bitter consequences]." [R1570 : page 256]
The apparent misfortune which cast the shipwrecked crew upon the little island of Melita became another occasion to the Apostle for bearing effective witness for Christ, and both Paul and all that were with him, and the simple islanders, also, were blessed. (Acts 28:1-10.) Departing thence, other Christians were met, encouraged and blessed – at Puteoli, and possibly at Syracuse and Rhegium; and, nearing Rome, the welcome faces of brethren who had come to meet him were seen at Appii Forum; and Paul thanked God, and took courage. – Verse 15.
The Apostle's first step, after his arrival and settlement in Rome, with the large measure of freedom he enjoyed by the favor of the Roman authorities, was to call together the chief of the Jews in Rome, desiring as heretofore to present the gospel "to the Jews first, and afterward to the Gentiles."
In verse 20 we mark the wisdom manifested in his manner of presenting the subject, declaring and showing that for the hope of Israel he was bearing those chains. And what was the hope of Israel? It was in the promise of a Messiah and the establishment of his kingdom – the very thing that Paul was continually preaching, showing that the promise of his coming had been fulfilled, and that his kingdom would just as surely be established. At the first interview he merely prepared them for a subsequent opportunity to hear the gospel, wisely awakening in them a desire to hear more of his doctrine. Then, at the appointed time, he was ready with all his strong arguments, and spent the day from morning till evening preaching Jesus unto them from the text books of The Law and The Prophets. – Verse 23.
It is very noticeable that, though Paul was careful to present the subject in a manner least calculated to stir up Jewish prejudices, his caution did not keep back the truth. He gave it to them in due time and order, but with all its native force, and let it do its separating work, as it always does. His reasoning was close, Scriptural and cumulative in its power. He reached conclusions, and placed the issue fairly before his hearers; and when they cavilled and rejected the truth he boldly applied to them the rebuke of the Prophet Isaiah (verses 24-27), a rebuke which the Lord so frequently applied to Jews. He then declared his subsequent purpose to be, to turn to the Gentiles, who should enjoy the privilege of which they had judged themselves unworthy. (Verse 28.) The rebuke of the Prophet was much more weighty to them than any words of his own would have been; for the Jews had not learned to recognize the inspiration of the apostles. From this suggestion we may all learn the wisdom of using the words of inspiration in preference to our own.
Paul's two years in Rome, awaiting the due processes of the law – the arrival of witnesses from Jerusalem, the formulating of charges, etc., – were years of special advantage to the work of the Lord. Here Paul was for the time safe from his enemies, the Jews, and free, under the protection of his lenient and favorably disposed captors, to preach the gospel to all who would hear, both Jews and Gentiles.
The opportunity was faithfully used. Here he preached the gospel of the Kingdom, and taught the doctrines of Christ with all confidence and freedom; from here he wrote and sent letters to distant Churches; and he prayed for them (Eph. 1:16; 3:14; Phil. 1:4,9), and sent messengers and helpers to them. (Eph. 6:21; Phil. 2:19,25.) The epistles to the Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians and to Philemon were all written from Rome.
We have no definite account of the Apostle's course after his liberation from captivity in Rome, except what may be gleaned from his epistles. The meagre references of history indicate that he afterward went to Spain, and again to Greece and Asia Minor; and that it was a second imprisonment at Rome that terminated in his execution. All evidences concur that he was a wonderful soldier of the cross. He was faithful to the Truth and to the work of the Lord to the end of his course, and left a shining record for our study and imitation.