ZWT - 1906 - R3693 thru R3912 / R3731 (065) - March 1, 1906
(Use your Browser's "Find" or "Search" option to search within this page)
VOL. XXVII. MARCH 1, 1906 No. 5
Views from the Watch Tower........................ 67
Christian Tenets the Jews May Adopt........... 67
Spontaneous Generation of Life................ 68
Foreign Missions and the Second Coming of
Berean Bible Study for March.......................70
Blessedness Superior to Happiness................. 70
Mourners Blessed and Comforted................ 71
Blessed are the Meek.......................... 72
Blessed are the Pure in Heart................. 73
Blessed the Persecuted........................ 74
The Salt of the Earth......................... 75
"Ho, Prodigal Return!" (Poem)..................... 76
Lessons on Self-Control........................... 76
An Eye for an Eye............................. 77
LETTERS FOR THE EDITOR SHOULD BE SENT TO ALLEGHENY, PA., U.S.A. BUSINESS COMMUNICATIONS AND REMITTANCES --ADDRESS TO-- WATCH TOWER BIBLE & TRACT SOCIETY, "BIBLE HOUSE," 610, 612, 614 ARCH ST., ALLEGHENY, PA., U.S.A. --OR TO-- BRITISH BRANCH--24 EVERSHOLT ST., LONDON, N.W. GERMAN BRANCH--MIRKER STR., 45, ELBERFELD. AUSTRALASIAN BRANCH--32 JOHNSTON ST., FITZROY, MELBOURNE.
PRICE, $1.00 (4S.) A YEAR IN ADVANCE. MONEY MAY BE SENT BY EXPRESS, BANK DRAFT, POSTAL ORDER, OR REGISTERED. FROM FOREIGN COUNTRIES BY FOREIGN MONEY ORDERS, ONLY. TERMS TO THE LORD'S POOR AS FOLLOWS:-- All Bible Students who, by reason of old age, or other infirmity or adversity, are unable to pay for this Journal, will be supplied FREE if they send a Postal Card each June stating their case and requesting its continuance. We are not only willing, but anxious, that all such be on our list continually and in touch with the Studies, etc.
ENTERED AS SECOND CLASS MAIL MATTER AT ALLEGHENY, PA., POST OFFICE.
THIS JOURNAL IS PUBLISHED IN THE FRENCH, GERMAN, SWEDISH, DANISH AND ITALIAN LANGUAGES. SAMPLE COPIES FREE.
"IN DUE TIME."--GONE
Our stock of this year's motto cards is exhausted; but we have placed another order and hope to announce plenty more and to fill all back orders in a few months.
Organize your Volunteers for 1906 at once, as we hope to be filling orders by April.
WATCH TOWER BINDERS.
These are substantially made of stiff cloth boards, and can hold two years' issues of the WATCH TOWER. They prevent soiling and loss. Price, postpaid, 50c.
CHARTS OF THE TABERNACLE.
We have arranged to supply beautiful Charts of the Tabernacle on cloth, carriage prepaid, for two dollars each. Very choice, and very cheap for the quality.
WE AGAIN HAVE THE EATON-RUSSELL DEBATES IN GOOD SUPPLY
The six debates published by "Gazette" as one number for one cent each postpaid, any quantity.
::R3731 : page 67::
VIEWS FROM THE WATCH TOWER.
CHRISTIAN TENETS THE JEWS MAY ADOPT.
TO find a celebrated and influential Jew advising his race to "follow the letter of the Law in the spirit of the Gospel" is a decidedly interesting feature of the religious situation. Mr. Claude G. Montefiore, president of the Anglo-Jewish Association, founder of The Jewish Quarterly Review and a man of light and leading in British Jewry, gives his fellows this counsel in the current number of The Hibbert Journal (London). Before giving this advice, he takes occasion to remark to the Christian readers of his article that some of the doctrines which they imagine to be distinctively Christian were, and are, Jewish. The conception of the fatherhood of God and of His loving-kindness, for example, has been paraded as Christian, "whereas to the rabbinic, medieval, and modern Jew it was, and is, the ABC of his religion." Similarly, the doctrines "that reconcilement with one's neighbor must precede reconcilement with God, or that the best alms are those given in secret, or that impure thoughts are evil as well as impure deeds, or that there is peculiar joy in heaven over the repentant--these doctrines and several others are not only rabbinic commonplaces, but familiar Jewish maxims." The common Jewish objections to Christianity are that some of its teaching is "unpractical and overstrained," that the ideal is so high as to be "incapable of realization," that "if some maxims were literally obeyed, there would be a subversion of law and order, and universal confusion," that "the tendency of the teaching is to make a man take a too selfish interest in the saving of his own soul," and that it "points toward an ascetic morality." In one divergence of doctrine between the rabbinic religion and that of the synoptic Gospels, however, Mr. Montefiore seems to incline toward the latter. He says: "The rabbinic religion followed the prevailing doctrine of the Old Testament in holding that, on the whole, the right principle of human conduct, and the great principle of divine conduct, was that of proportionate requital, or tit for tat. I do not mean to say that other principles, such as that of the divine forgiveness, did not frequently cross the principle of tit for tat, but still it seems true to say that tit for tat occupies a very large place in Jewish ethics and religion, a larger place than the facts of life or our highest ethical and religious conceptions can fully justify and approve. Now the teaching of the synoptic Gospels seems to traverse that doctrine in many different ways. As between man and man we have, for instance, the teaching, 'If ye love them which love you, what thank have ye?' and the reception of the prodigal son, and as between God and man the teaching seems more emphatic still. Not only that the sun rises on the evil as well as the good, but also, in the parable of the vineyard, I will give unto this last even as unto thee.'.... "Perhaps one reason, tho not the deepest, why the doctrine of tit for tat is less thought of in the Gospels, is their rather pronounced antagonism to earthly good fortune, their strong sympathy with, or even partiality for, the weak, the miserable, and the poor. The only treasures of any value are the treasures to be attained in heaven. The treasures of earth are transitory from a double reason--the individual dies, and the old order is rapidly nearing its close. The same thoughts meet us not infrequently in the rabbinic literature, but we note in the Gospels a kind of passionate glorification of renunciation and adversity as marks of true discipleship, and as the one sure passport to heaven. This note goes beyond--how far rightly is another question--the rabbinic 'chastisements of love.' The soul is all. 'Adversity is the blessing of the New Testament.' With incomparable eloquence and power the Gospels disclose to us one aspect of the ultimate truth, one facet of reality, to which we can never again be blind, even tho we realize that it is by no means the complete reality, by no means the only truth through which we must work and live, the truth, I mean, which Professor Bradley, with such splendid insight, has lately shown us to be exhibited by King Lear, that 'the judgment of this world is a lie; [that] its goods which we covet corrupt us; [that] its ills, which wreck our bodies, set our souls free'; 'the conviction that our whole attitude in asking or expecting that goodness should be prosperous is wrong; that, if only we could see things as they are
::R3731 : page 68::
we should see that the outward is nothing, and the inward is all.'" And of the Christian doctrine of self-renunciation to save others he writes: "The renunciation, the self-denial, and that daily carrying of the cross, whereby Luke, as Wellhausen notes, changes mere martyrdom into a general way of life, are not in the Gospels urged and intended solely to save one's own soul, but also to save others. The endurance, the self-sacrifice, are not to be merely passive, but active. They are to be helpful and redemptive; through loving service and sympathy to awaken in the sinner the dormant capacity of righteousness and love. "Lowly, active service for the benefit of the humblest is an essential feature of the synoptic religion. 'He who would be great among you, let him be your servant.' 'It is not the will of my Father that one of these little ones should perish.' The teaching of the synoptics in this matter seems to cluster round those three great sayings: 'The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister;' 'I came not to call the righteous, but sinners;' 'The Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost.' "And here, once more, we seem to be cognizant of fresh and original teaching, which has produced fruit to be ever reckoned among the distinctive glories of Christianity. It has two aspects: first, the yearning and eager activity to save and to redeem; secondly, the special attitude of the Master toward sinners and toward sin. The rabbis and the rabbinic religion are keen on repentance, which in their eyes is second only to the law; but we do not, I think, find the same passionate eagerness to cause repentance, to save the lost, to redeem the sinner. The refusal to allow that any human soul is not capable of emancipation from the bondage of sin, the labor of pity and love among the outcast and the fallen, go back to the synoptic Gospels and their Hero. They were hardly known before his time. And the redemptive method which he inaugurated was new likewise. It was the method of pity and love. There is no paltering with sin; it is not made less odious; but instead of mere threats and condemnations, the chance is given for hope, admiration, and love to work their wonders within the sinner's soul. The sinner is afforded the opportunity for doing good instead of evil, and his kindly services are encouraged and praised. Jesus seems to have had a special insight into the nature of certain kinds of sin, and into the redeemable capacity of certain kinds of sinners. He perceived that there was a certain untainted humility of soul which some sins in some sinners had not yet destroyed, just as he also believed and realized that there was a certain cold, formal, negative virtue which was practically equivalent to sin, and far less capable of reformation. Overzealous scrupulosity, and the pride which, dwelling with smug satisfaction upon its own excellence, draws away the skirt from any contact with impurity, were specially repugnant to him. Whether with this sin and with its sinners he showed adequate patience may perhaps be doubted, but it does seem to me that his denunciation of formalism and pride, his contrasted pictures of the lowly publican and the scrupulous pharisee, were new and permanent contributions to morality and religion. As the Jewish reader meets them in the synoptic Gospels, he recognizes this new contribution; and if he is adequately open-minded, he does it homage and is grateful."
SPONTANEOUS GENERATION OF LIFE.
We see much in the public prints respecting the efforts of chemists and biologists to produce life, and several "professors" have announced their success in so doing. What are the facts? For centuries scientific minds--skeptical respecting the teachings of the Bible that God is the author of life, the Creator of all things--have been examining nature to see how life has its start. At first it seemed that new bugs, worms and insects were from time to time created independently. For instance, many have noticed that an old, water-soaked wooden pail would be lifted and an enormous roach found beneath it--too large to have crawled under, and perhaps of a kind not previously seen in that quarter. Further research demonstrated that there are in the earth, the air and the water, microbes far too small to be seen by the naked eye, which, under favorable conditions, would produce larger living creatures of one kind or another, according to the environments and conditions. Then came the suggestion that all the larger forms of being were mere evolutions from lower to higher. With this thought the learned of this world have been wrestling for the past fifty years, shaking the foundations of faith in the Bible for millions. For if the Bible be true this theory is false as respects man's origin. Instead of further evolution being our salvation the Bible points us to our fall, to the redemption accomplished for the world by the Son of God, and to the coming deliverance of the groaning creation from sin and its death penalty. Only those who trust the Bible
::R3732 : page 68::
record are safe from the blighting influence of this evolution error.
STILL ON THE WRONG PATH
Still pursuing the wrong trail, our wise men of to-day conclude that although they cannot gainsay that our entire race sprang from one pair, and although the highest type of monkey still leaves an impossible chasm between it and mankind, even in his most depraved condition, nevertheless they may yet find the "missing link" by which the first human pair, supposedly very inferior and degraded, could have been produced. Alas! how much more men will labor to establish an error than to corroborate a truth. Without waiting to find the "missing link," others of the "learned," who know not God, have started at the other end of the line, to prove that God had nothing to do with creation. Rather their claim is that Nature is God. And although they know her not except in his works, they ascribe all power and skill to Nature. The endeavor now is to prove that Nature is God-- that the very lowest form of life, protoplasm, is Nature's oldest child, from which sprang, gradually, by evolution, every creature, including man, who they claim is progressing rapidly without a fall, without a Redeemer, and without need of any heavenly aid, to perfection.
DR. LITTLEFIELD'S FINDINGS (?)
Dr. C. Littlefield now steps before the world announcing that he by experiments has actually produced
::R3732 : page 69::
living organisms where there was no life of any kind previously. He asserts that he was very careful in these experiments and surely excluded every lurking microbe. If true, if it can be corroborated by others, it will be assumed as proof that there is no Creator, no God, except Nature. Ah! says one of old, "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God." If it be true that a low form of life can be produced chemically, it proves nothing. What is Nature but the creature of our all-wise God? The divine power placed all the conditions of Nature and fixed her limitations as we behold in the various animal species. The Bible record is that God commanded the sea first to bring forth, and produced the conditions necessary to its teeming life. But the same Bible with explicitness declares the special creation of mankind in the Creator's likeness, and not in the image of a baboon.
THE CLAIM IS DISPUTED
Fortunately for the truth, when one "professor" seeks to shine another seems ambitious to shine by extinguishing him. So here we have from the Scientific American Professor C. E. Tingley's repudiation of Professor Littlefield's claims, with logical reasons for supposing that the experiments were not reliable. We quote: "It is a far cry from a simple protoplasmic cell to that of a highly organized insect such as that just described, in fact almost as far as it is from lifeless crystals to living matter. Oppositely, the higher critics will have none of it, basing their conclusions on practically the same grounds that Professor Tyndall took in relation to Dr. C. Henry Bastian's experiments nearly thirty-five years ago. This scientist, it would seem, was eminently qualified to investigate the origin of life, for he was recognized as an authority on biology and the pathology of the nervous system, and he was a strong advocate of the doctrine of spontaneous generation of life. In one of his many papers he pointed out the results he had obtained in creating life artificially, and he declared that 'observation and experiment unmistakably testified that living matter is constantly being formed de novo and in accordance with the same laws and tendencies which determine all the more simple chemical combinations.' Professor Tyndall took up the matter and carefully tested Dr. Bastian's experiments, but took precautions, which the latter had neglected, to prevent the ingress of life during the processes of sealing the vessels, and though he varied the experiment in many ways no germs of life manifested themselves, so that Tyndall felt impelled to thus testify: 'I affirm that no shred of trustworthy evidence exists to prove that life in our day has ever appeared independent of antecedent life.' "The moral of Tyndall's statement is obvious; the value of Dr. Littlefield's or any one else's experiments in the artificial generation of life lies absolutely and solely on excluding every trace of pre-existing life and thus preventing contamination which must otherwise surely follow during the progress of the tests. Carelessness in this respect has led biologists, even those who believe in the hypothesis of abiogenesis, to cry down every attempt made looking toward the artificial production of life. At various times Spencer, Huxley, Darwin, and Pasteur were firmly convinced that they had found the secret of life, but repeated experiments wherein antecedent life was more rigorously excluded than before proved their efforts futile. "Evidently error of a similar nature has crept into the tests of Dr. Littlefield, and this is not said without due consideration, for the present writer has performed the experiment as above written, not one but many times, and in every instance the result was not successful beyond the mere crystallization of the chlorides. "It is true that more recent reports state that the development took place under sealed glasses thoroughly sterilized before beginning and sealed from the air when placed on the shelf, but it is obvious that there was every chance for pre-existing life to slip in, and so what would otherwise have been regarded as a wonderful achievement in science has not been taken very seriously by men skilled in either chemistry or biology."
::R3732 : page 69::
FOREIGN MISSIONS AND THE SECOND COMING OF CHRIST.
THE following is a digest of an address given upon Foreign Missions at the recent session of the Friendship Association, by R. E. Neighbour, pastor First Baptist Church, Americus, Ga." "Brethren, hearken unto me: Simeon hath rehearsed unto me how first God visited the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. And to this agree the words of the prophet; as it is written: After these things I will return, and I will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up; that the residue of men may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, sayeth the Lord, who maketh these things known of old." From these four verses, quoted from `Acts 15:13-18`, R.V., we learn: First. God will at first visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. Second. After these things, Christ will return. Third. The tabernacle of David will then be rebuilt. Fourth. The residue of men, and all the Gentiles, will seek after the Lord. Here we find God, the holy Spirit, unfolding the plan of this age. The work of the Church, then, is what? To take out of the Gentiles, or nations, a people for his name. It is impossible to read into these words that we are to "take the world for Christ." This is an "elect" age. The Church, God's "ecclesia," are a people "called out" from among the nations. The Church is a minority, and will remain so during its whole existence. The work of the Church can never be marked "a failure," as long as it is doing the work that God ordained. Because the Church does not "convert the world," it cannot, therefore, be deducted that the Church is making the world worse. But what is the great inspiration of Foreign Missions? Surely, without a doubt, it is the Second Coming of Christ in pre-Millennial glory. And why? Because, as soon as the Church arouses herself and, empowered by the Spirit, gathers
::R3732 : page 70::
out of the Gentiles the certain number of God's elect, then he will come and establish himself on David's throne, after which the residue of men may seek the Lord. The thought in the missionary's heart, then, should not be "India for Christ," or "Africa for Christ," or "the World for Christ," but the bringing to God from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south, a people for his name. The great inspiration of a Christian worker is, "After this, I will return." Does not the truly saved yearn for the appearing of the Lord? Is not the very height of his glory to see him coming in his majesty? Then, what is the better way? To stop trying to win men to him, and sit down and merely pray, inasmuch as the coming of the Lord will bring salvation to all men? By no means. To be sure, we must pray for the coming of the Lord, but we must also work for it. If the taking of the "world for Christ" is the missionary's motive, he must despair. Nineteen centuries of this era of grace have already passed, and yet there are more heathen today than there were in the days of Paul. The earth is filled with new and strange doctrines. Whereas, if the veneer were removed, we would find sin and lust just as heinous as in the long ago. This is a man-glorying age. Wonderful achievements and startling progression are seen on every side, yet with all our learning, riches and advance of civilization, there is not a country, a city, nor even a hamlet, where Jesus truly reigns.
::R3733 : page 70::
No, brethren, the wheat and the tares must grow together to the end of this age. The mustard seed has grown into a great tree, but the birds of the air (representing the wicked one and his children) roost in the branches thereof. The meal, to be sure, is good, but the leaven (sin) is contaminating the whole loaf. The drag-net which holds the evil as well as the good will not be separated until the consummation of the age. Dear brethren, keep clearly before your mind that the work of the Church is to call out a people for his name; that the inspiration of this work is the glory of hastening the coming of our Lord, and that the coming of the Lord will bring to the Church her reward. How the activities of the Church ought to be quickened. How her gifts should be increased. How her hand should be reached out in every direction until God from above shall say, The work of the Church is done, the witness to the uttermost part of the earth has been borne, the elect from the foundation of the world have been brought in, and the day of her reward is at hand!--Christian Index.
::R3733 : page 70::
BEREAN BIBLE STUDY FOR MARCH.
--FOR EXPLANATION SEE PREFACE OF WATCH TOWER BIBLES AND WATCH TOWER, MARCH 1, 1905.--
STUDIES IN PRAYER
21. What is the cost of selfish prayers? Z.'02-250 (1st col. par. 1 to 3). 22. What is meant by "vain repetitions" in prayer? Z.'98-28 (2nd col. par. 2). 23. How may we be "instant in prayer"? Z.'97-265 (2nd col. par. 2 to 4); Z.'93-215 (2nd col. par. 2). 24. What does it mean to "pray without ceasing"? Z.'03-25 (1st col. par. 2, 3); Z.'04-118 (1st col. par. 1). 25. How should we understand, "Ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you"? `Jno. 15:7`. Z.'96-149, 150; Z.'04-234 (1st col. par. 3, and 2nd col. par. 1); Z.'05-124 (2nd col. par. 1, 2); F.679, par. 1, to 680, par. 2; Z.'05-343 (1st col. par. 3). 26. What relative privileges in prayer have justified and consecrated persons? F.681, par. 3, to 684, par. 1. 27. What privileges of prayer do the children of consecrated parents enjoy? F.531, par. 1, to 532, par. 2, and 684, par. 2. 28. How should we look out for the interests of each other through prayer? Z.'03-218 (1st col. par. 1); Z.'95-170 (2nd col. par. 2). 29. What is the relation between faith and prayer? `Jas. 1:6`; `Mark 11:24`; Z.'96-162 (1st col. par. 3, to 2nd col. par. 2); F.691, par. 2; Z.'05-345 (1st col. par. 2) (and 2nd col.) 30. What is the relation between prayer and thanksgiving? Z.'03-8 (1st col. par. 2, 3); Z.'04-24 (1st col. par. 1); Z.'01-271 (1st col. par. 3).
::R3733 : page 70::
BLESSEDNESS SUPERIOR TO HAPPINESS.
--`MATTHEW 5:1-16`.--MARCH 4.--
Golden Text:--"Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God."
HAPPINESS describes the joyful moods which come to mankind from time to time, but blessedness relates to that permanent joy and comfort which are the result of the attunement of character to harmony with the divine. The people of the world may at times be happy, and at other times downcast, mournful and troubled; but to those who become followers of the Lord Jesus, and who as pupils in the school of Christ are taught of him, there is a peace of God which passes all understanding ruling in their hearts, bringing comfort and rest even under most adverse outward conditions. The lesson we are now considering describes to us the condition of heart necessary to the possession of the peace of God. In proportion as we get before our mental eyes the true conception and then strive to attain that ideal, in the same proportion will be the degree or progress of blessedness which will come into our hearts and lives to rule there and to keep us in the love of God. Our Lord and his disciples were on an elevated plane of the mountain side, and crowds of people were coming to hear the message of the great Teacher respecting the Kingdom so long anticipated and which he declared was nigh. His miracles had attested his divine authority as a Teacher,
::R3733 : page 71::
and this drew the people to him "who spake as never man spake." (`John 7:46`.) Seeing the gathering multitudes Jesus went up the mountain onto a little mound, where he could the better be seen and heard by all. After the manner of olden times he sat down while making his address, the people also sitting down. The customs of the times favored this--loose, flowing robes, sandals easily removed, and the people accustomed to sitting with their limbs folded under them in what is sometimes styled "tailor fashion." The teaching was addressed primarily to those nearest to the Lord, namely, his special disciples, the multitude interestedly watching for any items in the address that would specially enlighten them. It must have seemed strange to all the hearers that our Lord did not talk more about the Kingdom itself, explaining when and how it would be established, etc. But he knew that he must first suffer for the redemption of the world before the Kingdom could come and the divine will be done on earth as it is done in heaven. He knew, too, that the first work in preparing for the establishment of the Kingdom would be the gathering of the Church class, the elect, to be his Bride and joint-heir in the Kingdom. His discourse, therefore, was so directed as to divide the hearers into two classes--some would be disappointed because they were interested more in the glories and honors and dignities of the Kingdom hoped for than in the condition of heart necessary to a place in it. These probably went their way saying that doubtless Jesus was a great Teacher to those who liked his kind of philosophy, but to them it was a very dry and unsatisfactory portion. Others, though disappointed in the character of the teaching, found something in it which satisfied their longings as nothing else could do--found in it nourishment, comfort, upbuilding qualities. The same is true today: some hear the good tidings of great joy with interest merely in those features which relate to restitution. They are glad to know that there is no eternal torment in the divine plan, but that, on the contrary, times of refreshing are coming to the world, and times of restitution of all things spoken by the mouth of all the holy prophets since the world began. (`Acts 3:19-21`.) But aside from this, all discussion respecting consecration to the Lord and terms of discipleship, all descriptions of characteristic conditions that would fit them for the Kingdom, are wearisome to them, distasteful. Thus does the Truth always separate.
"THE POOR IN SPIRIT"
The message of this great Teacher differed from all others, and was especially attractive to the humble, the lowly. Whereas others would have said, Blessed are the rich, the learned, the prominent, the rulers, this great Teacher reversed the matter, saying, "Blessed are the poor in spirit" --blessed are those who are not self-conceited, who do not think very highly of themselves, who appreciate their own littleness and imperfection. Astounding! How are such blessed? Surely the world thinks little of those who do not think much of themselves! Surely they will make less progress in the world! Ah, yes! But, says the Master, their blessedness consists in the fact that they are of the Kingdom --of those from whom the Kingdom of heaven class will be selected. Self-confidence, self-esteem, may win for its possessor a high and honorable place in the present time, but is disesteemed of the Lord; and those who have such a spirit will be the less prepared for the tests and conditions which the Lord will impose in selecting the heirs of the Kingdom, the joint-heirs with Christ. Yes, indeed!--there is a favor and blessedness associated with being little in one's own estimation: it preserves from many a false step into which egotism would lead. All who are seeking to follow the instructions of the great Teacher, who naturally are poor in spirit, humble-minded, deficient in self-esteem, have much advantage every way over others as respects this particular element of character. And those who are not naturally humble should take heed to the Master's instruction, and humble themselves under the mighty hand of God, that they may be exalted in due time. (`1 Pet. 5:6`.) The Lord's followers, then, should continually
::R3734 : page 71::
practise humility and be especially on guard against pride, self-conceit, etc.; they should know on the great Teacher's authority through the Apostle that God resisteth the proud and shows his favor to the humble, the poor in spirit, to such an extent that only the humble will share with the Lord in the inheritance of the Kingdom.--`1 Pet. 5:5`; `Jas. 4:6`.
MOURNERS BLESSED AND COMFORTED
Again it seems strange, contrary to the usual thought, to say "Blessed are they that mourn." The general thought is that those who mourn are to be specially commiserated. What principle lies behind the Master's assurance that there is a blessedness connected with mourning? We reply that we cannot suppose that there is mourning in heaven--we must suppose that there is happiness, blessedness there. Hence the blessedness of mourning must in some way relate to our present imperfect, sinful conditions and surroundings. Sin is in the world, and death, the wages of sin, is being paid out to the entire human family, carrying into every home more or less disappointment, sorrow, trouble. Where these are appreciated rightly there must surely be mourning. The world is sick and dying; with its twenty thousand million dead and sixteen hundred million dying in sorrow and pain and disappointment, he who is "merry" must surely be correspondingly irrational. Who but a foolish person could be merry in the shadow of such a charnel-house! Those who are merry under such conditions give evidence of so wrong a condition of heart and mind that we may know that they will require rigid disciplinary instructions (such as will be accorded to the majority of mankind during the Millennium) in order to bring them to their proper senses. On the contrary, those who do mourn because of a realization of their own imperfections, their own fallen condition, and who to any extent mourn in sympathy with the poor, groaning creation, these have corresponding advantages because of their saner condition of mind; they will be the more ready for the heavenly message, telling of the glorious blessing that is to come through redemption in Jesus and through his Kingdom, which, as the rising of the Sun of Righteousness, shall bring in health, healing, life and comfort to all the families of the earth. Blessed are these mourners now, because they are in that much more favorable condition to hear the voice of him who speaketh from heaven--speaking peace through Jesus Christ our Lord. They shall be comforted. Their comfort shall not wait either until the new
::R3734 : page 72::
dispensation of the Kingdom shall be fully inaugurated and bring in the blessings of restitution: their comforting will begin at once, for their mourning will bring a readiness of mind to hearken for the Lord's favor. So to these he will be pleased to make known something of the riches of his grace and lovingkindness through Jesus. They will have therefore the best opportunity for attaining the peace of God which passeth all understanding through the holy Spirit in this present time, and also in the dispensation to come. Sorrow may be associated with sin and imperfection. It is proper that we should realize our fallen condition and be sorry for it, but this sorrow may be healed at once through the knowledge of the great redemption sacrifice and through our acceptance of a share in the merit of the same. But there is another sorrow or mourning which is not because of sin but because of sympathy. Our Lord, who was separate from sinners, had this spirit of mourning. It was this mourning in sympathy that led to his tears at the tomb of Lazarus, and the same that led to his being called "the man of sorrows and acquainted with grief."--`Isa. 53:3`. In our imperfect fallen condition, even after our hearts are fully consecrated to the Lord and imbued with his Spirit, it will not be possible for us to enter so fully into sympathy with others as did our dear Master; but we are to cultivate this spirit of sympathy, which is a part of the spirit of love, and the more we grow in grace and in character-likeness to the great Teacher the more we will have of the spirit of sympathy, the more sorrow and mourning will appeal to us. On the other hand, however, the more we receive of this same holy Spirit proportionately we will have the greater peace, the greater joy in the Lord and the greater rejoicing, because of what we will be increasingly permitted to discern in the unfolding of the great plan of salvation under which all who mourn in Zion shall be comforted. So, then, the most advanced Christians, who have the deepest and most holy joy, should be the ones who at the same time would have the deepest sympathy with mourning and sorrow. Who has not already noticed this, that as our Lord and Teacher is the exemplar of perfection, so those who most nearly imitate him are usually such as have had deep experiences in the school of sorrow and mourning, and in whose hearts and characters deep spiritual lessons and characteristics have been engraved? The word comfort does not contain the thought of relief, but rather that of strengthen together, or added strength. In other words, the Lord does not propose to take from us that noble quality of sympathy which we receive in the school of experience, but he does propose for all those who become his true followers that they shall be comforted or strengthened together, that he will give them a blessing of strength to endure, which will compensate their mourning and spirit of heaviness. He gives this through the promises of his Word and the glorious hopes which he sets before us, and he gives it also through the living epistles of the dear members of the household of faith. Note how the Apostle calls this to our attention in `2 Corinthians 1:4`, where many times over he repeats the thought of our comforting one another with the comfort wherewith the Lord has already comforted us. Oh, what a privilege we enjoy, not only of being comforted by the Lord through his Word, but of being used of him as channels for comforting or strengthening or upholding one another during this mourning time, when some, more than others, have in themselves weaknesses and frailties to cause mourning to themselves and to others. Blessed are those who, being comforted themselves, shall be used of the Lord in the comforting of the other members of his body.
"BLESSED ARE THE MEEK"
The poor in spirit or humble minded, who do not think highly of themselves, are unquestionably the same as the meek, the gentle. The Century Dictionary defines the word meek as "self-controlled and gentle; not easily provoked or irritated; forbearing under injury or annoyance." Webster defines meekness as "submission to the divine will; patience and gentleness from moral and religious motives." As we look about us in the world and note the meek of the earth we do not see them more prosperous than others, and our Lord's words that such shall inherit the earth would astonish us and seem quite untrue if we did not understand that he referred to blessings beyond the present life. Surely the millionaires of earth, that own the larger portion of it and its riches, valleys and slopes, are very rarely to be counted as the meek. And so we see that the Master did not say, Blessed are the meek, for they do inherit the earth, but "they shall inherit the earth." When, Lord? Answer: When God's Kingdom shall come and his will be done on earth as it is done in heaven--then the meek shall inherit the earth. So, then, if we perceive that the rude, the unjust, the self-assertive, are grasping the bounties of earth in the present time, and if we find ourselves rather crowded out because of meekness, let us remember our Lord's Word that we are especially blessed, and let us cultivate this quality of meekness more and more, and let us not think to exchange it for a spirit of arrogance and self-assertion and vindictiveness, to grasp earthly fame and name and riches. Let us rather be content to cultivate this spirit which the Lord assures us he approves, and let us wait for the time when this class shall inherit the earth. We perceive that the inheritance will be with a view to giving it to the human family under the terms and conditions instituted during the Millennial age. Then the meek of the restitution class will inherit the earth; they will be given the advantage everyway, and eventually all who are not meek will be utterly destroyed from amongst the people in the Second Death. The meek ones of the Lord's followers even now in a measure receive the fulfilment of this promise, as the Apostle declared, "All things are yours, for ye are Christ's and Christ is God's." (`1 Cor. 3:22,23`.) These have more enjoyment of the earth now than have others; while others are grasping these are enjoying. As the Apostle declares, "God hath given us all things richly to enjoy." (`1 Tim. 6:17`.) Freed from the grasping spirit, we can pass through the streets and observe the rich displays of the shop windows without covetousness, without wishing that we had the various works of art and beauty under our special care and control. We can feast our eyes upon them and be without the care of them at a time when all of our talents are consecrated to the Lord and his service, and when we have more important things to do than caring for earthly trinkets called works of art.
::R3735 : page 73::
BLESSED THE HUNGRY AND THIRSTY
Our Lord refers to two of the most potent influences known amongst men. To what activity will not hunger and thirst spur us? Similarly there is in some a heart-hunger and thirst for that which is right, that which is true. The majority of people evidently do not have much of this hunger of the soul: natural eating and natural drinking are their special attractions. But all are not so, and there is a special blessing for those who have the soul-hunger to which our Lord refers. "They shall be filled"--they shall be satisfied. Nothing in this promise implies a miraculous filling or satisfying: the thought connected with the illustration rather is that, hungering and thirsting, they will make use of their time, knowledge and opportunities for seeking the bread of eternal life, which satisfies, and the water of life, which truly refreshes; and that in proportion as these are sought and found and used will be the blessing. We have the Lord's guarantee of the blessing for all who are in the attitude of mind to seek and to use the spiritual refreshments he provides. Righteousness here applies to right in every matter-- Truth. God is the great standard of righteousness, and he communicates it through his Word, his exceeding great and precious promises delivered to us through Jesus and his apostles. The majority of the world, careful for the meat that perishes, think little of the Truth and get little of it; the few hungering and thirsting for it are filled, refreshed, sanctified by it, and in word and in deed and in thought are being fitted and prepared for still further blessings in God's due time--participation with the Redeemer in the Kingdom and a share with him in the work of blessing and uplifting mankind.
"BLESSED ARE THE MERCIFUL"
Mercy is akin to love, and in proportion as the fall has effaced love from any heart in that proportion mercy will be lacking. Of course we cannot always judge by the outward appearance, as there are outward forms and expressions of love without the heart. So sometimes mercy is extended without the real spirit of mercy prompting it. Sometimes it is to be seen through the recognition of a principle without a sympathy with that principle. The true Christian learns in the school of Christ not only of his imperfections and his need of divine mercy, but having found that mercy and having entered the school of Christ it becomes one of the most important lessons he can learn to extend similar mercy toward others. The Apostle declares that "Mercy rejoices against Judgment"--against the execution of justice. (`Jas. 2:13`.) Strange as it may appear, those who have most need of mercy for themselves appear usually to be the ones least ready to accord mercy to the failures of others. Contrariwise, those who grow most in the spirit of the Lord grow proportionately merciful and compassionate. Some of the Lord's people have more to overcome in this direction than have others, and may therefore show less development in proportion to their efforts; but the thought should be continually before the minds of all that it is very unbecoming for those who themselves have need of divine mercy to be sticklers in the last degree in their requirements of justice for others, in their refusal to exercise mercy toward others. Not only so, but this lesson which our Lord so frequently emphasized he intensified when he said, You do not from the heart forgive those who trespass against you, neither will your heavenly Father forgive your trespasses. He thus teaches us that our mercy must be more than formal, more than an outward forgiveness and reconciliation--it must be from the heart, sincere. In proportion, therefore, as we each realize our need of divine mercy through Jesus, in that same proportion let us be very merciful to others--especially toward the brethren and all who in any sense or degree demonstrate their desire for righteousness.
"BLESSED ARE THE PURE IN HEART"
The word pure is very comprehensive--without adulteration, sincere, unsullied. No member of the human family is by nature in this condition. On the contrary, the Scriptures assure us that the heart of the natural man is exceedingly deceitful and desperately wicked. (`Jer. 17:9`.) The heart in this text and in general conversation is used not as the name of one of the organs of the human system, but as indicating the inner mind, will, intention of the person. As originally created man was the image of God, and hence was then pure in heart, sincere, honest, truthful, perfect-intentioned; but, by reason of disobedience, sin and selfishness have been developed in the human heart and will, and the God-like qualities originally there have been to a considerable degree obliterated. Hence it is that those who become the Lord's people are said to have a new heart, a new will, new ambitions, new desires. Where the conversion from sin to righteousness is thorough it is truthfully said, "Old things have passed away, all things have become new."--`2 Cor. 5:17`. To accomplish so radical a change of will, of intention, requires a powerful influence. It may be of fear and it may be of love, but we are assured that the results of fear are imperfect, and that only love produces the lasting, perfect, acceptable conditions. Fear may have to do with the beginning of a change of heart, but it certainly cannot carry the conversion to completion, for, as the Scriptures declare, "Fear hath torment," and the peace of God cannot rule in the heart that is subject to such distress. (`1 John 4:18`.) Hence the Scriptures set before us the heart conversion which results from the knowledge of God and love for him, saying, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart," and again assuring us that "perfect love casteth out fear."--`Mark 12:30`; `1 John 4:18`. Our Lord's words intimate that there may be various degrees of impurity of heart, and so we find it: there are some who at heart are really black, devilish; others are drab or gray or speckled. But the Lord singles out the kind of heart that would be acceptable to the Father--the pure in heart. We are all witnesses that we could not claim purity of heart, of intention, of motive, of desire for very many of our friends and neighbors of Christendom, and that so far as we know in the heathen world the proportion would be still fewer. Yet the intimation of our text is that only such as attain to heart purity can hope ever to see God, to enjoy this evidence of his love. But lest some should be discouraged through supposing that purity of heart means absolute perfection of thought and word and deed, we hasten to correct that thought and to point out that the intention is not always supported by the words and conduct. To will right, to will perfectly, to be
::R3735 : page 74::
pure in heart, is quite possible, yea, quite necessary to all who would have divine approval; yet how to perform all that they will is sometimes beyond the ability of the Lord's most earnest followers. The new will, the new heart, must act and speak through the medium of the old body, whose affections are continually in opposition and must be battled against. Hence so long as we are in the flesh, so long as we are obliged to reason, speak and act through the imperfect medium of our fallen flesh, that long will we have need of the merit of Christ to continually cover its blemishes; that thus the new will, the new heart and not the flesh, may be judged of the Lord and tested as to its worthiness or unworthiness of the eternal life and blessings which he has proffered us. How precious the thought, then, that we may attain to absolute purity of intention, of love, etc., toward all mankind as well as toward the Lord, and that God will thus accept us in his Beloved One, not counting to us the unintentional weaknesses and blemishes which we realize and which others realize perhaps still more than we. How blessed the thought that such will see God, that such have the clearest views of God's character and plan now, that such shall see him shortly when changed in the resurrection, when they shall have awakened in the likeness of their dear Redeemer.
BLESSED THE PEACEMAKERS
Never was there a time when this statement of our Lord deserved more consideration than at present. We live at a time when envy and strife are in evidence on every hand, amongst all classes, amongst nations, in politics, in business, in homes and families, in nominal churches and amongst the fully consecrated of the true Church. The tendency toward strife is evidently somewhat associated with the strenuous times in which we live; but all the more those who are true members of the body of Christ are to remember the Scriptural injunction, "Follow peace with all men;" and again, "Be at peace amongst yourselves." (`Heb. 12:14`; `1 Thess. 5:13`.) Some of the best people in the world have the organ of combativeness large, but proportionately they need to have love to control it, so that they shall combat only those things which are evil and injurious, so that they shall think generously, kindly, lovingly of all who take a different view of matters; and while standing always firm for principle, they should take note of the fact that principle enters into remarkably few of their conflicts, contentions, etc. Each of the Lord's children should be learning day by day to cultivate the fruits and graces of the holy Spirit, amongst which prominently are patience, long-suffering,
::R3736 : page 74::
brotherly kindness, love. These things dwelling in us and abounding we shall be more and more pleasing to the Lord and able to assist others in the same direction--to be peacemakers. For who can properly be a peacemaker who is not himself at heart a peace lover? There seems to be in the majority of humanity a contentious streak, which not only leads the possessor to be quarrelsome and contentious, irritable and irritating to others, but additionally this trait seems in many to be inclined to stir up disturbances in others, when the first principle of decency-- minding one's own business--would be favorable to peace. As the Lord's people more and more come to realize the selfishness and quarrelsomeness which the whole world has inherited through sin and depravity, and how this is all opposed to the Spirit of the Lord and of meekness, gentleness, patience, long-suffering, love, they should not only strive to develop peace in their own hearts and lives but to be peacemakers amongst men. "Blessed are the peace-makers, for they shall be called the children of God." Yes, truly, the peace lovers, peace promoters, manifest that in this particular at least they are the possessors of the holy Spirit--the Spirit of God. Let us not only merit this title, sons of God, now amongst men who, seeing our good works and peaceable dispositions, will glorify our Father in heaven on this behalf, but let us by the continued cultivation of this same quality of love, under the guidance of the great Redeemer, merit the distinction of being sons of God on a higher plane in the Kingdom.
BLESSED THE PERSECUTED
Not all the persecuted, but merely the persecuted for righteousness' sake. Many bring upon themselves persecutions for foolishness' sake and for being busybodies in other men's affairs. Let us heed the Apostle's word along this line and avoid persecutions or sufferings for evil doing of any kind; but, as again it is declared, if any man suffer as a Christian let him glorify God on this behalf. (`1 Pet. 4:16`.) It is well, too, that we preserve in this matter as in all others the spirit of a sound mind. There are, for instance, some that evidently imagine themselves persecuted when really they are very kindly treated, and are the victims of their own morbid imaginations. The Lord's people should be so filled with the spirit of thankfulness and gratitude and appreciation that they would be in no danger of erring in this matter. They should be so generous in their thoughts of the motives and intentions of their friends and neighbors that they would be in no danger of misapprehending them and feeling persecuted by those who are really their well-wishers. As perfect love casts out fear, so also it casts out these false impressions of evil doing or intention toward us. The benevolent heart, full of love for others, will rather prefer to suppose that slights are unintentional oversights, or to put some other similar good construction upon the conduct of their friends, only yielding to an appreciation of persecution when its intention is unmistakable. Even then it should think generously of the persecutor, realize his share in the fall and be disposed to pray for those who despitefully use them and persecute them. Blessed are such ones who thus hold to righteousness and the spirit of love toward their enemies and persecutors, and who may be sure, therefore, that they are being persecuted for their fidelity to truth and righteousness and not for personal idiosyncrasies and peculiarities. Blessed are they, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven. The Lord is looking for those who are so faithful to the principles of righteousness that they will exercise it toward their enemies even when being persecuted by them and on its account. If the Kingdom of heaven is for such it is assuredly but a little flock. Let us strive the more diligently to be of that little flock--to make our calling and election sure.
REVILED FOR CHRIST'S SAKE
The Lord's people are not to revile each other or anybody under any circumstances, but are to remember that they are pupils, followers of him who when reviled reviled not
::R3736 : page 75::
again. Whatever evil others may say or insinuate about us we must be faithful to our Teacher and not return evil for evil, reviling for reviling, nor insinuation for insinuation, but contrariwise must speak evil of no man and be pleased to notice and to mention any good qualities which even our enemies may possess. Our Lord's words, however, warrant us in expecting that those who will be faithful to him will share his experiences of being evil spoken of. With his words before our minds we should not be surprised at false charges and false insinuations made against his true followers, and that in proportion to their prominence as his servants and followers. The expression, "all manner of evil," is very comprehensive, while "for his sake," is worthy of notice. It does not imply that those who strike with the fist or weapon or tongue and who shoot out arrows, even bitter words, will say, We do this to you for Christ's sake and because you are one of his. We have never heard of any one persecuted in that manner along those lines, and this cannot therefore be what the Lord meant. What he did mean evidently is that his followers, like himself, honorable, moderate, possessing the spirit of a sound mind, truthful, honest, virtuous, would naturally be highly esteemed amongst the Scribes and Pharisees, the nominally good; they would have a high place, were it not for their fidelity to the Lord and to his Word. Because of loyalty to truths contradictory of popular errors, because of their faithfulness to the Word of the Lord, they are unpopular, and, like the Master, are hated by those prominent in Churchianity. These conditions bring a double test: (1) They test the adherents of Churchianity along the lines of the Golden Rule, and when they speak evil through malice, through hatred, through strife, through opposition, they are judging themselves, condemning themselves under the Golden Rule, for well they know that they would not wish others thus to speak evil of them;--either through malice or a concocted lie or through hearsay. (2) It becomes a test also to the faithful ones--Are they willing to endure these persecutions and oppositions cheerfully as a part of the cost of being the Lord's disciples? If under the pressure they yield and revile in return, and slander and backbite, they are proving themselves unworthy of a place in the Kingdom. If on the other hand they receive these lessons and experiences with patience and long-suffering, these serve to develop in them more and more of the character-likeness of their Redeemer and tend the more to fit and prepare them for a share with him in his glorious Kingdom. Our Lord's assurance is that those who are thus tested and who stand such a test will have the greater reward in heaven, and reminds them that similar persecutions from the Lord's professed people came to all the holy prophets of the past.
THE SALT OF THE EARTH
The declarations, "Ye are the salt of the earth," and "the light of the world," may be very properly applied to such of the Lord's followers as give heed to his teachings and cultivate the blessed states he has described foregoing. All such blessed ones in proportion as they have attained such conditions are indeed the salt of the earth and the light of the world. As salt is useful in arresting decomposition, so the influence of these, though they be few in the world, is preservative. Looking back along the aisles of history, we can see that a good influence extended from the Law Covenant God made with Israel. As the Jews scattered more or less amongst other nationalities they carried with them more or less clear conceptions of the divine standards as represented in the Law, and these wherever they went had a preservative and corrective influence amongst men. But it was Jesus and his higher Law of Love, exemplified in his own life and in the lives of his apostles and all his followers, who became the real salt of the earth, in a period when without it we know not what might have been the result. As it is not only the spot upon which the candle or lamp rests that is enlightened by it, but as the rays extend out in every direction, so is the influence extending from every true Christian. It touches not merely his own person or home but to some extent radiates throughout his vicinity. Similarly it is not merely the spot that is touched by the lump of salt that is preserved, but the influence of that lump spreads over a considerable space round about it, and all with preservative influence. At the time of our Lord's first advent the world was in a condition in which it would probably have hastened to degeneracy and corruption, but the introduction of the body of Christ and the beneficial influence extending from each member of that body were potent for the arrest of the demoralizing tendency of the times. The light which shone out from Jesus, the Light of the world, and from his followers, had undoubtedly a beneficial effect upon the then center of the civilized world. That influence is still manifest in so-called Christendom. And even today, although the truly consecrated believers in the great Redeemer are confessedly very few in number, yet the general influence, the saltiness from the teachings of the Savior, exercise a wide influence throughout Christendom. Without this, doubtless, corruption and a complete collapse would have come long ago. In spite of it we see very corrupting and corrupt influences at work in every direction and the wider our horizon,
::R3737 : page 75::
the more general our information, the more this fact will be appreciated. Before very long we expect that all of the overcoming members of the body of Christ will be changed, glorified, and the body completed on the other side the vail will be without members on this side. The lights will have gone and the darkness will hold fuller sway than ever; the salt will be gone and the corruption will take hold swiftly, and the result will be the great time of trouble such as was not since there was a nation. Meantime we are to let our lights shine and thus to glorify the Father, whether men heed or forbear to heed; we are to exercise our salt or preservative influence, our influence for righteousness and truth, whether men hear or forbear, though we clearly see that it is not God's purpose to enlighten the world through the Church in its present humble position. The matter will test us and prove whether or not we are worthy to be members of the glorified body of Christ, which shortly shall shine forth as the Sun in the glory of the Father, and enlighten the whole world in a manner with which our little lamps of the present time will in no sense compare.
::R3737 : page 76::
HO, PRODIGAL RETURN!
"Return, return! thy Father's voice is pleading, Tho' far astray, I bid thee turn again! Thy robe is rent, thy tender feet are bleeding, Thy heart is faint and sick with famine pain: Return, my child: a welcome here awaits thee: No longer in the distant country rove; Resist the cruel tempter that belates thee, And keeps thee from my dwelling and my love.
"Return, return! Thy Father's loving-kindness Thou long hast scorned, and done his grace despite; Yet in his touch is healing for thy blindness, And he can turn thy darkness into light. Return in all thy rags of sin's defilement; Return with all thy want and sore distress; Thy Father's voice bespeaks his reconcilement: Flee to thy Savior, and thy guilt confess.
"Return, return! Thy substance hath been wasted-- Thou hast not aught to bring but thy poor heart; Yet art thou longing for the bread once tasted, And for his paths of peace, and faith's good part? Return, for why shouldst thou delay the pardon Thy Father's great compassion waits to grant! Arise and go, before thy doubts shall harden The homesick yearnings of the penitent.
"Return, return! Leave thou the swine and famine And seek again the plenty of thy home! Why dost thou toil among the husks of mammon, When to his rest the Father bids thee come? Return thou to his arms, his kiss, his blessing, Accept the robe, the sandals, and the ring, After thy sinfulness and guilt confessing, By Jesus found, lost treasure of the King!
"Return, return! The angel-hosts bend o'er thee-- They wait to bear the tidings' joyful sound. They have beheld the Savior dying for thee, And will rejoice to sing, The lost is found! Return, for he will heal all thy backsliding-- Will love thee freely, and will thus forgive; Come, weary soul, rest in his love abiding, Thou hast been dead--arise to-day and live!"
::R3737 : page 76::
LESSONS ON SELF-CONTROL.
--`MATTHEW 5:33-48`.--MARCH 11.--
Golden Text:--"Keep the door of my lips."--`Psa. 141:3`.
AGAIN we gather at the feet of the great Teacher of the school of Christ to hearken for his further instructions. In connection with his discourse on the beatitudes, which constituted our last lesson, the Master proceeded in the words of today's lesson. Our Lord refers to the traditions of the ancients, which evidently had a great control over the people of that time. No fault is to be found with having respect for the opinions and teachings of those who have gone before us in life's pathway, but one of the important lessons for every Christian to learn is that the fact that a matter is ancient, that it has been long believed, is no positive proof of its correctness. The thoughts of ancient times are to be weighed and tested, as well as those of modern times by the one standard, the divine revelation--"If they speak not according to this word it is because they have no light in them."--`Isa. 8:20`. The traditional teaching to which our Lord referred was not wholly erroneous, just as the traditions of the "dark ages" contain some elements of truth. Error alone is weak in comparison to error mixed with a little truth; hence our great Adversary usually endeavors to interweave some measure of truth with all the injurious falsehoods which have burdened the world for centuries, and still burden us in proportion as we are deceived by them. This was true in respect to the matter our Lord was discussing: the Law had something to say respecting the taking of God's name in vain, and tradition had modified the Law and limited it to false swearing. Our Lord called attention to the error, pointing out that the third commandment had a broader and deeper meaning than the tradition implied --that it meant that God's name should never be used in any irreverent manner, and not merely forbidding its use in connection with the violation of an oath in the Lord's name. Our Lord extended the thought, teaching his followers that they should not continue the custom of their day, of proving their assertions by appeals to God, to heaven, etc. The same lesson is for the followers of Jesus today: others may feel it necessary to emphasize their statements by oaths or expletives, but the followers of Jesus are to so live, so act, so speak, that their words pass for par anywhere and with anybody. To this end they must be absolutely truthful, so that whoever may hear them may know that their yea is yea and their nay is nay.
"SWEAR NOT AT ALL"
Oaths and solemn asseverations in the ordinary conversation of life imply that the truth of the speaker is questionable--that his yea is not always yea, and that his nay is not always nay. The tendency is to make him less careful in the ordinary statements of his conversation which are not thus solemnized; the effect is also to make him less reverent toward the Lord or the other holy things which he may call upon as witnesses, as evidences of his truthfulness. As the word of such people becomes common and liable to be broken, so their oaths would soon also become common and liable to be broken--such matters go on from bad to worse usually. On the contrary, where the word is held sacred the avenues of sin and error and falsehood are measurably stopped. Nothing in this injunction can properly be understood to apply to the taking of an oath in a court of law. Such oaths, commanded by the law of the State, are necessary, because all have not the high standard of truth desired. But even in the courts of law in many States it is permitted that an affirmation may be made instead of an oath if any so prefer. To one of the Lord's people an affirmation must mean exactly the same as an oath; he would not affirm what he would not be willing to swear to. He recognizes that, as a follower of the Lord and one of his representatives, his yea or his nay must be as truthfully kept as his oath would be. Whatsoever is more than yea or nay cometh from evil--the revised version says "of the Evil One." Indirectly all of our evil tendencies come from the Evil One,
::R3738 : page 77::
for was it not by his lie in Eden that the fall from perfection and the divine image brought us all into our present evil, imperfect condition, exposing us to error through our own weaknesses and imperfections and the weakness of our neighbors? While our Lord's injunction is good for all who have ears to hear it, it is especially appropriate to the little flock who have applied themselves to hearken to all of his commands, and to be taught of him, and, to whatever extent is necessary, to suffer with him in following the course of righteousness. Truly all such should be models of truthfulness and uprightness, and thus be burning and shining lights, glorifying our Father in heaven in their homes and in the communities where they live.
AN EYE FOR AN EYE
Another of the teachings of the ancients was that absolute justice should be rendered, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Some features of the Law did indeed imply this. If one caused an injury to another intentionally he should be maimed himself correspondingly. This strict requiting of justice prevailed, not only amongst the Jews, but also amongst the Romans and the Greeks. It may be said to have been a juster law in some respects than those which now prevail, which indirectly favor the rich: for instance, the penalty today for injury to another might either be a fine of so much money or an imprisonment of so long a time. In either case the rich would have the advantage in that they could spare the money, and the loss of time would not be so disastrous to them as to the poor. However, there were disadvantages in a juster system of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth: it cultivated a feudal spirit, and led to anger, malice, hatred, envy, strife, murder, works of the flesh and of the devil. Seeing what the strictest interpretation of justice would imply, let us see what the great Teacher would present as the preferable course of action. Hear his words, "I say unto you, resist not evil [do not retaliate, rendering evil for evil], but whosoever shall smite you on the right cheek turn to him the other also." This is an astounding proposition--who can obey it? Even if we modify it all that language will permit, it is still apparently beyond reach of any fallen human being--it teaches the ideal requirements of the divine law of perfect love. When seeking for an interpretation of the expression, Resist not the evil doer, but turn the other cheek, we must look to our Lord and the apostles as examples. We find, for instance, that our Redeemer was smitten upon the cheek, and that while he did not literally turn the other he did not attempt to smite back, to retaliate even in word. In this indirect sense he did turn the other cheek. And this should mark our course. Our Redeemer did expostulate with his smiters in kindly terms, however, and we may properly follow his example, and consider it in full agreement with his instruction in this lesson. We may remember him again when evilly entreated and taken to the brow of the hill to be cast headlong: he did not use his superior power to do injury to his opponents, but passed through their midst, evidently either directly or indirectly exercising over them a restraining influence, because his time for death had not yet come. So, too, we may use any moral influence we may possess to escape from the power of our enemies, and be assured that we will have the divine care and protection until our lessons and experiences are completed --until our time shall come to pass beyond the vail. Similarly the Apostle, learning of the threats of the Jews against his life, did not make threats against them nor pray evil upon their heads; but he did use such steps as were at his command to thwart their evil designs, sending word to the governor and invoking the power of the civil authority; and on another occasion he defended himself by appealing to the people.-- `John 18:22,23`; `Acts 23:1-5,17`. The lesson for us is that we may use all lawful and legal means in our self-defense, and may even wisely run away from dangers and persecutors, as the Lord directed and the apostles exemplified. (`2 Cor. 11:33`; `Matt. 10:23`.) But we are not authorized to retaliate. Difficult as this proper course may appear, it undoubtedly will be found to be the best one. Remember our Lord's words, "They that take to the sword shall perish with the sword," and again the Apostle's words to the Church is, "If ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another." (`Matt. 26:52`; `Gal. 5:15`.) The lesson evidently is,--
"FOLLOW PEACE WITH ALL MEN"
"If any man sue thee at the law and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also." The revisers translated this to mean that if any one is disposed to go to law with you and take away your coat you should settle with him, even though it deprive you of both coat and cloak. This lesson of submission, of non-resistance, is surely a very difficult one to thoroughly learn. We cannot doubt that many would take advantage of such a disposition, and that as a result he would have the bad end of many a bargain. However, this would not prove the Lord's counsel unwise even as respects the present life. The lesson upon ourselves would certainly be valuable as respects the development of the Master's graces, and how can we tell that the example would not be very potent upon those who might fraudulently, violently take advantage of our obedience to the great Teacher. We know, too, that the Lord would be quite able to compensate us for anything we might suffer in way of loss in obedience to his directions, to whatever extent he might see would be to our advantage. We should never forget the two occasions on which the Lord told the disciples to cast in their nets after they had toiled all night and had caught nothing, and how on both occasions miraculous draughts of fishes were caught. He who is for us is more powerful than all they that be against us, and undoubtedly loyalty to him and obedience to his Word will prove eventually the better part. Let us remember also the proverb
::R3738 : page 78::
which says, "There is that scattereth and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty." (`Prov. 11:24`.) It is not always those who fight most strenuously for their rights that fare the best even amongst the children of the world.
"GO WITH HIM TWAIN"
The next injunction is not generally understood: it does not mean that we should be turned aside from the duties and affairs of life at anybody's bidding. In olden times certain magistrates, governors, etc., had the authority of law to press the service of the people for governmental work. For instance, note how Simon the Cyrenian was compelled to bear the cross for Jesus a certain distance. The word compel in our lesson is from the same Greek word, and refers to a similar legal compulsion; "commandeered" would be the modern way of referring to such a matter. Our Lord's injunction is that his followers should be so broad-minded, so liberal, so generous, that they would not only obey the legal commands but be ready to go farther--to do more than had been required. In thus doing heartily, joyfully and agreeably all and more than would be commanded they would be exemplifying the generous spirit which represents our Lord and his teachings. By such breadth of sentiment they would be known as Jesus' disciples, who had learned of him. Indeed we may say that the whole trend of the teachings of the Lord and the apostles is in line with this, and opposed to stinginess and narrowness and selfishness--in accord with generosity, full measure, pressed down, heaped up and running over. The Christian measure would be nothing short, though it might be a little more. A Christian measure of anything must be full, never skimp. This is an element of the higher law, the law of love, and its spirit of generosity in our hearts. In similar strain the great Teacher enjoins that we shall give and lend to those requesting. We cannot suppose that he meant that a parent should give a razor to the child which cries for it; we cannot suppose that the Lord meant that our loans or gifts would be such as would be injurious to the recipients. Love must be the basis of our conduct, as it is the very essence of the Master's law. We cannot think either that he meant that we should neglect the interests of our own homes and families in giving to others or loaning to them. We are bound to suppose that our Lord in this, as in all things, wished his followers to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. What he wished to enjoin evidently was that spirit or disposition which would have pleasure in loaning or giving to the needy, and which is so circumstanced as to be able to comply with such requests and would be glad to do so, using the proper discretion and judgment, as to time, place and persons. In other words, the spirit of Christ is a benevolent spirit and not a mean or stingy one, and all the Lord's people, more or less selfish, need to learn this. There are few perhaps who would be in any danger of injuring themselves or others immediately dependent upon them by any acts of benevolence.
"LOVE THY NEIGHBOR"
Love for the neighbor was a feature of the Law, and in enjoining this the traditions of the elders were quite right; but they added to it that an enemy should be hated, whereas the Law said nothing of the kind, but on the contrary enjoined that if an enemy's ox or ass or property of any kind were seen going astray or about to be injured they should be protected and assisted and held for the owner, even though he were an enemy, and even though at a considerable cost of time and trouble. Our Lord thus pointed out the real meaning of the Law, making it the more honorable, saying, "I say unto you, Love your enemies, and pray for them that persecute you; that ye may be sons of your Father which is in heaven." (The rendering of `v. 44` here given occurs in the revised version, and is in harmony with the oldest Greek MS., which omits a part of this verse.) If we are sons of God we must have his Spirit, his disposition. To whatever extent we lack this disposition to love and desire good to our enemies as well as to our neighbors we lack evidence of relationship to our Father in heaven and to our elder brother, our Redeemer and Teacher. Here again the lesson of benevolence comes in--we must be large-hearted, generous.
::R3739 : page 78::
How can we cultivate this necessary quality, especially if our natural dispositions are mean and selfish, very much fallen from the divine likeness in this respect? We reply that the entire course of instruction in the school of Christ is in this direction. To make us compassionate and sympathetic with others, we are shown our own littleness and weakness in the Lord's sight; to teach us how to be generous and forgiving to others, we have the illustration of God's mercy and grace and forgiveness toward us; to impress the matter upon us we are assured that our forgiveness and standing with the Lord can only be maintained by our cultivating this spirit and manifesting it toward our debtors and enemies. We are to be generous with those who transgress against our rights and interests, our enemies. This does not mean that the Lord recognizes or treats his enemies with the same degree of blessing that he grants to his friends and his children, nor does it mean that we are to love our enemies in exactly the same sense that we love our bosom friends and companions. The Lord gives special blessing to those who are especially his, and we also may properly give more of our love and favor to those who are in accord with us. The lesson here again is large heartedness and generosity.
"LOVE THEM THAT LOVE YOU"
Our Lord points out that in merely reciprocating the love of others we would come far short of the standard he sets us, and of the lesson we must learn if we would be his joint-heirs and companions in the glory, honor and immortality of the Kingdom. Publicans and sinners even love those who love them--he must be a very mean man who will return evil for good and hate
::R3739 : page 79::
those who love him. Even though such a standard were recognized in the world, of loving those who love us, it would not be appropriate to the Lord's followers; they must rise to a higher plane if they would be his disciples. Similarly our greeting, our salutations, the civilities of life are to be extended not merely to our brethren either after the flesh or after the Spirit. We are to have kind intentions toward all, and to enjoy the privilege of extending these, expressing them, and thus comforting and refreshing all with whom we come in contact. Generosity again is the thought--breadth of character and nobility of conduct.
PERFECT AS FATHER IN HEAVEN
The last verse of our lesson caps the climax of all instruction, telling us that the copy which we are to consider and follow is that of our heavenly Father--we are to be perfect as he is perfect. Ah, yes! It would have been impossible for the great Teacher to have set us any other pattern or example or standard than the perfect one. And yet he knew that none of his disciples would ever be able in the present life and under present conditions of sin and death working in our mortal bodies to come up to this standard--to follow this copy. What then did he mean? We answer that he there set before us the perfect copy, with instruction that, in proportion as we love him and desire to have his approval, we should endeavor to pattern after the heavenly Father's character. The fact that this endeavor would not bring perfect results could only redound in blessings upon us, by bringing us to a realization of our own imperfections and of our need of the covering of our dear Redeemer's robe of righteousness, until the time shall come when in the first resurrection change we shall be made like him, see him as he is, share his glory, and be able to perfectly reflect, as he does, the heavenly Father's perfection. Meantime all of our shortcomings that are unintentional are graciously covered from the Father's sight with the merit of our Redeemer, who stands as our pledge or guaranty that our endeavors to follow the copy are sincere, of the heart. The Lord will judge us worthy or unworthy of the resurrection--not according to the flesh, but--according to the endeavors of our hearts as New Creatures.
THE OLD COPY-BOOK
Years ago it was the custom in the public schools to furnish the children with ruled copy-books, with copper-plate engraved lessons at the top of each page. The lesson to the pupil was the copying of those perfect characters. Every modest child must certainly have felt abashed, timid, when receiving one of those lessons, from the realization that it could not produce characters that could at all compare with the copy. It was, however, explained that it was not expected that the child could duplicate the perfect copy, but that following the lines of the copy it would become more and more expert. How well this illustrates the Master's words, "Be ye perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect," and the way in which he intends that we should profit by the instruction. Another lesson: It was the duty of the teacher to examine the work of the pupil, and surely in a majority of cases it was found that the best copy of the original was found on the first line, and that the work became poorer and poorer toward the end of the page. So it is with many in the school of Christ--the great Teacher perceives that their first endeavors to copy God-likeness at the beginning of their Christian experience was more successful than their subsequent attempts. Why? The answer is the same in both cases. The child neglected to look at the copy and merely looked at its own imperfect efforts, and hence the poor results. So with the pupils in the school of Christ--their poor results come from comparing themselves with themselves, and neglecting to keep constantly before their minds the perfect copy--"Be ye perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect." As the earthly teacher reproved and corrected the pupil, so with much long-suffering and patience the Lord reproves and corrects the pupils in the school of Christ. Will not this explain many chastisements which are necessary for every son whom the Father would ultimately receive to home and glory, every one of whom must be conformed to the image of his Son, who is the express image of the Father's person? Let us, then, begin afresh, on a new page as it were, to copy the character-likeness of our perfect Father in heaven. Let us no longer look at ourselves and our past attainments, but, as the Apostle says, "Forgetting the things that are behind and pressing on toward the things that are before," let us labor with patience to learn the all-important lessons connected with our discipleship and the gracious hopes set before us in the promises of our Father's Word.
"KEEP THE DOOR OF MY LIPS"
Our Golden text presents an important thought. The Lord's people find the tongue the most difficult member to bring into subjection, and therefore may well pray, "Keep thou the door of my lips." And if the prayer be sincere, from the heart, it will imply that the petitioner is doing all in his power in this direction himself while seeking the divine aid. And the divine aid comes in line with this lesson, and assures us that the lips are not at fault, that it is the heart that needs a completion of the regenerative work of the holy Spirit, for "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh." The lesson here is that whatever difficulty we have through our lips needs correction at the heart. We need to get our hearts more in accord with the heart of the Almighty--more in tune with the gracious elements of the divine character, represented not only in justice toward others, but additionally in mercy, love, kindness and benevolence towards all.