ZWT - 1899 - R2411 thru R2552 / R2464 (097) - May 1, 1899
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VOL. XX. MAY 1, 1899. No. 9.
Views from the Watch Tower........................ 99
"This Know Also, that in the Last
Days Perilous Times shall Come"............. 99
Governor Rollins' Proclamation................104
Judge Burke's View............................104
"Awake, O Zion!"..............................107
Poem: Forsaken--But Not Forever...................108
"I Am the Vine--Ye are the
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WHAT SAY THE SCRIPTURES ABOUT HELL?
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VIEWS FROM THE WATCH TOWER.
"IN THE LAST DAYS PERILOUS TIMES."
"This know, also, that in the last days perilous times shall come, for men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, truce-breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God, having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away."--`2 Tim. 3:1-5`.
CLAIMING, as we do, that we are now living in the closing days of the Gospel age, it is quite proper that we should look about us to see whether or not present conditions correspond to the Apostle's inspired description of what must be expected in the last days of this age. We are not to understand this description to relate to the barbarous or half-civilized peoples of the end of the age, but to be a description of the condition of "Christendom." The Apostle explicitly states that he refers to those who have a form of godliness--professedly Christians,--for, since the Jewish age ended, the only godly form that the Scriptures could recognize is Christianity. We see, then, that the foregoing delineation represents "Christendom" in the close of this age.
The Apostle does not say that this description will apply to the saints in the end of this age: quite to the contrary, the implication is that the saints should "turn away" or separate themselves from all who thus have merely the form of piety. (`Vs. 5`.) Nor are we to expect that the world, possessed of this spirit, will recognize its own likeness in the Apostle's words. Upon this, as upon other subjects, we are rather to expect that, as the Prophet declares, "None of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand." (`Dan. 12:10`.) The merely formalistic Christian, whose highest ideal of duty is to abstain from secular employment on one day of the week, and to go to church, is not to be expected to recognize his own likeness, and to note its deformities and inconsistencies: to do these things would imply such a reformation of sentiment as would transfer him from the lists of churchianity to the smaller list of true Christianity.
We should not be understood as saying, or even implying, that the world is growing worse in every respect day by day. We recognize as a fact that the world in many respects is in better condition than it has ever been before. The civilized nations to-day are better equipped with hospitals, orphanages, asylums, etc., than ever before. All these are very directly traceable to the influence of Christianity, and are neither to be despised nor ignored. We confess with great appreciation and admiration that the spirit of our Master has, during the past eighteen hundred years, so impressed itself upon the world of mankind that the barbarities of olden time would no longer be endured, the sensibilities of civilized man having reached a degree of development which insists upon provision being made for the indigent and helpless; and we are very glad of all these things.
At the same time, it should not be forgotten that mixed with all of these benevolences is a considerable measure of selfishness--they are not all monuments of pure disinterested benevolence. True, benevolence has had to do with the founding of many of them, but as a rule those recently instituted, and much of the support for all of them, is drawn from the tax-payer through political channels, and the party-spoils system has much to do with their maintenance--all feeding at such public cribs being expected to render more or less of party service. However, whether or not these institutions supported at public expense be considered as
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partially the outgrowth of selfishness, the fact must be conceded that public sentiment favors them, and hence it must be conceded that the principles laid down by the great Teacher eighteen centuries ago have made a favorable impression upon civilized peoples.
But the question before us is not on this point-- whether or not Christianity has made any impression upon the world: the question is, What is the real status of those professing to be Christians, now, in the end of this age? We answer that, while benevolences inculcated in the gospel of Christ have appealed to the better sentiments of mankind, and have resulted in a general uplift of social conditions throughout so-called Christendom, yet this uplift of the world of mankind has reacted in some respects against Christianity; for in making Christianity popular it has induced multitudes to nominally adopt Christianity and a form of godliness without appreciating the genuine article or experiencing a true conversion of heart. Hence the necessity of separating the "wheat" from the "tares," the suitable fish from the unsuitable ones in the Gospel net, now that the Gospel age is closing.-- `Matt. 13:24-30,36-43,47-50`.
If we ask ourselves the question, What is the peculiar characteristic of our day? almost every intelligent person could answer, Selfishness. And this is the very item which the Apostle puts first in his descriptive list: "Men shall be lovers of their own selves." We do not mean to say that people are more miserly than heretofore; on the contrary, there is probably less of this evil; the tendency is rather to extravagance: but it is an extravagance born of "love of their own selves," love of dress, love of show, love of honor and position. All who come in contact with present-day business, realize that more than ever before it is a battle; not so much a battle for bread as a battle for wealth and luxuries. True, business to-day is in some respects done along more honorable lines and on a more honest basis than every before, yet these are not so much signs of a greater honesty on the part of merchants, for they are almost compulsory; because business competition has materially cut down profits, and the enlarging of business much beyond the personal oversight of the proprietors has almost compelled one-price arrangements. But all persons associated with commercial business and manufacturing can attest that the growth of business intelligence, the formation of trusts and combinations, etc., have given selfishness great power to injure and even to destroy financially whatever may resist it.
Covetousness is another of the charges. It is a mistake to think of this quality as applicable only to the wealthy. It is just as possible for the man with one dollar to be covetous as for the millionaire. Covetousness is an inordinate desire, whether for wealth or luxuries or what-not. Elsewhere the Apostle designates covetousness as idolatry, which gives us the thought of false worship. (`Col. 3:5`.) It is not wrong for us to seek, in a reasonable, moderate way, for the necessities and the comforts of life for ourselves and those depending upon us; nor would it be wrong to avail ourselves of the opportunities of securing wealth, if the same came to us in a reasonable and honorable manner, not in conflict with our consecration to the Lord. But wherever the love of money or honor or luxuries becomes the ruling passion in those who are professedly God's people it has usurped God's place,-- such are idolaters. In other words, the covetous person is a mammon-worshiper, and as such should realize that he has abandoned the proper worship of God; and our Lord declared, "Ye cannot serve God and mammon." --`Matt. 6:24`.
Boasting is the third charge which the Apostle brings against nominal Christianity of "the last days." Is it not true? Was there ever a time when people were so boastful as to-day? Boastfulness is the opposite of meekness and humility; boasting accompanies pride, which the Lord declares he resists, showing his favors to the humble.--`James 4:6`.
Pride is the fourth charge, and, thinking of our fellow-creatures as generously as possible, we cannot deny that the pride of our day is very great, and continually increasing. In some it is the pride of wealth, in others a sectarian pride, in others a family pride, in still others a personal pride. Looking into the future, as revealed in the Lord's Word, and seeing the time of trouble toward which Christendom is hastening, we are reminded of the statement, "Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall."--`Prov. 16:18`.
Blasphemy is the fifth charge: but this does not necessarily imply that the professed Christians of the present day would be profane swearers more than others of times past. The word "blasphemy" here we understand to be used in its broad sense of slander, and the slandering or blasphemy may either be against God, or against fellow-creatures. As a matter of fact, we find both abounding to-day amongst Christian people. God's character is blasphemed by attributing to him evil deeds, evil motives and evil purposes toward the masses of mankind. Never, more than at present, have nominal Christians been inclined to charge the Almighty with the authorship of the evils that are in the world and which cause the groaning of creation. In times past they were willing to acknowledge that these evils had come in the line of justice because of sin; now many self-complacently claim that God's dealings are wholly unjust, and that the unfavorable
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conditions of the present time are all chargeable to him, and are injustices toward man. Moreover, the theories which prevail throughout Christendom respecting God's provision for the future (that it will be an eternity of torment--in literal flames, or, say some, "torments of conscience which will be worse") are blasphemies, slanders upon God's character and government. These are worse slanders than were held during the Dark Ages, when it was claimed, as Romanists still claim, that the vast majority went for a time only to "Purgatory," from which discipline and suffering they would ultimately be released.
Ours is also a day of slander or blasphemy one against another, on the part of those who have merely the form of godliness. Many who outwardly claim to be governed by the law of the New Covenant, Love, seem to have a morbid craving to speak evil one of another. This the Apostle elsewhere denominates the spirit of murder. (`1 John 3:15`.) This murderous, slanderous, or blasphemous tendency is manifest everywhere, in the home, in church-gatherings, and in private; those who take no pleasure in speaking words of kindness, approval and love, hunger and thirst for opportunities to speak evil. Nor are they satisfied merely to give out their own evil surmisings, based upon their own perverted view of their fellows; they love such slandering and blasphemy so much that they are willing even to accept it at second-hand, and to retail it out repeatedly.
Disobedience to parents is the sixth charge. How very marked is this trait to-day! Not merely in the younger members of the family, who have not come to years of discretion, but also in those who have even made an outward profession of religion. False views of "liberty" and "rights" seem to disturb the minds even of children, and the divinely arranged family order seems to be entirely lost sight of with the vast majority.
Unthankfulness is the seventh charge. Thankfulness would seem to be one of the least costly of the graces: it implies the reception of favors, and is merely a proper acknowledgment of them. No one can be a true Christian and be unthankful. With the Apostle he will soliloquize, "What hast thou that thou didst not receive?" (`1 Cor. 4:7`), and the first response of his heart must be gratitude, thankfulness. It is this thankfulness which leads on to service, and to sacrifice in the Lord's cause as a manifestation of gratitude. But with the merely nominal Christian thankfulness to God seems scarcely to be thought of. If he be prosperous, it is his ability or his "luck;" if not prosperous, it is the fault of some one else or his "bad luck." Divine providence scarcely enters his mind in connection with his affairs. This same unthankfulness extends manward, and not infrequently it will be found that one's worst enemies, perhaps indeed his only enemies, are those whom he has endeavored to serve--those in whose interest he has made sacrifices. They do not feel thankful; they do not wish to feel under any obligation of any kind; they fancy that the one who has done them a kindness will consider them under some obligation, and gradually they come to have enmitous and bitter feelings, instead of gratitude, thankfulness.
Unholiness is the eighth charge. The ordinary Christian professor will freely admit that he is unholy, not holy--not fully consecrated to the Lord. Many will admit that their only reason for maintaining even an outward semblance of Christianity is fear--fear of an eternity of torture; and some go so far as to admit that if it were not for fear of eternal torment they would indulge themselves in all manner of evil.
Without natural affection is the ninth charge. It is not the province of true Christianity to destroy the natural affections, but rather to deepen them and to lift them to a higher plane. It is therefore to be greatly regretted that there are to-day, apparently, evidences of the loss of family affection. In the days of the Apostle it was considered proper to exhort Christians to "love the brethren," but to-day this exhortation has comparatively little weight, because of the general loss of natural affection. Verily, "A man's foes shall be they of his own household."
Truce-breaking is the tenth charge. The Greek word here used signifies not merely a breaker of a truce or agreement, but more especially an unwillingness to make a truce or to live in harmony, and to abandon hostilities. Combativeness seems to be considerably on the increase, and not only are people willing to have a fracas for slight cause, but controlled by this implacable disposition, they are less ready than of yore to drop the matter--to forgive and be forgiven. Their hearts not having the spirit of love, but the spirit of selfishness, are not peace-loving but contention-loving. Hence, instead of being "easy to be entreated," they are the reverse, implacable.
False accusers is the eleventh charge. This corresponds closely to the charge of blasphemy, but seems to signify a still more extreme step--a willingness to accuse falsely, knowing that the charges or accusations are false. This surely indicates a very evil condition of heart, and yet we are compelled to admit that it is a very prevalent condition to-day. Let a person of strong will, whose heart is not under control of grace, become your enemy, and following the custom of our time he will probably not only misrepresent you in the matters of which he has knowledge or hearsay, but not infrequently he will deliberately concoct falsehoods. Such a course would not seem so strange on the part of the
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professedly worldly. It has always been so; the natural heart has always been full of evil, and ready to vilify when it considered itself provoked. The point of the Apostle's argument is that these conditions, so foreign to the spirit of Christ, the spirit of love, will prevail in the end of this age amongst those who profess his name and have a form of godliness.
Incontinency is the twelfth charge. This signifies, without self-control, led of passion, rash, impulsive. The Apostle's exhortation to the Church, as its proper condition, is expressed in the words, "Let your moderation be known unto all men"--your self-control. (`Phil. 4:5`.) Keep yourselves well in hand, subject and obedient to the will of God, as expressed in his Word. But to-day, and especially with the rising generation, self-control is little practiced. Some of this is chargeable to the spirit of the times in which we live, with its false conceptions of liberties and rights, and some of it is doubtless attributable to lax training under conditions of comparative worldly prosperity.
Fierceness is the thirteenth charge. This came forcibly to our attention a few days ago, as we noticed a headline of a dispatch from Manila, saying, "The Tenth Pennsylvania Regiment made a fierce charge upon the Filipinos, uttering their terrible yell. The enemy fled, terrified, in all directions." It used to be that the savages pounced upon the civilized, with fierce blood-curdling yells, but now it appears that the rising generation, representatives of Christendom from one of the most civilized states of the world can give so fierce a yell, and in every way manifest so much ferocity, as to strike terror to the uncivilized. Undoubtedly this fierceness explains much of the success of civilized men over the uncivilized in recent wars. Civilization, the handmaid of religion, has given intelligence and courage; but in those not having the power of godliness it inspires ferocity instead of love, kindness, gentleness.
Despisers of those that are good is the fourteenth charge. We are to distinguish between goodness from the standpoint of the Apostle and the Lord's word in general, and goodness from the world's standpoint. The world wants a man good enough to be honest, temperate, trustworthy, and faithful as a servant or contractor; but the world despises the higher forms of goodness to which the Apostle refers. The nominal Christian despises the "saint," and tries to believe that his professions of full consecration to the Lord, and his desire to please the Lord in thought and word and deed, are simply hypocrisies,--because his own heart is not in sympathy with such a condition of consecration, with such ideals of goodness, and he does not desire to be in the presence of so high a standard. As our Lord described the matter, "Everyone that doeth evil hateth the light."--`John 3:20`.
Treachery is the fifteenth charge. Because the mainspring of the world's efforts in every direction is selfishness, therefore treachery is its inevitable adjunct. Love desires to be just; love may frequently approve of self-sacrifice in the interests of others; but selfishness disapproves of benevolences except where some self-interest attaches. Hence, the one who might be willing to make a contract to-day, and who selfishly might be willing to keep that contract so long as he believed that it would be to his own advantage to do so, would often be willing to break that contract so soon as selfishness indicated that it would be to his advantage to break it. Persons controlled by the selfish spirit here described can never be trusted. Could we think of God as being controlled by selfish motives we could not trust him, except so long as it would be to his interest to fulfill his promises. Only those controlled by the reverse spirit of love can be relied upon in times of extreme trial. This is set forth as one of the special features of the great time of trouble just before us: selfishness and distrust will become general and the motto will be, "Every man for himself." The prophetic declaration shows the loss of confidence, general treachery, saying, There shall be no peace to him that goeth out nor to him that cometh in; for I have set every man's hand against his neighbor.--`Zech. 8:10`.
Headiness is the sixteenth charge. How forceful this word, as expressing self-will, impetuousness. Do
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we not see this quality everywhere amongst those who have the form of godliness, but who lack its power? And we believe that it, as well as these other evils, is steadily on the increase. The true Christian is not "heady;" on the contrary, his consecration to the Lord figuratively decapitated him; he lost his head, renounced his own will and self-rule, and submitted himself, as a member of the body of Christ, to the absolute control of Jesus, the Head of the Church. (`Eph. 1:22,23`.) Such, so long as they abide as members of the true body of Christ, cannot be heady, cannot be self-willed. It is this very self-will that first of all they reckoned dead, in order that they might have the mind or will of Christ. To revive the self-will would be to lose the mind of Christ. The true Christian therefore, in every affair of life,--in respect to its pleasures as well as in respect to its burdens and trials,--appeals to his Head for direction, to know how and what to do or say-- yea, to have even the very thoughts of his mind in full conformity to the will of God in Christ.
The "heady" class are continually endeavoring to carry out their own wills, and do not submit themselves to the will of God. Their headiness continually brings them into difficulties, and yet, sometimes, with pride and boasting and love of their own selves and fierceness and false accusations, they endeavor to have their own
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heady way, and perhaps even claim, with forms of godliness, that such a course is under divine leading. How sadly such are deceived! "If any man have not the spirit of Christ he is none of his." Wherever headiness prevails it is an evidence that such are "not holding the head" (Christ). If they have not already fallen utterly, their fall is certainly near unless they reform.--`Col. 2:19`; `Rom. 8:9`.
High-mindedness is the seventeenth charge. Self-conceit is naturally a virtue in the eyes of the class which the Apostle describes: and how naturally this quality of a large opinion of one's self and one's own talents, or of one's favor with God, or what-not, is linked with pride, boastfulness and self-love. There is no more dangerous form of high-mindedness or self-conceit than that which attacks the Christian, and seeks to make him think of himself more highly than he ought to think. Very many of the Lord's people have been ensnared along such lines, and stumbled into all the other evils of this category by first of all getting the impression that for some reason, or for no reason, the Lord had specially taken a fancy to them, and was giving them private lessons and information not vouchsafed to others of his consecrated ones. How appropriate the Apostle's caution along this line, "I say, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith." (`Rom. 12:3`.) Not only is this quality of self-conceit one of the most dangerous to Christians, but also it is one of the most dangerous to the world, for probably more than one-half of the hopelessly insane have lost their reason along this line of self-conceit. All true Christians should be specially on their guard against this snare of the Adversary.
Lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God is the eighteenth charge. It is natural for every human being to prefer to be pleased, to be happy, to have pleasure. It is not a sin to love things which minister to our pleasure in proper ways. To be a Christian does not mean to have no pleasure: but the Christian puts God higher than himself, loves God more than he loves himself, consecrates himself to God, and consequently desires to please God rather than to please himself. By such, any pleasure, no matter what, must be sacrificed if it come in conflict with his still higher pleasure and duty and covenant of service to the Lord. It is this that leads the true saints of God to sacrifice: the world being out of harmony with God and his will is out of harmony also with those who are in harmony with God. Hence, as our Lord says, "If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you."--`John 15:18,19`.
The contest, then, comes between serving God and doing those things which would bring his approval, and serving self after the manner of the world, and doing those things which would bring its approval. The true Christian must invariably decide for the Lord, and thus he often crosses the will, the preferences, the prejudices or the superstitions of those with whom he comes in closest contact in the flesh, and it is in this that he is to be an "overcomer" of the world and its spirit; and by so doing he is to gain ultimately the approval, "Well done, good and faithful servant; enter into the joys of thy Lord." "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne."--`Matt. 25:21`; `Rev. 3:21`.
The class described by the Apostle, the mass of Christendom, in the present time are not fully consecrated to the Lord, but are lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God. In this sense of the word they are idolaters, rendering love and service to self above God, --covetous of the world's pleasures and honors and emoluments of various kinds. Is it difficult for us to see this very condition of things all about us, amongst those who have merely a form of godliness? No, it is not difficult; it is the confessed condition of the vast majority. Love of God above love of self is proved by our willingness to sacrifice self-loves in order to do those things which would meet the Lord's approval.
Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof is the nineteenth charge. It does not follow that this class, in so many words, denies that there is any power to godliness. Rather, we are to understand that their course in life denies or repudiates the power of God. Outwardly they have a religious form; they know that churchianity is popular; they wish to be known as identified with some denomination for decency's sake, and as an entree to good social and financial standing for themselves and their families. But that is about all the use they have for Christianity. Their life as a whole denies the power of the gospel of Christ to control the heart and regulate, direct and guide the conduct.
"From such turn away." True Christians are to reprove the false Christians by turning away from them, and from their course or walk in life. Whoever has the spirit of Christ, the spirit of Love, and is seeking to cultivate its grace, and to walk according to its rule, will more and more find his path turning away from the path of churchianity and general worldliness. As they are guided by different spirits or dispositions, so they tend to different directions or effort, different loves, different sympathies, different experiences. The true sheep are to walk in the narrow way, led by the true
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Shepherd, who has gone before, and who calls us to follow him. This means that in this harvest-time in a most natural way a separation will be made between the "wheat" class and the "tare" class, just as our Lord's parable illustrated. Whoever walks in the Lord's way will receive the light that is due in this harvest-time, and be enlightened thereby and led in the footsteps of Jesus. Whoever walks in the evil way, described by the Apostle as the prevalent way in the end of this age, is following Satan's example. The separation of these classes must eventually be thorough and complete. Thus the Lord is by present truth and its spirit or influence calling to his people to separate themselves, to turn away from others who are not really his people, who have merely the form of godliness but not its power, saying, "Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues."--`Rev. 18:4`.
OUTSIDE CORROBORATIONS OF THE FOREGOING.
It would be difficult to imagine a more striking corroboration of these facts than is furnished by the recent proclamation of a Fast day by the Governor of the State of New Hampshire. We quote the paper entire, as set forth in the columns of The Boston Herald, without endorsing all of its provisions or recommendations, as follows:--
GOVERNOR ROLLINS' PROCLAMATION.
"Concord, N.H., April 6th, 1899.
"I hereby appoint Thursday, the 13th day of April, as Fast day.
"This custom was inaugurated at a time when all the people of our state placed their trust in the hands of a Supreme Being, and believed firmly in the efficacy of prayer. A goodly number of our people still hold this belief, I am happy to say, and will assemble, as their ancestors have for generations, to invoke the Deity. The decline of the Christian religion, particularly in our rural communities, is a marked feature of the times, and steps should be taken to remedy it.
"No matter what our belief may be in religious matters, every good citizen knows that when the restraining influences of religion are withdrawn from a community, its decay, moral, mental and financial, is swift and sure. To me this is one of the strongest evidences of the fundamental truth of Christianity.
"I suggest that, as far as possible, on Fast day union meetings be held, made up of all shades of belief, including all who are interested in the welfare of our state, and that in your prayers and other devotions, and in your mutual counsels, you remember and consider the problem of the condition of religion in the rural communities.
"There are towns where no church bell sends forth its solemn call from January to January; there are villages where children grow to manhood unchristened; there are communities where the dead are laid away without the benison of the name of Christ, and where
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marriages are solemnized only by justices of the peace.
"This is a matter worthy of your thoughtful consideration, citizens of New Hampshire. It does not augur well for the future. You can afford to devote one day in the year to your fellow-men--to work and thought and prayer for your children and your children's children."
* * *
That the Governor of New Hampshire is not greatly overstating the situation is evidenced by the following clipping from the Boston Traveler of March 8th:--
"As surely as two and two are four the Boston police are incompetent to cope with the rogues, footpads and other outlaws infesting this city, and citizens fear to walk the streets after nightfall in consequence of the prevailing lawlessness. Crime has reached that stage that a citizen is not safe on the street or in his own home after the shadow of evening has taken possession of mother earth."
A very similar statement was recently made respecting lawlessness in St. Louis by one of its leading newspapers.
If we were in the midst of financial depression, and if thousands of "out-of-works" were tramping the country as a few years ago, such statements would excite much less surprise and be much less significant of a moral decline such as the Apostle prophetically indicates must now be expected. But on the contrary, we are in the very midst of "good times"--far better than can be reasonably expected to continue long. And with the spirit of selfishness described by the Apostle constantly increasing, we must expect that each succeeding financial depression will manifest increasing lawlessness until the final catastrophe of anarchy shall crumble present institutions and prepare the way for the reign of Immanuel.
OTHERS SEE IT.--JUDGE BURKE'S VIEW.
The Governor is not the only person whose eyes are open and who feels it his duty to "cry aloud and spare not." The Rev. Dr. Buckley, editor of the New York Christian Advocate, the leading Methodist paper of the world, recently felt called upon to point out the decadence of Methodism. And still more recently at the session of the Rock River Methodist board of examinations the same subject came up and was discussed very boldly by Prof. Small and subsequently by Judge E. W. Burke, the published report of whose speech follows:--
"SEES DARK SKIES.
"JUDGE BURKE'S PESSIMISTIC TALK BEFORE
"SOCIAL DISTURBANCE AHEAD. "THE JURIST CONTINUES IN THE STRAIN ADOPTED BY HIS PREDECESSORS AND GAINS CONGRATULATIONS.
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"The keynote of the midyear session of the Rock River Methodist board of examination, now in session at the Englewood First Church, continues to be social and religious pessimism. Many of the papers read are directly on this subject, and the discussion of the rest generally works around to the same point.
"Tuesday Prof. Small led off in this direction, and yesterday Judge E. W. Burke, in a paper on 'The Church of the Twentieth Century, From a Layman's Standpoint,' went just as far. These sentiments are received by the large congregation of ministers and others who hear them, not only without protest, but with approval. Judge Burke could hardly leave the platform for the handshaking and congratulations that beset him.
"Judge Burke dwelt on the tyranny of capital, the terrible impending conflict between concentrated capital and labor, the decadence of the Methodist Church, as depicted by Rev. Dr. Buckley in the New York Christian Advocate, and the rumor that the wealthy laymen of the church were threatening to withhold their contributions unless they were granted equal representation in the general conference.
"Judge Burke spoke in part as follows:--
"'The whole creation and all the manifestations of the spiritual, intellectual and even the physical forces are now in a transitional period as never before. Even trade and methods of business that have been pursuing their customary ways for centuries are paralyzing individual effort and puzzling the lawmakers of the earth. Storm centers of labor and capital are gathering over against each other, threatening the very integrity of the industrial firmament of man. The late appearances of the hitherto unsuspected intellectual and physical forces but add Titans of unknown strength to the conflict toward which all the world is consciously or unconsciously rushing. He who observes and reflects on matters of church and state feels this condition in the very pulsing ether, the like of which history does not disclose.
[We do not know that Judge Burke has read the WATCH TOWER publications bearing on this subject, but thousands of thinking people are now awakening to the truth respecting the great "Day of Vengeance" which for twenty years we have been pointing out and seeking to bring to the attention of the Lord's people. The difficulty with many is, that, seeing these approaching troubles from the outside, they are losing confidence in divine providence, and their hearts are failing them for fear, as they look forward to those things coming upon the earth. (`Matt. 24`; `Luke 21:26`.) On the contrary, all who learned of the coming troubles from the Lord's Word, before there were outward evidences of them, are strengthened in their faith by every fresh development--for they by the same Word know the object of the troubles and the grand results they are outworking.]
"'No human wisdom can say what mean the great and increasing aggregations of capital, now sufficient to buy kingdoms. If these shall be arrayed against the empty hands of labor, then shall mass collide with mass, and who can predict the end thereof? I see no commanding spirit of compromise in these approaching and threatening avalanches, which seem destined to involve the whole social system in universal ruin before the young men of this audience become three-score and ten years of age. So that the church, as it passes into the twentieth century, meets a perfect whirlwind of world forces which overwhelm the statesman, the philosopher and the historian, and drive them back into the cave of Sinai, while the storms pass the bounds of known law and rush on to a fate that makes the thoughtful tremble.
[As heretofore pointed out,* these giant trusts of our day which threaten the liberties and the very existence of the individual laborer, correspond exactly to the giant men of renown of Noah's day, on whose account the flood came. And as those never arose from their watery graves to again harass mankind, so the Lord promises that these giants of the present day, falling in the great time of trouble impending, will never rise again.--`Isa. 43:17`.]
"DIFFICULTIES MUST COME.
"'Now, my friends, after much reflection, I do not believe it is the specific mission of the church to adjust men to the new conditions of life and action, or, in a temporal sense, to safety them against the Atlantic storms of capital and labor. These storms will be terrific, but they must come. They are brewed in the selfishness of the human heart, and each succeeding one shall prove more destructive than its predecessor, until the prince of darkness is chained. I believe the new conditions which shall whirl us into the twentieth century, uncorrected by the gospel, shall forge unbreakable chains for the spirits, minds and bodies of men. I know there is a charm in the power of union and in the exhibition of strength, but, unless it is a union of strength uncemented with selfishness, it will crumble by whatsoever law it may have been formed.
"'It may be true that the task-master in these modern days attempts to compel men to make brick without straw, not to punish men, but to save straw. Formerly it was oppression to gratify the passion for cruelty, while now it is oppression to gratify the passion for gold. Formerly the task-master was a human being with whip in hand, but now he stands with the inexorable forces of nature in his fist, against which no individual in his unaided strength seems able to stand. But this modern task-master is destined to fall, and the David who shall slay this modern Goliath is the church of the twentieth century, not by matching force with force, but by using the weapons with which Christ has armed his followers.
[How true this statement, and yet how untrue as the Judge meant it! It will not be "Babylon," "Christendom," that will smite these giants and all sin and selfishness and deliver the world. No; the same Scriptures declare that "Babylon," mother and daughters, the entire family or system of Churchianity will go
*MILLENNIAL DAWN, VOL. IV., page 359.
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down in the general collapse. Yet it will be the Church --the true Church,--the Church glorified, that will smite, and deliver the groaning creation. Ah, how true! "There standeth one among you whom you know not!" The King of kings has come! We are even now in the parousia of the Son of Man! Soon the last members of his "elect" body, the Church, will be gathered to him--glorified and invisible to men,--and then he will begin the rule of the iron rod which shall break the world's vaunted institutions as potters' vessels. (`Rev. 2:27`.) He declares, I will "gather the nations, that I may assemble the kingdoms, to pour upon them mine indignation, even all my fierce anger: for all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy. And then will I turn unto the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve him with one consent." (`Zeph. 3:8,9`.) This symbolic burning and breaking will be the new missionary
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method, by which the Church glorified will, in the early part of the twentieth century, under and with her glorious Head, "bring in everlasting righteousness." "When the judgments of the Lord are abroad in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness." (`Isa. 26:9`.) Thus, "The glory [majesty] of the Lord will be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together."--`Isa. 40:5`.]
"'I deplore every worldly success of the church, whether it be the raising of $20,000,000 with which to curse the twentieth century church, or the building of many church edifices every time the earth revolves, if this success shall in the least lead men to forget the springs of true power in the church. We seem to be on times when the church may have money enough to convert the world: forbid that it be enough to convert the church to the world. The church should not want one dollar or money except it first be sanctified.
"MUST NOT BARGAIN WITH THE RICH.
"'Why, recently I have noticed the threat from high sources that, unless the rich laymen of the Methodist Church are admitted in equal representation as delegates to the next general conference, they will withhold the $20,000,000 which the ambition of the church seeks for the first years of the coming century. Now, much as I favor equal representation in that august lawmaking body, may it never be realized, and perish the money of the rich, in the language of Peter, if it be given, even impliedly, as the consideration price of place and power in the church, and not as the free-will offering of grateful hearts purchased by the blood of Christ. The church, for many reasons, cannot pay court to mere wealth or personal prestige. The poor do not understand the mission of the church when they demand that it feed them and bitterly rail because it does not. But they are half right when the church recognizes men in the least degree because they possess wealth. The great masses of the people stand yonder alienated from our churches because the wedge of gold is hidden with us. It does the church no good; it empties our pews; it frosts our air.
"'One of the closest observers of church life in our land, and one who weighs his words, has written this month for his widely read editorial column that the moral tone of the church is unsatisfactory, and that many societies would be reduced to a few pious women, aged persons and unsophisticated youth if the discipline enforced in the primitive church, or in the earlier days of English and American Methodism, were applied; that many official members never participate actively in the aggressive spiritual work of the church; that this religious and moral condition bodes no good; that in eighty-seven cities in the United States Methodism is scarcely holding its own, regardless of the increase of population and of the fact that so many accessions are received by letter from country churches. He further states that diverse superficial explanations are offered for this humiliating condition, but that whatever influence they may have, it is absolutely certain that, if the laity and clergy were living according to the teachings of the New Testament, it could not be so.
"'When such an alarm as this is sounded with the hammer of facts, beware, not of the rocks or the sea, but of the dangers on board. But in this very alarm lies the hope of safety. It shows that thoughtful Christian men are looking deeply into the causes of the present condition and that they will be removed. This alarm is all the Lord wants, and in answer to prayer He will open the windows of heaven and pour unnumbered blessings on the church of the twentieth century.'"
It would appear, then, that the Judge after all sees that the church nominal of to-day is sadly unprepared for the great work he declares is absolutely necessary. He is prepared even to admit that, so far as Methodism is concerned, it is less prepared (so far as personal piety is concerned) than at the opening of the nineteenth century. The Judge hopes great things, if everybody can be awakened, and if all "tares" or nominal Christians (300,000,000) will but act as tho they were "wheat" or real Christians. We rejoice with the Judge in his own sincerity as witnessed by his words (and for aught we know by his acts also) and we commend to him a further study of the Word of God's grace which is able to make him wise respecting the divine plan for vanquishing all the foes of the groaning creation and delivering them also from the bondage of corruption. But let him lay off sectarian spectacles which magnify everything which glorifies sectarianism and minimize the grace of our God and the power of his might.
We will submit another testimony, from a high source, going to show that Methodism is far from prepared for the twentieth century work the Judge points out is imperative,--if the world would be rescued from the calamity of having its civilization blotted out. Nor are Methodists proportionately in poorer spiritual condition than other sects, so far as we may be able to judge. It just happens that the witnesses at hand are
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all of that persuasion. There are undoubtedly many true, noble, warm hearts in this quarter of Babylon who feel pressed in spirit to overcome their sectarian pride and in the interest of vital godliness, to "Cry aloud and spare not."
This witness is The Epworth Herald, the leading journal among the Methodist "Young People;" it says:
"Methodism is in a crucial place. A crisis has been reached. We need to run up the danger signal. There never has been a time in our eventful history when there was so great need for self-examination.
"Last year the whole denomination was startled by the smallness of our numerical increase. This year  promises to show no better results. Revivals are less frequent and less fruitful. The doctrines which emphasize the exceeding sinfulness of sin, the certainty of an eternal hell, the necessity of repentance, the need of regeneration, and the far-reaching importance of a definite spiritual experience are not preached in many of our pulpits as faithfully as our fathers preached them. The demand for a less heroic gospel is widespread. Sinners can sit in our churches without feeling much discomfort. Formalism increases. The spirit of aggressiveness which so dominated our church for a hundred years begins to wane.
"Multitudes of our people have lost the marks which once distinguished us. They have adopted the social customs of the world. They patronize the theater. They have become familiar with the card-table. The sound of dancing echoes through their homes. Wealth is worshiped. Social position is accounted the principal thing. No wonder that the children of some of our most influential families are lost to Methodism. With their thoughtless and back-slidden parents they are drawn into the whirlpool of social pleasure, and either drift out into a line of infidelity or attach themselves to some church where worldliness is no bar.
"Moreover, beneficence does not keep pace with our increasing wealth. The fact that it required two long years, filled with pitiful pleading, for our great church to raise a paltry missionary debt of $186,000 is one of the saddest experiences of our denomination.
"This is not pessimism. It is fact. And the sooner we wake up to the peril of the situation the better for Methodism to-day and to-morrow. A CRISIS IS HERE. A crisis does not necessarily mean disaster. It will not if we will only see the danger and escape."
"AWAKE, O ZION,"
cries the Prophet. (`Isa. 52:1`.) He who sleeps now, not only neglects his duty to the "brethren," but puts himself in jeopardy--marks himself as deficient in the very spirit of love which the Lord declares all-essential in his estimation. We remind our readers again of the Call for Volunteers in our last issue. Many responses are already at hand, but our hope is that many more may share the privilege and blessing of this service.
INTROSPECTION NEXT IN ORDER.
Having satisfied ourselves respecting the fulfilment of the Apostle's charges against "Christendom" and having found his predictions fully corroborated by facts well witnessed to, the question arises, Can the Lord's truly consecrated people learn any further valuable lessons and what are they?
We have already noted that all such are to "turn away" from those who have merely the form of godliness. And we have seen that it is both our duty and privilege to aid any true "brethren" yet in Babylon to attain the light and liberty wherewith Christ makes free his true followers. But let us not forget personal introspection--to look within our own hearts carefully and frequently to make doubly sure that the world's spirit of selfishness does not poison us as it poisonously manifests itself in others.
We are to remember always that we have the treasure of the new mind, the new spirit, in earthen vessels (`2 Cor. 4:7`), and that these earthen vessels are continually surrounded by selfish tendencies and examples; and that consequently they must be kept well filled with the Spirit of the Lord, the spirit of love, that the evil spirit of selfishness does not in any of its many forms gain access.
If in our introspections we find traces of self-love, of covetous ambition, of a disposition to boast even of good things, or even a little pride--perhaps "spiritual pride," as some erroneously describe it, or even a slight
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tendency to slander (blaspheme), or the least tendency to disrespect parents, or any measure of ingratitude toward God or men (unthankfulness), or the slightest sympathy with false accusations, or any lack of moderation (incontinence), or any sympathy with fierce speeches or manners, or anything else than fervent love for all who are "good," or the slightest suggestion to betray a trust or a confidence, or the least tendency to self-will and self-consciousness, or any disposition to weigh our own wills or pleasure against the Lord's will, or the least tendency to mere formalism in worship, or the slightest evidence that the power of the truth is not in full control of our hearts and lives, it should arouse us to energetically seek help from on high and to put away the unclean thing which taints our sacrifices.
Nevertheless let no one feel discouraged even tho he should find traces of all these evils in his flesh: for as the Apostle declares, so we must all find, "In my flesh dwells no perfection." (`Rom. 7:18`.) We are however to expect no trace of these evils in our hearts --no sympathy, no cooperation with any of these evils. As enemies of the Lord, and our enemies because we are the Lord's in spirit and in truth, these evils are to be hunted and shunned to the best of our ability from every nook and corner of our beings. "Be ye holy that bear the vessels of the Lord's house." As he who has called you is holy, so be ye holy in all things.
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FORSAKEN--BUT NOT FOREVER.
"For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee. In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment: but with agelasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer."--`Isa. 54:7,8`.
My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken?
Hear our first parents despairingly cry:
Had not the tempter their constancy shaken,
Would they have wandered in exile to die?
Why, since life's stream was defiled at its fountain,
Was it not dried, ere the flood ran so deep?
Why, lest iniquity grow to a mountain,
Should the first infant be cradled to weep?
My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken?
Groaneth the slave as he curses his chain:
Stung by the lash, and his last loved one taken,
Doomed to a life of enslavement and pain.
Long has the despot his tyranny wielded,
Long robbed his fellow of freedom and home;
Long have the humble their hard earnings yielded,
Starving themselves to build turret or dome.
My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken?
Hear the fond mother in agony moan;
Babe on her bosom will presently waken,
Waken to find that dear guardian flown.
Merciful God! Who will care for the mourner?
Who'll guard the orphan from hunger and cold?
Who'll guide the feet of the youthful sojourner
Past haunts of vice to the Savior's pure fold?
My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken?
Questions my spirit in sorrow's lone hour;
Terrors and anguish my doubtings awaken,
Doubts of our Father's compassion and power.
Louder the thunder-peals answer my wailing,
Darker the stormcloud casts o'er me its pall;
Friends cannot comfort, and demons are railing,
Heaven seems deaf to my piteous call.
My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken?
Echoes from Calvary scatter my gloom;
Veils have been rent, and death's prison-house shaken,
Answer I find at the dismantled tomb.
Know thou, O friend, saith the angel that lingers,
Jesus hath risen a lost world to save;
Holdeth the issues of life in his fingers,
Beareth the keys of a powerless grave.
God unto all men assurance has given,
Sworn by himself all his creatures to bless;
Soon will the bonds of corruption be riven,
Soon comes his Kingdom of righteousness.
After earth's night dawns a morning of gladness,
Rainbows of glory shall cover our tears;
Truth will deliver from error and madness,
Blessings will crown earth's Millennial years.
"For as all in Adam die, even so all in Christ shall be restored to life." "Because creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption, into the glorious liberty of the children of God."--`1 Cor. 15:22`; `Rom. 8:21`; `Acts 3:23`.
--G. M. BILLS.
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"I AM THE VINE--YE ARE THE BRANCHES."
--MAY 7.--`JOHN 15:1-11,15`.--
THE Apostle gives this as one of our Lord's discourses following the Memorial Supper on the last night of his earthly life. It was probably suggested by the drinking of the "cup," representing the blood of the New Covenant, and may have been uttered after Judas had gone out, and before the Lord and the eleven went to Gethsemane. Or it may have been suggested by the vineyards which they passed on their way to Gethsemane. Or possibly it may have been suggested by the great golden vine over the door of the golden gate of the temple (the "Beautiful Gate"), which Josephus says was very large and "had clusters as long as a man." Another writer says, "Leaves and buds were wrought of gleaming reddish gold, but its clusters of yellow gold, and its grape-stones of precious stones." The moon being at its full would display this vine to good effect. The statement of `Chap. 18:1`, "When Jesus had spoken these words he went forth with his disciples," seems to favor the first supposition. This view would imply a considerable tarrying in the upper room after the Supper was ended, probably to near midnight--after our Lord said, "Arise, let us go hence."--`John 14:31`.
"I am the true vine," institutes a comparison, and suggests to the mind a counterfeit or false vine; and this reminds us of the fact that our Lord, through this same writer, subsequently explained that there would be two harvests--a gathering of the fruit of the true Vine, and subsequently a gathering of the clusters of the "vine of the earth." (`Rev. 14:18-20`.) If, as we shall see, the true Vine represents the true Church, then the vine of the earth represents a false Church, an untrue, ungenuine one.
The heavenly Father is the husbandman who planted, who owns, who cares for the true Vine, and to him it yields its fruit. The word "husbandman" here does not signify merely caretaker, but rather the vineyard-owner. This is in accordance with all the presentations of Scripture: God is therein set forth as the author of man's hope, his Savior, through whom alone comes the deliverance from sin and death. The fact that God accomplishes this through an honored agent and representative, his beloved Son, and the further fact that he proposes to use an elect Church as a Royal Priesthood, under his Son, the appointed Chief Priest, does not alter the fact that he himself is the fountain
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from which proceeds every good and every perfect gift.--`1 Cor. 8:6`; `Jas. 1:17`.
"Every branch in me," should not be understood to signify every nominal Christian, every professor, nor even those who render a nominal assent to the facts of Christianity, and who are in sympathy therewith. The "justified" believer is just ready to become a branch in the Vine, but his faith, and justification by that faith, do not make him a branch. The branches are those only who have first taken the step of justification through faith, and who subsequently have presented themselves to God as living sacrifices, and thus by consecration
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have been "immersed into Christ: by being "immersed into his death."
This procedure, by which we are inducted into membership in Christ (as branches of the Vine), is clearly expressed by the Apostle in `Rom. 6:3-5`. Be it noted that we, no more than the Apostle, are here making an immersion in water the condition of entry into the body of Christ (as our Baptist brethren mistakenly do); but we are insisting, as the Apostle insists, that none enter the body of Christ except by the immersion of their wills into the will of Christ--their consecration to be dead with him--a self-surrender as justified human beings to death and to be henceforth new creatures in Christ Jesus, under and controlled by him, as their Head or Guide in all things.
Amongst those who thus, according to divine arrangement, now become branches of the true Vine, there are two classes--fruit-bearing branches and non-fruit-bearing branches known as "suckers." But both of these conditions are developments: every branch begins as a very small shoot; every branch develops leaves; every branch has the same opportunities for nourishment, sap from the main stem, Christ, and from the same root of divine purpose and promise. All the branches of the Vine have a tendency to spend their strength upon themselves--in branch-making rather than in fruit-producing, and yet there is a difference. Vine-dressers tell us that they can very early discern the fruit-buds on the proper branches, and that the suckers lack these fruit-buds.
Just so it is with the Lord's consecrated people; he does not expect of them much and fine fruit immediately, but he does look for the buds or evidences of effort in the direction of fruit-bearing; and these fruit-buds will manifest themselves early in those who are proper branches of the true Vine. And those who do not manifest a desire to bring forth fruitage to the Lord's glory, by serving him and his cause, but who on the contrary make use of the knowledge and blessings derived through union with Christ simply to advance themselves before men, and make a fair show in the flesh, are counted unworthy of retention, and are cut off, taken away--cease to be recognized in any sense of the word as branches. They may retain their freshness, green leaves, etc., for quite a little time after being rejected of the Lord, but it is only a question of time until they lose every evidence of fidelity--they wither away. Nor does the fact that they were branches avail anything after they cease to be branches, for the wood of the vine is of no practical value. They are burned, destroyed.
But as even the best branches in the vine, which give evidence of fruit-bearing, require pruning, so even the most honest and earnest of the Lord's people require the Lord's discipline and providential care--otherwise they might soon run to woodmaking also, and fail to bring forth much fruit. The husbandman's skill recognizes how much of the branch and sprout and leaf are necessary to the bringing forth and proper maturing of the fruit which he seeks, and so our heavenly Father knows perfectly the conditions, etc., most favorable to us that we may bring forth much good fruit. He sees the sprouts of our ambitions in various directions, and knows, as we do not, whereunto these might lead us; and by his providence nips in the bud many of our propositions, deeming it better that the strength and energy which we thus intend to put forth should be expended rather in other directions--in bringing to maturity our good fruits already started and in progress.
The true child of God whose will has been entirely immersed into the will of the Lord is neither offended nor discouraged by these prunings. He has learned something at least of his own unwisdom, and has confidence in the wisdom of the great Husbandman; hence when divine providence estops his efforts in some directions he takes the thwarting of his plans joyfully, assured that the Lord's will and the Lord's way are the best, and intended to work out a blessing.
As the Father's representative, Jesus had been keeping the first branches of the Vine. He had purged or pruned by his reproofs or counsels, so that now, at the close of his three and a half years' ministry, he could say, "Now ye are clean through the word [teaching] which I have spoken unto you." As he again said, in his prayer to the Father, "Those that thou gavest me I have kept [as branches, disciples, members], and none of them is lost save the son of perdition." But henceforth, as the same prayer expressed the matter, the pruning and care of the branches would not be done by our Lord Jesus in the same manner, but through the operation of the holy Spirit--the Spirit of the Father and of the Son.
But it is not sufficient that we be first justified, and then sanctified through a consecration to the Lord; nor is it sufficient that we get into the body of Christ and become branches of the Vine. It is good to be a little shoot, it is good to have buds of promise, it is good to grow as a branch and put forth tendrils, but however large or small the branch may be, however old or young, we must remember that the sap which produces the fruit can only be obtained by continued union with the Vine and its root of promise. If ever separated, all hopes must wither. Only as we are in Christ, and through him heirs of God, have we part or lot in this matter; and only so can we bring forth the fruits which the great Husbandman seeks. It would be folly for the branch to say, I needed at first to be united with Christ the Vine, but now I can stand alone. Whoever
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stands alone, whoever is separated from the Vine and from the other branches, will speedily wither away; and whoever abides in the Vine must surely continue to have fidelity to the Vine, must be at one with all the other true branches of the same Vine. And here we see the importance of being in the true Vine and at-one with the true branches.
The wrong thought on this subject of the Vine and the branches is frequently expressed by our friends of various denominations, who claim that the branches of the Vine are the various denominations of Christians. This inculcates a serious error, namely, that it is the duty of every individual Christian to get into membership in one of these branches--as for instance, the Presbyterian branch, or the Methodist branch, or the Lutheran branch, or the Roman Catholic branch, or the Greek Catholic branch. The correct thought, on the contrary, is that each individual Christian in consecrating himself to the Lord becomes an individual branch in the true Vine: and his labors thenceforth should be not to bring forth denominational and sectarian fruits, but to bring forth the fruits or graces of the spirit of God in his own character and life.
One writer, in pursuing this wrong thought respecting the branches, says, "God does not desire to have fruitless churches large and prosperous; he lets them wither away. The churches that keep nearest to Christ will grow the fastest." It should not be difficult for any to discern the fallacy of such reasoning. If this were the correct view it would imply that the church organizations which are the largest in numbers and most prosperous in wealth and honor amongst men are those which have the most truth and which most directly receive the sap of the holy Spirit from the Lord. But let us see: amongst Christians this would constitute Roman Catholicism the holiest and best and nearest to the Lord; Greek Catholicism would claim to be second; Methodism third, and so on. Intelligent people scarcely need to have the fallacies of such an interpretation pointed out.
But what is incongruous when applied to denominations as branches, is thoroughly logical and in harmony with the facts when applied to the individual Christian and his spiritual life. Those who abide in Christ in faith and trust and consecration to his service--to the bringing forth of the fruits which are pleasing in the sight of the great Husbandman--find themselves in a narrow way indeed, often hedged up by providence, and their efforts in various directions changed, or rather, their intentions thwarted; but they find, as a result of all this experience, rightly received, that they are growing in grace--in the knowledge and in the love of God, the fruits of the spirit.--`Rom. 8:28`.
The close union between the Vine and the branches is brought to our attention by our Lord's words, "He that abideth in me and I in him:" the Vine and its branches have such a oneness that wherever we touch a branch we touch the Vine itself. It is one Vine composed of branches, and so is the body of Christ one body, composed of many members. Wherever a member or branch of the body of Christ is found, all the various characteristics of Christ himself are found--in spirit, in intention, as "new creatures." This oneness in Christ is the secret of the power and of the fruit-bearing and of the acceptableness of the branches with the Father, the Husbandman.
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"Without me ye can do nothing," is a statement well worthy of being deeply engraved in the heart of every truly consecrated member of the body of Christ. But to abide in Christ means to be subject to all the will of the great Husbandman, and gladly and meekly submit to all the prunings which his wisdom sees best to permit. Respecting this necessity for pruning and discipline, Trench, the celebrated theologian, has well said:
"It fares exactly so with God and some of his elect servants. Men seeing their graces, which so far exceed the graces of common men, wonder sometimes why they should suffer still, why they seem to be ever falling from one trial to another. But he sees in them-- what no other eye can see--the grace which is capable of becoming more gracious still; and in his far-looking love for his own, who shall praise him, not for a day, but for an eternity, he will not suffer them to stop short of the best whereof they are capable. They are fruitbearing branches, and just because they are such, he prunes them that they may bring forth more fruit."
Remarking upon the fact that sometimes a vine or tree may attempt more fruit than it is capable of bringing to perfection, and likening this to Christian experience and efforts, another writer (H. L. Hastings) suggests:--
"The best way is to shake the tree, and free it of extra fruit. Prune, clip, cut, pluck, and reduce the fruit, until it becomes manageable, and until the tree can support its burden, and then let every branch be loaded with fruit that comes to perfection, but not overloaded with fruit which never will reach its full development."
This is a very correct thought, as relates to the fruitage of efforts put forth in the Lord's service on behalf of others; for many waste their efforts because they do not concentrate them sufficiently.
The talented Apostle Paul gives his testimony as to the wisdom of shaking off some of our plans and arrangements and efforts for which we have little talent, and concentrating our efforts upon those which we can best bring to perfection, ripeness, saying, "This one thing I do." (`Phil. 3:13`.) The Apostle's one business in life was to be, so far as he was able, acceptable to the Lord personally, and to do with his might what
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he could to assist others into the same condition. But the fruitbearing of works for others we do not understand to be the principal thought in this lesson. The first thought is that we should have the fruits of the Lord's spirit in our own hearts, the graces of the spirit well developed. This, however, implies activity and self-sacrifice in the Lord's service, for only so by the Lord's arrangement can our personal fruits and graces be brought to maturity.
Our Lord gives us an intimation that the growing of much fruit is not wholly dependent upon ourselves, and that even while we abide in him as fruit-bearing branches the quality and quantity of the fruit is to be improved by our having proper ideals before our minds, and earnestly seeking their realization. Thus he says, "If ye abide in me and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will and it shall be done unto you." The intimation is that the desire and the asking of the Father at the throne of the heavenly grace is a means by which we may more and more receive of the sap of the Vine, the holy Spirit, and be enabled to develop the fruits of the Spirit. It will be noticed that nothing here implies the seeking or finding of earthly good things. These are to be left wholly to the Lord's wisdom and providence, and his people, the true branches of the Vine, are to desire and to seek for the holy spirit, which the Father is more willing to give to them than earthly parents are to give good gifts to their children. --`Luke 11:13`.
Incidentally the Lord here points out the value of the Scriptures to his true branches or disciples, when he says, "If my words abide in you." It is not only necessary and proper that we seek divine grace, but it is equally proper that we avail ourselves of the divine revelation respecting what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God our Father, the Husbandman of the true Vine. Hence it will be found that those who bear much fruit and good fruit not only have been justified through faith, and sanctified through consecration, and thus accepted into membership in the true Vine, but that additionally they are seeking to be fruit-bearers,--seeking to abide in the Vine, and to have all the characteristics of the Vine, seeking grace to help in every time of need, and availing themselves not only of the sap which flows through the roots, but also of the light of truth and grace which shines upon them through the Word of the Lord. And only by following these conditions can we be fruit-bearers, and only by being bearers of fruit can we be the Lord's disciples --to the end; for we are to remember that the Church of the present time is merely the probationary Church, a company of those who have professed loyalty, love and obedience. The Lord will bring testing to prove the sincerity of their professions, and only those who thus prove the sincerity of their professions will be accepted as members of the Church glorified, symbolized by the golden vine of the Beautiful Gate of the Temple.
Our Lord would have all the true branches realize his love, his interest, his care for them, his desire that they might make their calling and their election sure by compliance with the conditions of membership in the Vine: hence he assures them of his love in the strongest possible language. He tells them that his love for them is of the same kind as the Father's love for him. Even with all the various evidences of the truthfulness of this statement, corroborated by the "exceeding great and precious promises" of the Lord's Word, it is far too wonderful for us to fully comprehend. We can readily see how and why our Lord Jesus was greatly beloved of the Father, and called his well-beloved Son, but it astounds us to know that this same love is exercised by our Lord in turn toward us. "Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God;" for our Lord Jesus expressed and fully manifested the Father's love.--`1 John 3:1`; `John 14:7`.
But then comes a limitation, namely, that this intense love is only for the "little flock." True, "God so loved the world," and our Lord Jesus loved the world also, in the sense of sympathetic love, and a desire to do them good. But the love which the Lord is here declaring is a different one. It is only for those who have made a full consecration to him--indeed, that consecration is the secret of his special love. The Father loved the only begotten Son because he was full of faith and trust and obedience--"unto death, even the death of the cross." And likewise this same love extends to those justified ones who, filled with the Master's spirit, desire to walk in his footsteps, to take up their cross and follow him. God's love, of the same kind that went out toward our dear Redeemer, goes out to all such; and the Redeemer's love goes out to them; and the good message comes to them, "All things are yours, for ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's." "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth....It is Christ that died."-- `1 Cor. 3:22,23`; `Rom. 8:33,34`.
But as this special love is in view of the consecration and obedience of this class, so it depends upon the continuation of that spirit of consecration and obedience. If their loving devotion grow cold, and they become filled with self-love and the spirit of the world, to that extent they grieve the holy Spirit,--they turn from them this special love of the Lord: and hence the injunction of our Lord, "Continue ye in my love." These words show that it is possible for us to forfeit the Lord's love and to become castaways--to fail to make sure our calling and election to the exceeding great things which God hath in reservation for them that love him with this supreme love.--`2 Pet. 1:4-11`; `1 Cor. 9:27`.
It is important that we keep in mind that true love on our part will manifest itself in obedience, and hence that disobedience is an evidence of the loss of love as
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viewed from the Lord's standpoint; and we must all agree that this is a reasonable standpoint of judgment. Some may say, How would it be if we disobeyed through ignorance? We answer that the Lord has made provision against our ignorance: first, he has given us the Word of truth, "that the man of God may be perfect [perfectly informed], thoroughly furnished unto every good work;" and secondly, he has promised to supply such helps in the spirit of holiness, and the understanding of his Word as will enable us to do those things which are pleasing in his sight. (`2 Tim. 3:17`; `John 16:13`.) Thus, carelessness respecting the Word of the Lord is one evidence of the lack of love. Our Lord points out that his continuance in the Father's love, as the well-beloved Son, with all that this implies, was because of his obedience to the Father's will, and that following the same line he must require that we shall be obedient to him if we would abide in his love, share his throne and glory.
"These things have I spoken unto you that my
joy might be in you, and that your joy might be filled-full."
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Our Lord's instructions and commandments are not intended to terrify us, nor to deprive us of happiness. On the contrary, as the most fruitful branches well know, obedience to the Lord's words, and the privilege thus obtained of abiding in him and his love, is the greatest joy--a joy which wholly outweighs all the trifling pleasures which the world has to offer. It is the joy and peace that passeth all understanding, which rules in the heart, and which brings with it the promise, the assurance, not only of the life which now is, but also of that which is to come.
MY DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL:--I desire to make humble confession, to as many of the household of faith as I may, that I have long been as a sheep going astray in that I have laid such stress upon the example of our Lord Jesus Christ as to lose sight of, and even to disallow, the essentially vital redemptive work in his sacrifice unto death. But I have now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls, who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness. That I have not sinned wilfully, in the sense of `Heb. 10:26`, I am conscious of very strong two-fold evidence. First, my desire has been earnest and continuous to know the truth, to have my will conformed to God's will, and--latterly at least--I have again sincerely desired this at any cost whatsoever to the flesh. Second, in my just concluded reexamination of "the whole counsel of God," as contained in the Old and New Testaments, and in the light of your publications, I have with docile mind and joyous heart found myself giving ready and glad assent to the one way from death unto life, and from the life human (of the called and accepted and faithful few) unto life divine--Immortality.
Some months ago I had an earnest desire to re-read "Tabernacle Shadows." I had loaned my copy long ago; so long in fact that I had little expectation of recovering it, and I thought it might possibly be out of print. When I wrote your Society recently for a set of the MILLENNIAL DAWN series for the local library, I was strongly impelled to inquire about the earlier work. But not being in a position to purchase it, I refrained. I had not noticed your announcement regarding March TOWER, so that when, a few days later, I received the very book above all others that I wanted, it seemed to me most striking evidence that God had put the desire in my heart, and another blessed proof (added to almost countless proofs he has given me) of his steadfast faithfulness to him who trusteth in Him. Nor was this impression lessened, but rather increased, when I discovered that every TOWER reader was to have a copy. Verily, it is "meat in due season," a most rich and timely banquet for the "Royal Priesthood." If all who received it read and studied it with the same eagerness with which I did, and concluded their study of its pages and its Scripture references with a like thrill of joyous confidence that they "are all parts of one sacrifice," our blessed Redeemer's heart, in this day of his parousia, must have rejoiced as it can scarcely have done since Pentecost.
After this study came a careful perusal of the four volumes of MILLENNIAL DAWN, drawn in their order from the library. The reading consumed many days, because of frequent silent meditations and constantly recurring references to the Law and to the Testimony. I could write much of this experience. But suffice it to say that I believe that these volumes present the only interpretation of the Holy Scriptures extant, that discovers the teachings of those sacred books to be at once harmonious and logical, symmetrical and complete, scientific and rational, satisfying alike the exactions of the intellect and the yearnings of the heart, and likewise offering the persistent disciple achievement of such exalted glory as to infinitely transcend the highest conceivable aspiration of the spirit--the new creature.
This testimony is deliberately, freely and gladly given after having been instructed in the strictest school of the Pharisees, and after having made diligent study for many years of the multitude of systems of religion, philosophy and science, ancient and modern, oriental and occidental, which essay to solve, or prove insoluble, the mysteries of man's origin, nature and destiny, life and death.
Christ, and Christ only--my Lord, my Savior, Head, High Priest and King--"hath brought Life and Immortality to light," and that only "through the Gospel," and "the Scriptures testify of Him." He hath indeed left us an example that we (the royal priesthood) should follow his steps, but as surely the one entrance to that pathway of joint-sacrifice is through acceptance by faith of Jesus' obedience unto death, in order to render our sacrifices acceptable and efficient.
I rejoice with joy unspeakable in the confidence that my crown is still attainable, and in firmness of purpose to be faithful unto death that I may receive that crown of life.--`Phil. 3:7-14`.
Yours in the hope of this calling,
SAMUEL I. HICKEY,--New Jersey.