ZWT - 1912 - R4943 thru R5152 / R4963 (041) - February 1, 1912
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VOL. XXXIII FEBRUARY 1 No. 3
A.D. 1912--A.M. 6040
The Babe of Bethlehem............................. 43
Why Was This Babe Expected?................... 43
What Results Have Followed?................... 44
Shall None Be Lost?........................... 45
The Body of Christ................................ 45
Typical and Anti-typical Atonement Day
All Offering Must be Done by the High
"Some Better Thing"--"Our Heavenly
The First-Borns Passed Over................... 47
What Constitutes Spiritual-Mindedness?............ 49
Driven Into the Wilderness........................ 50
Jesus' Three Temptations...................... 51
Laborers in the Harvest........................... 52
"A Savior and a Great One" (Poem)................. 53
Interesting Questions............................. 54
Some Interesting Letters.......................... 54
Berean Questions in "Scripture Studies"........... 55
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THE BABE OF BETHLEHEM
"For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ, the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you:
Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger."--`Luke 2:11,12`.
WHY WAS THIS BABE EXPECTED?
WHY WERE all men in expectation of Him at the time of His birth? What was to be peculiar about Him to lead Israel to expect His birth? The answer to this question is that God had made a certain promise centuries before and the promise had not been fulfilled. This promise contained the thought that a holy child would be born, and that in some way, not explained in the promise, this child would bring the blessing the world needed. Therefore every mother amongst the Israelites was very solicitous that she might be the mother of a son rather than a daughter, that perchance she might be the mother of this promised child. Thus the matter went on for years until, finally, the child was born.
The promise back of the expectation was that which God made to Abraham, saying, "In thee and in thy Seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed." From that time forward Abraham began to look for the promised Seed--the promised child. He looked first of all to his own children, and was finally informed that it would not be one of his children direct, but that through their children, at some remote date, this child should be born-- the Seed of Abraham. From that time onward, all the Israelites were waiting for the birth of the child that should bring the blessing.
But why was a Messiah necessary? Why wait at all for the birth of the child? The answer to this question is that sin had come into the world; that God had placed our first parents--holy, pure and free from sin--in the glorious conditions of the Garden of Eden with every favorable prospect and everlasting life at their command if they continued in harmony with God. But by reason of their disobedience they came under Divine displeasure and sentence of death. This sentence of death has brought in its wake aches, pains, sorrows, tears, sighing, crying and death--all of these experiences as the result of sin.
Our heavenly Father said to our first parents--and this was the first intimation that He gave them of a deliverance --that "The Seed of the woman shall bruise the Serpent's head." The serpent in this expression means Satan--all the powers of evil, everything adverse to humanity, everything adverse to the blessings which God had given them, and which they had lost by disobedience. But the promise was vague and they understood little about the "Seed of the woman" and "bruising the Serpent's head." It merely meant in an allegorical way a great victory over Sin and Satan, without explaining how it should come.
So mankind continued to die; they continued to have aches and pains and sorrows; they continued going down to the tomb. They realized that what they needed was some Savior to come and deliver them from the power of sin, to deliver them from the death penalty of sin--a Savior who would be, in other words, a Life-giver. They were dying and needed new life. This is the meaning of the word Savior in the language used by our Lord and the Apostles. They were hoping and expecting that God would send a Life-giver.
It was on this account that they were so greatly concerned regarding the promise made to Abraham--"In thee and in thy Seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed"--they shall be granted a release from sin and death. In no other way could mankind be blessed. It would be impossible to bless mankind except by releasing them from sin and death. Hence, the Scriptures tell us of God's sympathy; that God looked down from His holy habitation, and beheld our sorrow, and heard, figuratively, "the groaning of the prisoners"--humanity--all groaning and travailing under this penalty of death--some with few aches and pains, and some with more aches and pains; some with few sorrows, and some with greater sorrows, but all groaning and travailing in pain.
But God's sympathy was manifested; and we read that, "He looked down and beheld that there was no eye to pity and no arm to save" and with "His own Arm He brought salvation." This is what was promised to Abraham--that one should come from his posterity who would be the Savior of the world; and because this promise was made to Abraham and to his Seed, they were marked out as separate from all other nations and peoples. To the Jewish nation alone belonged this great honor-- that through them should come this salvation. Hence, from that time onward the Jews spoke of themselves as God's people, the people whom God had promised to bless, and through whom He would bring a blessing to all others. Therefore, all other people were called heathen (or nations, which the word means). Israel was thus separated because God's Covenant was with them, and not with the others. But God's Covenant with Israel was for the blessing of all the others: "In thy Seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed." Now, we have the "Why" of this wonderful babe's being born.
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HOW WAS THIS BABE PECULIAR--HOLY, HARMLESS,
How could He be a Savior? In what way could He be different from any other babe? Why not use some other babe as the one through whom salvation should come? The answer of the Bible is that salvation could not come to mankind unless there should be a satisfaction of Justice on account of Original Sin. That must be the first consideration. The penalty, "Dying, thou shalt die," pronounced against the first man, must be met before the world could be blessed.
Why not let any man die? Because all were under the sentence of the original condemnation, and none could be a Ransom-price or a substitute. Hence the necessity for a specially born babe, different from any other babe. In what way was this One differently born? The Bible explains to us very distinctly that He was not begotten of an earthly father. Although Joseph was espoused to Mary, yet this child was not the child of Joseph. The Bible explains that this child was specially begotten by Divine power, in the mother, though she was still a "virgin" when she brought forth the child.
This is the Scriptural proposition; and while it may not seem clear to some, yet the Word of God standeth sure. If the Redeemer was not perfect then He could not be the Savior of the world. The promised redemption implied that Jesus would be perfect; it implied that He would be as the first man was before he sinned. "For since by man came death, by man shall come also the resurrection of the dead"; "As all in Adam die, even so shall all in Christ be made alive."
So this one must be, as the Apostle declares, "holy, harmless, undefiled and separate from sinners." (`Heb. 7:26`.) He must be entirely distinct and separate from humanity so far as sinful features were concerned. If we had time it would be interesting to go into the scientific features--of how a perfect child could be born from an imperfect mother. If we can have a perfect life germ we can have a perfect child from an imperfect mother. If a breeder of stock wishes to raise the standard of his stock, he selects a fine bull, a male goat, or a male ram, and thus he improves the entire herd. And so, if we had perfect fathers, we would soon have a perfect race. But there is no father who can produce a perfect child. Hence it was necessary in this case (and the Scriptures declare it was accomplished) that God should beget this Son by power from on high. Therefore, that which was born of the "virgin" was separate and distinct from all humanity. His life came not from an earthly father, but from His Heavenly Father.
WHO WAS HE THUS BORN?
It is written that before He became flesh Jesus had an existence; as He declared, "Before Abraham was, I am." Again, in one of His prayers He said, "Father, glorify Thou Me with the glory that I had with Thee before the world was." The Revelator tells us that "He was the beginning of the creation of God," and Paul says that "by Him all things were made." And so our Lord Jesus was not only the beginning, but also the active agent of the Father in all the creative work in the angelic world and in the creation of humanity, and in all things that were created.
The whole matter is summed up by the Apostle John. We will give a more literal translation of "In the beginning was the Word." [This expression, Word, in the Greek is Logos. The thought behind the word Logos is that in olden times a king, instead of speaking his commands directly to his people, sat behind a lattice work, and his Logos, or messenger, or word, or representative, stood before the lattice work, and gave the message of the king to the people in a loud tone of voice. The king himself was not seen by the people--the Logos was the one seen. So this is the picture the Scriptures give us of how Jesus was the express representative of the Heavenly Father, the One through whom the Heavenly Father made Himself known--the Word, or the Logos. So we read in the `first chapter of John`], "In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with the God, and the Logos was a god. The same was in the beginning with the God. By Him were all things made, and without Him was not anything made."
In other words, Jesus was the direct Creator of all things. He was the Divine Power, Agent, Word, Messenger, the Logos of Jehovah. He did all the great work of creation; but He Himself was the first of God's direct creation, the First-born of all creatures, that in all things He might have the pre-eminence--the first place.
When the time came that our Heavenly Father made known His great purpose that He would bless the world, He gave opportunity to this First-begotten One--this One begotten of the Father--to be the servant in this great work He intended to accomplish for mankind. Consequently, the Scriptures state that "for the joy set before Him He endured the cross, despising the shame." And now He has sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. He has this great reward because of His obedience even unto death, the death of the cross.
The Apostle speaks of Him as having been rich, but for our sakes becoming poor, that through His poverty we might be made rich. He tells us how He left the glory which He had with the Father and humbled Himself to the human nature. Why? Because, as already stated, it was necessary that some one should become man's Redeemer; an angel could not redeem man, neither could an animal redeem man. The Divine law is "an eye for an eye; a tooth for a tooth; a man's life for a man's life." This was to teach us a great lesson: that perfect human life having been condemned to death, it would require a perfect human life to redeem it. It was therefore necessary that Jesus should become the "Man Christ Jesus," in order "that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for every man."
WHAT RESULTS HAVE FOLLOWED?
The results that have followed have been that He Himself proved His own faithfulness. "Being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross"--the most ignominious form of death. It pleased the Father thus to prove Him, not only by Death, but by the most ignominious form of death--dying as a culprit, being crucified between two thieves. What a terrible ignominy to die thus!
It would be ignominy enough for us in our imperfection, but for Him, perfect, "holy, harmless, undefiled and separate from sinners," it must have been a cause for deep and poignant sorrow. Having completed the laying down of His life, at the end of the three and a half years, He cried, "It is finished!" What? Not His work, for much of that lay before Him! He merely finished this part of the work, finished laying down His life a ransom-price.
What next? After His death came His resurrection; and we read that "God raised Him from the dead on the third day." According to the Scriptures He was raised up from death a glorious being--"sown in corruption, raised in incorruption; sown in dishonor, raised in glory; sown in weakness, raised in power; sown a natural body, raised a spirit body"; "Wherefore God hath highly exalted
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Him and given Him a name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, those in heaven, and those on earth, and those under the earth; that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."--`Phil. 2:10`.
But we see not yet all knees bowed to Him. Why not? The Scriptures tell us that before He begins His great work for the world of mankind, He first does a work for the elect, the Church, those who desire to walk in His footsteps, to gather out of the world a Bride, to be co-workers with Him in all the great work of the Father. This is the only work yet in process of accomplishment, and this has been going on now for over eighteen centuries. We see how He gathered out the saintly ones from amongst the Jews, "Israelites, indeed, in whom there was no guile." Not finding enough to make the desired number, He proceeded to gather them from all nations, kindreds, tongues and peoples.
The Apostle tells us that when this Bride class is united with Him they shall be parts of the Seed of Abraham; as we read, "And if ye be Christ's then are ye Abraham's Seed, and heirs of the promise." (`Gal. 3:29`.) This statement relates to the promise made to Abraham, that through him and his Seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed. Thus we see the work that Christ is accomplishing now.
The invitation to become the Bride of Christ is a very special invitation and those who would be His must walk in the "narrow way." If they will sit in His Throne, they must suffer with Him. If they suffer with Him they shall also share His glory. So "the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that shall follow," were not only to be accomplished in our Lord Jesus, personally, but He was an example for all the Church who are justified through faith in His blood. They have a share with Him in His sufferings, and will share in His glory; they have also a share in the First Resurrection; as the Revelator declares, "Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the First Resurrection, on such the Second Death hath no power; but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years."--`Rev. 20:6`.
Saint Paul says, "I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord," "that I might know Him and the power of His resurrection" (the special resurrection) to the divine nature. How? By being made conformable to His death; for, "If we suffer with Him we shall also reign with Him."
WHAT ABOUT THE FUTURE?
All the families of the earth are to be blessed, as originally promised in Eden: "The Seed of the woman shall bruise the Serpent's head." Also, as St. Paul states in the `16th chapter of Romans`, "The very God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly." So, then, the next thing in order in the outworking of God's Plan will be to bruise Satan and destroy sin.
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When and how will this be done? Just as soon as this Age shall end; because this Age is merely for the development of the Bride class; then will come the promised Free Grace to all the families of the earth. Messiah's Kingdom shall come. He has promised that when He shall reign, all His faithful shall reign with Him: "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me in My Throne, even as I overcame and am set down with My Father in His Throne." All the Church will be associated with Him in His great Messianic Kingdom; and "He shall reign from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth"; and "Unto Him every knee shall bow and every tongue confess, to the glory of God the Father"; "The knowledge of the glory of God shall fill the whole earth." The whole earth will become as the Garden of Eden. Paradise Lost will be Paradise Restored. The Divine Image lost in Adam will be restored to man. Human nature will be brought to perfection. But the glorious reward to the Church will be the divine nature, to be like her Lord, to sit at His right hand, and to bless the world of mankind. Man will become not only perfect, having all that Adam had, but will have additional knowledge and character; and there is every evidence that this shall be an eternal blessing.
SHALL NONE BE LOST?
Yes, the Scriptures tell us that some will be lost, and that the loss they shall sustain will be loss of life, and therefore all the pleasures of life. "They shall be as though they had not been"; "They shall be destroyed from amongst the people." St. Peter says, "They shall be destroyed as brute beasts."--`Acts 3:23`; `2 Pet. 2:12`.
When? When the eyes of their understanding shall have been opened to see the Lord and to understand His glorious character, and they shall have had opportunity to appreciate and enjoy His blessing. When such intentionally reject the grace of God, they shall die the Second Death, from which there is no resurrection, no hope of recovery. But, thank God, there shall be no knowledge of suffering for them; they shall be destroyed as brute beasts.
In proportion as we believe in this Babe of Bethlehem shall we rejoice today. In proportion as we believe He was manifested on our behalf; in proportion as we believe He died for our sins; in proportion as we recognize Him as the glorified Savior; in proportion as we have surrendered our hearts to Him and seek to do the things well pleasing to him shall we have the peace of God.
Our hope on behalf of mankind in general is that in God's due time His blessing shall reach all--not the same as that for the Church, but as St. Peter tells us in `Acts 3:19-21`, "Times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord, and He shall send Jesus Christ, who before was preached unto you, whom the heavens must retain until the Times of Restitution of all things spoken by the mouth of all the holy Prophets."
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THE BODY OF CHRIST
QUESTION.--Is the "body" mentioned in `Hebrews 10:5` and `Hebrews 7:27` the same?
Answer.--The body which God prepared for sacrifice may properly be viewed from two standpoints: First, the Father prepared the body of Jesus, in that He was born holy, harmless, undefiled and separate from sinners, and of the human family through His mother. This is the foundation of the whole matter. But the Apostle Peter and also the Apostle Paul inform us that God foreknew the Church, "the Body of Christ," and, therefore, foreknew the sufferings of the Body as well as the sufferings of the Head--foreknew our share in the sufferings and also in His glory.
In speaking therefore of the body which God prepared we should properly enough think how the Father prepared a body for Jesus which was actually, physically perfect and corresponding to the body of Adam, who was afterward condemned, and also prepared the way by which the "Body of Christ" should be justified from the sinfulness of the flesh, that thus He might offer not only Himself,
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the Head, but also "the Church, His Body," a "living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God."
TYPICAL AND ANTITYPICAL ATONEMENT DAY SACRIFICES
FOR SIN CONTRASTED
In `Hebrews 10:10` the Apostle is contrasting the atonement day sacrifice of the typical high priest with the antitypical atonement day sacrifice of the antitypical High Priest, Jesus. The typical high priest needed once every year, repeatedly (not daily), to offer up sacrifices. The first part of the sacrifice was for his own sin, and the second part of the sacrifice was for the sins of the people. The first part was the bullock, and the second part the offering of the goat. These two offerings constituted the one sacrifice for sin on the day of atonement! And so, in the antitype, the offering of our Lord Jesus, when He offered up Himself, was for "himself," that is, for His Body, those who are to be His Church, the household of faith. And then, a further part of His sacrifice has been the offering up of these members of His Body, in harmony with their wills and in harmony with the Divine provision.
Thus the antitypical atonement day sacrifices for sin have been in progress for eighteen hundred years. The special merit of the sacrifice was that which our Lord Himself offered, through which our offerings are made acceptable. It is one sacrifice in the sense that it is all one Body of one Priest that is offered, for the Apostle said, "We are partakers of the sufferings of the Anointed," and, "if we suffer with Him we shall reign with Him"; "if one member suffer all members suffer."
ALL OFFERING MUST BE DONE BY THE PRIEST
In `Hebrews 7:27` the Apostle said, "This He did once when he offered up Himself." The question arises, To whom does this refer? Does it mean Jesus, and the members of His Body offering up Himself? We answer, No. The members of the Body do not offer up themselves; they present themselves; but the offering, so far as God is concerned, must be done by the Priest, Jesus, the "High Priest of our profession." The Apostle says that this He did once, and we answer, Here the thought is one fulfilment of the one type. In the type there were two sacrifices offered, and it is here called His sacrifice.
Our Lord offered up Himself at Jordan, and He offered up all the members of His Body, the Church, at Pentecost. The offering of Himself personally at Jordan was accepted of the Father, and the remainder of Christ's sacrifice was merely the fulfilling of the terms of the sacrifice. So the presentation of the Church before the Father was accomplished at Pentecost, though it has required the entire Gospel Age to complete the sacrifice.
This, too, was shown in the atonement day type: The high priest, after offering up the bullock, took the blood into the Holy and later into the Most Holy and sprinkled it on behalf of himself and his household--the members of his body and the household of faith--the underpriests and the Levites.
Next the high priest came to the door of the Tabernacle and slew the goat, representing the acceptance of justified believers as His Body and their consecration to death. In the type this did not represent the second coming of Christ, but merely His manifestation in connection with the sacrifice of the Body, which is the Church. In the antitype our Lord as the High Priest manifested His power in the Church at Pentecost by sending the Holy Spirit upon them and thus giving the intimation that their sacrifice was made and acceptable in the Father's sight. All of the Church who have since come in were counted in there--just as in our Lord's prayer He said, "Neither pray I for these alone, but for those also who shall believe on Me through their word." Similarly the acceptance of the Church at Pentecost as joint-sacrificers, as part of Christ's sacrifice, has continued ever since and we are members of His Body, each in his turn being sacrificed until the entire sacrifice of the Great High priest once for all shall have been accomplished, and that accomplishment, we believe, is near.
The expression, "If one member of the Body of Christ suffer, all the members suffer with it" (`1 Cor. 12:26`), does not, of course, signify that the dead members of the Church would suffer with the living members, nor that those not yet begotten of the Spirit would suffer with the Apostles, nor that members in different parts of the world would suffer with the other members of whom they were ignorant. It merely means that there is such a sympathy and union and fellowship in the Body of Christ that each is intimately and deeply interested in each other member, so that the interests of one are the interests of all. As, for instance, where there are two or three of the Lord's people in fellowship, as a little ecclesia or class, they are, in this sense of the word, a Body of Christ and are interested in each other, and suffer with each other in the tribulations, persecutions and difficulties of life. And, in a larger sense of the word, any of the members of the Body of Christ, in any part of the world, learning of the sufferings of other members of the Body would correspondingly feel an interest, a sympathy and fellowship in their sufferings, or in their joys.
NOT A PART OF THE RANSOM
In the statement, "A body hast thou prepared me," we must be careful not to read in what is not stated. It is not stated, "A body hast thou prepared me as a ransom-price,"
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but, "A body hast thou prepared me" (`Heb. 10:5`), "for the suffering of death." (`Heb. 2:9`.) The suffering of death on the part of our Lord Jesus constituted the ransom-price for the sins of the whole world. But the Body, which is the Church, the Father prepares through justification for association with Jesus in the "suffering of death," but this does not constitute the Church partakers in the ransom-price. Only one ransom-price was necessary, and that was one perfect man's death, and that had already been arranged for before the Church was invited to become joint-sufferers and joint-heirs with the Redeemer as His members.
The word "sacrifice" seems to be confusing to some. We are exhorted to present our bodies living sacrifices, but our presentation of our bodies to the Lord should not be confounded with the Lord's presentation of us. Going back to the type we find that two goats were presented to the Lord at the door of the Tabernacle. They were presented to be sacrificed, and so, when speaking of them, one might properly say, Those are the sacrificial goats; and whoever presented the goats might in one sense of the word be said to be the sacrificer.
But the word sacrifice, when used in the sense of devotion, or setting apart for sacrifice, should not be confounded with the sacrificing work by the high priest. The goats were not sacrificed merely because they were presented or devoted. God dealt not with the people, but with the priest, and only when the priest had slain the animal was it sacrificed, from the Divine standpoint. Then, and only then, was it really acceptable to God as a sacrifice.
Applying this, then, we may desire to come to God and learn that now is the acceptable day, now is the time when the Body of Christ may be devoted, or presented to the Lord. But something more is necessary than our presentation, and that further thing is the work which is
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accomplished for us by the High Priest, Jesus; namely, His acceptance, or His endorsement of our consecration, and the presentation of our offering as a part of His sacrifice. When the High Priest presents us with His merit imputed, then, and not until then, does our offer become a "sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God."
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"SOME BETTER THING"--"OUR HEAVENLY CALLING"
LIKE MANY of our Christian friends, for a long time we did not understand how to "rightly divide the Word of Truth." (`2 Tim. 2:15`.) We did not comprehend that God's Plan provides, first, a heavenly salvation for the Church, and then an earthly salvation for mankind in general. The study of the Bible along Dispensational lines clears away all of our difficulties. It shows us that the promise that the redeemed "shall sit every man under his own vine and fig tree," and "long enjoy the work of his hands" (`Mic. 4:4`; `Isa. 65:22`), is God's provision for Israel restored to Divine favor, and for all the families of the earth, but not for the Church. Of the true Church, the Bride of Christ, it is declared that her members shall, in the resurrection, be like unto the angels--heavenly or spirit beings.
St. Paul distinctly says of these, "Flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God." (`I Cor. 15:50`.) Jesus tells these that He has gone to prepare them a place in the Father's house on high. (`John 14:2,3`.) But the place for man, the earth, already provided from the foundation of the world (`Matt. 25:34`), is a very different one from ours, of which we read, "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him." --`I Cor. 2:9`; `Isa. 64:4`.
THE CALL TO THE SPIRIT NATURE
Now we understand why it is that from Genesis to Malachi there is not one suggestion of a heavenly or spiritual hope for any natural man. Every promise is earthly. In Abraham's case, for instance, we read, "The Lord said unto Abram, Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward, for all this land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed forever. And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth, so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered. Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee."--`Gen. 13:14-17`.
St. Paul refers to this difference between the hopes of the spirit-begotten Church, founded at Pentecost, and those of all others. Pointing to the faithful of the past, he declares that although they had God's testimony to their faithfulness, nevertheless, they "received not the promise, God having provided some better thing for us, that they, without us, should not be made perfect."-- `Heb. 11:38-40`.
As soon as we get our "better thing," our higher reward of "glory, honor, and immortality," in joint-heirship with our Lord as figuratively His Bride--then the worthy ones of ancient times will get their reward of resurrection to human perfection. Under Messiah's Kingdom, those perfect men will be "princes in all the earth." (`Psa. 45:16`.) Then from the spiritual to the perfected earthly ones the blessings and instruction will descend for the poor, ignorant, selfish and superstitious world to help them, to uplift the obedient to the perfections illustrated in the perfected Worthies.
We have heard of the Sunday School teacher who told her class about heaven, about its pianos, harps, organs, horses and carriages, fruits and flowers, etc. We see that she was merely thinking of the blessings God has provided for the faithful and obedient of the world--"in due time." She had no conception of the "heaven of heavens" promised to the faithful followers of Jesus in the "narrow way." The Great Teacher explains that it is impossible to describe heaven with its beauties and charms. He said to Nicodemus, "If I have told you of earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe if I tell you of heavenly things?"--`John 3:12`.
In line with this, the Bible makes no attempt to describe heaven itself, nor its inhabitants. We are merely told that "God is a Spirit," "dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto, whom no man hath seen, nor can see"--personally. (`John 4:24`; `I Tim. 6:16`.) Men must discern God in His works--the noblest of which is the perfect man--made in His moral likeness, on the earthly plane, "a little lower than the angels" on the spirit plane. The most that His Word declares of our heavenly inheritance is that "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him." --`I Cor. 2:9`.
But while refusing to inform us of the heavenly condition, God gives us a soul-satisfying portion. Through the Apostle He declares (`I John 3:2`), "It doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that when He [the glorified Jesus] shall appear [at His second advent, in power and great glory] we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is." Others, not thus changed from human to spirit nature by the First Resurrection power, will not "see Him as He is," but only as He shall be revealed in His providences and judgments, which every eye shall recognize.
How satisfactory! Beyond all that we could have asked or thought! "Like Him!"--what more could we ask? "Like Him" whom God hath highly exalted "Far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named!" (`Eph. 1:21`.) We stand amazed at such grace! Moreover, we can realize that He who called us to become "partakers of the divine nature" and joint-heirs with the Redeemer in His Mediatorial Kingdom has provided for our every comfort and joy in that heavenly state, the details of which we may not now grasp. Prophetically of these it is written, "I shall be satisfied, when I awake with Thy likeness."-- `Psa. 17:15`.
It is the hope, the desire, the aim of every one of us to make our calling and election sure--to so run that we may obtain that great "prize" of participation in the First Resurrection. Of that resurrection we read, "Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the First [chief] Resurrection; on such the Second Death hath no power, but they shall be Priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years." (`Rev. 20:6`.) Let us have this in mind, dear friends, that our participation with our Lord in the glories of the Kingdom is dependent upon our faithfulness here in following Him through evil report and through good report; through honor and through dishonor; in the bearing of the cross along the way of self-denial.
THE FIRST-BORNS PASSED OVER
When God would bring typical Israel out of Egypt, the first-borns had a peculiar salvation, or preservation, first. The night before the deliverance all the first-borns were
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in danger of death, and were saved only when under the blood of the passover lamb. We see the significance of this beautiful type. St. Paul tells us that Christ is our Passover Lamb, slain for us. We each have appropriated His flesh, His human nature, which He sacrificed on our behalf. We recognize His sacrifice, the blood of Atonement. We see that this entire Gospel Age is the antitype of that night. We are hoping to belong to the First-borns (begotten of the Holy Spirit) who, during this night-time of sin and death, will be passed over and, on account of the blood without and the lamb within, be accounted worthy of being passed over--accounted worthy of eternal life on the spirit plane as members of the Church of the First-born--participants in the First Resurrection, to glory, honor and immortality, with our Lord and like Him.
All of the first-borns of Israel passed over typified all of the Lord's people, in all denominations and outside of all denominations, who are now passing from death unto life. In the type, however, the first-borns of every tribe were exchanged for the one tribe of Levi--the priestly tribe--which thereafter typified the Church of the First-borns --the "Household of Faith." Further, the Lord divided that tribe into two classes. A little handful were made priests and occupied a special position of favor and relationship and nearness to God. The remainder of that tribe were honored in being used as the assistants or servants of the priests. This is an allegory, or type.
The Church of the First-borns will consist of two classes, a "little flock" of priests, and a "great company" of the "household of faith," antitypical Levites, who will serve. The "little flock" of priests do their sacrificing now and, if faithful, will shortly be made a Royal Priesthood, a reigning Priesthood, joint-heirs with the great King of Glory and High Priest of our profession-- Jesus. The "great company," however, typed in the ordinary Levites, will not be in the Throne, but serve before the Throne. They will not be "living stones" of the Temple, but will serve God in the Temple. They will not wear crowns of glory, though they will be granted palms of victory.
Which place will you or I occupy in the resurrection, in the General Assembly of the Church of the First-borns? Shall we be of the Royal Priesthood, or of the less honorable, but still blessed servants? Shall we be of the Bride class, or of the less honored "virgins, her companions, that follow her"?
It is for us to make our calling and election sure by our zeal, our earnestness, our devotion to the great King and His cause. He has called us to the highest plane of existence. It rests with us, under His wonderful and gracious arrangements, to determine whether we shall be passed over or not passed over; and if passed over, to determine whether we shall accept the place to which we are called, or the inferior place, which will be granted to those who do not keep their garments unspotted from the world and who, therefore, must come through "great tribulation" in order to enter into the Kingdom at all.
We exhort, therefore, that we strive, not only to be present at the Great Convention, the "General Assembly of the Church of the First-borns," but to make our "calling and election sure," that we may be of the Bride class, the Royal Priesthood class, the members of the Body of the Great Prophet, Priest and King of Glory! Let us encourage each other and be encouraged to maintain the good fight of faith, and to gain the victory, so far as our hearts are concerned, over the world, the flesh and the Adversary. Let us be so filled with the spirit of the Truth, the spirit of meekness, gentleness, patience, long-suffering, brotherly-kindness and love, that we shall be a blessing to those in our homes, that they may take knowledge of us that we have been with Jesus and have learned of Him; and that this blessing may thus overflow and abound to many hearts.
BURNING AND SHINING LIGHTS
One of old was declared to be "a burning and a shining light." There is force in this expression. Some lights are cold, austere, unsympathetic; but the kind approved of the Master was the burning kind--warm, glowing, sympathetic, helpful, intensive! The Master Himself furnishes the best of all illustrations of the principle enunciated. He was the Light which came down from heaven--undimmed, resplendent, shining forth to the utmost the light of Divine Truth! Not a cold, forbidding recluse was He, holding Himself aloof from the people with a haughty and disdainful spirit, telling coldly "Wonderful words of life." On the contrary, His entire life was sympathetic, whole-souled. One of the charges brought against Him by the cold Pharisees was, "He receiveth sinners and eateth with them." Even His disciples were shocked that He should converse with a woman of Samaria. But the common people heard Him gladly. While recognizing that He was far above their plane-- while beholding in Him the glories of the "Only-begotten of the Father," they nevertheless were drawn to Him because He was the burning as well as the shining light. And they declared, "Never man spake like this man."-- `John 7:46`.
Bible students are all Christians; though, alas! all "Christians" are not Bible students. True, God's Book may even be read through by some who are unbelievers; and it may be scanned critically by opponents who seek to find fault with it and to entrap it, as they sought to find fault with the Master. These, however, are not Bible students in the proper sense of the word. Only those who have made a consecration of their lives to the Lord and are anxious to know the Divine will that they may conform their lives to it, and who, to attain this end, have entered the School of Christ to be taught of Him--only these are Bible students from our standpoint, searchers after the secrets of the Lord, because they love Him, and are appreciative of His glorious Plans and desirous of understanding them fully.
Such Bible students should be burning and shining lights in the world and amongst our fellow-Christians of all denominations, many of whom, alas! have much of the spirit of the world and are lacking in the spirit of the Truth itself--because they are not sufficiently Bible students.
"Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven." We are not enjoined to make a show of carrying our Bibles everywhere in an ostentatious manner. We are exhorted to show forth in our daily lives the lessons we learn from its precious pages. As the Bible is the Lamp provided by the Lord to all those who walk in His footsteps, so each of these in turn is a lamp which should shine forth upon others the light, the knowledge, the Spirit of the Truth, for their satisfaction. In other words, the Holy Spirit is not poured out upon the world of mankind, but merely upon the Lord's servants and handmaidens. It is an anointing for these, and upon these, evidencing to them that they have been begotten again, to the new nature, and making of them light-bearers for the benefit of others--burning and shining lights, sympathetic and helpful lights, "that they might show forth the praises of Him who hath called them out of darkness into His marvelous light."
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"THE LIGHT SHINETH IN DARKNESS"
While keeping the lamp trimmed and burning--while seeking to glorify God as burning and shining lights in the world, we must not forget that the Bible assures us that we shall be no more successful in converting the world than was our Master. His great light shone in darkness, "and the darkness comprehended it not." And the religionists of His day instigated His crucifixion.
The Master's prophecy concerning His followers will prove true to the end of the Age. The darkness hateth the light. "Marvel not, My brethren, if the world hate you"; "If the world hate you, ye know that it hated Me before it hated you." (`I John 3:13`; `John 15:18`.) It is altogether a mistake, therefore, to suppose that the Lord's consecrated people, letting their light shine faithfully before men, could convert the world. Such was not God's intention. It is the Church, not the world, that is being tested at the present time. The opposition of the world and all the powers of darkness serve to test us as New Creatures--to test our loyalty to God and to His Truth.
Whosoever receives the light of Truth intelligently must rejoice in it; and, rejoicing in it, he must let it shine out upon others, or, by covering his light with a bushel, he will demonstrate his lack of courage, lack of appreciation, lack of earnestness--qualities which the Lord is now specially seeking amongst those whom He has invited to be sharers with Jesus in the glories of the Mediatorial Kingdom about to be established amongst men. It is important, therefore, that we let our light shine before men; that we be willing, nay, glad, if need be, to suffer for our loyalty to the Lord and to His message. And we have His Word for it that whoever is ashamed of Him or of His Word now, of such He will be ashamed by and by. He will not own them as members of His Bride class, will not accept them as assistants with Him in His glorious Throne.
"The Light of the world is Jesus"; "That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world." (`John 1:9`.) Thus far Jesus has not been dealing with the world, but merely with the blessed ones who have the eye of faith and the ear of faith. "Blessed are your eyes, for they see; and your ears, for they hear." (`Matt. 13:16`.) The time for the enlightenment of the world will be after the special call of the elect. Then the Church, as the Bride, will be with the heavenly Bridegroom in His Throne. Then all now found faithful in the matter of letting their light shine will be associated with the great Light, Jesus, as members of His Body. Altogether they will constitute the great Sun of Righteousness, which will then arise with healing in its beams for the blessing of all the families of the earth; "Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the Kingdom of their Father; who hath ears to hear, let him hear." (`Matt. 13:43`.) He that hath a desire of heart, let him be obedient and thus make his "calling and election sure" to this glorious, chief salvation.
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WHAT CONSTITUTES SPIRITUAL-MINDEDNESS?
"To be spiritually-minded is life and peace."--`Rom. 8:6`.
ABILITY TO UNDERSTAND the Scriptures, to talk fluently upon them and to expound them clearly is a qualification which we think should follow in the wake of spiritual-mindedness; but some might be able to expound Scripture very well, and to express truths in very good form who are not necessarily very spiritually-minded. A parrot can repeat certain words and phrases; but no one would accuse a parrot of being spiritually-minded. So there are some people who can repeat certain spiritual truths, apparently with a good deal of zest.
To be spiritually-minded is to have a mind in harmony with the Spirit of God, and fully surrendered to the Divine will--fully consecrated to the Lord. It would not be enough merely to have a preference for good, saying, "I prefer not to do any gross sin; I prefer to live a life that will be honest and decent." This attitude would not be spiritual-mindedness. Adam was not spiritually-minded, but in his perfection he had a mind to do right. He had the mind of God in the sense that he had a balanced mind, not one having a preference for sin, or one that was weak. He was sound-minded and could appreciate things from the standpoint of righteousness and justice. But even in his perfection Adam had not a spiritual mind, in the highest, or Scriptural sense of the word.
In `Romans 8:6` the Apostle Paul uses the expression "spiritually-minded" in describing a certain class who have become followers of Christ, who have made a full consecration of their lives to the Lord and who, in harmony with this consecration, have been begotten of the Holy Spirit. These are spiritually-minded. These are granted a spiritual insight into Divine things.
OUR LORD BECAME SPIRITUALLY-MINDED AT JORDAN
This was true of our Lord Jesus. Having left the glory which He had with the Father, and having humbled Himself to take the human nature, He was found in fashion as a man. We read that He was not an imperfect man, but "holy, harmless, undefiled and separate from sinners." (`Heb. 7:26`.) Yet with all these special qualities He did not have the spiritual mind to which the Apostle has reference. Our Lord had a mind such as Adam had before the fall--a mind in perfect harmony, perfectly balanced. Our Lord received the spiritual mind, however, at the moment when He was begotten of the Spirit, when He made full consecration at baptism, and as a consequence the Holy Spirit descended and lighted upon Him in bodily form like a dove.
Following that begetting, the Lord had an enlargement of understanding and was granted to see certain deep things of God which He had not seen before His consecration; so we read in that very connection that "the heavens were opened" to Him--the higher things became clear to Him--the more spiritual things. These things St. Paul calls "the deep things of God." "The natural man," St. Paul says [the natural man would be a perfect man; fallen man is imperfect, unnatural], "receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God,...neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." (`I Cor. 2:14`.) Then he proceeds to say that we have received the Spirit of God through the begetting of the Holy Spirit; and that having the new mind, this spirit begetting, we are enabled to understand the deep things of God. "The things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God; and we have received...the Spirit which is of God, that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God." Thus to us is it given to know the deep things of God.--`I Cor. 2:11,12`.
NO NATURAL MAN IS SPIRITUALLY-MINDED
So, then, the one who has been begotten of the Holy Spirit is spiritually-minded. He sees things from the new standpoint which God specially brings to the attention of the spirit begotten. As the Apostle John says, "Ye
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have an unction from the Holy One, and ye all know it." (`I John 2:20`.) Whoever receives this begetting of the Holy Spirit, this anointing, has an understanding of heart and of mind which is different from that which any natural man would have, a quality that will progress with him. He has the privilege of growing in grace and in knowledge and in the appreciation of the deep things of God; and he should grow.
The Apostles Peter and Paul go on to explain (`I Peter 2:2,3`; `Heb. 5:13,14`; `6:1,2`) that one thus begotten of the Spirit of God is at first only a babe, and, as a babe, should desire the sincere milk of the Word--the first principles of the doctrine of Christ; but as he goes on, he should feed upon the strong meat of God's Word. Some of those who have the begetting of the Spirit may be blessed with the special gift of language, so that they can make the matter very clear to others; some others who have also received the begetting of the Spirit may not be blessed with this gift. But all certainly would have the desire to tell forth the blessings which they have received from the Lord, that others might know and might glorify God in their bodies and spirits, which are His.
As these spiritually-minded ones would thus endeavor to tell the good tidings, we have no doubt whatever that the Lord's blessing upon them would more and more qualify them as ambassadors and representatives, that they might tell the Message to others--if not in one form, then in another. We have noted, however, that some who speak with stammering lips have sometimes accomplished very wonderful things, while some with a great deal of eloquence have failed to obtain the same results. The victory is not always to the strong nor to the swift; for the Lord may grant His blessing with the feebly spoken word, particularly if the whole life be in harmony with the message given out.
We have been surprised at times to find that some who have apparently considerable understanding of spiritual things, in the sense of being able to tell about them, do not always give the best evidence in their lives that they really have the Spirit of the Lord. Sometimes in their private lives there is that which is quite contradictory. This condition surprises us; causes us to wonder how it is that those who apparently understand the Truth should be without the power, or manifestation of the power of the Truth in their daily lives. We should bear in mind that whoever speaks the words of the Lord with his mouth, should uphold it in his every act, word, thought, in private life as well as in public.
THE LIFE, NOT THE WORDS, A TRUE INDEX
The Truth should be the standard. Everything else is certainly quite contrary to the Divine will; and that person who fails to uphold the Truth in his daily life gives evidence that he has not the Spirit of the Lord in the proper degree. If, therefore, any of us should find that in our daily lives we have not been living in conformity with the message of our lips, it would be a matter of serious concern, for we cannot doubt that whoever is out of harmony with the Lord in his heart, will sooner or later get out of harmony in his utterances.
We think, therefore, that if in a congregation of the Lord's people any one were proposed as an Elder or a Deacon who outwardly had ever so great ability as a teacher, but who did not in his daily life give good evidence of being fully consecrated to the Lord, and of seeking to walk, not after the flesh, but after the Spirit, he should be regarded as a very dangerous person to put into the high position of Elder or Deacon. The sooner he is left quite by himself the better. For the more such people are put forward in public, the worse it will be for them and for the congregation whom they are supposed to serve.
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DRIVEN INTO THE WILDERNESS
--FEBRUARY 25.--`MARK 1:9-11`; `MATT. 4:1-11`.--
"For in that He Himself hath suffered being tempted, He is able to succor them that are tempted."--`Heb. 2:18`.
OUR STUDY for today is a most interesting one. It points to the time when Jesus reached the age of thirty and consequently was permitted to offer Himself without spot to God as the world's Sin-offering. Saint Paul quotes as applicable to Him the words of the Prophet, "Lo, I come to do Thy will, oh God," as it is written in the volume of the book concerning Me. I now present myself to be the Antitype, the fulfiller, of every prophecy that Divine wisdom has caused to be recorded, and the Antitype of every feature of the Law applicable to Me.
There the Redeemer became the antitypical Passover Lamb, the antitypical bullock of the Atonement Day Sin-offering. There He gave up His life to the doing of the Father's will; there He as the Man Jesus died; there He as the antitypical bullock was slain; there He was begotten of the Holy Spirit and became the antitypical Priest--the Sacrificer. Through the following three and a half years of His ministry He carried out this consecration and completed it at Calvary, crying, "It is finished!"
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LED OF THE SPIRIT--INTO TEMPTATION
When Jesus received the begetting of the Holy Spirit at His baptism it was the begetting to the divine nature, and with it came great enlightenment to His mind, as represented in the words, "And the heavens were opened unto Him," literally, rent asunder. Forthwith He could see clearly into the Divine arrangements and purposes respecting Himself in a manner not possible to Him prior to His consecration. And so it is with all those who follow in His steps. The deep things of God are revealed to them gradually, as they are able to receive them, but never until after they have made their consecration vows to the Lord. With His followers as with Himself, the trial or temptation or testing as to loyalty comes more particularly after consecration than before. Hence the importance of Jesus' injunction: "Sit down first and count the cost."--`Luke 14:28-33`.
But with us as with Jesus the Father provides not only a clearer appreciation of our trials and responsibilities, but also a clearer perception of the glories which will follow to the faithful. In Jesus' case the opening of the heavens --the enlightenment of His mind respecting the Divine Plan--was a much more wonderful matter than it is with us, because with His perfection of brain and of heart He was able to realize instantly the lengths and breadths and heights and depths of His undertaking, in a manner only partially attained by us after years of progress and study. At once the Master realized the full import of the Day of Atonement sacrifices, of the Passover Lamb slain, of the prophecies that spoke of Himself as being led as a lamb to the slaughter, and of the type which pictured
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Him as the Antitype of the brazen serpent, lifted on high for the healing of Adam's sin-bitten race.
As these thoughts began to rush into the Savior's mind, He was first of all pressed of the spirit (His own spirit or mind) to go apart for awhile and to study out afresh the full import of the Law and the Prophets and His own obligations according to the covenant He had just made. For forty days and nights His intense earnestness made Him oblivious to almost everything else. Apparently He neither ate nor slept until the forty days were ended; and He "afterward hungered." Then it was that the Adversary appeared as a tempter--at the moment of His physical weakness as the result of fasting--at the moment when His soul was overwhelmed with the realization of the importance of the great contract He had made and of what it would cost Him to fulfil its terms. It was the severest test imaginable. Would the Redeemer prove Himself loyal to God--to the Divine Program--to His covenant of consecration, unto death? Or would He feel that the Father had poured too bitter a cup for Him --that God had made the tests of loyalty and obedience too severe--that it was neither just nor loving to allow Him to enter into such a contract?
How glad we are to note the loyalty which triumphed over every temptation! With the angels we acclaim, "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain!" Not merely in the sense of consecrating His will, but in maintaining His full submission and deadness, according to the flesh, faithfully even to Calvary and the death of the cross. To Him be glory, honor, dominion and might everlasting!
TEMPTED AS WE ARE
The Savior was not tempted with the habits of a drunkard nor with the weaknesses of a debauchee or a libertine, neither are those the temptations which come to us--His footstep followers. We are to remember that the Scriptures clearly differentiate between us and the world: "Ye are not of the world even as I am not of the world." "Tempted like as we are" therefore signifies that the temptations or trials which Jehovah permits to come upon His consecrated people are of the same kind that He permitted to come upon our Redeemer.
It is important, therefore, that we notice the character of our tests. God is not testing us to see whether or not our flesh is perfect, for He knew all along that amongst men there is none righteous, no, not one. The Father's tests for those whom He receives as sons are tests of loyalty to Him, loyalty to the principles of righteousness, loyalty to the Truth, loyalty to the Divine methods--a refusal to take our own way or to seek our own glory or our own ease at the expense of Truth or of the Divine method.
JESUS' THREE TEMPTATIONS
When the Master was weakened through fasting, at the end of the forty days of Bible study, the Adversary appeared--not as an enemy and a fiend of darkness, but as a friend, "as an angel of light." (`2 Cor. 11:13-15`.) Professing interest in the Savior's welfare and an interest also in His work, he said, You are hungry, man, and unnecessarily so. Do you not know that the holy power which came upon you forty days ago is more than sufficient for your every need? Do you not know that now you may command even these stones to be made bread, and therefore have no need to be hungry? Do so, at once, please, before we have a conversation, for I have a great interest in you. I remember you well from the long ago when we were in fellowship, before my deflection.
But Jesus replied, The power received was not to be used for ministering to My own flesh. It was received, rather, because I had made a consecration of My flesh to death. The Divine power which I possess I may use in any manner for the Father's glory, but not for self-gratification, however apparently legitimate. Besides, My eternal life is not dependent upon bread, nor upon the maintenance of this physical body. Rather, My hope is in God and in His promise that, if faithful in the use of this holy power which He has committed to Me--if faithful in My consecration unto death--He will give Me a crown of life--glory, honor, immortality.
That temptation failing, Satan tried another. We assume that He took our Lord in mind to Jerusalem and the temple, saying, If you will go to the pinnacle of the temple and cast yourself down therefrom, it will be a means of proving to the people that you are the Son of God, and it will be the quickest method by which you can convince them of your mission and gain their adherence and loyalty and make them your disciples and thus accomplish your mission. I will quote you the prophecy in proof that this was God's intention for you: "He shall give His angels a charge concerning Thee and in their hands they shall bear Thee up, lest Thou dash Thy foot against a stone." (`Psalm 91:12`.) But Jesus declined this proposition also.
If He had been thrust off the Temple pinnacle by the hands of an angry mob before His time was come, surely the Father's power would have interfered that He should not be injured; but to deliberately defy the laws of nature and to expect Divine protection from the natural consequences of His own course would have been to tempt God; this Jesus refused to do.
The third temptation also was a mental presentation. A high mountain, in symbol, is a high kingdom. From no mountain on earth could all the kingdoms of the world be seen, since the world is round; but Satan's own kingdom was called to the attention of Jesus. Satan said, "You realize, of course, that I am the Prince of this world, that I am the God of this world and that I now have practical control, through ignorance and superstition, of the masses. I have a proposition to make to you. I confess to you that I am weary of the reign of sin and death which has progressed in the world because of my domination. I would rather share the Kingdom and have it uplifted and blessed. In other words, I propose to you a federation--that together we shall unite in the bringing of humanity out of sin and death conditions. What do you say? I on the spirit plane and you on the human plane will be quite masters of the situation, for you see I have the power in my hand and can easily turn the thing to our favor, and quickly the world will be blessed. Thus you will attain the glorious consummation of your hopes, and that without the awful trials, sufferings, experiences, etc., which you are now anticipating through following God's arrangement outlined in the prophecies. Come, let us federate and co-operate. Speedily I will turn things your way; victory will begin to come from the very hour of our federation!
Our Lord was indignant that it should be thought for a moment that, having left the heavenly glory to do the Father's will, He would now prove traitor to His covenant, and for fear of the cross and the shame and the death He would enter into a confederacy with the great Arch-enemy of righteousness--Satan. He answered, "Get thee hence, Satan, for it is written: Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve." I will not serve you nor co-operate with you in any sense of the word. "Then the Devil leaveth Him." So far as we know, Satan never thought it worth while to return to
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the attack on the Savior. Then by Divine arrangement angels came to the famished Overcomer and ministered unto Him--strengthened Him, revived Him.
The Lord's followers are to note how these same temptations are the very ones by which the Adversary assails them: (1) He would be their friend and helper and would thereby induce them to violate their covenant of sacrifice by requests for physical healing, physical blessings, which they have agreed to sacrifice. (2) He would suggest to them some wild, foolish way of capturing the world for God by some great exploits or prayer tests. (3) He would have them compromise with the world and its spirit and its methods by Church Federation and otherwise. We are to resist the Adversary courageously that he may leave us permanently, seeing no hope of winning us.
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LABORERS IN THE HARVEST
--MARCH 3.--`MARK 1:14-28`.--
Text.--"The Harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few. Pray ye, therefore, the Lord of the Harvest, that He will send forth laborers into His Harvest."--`Matthew 9:37,38`.
EVERYWHERE the New Testament teaches that the work done by Jesus and His Apostles amongst the Jews eighteen centuries ago was a harvesting work. Thus Jesus said, "I send you forth to reap that upon which you have bestowed no labor. Other men labored and ye have entered into their labors"--ye are reapers of the fruits of their labors--gatherers of the "harvest" of the fruitage of the Jewish Age.
The ripe characters of that Dispensation were ready to receive Messiah and His Message upon terms of full devotion of their time, talents, influence and lives as servants of the New Institution--the New Covenant-- which God purposes to inaugurate with Israel in due time, and under which all the families of the earth will be blessed. The service of the present time is sacrificial-- the preparation of the Royal Priesthood, after the order of Melchizedec, to stand as Mediator between God and men--the world.
The labors of Jesus and the Apostles found about five hundred brethren worthy of the garnering during His ministry. Subsequently, at Pentecost and after, several thousand more Jews were harvested--brought into the Spirit Dispensation--begotten of the Holy Spirit as New Creatures, Members of the Body of the Anointed, members of the Royal Priesthood. But of these there were not a
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sufficient number to complete the Divine foreordination; hence, after all the "Israelites indeed" had been harvested, the Jewish people were thrust aside from Divine favor for a time, and God's Message of Grace was sent to the Gentiles, "to take out of them a people for His name"-- to be associated with the Jews as members of the great Mediator of the New Covenant, under the Headship of the glorified Christ.
GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM
Today's lesson relates to our Lord's inauguration of the "harvest" work amongst the Jews. John the Baptist and his disciples had preached and baptized many under the announcement that the Kingdom of God was at hand, and that all desirous of participating in its great blessings should come into full harmony with the Mosaic Law, and thus be prepared to be transferred from typical Israel to antitypical Israel--from membership in Moses, the type, to membership in Christ, the Antitype. In due time the preaching of John the Baptist was brought to a close-- when Herod cast him into prison. From that time onward Jesus and His disciples became more prominent, but their Message was the same as John's; as we read, "Jesus came to Galilee preaching the Kingdom of God and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent ye, and believe the Gospel." Whoever believed this Message recognized Jesus as the "Sent of God," the Messiah, who, in God's due time, will be the King of Israel, and the Monarch of the earth. "The time is fulfilled" meant that the foreordained time when the offer of the Kingdom would be made unto the Jewish nation had arrived.
But God foreknew that Israel would not be ready-- that only a few would be prepared to become the Bride of the Messiah, His associate in the Kingdom work, and that it would require eighteen centuries to select the remainder from amongst the Gentiles.
Hence St. Paul points out in `Romans 9`, `10` and `11` that the Prophets foretold the stumbling of Israel, their temporary rejection as a nation, the fact that a remnant of them would be the nucleus of the Bride class, and that the remainder would be made up of Gentiles. St. Paul declares, "Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh, but the election obtained it and the rest were blinded"-- "until the fulness of the Gentiles has come in" and the "elect" class is completed.
However, God proceeded with His portion of the proposition just as though He had not known in advance the course the Israelites would take. The Gospel was preached to them first and all the saintly ones were found in advance of any move being made to open the door of this special favor to the Gentiles.
"TO BECOME FISHERS OF MEN"
The Wisdom of God is foolishness with men, and the wisdom of men is foolishness with God--say the Scriptures. This is exemplified in our Lord's choice of the twelve Apostles, the calling of four of whom is noted in this study: Simon, Andrew, James and John. However able they were as men, they lacked the polish or education which people were accustomed to expect in religious teachers. The Bible record of them is, "People perceived that they were ignorant and unlearned men."
This reminds us that the Apostle declared that this "high calling" of God to joint-heirship with Jesus reached and influenced merely the poor of this world, rich in faith; that amongst the "elect" will be found "not many great, not many rich, not many wise, not many learned, not many noble." (`I Cor. 1:26,27`.) Success in life leads to more or less of self-confidence, self-esteem, self-will, whereas the Gospel Message appeals to those who feel their own weakness and imperfection and unworthiness, and who correspondingly with great earnestness lay hold upon the Divine promise--the Divine aid, giving God the glory.
The words of Jesus, "Woe unto you rich" (in wisdom, property, fame, in learning, in nobility of character) must not be understood to mean that the great, noble, wise and rich are all or nearly all condemned to eternal torment, or to any punishment, on account of their riches of education, character, etc.
Rather, we must remember the standpoint of the Great Teacher's Message--"Woe unto you" as respects the Kingdom
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--you are less likely to gain this wonderful "high calling" of God than if you were in humbler circumstances. You have your consolation now, and correspondingly have less interest in the glorious things of God's Message. You are so well satisfied with the things of this present life that it will be the more difficult for you to sacrifice all these for the prospect of a share in Messiah's Kingdom. But, said the Master, "Blessed are you who are poor in spirit," humble-minded, and therefore the more teachable, for the more you will look out for the great Gift of God--the "pearl of great price," a share in the Kingdom of God's dear Son.
TAUGHT AS ONE HAVING AUTHORITY
The first five verses of our study tell how the fishermen forsook their earthly all for the prospect of sharing with Messiah in His Kingdom. `Verse 21` shows that the Redeemer was recognized in Capernaum as a great Teacher and a man of learning, to whom others gave place in the synagogue; and the people marveled, saying, "How knoweth this man letters, having never learned at school?"
Moreover, they were astonished at His teaching, "for He taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes." The Jewish scribes and rabbis then, as today, were evidently quite perfunctory and quite unable to give the people any understanding of the teachings of the Law and the prophecies. Jesus had a thorough grasp of the Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, and His applications and interpretations therefore were convincing to His hearers.
Had the Scribes and Pharisees and Priests accepted Him, the whole nation would have done so. But this would not have outworked the Divine Program. Hence the Master's works and teachings were largely parabolical and in dark sayings, because it was the Divine intention that only the saintly Jews should fully appreciate the Teacher and become His followers. The same principle, under God's providence, has applied to the Message and the messengers of the Kingdom throughout the entire Gospel Age. Hence at no time has the real Message been attractive to any except the saintly--others were content with forms of godliness devoid of power and out of accord with the Word.
EVEN DEMONS OBEY HIM
While Jesus was teaching in the Capernaum synagogue a young man, obsessed by a demon, "an unclean spirit," cried out. The demon recognized Jesus and His teaching and used the young man as his mouthpiece, his medium, saying, "Art Thou come to destroy us? I know Thee who Thou art, the Holy One of God."
The demons cast out of human beings by our Lord and the Apostles, the Bible tells us, were once holy angels. They fell from Divine favor through their sinful relationship to humanity in the days of Noah. (`Gen. 6:1-5`.) These fallen spirit beings still desire human relationship, and are styled "unclean spirits," because, however they may begin by presenting themselves as angels of light, they later reveal their true characters by unchaste, impure suggestions.
As St. Paul refused to allow a young woman medium to proclaim him and Silas servants of God (`Acts 16:16-18`), so Jesus refused to allow this demon to give testimony respecting Himself--even though it was complimentary. He commanded the demon to come out of the man. In leaving the man the demon caused him great pain so that he cried aloud. The effect upon the congregation at the synagogue was amazement. Not only the teachings of Jesus captivated them, but also His power to deal with the evil spirits, corroborating His authority as a Teacher sent from God. His fame began to spread throughout all the region of Galilee.
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"A SAVIOR AND A GREAT ONE"
"A ghastly sight shows in the shivering air
On Calvary's brow;
The Savior of mankind, in love, hangs there,
While followers bow
The head low on the breast and sadly sigh,
'How can He be Messiah--if He die?'
"A jeering mob surrounds the cursed knoll
And mocks the Lord;
Yet to His lips and from His stricken soul
Cometh no word
Of vengeance or reproach--ah, no; and when
In anguish came the final moment, then
"'Tis finished!' rings in triumph through the sky;
He bows His head;
And, while the querying soldiers mark the cry,
The Lord is dead.
All anguish past, His triumph doth begin,
The world is saved, a death blow dealt to sin.
"Jerusalem, amazed, hears fishers tell,
With courage bold,
How Christ has vanquished Satan, death and hell,
As He foretold.
Humble disciples forcefully proclaim,
'There is Salvation in no other name.'
"A Sabbath's journey from the city gate,
With sorrow shod,
Two sad disciples bear their sorry weight
To their abode.
The Christ appears, while holden are their eyes,
And doth expound wherefore Messiah dies.
"Emmaus reached, the Lord would further go;
They gently chide--
'Thou hast beguiled our grief and tears, and so
With us abide.'
He brake their bread--then vanished from their sight--
Their hearts did burn with holy joy that night.
"Still thus He comes; and though the faulty sight
Of clouded eyes
Perceives Him not, He makes the burden light,
And stills our cries;
For, like weaned babes, we mourn, the while He would
Our hearts sustain with stronger, richer food.
"The tale is old, but ever sweetly new,
Why Jesus died.
The nail prints, doubting one, He shows to you,
And in His side
A spear thrust gapes--a passage rent apart,
For easy access to your Savior's heart.
"It was for you, my brother, that He shed
His life so free;
For you, for me, He bowed His godlike head
On Calvary's tree,
That, trusting in the merit of His name,
We might be saved from sorrow, sin and shame.
"The past sufficeth, surely, to have spent
In sinful deeds.
Come, join our band; and be our footsteps bent
Where Jesus leads.
So, in His righteousness serenely dressed,
We'll meet Him face to face among the blest."
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USE DISCRETION AND WISDOM
Question.--We are told that from him who would borrow of us we should not turn away. (`Matt. 5:42`.) How shall we understand this?
Answer.--There is nothing in this Scripture that says that we should lend to everybody who wishes to ask for a loan, either of goods or money; but we should not turn away with a deaf ear from those in need. The Scriptures say, Do good and lend, hoping for no recompense. (`Luke 6:35`.) We should also have that beneficent disposition which desires to do good to all men, especially those of the household of faith. But we should use discretion and wisdom. Often the very best thing to do to a person is to lend him something, even if sure that he would not return it; for thus the way to his coming any more would be barred to some extent at least.
WE FIND WHAT WE SEEK
Question.--Please give the meaning of the text, "Seek and ye shall find."--`Mark 7:7`.
Answer.--The above text illustrates a principle to which we have frequently called attention. We find what we seek! Those who approach the Bible with earnest desire to find in it God's Message, will be guided of the Lord. As it is written, "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness [Truth], for they shall be filled."--`Matt. 5:6`.
On the other hand, those who approach the Bible from the standpoint of cavil, unbelief, antagonism, are equally sure to find what they seek--flaws, contradictions, etc. Note how Thomas Paine and Robert Ingersoll illustrated this principle; and compare their experiences and findings with the blessedness of those who feast upon the Bible as the Lord's bountifully spread table of good things-- "Meat in due season" for "the household of faith."-- `Luke 12:42`.
The same principle holds true with the SCRIPTURE STUDIES. As those who so desire can pick flaws with the Bible and turn and twist its statements into unreason, so the same class would surely be successful in similarly picking to pieces "The Divine Plan of the Ages."
"ONCE IN GRACE, ALWAYS IN GRACE," CONTRADICTED
Question.--What is meant by the Scripture which says that if one who has been righteous shall depart from his righteousness, his former righteousness shall not count, but that he shall die for his sin? And also the statement that one who was unrighteous and turned from his unrighteousness shall be saved?--`Ezek. 33:13-16`.
Answer.--This Scripture emphatically contradicts a doctrine held by some Christian people, "Once in grace, always in grace"; or that one who has been favored of God can never lose His favor. The principle of this Scripture applies, at the present time, to those who pass from death unto life as New Creatures. They are on trial for life or death. Adamic sin no longer counts in their cases. If they remain faithful to the Lord they will get the blessing of eternal life; if unfaithful, they will die. If one should make a covenant with God and then fail to keep that covenant, he would lose his covenant-relationship with God as soon as he abrogated the contract. If we are faithful, He will be faithful in giving us life eternal.
But this Scripture specially applies to the Millennial Age; for at that time all are to be brought to an opportunity for life everlasting. People will then realize that "the wages of sin is death." Then it will no longer be a proverb that the parents have eaten a sour grape and the children's teeth are set on edge, but each "shall die for his own iniquity." (`Jer. 31:29`; `Ezek. 18:2`.) There will be a test for life or death, just as there is now with the Church. Only those who are faithful in their trial will be granted everlasting life, in either case. All others will be cut off in death.
"HE THAT JUDGETH ME IS THE LORD"
Question.--Suppose one addicted to the use of tobacco and who began to realize its filthiness should resolve to discontinue it and should really desist from using it for a time, but later should resume the occasional use of it, and thus did not conquer in the matter, the spirit being willing, but the flesh being weak--would this cause the loss of the crown and relegate such an one to the "great company"--or might it lead to the Second Death?
Answer.--The use of tobacco is a very filthy habit; and there are other habits that are esteemed filthy by some people, but not by others. We are not to draw any line which the Bible does not draw. It is not, therefore, for any of God's people to judge another in the meat offered to idols, or in the chewing of tobacco, or in any such matters. We should encourage each other in cleanliness of life. To our understanding, no one would be condemned to death for not controlling the tobacco habit or the coffee habit or the morphine habit. God alone knows how each is struggling; He alone knows those who are fighting courageously day by day to the end. We are not competent to judge. St. Paul says, "With me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of any man's judgment; yea, I judge not mine own self. ...He that judgeth me is the Lord." (`I Cor. 4:3,4`.) We may not even too hastily judge ourselves to be worthy of the Second Death. It is to be left to God as to whether we are overcomers or not. With this in view it is our duty to strive earnestly and not to be discouraged ourselves nor to discourage others, but rather to uphold them and help them to greater courage, to greater zeal in the service of our Lord.
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SOME INTERESTING LETTERS
BLESSINGS OF COLPORTEUR SERVICE
I want to tell you in just a few words how very many blessings our dear Heavenly Father is bestowing on me in the little service I am privileged to render Him. I have been drawn so close to the Lord in my work, and am daily relying more on His help, looking for His leadings, and trusting His providences. It is so blessed to be close to the Master, to see and feel His guiding hand, and realize His presence. How sweet prayer becomes, and how precious the communion with Him!
I have lately made six calls on interested ones, and hope to find more. It seems a mere coincidence, but I know it is God's hand, that when I give my canvass, often not even mentioning the Bible Society (for some are ever alert to prejudice), the first thing I know people take me in and show me the STUDIES, which perchance are in their bookcases. They seem somehow to associate us. Of course, I first draw them out, then I can more wisely, perhaps, make comments. I have three or four parties in mind that I have just found these last two weeks; they have become quite aroused and interested.
We have no large class here, but are served from Dayton, bi-weekly, and meet for study semi-weekly. I shall urge our class to give public meetings, perhaps a series, shortly, for these people want to come.
I can see that all Christians are more or less, even unconsciously, absorbing the Kingdom message, and other co-related matters, as given out by our dear Pastor, no doubt through the sermons and PEOPLES PULPIT distributed. And some are so truth-hungry! They confess themselves that
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there is a true famine in the land for the Word of God. I tell you we still have opportunities and find receptive hearts. Praise the Lord!
One peculiar case we have found is a good, intelligent man who has read all six volumes; he reads the Bible continually. (He bought a Bible, Manna and gave a TOWER subscription.) We invited him to class, but he believes the churches have done so much harm that Christians ought to stay apart and not meet in congregations. We will call on him and ask others, especially brethren, to do so.
One dear woman had one first volume of DAWN, and not knowing, even now, that I represented the same Society, confessed that about one or two years ago she ordered the other two volumes of a colporteur, but refused to take them when delivered. She said he was so nice about it, and it has troubled her ever since, so she had to confess to me. He told her he believed some day all would see the Truth. This was evidently Brother Bryant Campbell, who now, we are sure, is with the Lord. He canvassed here at the time, and one Methodist minister persecuted him, and prejudiced the people against him and his work.
I thank you for your kind words of encouragement. The Lord bless you. Pray for me!
Yours in the Harvest work,
MRS. GEO. H. KELLER.--Ohio.
"PUT ON THE WHOLE ARMOR"
DEARLY LOVED PASTOR AND BROTHER IN THE LORD:--
With Christian greetings and a prayer of thanksgiving in my heart for this blessed privilege of fellowship, I wish to write to you for a little while. My dear husband wishes to be included in the spirit of this letter.
It is seldom that he and I have the pleasure of meeting our beloved Pastor, so, every once in a while the desire to write you an expression of tender, Christian love becomes so great that the heart will no longer retain it, and out it comes at the end of this pen!
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If, partially, the consequence be an encroachment upon your time, I know you will forgive, as our dear, gracious Heavenly Father does when we make mistakes.
On your return from abroad we cannot greet you as some others who love you, but let this letter convey to you our glad, loving "Welcome home!"
And now, a few words relative to a little matter upon which I shall much appreciate having your opinion:
Twice, recently, I have met friends who are studying the Truth and show every evidence of love for it.
The question of Spiritism arose, and in each case the friend was not acquainted with the truth on this important Bible subject. I inquired, Would you not like the truth about this matter? Receiving an affirmative reply, I told the one-- a brother--of the little book on SPIRITISM and he promised to read it, saying his thought had been to have absolutely nothing to do with the subject.
To the other--a sister--I loaned my own book with the same words, that in this "evil day" it is our business to follow what the dear Lord indicates is necessary to our salvation, namely, the putting on of the "whole armor that we may be able to stand" in this particularly evil period.
When next I met her she exclaimed, "O, Sister Erb, I could not read that awful book! I am sure that our Lord will never allow His children to come in contact in any way with anything so unholy as the demons." She quoted, "He will keep them, that that Wicked One touch them not."
I have thought that possibly others are in doubt upon this subject so pregnant with awful possibilities--some, perhaps, who have recently embraced the true faith--and that a word of emphasis from yourself with respect to giving attention to the truth regarding Spiritism would be a help to them.
With one more prayer now, added to the many I have offered at the Throne of Heavenly Grace on your behalf, I will close, hoping before very long to meet and greet you face to face.
Your sister, by the grace of our dear Heavenly Father and through our dear Redeemer,
MRS. JONATHAN R. ERB.--PA.
BEREAN QUESTIONS IN SCRIPTURE STUDIES
Series VI., Study VII., The Law of the New Creation.
(25) During the interim between the fulfilling of the Law Covenant and the inauguration of the New Covenant, is there any Covenant in force? P. 360, par. 1.
(26) What is this Covenant, and who are under it? P. 360, par. 2.
(27) Explain how the Apostle Paul clearly distinguishes between fleshly and spiritual Israel, as shown in `Galatians 4:22-31`. P. 361, par. 1, 2.
(28) What is the Apostle's argument with respect to Gentiles who would attempt to come under the Mosaic Law? P. 362, par. 1, first part.
(29) What is his teaching in `Galatians 5:1-4` with respect to both Gentiles and Jews? P. 362, par. 1, last part.
(30) In this type (`Gal. 4`), how is the New Creation represented? P. 362, par. 2.
(31) What did Mount Sinai and the earthly Jerusalem typify? P. 363, par. 1.
(32) Under what Covenant is the New Creation? P. 363, par. 2, first part.
(33) What proof have we that the Decalogue is not binding upon the New Creation? P. 364, top.
(34) Explain how the New Creation is separate and distinct from all others in its relation toward God and His Law. P. 364, par. 1, 2.
(35) Are the angelic sons of God under the Sinaitic Law? If not, why should we expect the New Creation to be under it? P. 365, par. 1.
(36) Why was it necessary that Jesus as a man should be under the Mosaic Law? P. 365, par. 2, first part.
(37) What is His position as the risen Lord and Head over the New Creation? P. 365, par. 2, last part.
(38) What is the heart-attitude of the New Creation toward the Mosaic Law? P. 366, par. 1.
(39) Are these New Creatures absolutely without a law? If not, what is the law that controls them? P. 367, par. 1.
(40) At what time did the Law of Love become the Law of the New Creation? and what does obedience or disobedience to this Law imply? P. 367, par. 2.
(41) How does the grace of God compensate for all our imperfections of the flesh? and under what conditions would we forfeit this grace? P. 367, par. 3.
(42) How may we distinguish between stumbling and wilful falling from grace? P. 368, par. 1.
(43) What lesson do we learn from our failures, and what encouragement is given us in God's Word? P. 368, par. 2.
GROWTH IN APPRECIATION OF THE PERFECT LAW
(44) While the Law of Love was the foundation of our covenant with the Lord, did we at first fully appreciate that Law? Should we not expect to increase more and more in love and thus be made ready for our final examination? P. 369, par. 1.
(45) What illustration does the Apostle apply to our present experiences as embryo New Creatures? P. 369, par. 2, first half.
(46) What is this "race-course," and what kind of love is represented by our entering the gate to it? P. 370, top.
(47) What is our experience as represented by the first quarter-mark? P. 370, par. 1.
(48) What growth in love is represented in our attaining the second quarter-mark? P. 370, par. 2.
(49) What further development in love do we experience when we reach the third quarter-mark? P. 370, par. 3.
(50) What is the final mark to be attained--the standard of perfect love? P. 371, par. 1.
(51) Are we to love our enemies as we love the brethren? What example has the Heavenly Father set us in this respect? P. 371, par. 2.
(52) How is God testing our professions of Love? P. 372, par. 1.
(53) Why was it not necessary for our Lord Jesus to run this race? P. 372, par. 2.
(54) Why do some run the race and reach the mark more quickly than others? P. 373, par. 1.