ZWT - 1896 - R1911 thru R2082 / R2026 (201) - September 1, 1896
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VOL. XVII. SEPTEMBER 1, 1896. No. 17.
"It Repented the Lord"............................203
Evident Invalidity of the Apocrypha...............204
Restitution, Faith Cures (Concluded)..............206
Bible Study: David's Love for God's
Bible Study: David's Gratitude to God.............210
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"IT REPENTED THE LORD."
"And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart; and the Lord said, I will destroy man whom I have created, from the face of the earth."--`Gen. 6:5-7`.
THE question naturally arises, If God is omniscient, knowing the end from the beginning, how could he repent of his course in creating man?
The word "repent" means, according to Webster, "To change the mind, or course of conduct, on account of regret or dissatisfaction with what has occurred." The question then is, Did God change his mind [plan] or his course of conduct? We claim that, knowing the end from the beginning, God's mind could not change; hence "repent" in this text must signify change of conduct. That is, God did change his course of dealing with man because of man's wickedness which grieved him, but he did not need to change his mind or plans, because these plans had from the very first recognized the corrupting and degrading tendency of sin, and provided (in purpose of mind) the Lamb of God-- "slain from the foundation of the world," as the redemption price.--`Rev. 13:8`; `17:8`.
It is difficult for our finite minds to comprehend this, because for us to change our course of action usually means to change our minds or plans as well-- because of our shortsightedness. To comprehend Omniscience and Omnipotence is as difficult as to comprehend eternity or the infinitude of space. But what no one can fully comprehend, we, as God's children, may at least apprehend by faith, guided by his revelation to us. To those whose eyes are anointed with eyesalve (`Rev. 3:18`), the fulfilments of the prophetic statements of God's Word, in both the Old and the New Testaments, now discernible, give ample proof that God does know the end from the beginning; that he changes not from his original purpose. (`Mal. 3:6`; `Isa. 14:27`.) God's plans were perfect before they began to be executed; hence all the changes of God's course or conduct are working out the accomplishment of his original purpose which contemplated these very changes. Those who recognize the gradual development of God's original plan can see clearly that the various changes in his course or dealings, as displayed in the Jewish, Gospel and Millennial Ages, do not at all indicate so many changes of his mind or plan, though they are doubtless so misunderstood by many.
It is asked, Why then is this passage so expressed as to give the impression that because God's heart was grieved by reason of man's wickedness, his mind as well as his action changed? We answer, This matter is stated in a manner suited to convey to the general reader as much as he is able to comprehend of God's reasons for the change. God was very much grieved and displeased by man's rapid progress in wickedness; that, instead of loathing his sinful condition and looking to God for relief, he took pleasure in still further
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degrading himself; and God, according to his original purpose, changed the course of his dealings and ended that age by blotting out of existence for a time those who were so unworthy, that their gross depravity should not interfere in the further development of his plan.* Thus also when God speaks of the sun as rising and setting, he addresses himself to men according to their comprehension; as is the custom of both the learned and unlearned to-day.
It was then, and still is, impossible for the fallen natural man to clearly appreciate and realize these matters; and God's purpose seems to be to prove to man the Omniscience as well as the Justice and Love of his Creator, rather than to tell him of them.
*Under the strict discipline of the Millennium, those who then will not even attempt righteousness will be compelled to conform to it and to taste of its advantages over sin and its results, so that there will be no excuse for the failure of any to choose life and live forever.
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EVIDENT INVALIDITY OF THE APOCRYPHA.
BY REV. F. W. FARRAR, DEAN OF CANTERBURY.
"IT is a matter of real astonishment that outside the circle of the canonical gospels so few reminiscences are preserved of the Perfect Man, who, though he was the Son of God, yet lived as a living man among living men. There are multitudes of historical celebrities respecting the incidents of whose lives endless details and anecdotes have been recorded and preserved. It is little short of amazing that neither history nor tradition should have embalmed for us one certain or precious saying or circumstance in the life of the Savior of mankind, except the comparatively few events recorded in four very brief biographies. St. Paul has preserved for us the one deep word of the Lord Jesus, how he said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive," and it is just possible that the rule, "Approve yourselves trustworthy moneychangers," quoted by several of the Fathers, which, after all, is little more than an epitome of the parable of the talents and the pounds, may be a true recollection of his words. Many of the "unrecorded sayings" of Christ (the agrapha dogmata) are profound and forcible, and it is far from improbable that some of them may be a true echo of what he said; but there is not one of them which adds a new thought or a new lesson to those contained in the authentic discourses and parables. It is quite certain that neither from the apocryphal gospels, nor from any other source, do we derive one anecdote or even one hint upon which we can rely as expressing a single new feature of his example, or a single additional particular of his life.
"WHAT WAS CHRIST'S APPEARANCE?
"We could not have a more signal proof of this failure of tradition than the astounding fact that, not only at this day, but even in the early centuries, there was not even a dim remembrance as to the physical appearance of the King of Glory. Was he of beautiful features and commanding aspect, or was he of marred visage and mean appearance? We might surely have anticipated that so much at least might have been remembered. But it was not. The descriptions of Christ, which for centuries haunted and dominated the numberless endeavors of Art to represent him during and since the Middle Ages, were late forgeries, not earlier at the earliest than the seventh and eighth centuries. As early as the fourth and fifth centuries it was disputed whether he was 'the chief among ten thousand and altogether lovely,' 'fairer than the children of men,' and 'endowed with the oil of gladness above his fellows;' or whether he was smitten and stricken and ugly and dwarfish. The earlier view that he was exceptionally unbeautiful in appearance prevailed mainly in consequence of the false conception of life, and the revolting glorification of dirt and unnatural asceticism, which invaded Christianity from Paganism and the East, and upheld before Christians the ideal of yogis and fakirs. The belief that there must have been 'something starry' in the look of Christ, and that one who is repellent in aspect could never have won the passionate adoration of multitudes, commended itself to the opinion of many in the fourth century, who, further, rightly argued that his outward form could not but have been translucent with the moral and spiritual beauty within. But the remarkable thing is that neither party of those who treated the subject from opposite points of view was able to claim the slightest authority of tradition for their opinion on a subject so full of interest. They argued exclusively a priori, from what they regarded as most fitting, or a posteriori from their interpretation of passages in Isaiah and the Psalms. Nor did the earliest efforts of Christian art afford them the smallest assistance. For nearly five centuries it was generally regarded as profane, among the greatest writers and thinkers in the church, to attempt any naturalistic representation of Christ at all. The sweet and simple artists of the catacombs, with no exception before the fourth century, and with but few exceptions for two or three centuries later, only idealized him as a radiant boy; and men like Eusebius, Epiphanius and Asterius were even shocked and scandalized by any wish or attempt to paint the human Christ in any naturalistic method, or otherwise than by way of symbol.
"Now, if tradition could not even tell the Christian inquirer of 1,000 or 1,700 years ago whether the lineaments of Jesus were beautiful or ill-favored, it is supremely unlikely that it should have preserved any other particulars. In point of fact, the Apocryphal Gospels do not represent tradition at all. They are for the most part poor, valueless, ill-guided and to a great extent heretical figments.
"Happily their authors, some of whom wrote as late as the seventh and eighth centuries, had not the audacity to pretend that they could reproduce any of Christ's essential teaching. They occupied themselves exclusively with the invention of imaginary details about his infancy, or about his cross or his passion.
"OF WHAT VALUE ARE THE APOCRYPHAL ACCOUNTS?
"Several answers may be given apart from the fact that it is always interesting to watch the tendency of human speculations about sacred things. First of all, they furnish a melancholy proof of the sort of way in which many Christians had begun, as time went on, to form most distorted and erroneous opinions about the person and character of Christ. Secondly, they furnish us with a striking gauge of the unapproachable and immeasurable superiority of the Canonical Gospels. Thirdly, they show us that such was the unique divinity of Christ that he stood infinitely above all the capabilities of human invention. Whenever men venture to give the reins to their imagination respecting him, even with the intention to exalt and magnify, they do but instantly dwarf and degrade his sinlessness and supreme majesty.
"Passing over the many legends of the Virgin-- which, however, are not yet due to Mariolatry, but to the desire to glorify Jesus through her--we come to the pretended anecdotes about Jesus as a boy.
"STORIES ABOUT THE BOYHOOD OF CHRIST.
"1. Many of them are mere translations into hard prose of the metaphors of the prophets and psalmists.
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Thus, since we read in the Psalms, 'Praise the Lord upon earth, ye dragons and all deeps,' we are told that when Jesus was a child, dragons came out of a cave and worshiped him. If we read in the Canticles, 'I will go up to the palm tree, I will take hold of its boughs,' we have the story that during the flight into Egypt Mary longed to refresh herself with ripe dates, and Jesus commanded the palm branches to bow down to her, rewarding their obedience by sending a palm branch to heaven by the hands of angels, and making it the sign of victory. If the prophet says, 'The idols of Egypt shall be moved at his presence,' the prophecy is transformed into the tale that, as the Holy Family entered the city of Hermopolis, the 365 idols of its temple all fell with their faces to the earth, in consequence of which the priests and all the people were at once converted.
"If we read in Isaiah, 'The ox knoweth his owner and the ass his master's crib,' and in another verse, 'In the midst of the years shalt thou be known'--with the mistranslation of the Septuagint, 'in the midst of two animals shalt thou be recognized'--we are furnished with the tale, reproduced in so many thousand pictures, and even in the Catacombs, that, as Jesus lay in the manger, the ox and the ass worshiped him.
"2. Another large class of the apocryphal stories of the infancy consists in a multiplication of meaningless miracles. There is not a single miracle of the gospels which does not teach us deep lessons: there is not a single miracle invented in these fictions which does. In the gospels, the evangelist's every miracle is a revelation; but the apocryphal miracles of the infancy are mere startling thaumaturgy. The boy Jesus drops all kinds of robes into a single dyer's vat, and when the dyer is vexed, he pulls them all out dyed with the different colors required; he 'profanes' the Sabbath by making sparrows of clay, and when he is reproved by the scribes he claps his hands and makes them fly. Breaking a pitcher, he brings back water to his mother in his robe. While working in the carpenter's shop he sees Joseph vexed because the two beams for a couch
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are of unequal length, and Jesus pulls the shorter one to the requisite size. He is accused of having pushed a boy from a housetop, and killed him; he therefore leaps down from the roof, raises the boy to life and makes him acknowledge that it was another lad who had given him the push. He changes into kids some boys who had hidden themselves from him when he wanted them to play with him; and then, at the entreaty of their mothers, transforms them into boys. It is needless to touch further on this prodigality of superfluous and unmeaning portents.
"THEY PRESENT A FALSE PICTURE.
"3. But, worse than this, the Apocryphal Gospels, from the ignorance, and probably, in most instances, from the heretical opinions of their writers, make the boy Jesus positively repulsive in character. He is implacably revengeful and cruelly remorseless. He becomes the terror of the neighborhood in which he lives, so that, because of him, his parents live in perpetual disquietude and alarm. He is pert, petulant and intolerable to his teachers, and instead of listening to their instructions, lectures them on 'physics and metaphysics, hyperphysics and hypophysics.' Let one or two instances suffice.
"1. 'When the Lord Jesus was returning home with Joseph in the evening he met a boy who ran to thrust him so violently that he fell down. Jesus said unto him, 'As thou hast thrown me down, so shalt thou fall and not rise.' And the same hour the boy fell down, and breathed his last.'
"2. Again Jesus had been making some pools and channels of water, and 'the son of Annas, the scribe, was standing there with Joseph, and took a branch of willow and spilled the water which Jesus had collected. And when Jesus saw what was done, he was angry and said to him, 'Wicked, impious and foolish one, wherein have the pools wronged thee? Behold now, thou shalt also wither as a tree.' When the parents complained, his mother came and entreated him to be less wrathful. 'But he said, 'He was worthy of death because he destroyed the works which I had wrought.' Therefore his mother besought him saying, 'Do not, my Lord, because they all rise against us.' And he, not willing that his mother should be grieved, spurned the body of the dead with his right foot, and said to him, 'Arise, O son of iniquity, for thou art not worthy to enter into the rest of thy father.' Then he who was dead arose and departed.
"3. Again, when he is sent to a teacher to learn his letters, the master begins imperiously to teach him, saying, 'Say Aleph.' But Jesus said to him, 'First tell me what Beth is.' The master, being angry, struck him with a rod of storax-wood; and soon after he smote him he died. And Jesus returned home to his mother. But Joseph being afraid called Mary to him and said, 'Know truly that my soul is sad unto death on account of that boy.'
"THE AUTHENTIC ACCOUNTS ENOUGH.
"It is, then, abundantly clear that the spurious James, and Matthew, and the others, have not only nothing genuine to teach us about Jesus, but that the picture of him which they represent is utterly debased. The genuine gospels were written for our learning, not for our amusement; to promote our salvation, not to gratify our curiosity. Their very silence is eloquent with truth. What do they tell us of the infant and the youthful Christ? They give us the narrative of his birth; they present us with the picture of the sweet, submissive years spent in the shop of the carpenter at Nazareth; but from his early return from Egypt to Galilee, up to the commencement of his ministry, when he 'began to be about 30 years old,' they preserve but one anecdote and one word. The one anecdote is the story of that visit to Jerusalem; and this to show us how, in his earliest years, he loved his Father's house of prayer. The one word is 'the carpenter,' in the disdainful question of the vulgar and the ignorant, who thought that they had abolished his claims when they asked, 'Is not this the carpenter?' That one word tells us all that is to be told of more than twenty years, during which he grew 'in wisdom, and stature, and favor with God and man.' A scanty record? Not scanty for its purpose, for in that one word is revealed to all mankind nothing less than the sacred dignity of labor, and the blessed truth that the true grandeur and meaning of human life depend neither on rank nor fame, neither on the glare of publicity nor on the entourage of power, nor on the multitude of things which a man possesses."
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RESTITUTION, FAITH CURES, PRAYER CURES AND
THE GIFT OF HEALING.
--(CONCLUDED FROM OUR LAST.)--
Although we have already considered the principle proof-texts for Faith Cures, it may not be amiss to examine a few more passages of Scripture supposed to imply that it is the duty of Christian people to pray for their recovery from sickness and not to resort to medicines.
(1) `Psalm 103:2-4`. "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: who forgiveth thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; who redeemeth thy life from destruction."
It should not be forgotten that the great work begun at Calvary (and which in its ultimate effects is to bring blessings to every member of the human family who will accept of them upon God's terms), has not yet reached its completion. The sacrifice for sins is "finished," "once for all;" and those who believe and obey the gospel, the "saints," have their sins "covered" under the robe of Christ's righteousness, so that they may have access to and communion with their Heavenly Father; but their sins wait to be "blotted out" (`Acts 3:19`) until the end of the "better sacrifices" of this antitypical "Day of Atonement;" when their sins shall be completely blotted out--new unblemished spiritual bodies being granted them instead of the present imperfect ones upon which the marks of sin and imperfection are all too manifest. The work of Christ for the Church, of blotting out sins and healing all blemishes or diseases of mind and body, will not be complete until the Millennial morning; and this Psalm must be understood from this standpoint. It cannot be understood from any other standpoint, for in no other way is it true. Those who have received physical healing either by "gifts" or "prayers of faith" have never yet been completely healed of all their diseases. At very most they receive a temporary blessing and must wait until the "Morning," when the Redeemer shall heal all the diseases of all his people by giving them the bodies prepared for those who love God.
So long as the "night" continues, disease and discomfort will continue. Not only does the whole creation groan and travail in pain together until now, but "ourselves also, which have the first-fruits of the spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body [the Church, the body of Christ]." (`Rom. 8:23`.) "Weeping may endure for a night but joy cometh in the morning."--`Psa. 30:5`.
(2) "Himself took our infirmities and bare our sicknesses."--`Matt. 8:17`; `Isa. 53:4`.
To apply this passage of Scripture as our Faith-Cure friends do is utterly wrong; a total misapplication of the words, and a violation of the context. This passage is quoted to prove that none of the saints should have sicknesses and infirmities. But the Evangelist, to the contrary, affirms that these words of the prophet have had their fulfilment. He says that the fulfilment took place in his day, at the first advent, in the healing, not of the saints, but of the multitudes.
A comparison of `Isa. 53` with `Heb. 4:15` and `Mark 5:30` and `Luke 6:19` shows us clearly that this prophecy was completely fulfilled; and that the object was that our Lord should suffer pain from the infirmities of those whom he relieved, because, being without sin, he was also without sickness and pain, except as he thus "took" and "bare" it from others that he might be touched with a feeling of our infirmities.
Those who misunderstand this passage ask: If Christ bore our sins and sicknesses, why should we have them to battle with? We answer: He bore the penalty of our sins in order that in God's due time he might justify and, by a resurrection, deliver from death all who accept his grace. And he was touched with a feeling of our infirmities in order that he might be a faithful and sympathetic high priest, and that we might realize him as such.
(3) The case of Hezekiah's healing in answer to his prayers and tears is cited as a proof of a proper course.--`2 Kings 20:1-7`.
We reply that it is not denied that God at sundry times has been pleased to grant miraculous answers to prayers as evidences of his own power. But nothing about Hezekiah's case indicates that such healings were common occurrences. On the contrary, the prophet did not pray with him, nor suggest prayer, but evidently was surprised when sent back to inform Hezekiah
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that he would recover. Moreover, Hezekiah, although very sick, does not seem to have prayed for healing until told that death was near. In the healing, a lump of figs, a human instrumentality, a poultice, was used; but many who believe in faith healing today would object to a fig poultice or any other human instrumentality.
(4) King Asa was diseased in his feet, "yet in his disease he sought not to the Lord, but to the physicians; and Asa slept with his fathers"--died. (`2 Chron. 16:12`.) This is cited to prove that to call a physician was a sin, and that therefore Asa died.
Not so, we reply. The whole case must be kept in memory, if we would understand this portion of the
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record. Israel was separated from the nations of the world by divine providence, and a special agreement made between God and that nation, called The Covenant of the Law. This was instituted formally at Mt. Sinai in the wilderness of Zin, after God had brought Israel out of Egypt. While that Covenant made nothing perfect and none of the Israelites got or could get eternal life under its provisions, until Christ who as the Prince of Israel fulfilled all of its requirements and inherited its reward of eternal life, it had special provisions relating to the physical health and prosperity of Israelites. (See `Deut. 7:11-15` and `28:1-12,15,21,27,28,37-42,45-53,59-61`.) If faithful to God, they would be blessed in temporal things above all other nations; but, on the contrary, if Israel would not obey the Lord, they were to receive extraordinary punishments.
Asa, as the king or representative of this nation, was specially subject to the foregoing conditions. He had sinned (See preceding verses: `2 Chron. 16:7,10`), although in general a worthy king (See `2 Chron. 15:16,17,18`); his sickness was in the nature of a punishment for his sin according to the Israelitish covenant with God. His heart should have repented and turned toward God, but instead he imprisoned God's servant, trusted to physicians, defied God and was cut off according to the covenant.
Thousands of Israelites were destroyed by plagues, sometimes for national sins, under the operation of their covenant above cited. On such occasions the rulers understood that it was a punishment and made no effort to use medicines nor to stop the plagues by sanitary laws or arrangements, but offered sin-offerings and prayed for divine mercy.--See `2 Samuel 24:12-15-25`; `Joshua 7:7-11-25,26`; `Numbers 21:5-7-9`.
But such a course would not be the proper one for the rulers of other nations, then or now. It was the proper course for Israel because of God's special covenant with that nation. They were slow to learn this lesson, and inclined to think of their calamities as similar to those of other nations; and hence the Lord more than once through the prophets reminded them that, so far as they were concerned, if they had his good favor, it was manifested in their prosperity; if they had his disfavor, it was manifested in the calamities (evils) under which they suffered. (See `Isa. 45:7`.) He assures them (`Amos 3:6`) that, if there were in their cities calamities or plagues or disasters (physical evil things of any sort--not moral evils), he was their author. But this does not apply to other nations. Consequently the intelligent people of to-day are quite right in not regarding as manifestations of special divine anger the London plague and the Chicago fire and the St. Louis cyclone and the Chinese floods and the Japanese earthquake and tidal-wave and the Russian famine and coronation disasters and the Egyptian cholera and other less natural disorders and disasters and accidents by rail, water, fire, famine, fever, consumption, etc., etc.
Not only has God no such covenant with the nations of the world to-day, but he has never made such a covenant of temporal prosperity with his saints. Quite to the contrary, they are called to walk with God by faith and not by sight--not by outward evidences of divine favor. The Gospel Church is specially told that her calling is to suffer with Christ for well-doing. She is invited to sacrifice present prospects and earthly favors, and is offered instead heavenly joys and blessings--a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. She is to look not for the things which are seen, but for those which are unseen and eternal. She is to realize the divine wisdom and submit gladly to such experiences of prosperity or adversity, health or sickness, as the Lord may see to be to the highest interests of her members, all of whom, as true members of the body of Christ, are dear to the Bridegroom Head who promises, graciously, that he will not suffer his members to be tempted above what they are able to bear, but will succor them, cause all present experiences (bitter and sweet) to work for their good, and no really good thing withhold from them.
(5) `Romans 8:11` is sometimes cited as a proof that Christians are to expect physical healings. This is as much of a mistake in one direction as some well meaning Christians make in an opposite direction, when they understand this verse to teach the resurrection of our present identical bodies (in exact opposition to `1 Cor. 15:37,38`). The expression, "If the spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his spirit that dwelleth in you," should be interpreted in harmony with the context. `Verse 10` declares, "If Christ be in you, the body is dead"--not literally dead, but reckonedly dead, in that the human will has died and the will of God in Christ has been accepted instead. The will is dead to sinful things; it does not love nor practice them, as it once did. The Apostle's argument is that such a deadness to sin, although desirable, should not be satisfactory to us; we should not stop there; we should by God's grace seek to get alive to righteousness and active in its service as once we were alive to sin and its service. He proceeds to show that this, although a great change, is possible to us; and he tells us how. He says that the mighty spirit of God which could and did resurrect our Lord from literal death is able to quicken (make alive) to the service of righteousness these very bodies once alive to sin but now by God's grace mortified, killed, "dead to sin." He therefore urges all who have the spirit of Christ not
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only to be dead to sin but to permit the spirit of Christ in them to make them alive to holiness and in general to God's service. He shows them further that the new spirit (mind) of Christ which they have received is a spirit of adoption into God's family as sons, and that if they are sons they not only are "free" but must have fruit unto holiness, and that their joint-heirship with Christ as sons depends upon this quickening of their mortal bodies--"if so be that we suffer with him [Christ], that we may be also glorified together."
All who catch the real sense of the passage will see that it has no reference to physical quickening and immunity from sickness and pain, but to a quickening or energizing by the Lord's spirit so as to be, not only willing, but glad, to "suffer with him." Nor could it possibly refer to a literal resurrection of the mortal body, for not only are we assured that the body which is buried is not the one which will be raised, but we know that the spirit of Christ does not dwell in dead bodies: it is "the body without the spirit [of life that] is dead."
(6) If sickness cannot come upon God's consecrated people contrary to his permission, would not the taking of medicine be putting ourselves in conflict with God's will?
No. It is God's will that every member of the "body of Christ" should be touched with a feeling of the world's infirmities, in order that, when exalted to the Kingdom, they may be very tender, sympathetic and generous, when, as the royal priesthood, they shall judge the world. (`1 Cor. 6:2`.) Our Lord and Master, who had none of the imperfections of the fallen race, but was holy, harmless and separate from sinners, needed to take from men their sicknesses and infirmities (`Matt. 8:16,17`), in order that he might be touched with a feeling of our infirmities and be a faithful High Priest. It would be thoroughly illogical to suppose that the lessons necessary to the preparation of the High Priest for his office and service are not necessary to the underpriests who are called to suffer with him and to reign with him.
Hence, those who see their high calling should not expect immunity from sufferings and trials and difficulties; and the usual aches and pains--headaches, toothaches, etc., etc.--which come to the Lord's people, as well as to the world, in a natural way, should be treated as the world treats them, but with greater patience and cheerfulness: that is, they should be avoided by reasonable care as to food, clothing, etc., and they should be alleviated by the use of such cures as may come under our notice. We need not fear thwarting God's will; that is impossible: he will take care of that part. See also our comments on this subject in our issue of July 15, page 168.
SCHLATTER, MARK SMITH AND OTHER HEALERS.
From Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Colorado, Illinois, New England and Australia come seemingly well authenticated accounts of miraculous healings of some diseases. Some of the healers pray with the sick, some do not; some lay on hands and anoint with oil, but mostly they merely grasp the hands of the sick. Some get all the money they can from the sick; others, like the Master, will receive no compensation. Some love to be called Rabbi and Reverend, others are plain, unassuming Christians. In answer to many inquiries
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respecting these healers and the source of their power, we answer:--
We believe that some of them are God's agents, thus used in order to make a beginning of restitution work and to break it gradually to the people. It is, however, copied and sought to be offset in its effects by others whose powers are from the prince of darkness, who still endeavors to blind the minds of men to God's goodness and plan. (`2 Cor. 4:4`.) It is not possible for us to be sure from the meager and often incorrect newspaper reports, which are servants of God and which the servants of the adversary. Nor is it necessary that we should decide; God is at the helm and will direct his own, and whatever of the wrath of men or devils would not serve some useful purpose, either of trial or sifting, will be restrained.
In thinking of these healers, we draw the line on their profession of faith in Jesus (as their Redeemer and Lord), and the doing of the healing in his name and by his power. Here we are on guard, however, against Spiritists, Christian Scientists and such like, who use the name Christ in a deceptive manner, meaning thereby themselves; i.e., denying any power or authority from Jesus, they claim that his power was merely because he was one of them --one of the Christ class possessed by their spirit, which is really deceptive and anti-Christ,--against Christ and in opposition to a true interpretation of the Bible.
And amongst those seeming to us to be on the right side of the line of faith, we feel that those who refuse to make merchandise of their gifts or prayers and those who reject human titles and manifest most of humility and zeal and faith are most worthy of confidence and respect. But we know of none claiming these healing powers who are acquainted with and accept the divine plan and present truth as we understand it.
Salvation! O ye toiling saints,
By faith ye have it now;
The promise is your daily strength,
While to God's will ye bow.
Salvation! O the blessed theme
Shall fill the world with joy!
When all its mighty work is seen,
Praise shall all tongues employ.
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DAVID'S LOVE FOR GOD'S HOUSE.
--SEPT. 6.--`1 Chron. 22:6-16`. Compare `1 Kings 1`; `Psa. 84`.--
Golden Text--"Blessed are they that dwell in thy house; they will be still praising thee."--`Psa. 84:4`.
AFTER the stirring events considered in our last lesson, David, being recalled by the people, returned to Jerusalem and set about bringing order out of the general confusion into which Absalom had plunged the nation. At the time of his returning a usurper, with some show of success, sought to intercept him and secure the throne for himself; but he was promptly dealt with, and David was again established in his kingdom, and several years of peace and progress followed.--`2 Sam. 20:21`.
But the king's troubles were not yet ended: again from his own household came the notes of discord, and the experiences with Absalom seemed likely to be repeated in the rebellion of another son, Absalom's younger brother Adonijah, who had laid his plans and skillfully prepared to seize the throne and thus establish himself as David's successor. (See `1 Kings 1:1-53`.) This attempt at usurpation and self-appointment led to the immediate anointing and proclamation of Solomon, whom God had indicated as his choice among the sons of David to sit upon the throne of the kingdom of the Lord. (`1 Chron. 22:9,10`; `28:5-7`.) So Solomon was recognized as king in Israel in the room of his father David.--`1 Kings 1:34,39,40`; `1 Chron. 29:22-25`.
David had now accomplished nearly all of his earthly mission. He found the dominion small, and now it was much extended. He found it in disorder, and left it thoroughly organized. He found religion at a low ebb, and he had succeeded in greatly reviving and energizing religious devotion and zeal. He found powerful enemies on every side, threatening the destruction of the nation, but he had subdued all the enemies and led the nation to a condition of peace and introduced them to a season of unparalleled prosperity. And not only so, but he had laid the foundation for the more permanent establishment of the service of God and the religious health of the nation in his preparations for the building and service of the temple which God had promised that his son and successor should build, and in the religious zeal and enthusiasm he had aroused on the part of the whole people, so that as one man they were at the service of Solomon in the great work. His life had been an eventful and a troubled one, not without its grave mistakes, but it had accomplished great things in bringing order out of confusion and establishing peace and prosperity on a permanent footing. The glory of Solomon's reign was but the harvest of David's labors and sufferings. While David was not permitted to build the temple himself, because he was a man of war, this was no reproach against David for engaging in those wars, for he had done so in the name of the Lord and for his people, and not from the unholy ambition of the world's warriors, for plunder and prestige.
To some who think of the building of the Jewish temple as a mere mechanical service, like the building of any other temple, heathen or Christian, it may seem that there was much unnecessary ado about it. How strange, they mentally say, that it should be considered necessary for the whole nation to be at peace before the building could be undertaken! Why could not some be building while others were out fighting the battles? and why should the king be charged with the business? Were there not in all Israel plenty of architects and workmen and men suited to oversee the work, without burdening the king with it?
Let us not forget that the building of the Jewish temple was not a mere mechanical service, the putting together of so much stone and mortar and wood, etc., but let us view it from the standpoint of David, who, in charging the congregation of Israel to diligently cooperate with Solomon in the work, said, "Solomon, my son, whom alone God hath chosen, is yet young and tender, and the work is great; for the palace is not for man, but for the Lord God." (`1 Chron. 29:1`.) And the sacred edifice was not one of human designing: the plans and specifications were given to David by the spirit of the Lord:--"All this, said David, the Lord made me understand in writing by his hand upon me, even all the works of this pattern."
"And David said to Solomon his son, Be strong and of good courage, and do it: fear not, nor be dismayed; for the Lord God, even my God will be with thee; he will not fail thee nor forsake thee until thou hast finished all the work;...also the princes of all the people will be wholly at thy commandment."-- `1 Chron. 28:12,13,19-21`.
Thus it was to be a building into every fiber of which should be worked the religious devotion and zeal of the whole nation, and which should therefore stand as a monument of such devotion and zeal, and a testimony to coming generations which should awaken and preserve the same in them. Thus viewed, the work was indeed a great work; and, since all the people were to be interested and active in it, it was necessary that it should be undertaken only in a time of peace, when the attention of the people was not absorbed in wars and their attendant perplexities and calamities. It is manifestly appropriate, too, that the Lord's anointed king, in preference to any other individual, should have been charged with this important business, since it was a national enterprise, and he stood as the representative and head of the nation.
In this view, as well as in view of its divinely ordained typical significance, it is also manifestly appropriate that its beauty, its costliness and all its adornments should represent the labor and care and sacrifices of the loving hearts and active hands of a people devoted to God. So David expressed it, when he said, "The house that is to be builded for the Lord must be exceeding magnifical, of fame and of glory throughout all countries."--`1 Chron. 22:5`.
In the charge of David to his son Solomon concerning the building of the temple, to which our attention is called, we catch a glimpse of the man after long experience and discipline had mellowed and enriched his character. Now, over every other ambition, his zeal for God predominates, and his chief desire for Solomon is that he may prove true and faithful to God and zealous in his service and that so he might abide in the divine
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favor. Then he bade him be strong and of good courage in the great work before him, assuring him of abundant prosperity and divine favor if he would only continue to heed and fulfil the statutes and judgments which the Lord charged Moses with concerning Israel.
This counsel to Solomon may also with equal propriety
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be accepted by every Christian in the service of the Lord,--"Be strong and of good courage." Both strength and courage are necessary to faithful service and to success in the good fight of faith; and both are developed by patient endurance and faith in God under the various trials to which the Christian is exposed. The counsel of the Apostle Paul to the Church also tallies with that of David to Solomon, when he says, "Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might;" and again,--"Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong."--`Eph. 6:10`; `1 Cor. 16:13`.
The prayer and thanksgiving of David to God, recorded in `1 Chron. 29:10-19`, ascribing praise to him for the privilege of collecting the materials for his temple and humbly acknowledging that all their gifts were only returning to God that which was his own, expressing his joy in the freewill offerings of the people and praying that their hearts might ever incline to him, and that he would give unto Solomon a perfect heart, is full of touching pathos, reverence, meekness and holy enthusiasm. Read it and underscore its touching phrases, that again and again you may be refreshed and instructed by it. Then mark (`vs. 20`) how he led all the people to fervently bless the Lord, and how the enthusiasm thus kindled anointed Solomon a second time to sit on the throne of the kingdom of the Lord. (`Vs. 22,23`.) This second anointing was like the grand Amen! of the whole nation to the first anointing (`1 Kings 1:38-40`), which was, comparatively speaking, done in a very quiet way.
`Psalm 84`, from which the Golden Text is taken, is another expression of David's devotion and zeal for the service of the Lord. While we thus contemplate the typical temple which kindled such an enthusiasm among the worthy saints of the Jewish dispensation, with what intensity of zeal and fervor should we regard that antitypical temple, the Church of the living God, whose living stones shall to all eternity show forth the praises of him who quarried and polished and fitted them together until it grew into a holy temple for the Lord in which he is pleased to dwell, and of which Christ Jesus is the chief corner stone.--`Eph. 2:19-22`.
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DAVID'S GRATITUDE TO GOD.
--SEPTEMBER 13.--`2 Sam. 22:40-51`.--
Golden Text--"The Lord is my rock and my fortress, and my deliverer."--`2 Sam. 22:2`.
THIS entire chapter is one of David's songs of praise and gratitude to God for his goodness and his loving providences which had been so manifest toward him ever since his anointing by Samuel the prophet, and doubtless before that as well. It calls to mind another expression of one of his psalms,-- "Rejoice in the Lord, O ye righteous; for praise is comely for the upright." (`Psa. 33:1`.) Indeed, the writings of David, and all the prophets and apostles as well, abound in fervent expressions of praise and thanksgiving to God. They not only praise the Lord themselves, lovingly and gratefully recounting all his mercies, but, with impassioned eloquence and holy enthusiasm, they call upon all the sons of men, and every thing that hath breath, and even inanimate nature, to laud and magnify his holy name. The worshippers are also bidden to bring with them to the concert of praise every musical instrument of human device; and grateful reverence exclaims,--"Blessed be his glorious name forever, and let the whole earth be filled with his glory. Amen and Amen!"--`Psa. 33:2,3`; `50:1-6`; `72:19`. See also `Exod. 15:1-21`.
As we thus consider that, by the voice of inspiration, the whole human race is called to praise and worship and thanksgiving, we are led to consider further the relationship which the spirit of praise has to the Christian or godly character. David says, it is "comely for the upright." But why so? It is because loving gratitude is one of the divinely implanted instincts of a soul bearing the image of God, and one which should therefore be cultivated. It is this element of the intelligent creature that is designed to be responsive to the divine goodness and benevolence; and it is this element of character in man which makes fellowship and communion with God possible. If the goodness of God could awaken in us no sense of grateful appreciation; if we were wholly dead to such sentiments, there could be no pleasure on God's part in manifesting his goodness to us, and there would be nothing in us to call out his love; and so also nothing, of all his goodness and grace, would awaken love in us. But since for the divine pleasure we are and were created (`Rev. 4:11`), God endowed his intelligent creature with this element of character which, being responsive to his own goodness, institutes a lively and delightful fellowship with himself, which is the chief end of human existence, both on the side of the creature and of the Creator.--`Psa. 16:11`; `Prov. 11:20`; `15:8`.
Rejoicing and the spirit of praise are thus seen to be indissolubly linked together in the divine economy; and so David links them, saying, "Rejoice in the Lord, for praise is comely," thus making the two almost synonymous. To see this principle illustrated take as examples the dog and the hog. Neither can have any appreciation of the divine goodness, neither being created in the mental or moral likeness of God, and hence being utterly incapable of knowing or thinking of him. Man is the highest being that they can know in any sense or degree; and that is first, because man is visible and tangible to them, and second, because they have some similar faculties, though very inferior and exercised within a much narrower sphere. The dog has in him to a considerable degree the sense of gratitude: feed and caress him, and he shows signs of gratitude and affection, and a desire to reward you with a manifestation of appreciation. He wags his tail, looks
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kindly into your face, licks your hand, caresses you with his head and watches to see what errand he can do for you. But the hog, on the contrary, makes no demonstration of appreciation: he takes all he can get without even so much as a look of recognition; his eyes are always downward, and his snout continually rooting in the earth for more; and a grunt is the only sound to which he gives expression. A hog, therefore, can have no pleasure in man; nor can man find any pleasure in the hog. There is no bond of fellowship whatever, and man therefore tolerates his existence only until his flesh is fit for the slaughter and the market, while between the dog and his master there is strong friendship which, when cultivated, gives pleasure to both, and they become life-long friends, irrespective of any commercial value.
It is plain, therefore, that in the cultivation of the spirit of praise, thanksgiving and loving appreciation of all the manifest goodness of God, is the Christian's secret of a happy life. And in order to the cultivation of such a spirit it is necessary that we continually call to mind his acts of mercy and of grace; that in our prayers we frequently tell him how all his goodness is remembered, how every fresh evidence of his love and care causes faith to take deeper root and makes the sense of his presence and favor more fully realized; and how through such experiences our love and joy are made to abound more and more. We love him because he first loved us; and every time we see some new mark of his love, our love, if we have truly appreciative hearts, is called out more and more, and we are made to rejoice in God, in whose presence is fulness of joy. It is to this end that our Lord encourages our frequent coming to God in prayer with large requests for his favor, saying, "Ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full."--`John 16:24`.
We observe that in Israel the spirit of praise was cultivated by calling to mind and recounting what the Lord had done for them. "If I do not remember thee," says David, "let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth."--`Psa. 137:6`. See also `Exod. 15:1-21`; `Deut. 7:17,18`; `8:2`; `15:15`; `32:7`; `1 Chron. 16:12`; `Psa. 20:7`; `63:5-7`; `143:5,6`; `77:10-12`.
So must the Christian continually call to mind the works of the Lord, especially his own individual experience of the Lord's leading and care and deliverances from dangers and snares and the wiles of the adversary. If we keep these things in mind and meditate upon them, our appreciation of God and his goodness grows, and the spirit of love and praise takes possession of the heart, and thus we are made to rejoice in the Lord always, and in everything to give thanks. So also the soul is made to hunger and thirst after God and to realize that God alone is its satisfying portion, and to desire more and more of his fulness. Thus, as the Psalmist suggests, our prayer will be, "As the hart panteth after the water-brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God."--`Psa. 42:1`.
This same principle of gratitude and praise, which reciprocates loving kindness and generosity, is that which also makes human friendship and fellowship possible and delightful. In our intercourse one with another, if the kindnesses we show awaken no sense of appreciation, receive no acknowledgment, and their repetition is expected as a matter of course, there can, in the very nature of things, be no such thing as fellowship. True, as Christians, we may not relax kindness and generosity on this account; for we, like our heavenly
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Father, are to be kind to the unthankful as well as to the thankful (`Matt. 5:44-48`); but when this goodness awakens no appreciation, no love, fellowship becomes impossible.
In David's thanksgiving for victories over his enemies we observe that those enemies were the enemies of the Lord and his people, whom David was commissioned of God to conquer. These battles he undertook in the strength which God supplied, and the victories he properly ascribes to God, the rock of his salvation. The words, regarded from the standpoint of the future, are also prophetic of the victories of Christ, of whom David was a type, and to whom Jehovah will grant victory full and complete over all his enemies,--the enemies of God, the enemies of truth and righteousness. The whole strain of thanksgiving, thus viewed in its wider application to the conquests of Christ, is eloquent in its prophecy of his glorious victory, as well as in praise to Jehovah. (`1 Cor. 15:27,28`.) The prophecy of a future wider dominion, contained in `verses 44-46` can only be considered as fully applicable to the wider dominion of Christ.
The Golden Text is a blessed assurance applicable to all of the Lord's people, and it is amply verified to all those who delight themselves in the Lord, who meditate upon his goodness and render to him the praise that is due to his holy name.--"The Lord is my rock [upon which I may safely build my hopes], and my fortress [in which I may safely hide], and my deliverer [in every time of trouble]."
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DEAR BROTHER:--I have been thinking much on the covenants lately. It is a significant fact that in all ages God has made Covenants, with visible signs thereof. His first covenant was made for all nations, and called an everlasting covenant, the sign of which he produces. (`Gen. 9:12-17`.) The token of the next covenant is described in `Gen. 17:11`. His covenant made with and for Israel at Horeb has its visible sign to be repeated by those under that covenant.--`Ex. 31:17`; `Ezek. 20:12`.
Now, I want to ask, what is the visible sign of the New Covenant, if not the Memorials? Does not the Apostle bear out this, by saying, "As often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death," etc.? Does it not show that we are under the New Covenant of love? He said, "Do this in remembrance of me," and, when we "do this," we show our love for him, for, "he that loveth me keepeth my commandments." Would like to hear from you on this. We could not tell whether Israel recognized their Law Covenant or not, were it not for the observance of the Sabbath sign. This, of all the Ten Commandments, was the only one that others could decide as to their observance.
Yours in the blessed hope, M. L. STAPLES.
[In reply: While we believe that symbolic immersion is enjoined as an outward testimony or witness to the true immersion of the will into the will of God, as expressed in Christ; and that the Memorial Supper is enjoined as the proper and helpful remembrancer of our Lord's death, yet we do not regard these in the same light as circumcision to the children
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of Abraham and the Sabbath of the Jew, for they were compulsory as to outward form: ours are obligatory in their essence, but not in their outward form if not clearly seen. For instance, Cornelius was accepted under the New Covenant when he had eaten of the Paschal Lamb by faith and had immersed or buried his will into the divine will, before he ate of the symbolical Memorials (bread and wine), and before he had been symbolically buried with Christ into death in immersion. The same has been true of many since who did not at first, and others who, perhaps for lack of proper instruction, never discerned the relationship between the symbols and the facts.
The Passover and the Sabbath and Circumcision were so strictly enjoined that the man who did not observe them could not be reckoned a Jew; but many are recognized both by God and men as Christians, under the New Covenant, who do not properly appreciate either baptism or the Memorial supper.
Rather we would say that all the typical things of the past find antitypes under the New Covenant. The Passover lamb typified Christ slain as our ransom price; the eating of the lamb represents our faith-appropriation of Christ's righteousness, and was perpetuated as a type in the bread and wine Memorial. Circumcision typified our putting away the filth of the flesh [selfishness in every form] as new creatures; the Sabbath typified the rest of faith provided for all who come into New Covenant relationship with God. But the seal or mark of the New Covenant is on a wholly different plan: it is the possession of the spirit of Christ.
The manifestations of this holy spirit are three-fold. (1) Love supreme to God and joyful loyalty to his cause even at the cost of suffering. (2) Love of the brethren--unselfish, noble, pure,--a desire for their welfare which is always alert to do them good. (3) Love, sympathetic, for the world, prompting to good works, as opportunity may afford, and to a desire and effort always to live peaceably with all men. Necessarily the foregoing will imply development in patience, meekness, etc.
"If any man have not the spirit of Christ [in some degree, and progressively] he is none of his." His spirit is the bond of perfectness, the seal of the New Covenant.--EDITOR.]
DEAR BROTHER:--Last Sunday at our meeting we had a lesson from `Romans 12:1`, and among many thoughts brought out from such a prolific subject were some on the use we make of our consecrated time. I am engaged in the grocery business; but the condition of trade in general demands almost "eternal vigilance" at the present time.
The question which has presented itself to me many times is, Should I, as one of the consecrated, put forth such efforts to make and maintain custom as it is now necessary to do? I issue weekly price-lists, many times offering goods at less than cost for baits, and give away many more "gifts" with more profitable goods; not of preference to that sort of dealing, but because all my competitors are doing the same thing, and, to maintain my trade and living (as I am not wealthy), I am compelled to follow suit.
Another objectionable feature about that kind of method is that it squeezes my weaker brother in the same line of business. I am acquainted with many of them; some are widows striving to make an honest living by selling goods, but I am compelled to throw all my better feelings to the wind and "wade in," no matter whom it injures. This is a sad confession for one who is bidding for the position of assisting our Lord in the lifting of mankind out of the chasm of selfishness from which they must be saved in the age we believe to be so close at hand. I am not trying to get you to justify my actions in this matter, but desire your opinion as to the advisable course of God's professed children engaged in business during the present time, when it is a case of the big fish eating the smaller ones. Yours in Christ, __________.
[In reply: The conditions you name are common to nearly every form of business, and prevail throughout the civilized world increasingly. It is a part of the general "trouble" of our times. The increase of machine capacity and the increase of the human family, both contribute to reduce wages and make steady employment more precarious. More men seek to engage in business; and competition and small profits, while beneficial to the poor, are commercially killing the small store and high prices. In consequence small stores and small factories are giving way to larger ones which, by reason of better and more economical arrangements, permit better service and lower prices. Larger stocks of fresher goods at lower prices and with better service are to the general advantage of the public as compared with the old time little shops with stale goods, high prices and careless service; even though temporarily some poor widows or worthy ones may suffer through mental, physical or financial inability to keep up with the new order of things. And even these, if they can take a broad, benevolent view of the situation, may rejoice in the public welfare, even though it enforces an unfavorable change in their own affairs. They may rejoice with those that are benefited and wait patiently for the coming Kingdom which will make God's blessings more common than at present to all. But only those who have the "new nature" and its love can be expected to view things thus unselfishly. The present commercial competition is not, therefore, an unmixed evil. It is one of the great lessons being given to the world as a preparatory study before entering the great Millennial age, when the business of the world will be largely, if not wholly, on a socialistic footing--not for the wealth or advantage of the individual, but for the general welfare.
Meantime, however, the selfish competitive strain grows more galling continually to those possessed of noble, generous impulses, whether Christians or not. We are glad to note your own appreciation of the
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subject and your dissatisfaction.
Our advice is that you keep a sharp lookout, and, if you see some other branch of business less beset with competition and therefore more favorable, make a change. If not, or until you find a more favorable business or more favorable conditions, we advise that you continue where you are and modify your course to some extent; i.e., divide matters as evenly as you can between the three conflicting interests,--your own, your competitors' and your patrons' or neighbors' interests. If your business is meeting expenses and a reasonable profit, endeavor to keep it there, but do not push it in the endeavor to become "rich;" for "they that will [to] be rich fall into temptation and a snare." (`1 Tim. 6:9`.) We should avoid any dishonorable competition or meanness toward competitors, and any misrepresentations of goods to customers. Justice and honesty must be carefully guarded at any cost: then add all the "moderation" in favor of your competitor that love may suggest and circumstances permit.
We are not forgetting the injunction, "Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil" (`Exod. 23:2`), nor counselling the slightest compromise with injustice. Your question, we take it, is not whether you may do injustice, but whether love will permit you to do all that justice would not object to and that custom sanctions. The worldly heart does not scruple about such "trifles:" it is your "new nature," whose law is love, that would prefer to see your competitor prosper, and longs to do good unto all men as it has opportunity--especially to the household of faith. Cultivate this "new nature" by obeying its law of love in every way possible. "If it be possible, so much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men,"--dealing generously and according to love. He who is imbued with the spirit of love thinketh no evil toward his competitor, and seeketh not his own (welfare, merely) and would not rejoice in a competitor's failure.
The difficulty is that the whole world is running on the depraved basis of selfishness, which is quite incongruous to love. With some the plane is higher, and with some lower: some limit their selfishness to the line of justice, others descend in selfishness to injustice and dishonesty, and the tendency is always downward. The "New Creature" in Christ must never go below justice and honesty and must seek as much as possible to rise above this highest worldly standard toward perfect love. It is the fault of the present competitive system that the interests of the buyer and those of the seller are ever in conflict. No power can correct, control and alter all this except the one power that God has promised,--the Millennial Kingdom, which shall enforce the rule of love and liberate from the propensities and bonds of selfishness all who, when they see and know the better way, will accept of the help then to be provided.--EDITOR.]