ZWT - 1899 - R2411 thru R2552 / R2499 (177) - July 15, 1899
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VOL. XX. JULY 15, 1899. No. 14.
View from the Watch Tower.........................179
"The Powers of the Heavens
Shall be Shaken"............................179
Preparing a Substitute for the
Poem: Press toward the Mark.......................181
Questions and Answers.............................181
Daniel in the Den of Lions........................182
The New Heart.....................................186
The Vision of Dry Bones...........................190
Attendants at Indianapolis Convention
Should Secure Quarters......................178
SUBSCRIPTIONS AND BUSINESS COMMUNICATIONS
WATCH TOWER BIBLE & TRACT SOCIETY, "BIBLE HOUSE," 610, 612, 614 ARCH ST., ALLEGHENY, PA., U.S.A.
SUBSCRIPTION PRICE, $1.00 A YEAR IN ADVANCE. MONEY MAY BE SENT BY EXPRESS, N.Y. DRAFT, MONEY ORDER, OR REGISTERED. FROM FOREIGN COUNTRIES BY FOREIGN MONEY ORDERS, ONLY. SPECIAL TERMS TO THE LORD'S POOR, AS FOLLOWS:--
Those of the interested who, by reason of old age, or other infirmity or adversity, are unable to pay for the TOWER will be supplied FREE, if they send a Postal Card each December, stating their case and requesting the paper. We are not only willing, but anxious, that all such be on our list continually.
WILL YOU ATTEND THE INDIANAPOLIS CONVENTION?
SHOULD BE RECEIVED PROMPTLY TO SECURE ACCOMMODATIONS. THE CITY WILL BE CROWDED WITH EPWORTH LEAGUERS.
Arrangements are completed for a Convention of believers in the Second Coming of the Lord and the Plan of the Ages,--to be held at Indianapolis, Ind., July 21st to 23d, as follows:--
The Railroad fare will be one-half the usual, except from a few points which will add $2 to the one fare for round trip. All passenger trains run into Union Depot, which is about seven blocks distant from the meeting place of the Convention-- "Shover's Hall," on Market Street, between Alabama and New Jersey streets.
Accommodations--good and clean--have been arranged for, at the very reasonable rate of ninety-five cents per day, at "Barton's Hotel," No. 29 Virginia Ave. Such ZION'S WATCH TOWER readers as cannot afford even this modest sum, will be entertained free, by the Indianapolis friends, with great pleasure. Those who ride to the hotel can take any car leaving the Union depot and should ask for "transfer" when they pay their fare. A "Reception Committee" will meet all the friends at the Barton Hotel--except during convention hours, when it will be at Shover's Hall, as above mentioned.
The following program will be followed closely as practicable:
Friday, July 21st.--The opening "rally" will be at 10 A.M., conducted by Brother C. A. Owen--an opportunity for getting generally acquainted. At 3 P.M. the assembly will be addressed by the Editor of this Journal from the text--"Looking for the blessed hope, even the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ." (`Titus 2:13`.) At 7:30 P.M. an address on the Ages and Dispensations of the divine plan, illustrated by the Chart of the Ages, may be expected.
Saturday, July 22d.--Testimony Meeting at 8 A.M. Preaching at 10:30 A.M. by the Editor of this Journal: subject, "The Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus." (`Rom. 8:2`.) At 3 P.M. a discourse by Bro. M. L. McPhail--"Sanctify them through thy Truth." At 7:30 P.M. a Chart discourse by Bro. O. A. Koetitz.
Sunday, July 23d.--Testimony Meeting 8:30 A.M.; at 10:30 a discourse by Bro. M. L. Staples on "The Offence of the Cross;" at 3 P.M., "I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ," by the Editor; at 7:30 P.M., "Preserving the Unity of the Spirit in the bonds of peace"--several speakers.
All who love the Lord, trust in the precious blood and wait for his Kingdom, are cordially invited to attend this Convention which recognizes only the one Church and her one Lord, one faith and one baptism. All such will please address the WATCH TOWER SOCIETY as soon as they know definitely that they will attend, stating in few words who will be of their party, and whether or not they will stop at the hotel.
An opportunity will be afforded for symbolizing baptism.
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VIEWS FROM THE WATCH TOWER.
"THE POWERS of the heavens shall be shaken," said our Lord: and all whose eyes are open can see the great shaking now in progress in the symbolic ecclesiastical "heavens" of the present time. How its stars are falling!*
Rev. Burt Estes Howard, formerly of the First Presbyterian Church of Cleveland, Ohio, but latterly of the First Presbyterian Church of Los Angeles, Cal., and now resigned with the intention of becoming a professor at Stanford University (the richest university in the world), declares his present position of disbelief as follows:--
"Do I believe in the inspiration of the Bible, in the resurrection of Jesus, and in the virginity of Mary? No, I cannot say that I do.
"My ideas have changed regarding nearly all of the generally accepted religious tenets. My beliefs have not changed suddenly, but in the slow course of the last half dozen years. Simple faith in the Scriptures has given way to an irresistible belief in what is called higher criticism in religious thought.
"I believe that Christ was born of woman, like the rest of us.
"But I regard these matters as non-essential. The necessity of believing them is not apparent to me. I know there are many honest preachers who think they believe these dogmas.
"The old Testament is largely an historical work. There can be no question as to the Bible's power for elevating and uplifting humanity. But one does not have necessarily to believe in the miracles to feel and profit by this power.
"My whole aim in preaching has been to stimulate my people to the truest practical life. The good life is not necessarily the religious life."
SECULAR JOURNALS TO THE RESCUE.
As there were Gentiles who exhibited great faith in our Lord at his first advent, while the scribes and Pharisees and Doctors of the Jews disbelieved and scoffed, so now it is gratifying to note the zeal of a few secular journals in the defense of the Bible, while so many of the professed ministers of the Gospel are repudiating it. Discussing the trend of the high ones in the church nominal, toward infidelity,--called "higher criticism," evolution, etc.,--The Atlanta Constitution says:--
"The manifestations of unbelief in the pulpit have become so frequent and so notorious that a well-conducted newspaper cannot fail to take note, if only as a part of the phenomena of the time. Those of our readers who have access only to a few of the newspapers of the day would be astonished if we had room in these columns to present even one-half of the manifestations of unbelief that have become visible as the result of the encouragement and support which Dr. Briggs and his views have received.
"Already various pulpit imitators of Dr. Briggs are boldly avowing the conclusions to which the higher criticism leads. For instance, here is a professor in the Chicago Theological Seminary declaring that it is not necessary for Christians to believe in the miraculous birth of Christ; that such belief is not necessarily a part of the Christian creed. This professor takes the ground that the statements of the apostles on this matter are not revelations at all. Commenting on the Savior's words in the `seventeenth chapter of John`, this Chicago professor of theology calmly remarks:-- 'This is scarcely the utterance of one who was conscious of being the Messiah sent from God, but the preexistence which is involved is ideal.'
"We need not say that The Constitution prints this shameful, scandalous and blasphemous statement, not to horrify decent men and women, but to show how accurate were its predictions with respect to the
*MILLENNIAL DAWN, VOL. IV., Chap. 12.
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purport and tendency of the higher criticism. Its whole aim is to tear down and undo, to uproot and destroy, the faith that has served the purposes of Christendom for nearly nineteen hundred years. Since we have quoted the sacrilegious teachings of a professor in the Chicago Theological Seminary, we cannot do better than to quote the remarks of Dr. Adams, editor of The Advance. 'The Congregationalists may put up with loose views on the atonement, but you may rest assured [he was talking to a reporter] that they will never endure a man who denies the miraculous birth and the preexistence in heaven of Jesus Christ.'
"Apparently these are the words of an indignant man, and yet how far is the journey from 'loose views on the atonement' to a denial of the miraculous birth and the preexistence of the Savior?
"The pretentiousness of the higher criticism could not be more powerfully set forth than its claim to be 'scientific.' No word in our English vocabulary has come to have a cheaper or a more insignificant meaning. It has been tossed to and fro between theorists and cranks until its primary significance has been lost and it stands for any wild or absurd conclusion that the disordered mind of man is capable of conceiving.
"Let it be understood that there is no objection anywhere to earnest and orderly investigations into the history and evolution of the books of the Bible. So long as such investigations are set on foot by men well enough equipped for the purpose and are not undertaken for the purpose of proving a theory already conceived, they are well enough. Let it be understood, also, that there is no claim among Christians anywhere that the translations of the Bible are free from error, or that the letterpress is inerrant; these are the work of man, and man's work is necessarily defective at some point or other.
"The claim that is made, and the claim that The Constitution upholds, is that the books of the Bible, of the Old as well as the New Testament, are divinely inspired; that to prove one or a dozen to be myths or fables is to tear down the whole scheme of salvation; and that the promise and the fulfilment are so intimately connected in the scheme of salvation that to prove one false is to prove the other a fraud. This is shown by comparing the conclusions of Dr. Briggs with the declarations of Dr. George H. Gilbert, the theological professor at Chicago. Dr. Briggs says that the Bible is made up of myths, fables, fairy tales, poems and fictitious narratives. The Chicago man is sure that the world is to be saved, if saved at all, by an Eastern philosopher who was not a Messiah but a gifted idealist. This is the logical conclusion of Briggism, and this is why Robert Ingersoll regards Briggs as a modern hero.
"Dr. Briggs and those who are hurrying his doctrines to their logical conclusions have nothing to offer in the place of the Bible they are destroying; no hope to hold out to those whose faith they are trying to undermine. In place of our Lord and Savior of whom the prophets tell, and to whom the apostles bear witness, they do not even offer us Mahomet, nor Brahma, nor Confucius. What then? Why, so far as the higher criticism is concerned, we have no choice but between Robert Ingersoll and the devil!"
WHAT LEARNED COLLEGE PROFESSORS ARE PREPARING
AS A SUBSTITUTE FOR THE BIBLE.
While Satan's arts are beguiling some from faith in the Bible, he realizes the need of a substitute, and is rapidly pushing forward his "seducing spirits and doctrines of devils." (`1 Tim. 4:1`.) Theosophy, Christian Science (falsely so-called) and Spiritism are being advanced and exploited in various ways, through influential channels. Recently the New York and Boston journals of largest circulation have printed columns of matter, profusely illustrated, detailing the tests applied to Spiritism by Prof. Hodgson, representative of the English Society for Psychical research, Prof. James Hyslop of Columbia College, and Prof. James of Harvard College. We extract as follows:--
"NOTED SCIENTIST OF COLUMBIA SAYS HE COULD NOT HAVE BEEN DECEIVED. "HIS PROOF OF IMMORTALITY.
"'I have had in all seventeen sittings with Mrs. Piper,' said Dr. Hyslop. 'She had no possible means of knowing who I am. In not a single incident did she tell me facts connected only with my own memory. They were common as well with the memory of persons now dead.
"'Now that this was not fraud is proved by this statement of Prof. James, of Harvard, in the Psychological Review: "Dr. Hodgson considers that the hypothesis of fraud cannot be seriously entertained." I agree with him throroughly and absolutely.'
"WILL TELL ALL IN A YEAR.
"'I shall be ready to lay my case completely before the world in just about a year. By that time I hope to organize a body of scientific men to examine my facts, and to get enough money to endow a fund to break down the frauds bound to spring up.'
"Prof. Hyslop is generally regarded by his associates in the faculty at Columbia as a sound-minded, painstaking and an especially keen scientific man.
"BUTLER'S FAITH IN HYSLOP.
"Prof. Nicholas Murray Butler, Dean of the Faculty of Philosophy and an expert psychologist, yesterday expressed the greatest confidence in Prof. Hyslop.
"'The fact,' said he, 'that he has gone at the matter in the most extreme spirit of skepticism, and is supported in his research by such men as Dr. James, of Harvard, and Dr. Hodgson, of Boston, leads me to believe that he would not make any statement not well
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grounded on scientific facts.
"'The field he has investigated is one that cannot be ignored. These occurrences need explanation, and that is what Dr. Hyslop is doing for them.'
"Dr. Franz, an assistant in the Department of Psychology, also asserted the trustworthiness of Prof. Hyslop's opinions."
Alas! poor Babylon, her lords and her teachers, in whom she has trusted, are leading on to the ditch of Infidelity, and fulfilling our Lord's prediction,--
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"When the Son of Man cometh, shall he find the faith on the earth?" He will evidently find only a "little flock" walking in the light of his Word.
How opportune seems the booklet--What say the Scriptures about Spiritualism?* All friends of the truth should have some of these on hand to loan--as helping hands to assist our "brethren" to escape this snare of the Adversary.
*Supplied at fifty cents per doz.; 10 cents each.
PRESS TOWARD THE MARK!
"Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before."--`Phil. 3:13`.
Tho disappointments, keenly felt,
Have traced care on thy brow;
Tho hopes have perished that have caused
Thy heart in grief to bow;
Tho friends have failed thee whom thou loved,
And foes with wicked dart
Have drawn the cruel bow of scorn
To pierce thy breaking heart:
Be vigilant, be strong, be true,
And quit thee like a man;
Be diligent God's will to know--
Submissive to his plan;
Heed not the counseling of men,
E'en tho in love 'tis given.
(Shortsighted it is apt to be,
And lead thee far from Heaven.)
But ready be to follow Christ,
Wherever he may lead;
To voice of stranger hearken not,
But to his voice give heed.
Through evil or through good report
Undaunted follow on;
Your feet will never find a path,
But there your Lord has gone.
And what if men may look askance
And sneer and laugh and scorn?
You'll never feel a pang of pain,
But that your Lord has borne;
The trials of this present life
Are not to be compared
To glory we shall share with him,
Whose sufferings we have shared.
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QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS.
QUESTION. Please give for the benefit of others as well as myself brief explanations of the following Scriptures:--`Matt. 10:10`; `1 Cor. 9:7-14`; `1 Thes. 2:6`; `Gal. 6:6`; `2 Thes. 3:8-10`.
Answer. We reply to your questions as follows:
`Matt. 10:10`.--This instruction was to the twelve apostles sent forth to announce the Kingdom. It was not a general instruction for all time, but particular to the occasion. It is not applicable to the present time. The object in sending them forth in this dependent manner was largely at least to teach the apostles the lesson of the Lord's full ability to care for them under all circumstances and conditions, and they learned the lesson. Subsequently the apostles acted very differently; the Apostle Paul, for instance, making tents, etc., and their change of course was under the Lord's direction.--See `Luke 22:35,36`.
`1 Cor. 9:7-18`.--We understand the Apostle here to teach that it is the privilege of the Church to support those who are giving their entire time to the ministry of the Gospel, as was the Apostle Paul, and as some are doing now. But this does not seem to us to imply that all the elders in all the churches were supported without doing any manual labor themselves. So far as we have any knowledge of the matter, the elders generally, as the Apostle expresses it, took the oversight of the local congregations, not for filthy lucre's sake, but of a ready mind--of a desire to serve the flock.--`1 Pet. 5:2`.
The Apostle's case, and that of others who did a like service, was different, and yet he did not demand support, and if it was not voluntarily rendered, he made tents, or otherwise labored with his hands, understanding that to be the will of God concerning his course--that he should not make request for support or any carnal things. This he explains in the very verses under consideration.--See `vss. 15-18`.
It would seem to be a feature of the divine law that whoever has received a spiritual blessing must make some sacrifice of an earthly kind, and thus show his appreciation of the spiritual favor received of the Lord, if he would grow in grace, knowledge and love. While therefore we deprecate everything akin to money-begging, and carefully avoid it in our columns, we do believe most sincerely that those who will receive the greatest blessing at the Lord's hands are those who are using their means in the spread of the truth--to the extent of their ability, if that be only two mites, as in the case of the poor widow. The salvation purchased at the high cost of our dear Redeemer's life is offered free, and the Lord refuses to permit any to pay for it, but he does not refuse to permit us to testify our love and appreciation of his grace by little self-denials. On the contrary, he appreciates these, and causes his face to shine and his spiritual blessings to fall upon those who take delight in devoting themselves
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and their substance to his service and the service of his cause, the service of his people. On the contrary, those who have never learned the blessedness of giving are informed that "The Lord loveth a cheerful giver:" and those who have not the love which leads them to respond with gratitude have not the condition of heart which the Lord loves, will not grow in grace and, because of the cultivation of the spirit of selfishness, instead of the spirit of benevolence, such are apt to grow cold, indifferent, and to fail to make their calling and election sure. "The liberal soul shall be made fat."--`Prov. 11:25`.
`1 Thes. 2:6`.--This is in harmony with the foregoing. In justice the Apostle might have said to those to whom he had brought the glad tidings:--You owe to me, as the servant of God, more than you will ever be able to pay in the present life, and it is as little as you can do to care for my temporal necessities to the extent of your ability. But the Gospel message is not given along the lines of justice, but along the lines of love and compassion, and hence the Apostle was careful not to mention these things when with the Church (tho after he had gone from them he thought it his duty to write as we have seen, to the Church at Corinth, setting forth the facts). When with the Lord's people he neither coveted their silver and gold, nor asked for it or their praise, but was gentle and loving, "even as a nurse cherisheth her children: being so affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us, for ye remember, brethren, our labor and travail; for laboring night and day, because we would not be chargeable to any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God."--`Vss. 7-9`.
`Gal. 6:6`.--This injunction, "Let him that is taught in the Word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things," might properly be understood to mean that the taught were to support the teachers; and yet just as reasonably we might understand it to mean that those receiving instruction should not fear to communicate to the better instructed teaching-brother any thought that they might have respecting the Lord's word of grace. Nothing in the connection would seem to imply of necessity that it meant to communicate in carnal things: the good things with equal propriety might be considered good spiritual things. However, even if it were clear that this referred to temporal good things, we are to bear in mind that the Apostle did not impress this upon the Church on his own behalf, for he was not with them at this time. Very evidently he never spoke in such a strain when with the Church, and when his words might be understood to mean a personal appeal for money, for charity, for support.
`2 Thes. 3:8-10`.--"Neither did we eat any man's bread for naught; but wrought with labor and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you; not because we have not power [authority, as the appointed apostles of the Lord, to demand support], but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us. For even when we were with you this we commanded you, that if any should not work, neither should he eat."
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It would appear from this that it was never the Apostle's thought, nor the meaning of any of the types or instructions of the Word of God, that a clergy class should be created or should create itself, and abstain from work and insist upon being supported in comparative idleness. Any such interpretation would evidently be contrary to the example of the Apostle, as above stated.
It may be sometimes difficult to draw the line on questions of this kind, which have two sides. The only safe way is to seek the mind of the Lord, and on the one hand to cultivate generosity and restrain selfishness, and on the other hand to give needed assistance to ministers of the truth, without doing anything to encourage them in idleness, which is a foe both to truth and to grace.
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DANIEL IN THE DEN OF LIONS.
JULY 30.--`DAN. 6:10-23`.
"The Lord is thy keeper."--`Psa. 121:5`.
NOTHING gives us a higher opinion of the kings of ancient times, their willingness to recognize character and merit wherever it might be found, than does the record furnished in the Book of Daniel. If we were surprised at Nebuchadnezzar's impartial treatment of his captives, in the selection of Daniel and his companions, and their education and advancement in the kingdom; if we were surprised that the king so greatly honored Daniel for the interpretation of a dream; if we were surprised that, when convinced that Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego were servants of the true God, Nebuchanezzar gave them still higher positions in the empire; and if we were surprised that Belshazzar took no offence at Daniel's interpretation of the writing on the wall, but highly honored and rewarded him for his faithful, plain, outspoken words, --we are still more surprised to find that King Darius of the Medes and Persians, so far from destroying all the rulers of Babylon, including Daniel, apparently spared all except the king alive, and gave Daniel a
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very high position in the empire. We may reasonably assume that, altho God's providence was in the matter of Daniel's preferment, nevertheless there was some creditable generosity in those heathen kings, as well as some natural ability and good quality manifested by the Prophet Daniel.
As one of the three presidents of the empire, and having charge over a hundred and twenty of its provinces, Daniel stood in the way of many who sought office, and, as a man of unimpeachable character, no doubt he stood in the way of many schemes for the plundering of the treasury; for such public plundering and dishonesty, said to be very general throughout Eastern countries to-day, was probably so then to a large extent. For these selfish reasons, Daniel was sure to have a host of secret enemies, who sought his downfall. From the narrative we might suppose that these enemies, many of whom would be prominent in official life, had watched in vain to find any real cause of complaint, and that they finally concluded that, if fault would be found at all, it must be on account of his religion.
How this reminds us of the Apostle's testimony, "All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution," and again, our Lord's words, "If ye were of the world, the world would love his own, but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you!" (`2 Tim. 3:12`; `John 15:19`.) Even where there are no selfish motives to impel the persecution, there is ever present the distinction between "light" and "darkness:" and the fact noticed by all is mentioned by our Lord,--that all who are themselves of the darkness hate the light and all who walk in the light. (`John 3:19-21`.) Some one has truly said, "Whosoever does well and is faithful and true, while others are dishonest and false, must expect to be opposed and hated. Every effort will be made to injure his character, to drag him into the mire, and to make it appear that he is no better than those who assail him. Envy is sharper than a serpent's tooth, and deadlier than the poison of asps."
Shakespeare has truly said:--
"Be thou as chaste as ice, as pure as snow,
Thou shalt not escape calumny."
"That thou art blamed shall not be thy defect;
For slander's mark was ever yet the fair;
So thou be good, slander doth yet approve
Thy worth the greater."
Sometimes we speak of the snares that are laid for the feet of God's servants as fixed by Satan, their great Adversary, and this may be so, at least by supervision, and yet apparently there are some so fully imbued with the spirit of their "father, the devil," that his nefarious schemes and plots seem to come quite naturally to them. And thus it was with Daniel's enemies, who sought his ruin. Very skilfully they counseled with the king respecting the necessity that the people should recognize him as a god, and urged this as essential to the enforcement of obedience to the king's commands amongst his new subjects. The theory of the empire was that the king's person was specially possessed by Ormuzd, the deity of the empire, that his word was therefore representatively the word of that god, and that therefore all of his decrees were infallible and inviolable, even by himself. Taking advantage of this law of the Medes and Persians, that no decree could be altered or abrogated, these plotters succeeded in having the king set apart thirty days in which it should be a crime to offer a petition or worship to any other person or god save to Darius himself.
We are not to suppose that the king had so false an idea of his own personal consequence, nor that these his officers entertained the view that he was an infallible god: rather, it was a matter which they suggested as a piece of statecraft, a fraud upon the people, justified, in their perverted judgments, by the greater peace and security from the prevalence of such a superstitious reverence for the king and his laws. The false reasoning was of the Jesuitical sort, which says, An evil or a falsehood is justified if beneficial results are hoped for;--the same false principle which operates in the minds of many intelligent preachers who, while thoroughly disbelieving in the doctrine of eternal torment themselves, countenance and encourage, or at least do not discourage, a belief in the falsehood on the part of their hearers; hoping that the prevalent superstition on the subject may prove a restraint upon the masses.
Having obtained the king's signature to the new law, the conspirators exulted in the thought that Daniel at last was in their grasp, and already practically destroyed. They seem to have known the man's character so well as not to doubt that he would be faithful to his religious convictions, and thus furnish them all the opportunity desired for his apprehension. And it was so. After the matter was proclaimed as law, as having had the king's signet, Daniel worshiped as before, kneeling three times a day before the Lord in prayer, thanksgiving and supplication--with his windows open toward Jerusalem, his expectations bright with hope in the Lord's promises, and especially with the thought that now the seventy years of Jerusalem's desolation were about fulfilled, and that very soon Cyrus, according to the prophecy, would become king, and send back the covenanted people to the land of promise.
We are not informed why Daniel had adopted a
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habit of private worship in so public a manner as to be generally known to the people--a manner so different from that which the Lord commended to the household of faith of this Gospel age, saying, "When thou prayest, enter into thy closet [secret apartment], and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to the Father which is in secret." (`Matt. 6:6`.) Quite probably the custom of Babylon was such as to make Daniel's more open course the reasonable and proper one. Possibly all worship was more or less public or visible, and for Daniel to have worshiped in secret might have been misunderstood to mean that he did not worship at all; while to worship as he did, not before an idol, but with his face toward Jerusalem, the typical city of God, the great King, and its Temple, the typical habitation of God, the great King, would be his standing confession of God before the various nationalities of Babylon, including his own people, the Jews, who would need just such an illustration of faithfulness to the true God and separation from idolatry.
Daniel was not satisfied to merely close his eyes in prayer after he had retired to rest, as do many people living under the greater light of this Gospel age, and under greater privileges and opportunities and grander promises. He had a great God who was worthy of reverence and worship, and he was great enough as a man to appreciate that it was a privilege to have intercourse and fellowship with his Creator. He was not only not ashamed to bow the knee to the Almighty, but was unwilling to assume a less humble position before God than he and others assumed toward earthly kings. Our judgment is that it is impossible for any Christian to maintain a proper consistent walk in life, and to build up such a character and faith structure as are represented by the Apostle as composed of "gold, silver and precious stones," without prayer;--more than this, without regularity in prayer;--we would almost be inclined to say, without kneeling in prayer: and we believe that the experiences
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and testimonies of the truest and best of the Lord's people who have ever lived will corroborate this.
One of the points of the Adversary's attack, surest to have a baneful influence, is along this line. When the Lord's people become overcharged with the cares of this life, instead of realizing their danger and seeking the help of the Lord to order the affairs of life differently, the suggestion comes that they are too weary to pray, or that another time will be more favorable: or perhaps they are so fully engrossed that reverence and acknowledgment to the Lord, from whom cometh every good and perfect gift, is entirely forgotten: or perhaps sin lieth at the door, and they seek not to think of the Lord, and therefore avoid the throne of grace: or perhaps coldness has come in from some other cause, and the Lord seems afar off, and prayer becomes a mere formality and is by and by abandoned. The child of God who is in a proper condition of heart-harmony will desire to commune with his Creator,--not only to hear his Word, but also to offer thanksgiving and worship; as surely as he will desire natural food and drink for the sustenance of his natural body. Whoever has not this experience should seek it; and, according to our Lord's promise, he that seeketh findeth, and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
According to a preconcerted arrangement, the conspirators assembled themselves at the proper time to be witnesses of Daniel's devotion to the true God, and then proceeded to the king to announce that the first one to disobey his decree, and therefore to come under its punishment, was the aged, honored and trusted President of a hundred and twenty provinces of the empire, Daniel. The king was sorely displeased with himself: evidently he had not thought of Daniel, and of the possibility of such results following his decree. He had been advised to make it, it had seemed to flatter him, he had yielded to the urgent representations of the supposedly well-intentioned and wise men; and now he discerned that he had been deliberately led into a trap for the very purpose of destroying his most valued counselor, of whom, evidently, he had not thought to ask advice before signing the decree.
The king sought every possible way to make void the decree or to excuse Daniel from its penalty; but the conspirators were close at hand with arguments to prove that such a course would be contrary to the usages of the nation, would mean the undermining of the authority of the king and the loss of confidence in his decrees by the people; and he found no escape from his dilemma: his counselors even seemed to threaten the stability of his throne themselves, assuring him that "no decree may be changed." Finally the king commanded that Daniel be brought and cast into the den of lions; expressing to Daniel, however, the hope, "May thy God, whom thou servest continually, deliver thee." The exemplary conduct of Daniel, previously and at this time, had its effect upon the king, as expressed by the word, "continually." He had confidence that God was with Daniel, and that the God whom Daniel so sincerely worshiped and so intelligently trusted, must be more powerful than all other gods. Such should be the lesson of every Christian life, one which would testify not only to his own character and faithfulness to God, but one also which would testify to the good character and faithfulness of the God whom he worships.
The conspirators were bent on having matters
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thoroughly accomplished, and hence the stone (which covered the den and was probably fastened to its place with an iron bar) was doubly sealed with wax, to prove that it was not tampered with--one seal was the king's the other that of the lords of the empire, who were amongst the conspirators, so that there might be no subsequent alteration of the conditions or delivery of Daniel during the night. If the lions were not very hungry at the moment Daniel was first cast in, it was reckoned that they would certainly become so before morning. How the hearts of these evil men longed for the death of a good man, who had done them no injury--except as his life may have been a living epistle, contradictory to theirs, or as he may have thwarted some of their efforts to do evil!
It is very much to the king's honor that we read that he was so troubled in mind that he could not sleep, but spent the night fasting, and very early in the morning made haste to the den to see whether or not Daniel's God had delivered him. So amongst the friends and neighbors of a true Christian are some who know and appreciate God only as they know and appreciate the Christian character.
The king's words, as he approached the den, were a wonderful tribute to Daniel's faithfulness as a servant of God. "Is thy God whom thou servest continually able to deliver thee from the lions?" The king here associated, and that properly, Daniel's faithful service to God with his hope respecting God's faithfulness to Daniel. And this reminds us of the words of the Apostle (`1 John 3:22`), "And whatsoever we ask we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight."--Compare `John 8:29`.
The heart of Darius was glad as he heard Daniel's voice saluting him, assuring him of his safety; and he at once caused him to be delivered from the den. Daniel expressed one reason for the Lord's deliverance, in the words, "Before him innocency was found in me--as also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt." We note the fact that haughtiness and bravado are wholly lacking in the prophet's announcement of the great favor of God manifested on his behalf. There is a lesson here which many of the Lord's people need to learn; namely, that, having done their part, they are not to boast of it, nor to parade their sanctity, nor to speak exultingly of the results, as tho they were of their own achievement, but are simply, like Daniel, to give the glory to God.
The expression, "God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions' mouths," need not be understood literally to signify that an angel was personally present and literally prevented the lions from opening their mouths; for tho such a course would be entirely possible, we are to understand the term, angel, in a general way to signify any power or agency which God might employ, and the expression, "shutting of the lions' mouths," would simply signify that they had been restrained from doing violence to Daniel. Nor would we question that an angel of the Lord could have been with Daniel, and kept him company in the den, if such were the will of God; but the presence or absence of an angel was not essential to the divine protection granted.
Not many of the Lord's people are cast into dens of literal lions, and yet at times quite a good many of them have had experiences which strongly resemble this--as for instance, the Apostle Paul, in recounting his experiences, mentions perils of waters, perils of robbers, perils by his own countrymen, perils by the heathen, perils in the city, perils in the wilderness, perils in the sea, and caps the climax in the specification of "perils amongst false brethren." (`2 Cor. 11:26`.) It is possible for human mouths to do us more harm than the mouths of brute beasts; the Apostle James points this out when he says: "Behold, how small a fire enkindles a great forest! And the tongue is a fire in the world of unrighteousness. The tongue is established among our members as the one which defiles the whole body and sets on fire the course of life, and it is enkindled of Gehenna; for every species, both of wild beasts and of birds and of reptiles and of sea-creatures, is tamable and has been tamed by the human race; but the tongue of men no man is able to subdue. It is an irrestrainable evil, full of death-producing poison."--`James 3:6-8`.
As God's providence was over Daniel, permitting him to come under the power of natural wild beasts, and making this a test of his fidelity to God and to principles of righteousness, so the Lord's providence sometimes permits his faithful ones to be exposed to the venom and malice and hate and misrepresentation and slander of human tongues, far more vicious and far more terrible every way than the wild beasts of the jungle, which can harm but for a moment. Nevertheless, as the Lord was able to deliver Daniel, he is not less able to send his angel (his providences) to shut the mouths of those who would do injury to his people. They may gnash upon them with their teeth, as the lions may have been permitted to do to Daniel, to test his faith in the Lord; yet we are to remember that all things are subject to him with whom we have to do, and whose service we have entered through vows of consecration.
In some instances it may please the Lord to grant a wonderful deliverance, as in the case of Daniel, while in other instances the providential dealings may result otherwise, as for instance in Stephen's case: his plain
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but kind statement of the truth to his Jewish brethren "cut them to the heart," and "they gnashed on him with their teeth, and cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord and cast him out of the city, and stoned him....And he kneeled down and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge." But even in such a case the victory was with the Lord's servant, of whom we read, "But he, being full of the holy spirit, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God." And the record further is that Stephen, in the midst of such persecution, had the peace of God which passeth all understanding, to such an extent that his face was "as the face of an angel"--serene, calm, unperturbed. --`Acts 6:15`; `7:54-60`.
The Scriptural record is that after Daniel's deliverance King Darius caused all the conspirators to be cast into the den of lions, and that thus they were all destroyed. Josephus adds something from tradition,
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to the effect that, when Daniel was delivered the conspirators claimed that his preservation was due to the fact that some one had fed the lions before he was cast into the den, and that the king undertook to demonstrate the matter by having the lions liberally fed, and then casting into the den those who had conspired against Daniel, who were speedily devoured.
This reminds us of how Haman was hanged upon the very gallows he had prepared for Mordecai. The Psalmist seems to speak of it as a principle associated with the divine government, that those who dig pits for others are likely to fall therein themselves. (`Psa. 7:15,16`; `9:15,16`.) And who has not observed that those who gnash upon others with the tongue of scandal and falsehood, envy and malice, are likely in the end to be injured by the very falsehood and bitter words wherewith they seek to injure others? There is a law of retribution at work, in accordance with which a recompense of evil is dealt out to all evil-doers, either in the present life or in the life to come.
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THE NEW HEART.
AUG. 6.--`EZEK. 36:25-36`.
"A new heart also will I give you."
EZEKIEL wrote the words of our lesson in Babylon. They are not to be esteemed as merely the exhortations of a preacher, altho they do partake of this quality: they are more than this--a prophecy by the Lord respecting his future favors toward Israel. The context preceding reviews Israel's situation--the people in a foreign land, and their own Land of Promise a desolate wilderness because of their sinful neglect of their great King Jehovah, and of their covenant promises as his adopted people. While the Prophet's words declare a future recovery, not only as possible, but as sure to be accomplished, they nevertheless indicate certain changed conditions as necessary to such a recovery: it would not only be necessary for them to abandon idolatry, but they must obtain a new heart, a new mind, a new disposition, favorable to God and righteousness, ere such an abandonment of idolatry and sin would be permanent.
The Prophet does not here declare the time at which this new heart would be given to the people. He merely points out to them the necessity for such a new heart and the blessings of the Lord that would result from such a harmony with him; and tells them, "I will yet for this be inquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them."--`Vs. 37`.
As a matter of fact, this new condition of heart was not attained by Israel on their release by Cyrus from the captivity in Babylon. Altho only a limited number, who had a respect for God and who trusted in the promises made to the fathers, had sufficient interest in the Holy Land to avail themselves of the proclamation made by Cyrus and to return to Palestine, and altho we might say that by means of this captivity the Lord had sifted out of Israel the idolatrous and unfaithful majority, we still cannot say that those who returned with Ezra and Nehemiah enjoyed the new heart condition which the Lord stipulated through the Prophet was essential to a full reception of his favor.
While, so far as we know, gross forms of idolatry never prevailed in Israel after the return from captivity in Babylon, we nevertheless know that the more refined forms of idolatry continually existed amongst them, as amongst other civilized nations who do not bow to wood and stone, gold and silver--an idolatry of wealth, an idolatry of self, an idolatry of Judaism, prevailed amongst them, and they never attained the condition specified in this lesson. They did not get the new heart and right spirit; they did not get rid of the stony heart; they did not walk in the Lord's statutes and judgments, nor do them; they did not dwell in the land, but were cast out of it because of the stony character of their hearts, in the rejection and crucifixion of Messiah; and they who were called God's people were cast off, and are not called his people now; and they have not been prospered, but have been in fiery trials in the midst of their enemies, scattered amongst all nations from then until the present time. Nor have they yet loathed themselves, their iniquities and their abominations, nor been ashamed and confounded; nor is the desolate land tilled, and as the garden of Eden. Quite the contrary of all this is the truth.
What shall we say, then? Was Ezekiel a false
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Prophet, or has God failed of accomplishing his good purposes toward Israel because of the weakness of their flesh and the hardness of their hearts? God forbid! On the contrary, we are to understand that the prophecy of this lesson belongs to a future time--to the Millennial Day; and that whatever signs there are at the present time of the return of divine favor toward fleshly Israel and toward the Land of Promise are evidences that the time for the fulfilment of this prophecy is near at hand.
In corroboration of this position we cite `Romans 11:25-32`. Here the Apostle Paul shows that Israel after the flesh, not having zealously inquired for the new heart and the right spirit, not having sought it of the Lord, was unprepared in heart to receive Messiah, and instead with wicked hands crucified him. The Apostle shows us that, as a result, only a remnant was gathered out of Israel to be of the "bride" class, and that the nation as a whole stumbled into blindness, darkness, for a time determined of the Father--until the election to the "bride" class should be completed from among the Gentiles. Then, the Apostle assures us, Israel's blindness shall be turned away; they shall all be saved from that blindness. "For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins."
It is this covenant of the Lord to Israel to take away their sins and to give them new hearts and right dispositions that is referred to in our lesson, and we look for the fulfilment with longing anticipation--realizing, as the Apostle points out, that Israel's recovery from blindness will mean nothing less than life from the dead; for if that nation, after crucifying Messiah, and being blind to the fulfilment of the prophecies made to their fathers, shall finally be awakened to see the Lord, and look upon him whom they have pierced, and shall have the spirit of prayer and of supplication poured upon them by the Lord's providential dealing, it will be a miracle similar to the causing of a dead person to live. And if God's mercy will thus be extended toward those who sinned most egregiously, and who crucified his Son, it will mean also the extending of divine mercy to all the families of the earth, according to the statement of the various promises.
More than this, the fulfilment of God's promise mentioned by the Apostle, "So all Israel shall be saved [recovered from blindness]" will not mean merely a figurative awakening of the dead: it will mean also a literal awakening of the dead; because many of "all Israel," millions of them, have gone down into actual death, and before they could be made the recipients of the favors of this promise, they must be awakened from the sleep of death. And likewise also the promises to the remainder of mankind are similarly brought before the eye of faith by such faithfulness toward Israel; for instance, the promise that all the families of the earth shall be blessed through the Seed of Abraham must include not only those who will be living at the time of Messiah's second advent and the establishment of his Millennial Kingdom, but must include also all that are in the graves, "who shall hear the voice of the Son of Man and come forth" to a trial for life, secured by the great ransom sacrifice.
The sprinkling of clean water would seem to signify the application of the truth: and this perhaps had some fulfilment in those who returned from the Babylonian captivity--it was the truth, the influence of the promises made to the fathers, that affected the hearts of those who were disposed to return--in all only a remnant of fifty-five thousand out of seven millions. The influence of these promises served to separate them from their previous filthiness of idolatry. Had they earnestly gone forward seeking to realize the lengths and breadths of the divine will, they might have been ready in due time, at the first advent of our Lord, to have received the new heart; but they did not do so, hence that feature of the promise (not failing on account of their failure) carries forward more than eighteen hundred years, and becomes applicable at the second advent. Meantime a new nation, a holy nation, a royal priesthood, a peculiar people, is sought and found by the Lord to be the spiritual Seed of Abraham and to obtain the greatest blessings--the heavenly.--`Rom. 9:30-33`; `11:26-32`.
But we will look down into the future and see what the fulfilment of this prophecy will mean to fleshly Israel, to whom it was made, and to whom it still pertains, because, as the Apostle declares, the gifts and callings of God are things of which he does not repent.
We are not to understand that the removal of the stony heart and the giving of the new heart of flesh will be an instantaneous work or a miraculous work. The Apostle explains the method by which the Lord will do this great thing for Israel, saying, "The deliverer shall come out of Zion [the Church of this Gospel age] and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob; for
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this is my covenant with them [Jacob, fleshly Israel]." God has appointed a day for thus blessing Israel and ultimately blessing all the families of the earth--it is a thousand-year day, the Millennial day, but in it Israel's opportunity will come first. Israel is probably as much, and probably no more, affected with the stony heart condition than other nations. A hard or stony heart represents a selfish condition of mind and sentiment. This hardening process is a result of the fall, and through heredity and practice affects all of Adam's posterity. The stony heart condition is one of self-will as opposed to divine will; of self-gratification as opposed to righteousness; a love of self which hinders the
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love of God with all the heart, mind, soul and strength, and a love of the neighbor as oneself. The stony heart condition means "me," "my," "mine," "right if I can, wrong if I must."
The breaking up of this stony heart condition, other Scriptures show us, will be accomplished to a considerable degree by the trouble (political, ecclesiastical, financial and social) which will come upon the whole world in the "day of wrath," which is just before us; and this is particularly emphasized in the Scriptures as also being "the day of Jacob's trouble,-- but he shall be saved out of it." (`Jer. 30:7`.) All men will come to appreciate better than they now do or ever have done in the past that the law of selfishness under which the whole world has been operating for this long time is an unjust law, and one which must ultimately work injury to all. Indeed, the great time of trouble will itself be the grand display of the ultimate tendencies of selfishness with all the brakes and restraints removed. It will speedily work the utter wreck of the highest development of human civilization. Apparently, natural Israel will be the first amongst the nations who will pass through this experience to learn the lesson, and to begin to seek after the new heart, renewed in righteousness and true submission to divine instruction.
The breaking of the stony hearts will come through the afflictions of the "day of wrath," but the transformation of those hearts into hearts of flesh will be more gradual. It will be accomplished by instructions in righteousness; for the glorified Church, with Christ its Head, will be the great Prophet or Teacher of mankind, and fleshly Israel (their past experiences in many respects serving as a preparation) will speedily become associates in the reformation work. Indeed, all mankind then coming into harmony with the Kingdom will be counted as Israelites--children of the true Israel of God--Christ. All such will be counted as "children of Abraham," who as a type of God is the "father of the faithful" with one Seed (the heavenly, Christ and the Church) as the stars of heaven, and another (faithful fleshly Israelites from all peoples, kindreds and tongues) as the sand by the sea-shore.--`Gen. 22:17`.
The promise of "hearts of flesh" or restored human perfection shows out strongly in contrast with the Lord's provision for the Church of this Gospel age, which is not to receive human perfection, desirable as that will be, but instead are to become every whit new creatures in Christ Jesus: begotten of the spirit through the Word of truth, they will be in the resurrection born of the spirit to perfect spiritual conditions. The Lord's provision for the world of mankind, described as "hearts of flesh," conveys the thought of restitution, the image and likeness of God, to tender, gentle, sympathetic human or earthly conditions, very good, very acceptable to the Creator. Adam's disobedience resulted in the hardening of his heart in sin and selfishness, during the centuries of his degradation, outcast from divine favor as an alien, stranger, foreigner and enemy of God.
God's proposition to give them "a heart of flesh" signifies, therefore, the bringing of fleshly Israel back to the original condition proper to perfect manhood; and the method by which this softening and restitution of the heart sentiments shall be accomplished will involve a new will, a new mind, a new disposition, called in the text "a new spirit." This must really come first, before the new heart condition can be attained, and the new spirit, the new disposition, will be induced by the new view of matters which will then be clearly set before Israel and the world.
The difficulty at the present time is that Satan, the god of this world, deceives mankind into viewing evil things as desirable, and good things as undesirable: he puts light for darkness, darkness for light; and as the Scriptures declare, the whole world is at present blinded and deceived by him. (`2 Cor. 4:4`; `Rev. 20:3`.) When in due time the Lord's Anointed shall take the Kingdom authority, purchased with his own precious blood, it will be for the very purpose of scattering the darkness with which "the prince of darkness" has blinded mankind. And not only is the new King designated the true Light, but his Kingdom also is styled the Kingdom of sunshine, when it is declared, "The Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in his beams."--`Mal. 4:2`.
It should not be necessary to offer argument, either from facts or Scripture, to show that this Sun of Righteousness did not arise at the first advent, nor during "the dark ages," and that even at the second coming of the King there will be a night-time, and he will come "as a thief in the night" for his bride. (`1 Thes. 5:2`.) Nor should it be necessary to prove that throughout the entire Gospel age the world has walked in darkness, while the Lord's people have only walked in the light by reason of having his Word as a lamp to their feet, a lantern to their footsteps. (`Psa. 119:105`.) The promise held out before the Church, and before fleshly Israel, and before the world, is--"The morning cometh;" and the additional assurance is given to the Church, Zion, that "The Lord shall help her early in the morning." (`Isa. 21:12`; `Psa. 46:5`.) Her deliverance shall come first, and then she "shall shine forth as the sun in the Kingdom of the Father." (`Matt. 13:43`.) Then will come the blessing upon fleshly Israel and the message to her, "Arise, shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee!" and ultimately this light of the New Jerusalem, reflected from the earthly Jerusalem, shall enlighten all the
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families of the earth, with the light of the knowledge of God, in Jesus Christ our Lord.
The promise that the Lord would put his spirit within them, and cause them to walk in his statutes and keep his decrees and do them, is in full accord with the foregoing. This does not refer to Spiritual Israel, altho Spiritual Israel has a somewhat similar experience in advance, as we shall shortly show. This putting of the Lord's spirit, the spirit of righteousness, the spirit of truth, the spirit of love, upon fleshly Israel (and similarly upon all the families of the earth), is abundantly stated in the Scriptures to be distinctly separate from the pouring out of the Pentecostal blessing upon the Church, the "little flock," the bride of Christ, during this age, and before the Sun of Righteousness arises, of which Sun of Righteousness these shall form a part.
For instance, note the prophecy by `Joel (2:28,29`) that this promise of the holy spirit is of two parts. One outpouring of God's spirit upon his servants and handmaidens ("new creatures in Christ") has already had its fulfilment throughout this Gospel age: the other promise, that God would pour out his spirit upon all flesh, still awaits fulfilment, and will be accomplished after the overcoming Church has been glorified and the blessing of all the families of the earth has begun. The matter is covered slightly from the attention of the ordinary reader by reason of the outpouring upon the Church being mentioned last.
This same outpouring of the holy spirit upon fleshly Israel is referred to by the Prophet Zechariah, and directly applied to the end of this age. In connection with telling how the Lord would at his second advent make himself known to Israel, and that they should look upon him whom they pierced, and mourn for him, the explicit statement is, "I will pour upon the house of David and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem the spirit of grace and of supplication."-- `Zech. 12:10`.
The spirit of the Lord, the holy spirit, is the spirit of the truth, and when the truth shall be made known to Israel and mankind, with that truth will go its spirit, its influence, its power to correct the heart and life, and to bring it into accord with God. For then, in the light of the truth, many will see God's character and plan in Christ as "the desire of all nations," and the great King himself as the one "altogether lovely." And the positive declaration is that all who will not hear (obey) that great Teacher--Prophet, Priest and King--shall be cut off from amongst his people in the Second Death.--`Acts 3:23`.
In connection with these transformations of heart and will, will come the blessing which the Lord promised upon the earth. It shall yield its increase; the wilderness shall blossom as the rose, and the whole earth shall become a Paradise of God. The beginning of these blessings will be with Israel, and thus all the Gentiles shall have not only the lessons of the Scriptures for their instruction in righteousness, but also the illustration of divine providence operating on behalf of those who are influenced by the truth and its spirit. Thus will be fulfilled the declaration, "This land that was desolate is become like the garden of Eden."-- `Ezek. 36:35`.
While the Scriptures keep distinctly separate the nation of fleshly Israel and the new nation, Spiritual Israel, nevertheless, under divine providence, fleshly Israel was in many respects made a lesson, a type, an illustration, for Spiritual Israel; so that the Apostle could declare that many of the things done for fleshly Israel were shadows of better things coming afterward for Spiritual Israel. Yet these are shadows only to
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those who discern them, and are profitable only to those who avail themselves of them.--`Heb. 8:5`.
The Scriptures point out to us that the new heart condition is essential also to Spiritual Israel; that all who would be in harmony with the Lord must first get free from idols, and be separated to the Lord God; and that then they must inquire of the Lord that he may do for them the good things of his promise--working in them both to will and to do of his good pleasure. As the death of Christ was the turning point of fleshly Israel (Dives), and led them into blindness and trouble, so also it was the turning point or beginning of favor to Spiritual Israel (Lazarus carried to Abraham's bosom) --the poor, the humble, acknowledging themselves to be sinners, were freely cleansed through the merits of Christ's sacrifice and made acceptable as the children of Abraham. This class, from the day of Pentecost to the present, have presented themselves in turn, fully and unreservedly to the Lord; to have his will, his spirit, renewed in them, and such have indeed received a newness of spirit, a newness of heart. But the new heart is not with them a heart of flesh, for they are begotten unto the high calling, to be children and heirs of God, joined in heirship with Jesus Christ their Lord--to partake of the divine nature, which already is reckoned as being begun in them through the begetting by the spirit of adoption. It is for these to remember that in order to develop in the spirit they must walk in the spirit, in the Lord's footsteps, observing to the best of their ability the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus;-- that thus they may be transformed by the renewing of their minds (wills) and be enabled to prove the good, the perfect, the acceptable will of God; and thus faithfully doing, to be ultimately received of him into all the exceeding glories promised to the new creatures in Christ, and to be joint-heirs with him in the great work of blessing Israel and the world through the Millennial Kingdom.--`Rom. 12:2`; `8:17`.
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THE VISION OF DRY BONES.
AUG. 13.--`EZEK. 37:1-14`.
"I will put my spirit within you."--`Ezek. 36:27`.
THE SCRIPTURE of this lesson is frequently more or less of a confusion to the Lord's people, even after they have learned with considerable clearness what the Apostle Paul so positively declares-- that the body sown in corruption, planted in death, is not the body which shall be in the resurrection; that the bones, sinews and flesh which go to corruption have nothing whatever to do with the resurrection body, which the Lord will provide. In examining this subject heretofore we have seen that the Apostle's statement is not only backed by his inspiration, but also that it is reasonable, logical: that one atom of matter is no more valuable or necessary than another in the great work of restitution which shall be accomplished in the world's resurrection. We have seen that the human body in corruption becomes food for plant life, producing apples, acorns, etc., which in turn become food for man and the lower animals, so that the atoms of matter composing a human body are continually changing, and in centuries would pass through many changes. We have seen, too, that this process of change progresses while we still live, so that science declares that a complete change in the human organism is effected every seven years. The atoms of matter which compose a man's body at the moment of his death are no more precious, valuable or necessary to the future body than were the atoms sloughed off through the natural channels during previous years. The important thing, the thing which God has promised shall have a resurrection, is the being, the soul: that in the resurrection God will give it a body as pleaseth him--to each kind of seed his own kind of body--to the natural man a natural, human body, through restitution; to the new creature in Christ a new spiritual body, according to divine promise.
The passage of Scripture under consideration was addressed by the Lord through the Prophet to fleshly Israel, then in captivity in Babylon. The dry bones represented the Israelites themselves. As a people they had lost heart, lost hope, and said, "Our strength is dried, and our hope is lost, we are cut off from our parts"--from all tribal and national union. If they looked at their present condition, they were strangers in a strange land, foreigners, without opportunity for patriotic feelings; if they looked backward, and remembered divine intervention on their behalf, their deliverance from Egypt, their favor as a nation under David and Solomon, etc., they could think of these only as bygones, lost blessings and opportunities; if they looked forward, they could see no possible hope of their ever again becoming a nation; and as for all the great expectations which they had once entertained respecting their nation, as God's favored people, and the heir of the promises made to Abraham, that they should rule and bless all the families of the earth-- these hopes were dead, they were gone, they could have nothing of this kind in the future. The condition of Israel, scattered throughout Babylonia, was indeed well illustrated by the dry bones of the vision.
The hand (power) of the Lord was upon Ezekiel, causing him to see this vision--he was not literally transported to any literal valley of dry bones. In the vision he was caused to pass amongst the dry bones, that he might get a full view of the situation, as they lay strewn all over the valley, very dry. Then the Lord's explanation comes, that these dry bones are, or represent, the whole house of Israel. They did not represent merely the two tribes which went last into captivity, nor merely the ten tribes which went earlier, but the whole house of Israel, the twelve tribes. They were no longer to be considered as two distinct nations, as they had considered themselves for the preceding four hundred years. They were to understand that in divine providence they were henceforth a reunited nation, and the reunion is pictured in this same chapter (`vss. 15-22`) by the miraculous uniting of two sticks into one in the hand of the Prophet.
And it was so: from the time Cyrus gave his decree that all the children of Israel should go free, and might return, if they chose, to their own land, the division into two nations was no longer recognized. The people that returned, tho chiefly of the tribe of Judah, represented all of the various tribes who had faith in the Lord's promises, and desired to return to Palestine. The name, Israel, was applied to the returned and restored people, not only for the more than five centuries preceding our Lord's first advent, but also they were so recognized by our Lord in all of his ministry, and by the apostles in all of their writings, which constitute the New Testament. There are no ten lost tribes which some well-meaning but deluded people continually refer to, and seem to rest their hopes in, as instead of the hope set before us in the Gospel.
The Lord propounds the question, Is it possible that any vitality could ever come into these dry bones? --Is there hope for the scattered people of Israel who not only in heart but in voice said, We are scattered, and no longer a homogeneous people, we are mixed and blended with our captors, who are heathen, in business, social and marriage relationships--there is no hope of a restored nation of Israel?
The Prophet, with quick confidence in the Almighty, refers the question back to God, as suggesting that any hope there could possibly be of a reorganization of Israel must come from God--could be looked for from no other quarter.
The Lord directed Ezekiel to prophesy, that is, to declare the divine message, and the divine message was a foretelling of the things which would, under divine providence, come to pass. The message to be declared was that God had the power and would exercise it, by which these who were dead, and dried as respected their national hopes, would be gradually revived, would gradually become one homogeneous people, a nation in their own land. It would not be done suddenly, but gradually, and that through attention to the divine message, which the Prophet was delivering. First the dried and hopeless ones would come together, then they would begin to unite one to the other, and gradually assume a national existence, and finally would be infused with the spirit of the Lord, as the breath or energy of national life, begotten of faith in the promises, and would stand again a nation.
The people's hopes, which were thus dead, were represented by the Lord as buried in the various provinces of Babylonia, and hence this figure is combined with the figure of the dry bones, and the Lord sends the message, "Behold, O my people, I will open your
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graves, and cause you to come out of your graves and bring you into the land of Israel, and ye shall know that I am the Lord." As a further part of this symbolic picture the Prophet is in vision shown the process by which the dry bones would be gathered, reorganized and revivified. He says there was "a noise and a shaking." The Revised Version, apparently with propriety, renders this, "thunder and an earthquake." Following this demonstration the bones came together.
Undoubtedly one thing which contributed to Israel's despair was the mightiness of the empire which had taken them captive. Babylonia at that time was the most gigantic empire ever known amongst men. Her overthrow seemed impossible, and escape from her power not to be thought of. The thunder and great earthquake of the figure doubtless represented the commotions incident to the fall of Babylon and the
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transfer of the empire to the Medes and Persians. As a result of this the hopes of Israel in the divine promises began to revive, and shortly they were delivered.
While recognizing this primary fulfilment of the prophecy, we are not to forget the secondary fulfilment on a much larger scale, which is in progress at the present time. The withered hopes of Israel, scattered throughout the provinces of Babylonia, cut off from their parts, from one another, from tribal union and from national cohesion, was only a foreshadowing of the more general scattering of that nation among all the nations of the civilized world (mystic Babylon) during this Gospel age. With the vast majority all hopes of the fulfilment of the Abrahamic promise had died, had withered away, and had no more vitality than a dry bone. But now, in the end of this Gospel age, the due time has come for these dry bones, scattered all over mystic Babylon, to be gathered part to part, rehabilitated and revivified with hope in the promises made to the fathers. The great noise is the "seventh trumpet," which has begun to sound; the earthquake is the coming great revolution in which mystic Babylon will fall before the great Prince whom Cyrus in a measure prefigured. Meantime, as we look at the dry bones of Israel, we perceive that they already are in movement, that they are already drawing near one to another, and organizing as "Zionists," with a view to national reorganization and a return to the land of promise. Probably the hopes of the Israelites began to revive as soon as they learned that the army of Cyrus had begun the conquest of Babylon, and so now the hopes of Israel are reviving as they witness the march of events, and realize that a great day of trouble is coming upon the nations of Christendom. Their hopes will more and more go out toward Palestine and national reorganization, as the troubles of the day of wrath draw near.
A lesson might also be drawn from this Scripture for Spiritual Israelites. We are to remember that Spiritual Israel also was permitted to go down into Babylon--to be swallowed up of worldliness, as represented in our Lord's parable of the wheat-field, choked by the "tares." The field has really become a tare-field, altho nominally called a wheat-field, because the promises are to the "wheat." For centuries the "Gospel of the Kingdom," which our Lord declared was the good seed which he sowed (`Matt. 13:37-42`), has been lost sight of, and Kingdom hopes have lost their vitality, and the many promises of the Scriptures, relating to the Kingdom of God, joint-heirship with Christ and a future blessing of the world, have become dead hopes, dead promises; and so far as these promises are concerned Spiritual Israel has been cut off from its parts and mixed with the Babylonians, and has become interested in the hopes of Babylon rather than in the kingdom of God, in which all the original hopes and promises centered and flourished.
But now, in the end of this age, the time has come for God to call his people out of Babylon, and the voice of a greater than Cyrus is heard by those who have ears to hear, saying, "Babylon is fallen, is fallen!... Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues." (`Rev. 18:2-4`.) In connection with this message there is a commotion amongst the dry bones, amongst those who are Israelites indeed, whose hopes in the Kingdom had perished, and the Kingdom hopes are revived and the promises of God as related thereto are becoming more distinct. Nevertheless, we are not to expect that the "tare" class, the Babylonians, are represented in the movement of the dry bones, but merely the truly consecrated Israelites indeed. The Babylonians would be interested on the other side of the question --interested in perpetuating the greatness of Babylon, and in continuing the bondage of the true Israelites.
Nor do the Kingdom hopes relate merely to the living. The organization of the Lord's faithful will not only include the gathering of the living, but also the gathering of all the members of the body of Christ, for "the dead in Christ shall rise first, and [then] we which are alive and remain shall be caught away together with them, to a meeting of the Lord in the air" --in spiritual power. So many as are able to do so should apply to themselves this feature of this lesson and exert themselves to be of those who shall now shortly be organized as the "Body of Christ," "the Seed of Abraham," the Kingdom of God, to bless the world.
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DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL:--I thank God earnestly and reverently for the DAWNS and TOWERS, and that my understanding has been opened to receive and see the truth. When the "key" is applied, how beautifully the Scriptures open and reveal God's wonderful plan. In the June number of the TOWER you speak of dispensing truth to others, that in feeding we are fed. I know that to be true, and have verified it on more than one occasion. Will you please send some free tracts to be given out in a Dawn Circle for Bible Study that I am trying to get started in a neighboring town.
I often wonder, Brother Russell, if you can read thoughts. Several times when I have been studying over certain points and could not quite determine what was right, the next WATCH TOWER would have a full explanation of the very subject I had been studying. Is it the holy spirit that impresses your
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mind with the truth that puzzles others? It seems so. May the Lord bless the recent effort made here and your labors wherever they may be!
Yours in the fellowship of Christ,
J. M. S__________, Ohio.
[REPLY.--The EDITOR does not possess the gift of mind-reading, but our present Lord does, and undoubtedly in this "harvest" time, specially, he is watching over the interests of all those who are truly his. He knows exactly what kind of provender his "sheep" need, and according to promise provides "meat in due season for the household of faith."
Very many have made similar observations respecting the opportuneness of certain expositions which have appeared in the WATCH TOWER. We can only account for such repeated coincidences by acknowledging the Lord's knowledge and providential care, and we rejoice in the thought that he does take supervision of our humble efforts, to direct them and bless them in his service. Nevertheless, we are far from claiming any direct or plenary inspiration. We believe, however, that there are many ways in which the Lord can guide those who are anxious to serve him, without directly inspiring or in any manner interfering with their free agency. A careful examination of the subject leads us to the conclusion that the Lord providentially shapes our course so as to give us such personal experiences in life as will bring us to his Word for comfort and instruction in righteousness; and thus he permits us to sympathize with the experiences and questionings of his people, and then to present to them at appropriate times the lessons drawn from our own experiences, backed by the instructions and comfort of the Scriptures.--EDITOR.]
DEAR BROTHER:--In reading `Isaiah, 2d chapter`, which seems to refer especially to the present time, I notice that in `vs. 16` we are informed of the judgment of the Lord on the ships of Tarshish, "And over all the ships of Tarshish." If I am correctly informed, Tarshish refers to Spain and especially to the city of Cadiz and the south-west part of Spain. The wonderful events that have occurred during the last year, resulting in the utter destruction of so many Spanish warships and with such slight injury to the American ships has suggested the thought that possibly these events may be a fulfilment.
Respectfully submitted, C. C. KELLY,--Ohio.
[We present the foregoing, because the application made seems to fit remarkably well to the general context. It will be noticed that the theme of the prophet concerns the last days, and the establishment of the Lord's Kingdom, etc. (See `vss. 2,3`.) `Vss. 19-22` seem to refer to the great time of trouble just before us, and frequently referred to throughout the Scriptures as the Day of Vengeance.--EDITOR.]
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL:--I owe you more, I fear, than I will ever be able to repay for your many kind acts from time to time aside from a servant of the truth whom I love seemingly dearer than ever. But to say that my whole soul goes out in thankful appreciation for the brotherly interest you have manifested in my sufferings in overcoming the tobacco habit, seems to me, dear Brother, only mildly to express my feelings on this point. When I requested Bro. S__________ to lay my case before you for counsel and advice, which I knew you so well able to give from the standpoint of the Lord's word, I felt determined to "resist the devil" in his operations through the flesh in my case, if I conquered only through death. I am yet as fully determined, the Lord helping me.
The WATCH TOWERS of recent issue are appreciated as much as ever. How my heart went out to those dear brethren in New York when I read the article, "Think It Not Strange." Surely, Satan is getting desperate in his oppositions. In the Methodist Recorder, published at Pittsburg, in their last week's issue, I have been told by a neighbor, appears an article by Rev. Daniel B. Turney, A.M., attacking the truth contained in the booklet, What Say the Scriptures about Hell? From what my friend tells me it
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must be one of the boldest misrepresentations the representatives of the Lord and his truth have yet suffered from such "high places." I sent the above named Mr. Turney one of the booklets referred to some time ago as a reply to some of his unscriptural writings concerning the "Immortal essence of man," and I suppose this is the reward we and all who love the Lord can joyfully receive. (`Matt. 5:11,12`.) I trust you will be furnished with a copy of the above named publication.
I am glad to inform you that the interest here is growing, and we are having interesting times at our meetings every Sunday evening. How it rejoices our hearts to see the truth prosper, even tho the "increase" may be small comparatively. But, dear Brother, it is very evident that our influence for the truth's prosperity is nearly over; it seems that the time has almost come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but may we be enabled to understand and rejoice in the typical words of John the Baptist, "I must decrease." May we, dear Brother, be enabled to suffer joyfully and under all circumstances to preserve the unity of the spirit in the bonds of love and peace. I am getting much benefit from the Sunday readings suggested some time ago.
Greetings to all the brethren. Yours in love,
J. M. G__________,--Indiana.
[REPLY.--Respecting the decrease of the work: from our broader view-point it seems as tho much work is yet to be accomplished; indeed, every month shows an increase for the past three years, and during the last year specially. The people are getting awake and groping about for truth, and now is the time to lend a helping hand to keep them from stumbling into Infidelity, Spiritism, Christian Science, Evolution, etc. The chief opponents of the truth are the "ministers," the very ones who are undermining faith in Christ as a Savior from sin and death by teaching an Evolution salvation. Quite likely their opposition will become much more pronounced, and they may, in some form or many forms, "crucify" the members of the body of Christ: but this will furnish opportunities for attesting our love for the Lord's brethren. In view of our Lord's example and the Apostle's words, we should gladly let our light shine and render every other assistance, even tho it test our willingness to "lay down our lives for the brethren" (`1 John 3:16`).--EDITOR.]