ZWT - 1895 - R1794 thru R1910 / R1883 (233) - October 15, 1895
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VOL. XVI. OCTOBER 15, 1895. No. 20.
Special Items; Letters of Withdrawal..............234
Views from the Tower..............................235
The Hope of Immortality...........................237
What is the Soul?.................................240
Bible Study: The Child Samuel.....................243
Bible Study: Samuel the Judge.....................244
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LETTERS OF WITHDRAWAL FROM BABYLON.
Frequently those who leave Babylon get no opportunity to communicate to their Church brethren the cause of their withdrawal; because the officers of many churches in their zeal for the prosperity of their denomination (we regret to say it) seem to forget that honesty is an important element of Christian character, and either smother the matter of the withdrawal and permit the impression that the brother or sister who has withdrawn is still a member, but no longer faithful to his church engagements, or else hasten to spread a false report of his belief (as much by insinuation, tone of voice and manner, as by words) in order to forever break his or her influence. To thus bear false witness against God's faithful children is mistakenly considered a service to God, --it is really against the Lord's cause and for the upholding of sectarianism, lest the influence should open the eyes of others of the Lord's sheep and they too escape from the bondage of human traditions, into the light and liberty of the truth.
To meet such emergencies we have prepared, for those who may desire them, Letters of Withdrawal, which express about what would be your sentiments and merely require the signature of the user and the date. These might be sent by mail, to each member of the church from which you withdraw, as well as to the minister; for you joined the church membership and not merely the minister. We suggest that with the letter you enclose copies of tracts Nos. 1, 21 and 27 in a Missionary Envelope. All this, unsealed, will require but one cent postage, each. We will supply the tracts free and the letters (envelopes included) for two cents each, or free to those too poor to purchase. The printing is in type-writer characters. Printing these in quantities permits this low price.
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VIEWS FROM THE TOWER.
THE attack upon and killing of Christian missionaries in the interior of China, by the sect known as "Vegetarians," continues to attract attention. Six of the rioting Chinese are reported sentenced and decapitated; but the general opinion is that Chinese antipathy to missionaries continues and is fostered by the magistrates. Five English gunboats are said to be advancing up the river leading to the scene of the disturbance. However, neither England nor any other nation is anxious for a Chinese war, especially an interior war, where China's 300,000,000 population would be difficult to handle.
All intelligent people know that "the opening of China to the gospel" was advocated by many who were much more interested in opening China to European commerce, and who knew that the success of the former would mean the success of the latter. Now that the doors of trade are wide open and only the mission work is attacked, the question of the real value of missions amongst the nations which have a civilization and religion of their own is being much discussed;--especially in view of the fact that the representatives of these religions, Buddhism, Brahminism and Confucianism, were invited to and warmly welcomed at the World's Parliament of Religions in 1893.* Of course, the friends of missions defend their usefulness; as for instance, Ex-Secretary Foster who, at the Mass Missionary Meeting in Minneapolis, Oct. 5, declared that "Practically the whole world is open to the missionary," and that "The various Mission Boards are better equipped than ever for doing effective work." "The various schools and colleges established in heathen lands can turn out all the native workers that the liberality of the churches at home can support, and the great need of the mission cause to-day is not so much men as money, to carry to success the Christianization of the world."
As the other side of the question has been examined but little, we quote two paragraphs from a very moderate article entitled "Civilization," in The Spectator (London, Eng.), a very conservative journal, as follows:--
"It is difficult to exaggerate the importance of the subject which Mr. Flinders Petrie brought before the British Association last week in his paper on "Civilization," and continued in a speech on Tuesday. Western Europe is expending a great part of its surplus strength, intellectual and physical, in the effort to re-civilize the dark world, Asiatic and African; and Mr. Petrie, who has watched the experiment for years from the inside, believes that its object and its methods are alike mistaken. There would be little gained, he thinks, if it succeeded, for the inferior civilizations are developments as natural, and as fitted for those among whom they arise, as the higher, and it cannot succeed by the means it has adopted. It is impossible to
*See our issue of Nov., '93.
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supersede rapidly a low civilization by a high one, because the indispensable pressure so affects the brain that it either destroys the race subjected to it, or positively lowers instead of raising its intellectual capacity. Savages perish under the burden of European education; while the semi-civilized races when taught to read and write--i.e., we presume, taught the European curriculum--become positive fools. The Arabs of Egypt, for example, become comparatively idiots. The strength which was in them is overtasked, and they lose most of the efficiencies they originally possessed. That is a very serious indictment of Europe, and its methods of improving the races it has conquered or intends to conquer, and as the question concerns the whole future of the world, and as Mr. Flinders Petrie is a man whose opinion on such a subject deservedly carries weight, it is worth while to consider for a moment how far his decision appears to be justified by the facts.
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"There can be no question of a great mass of evidence in Mr. Flinders Petrie's favor. European civilization has undoubtedly killed out or is killing out the Polynesian races, one of which, at least, was possessed originally of remarkable intellectual as well as physical powers. It has failed to impress, though it has not killed out, the wild Indian of America, who, in several places where he was partially civilized, has in his horror of the process recoiled to barbarism, while it must be considered, on the whole, to have lowered rather than raised the civilization of the partially civilized races of America, such as the Mexican, and more especially the Indian of Peru. It has lowered, Mr. Petrie affirms, the settled Arab of the Egyptian Delta, while close observers doubt whether it has made the Hindoo, the Turk, or the Chinese either an abler or a better man. The Frenchified Pasha is a great deal worse than the old Turk, the educated Chinaman is not better than the Chinaman proper, while the cultured Bengalee has lost many beneficial restraints and gained nothing except a power of expressing European ideas upon which he does not seem disposed to act. To attribute the failure to reading and writing is, of course, a mere fashion of speech, Asiatics not being made feeble by knowledge of their own literatures; but it is true that Asiatics learned in the knowledge of Europe are often mere "blotting papers of civilization,"--persons who derive from Europe nothing but certain inkstains, which leave them rather more rotten than before. Moreover, it is true that originality seems to die away in the races brought into violent contact with a superior civilization, that their very arts decline, till they cannot even repeat their own artistic triumphs, and that they appear incapable of producing fresh literature of any mark. This has been acknowledged by many among themselves with deep sadness, and has so impressed experienced observers among the superior race, that many of them have doubted if the whole experiment is not a waste of force; and others have discussed plans for carrying on the native philosophies to a higher point, instead of superseding them. It must be added that what Europe rather foolishly considers the machinery of civilization--the railway and telegraph and sanitation--appears to have no effect whatever in raising the people compelled to adopt it, they all remaining barbarians, as in South Africa, or semi-civilized, as in Spanish America and the provinces of India."
The fact is that all thinking people, friends and foes of missionary effort alike, begin to realize that if God's Kingdom will not come nor his will be done on earth, until present missionary methods shall convert all or even a majority of the heathen into saints, either the standard of saintship must be lowered so as to take into Christ's fold all except the positively black sheep (including with what Bishop Foster calls "the ring-streaked and speckled" masses of Christendom all the similar masses in heathendom), or else there is no hope of God's will ever being done on earth as in heaven.
Seeing this, and not seeing that it is God's Kingdom that is to bless and enlighten the world--"all the families of the earth"--the worldly wise are disposed to say, We must have set our estimates of saving faith and practice too high. These people of China and India are Christianized (by that they mean civilized, for with many the word Christ has degenerated to mean civil or polite) as well as we: only heirs is civilization of a different type from ours, taught by different Masters. But the pupils of these different Masters need not oppose each other and seek to convert each other. All are right. All are heathen. All are children of the one Heavenly Father, by whatever names he may be known (or unknown?) to them. And with this class of worldly-wise thinkers stands an ever increasing number of worldly-wise Reverend gentlemen and Doctors of Divinity, as was shown at the World's Parliament of Religions.
Others refuse to lower the standard of faith and holiness and try to hope, against all the evidences of their senses, that they will speedily "capture the world for Christ."
Still others, with greater enlightenment, realize that the hope for the world lies not in the hands of mortal men, but in the power of God, as it will be manifested at our Lord's second advent in the setting up of the Kingdom of God.
But the readers of ZION'S WATCH TOWER and MILLENNIAL DAWN, still further enlightened by the Lord's Word, see that all the preaching done, or designed and commanded to be done, during this Gospel age was, so far as the world is concerned in the present age, only for a witness, a testimony, unto them; its special object being the perfecting of the Church, the "little flock" to whom (with their Head and Bridegroom) God has promised to give the Kingdom, the dominion under the whole heavens, through which all the families of the earth shall be blessed. --`Gal. 3:8,16,17,29`; `Gen. 28:14`.
We see, too, that the time for this work of witnessing is nearly ended; and that by the Lord's command the work in this time, the "end" or "harvest" of this age, is reaping, rather than sowing,--making ready a prepared people already justified and called, rather than preparing a people to receive the high calling, which we understand has ceased, so far as the unjustified and heathen world is concerned.
From the vantage ground mentioned by the Apostle when he said, "Ye, brethren, are not in darkness that that day should overtake you as a thief" (`1 Thes. 5:4`), by the Prophet when he said, "None of the wicked shall understand, but the wise [amongst the holy,--the "wise virgins"] shall understand" (`Dan. 12:10`), and by our Lord when he said, "Blessed are those servants whom their Lord when he cometh [arrives] shall find watching" (`Luke 12:37`)--from this vantage standpoint we see that all the heathen are graciously provided for in God's great plan of the ages. We see that our dear Redeemer bought "the whole world" as well as the Church with his precious blood; and that this gracious fact is the center and essence of the gospel and must sooner or later be testified to all (`1 Tim. 2:6`) with full opportunity for all to benefit by it and lay hold on eternal life. And we see that the Gospel age just closing, in which the dim light of faith has been a light to the path of only the few who have been made free from the blinding influences of the god of this world (`2 Cor. 4:4`) is part of the world's dark night of groaning
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and weeping (`Rom. 8:22`; `Psa. 30:5`), and is about to give place to the Millennial morning of joy, when the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with "healing [restitution-- `Acts 3:19-21`] in his beams."--`Mal. 4:2`.
But this harvest message is going to heathen lands also; it goes, however, to the missionaries and others already "called" and "accepted," to ripen them, and separate them from the "tares," and get them into the Lord's "barn." Yes, the message is being carried by willing messengers, and is gathering together [to the Lord, and into oneness of faith,--not into a new denomination] the elect, from one end of heaven [the nominal church system] to the other.--`Matt. 24:31`.
From our position, therefore, we can rejoice at every effort to advance the world's intelligence and civilization, and every missionary and reform movement; even while we know from our Lord's Word that they will all fail to accomplish what their chief patrons are hoping and striving for; such results being obtainable only through the channel of God's appointment, for which his Church has long prayed,--"Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is done in heaven."
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THE HOPE OF IMMORTALITY.
If a man die shall he live again? All the days of my appointed time will I wait till my change come.--`Job 14:14`.
THERE is a longing hope within men that death does not end all existence. There is an undefined hope that, somehow and somewhere, the life now begun will have a continuation. In some this hope turns to fear. Realizing their unworthiness of a future of pleasure, many fear a future of woe; and the more they dread it, for themselves and others, the more they believe in it.
This undefined hope of a future life and its counterpart, fear, doubtless had their origin in the Lord's condemnation of the serpent after Adam's fall into sin and death, that
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the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head. This was no doubt understood to mean that at least a portion of the Adamic family would finally triumph over Satan and over death, into which he had inveigled them. No doubt God encouraged such a hope, even though but vaguely, speaking to and through Noah, and through Enoch who prophesied, "Behold the Lord cometh with ten thousand of his saints." But the gospel, the good tidings of a salvation from death to be offered to all mankind in God's due time, seems to have been first clearly stated to Abraham. The Apostle declares: "The gospel was preached before to Abraham,--saying, 'In thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.'" This at least was the basis of the Jewish hope of a resurrection; for since many of the families of the earth were dead and dying, the promised blessing implied a future life. And when Israel was scattered among the nations at the time of the Babylonian captivity, they undoubtedly carried fragments of their hopes and promises everywhere they went.
Sure it is, that whether it came as a result of an admixture of Jewish thought, or because hope is an element of man's nature, or both, the whole world believes in a future life, and almost all believe that it will be everlasting. But such hopes are not proofs of the doctrine; and the Old Testament promises, made to the Jews, are too vague to constitute a groundwork for a clear faith, much less for a "dogmatic theology," on this subject.
It is not until we find, in the New Testament, the clear, positive statements of our Lord, and afterwards the equally clear statements of the apostles, on this momentous subject of Everlasting Life that we begin to exchange our vague hopes for positive convictions. In their words we not only have positive statements, to the effect that the possibilities of a future life have been provided for all, but the philosophy of the fact and how it is to be attained and maintained are set forth there as nowhere else.
Many have not noticed these points, and hence are "weak in the faith." Let us see what this philosophy is, and be more assured than ever that future life, everlasting life, is by our great and wise Creator's provision made a possibility for every member of the human family.
Beginning at the foundation of this New Testament assurance of Life Everlasting, we find to our astonishment that it first of all assures us that we have nothing ourselves which would give us any hope of everlasting life;--that the life of our race was forfeited by the disobedience of our father Adam; that although he was created perfect and was adapted to live forever, his sin not only brought to him the wages of sin--death--but that his children were born in a dying condition, inheritors of the dying influences. God's law, like himself, is perfect, and so was his creature (Adam) before he sinned; for of God it is written, "His work is perfect." And God through his law approves only that which is perfect, and condemns to destruction everything imperfect. Hence the race of Adam, "born in sin and shapen in iniquity," has no hope of everlasting life except upon the conditions held out in the New Testament and called the gospel,--the good tidings that a way back from the fall, to perfection to divine favor and to everlasting life, has been opened up through Christ for all of Adam's family who will avail themselves of it.
The key note of this hope of reconciliation to God, and thus to a fresh hope of life everlasting, is laid in the statements (1) that "Christ died for our sins" and (2) that he "rose again for our justification;" for "the man Christ Jesus gave himself a ransom [a corresponding price] for all." Adam and his race, which when he sinned was yet in him and shared his sentence naturally, have been
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"redeemed [bought] by the precious blood [death] of Christ."
But although the Lord's provision is abundant for all, it is not applicable to any except on certain conditions; namely, (1) that they accept Christ as their Redeemer; and (2) that they strive to avoid sin and to thenceforth live in harmony with God and righteousness. Hence we are told that "Eternal Life is the gift of God through Jesus Christ our Lord." (`Rom. 6:23`.) The following Scripture statements are very clear on this subject:--
"He that hath the Son hath life [a right or privilege or grant of life as God's gift]; but he that hath not the Son shall not see [perfect] life."
None can obtain everlasting life except from Christ the Redeemer and appointed Life-giver; and the truth which brings to us the privilege of manifesting faith and obedience, and thus "laying hold on eternal life," is called the "water of life" and the "bread of life."--`John 4:14`; `6:40,54`.
This everlasting life will be granted only to those who, when they learn of it and the terms upon which it will be granted as a gift, seek for it, by living according to the spirit of holiness. They shall reap it as a gift-reward.-- `Rom. 6:23`; `Gal. 6:8`.
To gain this everlasting life we must become the Lord's "sheep" and follow the voice, the instructions of the Shepherd.--`John 10:26-28`; `17:2,3`.
The gift of Everlasting Life will not be forced upon any. On the contrary, it must be desired and sought and laid hold upon by all who would gain it.--`1 Tim. 6:12,19`.
It is thus a hope, rather than the real life, that God gives us now: the hope that, because God has provided a way by which he can be just and yet the justifier of all truly believing and accepting Christ, we may ultimately attain it.
By God's grace our Lord Jesus not only bought us by the sacrifice of his life for ours, but he became our great High Priest, and as such he is now "the author [source] of eternal salvation to all them that obey him." (`Heb. 5:9`.) "And this is the promise which he hath promised us, even eternal life."--`1 John 2:25`.
"And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life [now by faith and hope, and by and by actually, "when he who is our life shall appear"], and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life."--`1 John 5:11,12`.
This everlasting life, made free to Adam and all his race, by our Creator through our Redeemer, but intended for, and promised to, only the faithful and obedient, and which at present is only given to these as a hope, will be given to the faithful actually in the "resurrection."
It will be noticed that the explicit promises of God's Word differ widely from the worldly philosophies on this subject. They claim that man must have a future everlasting life because he hopes for it, or in some cases fears it. But hopes and fears are not reasonable grounds for belief on any subject. Neither is the claim that there is something in man which must live on and on forever,--when no such part of the human organism is known or can be proved or located.
But the Scriptural view of the subject is open to no such objections: it is reasonable throughout to consider our existence or life as therein presented--as a "gift of God," and not an inalienable possession of our own. Furthermore, it avoids a great and serious difficulty to which the idea of the heathen philosophies is open; for when the heathen philosopher states that man cannot perish, that he must live forever, that eternal life is not a gift of God, as the Bible declares, but a natural quality possessed by every man, he claims too much. Such a philosophy not only gives everlasting existence to those who would use it well, and to whom it would be a blessing, but to others also, who would not use it well, and to whom it would be a curse. The Scripture teaching, on the contrary, as we have already shown, declares that this great and inestimably precious gift will be given only to those who believe and obey the Redeemer and Life-giver. Others, to whom it would be an injury, not only do not possess it now, but can never get it. "The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." The wicked (all who, after coming to a clear knowledge of the truth, wilfully disobey it) shall be cut off from among God's people, in the second death. They "shall be as though they had not been." "They shall utterly perish." "Everlasting destruction" shall be their doom--a destruction which will last forever, from which there will be no recovery, no resurrection.--`Psa. 37:9`; `Job 10:19`; `Psa. 37:20`; `2 Thes. 1:9`.
God's gift of life eternal is precious to all his people, and a firm grasp of it by the hand of faith is quite essential to a well-balanced and consistent life. Only those who have "laid hold on eternal life," by acceptance of Christ and consecration to his service, are able to properly and profitably combat the tempests of life now raging.
A DISTINCTION AND A DIFFERENCE.
But now, having examined the hope of Immortality from the ordinary understanding of that word (everlasting life) and having found that everlasting life is God's provision for those of Adam's race who will accept it "in due time" under the terms of the New Covenant, we are prepared to go a step farther and to point out that Everlasting Life and Immortality are not synonymous terms, as people in general suppose. The word "immortal" means more than power to live everlastingly; and, according to the Scriptures, millions may have everlasting life, but only a very limited "little flock" will be made immortal.
Immortality is an element or quality of the divine nature, but not of human or angelic or of any other nature
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than the divine. And it is because Christ and his "little flock," his "bride," are to be partakers of the divine
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nature that they will be exceptions to all other creatures either in heaven or on earth.--`2 Pet. 1:4`.
The word Immortal signifies not mortal--death-proof, indestructible, imperishable. Any being whose existence is dependent in any manner upon another or upon conditions, such as food, light, air, etc., is not immortal. This quality inheres in Jehovah God alone, as it is written, --"The Father hath life in himself" (`John 5:26`); i.e., his existence is not a derived one, nor a sustained one. He "only hath immortality" (`1 Tim. 6:16`) as an innate or original quality of being. These scriptures being decisive authority on the subject, we may know beyond peradventure that men, angels, archangels or even the Son of God before and during the time he "was made flesh and dwelt among us" were not immortal--all were mortal.
But the word "mortal" does not signify dying, but merely die-able--possessing life dependent upon God for its continuance. For instance, angels not being immortal are mortal and could die, could be destroyed by God if they became rebels against his wise, just and loving government. In Him [in his providence] they live and move and have their being. Indeed, of Satan who was such an angel of light, and who did become a rebel, it is distinctly declared that in due time he will be destroyed. (`Heb. 2:14`.) This not only proves that Satan is mortal, but it proves that angelic nature is a mortal nature--one which could be destroyed by its Creator. As for man, he is "a little lower than the angels" (`Psa. 8:5`), and consequently mortal also, as is abundantly attested by the fact that our race has been dying for six thousand years and that even the saints in Christ are exhorted to seek for immortality.--`Rom. 2:7`.
So then, Adam did not become mortal by reason of sin, but was created mortal--by nature he was subject or liable to the death penalty. Had he been created immortal nothing could have destroyed him; for, as we have seen, immortality is a state or condition not subject to death, but death-proof.
What then was Adam's condition before he sinned? and in what way did the curse affect him?--What life had he to lose if he was created mortal?
We answer, that his condition in life was similar to that of the angels: he had life in full measure--lasting life-- which he might have retained forever by remaining obedient to God. But because he was not death-proof, because he did not have "life in himself," but was dependent upon conditions of divine pleasure and favor for its continuance, therefore God's threat, that if he disobeyed he should die, meant something. Had he not been mortal God's sentence would have been an empty threat. But he did die.
Jehovah God, "who only hath immortality" of himself, or "life in himself" innately, and of whom are all things, having created various orders of beings, angelic and human, in his own moral and rational likeness, but mortal and not of his divine nature, has declared that he designs a new creation,--an order of beings not only morally and rationally in his resemblance, but in "the express image" of his person and partakers of his own divine nature--a prominent constituent or element of which is immortality.--`2 Pet. 1:4`.
With amazement we inquire, Upon whom shall this high honor and distinction be conferred?--Upon angels, or cherubim, or seraphim? No; but upon his Son--his specially first-born and only begotten Son, that he who was always his obedient Son should in all things have the preeminence. But before he could be so highly honored he must be tested, proved "worthy" of so great a distinction and so high an exaltation "above his fellows." This test was in view when the sentence of death was pronounced upon Adam and all his children in his loins: it was that he, Christ, should lay down his life as a ransom price for the life of Adam and all who lost life in his transgression. And he was equal to the test and gained the prize of "the divine nature," "life in himself," "immortality."
Consider him, who, for the joy set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is now in consequence set down at the right hand [place of favor] of the throne of God. He was rich, but for our sakes he became poor. Inasmuch as the man and race to be redeemed were human, it was needful that he become human so as to give the ransom or corresponding price. He therefore humbled himself and took the bondman's form; and after he found himself in fashion a man, he humbled himself even unto death--even unto the most ignominious form of death--the death of the cross. "Wherefore God hath highly exalted him [to the promised divine nature at his resurrection], and given him a name that is above every name [Jehovah's excepted--`1 Cor. 15:27`].--`Heb. 12:3,2`; `2 Cor. 8:9`; `Phil. 2:8,9`.
"Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing."--`Rev. 5:9-12`.
But more, the opulence of divine favor does not stop with the exaltation of one, but has arranged that Christ Jesus, as the Captain, shall lead a company of sons of God to glory, honor and immortality (`Heb. 2:10`; `Rom. 2:7`), each of whom, however, must be a spiritual "copy" or likeness of the "first begotten." And as a grand lesson of the divine sovereignty, and as a sublime contradiction to all evolution theories, God elected to call to this place of honor (as "the bride, the Lamb's wife and joint heir" --`Rev. 21:2,9`; `Rom. 8:17`), not the angels and cherubs, but some from among the sinners redeemed by the precious blood of the Lamb. God elected the number to be thus exalted (`Rev. 7:4`), and predestinated what must be their characteristics if they would make their calling and election sure, to a place in that company to be so highly honored; and all the rest is left to Christ, who worketh now as the Father worketh hitherto.--`John 5:17`.
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The present age, the Gospel age, from Pentecost to the present time, is the time for the selection of this elect class, variously termed "the Church," "the body of Christ," "the royal priesthood," "the seed of Abraham" (`Gal. 3:29`), etc.; and the permission still of evil is for the purpose of developing these "members of the body of Christ" and to furnish them the opportunity of sacrificing their all in the service of him who bought them with his precious blood; and thus of developing in their hearts his spiritual likeness, that when, at the end of the age, they are presented by their Lord and Redeemer before the Father, he may see in them "the image of his Son."-- `Rom. 8:29`.
As the reward of glory, honor and immortality, and all the features of the divine nature, were not conferred upon the "First-begotten" until he had finished his course by completing his sacrifice and obedience in death, so with the Church, his "bride,"--counted as one and treated collectively. As our Lord, the First-born and Captain, "entered into his glory" at his resurrection; as he there became partaker of the divine nature fully by being "born of the spirit;" as he there was highly exalted to the throne and highest favor ("right hand") of God, so he has promised that his Church, his "bride," shall in her resurrection be changed by resurrection power from human nature to the glory, honor and immortality of the divine nature.
And so it is written respecting "the resurrection" of the Church: "It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption [immortality]. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural [animal] body, it is raised a spiritual body."--`1 Cor. 15:42-44`.
Although God's plan for the race of Adam is to extend to each member of it, during the Millennium, the offer of eternal life upon the terms of the New Covenant sealed for all with the precious blood of the Lamb, there is no suggestion anywhere that Immortality and the Divine Nature, will ever be offered or granted to any except the "elect" of the Gospel age--the "little flock," "the Bride, the Lamb's wife." For the others of Adam's race the offer will be "restitution" (`Acts 3:19-21`) to life and health and perfection of human nature--the same that Adam possessed as the earthly image of God before his fall from grace into sin and death. And when at the close of the age the willing ones shall have attained all that was lost in Adam and redeemed by Christ,--then all, armed with complete knowledge and experience, and hence fully able to stand the test, will be tested severely (as was Adam), but individually; and only those found in fullest heart-sympathy, as well as in outward harmony with God and his righteous arrangements, will be permitted to live and go beyond the Millennium into the everlasting future. All others will be destroyed in the second death,--destroyed from among the people.--`Acts 3:23`.
But although there shall be no more death, neither sighing nor crying, it will not be because the victors of the Millennial age will be crowned with Immortality, but because, having learned to judge between right and wrong and their effects, they shall have formed characters in full accord with God and righteousness; and because they shall have stood tests which will demonstrate that they would not wish to sin if the way were opened and no penalties attached. They will not have life in themselves, but will still be dependent upon God's provision of food, etc., for the sustenance of life.
Seen in this Scriptural light the subject of immortality shines resplendently. It leaves the way clear for the general "gift of God, eternal life," to be extended to all whom the Redeemer shall find willing to accept it upon the only terms upon which it could be a blessing; and it leaves the unworthy subject to the just penalty which always has been enunciated by the great Judge of all, viz.,
"The wages of sin is death."--`Rom. 6:23`.
"The soul that sinneth, it shall die."--`Ezek. 18:4,20`.
"He that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God [the curse, death] abideth on him." --`John 3:36`.
Thus, again, we find on this subject as on others, that the philosophy of the Word of God is deeper as well as clearer, and more rational by far, than the heathen systems and theories. Praise God for his Word of Truth and for hearts disposed to accept it as the revelation of the wisdom and power of God!
Let us consider, What is the Soul? and Can it die?
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WHAT IS THE SOUL?
SOME one will possibly say, Ah! No one believes in the immortality of the body. Everybody knows that the body dies, that it needs resupply continually and that hence it cannot be immortal. But the Scriptures speak of souls. May it not be that the soul is indestructible? --that God having made a soul cannot destroy it?
We reply that it stands to reason, unless there be clear evidence to the contrary, that whoever can create is able also to destroy that which he created; and that which can be destroyed is not immortal. Now notice that the Scriptures nowhere speak of the immortality of the soul as some people seem to suppose--neither in the translations nor in the original text. Take a Concordance and try to find the expression "immortal soul," and thus you can quickly convince yourself that no such expression is found in the Scriptures. On the contrary, they declare that "God is able to destroy both soul and body;" and again, "The soul that sinneth, it shall die." And in
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the previous article we saw that that which can die, which can be destroyed, is not immortal, is not proof against death, destruction.
Then comes that much misunderstood word soul, and the inquiry is, What is the soul?
The general idea of the soul is that it is an indefinable something in us (they know not what nor where), which is the real, intelligent being, while the body is merely its house or tool. A Methodist bishop once defined it as "a thing without interior or exterior, without body, shape or parts, of which you could put a million in a nutshell"--a very good definition of nothing, we should say!
Further, the body is not the soul, as some affirm: this is proved by our Lord's statement that "God is able to destroy both soul and body." And now, in view of the foregoing, if our minds be freed from prejudice, we ought to be able to learn something on the subject by examining the inspired record of man's creation. Turning to `Genesis 2:7`, we read,--
"And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed [Heb. blew] into his nostrils the breath [Heb. wind] of life [Heb. "lives," plural--i.e., such as was common to all living animals]; and man became a living soul [i.e., a sentient being]."
The body was formed first, but it was not a man. It had eyes, but saw nothing; ears, but heard nothing; a mouth, but spoke nothing; a tongue, but no taste; nostrils, but no sense of smell; a heart, but it pulsated not; blood, but it was cold, lifeless; lungs, but they moved not. It was not a man, but a corpse, an inanimate body.
The second step in making man was to give vitality to the properly "formed" and in every way prepared body; and this is described by the words "blew into his nostrils the breath of life." When a healthy person has been drowned and animation is wholly suspended, resuscitation has, it is said, been effected by working the arms and thus the lungs as a bellows, and gradually establishing the breath in the nostrils. In Adam's case it of course required no labored effort on the part of the Creator to cause the perfect organism which he had made to breathe the life-giving oxygen of the atmosphere.
As the vitalizing breath entered, the lungs expanded, the blood corpuscles were oxygenized and passed to the heart, whose valves in turn propelled it to every part of the body, awakening all the prepared, but hitherto dormant, nerves to sensation and energy. In an instant the energy reached the brain, and thought, perception, reasoning, looking, touching, smelling, feeling and tasting commenced. That which was a lifeless human organism has become a man, a sentient being: the "living soul" condition mentioned in the text had been reached. In other words, the term "living soul" means neither more nor less than the term "sentient being" or "being capable of sensation, perception." Moreover, even though Adam was perfect in his organism, it was necessary for him to sustain life by partaking of the fruits of the trees of life. And when he sinned, God drove him from the garden, "lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree [plural, trees or grove] of life, and eat, and live forever [i.e., by eating continuously]." (`Gen. 3:22`.) How the fogs and mysteries scatter before the light of truth which shines from God's Word!
Now we can see why it is that the Scriptures speak of "souls" in connection with the lower animals. They, as well as man, are sentient beings or creatures of intelligence, only of lower orders. They, as well as man, can see, hear, feel, taste and smell; and each can reason up to the standard of his organism, though, none as abstrusely nor on as high a plane as man. We read (`Gen. 1:30`) "To you it shall be for meat, and to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life [Heb. "nephesh chaiyah"--a living soul]. Again (`Gen. 1:20`) "Let the waters bring forth the moving creature that hath life [Heb. --a living soul]."--See marginal readings.
The same lesson,--that the life principle is no different in mankind from what it is in all other creatures whose breath is taken through the nostrils, as distinguishing them from fish,--is taught in the account of the destruction wrought by the Deluge. (`Gen. 6:17`; `7:15,22`.) This is in full accord with King Solomon's statement that man and beast have "all one breath" [Heb. ruach, spirit of life]--one kind of life; and that "as the one dieth, so dieth the other." (`Eccl. 3:19`.) When he asks (`Eccl. 3:21`), "Who knoweth the spirit of man that [it] goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that [it] goeth downward to the earth?" he is controverting the heathen theory, which had begun to speculate even at that time, that man had some inherent thing or quality which would prevent his death, even when he seemed to die. The wise man challenges any proof, any knowledge to such effect. This challenge to others to produce proofs, or admit that they have no such knowledge, follows his statement of the subject in `verses 19 and 20`. The distinction between man and beast is not in the kind of breath or life, but in that man has a higher organism than other animals; possessing moral and intellectual powers and qualities in the image or likeness of those possessed by the Creator, who has a still higher organism, of spirit, not of flesh. And, as already shown, man's hope for a future life lies not in his inherent powers, but in his Creator's gracious provision which centered in the redemption of every soul of man from death, by the great Redeemer, and the consequent provision that whosoever will may have everlasting life by resurrection, subject to the terms of the New Covenant.
Our Redeemer "poured out his soul [being] unto death," "he made his soul [being] an offering for sin" (`Isa. 53:12,10`); and it was the souls of Adam and his posterity that he thus bought with his precious blood--by making his soul (being) an offering for sin. Consequently it is the souls that are to be awakened, resurrected--not the bodies, which are buried and which go to dust.
Here is another common error--many suppose that the bodies buried are to be restored atom for atom, but, on the contrary, the Apostle declares, "Thou sowest [in death] not that body which shall be." In the resurrection God will give to each person (to each soul or sentient being) such a body as he pleases.*--`1 Cor. 15:37,38`.
As the bringing together of an organism and the breath of life produced a sentient being or soul, so the dissolution of these, from any cause, puts an end to sentient being--stopping thoughts and feelings of every kind. The soul or sentient being ceases; the body returns to dust as it was; while the spirit or breath of life returns to God, who imparted it to Adam, and to his race through him. (`Eccl. 12:7`.) It returns to God in the sense that it is no longer amenable to human control, as in pro-creation, and can never be recovered except by divine power. Recognizing this fact, the Lord's instructed ones commit their hope of future life by resurrection to the Father and to Christ, his now exalted representative. (`Luke 23:46`;
*Inquire for further reading matter on Resurrection, if interested.
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`Acts 7:59`.) So, then, if God had made no provision for man's ransom and for a resurrection, death would be the end of all hope for humanity.--`1 Cor. 15:14-18`.
But God has thus made provision for our re-living; and ever since he made known his gracious plan, those who speak and write intelligently upon the subject (for instance, the inspired Scripture writers) as if by common consent, speak of the unconscious interim between death and the resurrection morning as a "sleep." Indeed, the illustration is an excellent one; for the dead will be totally unconscious of the lapse of time, and the moment of awakening will seem to them like the next moment after the moment of their dissolution. For instance, we read that speaking of Lazarus' death our Lord said, "Our friend Lazarus sleepeth, I go that I may awake him out of sleep." Afterward, because the disciples were slow to comprehend, he said, "Lazarus is dead." (`John 11:11`.) Were the theory of consciousness in death correct, is it not remarkable that Lazarus gave no account of his experience during those four days? None will claim that he was in a "hell" of torment, for our Lord calls him his "friend;" and for the same reason if he had been in heavenly bliss our Lord would not have called him from it, for that would be an unfriendly act. But as our Lord expressed it, Lazarus slept, and he awakened him to life, to consciousness, to sentient being, and that as a favor greatly appreciated by Lazarus and his friends.
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The thought pervades the Scriptures, that we are now in the Night as compared with the Morning of the resurrection. "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning."--`Psa. 30:5`.
The Apostles also frequently used this appropriate, hopeful and peaceful figure of speech. For instance, Luke says of Stephen, the first martyr, "he fell asleep;" and in recording Paul's speech at Antioch he used the same expression, "David fell on sleep." (`Acts 7:60`; `13:36`.) Peter uses the same expression, saying (`2 Pet. 3:4`), "the fathers fell asleep." And Paul used it time and again, as the following quotations show--
"If her husband be dead [Greek, fall asleep]"-- `1 Cor. 7:39`.
"The greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep."--`1 Cor. 15:6`.
"If there be no resurrection,...then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished."-- `1 Cor. 15:13-18`.
"Christ is risen from the dead and become the firstfruits of them that slept."--`1 Cor. 15:20`.
"Behold, I show you a mystery; we shall not all sleep." --`1 Cor. 15:51`.
"I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them that are asleep.--`1 Thes. 4:13`.
"Them that sleep in Jesus, will God bring [from the dead] with [by] him."--`1 Thes. 4:14`.
When the Kingdom, the resurrection time, comes, "we who are alive and remain unto the presence of the Lord shall not precede them that are asleep."--`1 Thes. 4:15`.
They "fell asleep" in peace, to await the Lord's day --the Day of Christ, the Millennial Day--fully persuaded that he [Christ] is able to keep that which they committed unto him against that day. (`2 Tim. 1:12`.) This same thought runs through the Old Testament as well--from the time that God first preached to Abraham the Gospel of a resurrection. The expression, "He slept with his fathers," is very common in the Old Testament. But Job puts the matter in very forcible language, saying, "Oh that thou wouldest hide me in the grave, that thou wouldest keep me secret until thy wrath be [over] past!" The present dying time is the time of God's wrath--the curse of death being upon all, because of the original transgression. However, in due time the curse will be lifted and a blessing will come through the Redeemer to all the families of the earth; and so Job continues, "All the days of my appointed time will I wait, until my change come; [then] thou shalt call (`John 5:25`) and I will answer thee; thou shalt have a desire unto the work of thine hands." (`Job 14:14,15`.) And we of the New Testament times read our Lord's response, "all that are in their graves shall hear the voice of the Son of God [calling them to awake and come to a full knowledge of God and to a full opportunity of everlasting life]."--`John 5:25,28`.
BODY, SOUL AND SPIRIT.
That the terms body, soul and spirit are not identical and interchangeable as many assume is shown in the use of all three terms by the Apostle (`1 Thes. 5:23`), when he writes, "I pray God [that] your whole spirit, soul and body be preserved blameless, unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." This prayer must be understood to apply to the Church as a whole--the elect church whose names are written in heaven. The true spirit has been preserved in the little flock. Its body is discernible today also, notwithstanding the multitudes of tares that would hide as well as choke it. And its soul, its activity, its intelligence, its sentient being, is in evidence everywhere, lifting up the standard for the people--the cross, the ransom.
In no other way could we apply the Apostle's words; for, however much people may differ respecting the preservation of the individual spirits and souls of God's people, all will agree that their bodies have not been preserved, but have returned to dust, like those of others.
"ALL LIVE UNTO HIM."--`LUKE 20:37,38`.
Our Lord in contradicting the Sadducees (who denied that there would be a resurrection or any future life) said that the resurrection (and hence a future life) was proved by the fact that God, in speaking to Moses, declared himself the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Our Lord suggests that this of itself is a proof "that the dead are [to be] raised," because God would surely not refer thus to beings totally blotted out of existence. Our Lord then shows that God's plan for a resurrection is fixed, and that those whom men call "dead" "all live unto Him." God's Word, therefore, speaks of them as "asleep" and not as destroyed. In saying, "I am the God of Abraham," etc., he speaks not only of things past as still present, but also of things to come as if already come to pass.--`Rom. 4:17`.
SOME QUESTIONS WITH INSPIRED ANSWERS.
Question. Are the promises to the saints of the Gospel age heavenly or earthly promises?
Answer. "As we have borne the image of the earthly, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly." We are "partakers of the heavenly calling."--`1 Cor. 15:49`; `2 Tim. 4:18`; `Heb. 3:1`; `6:4`; `Phil. 3:14`; `Eph. 2:6,7`; `2 Thes. 1:11,12`; `2 Tim. 1:9,10`.
Question. Will the elect Church, the "overcomers," the "saints," continue to be human beings, "of the earth earthy?"
Answer. "God hath given unto us exceeding great and precious promises, that by these we might become partakers of the divine nature"--"new creatures."--`2 Pet. 1:4`; `2 Cor. 5:17`; `Rom. 8:17,18`.
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Question. When will the full change (begun in us by a change of heart, called the begetting of the spirit) be completed?--When shall we be made like Christ our Lord?
Answer. "We [saints] shall all be changed."... "The dead [saints] shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. In a moment, in a twinkling of an eye ...this mortal shall put on immortality." "Sown a natural [animal] body, it is raised a spiritual body." "Thus is the [special] resurrection of the [special, elect] dead." --`1 Cor. 15:50-53,42-44`; `Phil. 3:10`.
Question. Are full recompenses, either rewards or punishments, to be expected before the resurrection?
Answer. "Thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just."--`Luke 14:14`; `Rev. 11:18`; `Matt. 16:27`.
Question. What is the hope held out for all except the elect Church of the Gospel age?
Answer. "The whole [human] creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now, waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God [the saints]." Then shall follow "times of restitution of all things which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began," in which "all the families of the earth shall be blessed" through the elect "seed" of Abraham. --`Rom. 8:22,19`; `Acts 3:19-21`; `Gal. 3:16,29`.
Question. Are the dead conscious or unconscious?
Answer. "The dead know not anything."--`Eccl. 9:5`; `Psa. 146:4`; `Isa. 38:18,19`.
Question. Have the departed saints been praising the Lord all along during the past ages?
Answer. "The dead praise not the Lord."--`Psa. 115:17`; `Eccl. 9:6`; `Psa. 6:5`.
Question. Did the prophets receive their reward at death, or was it reserved in God's plan to be given them at the beginning of the Millennium, the age of judgment?
Answer. "The time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldst GIVE REWARD unto thy servants the PROPHETS," is at the beginning of the sounding of the last trumpet, the seventh trumpet, at the end of the Gospel age--`Rev. 11:15,18`; `Psa. 17:15`.
Question. Were the apostles promised translation to heaven at death?
Answer. "As I said to the Jews, Whither I go ye cannot come; so now I say TO YOU [apostles]."--`John 13:33`.
Question. Should the saints of the Gospel age, except such as are now living, expect to be crowned at death?
Answer. "When the Chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away."-- `1 Pet. 5:4`; `2 Tim. 4:8`; `1 Pet. 1:4,5`.
Question. Did the Apostles expect glory at death, or at the second coming of Christ?
Answer. "When Christ who is our life shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory."--`Col. 3:4`; `1 John 3:2`.
Question. Were the saints to "shine" in death?
Answer. "Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake,...and they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament [as the sun]."--`Dan. 12:2,3`; `Matt. 13:40-43`.
Question. Did our Lord promise to receive his saints at death or at his second coming?
Answer. "I will come again and receive you unto myself."--`John 14:3`; `Rom. 8:23`.
Question. Were the ancient worthies rewarded at death?
Answer. "These all died in faith, not having received the promises;...that they without us should not be made perfect."--`Heb. 11:13,39,40`.
Question. David was one of the holy prophets: Was he rewarded by being taken to heaven?
Answer. "David is not ascended into the heavens." --`Acts 2:34`.
Question. How many had gone to heaven up to the time of our Lord's ascension?
Answer. "No man hath ascended up to heaven but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of Man."
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Question. Can he who created man destroy him? Can the soul be destroyed by its Creator?
Answer. "Fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in Gehenna* [the Second death]." "He spared not their souls from death." "The soul that sinneth, it shall die."--`Matt. 10:28`; `Psa. 78:50`; `Ezek. 18:4,20`; `Psa. 22:29`; `Joshua 10:35`; `Isa. 38:17`; `Psa. 56:13`; `30:3`; `119:175`; `Matt. 26:38`; `Isa. 53:10,12`.
Question. How great importance did the Apostle Paul attach to the doctrine of the resurrection?
Answer. "If there be no resurrection of the dead, then is not Christ risen....Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished."--`1 Cor. 15:13-18`.
Question. Are the unjust now being tormented in some unknown hell? or do they always meet the full penalty of their unrighteousness in the present life?
Answer. "The Lord knoweth how to...reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment [the Millennial day] to be punished."--`2 Pet. 2:9`; `Job 21:30`.
Question. What will be the end of those who when tried are found incorrigible, wilfully wicked?
Answer. They shall "go away into a cutting off from life," "be punished with everlasting destruction [a destruction which will never be terminated by a resurrection];" for still "The wages of sin is death," "the second death;" and still the gift of God, eternal life, is to be had only in Christ. "He that hath the Son hath life;" he that hath not the Son shall not receive that gift.--`Rom. 6:23`; `Rev. 20:14,15`; `Matt. 25:46`; `1 John 5:12`; `2 Thes. 1:9`.
*Concerning the character of Gehenna, see TOWER, Feb. '93.
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THE CHILD SAMUEL.
--OCT. 27.--`1 SAM. 3:1-13`.--
Golden Text--"Speak, Lord; for thy servant heareth."--`1 Sam. 3:9`.
IT HAS been truly said that the education of a child should begin a hundred years before it is born. Wholesome parental influences are potent agencies in the formation of character. Samuel was the son of godly parents, a child desired and requested of the Lord, the request being accompanied with a solemn covenant that, should it be granted, he should from earliest infancy be dedicated to the Lord. Thus he came into the world richly endowed with an inheritance which only godly parents can bestow,--with a mind tending toward God and righteousness.
As soon as it was possible to do so, Hannah took her son to the temple and there left him to be trained and used in the Lord's service under the care of the high-priest Eli, who was a devoted servant of the Lord. That Samuel was prompt, obedient, teachable and easily led in the right way, because his heart was right and well-disposed, is manifest from his readiness to obey the supposed calls of Eli.
Eli's mild disposition and gentle manners and his
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righteous life and teaching were all that were necessary in the way of human training and restraint to keep this well-disposed child in the way of righteousness from infancy up to manly vigor. Under his influence the child grew and waxed strong in a noble and righteous character, and was active and diligent in the service of the Lord. But it was not so with Eli's own family. His own sons were wayward, disobedient, unthankful, unholy and profligate. Eli sought to correct their waywardness by the same mild measures that were natural to him, but when these measures failed he did not further restrain them by the severer measures so necessary in their case; and so they continued to bring disgrace upon their father and upon the cause of God which he as high priest represented.
This negligence was culpable, and it displeased the Lord. Hence the warning message to him through the child Samuel, as recorded in `verses 11-13`.
It was hard for Eli to realize the displeasure of the Lord, the waywardness of his sons, and his own unfaithfulness and culpable negligence; but he received the reproof with becoming meekness and humility, saying: "It is the Lord: let him do what seemeth him good." And when the tidings came of the fulfilment of this prediction --the tidings of the defeat of Israel before the Philistines and the death of his two sons in the battle, it was a terrible blow; but not until he heard that the ark of the Lord was in the hands of the enemy did his deep sorrow overwhelm him, and he fell from off the seat backward and broke his neck, and died. (`Chap. 4:18`.) But notwithstanding his weakness, his heart was always loyal and true to God, and the cause of God was dear to him; and God who is merciful and gracious and slow to anger, though he thus severely punished Eli's negligence, will doubtless remember in mercy and forgiveness his servant in the day he judges the secrets of men by Jesus Christ.--`Rom. 2:16`.
This incident brings forcibly to our attention the estimate which the Lord places on strength of character. After reasonable instruction in the ways of righteousness the Lord expects, and has a right to expect, strong characters. Wherefore the Apostle says, "Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might....Quit you like men, be strong." (`Eph. 6:10`; `1 Cor. 16:13`.) We should be strong in faith and strong in character: so shall we be pleasing and acceptable to God. If weakness and indecision be a natural failing with us, we are not excusable in failing to strive against it. Some of the noblest characters are those achieved through earnest striving against inherited weaknesses. God is also always ready to supplement our efforts with his strength, if we invoke his aid.
One lesson to be drawn is respecting God's view of parental responsibility in training up children in the knowledge and reverence of the Lord. We here emphasize the fact that duty always begins at home, however far it may reach beyond it. It is the mistake of some, to be less zealous in preaching and exemplifying the gospel in their own families, than among those outside of them. Charity (love, care, benevolence) should begin at home, and should continue there. That field, more than any other, should be prayerfully and patiently worked, even though it be slower than others to yield fruit.
Another good lesson is found in the `Golden Text`-- Samuel's answer to the Lord: "Speak, Lord; for thy servant heareth." Too often the uninstructed or wrongly instructed "servant" wants to do all the talking, and to have the Lord hear him and perform his will. How few of God's children are quick to learn the lesson that God has a message to communicate to them through his Word by which their thoughts, words and deeds are to be directed.
Let us never forget that the Bible is God's Word to us. And while prompt to acknowledge the channels and agencies honored by the Lord in bringing to our attention the things of his Word new and old, let us never forget that the Word itself is the final arbiter, and that if any teaching fails to harmonize with that Word it is because there is no light in it. (`Isa. 8:20`.) Then, as the Apostle says, we are to be not only hearers, but also doers, of the Lord's Word. (`James 1:22`.) And "He that hath my Word let him speak my word faithfully" (`Jer. 23:28`) --not uncertainly, doubtfully, but "If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God."--`1 Pet. 4:11`.
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SAMUEL THE JUDGE.
--NOV. 3.--`1 SAM. 7:5-15`.--
Golden Text--"Hitherto hath the Lord helped us."--`1 Sam. 7:12`.
SAMUEL succeeded Eli as Judge in Israel, and was the last of the judges, the office of Judge being superseded by that of king. `Chapter 12` contains his farewell address as judge, after he had anointed Saul to be king. But nevertheless it is written that "Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life." (`Verse 15`.) In a sense-- in the estimation of the people--the office of judge was superseded by that of king, and Samuel's term of office ended with Saul's elevation to the throne. But in God's reckoning he was a judge over and above the king to the end of his life; and in this capacity, under God's direction, he anointed Saul as king, and later he anointed David to be Saul's successor.
Prior to the events of this lesson Samuel had spent some years in endeavoring gradually to influence the public sentiment toward repentance and reformation; and finally he gathered them together at Mizpeh that there he might intercede with God on their behalf, and that they might there make a solemn confession of their sins to God and covenant afresh to walk in his ways. This solemn return of the nation to God was, in answer to the prayer of his faithful servant Samuel, followed by an immediate manifestation
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of the Lord's acceptance and favor toward them in delivering them from the yoke of the Philistines.
In observing these remarkable providences on behalf of the nation of Israel, we should never lose sight of the fact that these special dealings with that nation were peculiar to them only; and that because they had come into covenant relationship with God. God's care and favor were over that nation only, of all the nations of the earth. Even their national penalties for sin were marks of the divine favor; for God wisely disciplined them for their good--to purge them from sin, to correct them and keep them near himself. And this divine favor was never taken from them until, as a nation, they rejected and crucified the Son of God. Since that time they have had no favor. Nor will God's favor return to them until, as Paul states, the fulness of the Gentiles shall have come into possession of the chief blessing, which time is now at hand.
In the interim the special favor of God has been shown to the spiritual seed of Abraham, the faithful overcoming saints of the Gospel age. As God led and disciplined and delivered and cared for his ancient people, so now he bestows the same attentions upon his faithful church, both collectively and individually. And how often we are similarly impelled by a sense of his care and love to sing--
"Here I'll raise my Ebenezer, hither by thy help I'm come!"
We now are God's covenant people: let us be faithful followers; "for, as many as are led by the spirit of God, they are the Sons of God."