ZWT - 1895 - R1794 thru R1910 / R1844 (173) - August 1, 1895
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VOL. XVI. AUGUST 1, 1895. No. 15.
Special Items: Sister Russell's Letter............174
A Word of Caution.............................174
Views from the Tower..............................175
The Time of thy Visitation........................178
Tract Society's Introductory Letters..............181
Consecration vs. the World and its
Bible Study: The Brazen Serpent...................183
Bible Study: The New Home in
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SISTER RUSSELL'S LETTER.
Sister Russell is generally busy in the TOWER office; but just now she is making a little tour among the Lord's people in New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, etc. Sister Russell's meetings are usually "parlor talks." Her present mission is to see and cheer the Lord's flock and to bring us word of their spiritual welfare. She writes:--
Springfield, Mass., July 25, '95.
MY DEAR HUSBAND:--I arrived a few hours ago from Troy, on the 1.12 train and am safely and pleasantly sheltered with Sister Clark who gives me a cordial greeting, and I am resting a little and trying to feel ready in mind and body for the evening meeting.
We had a good time in Troy, also in Saugerties and Yonkers, as well as in New York City and Brooklyn. Indeed, I have most cheering news from all with whom I have met thus far, and they all have messages of love and encouragement for you. The spirit of God is wonderfully manifest among his people.
I have not had a chance to write you since I left New York, my stay in each place being so short that what little time I had with the friends was wholly occupied; and it has been midnight and after, almost every night before we retired. I am somewhat weary to-day, but tomorrow will not be so hurried.
It was a great pleasure to receive your letter on my arrival here, and to know that you are so thoughtful of me and that I have your prayers constantly. I feel that I am constantly dependent upon divine grace, for I have no strength of my own. In so many ways I have realized the Lord's special helpfulness supplying my deficiency out of his abundant fulness that many times I am even surprised at it. I am trying to fulfill my mission as thoroughly as possible, but I must leave particulars until I return. I expect to hear from you next at Boston.
Kindly remember me to all the family and inquiring friends. I think of you always, dear, and am anxiously anticipating the return home. Your loving wife, MARIA F. RUSSELL.
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A WORD OF CAUTION.
We learn that certain persons are writing to Z.W.T. readers for the addresses of all known to be interested in Z.W.T. publications. We advise that such requests be ignored;--do not even answer them. The "babes" in the truth will get enough confusion and error and sifting, without your thus helping to send them more. Satan is very active, spreading all kinds of snares; and all who cannot help others out of these snares should be doubly careful that they assist none into them. You may be sure that if you are requested to send addresses of Z.W.T. people, it is because your applicant knows that the Z.W.T. office does not know him well enough to send such addresses, or because he is well known to be a propagator of false doctrines. The "sheep" and "lambs" are far better a little lonely in the "green pastures" and beside the "still waters" than in communication with the "grievous wolves" of this evil day, against whom we are cautioned by the Apostle Peter. Read `2 Pet. 2:1-3`; `Acts 20:28-32`.
Experience proves to us all that anyone who cannot by the grace of God claim for himself (to some degree) the Eight Qualifications of a minister (servant) of the truth, mentioned in our issue of Oct. 15, '94, and declare his appreciation of those qualifications, and his desire to grow in them, is not such an one as would probably be a benefit to the sheep and lambs, or be in any manner qualified to "feed" them.
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VIEWS FROM THE TOWER.
YOUNG Peoples' Societies are the order of the day. The phenomenally successful "Young People's Society of Christian Endeavor" at its recent annual convention claims to have had present over fifty thousand delegates, representing societies numbering nearly three million members. It does not claim to be unsectarian, but allsectarian. Its success is due to the fact that it may be said of it, "All men speak well of you." It won sectarian favor, by making it a fundamental rule that each Society should be connected with some church, and that it must cooperate with the pastor, and that its members must never if possible be absent from the services of its own church. An institution so loyal to sectarianism could not fail to be successful.
But "Christian Endeavor" had its rise amongst Congregationalists, and bears the stamp of their love of liberty in that its officers, etc., are selected by general ballot. The astute managers of Methodism soon saw that the Young People's movement had come to stay, and that if as young people they got the idea of managing their own affairs, selecting their own leaders, officers, etc., it would not be long before they would get to be old folks and have the same ideas respecting conferences, choosing their own ministers, etc.; and this would mean the destruction of the Methodist Episcopal polity, by which the bishops or clergy now manage that denomination's affairs so successfully.
As a result the Epworth League was organized, to handle the young folks of the M.E. Church; and in an unobtrusive manner accustom them to the recognition of Episcopacy in their affairs. Otherwise they are identical with the Y.P.S.C.E. This movement also has scored quite a success. It has just held a convention at Chattanooga, Tenn., where nearly fifteen thousand delegates were in attendance. The M.E. young people are being withdrawn from the Y.P.S.C.E. and from the "Boy's Brigade" into the "Epworth League" and the "Epworth Guards," in which the Church Pastor always has the control. As the Episcopal system made the Church of Rome powerful and great, so the same system is daily adding power and influence to the M.E. Church.
The influence was contageous, and soon the Methodist Protestant denomination organized its Christian Endeavor Societies as Methodist Protestant Societies of Christian Endeavor. Their convention was held recently in Pittsburg.
Baptists, too, concluding that their young people might lose sight of their distinctive doctrines, organized "The Baptist Young People's Union." Their convention, just held at Baltimore, Md., reports 6,559 delegates present.
We cannot feel otherwise than sympathetic with the avowed objects of these Societies, and the manifest endeavors of some of their leaders. Yet on the other hand we cannot overlook the fact that they are strands of another rope which is being thrown around the rising generation, to bind them more tightly to the theological errors which they have inherited, and from which otherwise they would have the better chance to get free. Their time already overfilled with church "work" is now so filled to the brim that they have no time to see the fallacies of their church-creeds nor to seek for truth "as men search for silver." Besides, filled with the intoxication of numbers and the excitement of annual conventions, etc., they have little appetite for spiritual things; they do not realize the inconsistency of much that they profess to believe, and are therefore not hungering and thirsting after something better, and are less susceptible to present truth. They remind us of some in the Apostle's day who knew only the baptism of John, unto repentance. (`Acts 18:25-19:4`.) Repentance
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is the first step, and it is important; but those who would make their calling and election sure to joint-heirship with Christ must be sanctified with the truth,--errors do not produce the right sort of sanctification.
On the whole we would feel glad to see so many young people even slightly interested in religious things did we not realize (1) that it is likely to attract some away from the "deep things of God," the truly spiritual things, and (2) that with the activity of our day these associated and well organized millions will sooner or later realize their power and start crusades (political and otherwise), which will bias public opinion, influence legislation, and sooner or later, probably, be used of Satan against liberty and the truth. It is very safe to follow Apostolic methods and recognize and belong to only "the Church of the first-born" whose names are written in heaven and who altogether will be but a "little flock."
And yet, one cannot overlook the fact that among the earnest laborers in these Societies are some noble men and women, upon the altars of whose hearts burns the fire of full consecration to our Lord. This encourages us, and reminds us that there are numbers yet in Babylon who should be sealed with the present truth. Let us each be fully awake to the use of our opportunities for serving that class.
In illustration of what we mean, we quote from an address by Miss C. Grant before the Epworth Convention. Her subject was "Church Amusements--What to have and what not to have." She urged that the Scripture injunction be remembered: "Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord God, and touch not the unclean thing." She urged that whatever amusements are recognized be of the stamp approved by the Apostle's words: "Whatsoever things are true. Whatsoever things are honest. Whatsoever things are just. Whatsoever things are pure. Whatsoever things are lovely. Whatsoever things are of good report." But she said,--
"Frankly we must acknowledge that our churches of today are not keeping entirely to that standard. In an endeavor to meet the needs or nature of our younger young people and to hold our own, so to speak, with the world's fascinating allurements, or in special efforts to make (in other words to extort) the money that should be freely given, we have undoubtedly gone too far over on the world's side and I believe that for good reason our church papers are giving the warning cry of 'Danger!' And this danger is the greater because so few seem aware of it. What I would say to those of you here today who are among the workers in this line or who have any voice in the work, and what I wish I could say to all our Epworth young people everywhere, is, present no entertainment that has not been carefully and prayerfully considered in the light of God's word, "Come out from among them and be ye separate and touch not the unclean thing." Many err from blindness to the importance of this matter, but this morning I beg you to go home from this conference now ready, if never before, to scatter light, to open the eyes of others, to say a strong, firm, but courageous No! to whatever has upon it the 'image and superscription of Caesar." But do this not in a dictatorial way that is certain to antagonize, not in an 'I am holier than thou' spirit, that is equally certain to arouse opposition, but in a self-forgetting, Christ-like spirit that shall win others by its firm and loving loyalty.
"To specify somewhat as to what not to have, I will illustrate by plain mention of some examples. There is a so-called 'Brownie Entertainment;' what could be less suggestive of harm than that name? Without due investigation, it has been entered into by our churches here and there and has proved to be theatrical in its real nature; children have been kept out very late practicing; dancing, under the changed name of marching and 'drills,' has been taught, and in one instance by the very person who instructed certain ballet dancers; in some places the entertainment has been called the church theater. Can such work be consistent with our vows, with holy Christian living? Its effect upon the spiritual life of the young people engaged in it, I leave you to imagine."
She also rebuked other improper entertainments, "The Midway Plaisance," etc.
The Rev. C. H. Payne, of New York City, spoke of a coming revival which he intimated might be in the nature of a revolution. We wonder whether or not he may have gotten a glimpse of the true Church's power and kingdom soon to be manifested (`Rom. 8:22,21`) and the new earth (social order) under that new heavens (ecclesiastical order). He said:--
"It will be a revival of original Christianity. The greatest need of the world today is the Christianization of Christianity, the making of Christianity what Christ himself intended it to be. Christ's own type of Christianity must and will be realized. The present age has been marked by brilliant discoveries, but the greatest discovery has yet to be made, and when made will startle and quicken the world. That discovery is the discovery of Christ. He has never yet been really and fully known; has never been rightly recognized; never had a fitting place in the world for which he died. He is coming to the front as the rightful and recognized leader of his own forces; the church will soon awake to see Him as her true leader, listen to His words of command and follow Him to victory.... It is my firm belief that the church of Christ is on the eve of such a mighty spiritual and moral upheaval; the incoming
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of a revolutionary power that will make the church truly Christian, in fact as well as in name, and sweep the world forward toward the Millennial dawn."
One excellent move, among the Epworth Leaguers, is represented in the "Tongue Bridlers Brigade," the members of which are required to take the following pledge:
"In consideration of the feelings of my fellow human beings, I hereby agree, in my ordinary conversation, not to speak ill of persons, especially in their absence, but to speak well of all as opportunity is afforded, and as I can conscientiously do so."
We trust that this movement may do some good, and help to stop one of the greatest evils in the world, "gossiping." But we remind the prospective or probationary members of the "royal priesthood" that the Chief Priest of our profession (or order) has put upon all who would be recognized by him as members of his glorious Melchesidec Priesthood, a pledge whose conditions are much more sweeping and comprehensive than the above. We fear that many have overlooked it. It is to this effect:--
"A new commandment I give unto you,--that ye love one another." "Love as brethren; be pitiful, be
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courteous: not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing, but contrariwise blessing." "Be kindly affectionate one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another." "He that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love." "Respect all men, love the brotherhood." "Love one another with a pure heart fervently." "Love suffereth long and is kind; love envieth not; love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up; love seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, and thinketh no evil." (`1 Pet. 3:8,9`, `1:22`; `Rom. 12:10`; `1 John 4:8`.) "Let us not love in word, neither in tongue [merely], but in deed and in truth [sincerely]. And hereby we know that we are of the truth and shall assure our hearts before the Lord."-- `1 John 3:18,19`.
Where love rules the heart, even imperfectly, it commands that we think as little evil of one another as possible; and that we judge each other's motives generously, charitably; and if we love others as we love ourselves we will be careful to screen each other's imperfections from others, except where principles are involved. Love is the very essence of our Lord's spirit: and "if any man have not the spirit of Christ [to some measure and growingly], he is none of his." Let us therefore practice and acquire tongue bridling, not merely outwardly, and from "consideration for the feelings of fellow men," but as one of the necessary graces of the heart which if absent would prove that we are "none of his."
We have wondered considerably that The Evangelical Alliance, the first movement toward ecclesiastical union, organized in A.D. 1846 (the U.S. branch later), has kept so quiet of late; when "Union" has been heard on every side. We are not surprised, therefore, to learn through the Presbyterian Banner (July 24) that,--
"It is the purpose of the Evangelical Alliance for the United States to extend its work by the organization of local branches of the Alliance in the cities and towns throughout the country, with the object of promoting the interests for which the parent organization was formed.
"The constitution to be adopted by the local alliances has been prepared, and in its definition of the objects of the organization is the following:
"The Alliance shall stand in the name of Christ on the side of practical religion, good citizenship, enforcement of law, promotion of sobriety, the prevention of cruelty, the alleviation of suffering, the correction of injustice, the rescue of the unfortunate, the reformation of the depraved, and for such kindred ends as pertain to the true social mission of the Church.
"In the furtherance of such objects it is distinctly declared that the Alliance shall not attempt to exercise ecclesiastical or administrative authority over the allied churches. It shall be the servant of the churches, recommending such united action as it deems most wise. It shall be a purely voluntary association, which leaves the churches, with all their diverging views of doctrine and polity, absolutely unsolicited either to worship or to fellowship, which would contradict their independent convictions. Nor shall it lay the churches under any financial obligations."
For this we have been waiting for some time. This is the road that leads to cooperative Union amongst Protestants, and to cooperative fellowship with Romanism.
But the Alliance is not quite so creedless as the Banner's statement implies. It has "Nine Articles" governing it; and all who would be associated in it must subscribe to them. We quote:
"The parties composing the Alliance shall be such parties only as hold and maintain what are usually understood to be evangelical views in regard to the matter of doctrine understated."
Then follow the Nine Articles of Faith, some of which are excellent, of course, but being what is "usually understood as Evangelical," they contain three items which would debar any who had been well "sealed in their foreheads" with the truth; viz., profession of faith in the trinity, in human immortality and in eternal torment;--quite sufficient to keep separate the Cleansed Sanctuary class.*
Quite probably there will be a change of the name of the Alliance, about the time that the Church of England joins it, and gives it "life," power, vitality (`Rev. 13:15`), so that thereafter federated Protestants will act with Papacy and assume a general supervision of the government and morals of the world;--to their betterment in some respects, no doubt, but to the prejudice of present truth and its servants and agencies.
It will be noticed in the above quotation that "practical religion, good citizenship, enforcement of law," etc., are prominent;--first in the list of objects to be attained. This means that as soon as the Alliance has its branches in good working order, it will take a hand in practical politics and make its influence felt in government circles. The same disposition is to be noticed in the Christian Endeavor and other Young Peoples' Societies: they adopted resolutions which show that they are not averse to using the influence of their members in guiding the affairs of State. No doubt the motives are excellent; but experience, as well as Scripture, teaches us that such power will be used dictatorially when once obtained. No man will be able to buy or sell (exchange) spiritual doctrines, when that power is at its zenith, except such as bear its stamp of approval or orthodox or evangelical "marks."--`Rev. 13:16,17`.
THE SOCIAL VIEW.
How strangely the affairs of earth sometimes move! For instance, the governments of Europe consider Socialism their most dangerous enemy, and yet the force of circumstances is impelling them to adopt socialistic measures. The increasing military armament makes necessary increased revenues. Europe imports little except the necessaries of life, and taxes on these cannot be increased; for it would bear too heavily upon the poor masses. It must, therefore, be gotten from the well-to-do. But how? There is great opposition there to class taxation such as an Income Tax; and the only way out of the difficulty is for the governments to take control of certain classes of manufacture and raise the additional revenues in the way of profits. And this is the essence of socialism--which claims that all the large business operations should be conducted by the government with the people's wealth, and for the benefit of the people.
*See MILLENNIAL DAWN, VOL. III., Chap. 4.
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France began the matter a long while ago in making of the tobacco business a very profitable government monopoly. She is now considering the advisability of monopolizing other branches of business.
Germany has long operated many if not all of her railroads at a profit, and is looking about for some other profitable monopolies.
Russia has been trying the liquor business for nearly a year in four of her provinces (much after the style of the South Carolina dispensary system), and has determined that it will be expedient and profitable to extend it. The Czar's ukase decrees that the system shall be extended to eight provinces on July 1, '96, and to seven other provinces by July 1, '97 and to the remainder of the empire by Jan. 1, '98. The object is claimed to be a decrease of drunkenness, and purer liquors; and it is claimed that these have been the results thus far. No doubt it is true that restrictions can be enforced by government-employed-and-paid liquor manufacturers and sellers, that could not be enforced amongst those directly interested in the profits. But undoubtedly the profit of the immense business is the chief reason for its being monopolized by the government. The report of the success of the scheme in Russia, together with recent reports that drunkenness is greatly on the increase throughout Europe, and their need for revenue, will doubtless lead the other nations of Europe to similarly monopolize the manufacture and sale of liquors.
While this would doubtless be the way to regulate the evil, it will present the peculiar anomaly of so called "Christian nations" engaging in a disreputable business. Fancy the Czar, the head of the eighty millions of Greek Catholics, and the Kaiser, at the head of some forty millions of nominal Christians, providing them with whiskey, wine, beer, etc., in the name of God and as the representatives of Christ upon the thrones of "Christendom"
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(Christ's Kingdom). Fancy the signs--for instance, Emperor William III., by the grace of God, Exclusive Manufacturer and Seller of all Kinds of Intoxicants, to the Christian church-nation of Germany. Sarcastically this might be termed driving the devil out of the liquor business, and giving the monopoly of it to God. To such absurd conclusions do the erroneous claims of "Christendom" (that its rulers are of divine appointment and that in them is fulfilled the claim that the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and his anointed) lead.
THE HEBREW VIEW.
The Eighth Annual Conference of American Hebrew Rabbis was held this year in Rochester, N.Y., July 10-12. This is an attempt to harmonize Orthodox and Radical (infidel) Jews. Dr. Wise, the President of the Conference, declared that they had "abolished the barrier of circumcision." Another speaker (Dr. E. G. Hirsch) said, "If we can keep the old Sabbath, let us; but if we cannot keep it, let us have the new." With the Jews, as with others, there seems to be a desire for Union no matter what the sacrifice of faith or principle.
The Woschod, a St. Petersburg organ of the Russian Jews, declares that Jerusalem will soon have a Jewish university. Students of all nationalities and all creeds will be admitted, but the rules will be in accordance with the Jewish ritual. The Semitic languages and Jewish literature will find special attention. The university is to be opened in 1897 in localities rented for the purpose, but a suitable building will be erected soon after, as the funds are in readiness. What is still needed is the permission of the Turkish government, and suitable teachers.
This is one of the best evidences of Palestine's revival. It must, we believe, become socially elevated, and quite wealthy within less than twenty years, to permit the fulfillment of `Ezek. 38:8,12,13`, before A.D. 1915.
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THE TIME OF THY VISITATION.
"And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, saying, 'If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, and shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another, because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.'"--`Luke 19:41-44`.
THE Lord's earthly ministry was fast nearing its close, as also was the time of Israel's special favor. To Israel first was the gospel of the new dispensation preached; and the privilege of preparing to enter the spiritual phase of the Kingdom of God was being withheld from the Gentiles to fulfil the promise of God to their fathers, that his special favor should be to them first--"to the Jew first, and afterward to the Gentile."--`Luke 24:46,47`; `Acts 13:46`; `3:26`.
In fulfilment of his promise God had greatly favored Israel, but chiefly in that to them were committed the oracles of God--the law and the testimony of God. (`Rom. 3:2`.) And by and by he sent to them prophets and wise men to remind them of their privileges and obligations, that at the appointed time they might be found worthy to enter into their inheritance. But they heeded not the prophets (`Matt. 23:37`), and so, last of all, God sent his Son. (`Matt. 21:33-46`.) And now, for three and a half years, the Son of God himself had been preaching to them the gospel of the Kingdom. But neither did they reverence his Son. They not only despised his teaching, but they also hated and reviled him, and were continually plotting against his life.
In the midst of all this ingratitude and wickedness God had patiently borne with Israel, but now the time of retribution was close at hand. As a nation they had so
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hardened their hearts by continued perversity that, although according to the promises they were looking for and expecting the Messiah about that time, they were nevertheless unable to discern "the time of their visitation." The Messiah had come--born a Jew, of the lineage of David; his advent was announced by angel messengers with heavenly anthems of praise and benedictions; his anointing likewise received the divine testimony from heaven--"This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." His claims and his teaching had received the most marked seal of divine approval and endorsement in the testimony of numerous and very public miracles, and his personal character and demeanor were such as to command the most profound respect and reverence of all men, even his enemies bearing witness to the grandeur of his character. "Never man spake like this man," said the officers who were sent to arrest him, but who could not, being overawed by the majesty of his presence. Many of the people said, "Of a truth this is the prophet." "Others said, This is the Christ. ...When Christ cometh will he do more miracles than these which this man hath done?" And when Pilate thought to subdue the people when they clamored for his death, he brought him forth and said, "Behold the man!" --Should a man like that die? "I find no fault in him."
Alas! so hard-hearted and consequently so blind had this people become, that they not only failed to recognize the time of their visitation, but they also conspired against the Lord to slay him. "He came unto his own and his own received him not;" he did "among them the works which none other man did," but they heeded not their testimony; "the light shined in the darkness, but the darkness comprehended it not;" the table of God's rich bounty was spread for them in vain, and because of their hardness of heart it became unto them "a snare and a trap."
It was in view of this dreadful condition of heart which prevailed throughout the nation, and of the national crime which was even then contemplated and which should so soon be perpetrated by his people--"his own people" according to the flesh--and of the fearful retribution they were about to precipitate upon themselves, that Jesus wept over them and uttered the plaintive lamentation of our text, "If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace."
These words were not the demonstration of a merely selfish patriotism for his own nation according to the flesh, but the deep solicitude of a noble heart which grieved for a nation that failed so sadly to realize both its privileges and its degradation, and which therefore must soon receive the fearful visitation of divine wrath.
Just here it will be profitable to note what constitutes a national sin, as illustrated in Israel. Their great national sin was the rejection and crucifixion of the anointed Son of God. On the part of the minority of the nation--the rulers and recognized teachers--the sin was active: they plotted and planned; they sought to catch him in his words and in some way to so entangle him as to find a legal cause against him; at different times they specially commissioned hirelings to arrest him; and finally they violently and publicly instigated an excited and clamorous mob against him. But on the part of the majority of the people the sin was passive, both in the rejection and in the crucifixion. They weakly failed to exercise their right of private judgment, and although often they heard him gladly, and hung upon his words, and said, Of a truth this must be the Christ, and on one occasion were even constrained to take him by force and make him their king, nevertheless they failed to act on their own convictions and dependently inquired, "Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on him?" They blindly submitted to their erring and blind leaders, and both together fell into the ditch. Thus the whole nation, except the remnant that believed, were either actively or passively involved in the great sin of the rejection and crucifixion of the Lord.
There is a most potent lesson here for those weak and ignoble characters which think to shirk responsibility by indifference and passive acquiescence with popular errors. Both the active and the passive of the nation of Israel suffered alike the penalty of their national crime; for that which the Lord in the above words foretold soon came to pass. The siege of Jerusalem was one of the most appalling calamities. Their enemies stormed the city from without, cut off their supplies of food and drove them to all the horrors of famine, when parents actually killed and ate their own children; and added to all this were the terrors of civil war: every man's hand was against his neighbor. The punishment inflicted upon the nation extended, not only to the inhabitants of the capital city, but to the whole people, driving them out of their own land and scattering them as fugitives among all nations, never again to be reinstated until their King should come "a second time without a sin-offering unto salvation;" when their blindness shall be turned away and they shall say, "Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord." But not until the fulness of the Gentiles shall have come into possession of the Kingdom which was first offered to, but was rejected by, them shall their blindness be turned away. The forfeiture of this chief favor, together with the calamities and persecution they have suffered ever since, is their national penalty.
There is something touchingly beautiful in this expression
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of the Lord's sympathy for the blind and erring. What moral grandeur is this that could so triumph over vindictiveness and hate! What dignity and grace and glory! Lord, help thy children to "consider him who endured such contradiction of sinners against himself;" "who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered he threatened not, but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously;" who seemed to forget the sting of persecution against himself in his deep sorrow and pity for the blindness and moral degradation of his persecutors.
Hear him again: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets and stonest them which are sent unto
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thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate; for I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord." How long the Lord waited to be gracious, how slow was he to wrath, and how plenteous in mercy! But, nevertheless, the reckoning day must come and the harvest of an evil sowing must be reaped.
"If thou hadst known," O Israel, "the things that belong unto thy peace," how different would have been the consequences! But while we consider these words, we call to mind the fact that in all these things fleshly Israel was typical* of the whole nominal gospel church--"Christendom" --and see that these words of lamentation over their stumbling and fall apply with equal force, as the prophets also indicated, to Christendom--the nominal spiritual Israel, which, at this parallel point of time, the harvest of this age, similarly fails to recognize the time of her visitation, and which, in consequence, is about to precipitate upon herself "a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation"--a trouble, therefore, even greater than that which befell fleshly Israel; and justly so, for her privileges and opportunities have been a thousand times greater.
Again, therefore, we seem to hear the Master's voice saying, "If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things that belong unto thy peace." What things belong unto the peace of God's professedly consecrated people? It is nothing short of the fullest acceptance of Christ and his teachings, and obedience to them; for not the forgetful hearers, but the doers of the word are blessed. Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all other things needful will be added.
We rejoice to know that even as in the Jewish harvest there was a remnant who did know and follow the things that belonged to their peace, and who therefore received the end of their faith as joint-inheritors with the Lord of his Kingdom and glory, so now also there is a believing and faithful remnant out of nominal spiritual Israel which discerns the time of her visitation. Yes, some of us have learned the things that belong unto our peace; and consequently, in the midst of the threatened dangers and commotion that even now begin to distress Christendom in every department of its life--civil, social, financial and religious --the peace of God, which passeth the understanding of all those who do not possess it, keeps our hearts.
Praise the Lord for his keeping power! His truth is our shield and buckler; and beyond the tempest which, according to the sure word of prophecy, we know must soon come, we see the glory of the established Kingdom--the Kingdom of light and peace. As the Lord said to his early disciples, so now he says to us, "Blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears; for they hear; for verily I say unto you, that many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear and have not heard them;" for verily the Master himself hath caused us to sit down to meat and hath come forth and served us, according to his promise.
Meanwhile all the elements of strife and discord which shall eventuate in the predicted and unparalleled trouble are in active operation; and, as the time approaches, the distress of nations, and of individuals as well, rapidly increases. In our view of the civil, social, financial and religious situation of Christendom to-day, we have called attention to some of these things, and our readers, we trust, are sufficiently awake to the signs of the times to note many more.
In religion, as vital godliness has declined, the forms of godliness have multiplied, and the people mistake the show for reality. Disregarding their right and duty of private judgment, they blindly follow their blind leaders, as did their Jewish prototypes; and, like them, they are also destined ere long to stumble into the ditch together. Now, as then, the harvest message comes through unexpected and unpretentious channels, and the masses of professed Christians, who fail to rightly estimate their personal responsibility and weakly lean upon their leaders, ignobly surrender their personal liberty and inquire, Have any of the priests or reverend doctors of divinity or theological professors, etc., believed on him? thinking thereby also to shirk their own personal responsibility. But their passive submission to the popular current, which is strongly set against the Lord and his truth, the active agents in which are the very priests and reverend doctors and theological professors to whom they look, all heedless of the Prophet's warning (`Isa. 28:7,8`; `29:11,12`), will no more shield them from personal responsibility and from the impending trouble than did such passive submission shield the masses of fleshly Israel from the tribulation that involved them all, leaders and followers alike.
Such being the religious condition in Christendom, it is no matter of surprise that political, social and financial conditions are influenced by it. The great increase of light on all subjects, incident to this "day of preparation" for the great change of dispensation, has quickened thought and activity in every direction, and the listless, sleepy, pleasure-loving Church, intoxicated with the spirit of the world (`Isa. 28:7`), has been unable to help men to realize the true import of all these things; it has failed to center the attention of the people upon Christ and his coming kingdom and the signs of its approach, or to win their hearts to him and his blessed law of love and justice. Consequently strife, selfish ambition and general discontent and unrest prevail everywhere, and the dire results are felt in social, political and financial circles to such an extent that great fear of impending catastrophe is more and more taking hold upon all minds.
How rapidly events are marching toward the predicted culmination! Let those whose anointed eyes behold with joy the providence of God in permitting the adverse winds to rise and then controlling them so as to make them eventually work out his own good purposes, rejoice; yet rejoice with trembling, for neither have we yet reached the goal nor stood all the tests of faithfulness and endurance which must prove our worthiness to enter in to the final joy of our Lord. Let us be sober, and watch unto prayer.
*See MILLENNIAL DAWN, VOL. II., Chap. vii.
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TRACT SOCIETY'S INTRODUCTORY LETTERS.
IT has been decided best to recall all of the Introductory Letters issued under the auspices of ZION'S WATCH TOWER TRACT SOCIETY, and to issue no more of them.
ZION'S WATCH TOWER TRACT SOCIETY is only a business association (has no creed or confession). It merely represents a fund entrusted to its officers for use to the best of their judgment in the spread of the Truth;--especially of those truths set forth in MILLENNIAL DAWN and ZION'S WATCH TOWER, by means of which many of the donors have been brought, by God's mercy, out of darkness into his marvelous light. The funds donated are used under the direction of the Editor (who is President of the Tract Society), just as they were used before the Society was organized. It was chartered at the request of some of the friends and contributors with a view to the continuance of the "harvest" work should the Editor die before the end of the "harvest."
This Society, therefore, would have the same right as any other business firm to give a Letter of Introduction to any one it might think worthy. But we find that the very word "Society" is liable to be misunderstood by some to mean Church; and that some are in danger of regarding this Society's Letters of Introduction as if they were Commissions, Authorizations or Ordination papers. We discontinue these Letters because we wish to "avoid the very appearance of evil," as the Word teaches.
Neither one man, nor many men unitedly, can either give or take away from anyone authority to preach in the name of the Lord. God only can give such authority; and he alone could cancel it. He has given this authority to all his people, saying: "He that hath my word let him speak my word." We sought specially to guard against such an idea as that the Letters of Introduction were letters of authority, and the Letters themselves state this most explicitly; but since they are misunderstood by some, they might later on come to be misunderstood by many. Hence they are recalled before they can do harm. Indeed, they may do good by leading to this emphatic calling of attention to God's as the only competent authorization; and the pointing out afresh that ZION'S WATCH TOWER TRACT SOCIETY is not a religious but a business association. It makes no creeds; it merely keeps accounts of the moneys received and expended; just as a banking firm receives deposits and returns checks or vouchers showing what was
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done with the money. It makes no demands, nor assessments, nor does it beg or importune for money. It merely gives notice that it is ready to receive and use, as wisely as possible, whatever money may be sent by the interested ones, who have been helped out of Satan's darkness into the sunlight of God's loving plan by its aid.
But what shall we do to shield the flock from some who have left the truth of which the ransom is the foundation? Well, the "sheep" are, very properly, learning to be on guard against "wolves in sheep's clothing," and must be all the more on guard and receive not every spirit. They must all the more carefully watch against the wiles of the devil. Let them remember that the true spirit is--
(1) "First pure, then peaceable." And let them beware of any and all coarseness, vulgarity or other uncleanness or impurity, in word, act or personal appearance.
(2) Let them remember that the spirit of Christ is never without meekness and gentleness. A contentious, quarrelsome, rude, selfish spirit is a sure indication that the one possessing it is not fit to be a teacher even or "babes in Christ." But specially beware of some who are hypocritically smooth and meek and who engender doubts, suspicions, fears, and destroy faith and confidence with feigned love and tears. The openly contentious are far less dangerous than these wolves in sheep's clothing.
(3) Reject instantly and have no fellowship or communion with any who either openly deny the merit of Christ's work as our ransom-price, or who do so by the sophistry of their arguments, while professing to hold to the ransom, upon which they put a false meaning, ignoring the true meaning of the word ransom, Gr. antilutron, --a corresponding price. Such errors although the worst and most destructive are easiest of all to "prove"-- a moment or two will suffice; then act on the true principle and have no fellowship with them, and investigate no further.
(4) The outward proofs of character may be satisfactory, and the first applied tests of doctrine--faith in Christ as a savior from sin and its penalty, by a ransom,-- may be quickly made; but then comes a further criticism. For we are not to "swallow" even the less important teachings of any except as we find them to be in harmony with God's Word. Unless you are absolutely sure of them, turn and look at the connections of any Scriptures quoted to prove any new point. Accept only such views of Scripture passages as agree well with the context. Many are susceptible to error through neglect of this rule.
(5) While "preaching" is one of the very best methods for giving and receiving instruction, it is only proper for such as have some natural ability in that direction. Others should be encouraged to serve in other ways, each "according to his several ability." (`Matt. 25:15`.) Some who are not platform speakers are excellent otherwise, "apt to teach," and should be appreciated and used in Bible Class talks. And even an orator should not be encouraged unless he have an aptness for teaching--an ability to make matters clear, and not as some to use fine language and yet only confuse the hearers. With small groups "Parlor talks" and "Bible Class" studies are in our judgment preferable to set sermons.
(6) Even if there be a recognized "preacher" in the company, there should be, if possible weekly, a meeting at which all could be heard, on the lines of propositions 1, 2, 3 and 4 above;--a Bible-Study class.
(7) There should be, if possible, one meeting per week for prayer, praise and testimony--a meeting not for doctrinal discussion but for spiritual exercise and enjoyment, and for self inspection and mutual helpfulness in holy things.
(8) The congregations established by the apostles appear to us to have had both the Congregational and the Episcopal features.
The Congregational feature is seen in that each congregation had the control of its own affairs under the Lord, its head, to whom alone it was responsible; and each regulated its own ministry.
The Episcopal feature is seen in the fact that it was understood and expected that the Lord, the great Shepherd of his sheep, would provide pastors, teachers, etc., for the perfecting of the saints for the work of the ministry. (`Eph. 4:11-13`.) The congregations looked for the Lord's providential leading in this matter, yet were not unmindful that there were many false teachers raised up by the adversary, and they sought to prove their teachers.
When, and so long as, teachers were recognized as having been God-provided, and so long as they approved themselves by conduct and the Word of God, to the congregation, they had more honor than others; and their opinions were given proportionately the more weight. (`1 Tim. 5:17`; `Heb. 13:17`; `Rom. 12:10`; `13:7`.) But still
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the power rested with the congregation to reject any teacher according to their judgment of the Word and will of God.
(9) Love is the only bond of perfectness--the perfect bond. Neither bind yourselves nor others with any other bond. Love supreme to God will mean that loyalty to his Word will outrank all other considerations; love for the brethren will mean a generous readiness to see as many as possible of each other's virtues and talents and to seek for each other's highest spiritual welfare--whatever the channel.
(10) Avoid all "organization"; meet as a family of God; recognize as "brethren" all who profess forgiveness of sins through faith in the precious blood and who show by their daily life that they are "striving against sin"; and choose your honored servants from your midst. In choosing seek not your own will or glory, neither that of other brethren, but the will and glory of God only, remembering the foregoing considerations as you find them Scriptural.
Should the Editor have occasion to send any special messenger to you he will probably give him his personal letter of commendation. (The giving of such letters is usual among friends whether Christians or of the world. But every child of God should feel a special responsibility as to whom he recognizes as friends or introduces to God's people as teachers.) If a Brother come to you bearing such a letter signed by the Editor, you may know that he is one with whom the Editor is well acquainted, and who he believes has some special talents for serving to you the bread of life.
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CONSECRATION VS. THE WORLD AND ITS AFFAIRS.
A BROTHER, once very deep in Secretism, and who knows that the Editor has had no such experience, writes as follows:--
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL:--Your remarks under caption of Secret and Beneficial Societies in TOWER, of June 15, '95, seem rather funny to me. You hit the nail very fairly considering that you were hammering so much in the dark. I am glad that you defend the principle of protection as afforded by legitimate or old line companies, life, fire and accident. With you, however, I think their days are numbered. No human business was ever organized with broader and more philanthropic intentions than Insurance, and no business has been so abused and diverted from its real purposes. When Insurance fails (as it has failed) from the effect of selfishness, we can not hope that any human work will succeed.
As to the secret societies, they use a ritual applicable to each different degree, which is fully as reasonable as that of many of the churches, and like those of the churches, it is usually of heathen origin. The worship of the Sun appears prominently in Masonry, and so it does in the service of the Catholic and Episcopal churches. The term "Worshipful," as used in masonry, is now practically obsolete, but was formerly and generally used as a term of respect. I occupied the station of "Worshipful Master" for three years, but I never received the adoration of my fellow mortals, and I certainly never gave it to others. Your suggestion, that it is done ignorantly, is a good suggestion, but it does not apply in that case. Perhaps no man in my state, during the twenty odd years I was a member of the fraternity, gave more careful study to the symbolism of Masonry, its moral teaching, and its jurisprudence.
While masonry does not inculcate the worship of its officers, it does what is worse; for in its essence the symbolism used in the ceremonies are derived from devil worship.
Although no longer unequally yoked with those unbelievers (`2 Cor. 6:14-17`), I do want to say for those who are still in the bondage that they have much excuse. Masonry consists very largely in a series of moral instructions, taught agreeably to ancient usage, by types, symbols and allegorical figures. It is a system, and a very beautiful system--as is very much of Satan's work--when seen from the worldly standpoint.
Your fellow-worker in the best (not the worst) of bonds.
Another Brother writes:--
"Masonry is not Christianity; and he who is so deluded as to think it is, is led thereby into a labyrinth of grievous errors. I think I know what I am talking about, for I was for seven years 'Master' of a 'Lodge,' and conferred hundreds of degrees. Masonry will not take away sins, or save a soul from death; and it is a grave question whether or not a child of God has any business spending time and money in any worldly institution. There is nothing pure that is earthly, but purity comes down from above."
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An interested Brother writes us as follows:--
I send in this letter a check for Five Dollars to be spent in the Lord's work.
May I offer a suggestion? I wish very much that the TOWER would contain an article on entire consecration. I know many of the articles in the TOWER have that thought as their basis, but I feel that the Lord is testing us, and that an article of that kind would help us.
When we have consecrated our all to God, I believe our all comprises whatever we have--time, money, strength, everything. Now I think we (at least, some of us) fail to see what a great privilege we could have, in being permitted to help spread this blessed gospel of joy and hope in the Lord and the resurrection from the dead. We are poor in this world's goods, but we can give a little; and that mite I think should be used in the Master's service. One of the sisters, a dear, good woman, was speaking, a short time since, about an organization, known as the A.P.A., and declared her belief in its principles and her intention of contributing to its support. I was much surprised, as she had just symbolized her consecration by immersion. I tried to show her that, even if nothing could be said against the order from an earthly standpoint, she was running for the prize of the high calling; that her health, time, money and all the other blessings she enjoys come from and belong to the Lord, and should be used in his service; that we are dead to this world, its pursuits, enjoyments, hopes, organizations; and that if we give money or influence to support worldly things, we are not living up to our consecration.
I believe in the truth as revealed to us to-day, and am blessed in being permitted to see clearly the plan of God.
REPLY.--This letter itself is quite a good expression upon the subject of consecration. Other expressions on the subject will be found in MILLENNIAL DAWN, VOL. I., pp. 233-239, 346-349; VOL. III., pp. 208-210; and others in ZION'S WATCH TOWER, May 15, '93, p. 153; Feb. 1, '94, pp. 38-40; etc.
A young Brother recently interested inquires: Do you think it is proper for the saints to use tobacco? We reply:
Tobacco is not specifically condemned in the Bible;
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though the principle of discarding every defiling, abominable thing is distinctly taught; and therefore every Christian is privileged to spend as much money for it and to eat and smoke as much of it as he sincerely believes will do him good, physically and spiritually, and result to the Lord's glory--"Whether we eat or drink, or whatsoever we do," it should be done with an eye single to the Lord's glory. --`1 Cor. 10:31`; `Col. 3:17`; `Matt. 6:22`.
The Apostle says (`2 Cor. 7:1`), "Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God." Speaking for myself, and I believe that this is also the judgment of all faithful Christians who have to any extent put in practice the Apostle's words, I would say that I cannot see how it would be to God's glory, or to his own profit, for any Christian to use tobacco in any form. He "that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure." (`1 John 3:3`.) We cannot imagine our Lord reeking with the fumes of tobacco or putting into his mouth anything defiling.
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THE BRAZEN SERPENT.
--AUG. 11.--`NUM. 21:4-9`.--
Golden Text--"As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up." --`John 3:14`.--
THE incident of this lesson needs no additional words of explanation. Its full import is brought before us in the Golden Text. The fiery serpents represented sin, whose bite is deadly. "The sting of death is sin;" and "the wages of sin is death." In sending Israel relief, God foreshadowed the greater relief he would afterward send to mankind in general,--Christ the sinners' ransom-price.
The serpent was of brass (literally, copper), which is a type of the human nature.* God thus declared in type that the man Christ Jesus would be lifted up upon the cross as our sin-offering, as it is written, "He [Jehovah, the heavenly Father] made him who knew no sin to be a sin-offering for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." (`2 Cor. 5:21`.) "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life." (`John 3:16`.) As Israel looked to the brazen serpent for healing, so must all the sin-bitten children of men look to Christ, the sin-offering, for healing from sin and death. Christ took the sinners place; he bore the full penalty of our sins; his flesh (his humanity) he gave for the life of the world. Wherefore, he was also highly exalted to a nature superior to the human which he had sacrificed, even to the divine nature, and given a name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow. (`John 6:51`; `Isa. 53:5,6`; `Phil. 2:7-11`.) Thus we view him, not only as our Redeemer, but also as our exalted Lord with power and authority not only to deliver us from the sleep of death but also to train and discipline all the willing and obedient up to perfection of character and fitness for eternal life.
The result of the lifting up of Christ will eventually be the drawing of all men unto him. "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. This he said signifying what death he should die." (`John 12:32,33`.) Yes; it will be the power of the cross of Christ, it will be the love of Christ and of God there manifested, that will be the drawing power upon the hearts of men when, by and by in his glorious reign, and after the great tribulation of this evil day shall have sealed its instruction upon the hearts of men, making them more humble and teachable, all his goodness and grace shall be brought into effectual operation.
It would be a great mistake, however, to confound this drawing power of the cross of Christ which will by and by be realized by all men, with the statement of `John 6:37,44,45` --"All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out....No man can come to me except the Father which hath sent me draw him; and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me."
The class here referred to is not the whole world drawn by the power of the cross in the age to come, but a special class now being selected out from among the world by the Spirit of God through his word of truth and given to Christ as his peculiar treasure--his bride and joint-heir. In the provisions of his wonderful plan God has thus given to Christ all the loyal, consecrated, faithful ones of the Gospel age. They are his, his jewels, called of God to be joint-heirs with him of his glory and kingdom. Had they not been thus called of God and in his plan given to Christ, they could not of themselves have grasped such an honor. To have done so would have been the height of presumption. Their exaltation is therefore of God's own appointment: "they are called and faithful and chosen;" and they are all taught of God--led by his spirit through his word of truth.
And Christ here expresses his pleasure to receive all such according to the divine appointment; and he will raise them up at the last day--the glorious day of his return and the setting up of his Kingdom in the earth--the day, thank God, which even now begins to dawn.
*See TABERNACLE SHADOWS.
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THE NEW HOME IN CANAAN.
--AUG. 18.--`DEUT. 6:3-15`.--
Golden Text--"Thou shalt bless the Lord thy God for the good land which he hath given thee."--`Deut. 8:10`.
AFTER the forty years' sojourn of Israel in the wilderness they were now again on the borders of the promised land and about to enter it. All the rebellious adult generation had died. Only Joshua and Caleb and Moses remained; and even Moses, though faithful and loyal to God to the highest degree, could not enter the land of promise, because in presumptuously and without authority smiting a second time the rock whence flowed the water of life, instead of merely speaking to the rock as he was directed, he committed a sin which typified the sin unto death. The rock represented Christ who was smitten once for the world's benefit; but those who would crucify the Son of God afresh and again put him to an open shame shall not enter into the Canaan of the heavenly rest. Moses did not really commit that sin, but his presumptuous act being a type of it, he could not enter into Canaan, but
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must die in the wilderness, though he had come to the very borders and in sight of the goodly heritage.
How solemn this lesson to the Church for whose instruction those types were made! Yes, we may come even to the borders of the glorious inheritance of the saints; and not only so, but we may also lead others there, and yet
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ourselves be castaways and die the second death, if we cease to recognize the one all-sufficient sacrifice of Christ our Redeemer and Lifegiver.
Probably Moses knew nothing of the typical significance of the penalty of his rash act; but without a word of complaint he accepted the chastening of the Lord and made diligent haste to accomplish the work of the Lord for Israel before he should lie down to rest. There is a touching sweetness as well as a grandeur of nobility in the devotion of Moses to the Lord and to his work for Israel. When God bade him made ready to ascend the Mount to view the promised land and there to lie down and die alone, apart from all he had loved and labored for so long, Moses' only reply was an expression of deep concern for Israel-- "And Moses spake unto the Lord, saying, Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation, ...that the congregation of the Lord be not as sheep which have no shepherd." (`Num. 27:12-17`.) And God regarded his request and appointed Joshua to succeed his beloved servant Moses.
Then Moses diligently applied himself to the completion of his work, giving his fatherly counsel to his beloved people in whose interests he had sacrificed every earthly good and for whom he had endured hardness--incessant toil and care and privation and reproach and weariness and vexation of spirit for forty eventful years. How tender and wise his counsel! In it all there is no vaunting of self, no boasting of his own faithfulness; but there are strong and earnest words of exhortation, encouragement, instruction and advice, the account of which read in the entire book of Deuteronomy.
If we read these memorable words so full of wisdom and counsel, forgetful of their import to the Church also, the antitypes of fleshly Israel, and merely as items of Jewish history, we miss discerning the very object of their record. "They are written for our admonition upon whom the ends of the world [the present evil world] are come." (`1 Cor. 10:11`.) Consider a few of these comforting thoughts in the light in which they shine to us, the spiritual antitypical Israel of God, to whom the promises and exhortations spoken directly to fleshly Israel apply in a wider and fuller sense.
`Deut. 4:23,24,30-40`.--"Take heed unto yourselves, lest ye forget the covenant of the Lord your God;... for the Lord thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God. [See also `Heb. 12:29`; `10:31`.] If thou turn to the Lord thy God, and shalt be obedient unto his voice,... he will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which he sware unto them [the Abrahamic covenant, of which the Gospel Church, as the spiritual seed of Abraham, are the chief inheritors.--`Rom. 9:8`; `Gal. 3:29`]. For ask now of the days that are past, ...since the day that God created man upon the earth, and ask from the one side of heaven unto the other, whether there hath been any such thing as this great thing is [which God hath done for his spiritual Israel], or hath been heard like it? Did ever people hear the voice of God speaking out of the midst of the fire [out of the glorious manifestations of his adorable presence with the church] as thou hast heard, and live? Or hath God assayed to go and take him a nation from the midst of another nation by proofs, by signs, and by wonders, and by war, and by a mighty hand and a stretched-out arm, and by great terrors like all that the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes? [While in those days no wonders were greater than those wrought on behalf of fleshly Israel, they are eclipsed by the greater wonders wrought on behalf of spiritual Israel in their emancipation from the bondage of sin, and in their wonderful leading through all their wilderness way, beset as they have been by foes without and within, hotly pursued by Satan and tempted, tried and persecuted as they have been. What a miracle of grace is every child of God!]"
The text of this lesson is an exhortation to love and loyalty and obedience to God, and to steadfastness in his service. Let us ponder its propositions carefully, and let them sink deep into our hearts.
"Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord: and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might." It is not a mere passing sentiment of appreciation that the Lord desires of us: it is all-absorbing love that he desires--a love which delights in God, which meditates upon his law and strives patiently, and at the cost of any sacrifice, to please him. Such love is not natural to us: we must strive for it, pray for it and daily and hourly cultivate it.
Through Moses the Lord indicates how we should endeavor to cultivate this love. It is by meditating upon his just and holy law, his precepts and instructions which manifest to us the glory of his character. Hear him: "And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart, and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thy hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates."
The Christian who abandons the daily reading of the Word of God and meditation upon its precepts is not a growing Christian. The precepts and promises of God are very rich; but they have no sweetness to the soul that does not keep them ever fresh before the mind and delight himself in them, and shape all his course in life in strict adherence to the principles therein set forth. Let us say with the Psalmist: "With my whole heart have I sought thee [Lord], O let me not wander from thy commandments. Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against thee."--`Psa. 119:10,11`.
Then let us weigh well the counsel of `verses 10-12`, as the principle applies to us with double force. "And it shall be when the Lord thy God shall have brought thee into the land which he sware unto thy fathers,...to give thee great and goodly cities which thou buildedst not, and houses full of all good things which thou filledst not, and wells digged which thou diggedst not, vineyards and olive trees which thou plantedst not; when thou shalt have eaten and be full; then beware lest thou forget the Lord which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage." Beloved, shall the goodness of God ever cause us ungratefully to forget him? Many indeed are the forgetful recipients of his favors. How much of the divine bounty in spiritual things has been accorded to the children of God; yet even these blessings misused may be turned into a curse. The light misused may turn to darkness, and then, how great is that darkness! (`Matt. 6:23`.) If to serve the flesh we make merchandise of the truth received, ere long that inestimable blessing becomes our accuser before God and we are borne out of the light into the outer darkness. And those who thus go after other gods which their own perverse wills set up are liable to the penalty of `verse 15` which, in its application to the reprobates from spiritual Israel, corresponds to the faithful warnings of the Apostle Paul in `Heb. 6:4-8` and `10:26-31`.