ZWT - 1894 - R1611 thru R1747 / R1668 (211) - July 1, 1894
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::R1668 : page 211::
VOL. XV. JULY 1, 1894. NO. 13.
"THE PRIZE SET BEFORE US."
ALL who are familiar with the Scriptures well know that the Christian course in the present life is represented therein as a race-course at whose farther end is a prize for all who so run as to obtain it. In the WATCH TOWER and in MILLENNIAL DAWN we have frequently pointed out this fact and, upon all professing to be God's people, have urged faithfulness in running the race.
But in showing the Divine Plan of the Ages --from Eden lost to Paradise restored--it has been both necessary and proper to point out that the prize set before us in the gospel is a different one from that before Israel after the Flesh, during the Jewish age, and different also from that which will be set before mankind in general during the Millennium. And now something more upon the subject seems necessary from the fact that some have misunderstood us, and gotten the idea that there are two or three prizes, any one of which may now be run for successfully, and equally to the Lord's pleasing. These are defined to be, (1) The high calling, to divine nature and glory; (2) Spiritual nature of a lower order than the divine nature; (3) Human perfection by restitution.
The advocates of the errors referred to proceed to explain three sets of conditions or terms to be complied with, and that which of the three prizes is won at the end of life's journey, will depend upon which of the three sets of conditions has been followed. (1) To gain the chief prize requires a full consecration of heart, followed as absolutely as possible, in thought, word and deed. To this we assent. (2) To gain the second prize, say they, one should live a good, honorable, Christian life, but need not specially sacrifice the good-will and esteem of worldly people. In other words, an honorable and generally esteemed Christian is supposed to be running for this second prize --successfully, whether he knows it or not. From this view we dissent, and will give our reasons later. (3) They hold that for the third prize little or no running is necessary, that if one merely feels his own unworthiness and trusts in the merit of Christ as the ransom for all, accepts the restitution promises, and avoids open wickedness, he will get this prize. Some, indeed, take credit to themselves in the matter, erroneously considering that they are cultivating the grace of humility,--saying, I don't aspire to be a king on the throne of God's Kingdom. Oh, no! a humbler place will do me. From all this also we dissent.
The facts are these:--
(1) There is but the one prize held out by the Scriptures as an offer during this age, as there was a different one held out previously, and as there will be a still different one held out during the Millennial age. The Scriptures are very definite respecting this one prize of the Gospel age. See `Eph. 4:4`; `Col. 3:15`.
(2) None of God's laws or regulations conflict with Justice: they all harmonize with it. And hence God could not require less than a full consecration to him and his will, on the
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part of all whom he accepts into his family-- either on the divine or human plane. Nor could he accept as satisfactory or worthy of any prize the self-pleasing or the world-conforming rules above laid down for the second and third prizes.
Things are either right or wrong; and the right side is always God's side. The reason that the path of the "little flock" is declared to be a narrow or difficult one at present, is, that it is God's path--the right path; and the world being wrong,--out of harmony with God, and consequently out of harmony with righteousness --is in opposition, directly and indirectly, to all who are in harmony with God and righteousness. And the more progress we make into harmony with God and righteousness the more the worldly minded will hate us, and the more narrow and difficult the path of life will be. Hence the Apostle's words: "The friendship of the world is enmity with God." (`Jas. 4:4`.) Can anyone suppose that God offers prizes of any grade or degree to those at enmity against him even to the extent of sympathy and harmony with his enemies and opponents? Surely not. Hence this one text alone would contradict all this theory respecting a second and a third prize being now offered.
We repeat, what we have previously stated many times, but evidently not yet often
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enough, that precisely the same requirements of God's law will be in force during the Millennium as are now in force. Nothing less could be accepted; for God's requirements of the Church are as moderate as justice would permit, at any time, viz.: (1) faith in Christ as Redeemer; (2) obedience, as far as possible, to his law of Love.
We ask, Could God either ask or accept less than this, and yet be just,--either now or at any time? Assuredly not!
But while the Gospel age requirements and those of the Millennial age will differ nothing, there will be another point upon which there will be a difference--viz., obedience to that law will be easier in the next age than now; because then Satan will be bound, and blind eyes opened to discern right from wrong on every subject. Hence the Lord has attached a greater prize to the call made during the Gospel age, which he designs shall select not only those who love righteousness and truth and the divine favor, but who so love them that they would sacrifice all else for the sake of these.
True, we have taught that there will be a second class or company of saints saved during this Gospel age--the tribulation saints of `Rev. 7:9-17`--but we have nowhere intimated that they will be accepted upon any other terms than those given the overcomers, the first class. The terms for all who will attain to either class will be full consecration, even unto death. The difference between the two classes on account of which the one class gets the prize and the other class is "saved so as by fire" is that the overcomers have more zeal; they pay their consecration vows gladly. The tribulation saints fail to get the prize, because although consecrated lovers of the Lord, their love lacks the proper fervency to hold their lives constantly up to the point of self-sacrifice, where their own preferences would be yielded always and promptly to the Lord's.
Because they lack this fervency of love they are not "overcomers," and cannot be rewarded as such with the great prize. But they have a measure of love and consecration, and they trust in the merit of Christ's great sacrifice, and thus abiding under the shadow of the New Covenant they are not wholly rejected by the Lord, although unworthy to constitute members of his "bride" or "body," joint-heirs of his glory, honor and power.
In order to bring such of these as can be brought into full fervency of spirit and to a right estimate of their covenant, the Lord's rod of affliction is brought to bear upon them, until the souls melt in the furnace and the dross is separated, so that the precious element may be saved.
But it may be asked, Is not this the experience of every Christian? And if these tribulation saints, the second or "great company" are to be purified from dross as well as the first company or "overcomers," why should they not be all of one class or company?
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Yes, we answer, it is true that the majority of Christians are of the tribulation class, that is the reason it is called "a great company," while the overcomers are called a "little flock." The difference between them is not in the degree of purity finally attained, but in the manner of obtaining it. God has a special pleasure in those who delight to do his will, and who do not need to be whipped into an appreciation of right and wrong. These he calls "overcomers." These have the likeness of the Lord (`Phil. 3:21`; `1 John 3:2`; `Col. 3:4`), and are accounted worthy to be with him where he is and to share his honor, glory and Kingdom and power.--`Rev. 17:14`.
It is not because the "little flock" of "overcomers" suffer more than the great company of tribulation saints that they are to get the prize, but simply because they suffer gladly, willingly, self-sacrificingly. The tribulation saints doubtless suffer as much as the "overcomers" or more; and the "overcomers" have so much pleasure, in the divine favor, in connection with their sufferings in this present time, that it makes their willing services and sacrifices seem but light afflictions which are thus working out for them a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.
As for the Restitution race and prize: No one can run for it until it is offered. There is no such offer for the present age. True, there may be children and others now living who will continue down through the "great time of trouble" and into the time of the reign of the great Restorer and Life-giver, and some droppings and showers of restitution favor are already manifest, but the fact remains that full restitution is not yet offered as a prize, and cannot be offered until the Church shall first be perfected in glory.
It is true that restitution was the prize held before fleshly Israel, but that offer ended with the end of their Law Covenant.
But the misapprehension on this subject quite possibly arose from our showing in the DAWN and elsewhere that justification, the first step into the New Covenant and present high calling is the equivalent of restitution. Justification by faith is indeed a restitution by faith. As a race we had fallen from divine favor into sin and degradation, and God could no longer deal with us, for we were unworthy. But after Christ had redeemed us--bought our formerly possessed rights and privileges--the offer was made to whoever believed this and desired to act upon it, that upon their mental acceptance of this they would be counted or reckoned in God's sight as though freed from all sin, as though restored to the perfection and divine favor enjoyed by Adam before he sinned. Thus it is true that the honest-hearted believer who accepts Christ stands in the divine sight as though fully restored.
But why reckon him thus? Why not let all wait until the Millennial age, and then actually start their feet in the way that leads to full restitution?
It is in order to make them eligible to the call of the present age. As shown above, the call of the present time is a call for willing sacrificers to present themselves as joint-sacrifices with Christ, in the service of God (his people and his truth). And since Christ was a lamb without spot or blemish, and since no blemished sacrifice could be accepted upon God's altar, and since we by nature, actually are blemished, therefore it was necessary that we should be either actually or reckonedly made perfect men, before we could be invited to become joint-sacrifices with Christ and thus to become joint-heirs of his glory.
God chose to justify us or restore us or make us right reckonedly or by faith, instead of actually, so that those who chose might draw back after being justified by faith. All who, after being justified, draw back and refuse to use their reckoned justification for the purpose intended merely show that they received the grace of God that far in vain. (`2 Cor. 6:1,2`; `Heb. 12:15-17`.) Their reckoned justification lapses or becomes void,--not being used as a stepping-stone to full consecration, as God had intended.
The Gospel age as the great antitype of the Day of Atonement, must first close, its "better sacrifices" (the Church, Head and body) must be finished to the uttermost and be accepted before God, before the great High Priest can or will lift up his hand [power] to bless the people with the restitution call and blessings.
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"WITH A PURE HEART FERVENTLY."
"Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently; being begotten again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God, which liveth and abideth forever."--`1 Pet. 1:22,23`.
"LOVE is the fulfilling of the law" of God, and God himself is love. So all creatures in his likeness, whether human or angelic, have this same chief characteristic. Love presides and rules in their hearts, always exercising itself in ministries of kindness and benevolence. Its most refined and exalted impulses are necessarily toward the fountain of all goodness and grace and glory, but in sympathetic solicitude it reaches out to help and lift up the degraded and vile, while with tender and fervent appreciation it regards the fellowship of all kindred minds. Thus, God-like love may be viewed in its three aspects--first, the love of reverence, which is centered in God, whose supreme goodness calls it forth; second, the love of fellowship or affinity for all those actuated by the same sentiments; and, third, the love of pity and sympathy toward all those who have fallen below the standard of moral excellence, or who suffer in any way. While we love God with supreme reverence, surpassing the love of self or of our fellow men, he also graciously condescends to take us into fellowship with himself; and all such are co-workers together with him in benevolent kindness for the lifting up of the fallen, whom God so loved that he gave his only begotten Son to redeem them, and then highly exalted him and gave him all power in heaven and on earth to restore them. --`John 3:16`; `Phil. 2:8-11`; `Matt. 28:18`.
As members of the fallen race we do not inherit this God-like quality of love. It is only in obedience to divinely revealed truth that we acquire it, being purified thereby from the downward and selfish tendencies of our fallen nature. In other words, as the Apostle here expresses it, by the incorruptible seed of divine truth, which liveth and abideth forever, we are begotten again, and have become new creatures in Christ, so that now as new creatures we partake of the new, loving, glorious nature imparted through the Word of truth.
Yet, since we still have this new treasure in the old, marred, earthen vessel (`2 Cor. 4:7`), it behooves us to take heed lest we lose it, and lest the old selfish nature of the earthen vessel again rise up and re-assert itself. Consequently, we must be diligent in the exercise and cultivation of the powers of the new nature, that it may thereby develop strength sufficient to ever keep the old nature under full control, so that none of its evil propensities may rise and gain the mastery. Therefore, "See that ye love one another with a pure heart [with disinterested benevolence] fervently."
The language here is addressed not merely to babes in Christ--though it is wholesome counsel to them also--but to those of some degree of advancement, to such as have purified their souls unto unfeigned (not merely professed) love of the brethren. Let all such cultivate this grace more and more, that the whole body of Christ may be firmly knit together in love.
The tendency of all divine truth is to purify the heart. "He that hath this hope [the hope that the truth alone inspires] in him, purifieth himself." Otherwise, though he may for a time hold the truth theoretically,--hold it in unrighteousness--he cannot hold the hope; for the hope springs up in the heart only through obedience to the truth.
Righteousness, and the hope of the rewards of righteousness through Christ, are the legitimate effects of the truth upon the heart that truly receives it. But where it is only received into the head, and is resisted in the heart, it only deepens the dye of sin by hardening the heart, thus bringing additional condemnation, and a fearful looking for of judgment.-- `Heb. 10:27`.
This purifying of the heart by the truth is both an instantaneous and a gradual work. When a man is truly converted to God, there is necessarily a purifying of the heart (the will, the intentions)--a full turning away from sin and evil, and an unreserved surrender of the whole being to God. But as the constant tendency of the old, sinful nature is to
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re-assert itself, the purifying influences of the truth must be continually applied that the heart may be kept pure and acceptable with God. But let none make the mistake of presuming that the pure in heart are necessarily free from all imperfections. As long as we have this treasure in the earthen vessel we shall be conscious of its imperfections; yet if the heart, the will, the intentions, be pure, holy and true and loyal to God as the mariner's needle to the pole, we are pure in heart, holy and acceptable with God through faith in Christ Jesus, whose imputed righteousness fully supplements all the imperfections of our earthen vessels.
We notice also that this special love of fellowship, to which the Apostle here refers, is not to be exercised toward the world,--to whom belongs only the love of pity and sympathy, nor toward Satan or any of the wilful enemies of the Lord and his cause, against whom true love and loyalty to God ever arrays us in vigilant and determined opposition, --but toward the brethren--toward them of like precious faith and hope, and of one mind with us, and the Lord. Fervent love, the love of true brotherly fellowship, should indeed exist among all such. They should be in fullest sympathy and co-operation. They should bear one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ; they should in honor prefer one another, and in love each esteem the other better than himself. They should love as brethren, be pitiful, courteous, kind, gentle, true and loyal. As Jesus said, "Love one another as I have loved you."--`John 13:34`.
May the love of Christ more and more abound among his people, until the whole body of the Anointed, knit together in love and made all glorious within by its purifying power, is "made meet for the inheritance of the saints in light."
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"Thou shalt remember the way which the Lord thy God led thee." "Cast not away, therefore, your confidence, which has great recompense of reward."-- `Deut. 8:2`; `Heb. 10:35`.
He was better to me than all my hopes,
He was better than all my fears;
He made a bridge of my broken works,
And a rainbow of my tears.
The billows that guarded my sea-girt path,
Carried my Lord on their crest;
When I dwell on the days of my wilderness march,
I can lean on his love for the rest.
He emptied my hands of my treasured store,
And his covenant love revealed;
There was not a wound in my aching heart,
But the balm of his breath hath healed.
Oh, tender and true was the chastening sore,
In wisdom that taught and tried,
Till the soul he sought was trusting in him,
And nothing on earth beside.
He guided my path that I could not see,
By ways that I have not known,
The crooked was straight and the rough made plain,
As I followed the Lord alone.
I praise him still for the pleasant palms,
And the water-springs by the way;
For the glowing pillars of flame by night,
And the sheltering cloud by day.
And if to warfare he calls me forth,
He buckles my armor on;
He greets me with smiles and a word of cheer
For battles his sword hath won;
He wipes my brow as I droop and faint,
He blesses my hand to toil;
Faithful is he, as he washes my feet,
From the trace of each earthly soil.
There is light for me on the trackless wild,
As the wonders of old I trace,
When the God of the whole earth went before
To search me a resting place.
Has he changed for me? Nay! He changes not,
He will bring me by some new way,
Through fire and flood, and each crafty foe,
As safely as yesterday.
Never a watch in the dreariest halt,
But some promise of love endears;
I read from the past that my future shall be
Far better than all my fears,--
Like the golden pot of the wilderness bread,
Laid up with the blossoming rod,
All safe in the ark with the law of the Lord,
Is the covenant care of my God.
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THE CONCISION AND THE CIRCUMCISION.
"Beware of the concision; for we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh."--`Phil. 3:2,3`.
THE Lord and the apostles take special care to point out to the Church the serious significance of her present position, upon which the weighty considerations of her eternal welfare depend. They mark out the specially perilous times, and forewarn us what to expect in the way of persecution and fiery trials of faith and patience, and then minister to us beforehand all the words of counsel, warning, encouragement, hope and promise that are necessary to enable us to war a good warfare and lay hold upon eternal life.
But while the Lord promises grace sufficient for every time of need, he never encourages any to rest supinely upon his promises: the exhortations are always to activity, alertness and indomitable energy and perseverance. While he says, "I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go," he also adds, "Be not as the horse or as the mule, which have no understanding, whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle." (`Psa. 32:8,9`.) In this intelligent and proper attitude he would have us beware--be cautious, careful and watchful--against all the deceptions and dangers that beset our way; because we have a wily adversary who is the leader of the hosts of darkness against the Lord and against his anointed--"For we wrestle not against [mere] flesh and blood [the visible tools of the adversary], but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places [under the power and control of the prince of this world, Satan]." The exhortations to beware of dangers are quite numerous --"Beware of false prophets" (`Matt. 7:15-20`); "Beware of [evil] men" (`Matt. 10:17`); "Beware of the leaven [the false doctrine] of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees" (`Matt. 16:6,12`); "Beware of covetousness" (`Luke 12:15`); "Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit" (`Col. 2:8`); "Beware lest ye, also, being led away with the
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error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness" (`2 Pet. 3:17`); and, in the words of the above text, "Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision," etc.
While the wholesome dread of all these should be ever before our minds and keep us continually on guard against sudden attacks of the enemy, the Apostle in our text calls special attention to three things against which he would have us on guard. In the Scriptures, dogs are generally used as symbols of evil, the reference being, not to our domesticated and often noble animal, but to such as are more common in eastern countries, which are indeed disgusting creatures--lazy, filthy, greedy, snapping, snarling, treacherous and generally pestiferous--apt symbols of a very dangerous and wicked class of people. Beware, then, of all such dispositions, no matter by what name they disguise themselves. If any man be an idler--delinquent in his own duties, but busy in those of other men; if he be filthy, breeding spiritual contagion wherever he goes; if he be greedy--self-seeking; if his disposition be to snap and snarl, to bite and devour, or to treacherously lie in wait to deceive,--beware of that man. He is not fit company for a child of God: his influence is contaminating. "Evil communications corrupt good manners."
And "give not that which is holy [the truth] unto the [such] dogs; neither cast ye your pearls before swine [the two being classed together], lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you." (`Matt. 7:6`.) "Light [truth] is sown for the righteous," and not for those of the dog and swine disposition. When, therefore, we find any such, we are to beware of them--be cautious, and on guard against their contaminating influence. The only preaching proper for such is, "Repent and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out;" and "Flee from the wrath to come;" for "God will bring every work into judgment with every secret thing." "He will reward righteousness and punish iniquity."
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Beware of evil workers: of those who go about to do evil, who have no bridle on their tongue, but who are given to evil-speaking and evil-surmisings which are improper. Indeed, evil surmising and evil speaking have become so common that very many professed children of God seem to think nothing of it; and little by little the habit grows, crowding out all spirituality; and thereby many are defiled and great reproach is brought upon the cause of Christ. Beware of all such evil workers: shun them as you would a pestilence; for it is a moral pestilence, most ruinous and fatal in its character. Our communications with such should be only to the extent of reproving, and, if that should fail, of exposing the evil work. The spirit that leads to slander is a murderous spirit, and should be recognized and dealt with accordingly.
"Beware of the concision," says the Apostle, --of those not fully and truly consecrated to God; but who stir up strife and factions in the Church; "for we are of the circumcision" --whose circumcision is in the heart. Yes, let us beware of all such; for the influence of the semi-worldly mind is often more subtle, and therefore more dangerous, than that which makes no profession or effort toward godliness. The works of the flesh are covetousness and ambition--for money, fame or any or all of the desires common to the natural man. But the works of the truly and fully circumcised heart are the opposite of all these: they are faith, love, joy, peace, heavenly hopes and aspirations, and the daily crucifying of the flesh.
No natural man of the fallen race ever had a fully circumcised heart. And such as have it are dead to the world. Its hopes, aims and ambitions are crucified to them, and they are alive toward God. Any one who has the realization of such a condition of heart has in this fact a blessed evidence of his acceptance with God and of his heirship of all the exceeding great and precious promises--if so be that he so continue, faithful even unto death.
But let all such beware of the concision, the spirit of strife and division; for in the fiery trials of this evil day all such will surely fall, and only such as worship God in spirit and in truth can stand. Already the test of endurance is proving a severe test for some; and it will surely be yet more severe. "Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin." There is no assurance whatever that any will be able to stand in this evil day who have not devoted themselves fully and unreservedly to the Lord. But those who have done so, and who are still faithful to their covenant, have cause to rejoice in Christ Jesus, whose grace is sufficient for them, and whose precious blood purchased their ransom.
"NO CONFIDENCE IN THE FLESH."
Like the Apostle, we are to have "no confidence in the flesh"--in any works of the flesh or advantages of fleshly inheritance. Our confidence rests in God who accepts us through the merit of his beloved Son.
A very false construction, often put upon these words of the Apostle, infers from these words that he did not trust himself or anyone else;--that he put no confidence in any human being;--that he was always ready to be suspicious.
That this is a wrong view of the Apostle's words is very clear: (1) from the fact that in his various epistles he repeatedly expresses confidence in himself and in other believers, and (2) from the context of this passage. The following `verses (4-9`) show that the Apostle meant that his confidence toward God was not based upon his being a circumcised Hebrew, nor on his zeal for God and his law, etc. These things in which he did have confidence, once, he now counts as loss and dross. He no longer has confidence therein, but rejects them as so much "loss" and "dross" and "dung." His confidence now is based upon faith in Christ's great sacrifice, and a full consecration to his service.--`Verses 10-14`.
Let us be like-minded, and have great confidence in God and Christ and in all who have their word and spirit; and let us put no confidence in works of the flesh--in anything that we or others have done or can do aside from the salvation which God has provided in Christ Jesus, "through faith in his blood."
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"WHAT SHALL I RENDER?"
"What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me? I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord. I will pay my vows unto the Lord, now, in the presence of all his people." --`Psa. 116:12-14`.--
GRATITUDE is the responsive chord to benevolence in every truly noble heart, and no harmony is sweeter or more inspiring to noble deeds and lofty purposes. God would have his children cultivate for their own sake, as well as for the sake of others, all the graces of true nobility and moral excellence. It is therefore fitting that we should keep in mind a careful record of all deeds of love and kindness toward us, and be careful to return the gratitude due. How often does love go unrequited because selfishness crowds out the nobler instincts of the soul.
While human kindnesses often draw largely upon us for the exercise of this grace, how much more does the constant and disinterested benevolence of our Heavenly Father. To him we are indebted for every good that we possess; and as his consecrated children we are also the special objects of his grace. Which of us cannot trace a long line of special providences on our behalf? Let us call to mind how he brought us up "out of the horrible pit" of condemnation to death, and "out of the miry clay" of personal sin, and "set our feet upon the rock" Christ Jesus; and then by his truth "established our goings." Yea, and he hath put a new song in our mouth, even praise unto our God."--`Psa. 40:2,3`.
How wonderfully God has helped his people: they are his constant care; no good thing doth he withhold from them; and all things are made to work together for their good. In the smallest and in the greatest affairs of life he is ever watching for our interests, and the evidences of his care are all about us.
What, then, shall we render unto the Lord for all his benefits? What, indeed, have we to render that we have not received of him? Nothing. But the inspired penman suggests what we may acceptably render as follows:--
(1) "I will take the cup of salvation." Just as a parent loves to see his child gratefully and appreciatively accept his favors, so God regards our acceptance of his great salvation, --the gift of his love purchased for us at great cost. Therefore we will obey his call and take the cup of salvation through faith in Christ the Redeemer.
(2) "And call upon the name of the Lord." He has invited our confidence and has proved his worthiness of it; therefore will we trust him and not be afraid. He who has redeemed us at a great price is both able and willing to perfect in and for us his great salvation. Yes, let us give him our fullest confidence.
(3) "I will pay my vows unto the Lord, now, in the presence of all his people." This also the Lord will regard as an expression of gratitude. To render our consecrated hearts and talents, in glad and cheerful service, is but a reasonable return for all his goodness. Let us, therefore, do it gladly and with zeal and energy. It will be but a small return at best, but the measure of love and zeal that goes with it will indicate the measure of our gratitude. And let us do it promptly--"now"-- and to such an extent that it will be blessedly realized by the Lord's people specially--"in the presence of all his people."
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"IN THE DAYS OF THY YOUTH."
"Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them."--`Eccl. 12:1`.
THOSE of the Lord's children who early gave their hearts to him and committed their way to his guidance can all bear testimony to multiplied blessings as the results of that early start in the right way. And we are glad to see some very young people among us now taking the first steps in the ways of life. To all such young pilgrims we would say, God bless you! You are starting out as young soldiers of the cross, and we want you to be
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brave and true soldiers, and to remember that the first duty of a soldier is obedience to the Captain--Jesus Christ. Give close attention and try to understand what he would have you do, and then be very prompt to obey, whether or not you are able to comprehend the wisdom of his directions.
It is a question with many how early in life a child may give its heart to God and be fully consecrated to him. But the Scriptures make very plain the fact that they may and should be consecrated to the Lord by their parents before their birth or even their begetting, that thus their pre-natal influences may insure them a mental and spiritual inheritance tending to godliness, and that with the dawn of intelligence this disposition should begin to be cultivated and warmed into vital, active piety, so that at a very tender age the little ones may intelligently ratify the parental covenant of entire consecration to God. This they should be expected and led to do as early as possible.
Of such early consecration to the Lord we have many notable examples in the Scriptures. Of John the Baptist it is said that his parents "were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless," and that John was given them in answer to prayer--"filled with the holy spirit, even from his mother's womb." (`Luke 1:6,15,44,66,80`.) Paul was similarly endowed from his birth (`Gal. 1:15`; `Acts 26:4,5`), and was zealous toward God long before his conversion from Judaism to Christianity. (`Acts 22:3,4`.) So also were Timothy (`2 Tim. 1:5`; `3:15`), Samuel (`1 Sam. 1:11,24-28`; `2:11,18,19`) and Moses.--`Exod. 2:1`.
Those thus early devoted to the Lord escape many a snare and many an entanglement, which in later years bring distress and trouble to so many. They do not have to reap the bitter harvest that always comes from the sowing of "wild oats;" they do not find it so much against the current of their nature to live godly lives; and they have in later years the strength of character born of continued self-discipline and self-restraint, and all the blessed advantages of a long acquaintance with God and of the instructions of his Word and of the leadings of his gracious providences.
How wise is the counsel, "Remember thy Creator in the days of thy youth--while the evil days come not," etc. Those evil days of bitter disappointment and despair never will come to those who in youth commit their ways unto the Lord, and trust him to guide their paths. His ways are ways of pleasantness, and all his paths are peace. They are not by any means smooth and easy ways, but they are always peaceful and pleasant, because he
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who has said, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee" (`Heb. 13:5`), is always present to comfort and to bless, and to make all things work together for good to those who love God --the called ones according to his purpose.
Those of the consecrated who have children and young people under their care have much to do in shaping their course and in leading them to Christ, by throwing around them the influences of their own consecrated lives, and imparting to them such instruction as their own acquaintance with the truth and their more matured experience and judgment can give. Such efforts, properly directed, are not lost upon the young.
Let them see both in your example and teaching how distinctly the line is drawn between the consecrated believer and the world;--that there is no compromise with the world: that to follow Christ is to renounce the world with all its ambitions, its gayety and its pleasures and companionship. Let them see the hollowness of worldly pleasures, and improve occasions for calling attention to the dissatisfaction and unrest of those who pursue the delusions, and the peace and joy of those who have left the world to follow Christ. It is helpful also to tell to others how graciously the Lord has led us, to speak of the various turning points in our course, where the friendly crook of the Good Shepherd kept us from straying away into the wrong path; or how when once we strayed his mercy tenderly pursued us and brought us back to his fold; how he has shielded us from evil; comforted us in sorrow; satisfied our longing souls with the joys of his salvation; and made us to sit down with him in heavenly places.
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Before the mind becomes engrossed with the frivolities of this world it is easily led by wise and loving hearts; and none should lose these precious opportunities, which a few years later may bring forth a rich harvest to the Master's praise. Our object, however, is not to turn aside the saints from the great work of harvesting the mature wheat of this age, to the less important work of instructing the rising generation; but, rather, to point out the wayside privileges of very many who otherwise might not observe them. Many consecrated parents have these privileges every day; and many others come in contact with the young and forget to let their light shine upon them, under the erroneous impression that they cannot be expected to understand or to have any spiritual aspirations.
It is a great mistake to presume that the young must first run in the race of pride, ambition, frivolity and folly with the world, and then be converted to God. It is the business of those who have to do with them to shield them as far as possible against such influences, and to help them to center their affections and hopes in God before the world throws its ensnaring charms about them.
To all the dear children and young people who have given their hearts to God, and who are trying daily to follow Jesus, the WATCH TOWER sends its greeting. We know some of the very little ones who love Jesus, and who are not ashamed to stand up for Jesus among other children who do not love him or try to please him; and who are brave and true to God, even when laughed at and thought peculiar by their school-mates to whom they tell the good news of the Kingdom. And we are rejoiced to see some young people, who have bravely renounced the world and its ambitions and pleasures, among the most faithful of those who have consecrated their lives to the Lord. Some of our Office helpers as well as many of the successful colporteurs are still young in years.
May the good work go on in the deepening and widening course. Let the young rejoice in the prospects of a lengthened campaign and great usefulness in the Lord's service; let those of maturer years bear up bravely and wisely under the burden and heat of the day, doing valiant service as veterans in the army of the Lord; and let the aged pilgrims, leaning upon the staff of divine truth and rejoicing in its steadfastness, stand as beacon lights to others and at the end of their course be able to testify, "I have fought a good fight, I have kept the faith."
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PLEASING IN HIS SIGHT.
A brother inquires:--Does God look with displeasure on those who, knowing his plan thoroughly, as laid down in MILLENNIAL DAWN, just give up sin of all kinds, while still retaining their love of the good things of this life? Before reading MILLENNIAL DAWN I was a professing Christian; but, I see now, in name only. While trying to lead a pure life, I do not feel ready to enter on to a life of self-sacrifice. Do you think there is anything wrong in this course?
To this we reply:--We do not believe that the Lord looks with displeasure upon a life which seeks to avoid sin, and which recognizes the merit of Christ's righteousness as the ground of acceptance. Nevertheless we hold with the Apostle, that it is but a "reasonable service" on our part to present our bodies a living sacrifice to God; for we judge that, Christ having died for us, we should live the remainder of our lives in his service.-- `2 Cor. 5:14,15,20`.
The spirit which would permit us to please simply ourselves, to the neglect of others who might be greatly blessed by the same truths which have so refreshed our hearts, would certainly be the spirit of selfishness--the opposite to the spirit of love. I trust, therefore, that your reception of the truth will lead to the development in you of the spirit of the truth-- love; for we know that this spirit alone is the holy spirit--the spirit of God, the spirit of Christ--and that whoever does not sooner or later develop a spirit of love will not be accounted worthy of everlasting life, either as a member of the little flock, or of the great company or of the world during the Millennial age. None will be accounted worthy of everlasting life except he have the spirit of Christ. "If any man have not the spirit of Christ, he is none of his."--`Rom. 8:9`.
Nevertheless, as we said before, the Lord is very merciful through Christ, and those who at first merely shun sin and accept the Redeemer will be recognized of God and patiently dealt with, that perchance the fruit of the spirit may ultimately be developed. "The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, fidelity, meekness, self-control." --`Gal. 5:22,23`--Diaglott.
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DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL:--I want to get out of Babylon; but, if I meet not with the Church to which I have been attached for years (Disciple), I feel lost. I realize the necessity of close fellowship with spiritually minded people. And, now, the following please answer as fully as you can, either by letter to me personally or through the WATCH TOWER. If a man attempt the race for the "high calling," what is the nature of the sacrifice he must make? You say (MILLENNIAL DAWN, VOL. I.), he is not only forbidden sinful things, but must deny himself the "good things" of this life. Please make this plain. Be explicit. Please come down to particulars. Again, are there any in the world doing so at present, to your knowledge? Any who are suffering for righteousness' sake? I say suffering; because to be slighted and misrepresented for the truth's sake does not cause one much "suffering." It is more of the nature of "sorrow."
I stand amazed at the wonderful, wonderful light, which beams from the pages of the three volumes of MILLENNIAL DAWN.
God help me in the way I should go.
Your brother, EMORY A. SADDLER.
REPLY:--What we mean by "suffering" is not the infliction of wounds or other injury to the person, but self-denials. The suffering is small--"not worthy to be compared to the glory to follow;" but it is the result of the ignoring of the hopes, ambitions and feelings of the sacrificer.
Since it is to be a sacrifice, the things to be sacrificed are not specified in the Scriptures; nor may we speculate as to what you should sacrifice; but each one should seek to sacrifice something of comfort, pleasure or luxury in the service of the Lord, his truth and his Church.
A person of means might deny himself several hundred or thousand dollar's worth of luxury in a year--luxury which he foregoes simply in the interest of the truth, that the means may be used in a better way. A poor brother, for instance, recently sent in $2.00 to the Tract Fund, saying it was the result of his walking instead of riding to daily work, and other small extras which he had willingly denied himself to be able to share in the spread of the truth.
These both represent self-denials, self-sacrificings; the one of much out of much, the other of less out of little; but both, if done from the same pure, worthy motive, alike acceptable to God. See `Mark 12:41-44`.
Then there are other forms of sacrifice,-- the practice of economy for the truth's sake, the sacrifice of time and strength in doing good, feeding the physically or spiritually hungry, the spending of time and energy in preaching the Word, either by voice or pen or printed page--tracts, etc. Any service rendered to God, his people, or his Word, which costs the flesh something, is a sacrifice, acceptable in God's sight through Christ. But a whole burnt-offering, the giving of all that we have and are to the Lord, is most pleasing to him, and our reasonable service. When practicable (i.e., when previous obligations as husband or wife, father or mother, do not prevent), this often leads to the Colporteur work, or some other service which ignores worldly ambitions; but where impracticable, the Lord equally accepts the will with lesser deeds, when they are faithfully done as unto him.
Glad that you are able to take joyfully the spoiling of your goods; for amongst all the possessions of this present life, a good name is one of the chief.--EDITOR.
STUDIES IN THE NEW TESTAMENT.
--INTERNATIONAL S.S. LESSONS.--
SUGGESTIVE THOUGHTS DESIGNED TO ASSIST THOSE OF OUR READERS WHO ATTEND BIBLE CLASSES WHERE THESE LESSONS ARE USED; THAT THEY MAY BE ENABLED TO LEAD OTHERS INTO THE FULNESS OF THE GOSPEL.
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THE BIRTH OF JESUS.
III. QUAR., LESSON II., JULY 1, `LUKE 2:1-16`.
Golden Text--"Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord."--`Luke 2:11`.
That our Lord Jesus existed prior to his incarnation, and in a more exalted nature and condition, is clearly stated in the Scriptures. See `John 17:5`; `2 Cor. 8:9`; `John 1:1-3,10`; `Eph. 3:9`; `Col. 1:15-17`; `Heb. 1:2`; `Rev. 4:11`. See also WATCH TOWER of August 1888 and April 15, 1893.
This change of nature was a miracle, the philosophy of which, like that of all miracles, transcends the limits of human thought; and, like all other miracles, it was performed to meet an emergency for which no natural law could otherwise provide. The philosophy of the divine plan of redemption which required it is, however, very manifest to the thoughtful mind guided by the Scripture statements. The Son of God was made
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flesh that he might give his flesh--his humanity --for the life of the world; that as by a man (Adam) came death, so by a man ("the man Christ Jesus") might come the resurrection of the dead. (`John 1:14`; `6:51`; `1 Cor. 15:21`.) In other words, he was transformed from the spiritual to the human nature, so that in giving his life for the world's redemption he might give the exact equivalent or corresponding price for that which was lost.
For the sake of brevity we must of necessity pass by many points of interest connected with this narrative of our Lord's birth, e.g., the prophecies of his coming (`Gen. 3:15`; `22:18`; `49:10`; `2 Sam. 7:12-16`; `Isa. 9:6,7`; `11:1-9`; `Dan. 9:24`, etc.); the announcement of his coming (`Luke 1`); the date of his birth (See M. DAWN VOL. II., page 54); his human lineage as a Son of David and of Abraham, and his divine origin as the only begotten Son of God; and, lastly, the condition of the world at his advent. But these the student can with profit look up for himself. On the last point, however, we would have none fail to observe the evidences of the Lord's preparatory overruling providence in so shaping the world's affairs as to accomplish the purposes of his plan at that time. (1) The world was then for a time at peace, and quiet, the Roman dominion having brought all the world under its powerful control; and as all men were in expectation of Messiah's advent (`Luke 3:15`) according to the Jewish prophets whose fame had gone out into all the world, the sudden announcement
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of his birth attracted wide attention, as it would not have done in less peaceful times. (2) The Greek language, noted by all scholars as the most nearly perfect, exact and precise medium for human speech, had at that time been fully developed and widely disseminated. Thus was prepared in due time the very best medium for the communication of the gospel of the new covenant.
(3) The Old Testament had been translated into the Greek language three centuries before Christ (This version is called the Septuagint); and the Jews had been dispersed among all peoples, carrying the O.T. with them and bearing witness to its prophecies of a coming Messiah. (4) It was a time, too, of increased intellectual activity, which was ready to operate on this and every other question of public interest. Thus the circumstances of the time were peculiarly adapted to the announcement of this wonderful event,--the advent of the world's Redeemer. The fulness of time had come, and, under the overruling providence of God, the conditions were ripe.
It is worthy of notice that the announcement of the Savior's birth was not made to an assembled world, in whose most vital interest he had come; nor even to assembled Israel, the chosen people of God; nor yet to all of those who, like Simeon and Anna, with devout hearts had long been looking for the hope of Israel. But it was made to only a few devout shepherds who were watching their flocks by night. The grand truth was one to be received by faith; and it was sent through humble, but trustworthy, human agents, who were the honored instruments in God's hands. And any who proudly despised the instruments were unworthy of the good tidings.
The announcement was one which modern "orthodoxy" could not justify; for it was the very reverse of its bad tidings of great misery to nearly all people. The Angels' message was, "good tidings of GREAT JOY TO ALL PEOPLE; for unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord."
The tidings are of redemption and restitution and everlasting life for all who will accept this blessing on the terms on which it is offered;--viz., faith in Christ as the Redeemer, and full repentance from sin, which of necessity implies the forsaking of sin and the cultivation of righteousness. Christ was born to be a Savior by subsequently giving his life a ransom for all. These good tidings --this miracle of divine goodness and mercy to fallen and doomed men--met a marvelously cold and indifferent reception. The world in general, though apprised of the fact and its import, manifested no faith nor interest in it, while it is written that he came unto his own people (the Jews), and they received him not. But the jubilant heavenly hosts, who were capable of appreciating what fallen men could not appreciate, and will not until their blind eyes are opened and their deaf ears unstopped, broke out in a rapturous strain of heavenly melody, saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."*
*This expression--"good will toward men"--as rendered by a majority of translators is confirmed by the latest found manuscript, the Lewis manuscript of the Gospels, discovered in 1892 in the convent at Mt. Sinai.
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The full import of this song will not be fully realized by men until the Millennial reign of Christ shall proffer them full emancipation and deliverance from sin and its entailments.
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PRESENTATION IN THE TEMPLE.
III. QUAR., LESSON II., JULY 8, `LUKE 2:25-38`.
Golden Text--"A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel."--`Luke 2:32`.
`VERSES 25-31`. Simeon was one of the kind of characters to whom God reveals his truth--a just and devout man, waiting in faith for the consolation of Israel. "Light is sown for the righteous, and joy for the upright in heart." And the holy spirit was upon him, so that, being thus inspired, he prophesied concerning the infant Jesus.
`VERSE 32`. Under divine inspiration, therefore, Simeon declared this child to be a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of Israel. John also pointed to him as the true light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. (`John 1:9`.) And Paul adds, "This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who will have all men to be saved [from their blindness and deafness], and to come unto the knowledge of the truth." (`1 Tim. 2:4`.) As the vast majority of mankind have never been thus enlightened, and thousands more have been only partially so, it follows logically that the full enlightenment of the world tarries until the Millennial reign of Christ shall call forth all that are in their graves--when "the Sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in his wings." Then he will enlighten the whole world, and believing Israel will glory in him.
Simeon's further prophecy of `verse 34` is partially fulfilled. The world has witnessed the fall of Israel from divine favor, and their sad condition as outcasts for nearly two thousand years, because of their rejection of Christ. And now the time for their rising again has come (beginning A.D. 1878): and they will be raised up nationally to all the favor from which they fell nationally. Today we are witnesses of the regathering of Israel, preparatory to the turning away of their blindness and their coming again into divine favor and blessing.
"And for a sign which shall be spoken against." This has been true all through the age; and the reproach of the cross has not yet ceased.
`VERSE 35` had reference to Christ's tragic death, and the test of faith thereby instituted, both in that day, and even to the end of the age, thus (by the test) revealing the thoughts of many hearts,--proving which are loyal and faithful to God as true soldiers of the cross, and which are not. It is not probable, however, that Simeon, who spoke thus under divine inspiration, understood fully the import of his words.
`VERSES 36-38`. Anna, a prophetess, another devout, faithful soul, recognized and pointed out the infant Redeemer. It will be observed that she was of the tribe of Aser--another evidence of what we have frequently called attention to in connection with the Anglo-Israel question, that the entire house of Israel (twelve tribes) was represented at Jerusalem in our Lord's day, and not the tribes of Judah and Benjamin only. See TOWER, Dec. '91.
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VISIT OF THE WISE MEN.
III. QUAR., LESSON III., JULY 15, `MATT. 2:1-12`.
Golden Text--"They saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down and worshipped him."-- `Matt. 2:11`.
`VERSES 1,2`. That even the Gentile world was in expectation of the coming Messiah (`Luke 3:15`) is manifest from this visit of the wise men (Greek Magi, sages) from the east--possibly from Persia. The term originally belonged to a class of priests among the Medes and Persians who constituted the king's privy council and who cultivated astrology, medicine and occult and natural science. Ancient authors make frequent reference to them. Later the term was applied to all eastern philosophers.
In the far east, the Chinese and Japanese and other nations have cherished a very ancient tradition that God would descend to the earth in visible form, to enlighten men and to redeem them from their sins. Tacitus, Suetonius and Josephus all testify that there prevailed throughout the entire East at this time an intense conviction, derived from ancient prophecies, that ere long a powerful monarch would arise in Judea and gain dominion over the world. Virgil, who lived a little before this, tells that a child from heaven was looked for who should restore the golden age and take away sin. Confucius, in China, about B.C. 500, prophesied the appearance of such a deliverer, and a deputation of his followers going forth in search of him was the means of introducing Buddhism into China. Zoroaster
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taught the Persians that a pure virgin would bring forth a child, and that as soon as the child would be born a star would appear, which he added, "follow wheresoever it leads you, and adore the mysterious child, offering your gifts to him with the profoundest humility. He is the Almighty Word, which created the heavens."
These expectations doubtless arose from the intermingling of the Jews with foreign nations. The Prophet Daniel was himself associated with some of their wise men. (`Dan. 2:48`.) His prophecies were made known to them, and the calculations by which he pointed to the time of Messiah's advent. These in course of time were woven into their literature. Nearly all of the ancient religions are confessions of human need: and in their blind gropings in the dark, they reveal the depths of man's degradation and misery.
The miraculous star in the east, for which some of the Gentile wise men had been taught by a mere vague, groping superstition to look, finally made its appearance, and guided those blind feelers after God to
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the wonderful light of the world. Thus kindly God condescends to human ignorance and weakness. "A bruised reed will he not break, and smoking flax will he not quench." All men will in due time have full, clear testimony to establish their faith in the Holy One of Israel and all who love righteousness will gladly accept him. Those who now can walk by faith have all the evidences which hopeful, loving faith requires. But none the less shall all the doubting Thomases and all the now blinded world in due time have the more tangible evidences in store for them. But more blessed are those who can now walk by faith.-- `John 20:29`.
The inquiry of the wise men (`verse 2`) betokened a proper condition of heart--(1) It showed that they had respect and reverence, and that they desired to render homage to the mighty God of Israel, and to his messenger to men. (2) It showed faith in the divinely inspired prophecies which had been irregularly interwoven with their own vague ideas and traditions. (3) It showed their zeal as truth-seekers, and their humility of heart in leaving their own philosophies, etc., and coming to inquire of the God of another nation. They seemed to desire truth on the great subjects of God and of human destiny, regardless of all other considerations. And they accordingly declared their disposition to render the homage due to the appointed ambassador of Israel's God, when they should find him.
Jesus was born to be a king as well as a savior. The latter term includes the former; for the great salvation is secured by both his humiliation (even unto death) and his exaltation (as a king and deliverer). By his vicarious sacrifice our salvation was made legally possible; and by his glorious reign it will become an accomplished fact.
`VERSES 3-6` show the faith--though it was an irreverent and selfishly jealous faith --of Herod and his official staff in the God of Israel and in the words of his inspired prophets; and also the thorough acquaintance of the Jews with the prophecies. Without hesitation they pointed to the predictions of time and place and repeated Christ's foretold mission. Indirectly, we have here strong evidence of the esteem which the Hebrew Scriptures everywhere commanded. Herod's selfish faith, which sought the infant king that he might kill him, was in strong contrast with the reverent and devotional faith of the wise men. Fearing the overthrow of his own power, he was moved with envy toward the infant rival who was already attracting the world's attention. But, as usual, the wrath and duplicity of an evil man was overruled for good; for the king gave to the wise men the directions from the Jewish prophets--to go to Bethlehem, --an additional assurance to that of the star that they were being rightly guided, and that too by the God of Israel.
`VERSES 7,8,12` show the duplicity of Herod's wicked heart, which the wise men could not discern, but which God knew and guarded them against by a warning dream. The devout wise men obeyed the warning and, disregarding the kings command, departed into their own country another way, bearing the good tidings with them.
`VERSES 9-11`. Leaving the king's presence, they observed that the star also led in the direction of Bethlehem, and, standing over where the young child was, the miraculous luminary had accomplished its mission: the infant Redeemer and King was found and reverently worshipped and presented with the choicest and most costly gifts.
Thus even in his infancy this light that was to lighten the Gentiles began to shine into some waiting and devout Gentile hearts.
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CAN IT BE DELAYED UNTIL 1914?
Seventeen years ago people said, concerning the time features presented in MILLENNIAL DAWN, They seem reasonable in many respects, but surely no such radical changes could occur between now and the close of 1914: if you had proved that they would come about in a century or two, it would seem much more probable.
What changes have since occurred, and what velocity is gained daily! "The old is quickly passing, and the new is coming in."
Now, in view of recent labor troubles and threatened anarchy, our readers are writing to know if there may not be a mistake in the 1914 date. They say that they do not see how present conditions can hold out so long under the strain.
We see no reason for changing the figures-- nor could we change them if we would. They are, we believe, God's dates, not ours. But bear in mind that the end of 1914 is not the date for the beginning, but for the end of the time of trouble. We see no reason for changing from our opinion expressed in the View presented in the WATCH TOWER of Jan. 15, '92. We advise that it be read again.
TRACT NO. 21.--DO YOU KNOW?
We published one hundred and fifteen thousand copies of this tract, and have sent samples to all our TOWER readers. It seems to give general satisfaction, and orders from all quarters are large. We advise the circulation of this tract by all of you--on street cars, steam cars, at hotels and depots, and Sundays on the street-corners,--until everyone within your reach has been supplied. Order all that you will agree to use. Never mind the money. Many have opportunity for distributing sample copies of Old Theology Tracts who have no money to spare to pay for their printing, etc., but others, again, who have less opportunity for distributing tracts, take delight in meeting the publishing expenses, and thus help to preach the "good tidings of great joy, which shall be unto all people."
The first edition, although large, is already exhausted; but we have another edition of over two hundred thousand under way which will be ready in about ten days. Send in your order and have a share in this feature of the harvest work. There should be a million copies of this tract in circulation within a year.