ZWT - 1901 - R2748 thru R2928 / R2892 (321) - October 15, 1901
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VOL. XXII. OCTOBER 15, 1901. No. 20.
Finishing Touches of Christian
Anarchy Opposed to Christian Faith................326
Joseph the Merciful...............................327
Speaking Perverse Things..........................330
The Close of a Noble Life.........................330
Encouraging Words--British Branch.................333
Disadvantageous Postal Ruling.....................322
LETTERS FOR THE EDITOR SHOULD BE SENT TO ALLEGHENY, PA., U.S.A. SUBSCRIPTIONS AND BUSINESS COMMUNICATIONS
WATCH TOWER BIBLE & TRACT SOCIETY, "BIBLE HOUSE," 610, 612, 614 ARCH ST., ALLEGHENY, PA., U.S.A.
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ENTERED AS SECOND CLASS MAIL MATTER AT ALLEGHENY, PA., POST OFFICE.
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A DISADVANTAGEOUS POSTAL RULING.
The Postoffice authorities inform us that we may expect (in common with many other publishers) to be deprived of the privilege of mailing thick pamphlets (M. DAWN) at the special second class rates of postage heretofore enjoyed. We deny the right of the Postmaster General to make such a law;--for law-making it practically is, since the present law has been otherwise interpreted for the past thirty years, by all previous Postmasters General; and several of them desired and petitioned Congress (the law-making branch of the Government) to change the law, which Congress refused to do. This is in no sense a blow at our publications, however, and if others submit we will probably make no legal protest.
One effect will be to curtail the circulation of paper-bound DAWNS because it will require us to pay 7 cents extra postage each; and we must collect this from our customers. We can still however reach some of you at low rates by express where the orders are for twenty books or more, east of Pittsburg and south as far as Virginia at the old rate, one cent per book: west of Pittsburg (20 or more) as far as Illinois and Kentucky at two cents per book. These prices apply only to paper-bound and leatherette-bound books. The cloth-bound books are unchanged in rate--average postage 10 cents each prepaid by mail or express.
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FINISHING TOUCHES OF CHRISTIAN CHARACTER.
"Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honorable, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, if there be any praise, think on these things."--`Phil. 4:8`.
MANKIND in general does too little thinking, and what it does do is more or less along improper lines, and built upon false bases or premises. Nevertheless, all will agree as respects human welfare, there is a power in thought second to no other power in the universe. Few, perhaps, realize to what extent this is true,--to what extent their own happiness and well-being is dependent upon right thinking,--to what extent whole communities and nations owe their happiness or misery to their right or wrong thinking upon the important problems of life. Words are a power in the world, but only in proportion as they awaken thoughts and lead to actions; words, thoughts, deeds, is the order. Truly did the wise man say, "As a man thinketh in his heart so is he." (`Prov. 23:7`.) If he thinks justly, he will speak and act justly; if his thoughts are selfish and ignoble, his words will be deceitful and his conduct dishonest.
It is because the power of thought is to a considerable extent recognized that it is appealed to on every hand. The teacher appeals to it; the preacher appeals to it; the politician appeals to it; the financier appeals to it; the sociologist appeals to it; the thousands of pamphlets, books, newspapers and magazines published in every land and in every tongue are all appealing to thought. Thought, indeed, may be said to be the great engine which is moving the whole world in its every department. The difficulty is that few are of logical and discerning mind, the fall having affected every member of the human family has disordered our reasoning faculties; and charlatans and demagogues and self-seekers very frequently take advantage of the weak mental state of humanity to delude with sophistry, and thus to hinder and obscure correct thinking and reasoning. Against the great force and weight of selfishness in its every member does humanity thus labor, as well as against the wiles of Satan; and it is not surprising that generally it is misled and deceived, because added to its incubus of false premises it must struggle also against its own inertia, sluggishness and inaptitude.
The Lord, also appeals to the power of the mind through his Word, and urges upon his people that they be "transformed by the renewing of their minds." (`Rom. 12:2`.) Indeed, it may be said that the cultivation of the power of thought began with God's people, and that so far as religious matters are concerned it has in no particular degree gone from them. While heathen religions seek to restrain the intellect and appeal chiefly to the passions, prejudices and fears, the Lord, to the contrary, calls to his people, saying, "Come, let us reason together." (`Isa. 1:18`.) We are willing to admit that nominal Christendom has not heeded the Lord's invitation to any great extent--that very largely nominal Christians avoid thought on religious subjects, and especially avoid reasoning; but we hold that to the extent they thus violate the divine arrangement they have not their "senses exercised by reason of use," and are to be esteemed, at very best, only babes in Christ. `Heb. 5:13,14`.
We are willing to agree also that thinking may be a very dangerous matter in the absence of absolute knowledge upon which to base and exercise our reasoning faculties; but the Lord has protected his faithful along this line by providing us in his Word with the proper basis for reasoning on all subjects involving our duty to our Creator and to our fellow-creatures. The Scriptures lay down certain broad lines, and invite God's people to reason within these lines of revelation, and by reasoning thus to taste and see that the Lord is gracious; and come to a clearer knowledge of him, a better understanding of his character and plan. Many who are awakened to independent
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thinking are careless of the limitations of the divine revelation, and consequently the influence of the divine Word upon them is a mental liberty and enlightenment which, lacking the divine control, is very apt to go to the extreme of license, selfishness, self conceit and infidelity. Wherever the Bible has gone it has been the torch which has led civilization: millions have profited by its enlightening influence, though only comparatively few walk close to its light and within its prescribed limitations of reason and conduct; and these few are the true Christians--the "wheat" of this age, "the first-fruits unto God of his creatures," which God is now harvesting.-- `James 1:18`.
THE CONTROL OF THOUGHT.
Some are inclined to believe that since man's brain differs from each other man's brain to some extent, therefore his thinking must necessarily be different; in a word, that a man can only think in harmony with his brain construction. But we reply, Not so; each may learn to weigh and balance his own thoughts, to curb some and to encourage others; but to do this each must have before him an ideal of character, to be copied. Thoughts can be controlled just
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as words and actions can be controlled: the will is at the helm, and must decide which thoughts and sentiments it will entertain and encourage, and which it will repel. It is necessary, therefore, first of all for the will to be rightly directed, and secondly, to be strong, and to use its power in the control of thought; --in curbing those thoughts which it recognizes as evil, and in stimulating those which it recognizes as good, helpful, beneficial. The will, in Scripture called the "heart," is therefore continually appealed to by the Lord, as he now seeks amongst men for his "peculiar people." The message is, "My son, give me thine heart"--thy will. This request is not addressed to wilful sinners, for they are not recognized or addressed as sons of God, but as children of the Evil One. Those whom God recognizes as his sons are such as have been brought into harmony with him through forgiveness of sins, by repentance and faith in Christ Jesus, the Redeemer. It is to such that the Lord makes known that if they would "go on to perfection"--to the full attainment of his gracious purposes respecting them, the only proper course would be to give their hearts, their wills, to him in consecration.
The heart, the will, thus given over to God, seeks to know the divine will, to catch the divine thought and to obey it in word and in act; and in proportion as this condition of the new mind is attained, in that same proportion will there begin to be a newness of life in every respect; in ambitions, hopes, sentiments, and efforts. It is for this reason that the revelation of the divine will and plan is furnished to believers --that by growing in the knowledge of it, by thinking on these things, by filling the mind with the divine plan and will, the transforming influence may extend into every avenue of life.
OUR TEXT ADDRESSES THE SAINTS.
A common mistake amongst people would be to address the words of our text on the subject of right thinking to sinners, to evil-doers and evil thinkers; but this is a mistake. The entire Epistle to the Philippians is addressed to "All the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi" (`1:1`); and the exhortation is applicable to all the saints everywhere, but not to others than saints--not to the worldly, not even to the household of faith, until they have made a full consecration of themselves to the Lord. It would be useless to address others along this line; the exhortation would be of no effect. Hence, the exhortation of this lesson is not specially applicable to any but the most advanced Christians--not even to the "babes in Christ," but only to those who are somewhat matured in the new life. As for the babes who are not developed new creatures, they will have their attention very thoroughly occupied with the cruder elementary lessons, respecting the coarser sins which the new creature must abhor and battle against. This text addresses those who have made considerable progress along these lines of putting away "the filthiness of the flesh and of the spirit"--those who are seeking to perfect holiness in their hearts, and so far as possible also in their earthly bodies.-- `2 Cor. 7:1`.
The context proves our assertion, for after speaking of prayer and thanksgiving to God and the peace of God which passeth all understanding, keeping their hearts and minds, the Apostle sums up this advanced position of grace with the words of our text as the finality or finish of the argument, and of the process of character-development: "Finally, brethren."
"WHATSOEVER THINGS ARE TRUE."
This is the first question to be asked respecting any matter: Is it true or is it false? If it is false the Lord's people are to have nothing whatever to do with it,--no matter how beautiful. Love for the truth lies at the very foundation of saintship, and we remember that the Lord declares through the Apostle that those who will be rejected and stumbled in this harvest time are such as "receive not the truth in the love of it" (`2 Thes. 2:10`)--such as have pleasure in unrighteousness (untruth). With our poor and at very best imperfect brains there is great danger of our being misled, and hence the Word of the Lord appeals to us with force that we should not even touch that which we realize is untrue. This does not mean that we may not weigh and balance evidences to discern the truth from the untruth; but it does mean that as soon as the truth is discovered it will be embraced and acknowledged, and the untruth as vigorously disavowed and completely withdrawn from. To tamper with error after we see it to be error, to "see how it would reason out, anyway," when we know the matter is on a wrong basis, is to lay a trap for our spiritual feet, one which frequently stumbles travelers on the way to Zion.
If we are following God's admonition through the Apostle, in this text, it will mean an avoidance of fiction, of novels, of unrealities. This, on the other hand, will mean an increased reverence for whatsoever things are true, an increased devotion to them, an increase of time for their study, and an increase of the spirit of truth in our hearts as a result.
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"WHATSOEVER THINGS ARE HONEST."
The truth of the thing is only one of the tests to which it must be put. We may find a matter to be true and yet not find it to be worthy of our thought, dishonorable. Who does not know that there are dishonorable and dishonoring thoughts, the pondering of which not only wastes valuable time, but instead of bringing a reward, a blessing for the time spent upon them, entails a loss, a disadvantage, in that it leaves a dishonorable stain in our minds, unworthy of us as new creatures in Christ Jesus?
The true but dishonorable or unworthy things presenting themselves for our consideration at the bar of our minds are perhaps oftenest in connection --with others--the weaknesses, the errors, the follies, or what not of our neighbors, of our friends. The entertaining of these thoughts, the pondering of them, will be unfavorable to us, and the sooner we discern the matter and dismiss them the better, the happier, the more noble will be our own hearts. The dismission of these unworthy thoughts will leave us the opportunity and the energy, if we will, to expend that much more time upon whatsoever things are not only true but also honorable, worthy of our attention as new creatures in Christ Jesus.
"WHATSOEVER THINGS ARE JUST."
Here we have another limitation. Our minds are to be occupied in thinking about righteousness or just things, principles, etc.; we are not to be continually meditating upon grievances and injustices, either real or imagined. We are to remember, on the contrary, that we are living in the period which the Scriptures denominate "the present evil world," and that it could not be this if Justice prevailed generally. We are to remember that hereunto we were called,--even to endure injustice, for righteousness' sake;--to do good, to lay down our lives in the service of the Lord and his Word, and yet to be evil-spoken of and to be misunderstood and to have all manner of evil said against us falsely for Christ's sake. We are, therefore, not to think strange of the fiery trials that shall surely come upon all who are of the Royal Priesthood; but rather, having settled this matter in advance, when we made our consecration, we are to take it as it comes, as a matter of course, not grieving over nor specially thinking about the trials, the injustices, etc. And thus doing we will have the more time to give to thinking of the more helpful, the more strengthening, the more elevating things--the things that are just, the things that are in harmony with righteousness, respecting the past, the present and the future, as promised in the Lord's Word.
"WHATSOEVER THINGS ARE PURE."
There is a vast amount of impurity everywhere throughout the world. It, therefore, behooves the Lord's consecrated people to follow the Apostle's injunction, and to carefully strain out the impurities, and see that they do not enter into our hearts, our thoughts, realizing that with them in the result will be to work our defilement, to a greater or less degree. Whoever maintains purity of thought will have comparatively little effort in maintaining purity of word and of action. Whether the impurity come from one direction or another--from the world or the flesh or the devil--its attack must first of all be upon the mind; and if repelled there the victory is won: if not repelled we cannot know what the consequences would be, as the Apostle James declares: "Lust [selfish desire of any kind], when it has conceived [in the mind] bringeth forth sin [develops sinful words or deeds], and sin when it is finished bringeth forth death."--`Jas. 1:15`.
No wonder, then, that the Apostle mentions the necessity for our thoughts being guarded along the line of purity, and that if a matter were ever so well established as a truth, and if it involved no injustice, and even were not dishonorable, yet were impure, this would be quite sufficient to condemn it as unworthy of the mind of the Lord's consecrated people. Nor is it to be overlooked that any smut or impurity entering into the mind may cause such a defilement as will give trouble in its complete eradication, not only at the time, but for years afterward.
"WHATSOEVER THINGS ARE LOVELY."
The saints are exhorted to be meek and peacemakers, but in order to be thus they must have amiable thoughts, lovely and lovable thoughts, kind thoughts, gentle thoughts. These in turn will gradually develop into graces of character. We are not to think upon subjects gendering anger, hatred, strife, --vexatious thoughts, quarrelsome thoughts, vindictive and contentious thoughts. These all are to be shunned as enemies to the new creature, and instead we are to think of the beautiful things, the amiable things, we may know respecting our neighbors, our
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friends; even though we be not able to fully close our eyes against their injustices or evil deeds, we may at least refuse to waste valuable time in thinking about their weaknesses and thus cultivating unamiable, quarrelsome dispositions in ourselves.
"WHATSOEVER THINGS ARE OF GOOD REPORT."
It may be argued by some that since the world hateth the light and the children of the light, and rejoiceth in iniquity and in getting the advantage over others, therefore those things which would be reputable with it would not be the holy things suitable to the thoughts of God's people. But not so, we answer; the world does recognize to a considerable extent a right standard, even though it does not follow that standard, nor even pretend to do so-- even though it hates those who it sees are endeavoring to walk up to that standard; even though it calls the children of light hypocrites, and crucifies them, as in the case of our Lord. It is policy and false religion that generally excite religious persecution. Nevertheless, if anyone will follow the standard that is reputable, and think upon those things he will find therein a blessing.
FOR THE VICTORS ARE THE REWARDS.
Some may feel that if they thus sifted and tested and rejected all the untrue, the unworthy, the unjust, the impure and the unamiable thoughts presenting themselves, that they would have no topic left whereon to engage their minds, and this we believe would be true with a great many--their minds for a time
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would be quite vacant of thoughts, if all the evil and improper ones were rejected, banished; but by the time they would be in this attitude they would have such a "hunger and thirst after righteousness," truth, things lovely, things pure, things noble, that they would be in the right condition to receive the very spiritual food which the Lord has provided for them. There is one thing, and one thing only, which fully combines all of the above propositions, and demonstrates itself to be the one thing true, honorable, just, pure, lovely,--and that is, the divine character and plan. Let us think upon its various features. Let us study the divine Word and behold through it, as a telescope, the beauty of the divine character, the splendor of the divine plan, as revealed in God's Word and plan...whose length and breadth and height and depth no man can measure, and only the saints can comprehend by the holy spirit, and that in proportion as they receive of the holy spirit, the holy mind, the holy thoughts, replacing and displacing the unholy thoughts and sentiments of the natural man. (`Eph. 3:18`.) What a splendid premium the Lord thus places upon the study of his Word in the esteem of all who are of the class addressed by the Apostle in our text!
Such a ruling of the mind is a conquest; such a self-mastery is a victory; the greatest victory that can be gained. As the Scriptures declare, "He that ruleth his spirit [mind] is better than he that taketh a city." (`Prov. 16:32`.) And the prescription given by the Apostle in our text, for the mental health of the saints, is the very soul-discipline necessary to our development in character, to the degree pleasing to God and acceptable, through Christ Jesus our Lord. These are the victors to whom will be granted a share in the Kingdom. Ah, then, as the Apostle exhorts, "Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin that doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author of our faith" until he shall have become the finisher of it (`Heb. 12:1,2`); remembering that he who is on our part, and who has engaged to help us and to carry us through every difficulty, and to fully instruct us if we submit ourselves to him, and thus to "make us meet for the inheritance of the saints in light," is Jesus, --who loved us and bought us with his own precious blood.
Well do the Scriptures generally enforce the importance of guarding the mind, the will, the heart, saying, "Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life." Keeping it, to the saints now called and in the race, means life more abundant, with glory, honor and immortality. Neglecting it, refusing to exercise self-control, means the permission of selfish desires to be conceived in our brains, and to lead away from the Lord and his "narrow way" on toward sin, on toward the wages of sin-- death--Second Death.
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ANARCHY OPPOSED TO ALL CHRISTIAN FAITH.
IT IS DIFFICULT to get a clear statement of the principles of the anarchists, as they are at war with all received principles of human government and conduct, as well as antagonistic to all religions that accept revelation or the future accountability of human beings. Some light is thrown on the fundamental doctrines of the anarchists, for which many of them are willing to give up liberty and life, by a contributor to the London "Times," who has made a study of the social creed of the anarchists, and therefore writes with a fuller understanding than the hasty political doctors who have prescribed so many remedies for the direful disease. We here reprint his summary of the anarchist belief:
"'They hold that there is no moral law, natural or revealed, and, therefore, that every individual is entitled to be a law unto himself. Granting the premise, the conclusion seems irresistible. No majority of citizens, however large, can create a moral right. It can pass municipal laws, and, subject to certain limitations, those laws may bind in conscience men who believe that all civil power is of divine ordinance. But local and temporary majorities have often made or approved laws in flagrant contradiction with the most elementary conceptions of right, while the sacredness sometimes ascribed to natural law, as that law is deduced from the moral judgments of mankind, semper et ubique, depends on the view that it emanates from the universal conscience and that the voice of conscience is superhuman.
"The anarchist rejects this view. He denies any supernatural government of the world, and, therefore, he denies, very consistently, the moral right of any power whatever to fetter his individual judgment or his individual will. All attempts to curb him in the free indulgence of his individual lusts and passions are in his eyes oppression. The fundamental laws on which society rests are to him tyrannical abuses by which the majority seek to limit the boundless license which is the birthright of every man born into this world. It is idle to tell him that those laws are supported by vast majorities. He answers that majorities, however vast, are mere synonyms for superior force, that he personally disapproves of the state of society which these laws have created and which they maintain, and that he has an innate right to assail that state by any means he chooses. His practical conclusion is appalling, but it seems to me to follow quite reasonably from his premises; and, as those premises are consciously or half-consciously held by thousands in all ranks of society, I fear that we are likely to hear more of him in the future.'
"It is clear from this that the fundamental faith of the anarchists is atheism, not only as to the supreme supernatural governing power and future accountability, but as well as to conduct in the affairs of this life, denying the moral right of any power whatever to fetter or direct his individual judgment. All atheists may not be anarchists, but all anarchists are necessarily atheists. They cut adrift from the regulation or direction of their lives by divine or human power. This makes them anarchists. Their growth in Europe, foolish and crazy as it may be held, is not so surprising, considering the centuries of oppression and wrong operating on minds restrained by no moral
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or religious sentiment; but that their creed should have followers in this country shows not only the loss of all sense of moral accountability, but the density of ignorance and passion. The principles of the Christian religion or of any other of the world's great religions constitute a complete refutation of the creed of the anarchists. They are therefore the enemies of the human race."
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JOSEPH THE MERCIFUL.
--`GEN. 45:1-15`.--OCT. 27.--
"Be not overcome of evil, but overcome
evil with good."--`Rom. 12:21`.
DIVINE PROVIDENCE in the affairs of men is the essence of this lesson. Joseph was now thirty-nine years of age, having been next to Pharaoh in the throne of Egypt for nine years. The seven years of plenty were in the past; the granaries of Egypt were full with enough to spare, and two years of the predicted famine were already past. It would seem that Joseph had made no attempt to communicate with his father and brethren; first, probably because the methods of communication at that time were limited, but more particularly, we opine, because he had for some years been realizing that divine providence was shaping his affairs. He remembered his early dreams, and could see that they were now in a fair way of fulfilment. He would leave to divine supervision this matter, which was evidently beyond his control anyway. He no doubt thought of the famine, and how it would affect Palestine, and thus the interests of his father and brethren, their households, flocks and herds. He no doubt expected that as other people from the vicinity were coming to Egypt to buy grain, so quite probably eventually the Hebrews would come also; and they were forced to come by the close of the second year of the famine.
We may surmise that some law prohibited the sale of grain to foreigners, except by the chief ruler's permission, and that thus Joseph's brethren were obliged to come before him to explain. This thought is sustained by the fact that Joseph, wishing to try his brethren, first cast them into prison as spies--as though they were emissaries of a foreign power; which perceived the wealth of Egypt in food, and was meditating an attack upon the country. This gave Joseph the opportunity of inquiring minutely respecting the home conditions of his brethren, concerning his father and Benjamin, his younger brother, who was not with the brethren. Finally he gave them the opportunity of proving the truth of their statements, holding Simeon as a ransom until they would come again and bring Benjamin with them, knowing full well that they would be obliged to do this, because the famine would continue. These experiences proved a valuable lesson to the ten brethren, respecting the difficulties in which they were, and called to mind their past wrong conduct in respect to Joseph, for they accepted their present difficulties as retribution. "They said one to another, We are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul when he besought us, and we would not hear, therefore is this distress come upon us. And Reuben answered them, saying, Spake I not unto you, saying, Do not sin against the child;--and ye would not hear? Therefore behold also his blood is required. And they knew not that Joseph understood them; for he spake unto them by an interpreter."
Joseph was not hard-hearted, but wise in his treatment of his brethren. Most evidently not a solitary act was inspired by vindictiveness. He was evidently taking God's view of matters; viz., that it is proper that a certain amount of retribution shall come upon evil-doers, so as to impress upon them the more thoroughly the sinfulness of sin. Thus parents and guardians of children should not permit their kindness and sympathy to hinder a reasonable, moderate punishment of wrong-doing. Nevertheless, pity and love should be back of all, as it was in Joseph's case; merely planning for the better opportunity and the larger amount of blessing in due time.
When their grain was exhausted, and want was staring them in the face, Jacob finally consented to let Benjamin go with his brethren for the second purchase of grain; not, however, until Judah had become pledge for Benjamin, that he would not return to his home or family unless Benjamin also returned. The coming of the brethren to Joseph's house a second time, with the proof of the genuineness of their original story, was sufficient ground for their entertainment most graciously, and for the liberation of Simeon; --the whole company, to their surprise, being invited to dine with the governor, Joseph. They were surprised, too, that by some preconcerted arrangement they were seated at the table in the order of their ages; and further astonished that their younger brother, Benjamin, received five portions, as an evidence of special regard of the governor. They were rejoiced, undoubtedly, at the good fortune that had overtaken them, and making ready started on their homeward journey, doubtless thinking to themselves--We thought that our hardships of the previous time were probably in the nature of retributions, and that God's hand was in it, but after all, it seems that it was merely a natural thing that we should be taken for spies. Now, behold, we are prospered.
But they had not gone far until they were overtaken by the governor's agents, who represented that a theft had been committed, that the governor's valuable silver mug, called by the Egyptians, "Cup of Divination," was missing. They protested their innocence, that they were not that kind of men, and suggested that they be searched thoroughly. Examination was made of the grain sacks of one after another, until finally the cup was found in Benjamin's sack, and the whole company, previously elated, now returned prisoners to the governor of Egypt, whose hospitalities they had so recently enjoyed, and apparently had so poorly requited. Perhaps they began to think about the Joseph matter again, and to say to
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themselves, The evil that we thought was past is still pursuing us. It was a good lesson undoubtedly, helping to impress upon their minds, not only the value of honesty, but also the thought that although the wheels of justice grind sometimes slowly, they grind surely and very fine.
Benjamin, with the rest, denied that he had stolen the cup, and whether the brothers believed him or not, they would not lay special blame upon him, but generously shared it as a whole company. Judah, speaking for them, said, "What shall we say unto my Lord? What shall we speak, or how shall we clear ourselves? God has found out the iniquities of thy servants. Behold, we are my Lord's servants, both we and he also with whom the cup was found." They did not explain to Joseph the nature of their iniquity, though this evidently was in their minds. Joseph, however, wishing to see to what extent they had still the same evil, jealous disposition which they manifested toward him, proposed to let the others go free and merely to hold Benjamin, as the slave. The ruse was successful, and developed the fact that the brethren had learned lessons and formed characters in the interim which made them now more sympathetic one for another, and for their father. Their wrong course in Joseph's case had not been persisted in, but had been repented of. Judah explained the whole situation to Joseph through the interpreter, and so vividly did he picture Jacob's love for Benjamin, and his sorrow at the supposed death of Joseph, and the interest of the whole family in their father, that Joseph could no longer refrain --could no longer restrain his emotions. He felt that the time had now come to reveal himself to his brethren, and in order that they might feel the less embarrassed under the circumstances he ordered all the Egyptians from the room, and then explained briefly and sympathetically that he himself was their brother Joseph.
What wonder that the brethren were troubled, as they thought probably of how they would be disposed to retaliate were they in his place of power. But Joseph soon convinced them that he had none but kindly feelings for them, that he was merciful, forgiving. The spirit which he exhibited under these circumstances is worthy of emulation, not merely by natural men, but also by the "new creatures in Christ Jesus." How often do we find that the Lord's people are narrow in such matters, instead of being broad and generous, loving and forgiving. Joseph now speaking to his brethren in the Hebrew tongue, repeated to them the words, "I am Joseph," and added, "whom ye sold into Egypt," that thus they might recognize him, not only by his speech, but by his knowledge of the facts, that it was really their brother who was before them. But this expression was so gracious, and anger and malice were so absent from his every word and act, that they were inspired with confidence, and at his request drew near to him.
Many Christians would have spoiled the whole effect of this great lesson upon their brethren had they been in Joseph's place, by poor judgment, by reading the brethren a lecture;--by telling them what they already knew about the wrong of their conduct, about how now they were in his power, and how he could evil entreat them, but would not. Joseph was too wise and too merciful to take such a course. He took the contrary one, saying, "Be not grieved nor angry with yourselves that ye sold me hither." It seems wonderful indeed that a natural man could and would have so much of the spirit of God as is here manifested, and yet we know that Joseph was only a natural man--the holy spirit not having been
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poured out upon any of our race until Pentecost. It gives also a suggestion respecting the breadth of character of the ancients, quite in contradiction of the theory of evolution, which would claim that at that early period, man being but slightly above the monkey, would have coarse and brutish sentiments.
Joseph preached a great sermon to his brethren in few words, when he said, "God did send me before you to preserve life"--he thus overruled your wrong course, and has brought out of it a blessing. He gave his brethren credit for ability to understand such things. That the Lord overruled their course for good, did not prove that their course was a good or proper course; it merely proved the divine power and the divine wisdom and divine providence, that was over Joseph and over all the house of Jacob, causing all things, even the evil thing, to work out for good, according to the divine plan. How great and how lasting a lesson came to Joseph's brethren through their experiences, and through this his short sermon we cannot tell; but there is a great lesson here for all of God's people today along the line of mercy toward those who deliberately sin against us; and also along the line of noting, discerning and referring to divine providence in connection with our affairs. We are not only to note divine providences, but we are to give credit for them, as it is written, "In all thy ways acknowledge him." `Prov. 3:6`.
Joseph could have permitted his experiences to have developed a great deal of personal pride. He might have reasoned to himself, as some would have reasoned, that he was merely lucky, or that he was naturally bright, attractive, smart, and that this was the secret of his success; that this was the reason his father loved him specially; that this was the reason, when sold for a slave, he was bought by a good master in affluent circumstances; that this personal brilliancy was the cause of his rise in Potiphar's house to eminence; that the same effected his rise to a position of authority in the prison; that his keenness of intellect had enabled him to interpret the dreams; and that in general he stood head and shoulders above other men; and that others realized this, and hence he had come by his exaltation in a natural way. But had he thus been heady and high-minded, and self-conceited, we may be sure that it would have led to a fall--that God would not have continued to bless, prosper and advance him. We may be sure, too, that had he thus developed a spirit of pride and self-conceit, his conduct with his brethren would have been very different from what it was. He would have been crowing over them, and mistreating them in order to convince them of his power, and thus would have shown himself to be a very much smaller
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man than his proper course shows him to have been. He was a great man, and his greatness was manifested, not merely in his financial management of the kingdom of Egypt, but especially manifested in his reliance upon God, his realization that the divine promise and blessing, through his great-grandfather, Abraham, his grandfather, Isaac, and his father, Jacob, was resting upon him in some manner, and that because of this divine favor things were working as they were.
The spiritual seed of Abraham may draw valuable lessons from this narrative. If it was appropriate that Joseph should acknowledge the Lord as the giver of all his blessings, which were all of an earthly and temporal kind, how much more should the spiritual Seed of Abraham acknowledge the spiritual blessings received at the Father's hand,--and recognize in every mercy and favor opportunities of service; that it is the hand of providence. Surely these should always be on the alert, to realize and to confess,--"It is the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes." But on the contrary, we are sorry at times to find some of God's spiritual children inclined to be puffed up, and to speak of God's favor, the knowledge of the truth which they have received of the Lord, as though it were something of their own achievement; --as though some honor were due them, as the inventors of the divine plan.
Again, the spiritual Israelite should be even more merciful than Joseph. If he could see that the persecutions he receives, from his brethren and others, are merely incidents of divine providence-- which the Lord is using to prepare him for coming blessings and exaltation, should not the spiritual Israelite take his disappointments as God's appointments? And should he not with a clearer eye of faith, be the better able to see that many of his spiritual advancements have come as a result of persecutions from the world and from false brethren? And should he not, like Joseph, look with great complacency upon all these various agencies which God has been pleased to use in spiritually uplifting him, to perfect him as a "new creature," an heir of God, a joint-heir with Jesus Christ, his Lord? He surely should. And the only things which can hinder us from seeing that our advancement is of the Lord, and not of ourselves, will be a lack of humility, and a lack of trust in divine providence; and the only things which could hinder us from feeling patient forbearance and kindly sympathy and love for those who have despitefully used and persecuted us, would be a lack of the spirit of the Lord, the spirit of mercy, and a failure to see properly that whatever agencies God may use in our spiritual upbuilding are to be appreciated and sympathized with;--whether they be brethren or of the world-- Egyptians.
Then Joseph explained the providence of God, the years of plenty and the years of famine, and how God had been supervising the entire matter, and that this was his means of preserving Abraham's posterity, concluding, "So now, it was not you that sent me hither, but God." We are not to give credit to the evil agencies through which we have received blessings, otherwise we might soon be disposed to call evil good; but we are to give full credit to God, because that which was intended to be evil, and which was evil of itself, divine wisdom, so far above the earthly plane, was able to overrule for our good. It is as we learn the lesson of God's inherent goodness--as we learn to respect his wisdom, love and power that our faith grows stronger and stronger, until we are able to trust the Lord, not only in things which we can see are working out for our good, but able to trust him also in respect to things which seem entirely dark and out of which apparently no good can come; thus we trust him where we cannot trace him. And this is faith; and faith is a gift of God in that it is cultivated to acceptable development by the Lord's gracious promises, rightly received, appreciated and acted upon.
While Joseph had patiently waited for the Lord's time to come, and for twenty years had not seen his father's face, having now witnessed the fulfillment of his first dream, the bowing of his brother's sheaves to his sheaf, he realized that the Lord's time had about come for him again to see his father, when the second dream would be fulfilled. And whereas he was all patience before, now he was all energy and haste, because the time was come, and so he said to his brethren, "Haste ye, and go up to my father, and say unto him, Thus saith thy son Joseph, God hath made me lord of all Egypt. Come down unto me; tarry not." He impressed upon his brethren the glories of his position, not by way of boast or pride, but by way of assuring them of his authority and power to care for them, and so that they might fully assure their father Jacob that his caution might not hinder him from taking advantage of the goodly land of Goshen, now put at their disposal. His brethren and father were not invited to come and share in his throne and regal power, but were invited to come and partake of all the blessings flowing therefrom. Just so during the Millennial age, after the Christ, Head and Body, represented in Joseph shall be in the throne of glory and of power--in the heavenly Father's throne--when the Kingdom of God shall be established in the earth, all who feel a famine, a hunger, for the true bread of heaven, for eternal life, will be invited to come and receive abundantly of it. None, however, of the earthly class will be invited to share in the Kingdom honors, for the Kingdom class will be complete. But they will be invited to come and receive the blessings of the Kingdom, mental, moral and physical, health and strength, under the favor of the King of kings and Lord of lords.
The parting of Joseph and his brethren was an affecting one; they now understood the meaning of their previous experiences, including the cup found in Benjamin's sack; they saw that these matters all were leading up to the present manifestation to them of the love and sympathy of Joseph, and now, as expressing his special love for Benjamin he kissed him first, weeping tears of joy and recognition, and then did to all the others similarly, and sent them on their way. There is power in affection, in love; but it is necessary that the loving affection be manifested, ere that power can be felt. A difficulty with many parents, husbands, wives, children, is that they do not manifest all the affection which they feel. Pride or fear or some other thing hinders, restrains them, from
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being as frank with each other as they should be. Joseph's example here is worthy of emulation. He was the wronged one; he was the one in power; he was the one who should have the dignity, and he, therefore, was the one who could best afford to humble himself, and to kiss and make an ado over his brethren. We may be sure that they appreciated it; that such a manifestation of affection on the part of the highly exalted brother touched a tender spot in their hearts, and doubtless worked good for them to the remainder of their lives. And so we may find it with our friends and relatives, that a manifestation of our love and kind feeling toward them will not only be reciprocated, but will do them good; and that our affection restrained of expression will leave an icy coldness, which nothing else will remove, and that such coldness will affect not only them but ourselves also unfavorably--sapping all of life's joy-springs.
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Let us remember, in this connection, the words of our text, "Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good." Joseph exemplified this advice. He not only did not permit the evil course of his brethren to overcome him, and make him evil and bitter, but he overcame their evil tendencies, characters and dispositions by his love, his mercy, his kindness, his generosity,--affecting them favorably, no doubt, for the remainder of their days. Such a course is much more incumbent upon us than upon Joseph. He did it spontaneously; we have had the example and precepts of our Lord and his Apostles, and, as well, the begetting of the spirit of holiness. "What manner of persons ought we to be in all holy living and God-likeness?"
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"SPEAKING PERVERSE THINGS."
TO WHAT ABSURDITY, yea blasphemy, men will sometimes go in their endeavor to say something "new" that will bring them into prominence before the public. The following utterance of a Brooklyn preacher deserves first place in this unsavory list. The pity is that his congregation and the public press put themselves on his low plane as respects spiritual things. What could be thought of Dr. Hillis' claim to believe in the vicarious atonement of Christ for the sins of the world, after we know his general view of the subject of atonement and entering the holy of holies as expressed in the following clipping. The gentleman's erudition is so highly esteemed among men that he is decreed a "Doctor of Divinity;" but it has utterly unfitted him to be a minister of the gospel of Christ--a declarer of the only name given under heaven and among men whereby we must be saved, and of the only vicarious sin offering, of the only and great High Priest, who has entered the holy of holies by virtue of his own sacrifice finished at Calvary and which alone has merit before God for the forgiveness of sins.
SLAIN FOR THE NATION'S SINS.
New York, Sept. 19.--The Rev. Newell Dwight Hillis spoke this morning at the memorial services in Plymouth church, Brooklyn. He said in part:
"Among the heroes and martyrs who have died vicariously let us make a large place for our slain leader. In the highest sense, the president has now entered into the holy of holies, bearing the sins of his people with him. Reverently we confess that he was wounded for our transgressions and he was bruised for our iniquities.
"With sorrow and shame, we hear and now confess that for our transgressions he was stricken. But we remember that the angel of martyrdom and the angel of immortality are twin brothers. Perhaps the death of our president has shocked the people into the consciousness of their sins. Perhaps his blood will cleanse away the people's transgressions. If today, assembled in church and hall, the people register a vow that they will strengthen the home, the school, the press and the church, through wise legislation and noble precept, expel anarchy, lawlessness, injustice, class hatred from the land, our martyred president will not have died in vain. Then, verily, he will have slain more in his death than in his life."
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THE CLOSE OF A NOBLE LIFE.
--`GEN. 50:15-26`.--NOV. 3.--
"So teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom."--`Psa. 90:3`.
JACOB was a hundred and thirty years old when his sons returned with news of Joseph's greatness in the land of Egypt. His joy at hearing that his son was still alive, and now great, was off-set by the natural weakness of his advanced years. Hence he could scarcely trust himself to believe the report, even with the explanation given by his sons, of how they had sold Joseph into slavery, and had besmeared his coat with blood for their father's deception, twenty-two years before. However, the story of his sons was well attested by the royal present which Joseph had sent to him, and by the Egyptian wagons sent to bear him and the family as comfortably as possible in the journey. These wagons were doubtless the carriages of that day, workmanship in that line not having advanced to present proficiency. Jacob was persuaded, and started on the journey, during which he offered sacrifices to the Lord, possibly questioning in his own mind the wisdom of thus leaving the land of promise, and whether or not it might be interpreted of the Lord as an abandonment of his faith, or a relinquishment of the blessing which from earliest childhood had centered and directed his course of life.
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The Lord answered his query, and his sacrifices (probably by a dream) assuring him that he was taking the proper course in going into Egypt, and that ultimately his posterity should come again into "the land of promise." The spiritual Israelite should thus have in view at all times that which by his covenant has become the center of his life, the center of his interest, of his hopes and of his aims--the Abrahamic covenant and his share therein. He, too, must be on the look-out lest there shall be deceptions of the Adversary combined with earthly prosperity and the world's favor. When we are undergoing disadvantages or persecutions we are in much less danger than when the tide of worldly prosperity sets in our direction. Let us remember at such times to go often to the Lord, to seek to know his will, fully, completely; to bring to mind our covenant and its value, as above all earthly considerations. And let us offer unto the Lord the true sacrifice--presenting the merits of our dear Redeemer's sacrifice as the ground of our acceptance, repeating the full devotion of our hearts--renewing our covenant. This is the only safe way in this pilgrim journey.
We pass hastily over the narrative of the presentation of Jacob and Joseph's brethren to Pharaoh, and their settlement in the land of Goshen. After they had resided there seventeen years (`Gen. 47:28`) Jacob died, was buried with all the ceremonials common to the Egyptian court, because he was a relative of Pharaoh's representative. And it is here that our lesson proper begins. Joseph's brothers judged him to have a disposition considerably like their own; they could not believe him to be thoroughly generous and forgiving, and though they acknowledged his kindness toward them, they said to themselves, This was merely on account of our father Jacob, and not on our account, and now that our father is dead Joseph will treat us differently. It was because moved with such feelings that they first sent a messenger to Joseph, and afterward followed themselves into his presence, to ask his mercy and to declare themselves willing to be his servants.
It strikes us that this well illustrates the condition of many who come to the Lord with an insufficiency of faith. They are convinced of his mercy toward them, and yet are always fearful. The truth is that they do not know him; they think of him as moved by like passions with themselves, more or less depraved, more or less controlled by animosity. It is an evidence of growth in grace when we come to that place in our experiences where, admitting our own guilt and unworthiness of divine favor we have, nevertheless, become so intimately acquainted with the Lord as to have a full assurance of faith in his declaration that our sins are forgiven. It is to such a development of grace that the Lord referred, saying, "This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." (`John 17:3`.) But such a knowledge is not to be obtained instantaneously, but rather is to be the result of a growth in grace; for we grow in grace as we grow in knowledge, and we grow in knowledge as we grow in grace;--the two keeping pace, the one with the other, as do our feet in walking. It is because the majority who have named the name of Christ do not grow in grace and in knowledge that they fail to attain to that grand condition of which the Apostle speaks as "full assurance of faith"--full confidence in the Lord, in his goodness, in his wisdom, in his love, in his providential care over all of their affairs. And the lack of such growth is owing to their failure to offer their sacrifices unto the Lord --to commit all of their ways to him.
Joseph's answer to his brethren was most noble, and gives good evidence that his conduct was not merely an outward profession, but the result of an established character. He did not even say to himself, My brothers have misunderstood me, but though I freely forgive them I will use their fear as a stepping stone to greater power over them, and will say to them, I will do you no harm, but on the contrary treat you most kindly, as long as you are fully obedient to me, and send me presents yearly, or give me tithes of your increase, or come annually to make obeisance before me, and to acknowledge afresh your wrong, and to confess my generosity. No; he had too noble a character for this; he was too unselfish. On the contrary, he said, "Fear not; for am I in the place of God?" The secret of his right course with his brethren was the correct view which he took of the matter himself; he saw himself as merely God's servant in dealing with his brethren, and in all things. He saw that God's providence had been in the whole affair. How could he think otherwise? He saw the fulfilment of his inspired dreams; he had noted the miraculous leading of divine providence in the various steps by which he had been led from slavery to the
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throne of Egypt; he probably reflected that if now he should either do evil toward his brethren, or think unkindly of them, he would be casting a reflection upon one of the instrumentalities which God had used for his blessing. He could not do this and be loyal to and appreciative of divine power, and he communicated to his brothers for their encouragement and comfort this thought; that although they had purposed evil, and had done evil, nevertheless the thing really done was a good thing, but for which they deserved no credit, but discredit, and God all the honor. He would have them see that this was the basis of his dealing with them, and that he felt not the slightest animosity, but a full appreciation of the divine blessing, which had come through their course.
How great a blessing it would be for all spiritual Israelites to learn well this lesson; viz., that if we accept the results of any matter as being good, and if we realize that we were guided to those results by divine providence, we should think and feel most generously, most kindly, toward those who were the instruments used by providence, notwithstanding the fact that they might have been unwilling instructors, or, like Joseph's brethren, have verily intended opposite results. Those who are enabled to take such a view of affairs and forces operating in their daily lives are enabled "always to triumph through the Lord," as the Apostle expresses it. And such find no room for bitterness or railing, either against Satan or against any of his servants. `2 Cor. 2:14`; `Jude 9`.
This does not mean that they call the evil course
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good; nor that they will or should have any sympathy with the evil course; nor with the evil motives inspiring it; nor with the evil persons, so long as they are in harmony with the evil motives and evil course. But it does mean that their minds will be so filled with the thought of divine supervision in their affairs, and how all the time they were safe under the protecting care, the shadow of the Almighty, and that all things are working for their good, however they outwardly appear, that they will not have any bitterness whatever, either of word or of heart, toward those who attempted to, and outwardly did, do them evil, but whose evil intentions and conduct were overruled by the Almighty. In proportion as the Lord's people get into the large place where they can take a broad view of the situation, in that same proportion will they find themselves not only delivered from anger and malice and hatred and strife toward their opponents, but instead, possessed of "the peace of God which passeth all understanding," ruling in their hearts, keeping them secure amidst all of the storms and vicissitudes of life--because their anchor holds within the vail. They have "set to their seal that the Lord is true," and hence can rejoice always.
Not only was Joseph's course the right one in the sight of God, the noble one in the sight of all right-minded people, the blessed one as respected his brothers, their comfort, their peace, their love toward him,--but it was in every sense the proper and the best course as respected his own peace, joy, blessing. When he allayed their fears and comforted them, and spake kindly unto them, and promised them and their families the same care as when their father lived, he was taking also the course which must have brought the greatest blessing and comfort to his own heart. All do not know it, but it is a fact that the grandest quality that man can exercise, and the one which brings the largest amount of blessing itself, is the exercise of the God-like quality of mercy, compassion, benevolence. Those of spiritual Israel who have not practiced in this direction are not far advanced in spiritual development, and those who have practiced realize the truthfulness of the Lord's words, "Blessed are the merciful," and "Blessed are the peacemakers."
The next few verses of our lesson cover the period of fifty-four years from the death of Jacob to the death of Joseph; and give us comparatively little information, except that they give fresh evidence that the basis of Joseph's strength of character and fidelity to principle which carried him safely through the vicissitudes of his remarkable experience was faith in God--faith in the Abrahamic promise. And so we find it to-day, and all through the past, so far as we are able to decipher the teachings of history; those who have been the Lord's faithful people, have all been inspired by the hope set before us in the gospel. This is the hope of which the Apostle speaks, saying that it is "an anchor to the soul, sure and steadfast;"--it holds firm and secure in the storms and difficulties of life, and prevents the wrecking of our lives upon the rocks of sin, deception, doubt, selfishness, etc.
Who can doubt that it was Joseph's respect unto the divine promise that kept him faithful as Potiphar's steward, again in the prison, and again as Pharaoh's representative in the throne? In proportion as heavenly promises are before our minds, earthly and selfish ambitions are dwarfed and lose their power over us. Joseph's eye of faith, centered upon God's promise to Abraham and upon the land of Canaan, exercised a potent influence, because he realized that to be a friend of God, and an heir of God's promises, called for a purity of heart and of life which God could approve. Looking back he saw the influence of these promises upon his great grandfather, Abraham, upon his grandfather, Isaac, and upon his father, Jacob, and we see that the same promise controlled him to his great advantage. The people who today become enamored of wealth and of position and of power, so that they would be willing to sacrifice principles of justice and of truth that they might selfishly grasp these, thereby give evidence that they lack the power of the truth, the power of the Abrahamic promise, to control them and their lives. Had the Abrahamic promise not been forceful and weighty in the mind of Joseph he might have been plotting and scheming for the throne of Egypt or to have obtained the mastery over his own brethren; but realizing that God was behind the promise he was waiting patiently for that, as the greatest and most wonderful blessing conceivable--far beyond the things which he could have grasped, and the grasping of which would have meant his relinquishment of God's promise. Not, however, that he expected to go up out of Egypt into the land of Canaan himself; for he evidently knew, and it probably came down to us through him, that God had appeared to Abraham, and told him that his posterity should be in Egypt, and be evilly treated there, and that the period of their sojourn would be four hundred years.
Joseph's hope in God and in that Abrahamic promise must have been, therefore, a hope through a resurrection of the dead; and although it taught a valuable lesson, it was doubtless because of his imperfect understanding of the resurrection, and the power of God, that he so particularly gave commandment respecting the carrying up of his bones out of Egypt into Canaan, when the time of God's favor should come, and Israel should be delivered. And so must the spiritual Israelite have his mind centered in the future fulfillment of the divine promises, through a resurrection of the dead, if he would be delivered from the worldly influences of this present time, and be kept loyal to the Lord and to the highest principles of character. This faith in a future kingdom, future honor, future riches, future glory, dwarfs into insignificance the honor and glory and wealth of this present time, and makes all true believers separate from the world in these respects, and thus prepares them to think of the affairs of this present time from a more just and more equitable and dispassionate standpoint--they are removed from the immediate influence of selfishness in its most powerful forms, even though they still find, notwithstanding their faith in the promises, the necessity for keeping the body under, and mortifying its natural disposition toward selfishness.
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Our Golden Text is appropriate to the lesson, and every way worthy of the attention of the spiritual Israelite. We know that our days are numbered as respects the present life. We know that we need not expect eternal life under present conditions, and thus far the world and the Christian are on a common level; but here they part, the one saying to himself, "Life is short, and I must grasp and use it for myself, the best I can." The other, with a higher wisdom, that cometh from above, realizes his own inability and insufficiency, heeds the message from the Lord respecting an eternal life beyond the tomb-- the resurrection life, and goes to the Lord, petitioning for wisdom respecting the life that now is, as well as that which is to come.
In answer to his petitions he is taught of God in the experience of life to more and more appreciate the eternal, the everlasting life, and to spend time and energy in building up such a character as would be pleasing to his Creator, and bring the reward of "life everlasting." The Christian, in numbering his days, does not do so with a doleful or disconsolate sentiment, although he does so with sobriety. He counts the days as they go as so many blessings, so many privileges, so many opportunities to "show forth the praises of him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light," to render assistance to others in the pilgrim journey, and to develop in himself more and more of the character pleasing in the sight of God,-- to become more and more a copy of God's dear Son. As he numbers the days gliding swiftly by, and perceives how he is using them in harmony with the divine instructions, he ultimately comes to that condition of heart in which he is longing for the Kingdom and the full attainment of all the glories into which he hopes to be ushered, as a sharer in the first (chief) resurrection. And from this standpoint he numbers the days as they go by joyfully, and is glad when the days of the years of his present pilgrimage end; because his hope in the Lord, and in the gracious features of his plan, is growing daily stronger, clearer and brighter.
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JEPHTHAH'S VOW--A BETTER TRANSLATION.
In our September first issue we answered a question respecting Jephthah's daughter. Since then Brother C. J. Peterson calls to our attention the following item from the Appendix of the Emphatic Diaglott.
"The original, `Judges 11:30`, when properly translated, reads thus: 'And it shall be that whoever comes forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace, from the children of Ammon, shall surely be Jehovah's, and I will offer to him a burnt offering.' The vow contains two parts: (1) That person who would meet him on his return should be Jehovah's, and be dedicated forever to his service, as Hannah devoted Samuel before he was born. (`1 Sam. 1:11`.) (2) That Jephthah himself would offer a burnt offering to Jehovah.
"Human sacrifices were prohibited by the Law (`Deut. 12:30`); and the priests would not offer them. Such a vow would have been impious, and could not have been performed. It may be safely concluded that Jephthah's daughter was devoted to perpetual virginity; and with this idea agrees the statements that 'she went to bewail her virginity;' that the women went four times in every year to mourn or talk with (not for) her; that Jephthah did according to his vow, and that 'she knew no man.'"
We are glad that our attention is called to this evidently better translation, which clears away the difficulty, and shows that the burnt-offering was one thing, and the devotion of the daughter another thing. We are to remember, too, the testimony of the entire Old Testament, to the effect that prior to our Lord's birth all the women of Israel coveted earnestly the great blessing and privilege of being possibly the mother of Messiah, or amongst his forebears. We are to remember, also, the exultant language of the Virgin Mary when finally it was announced to her that she had won this long-sought prize: "Henceforth all shall call me blessed"--all shall recognize me as the one who has attained this blessed privilege of being the mother of Messiah.
ENCOURAGING WORDS THROUGH THE BRITISH BRANCH.
Dear Brother Russell:--
You will be pleased to know that the work in Great Britain is going on nicely. There are now fourteen Colporteurs spending all their time and energy in the blessed service, in this country, and several others are giving much of their spare time in the same way, some of these with a view to entering wholly into the work when able. These are encouraged from time to time by seeing some fruit of their labors.
The volunteers have been quite industrious also, and the tract distributors as well. We shall not at this time give figures to show how many Dawns and Tracts have been placed in the hands of the people here this year, as we hope to do so in due time in the Annual Report.
As brethren and sisters have taken their holidays this summer, the principal thought with most of them seems to have been how to use this time to the very best advantage. With this in mind, many have gone to new places, and have consulted together so that as many as possible of the seaside towns might be visited. While there, they have been diligent in the volunteer work and tract distribution to the residents and visitors from all parts of the country, who might carry of the influence back to their homes. Some happy results have attended these labors of the harvesters, for which we thank God. We continue to pray, as we doubt not you also do, that the Lord of the Harvest will send forth more laborers into the field.
Herewith are extracts from interesting letters recently received at the British Branch.
Yours faithfully in Christ, E. C. Henninges.
I write to thank you for the parcel of booklets and tracts which you forwarded. As the Lord opens up opportunity for me, I shall make good use, I trust, of the good seed entrusted to my care.
I know many "thinking Christians" who are expecting our Lord's return, but who weary in the waiting, and are, I think, somewhat confused in their minds, looking for the person and neglecting the "signs." For these I shall find the little pamphlet on the Second Advent extremely valuable, though I am beginning already to find that many of these dear people are not quite ready to assimilate the "meat in due season."
My own experiences in studying this magnificent work are such as I have never known before. From childhood I have been a great reader, and have read the standard works in all departments of English literature; but no work apart from the Holy Scriptures has ever given me such satisfaction and joy--such understanding of the Divine Word--as Millennial Dawn. It is indeed happiness to live now, for clouds of darkness have rolled away from my mind.
Yours faithfully in Christ,
A. E. D.,--Gloucestershire.
My Dear Brother:--
In consequence of the distribution of "Food for Thinking Christians," I am now coming into contact with many enquirers, some of whom are giving the truth careful consideration, while others are becoming veritable enemies, denouncing us and our work, saying that it belongs to the devil. I thank God for positive proof that his grace is amply sufficient for us all, and we feel that, having put our hands to the plow, we dare not look back, but will press along the path revealed, whereon the light shineth more and more unto the perfect day.
I have sent literature to various parts of this country, and to Bermuda; so you see that our little circle of work is spreading. I only wish I were able to do more; but if the Master wishes us to do so, I have no doubt he will open the way. We shall be glad of another supply of "Food."
With kindest love from Brother C., my wife and self, and praying our Father's richest blessing be your portion, believe me,
Very sincerely yours in Him,
H. W. L.,--Kent.
We are now settled in D__________. We have been spying out the land, and--well, if it isn't flowing with milk and honey altogether, we think there should be some good work done here.
We should like to serve the churches here with some "Food" on the Sundays. There is a considerable number of them, and we shall require a large quantity. Brother C. will be the "captain," and I will be one of the "volunteers," meantime, and perhaps the Lord will send recruits.
With Christian love and kind regards, we are,
Yours in His service,
(Colporteurs),--C. & C.,--Scotland.
Greeting! It is refreshing to hear of the increased interest in London, and we praise the dear Lord you are permitted to see some fruit of your labor. Thank God, the time is near when the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. Oh, may we all be faithful unto death, and so have a glorious share in revealing our gracious Father's character to an astounded world! Oh, what a prospect, how stimulating! How can we keep from singing? Are not we the blessed people who hear the joyful sound? Hallelujah!
We have not done so well as usual the past two weeks, and we must acknowledge we have been much disappointed; but we shall certainly, in future, be more sympathetic with those who are less successful; yet, if it please the Lord, we wish to do better, so as to encourage others to come out into this branch of the harvest work. Please pray for us; we remember you without ceasing.
Yours in our dear Redeemer,
L. & K. (Colporteurs),--Leicestershire.
Dear Sir and Brother:--
Of the "Food for Thinking Christians," which you sent for distribution, I have given away about 200, not without a good deal of opposition; but I rejoice that the truth is being listened to by a number, and obeyed by a few, among whom are one of my brothers, a sister and her husband, who are now rejoicing in the truth of God's Word; also a dear friend who recently went to Scotland; there he has had to suffer persecution for the truth's sake; but in that he greatly rejoices--that he is counted worthy so to suffer.
I find that the majority of people have to be educated up to these things, and our tracts are most useful for that, in my experience.
With all good wishes for the furtherance and spread of the truth, I am as ever,
Yours sincerely in the Lord's service,
We distributed about 500 of the Towers in R., when prejudice against the truth became so great that we were obliged to withdraw. The place is small and the news of the circulation spread so rapidly, and so much had been said against them, that a very large number of the people began to refuse them. Truly, Satan hath blinded their eyes, lest the glorious gospel of Christ should shine into their hearts, and they be free; but thank God for the assurance that this condition shall not long obtain. Soon the light and knowledge of the Lord shall be caused to fill the whole earth, and Satan will no longer have power to deceive the people.
I am thankful still to be privileged to do a little "harvest" work, now and again, and I do thank God that I do see some fruit for my labor. I often wonder why our Lord has been so gracious to me, for I am so unworthy. His blessings have been so rich, that I am persuaded that nothing shall separate me from the love of Christ, my Savior.
Yours faithfully in Christ,
G. H. T.,--Scotland.
On occasion of your recent visit to M__________, from which place I have been transferred, I did not get an opportunity to see you and have a talk; circumstances beyond my control prevented me from being at M__________ that day.
On taking up my duties here, I soon began to realize that I was alone, so far as my views are concerned, and that if I wished to have any friends and co-workers, I must set to work at once. I distributed quite a lot of tracts without apparent success; but am pleased now to inform you that by the help of God, I have made a very favorable impression on three of my workmates. We have spent several profitable evenings together at my home, and I have reason to hope that our heavenly Father, in answer to my prayers, has favored me with at least one brother and helper.
Although my knowledge as yet is limited, I am quite sure that our Master will help us, for it is written, "Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled." I am most anxious to transmit to others the truths with which I have been favored, in the earnest hope that I may be of some use in heralding the approach of our Master's kingdom, and thereby discharge, to some extent, the great debt which I owe him for all that he has done for me.
I trust that you will remember me in your prayers.
Yours in Christ's service,
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LETTERS FROM THE HOME FIELD.
[The following letter, written on return from the Oakland Convention to the Brother who so kindly entertained the friends, will be very interesting to many of our readers. We publish it with Brother Weber's permission.--Editor.]
My dear Brother Webster:--I am glad to write you that I arrived home Tuesday morning. Had a very pleasant and profitable journey, for which I thank and praise my heavenly Father. How much I thank him upon every remembrance of you! He put it into your heart to write to me; then so to arrange that I met you on that memorable day in Baltimore; then in inviting me to this last feast at your home--to meet Brother Russell, your own dear family, and so many of God's dear children; then to feast at our Father's table. Oh, how good it tasted! I felt so hungry for the truth. Altho the Lord has richly blessed me since this glorious truth began to dawn upon my soul, I had never met with but two people of the Dawn faith before this.
I have written a long letter to the Church where I have been a member for nearly 30 years, asking them to drop my name from their roll of membership, and giving my reason for this. I shall also have to write to several missionary societies and other churches and colleges where I have been a contributor. Of course for the present fiscal year I shall have to contribute according to my pledges, but after that it will close and I shall be able, if the Lord continues to prosper me, to do more for this Truth for which I now stand.
Well, I will not weary you with too long a letter. I thank the Lord for you and ask you to extend my sincere thanks to dear Mrs. Weber and the girls for all their work of labor and love, also to the boys that were kept so busy. I know God will bless them. And now whenever you come East remember your oldest (or youngest) boy in Cromwell, Conn. I shall indeed esteem it a favor to have the privilege of having you with us, and any of your family that can conveniently come this way. I am arranging with Brother Russell to have a Pilgrim brother come here and give Chart lectures. Yours in the Master's service,
A. N. Pierson,--Connecticut.
Dear Brother Russell:--I have not written for a long time; nevertheless my thoughts and prayers are constantly with you and the friends at the "Bible House."
Circumstances forbid my entering the colporteur service, as I had so fondly hoped; but I wish you to know that my zeal for the cause is no less fervent than when I was first enlightened. The experience of those days was sweet to me, for then I drank deep draughts from the fount of knowledge-- it was sweet in my mouth, but you are acquainted with the after effects. We can have Christian experience only as we put on Christ; and since it is my daily labor to be transformed by the renewing of the mind into an example of godliness, I can bear witness to the truth of the experiences of the brethren. You may remember how anxious I was in the beginning to spread the Truth; how confident that I would be an excellent instructor of the foolish and erring ones. Having read four volumes of Dawn, I felt there was very little more to be known about the Scriptures; but now having advanced further in the knowledge of God's plan, and having developed further in Christian character, I feel thoroughly unfit to be a teacher of so great truths.
The school I had last winter was closed prematurely for lack of students. I have tried in many ways to provide for my temporal necessities more comfortably at home, but they have all failed;--rather they have not materialized as I expected; but perhaps from the Lord's standpoint they were a success. I know one thing; they have taught me humility and dependence upon God's loving care. This assurance that I am still in the way I think is due you.
The Watch Tower I find an indispensable vade mecum, ever full of instruction profitable for all who run for the attainment of the joy set before us. May the Lord ever provide you wisdom, strength and courage, that you may incessantly preach the Word, endure hardness as a good soldier, and be faithful unto death.
Yours in the service of our present Lord,
James A. Browne,--Georgia.
[The above is from a colored brother; and incidentally we remark that about 200 colored persons on the Watch Tower lists give good evidence that they are of the "pure in heart," "accepted in the Beloved." Some have thought that we in some measure disdained brethren of color, because we stipulated that the "Volunteer" distribution should be done at white Protestant churches. But not so: we meant no disparagement of Catholics, nor of blacks; but arranged thus merely because their average standards of intelligence, etc., do not seem to warrant the necessary outlay.--Editor.]