ZWT - 1897 - R2084 thru R2237 / R2238 (301) - December 15, 1897
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VOL. XVIII. DECEMBER 15, 1897. No. 24.
Do You Desire Z.W.T. for 1898?....................302
Songs in the House of Our Pilgrimage..............303
Poem: "My Peace I Give unto You"..................307
Tract Society's Report for 1897...................307
Confession and Forgiveness........................310
Baptism of Jesus and Announcement
of His Work.................................313
Index for Zion's Watch Tower of 1897..............316
SUBSCRIPTIONS AND BUSINESS COMMUNICATIONS
--ADDRESS TO-- TOWER PUBLISHING CO., BIBLE HOUSE, 58 ARCH ST., ALLEGHENY, PA., U.S.A.
SUBSCRIPTION PRICE, $1.00 A YEAR IN ADVANCE. MONEY MAY BE SENT BY EXPRESS, N.Y. DRAFT, MONEY ORDER, OR REGISTERED. FROM FOREIGN COUNTRIES BY FOREIGN MONEY ORDERS, ONLY. SPECIAL TERMS TO THE LORD'S POOR, AS FOLLOWS:
Those of the interested who, by reason of old age or accident, or other adversity, are unable to pay for the TOWER will be supplied FREE, if they send a Postal Card each December, stating their cases and requesting the paper.
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DO YOU DESIRE ZION'S WATCH TOWER DURING 1898?
Please notice the address tag on your paper. It indicates the date to which your subscription is paid. If it does not agree with your record, please drop a card at once, explaining.
If you desire the TOWER, but cannot pay just now, drop a card so stating, so that your name be not dropped.
If you are unable to pay at all, you will see above that the Lord has made full provision for you as one of "THE LORD'S POOR." All such are requested to apply each December. Like all of God's gifts, a desire and a request are necessary to obtain them. A Postal Card request will do.
If we do not thus hear from you, your name will be dropped at once, as we cannot know that you desire its visits further. Then, if you should write later, it would cause us extra trouble to reset your name for the list.
MILLENNIAL DAWN, VOL. IV.
The friends of the truth will be pleased to know that the paper-bound edition of VOL. IV. is already exhausted. The next lot will not be ready for filling orders before February, as our printers are extremely busy just now. We still have some in leatherette and in cloth covers.
The public demand for VOL. IV. promises to exceed that for any other of the series, altho we have not yet sent many copies to newspapers for review.
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SONGS IN THE HOUSE OF OUR PILGRIMAGE.
"Thy statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage."--`Psa. 119:54`.
GOD'S PEOPLE during the Jewish dispensation as well as during the Gospel dispensation are spoken of as "pilgrims and strangers" in the "present evil world." They are such, because they have heard of "a better country," whose ruler is God, and whose law is love--"the perfect law of liberty." To such pilgrims the strife for wealth and vain glory, the pride, haughtiness and tinsel that everywhere prevail now, are distasteful; while the battle for wealth or position, especially when it leads to unrighteousness, oppression, slander, envy, strife and every evil work, is repulsive. Having obtained a glimpse of the perfection of divine character with its absoluteness of justice and love, it has become their ideal: and they have heard "the voice of him that speaketh from heaven," instructing them that sin and evil shall not always prevail, but that the God of heaven by and by shall set up his Kingdom which will renovate and bless the world of mankind, and bring in everlasting righteousness. Since they have heard this, and the more they learn to appreciate it, the more, necessarily, they are out of harmony with the contrary conditions of the present time. Hence it is that they feel themselves, and are portrayed in the Scriptures as being, pilgrims and strangers who seek the fairer clime of the coming age.
It was in this view of matters that the Apostle declared that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were "pilgrims and strangers on the earth," who sought a better country, a home under more righteous conditions. They sojourned in the very land promised to them, but it was not their "home;" because it was still in the hands and under the government of those who were aliens and strangers from God. They waited for the fulfilment of God's promise to give them that country under his divine blessing and laws, when it would become to them a heavenly country, a country under heavenly direction and blessing. They were obliged to wait for two reasons: first, as a test and development of their own faith and trust in the Great Promiser; and secondly, because "the wickedness of the Amorites was not yet come to the full."--`Gen. 15:16`.
Commenting on this, the Apostle declares that if they had been mindful, i.e., wishful, to have returned to Charran, their own country prior to the promise of Canaan, they might have returned to it,--when they found the land of promise still occupied by other peoples, and that God was not yet ready to fulfil to them his promises. (`Heb. 11:15`.) But they preferred to hold on to God's promises, and chose accordingly, for the time, to be pilgrims and strangers in the land of promise. Stephen in his discourse (`Acts 7:2,5`) points out this pilgrimage and sojourn, as strangers, of Abraham and his seed--waiting for possession of the promised land. Stephen says, "God gave him none inheritance in it: no, not so much as to set his foot on: yet he promised that he would give it to him for a possession, and to his seed after him."
We are to understand, accordingly, that the heavenly country for which Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the faithful of the fleshly house of Israel waited as "pilgrims and strangers" is after all to be earthly, in the sense of being on the earth; but it will be heavenly in the sense that its government, regulations, laws, etc., will be heavenly laws, etc., and not "earthly, sensual, devilish." Consequently, when the Apostle
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says that they "looked for a city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God;" and that God
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"hath prepared for them a city," we must understand this promise, so far as they are concerned, to be in harmony with the other promises made to fleshly Israel.
The "city" referred to is not a literal city, but the symbolical one mentioned in `Rev. 21:2,9-27`. In symbol a city signifies a government, and this city which comes down from God out of heaven symbolizes the Kingdom of God, his rule or government, which will be established in all the earth. This "city" or government will consist of The Christ--the "Bridegroom" and "the bride the Lamb's wife." "Then shall the righteous shine forth"--the city will have the glory of God. When this Kingdom is established, the nations* shall walk in the light of it.--`Rev. 21:24`.
Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and all the faithful pilgrims and strangers prior to the atonement, while they will not be members of the bride company nor of the new Jerusalem, the Kingdom, will nevertheless be very closely identified with it in the work of blessing the world of mankind in general. And hence it is that they are represented as waiting for this "city," this government which God will establish in the world; preferring to have their inheritance at that time, and under the blessing and bright illumination of that heavenly city or government, rather than enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. It is in harmony with this thought that we are taught to pray, "Thy Kingdom [the Heavenly Jerusalem, the city which hath for foundations the twelve Apostles--Christ Jesus himself being the chief cornerstone] come! Thy will be done on earth as it is done in heaven." This city will shine and bless the world until all the willing shall be helped and reconciled to God. Its reign will be for a thousand years, after which a new dispensation will open, under new conditions, in which mankind (perfected) will be granted the privilege of ruling themselves in harmony with the divine law.
In a certain sense then we might designate the present era, "the present evil world," to be the general house of our pilgrimage for all who love and long for righteousness; and the better condition of the future, the "new heavens and the new earth" promised as the heavenly home or condition which will be found abundantly satisfactory to all who shall attain thereto.
"OUR EARTHLY HOUSE" AND "OUR HOUSE FROM
Nevertheless, the Apostle Paul (`2 Cor. 5:1-10`) writing concerning this pilgrimage and addressing specially the consecrated Church of the Gospel age, uses language which, while not out of harmony with what we have just seen, foregoing, may be nevertheless properly understood to refer to the present mortal bodies of the saints, as their houses of pilgrimage-- their temporary houses, while on the way to their permanent homes, the spiritual bodies which God hath promised to them that love him, and which the same apostle described to the same readers in a previous epistle.--`1 Cor. 15:38,42-45`.
Moreover, since we well know that very much in the Psalms was written prophetically, respecting the Christ, head and body, the overcoming Church of the Gospel age, we may well infer that the language of our text had special reference to these pilgrims of the Gospel age. The Apostle says, "We know that if our earthly house of this temporary dwelling place were dissolved, we have a permanent structure of God, a house not made with hands [not produced by human powers] everlasting in the heavens." Since the renewed earth, altho it will be a permanent house for the world of mankind, will not be "in the heavens;" and since the Church when granted their new spiritual bodies in the resurrection will be thereafter everlastingly in the higher or heavenly condition, it seems but proper to construe the Apostle's language as relating to the earthly bodies and the heavenly bodies of the Church. And such an application seems to fit his discourse throughout thoroughly. It is true that in this present body or temporary house of pilgrimage we groan--oppressed not only by the evil influence of the world and the devil on every hand but also and especially by the weaknesses of our own flesh. For when we would do good, evil is present with us, so that the good which we would do we are often hindered from doing, while the evil which we do not approve often obtrudes itself on us and requires to be continually resisted and overcome. As the Apostle elsewhere declares, we "which have the first fruits of the spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the deliverance of our body,"-- the Church, into the glorious likeness of our Lord.
But our groaning is not with a desire to be unclothed; we do not wish to be without a body, for that at very best all down through the Gospel age would mean to be "asleep in Jesus," waiting for the resurrection morning that then we might be "clothed upon with our house from heaven," our new, perfect and permanent body, our "home." What we prefer is not to have the little spark of present life extinguished, but to have it swallowed up, absorbed into the perfect conditions of the perfect life to which we are begotten, with its perfect body.
"Now he that hath wrought us for the self-same
*The words "of them that are saved" in this text are not found in the older MSS. Very evidently they are an interpolation; because after the nations are saved, brought into harmony with God, they will no longer be "nations" (Gentiles, heathen), but parts of the one holy nation, the Kingdom of God.
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thing is God, who also hath given us the earnest of the spirit." This perfect condition which we are to obtain in the resurrection will be the grand consummation of our salvation which God has promised; and the new mind, the new will begotten by the Word of truth, is reckoned as the beginning of that new creature, which will be perfected in the divine nature when the first resurrection shall have completed it. The holy spirit granted us in the present time is a hand payment so to speak, an "earnest" or assurance of the grand and gracious results for which we are hoping and striving, groaning and praying.
"Therefore we are always confident knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body [so long as we feel entirely contented with present conditions--ourselves and our surroundings], we are absent from the Lord." If we were living near to him, "walking with God, we would not feel perfectly satisfied with present attainments, conditions, etc.; but would feel like pilgrims and strangers, seeking a better rest, a better home, "which God hath in reservation for them that love him." But this, as the Apostle explains, is true only of those who walk by faith and not by sight.
"But we are confident [full of faith toward God, we rejoice to walk by faith], and are well pleased rather to be from home [homeless, pilgrims and strangers on the earth] and to be at home with the Lord" in the spirit of our fellowship.
For this cause we are striving, that whether it be by and by when we reach our home, or whether it be in the present time when we are actually away from home, pilgrims and strangers, we strive that we may be acceptable with the Lord; that we may have his favor and blessing and realize his fellowship and presence and know that we shall ultimately be accepted by him. "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ that every one may receive the things done in the body, according to the things he hath done whether it be good or bad." All through this pilgrimage we are standing at the bar of our Lord's judgment: he is testing us, proving us, to see whether or not we love him and the things which make for righteousness and peace; and if so, how much we are willing to sacrifice for righteousness' sake. He marks the degree of our love by the measure of our self-denials and self-sacrifices for his sake, the truth's sake.
But to thus speak of our bodies as houses can be true only of the "saints," the "new creatures" in Christ. Others of mankind have not duality of nature, and could not properly apply to themselves such expressions as that of `Romans 8:10,11`, "If Christ be in you the body is [reckoned] dead because of sin; but the spirit alive because of [the imputed] righteousness" of Christ. The new nature of the saints, begotten by the word of truth, is really only the new will, which however is thenceforth addressed as the real person, and it alone is recognized of God who knows us not after the flesh but after the spirit of our new minds-- Christ-minds. Notice also `Romans 6:3,4`. These "new creatures" have an old man or outward man that is perishing, and a new man, inward man, or hidden man of the heart who is being renewed day by day.-- `2 Cor. 4:16`; `Col. 3:9,10`; `Eph. 4:23,24`; `1 Pet. 3:4`.
It is written, he "giveth songs in the night," and "He hath put a new song into my mouth." It causes us no surprise to know that the saints will "be joyful in glory" and sing aloud with the high praises of God in their mouths, when it shall be given to them to execute the judgments written (`Psa. 149:4-9`); but it may strike some as peculiar that the present conditions of God's people, the condition of imperfection and physical frailty, in which we groan and are burdened, should be a condition in which songs and thanksgiving and joy should prevail with us. Nevertheless, this is the divine will, as it is the divine statement, respecting all who are truly overcomers: they are all to be joyful in the house of their pilgrimage. Respecting this joy our Lord declares "Your joy no man taketh from you." "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."--`John 14:27`; `16:22`.
So then, while there is a measure of groaning because of some burdens on the part of those who have
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attained to the new life, there are also blessed joys which the world cannot give, neither take away: and these are the source and cause of the unceasing joy and "songs in the night," before the glorious dawn of the new Millennial day: these songs are inspired by the joys granted us in the house of our pilgrimage--while we are actually absent from our "home."
What are our joys which no man taketh from us? and which persecution and affliction and trouble can only deepen and widen and make more sweet? What joy is this? This joy is a foretaste of the blessings to come, an earnest of our inheritance. It is inspired by confidence in him on whom we have believed: confidence that he is both able and willing to perfect the work which he has begun and which we desire shall be perfected in his own best way: confidence that so long as we are firmly holding to his gracious promises with the arms of our faith, he will not permit us to be separated from him. Who shall separate us from the love of God in Christ? Shall tribulation and persecution? Our confidence is that "no one is able to pluck us out of the Father's hand," and that "the Father himself loveth" us, and will not turn us away so long as we desire to abide obediently in his love. Yea, we are
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confident that all things are working together for good to those who love God; confident that he who is for us is more powerful than all who can be against us. Such confidence is sure to bring joy beyond the world's comprehension, and a peace of God that passeth all understanding, which keeps the heart.
And such joy, produced by the true gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ received into an honest heart, naturally and properly awakens the "songs in the house of our pilgrimage."
"'Mid all the tumult and the strife I hear the music ringing,
It finds an echo in my soul, how can I keep from singing."
The word "song" has a wider meaning than simply a musical cadence: it is used in the Scriptures and elsewhere to indicate a joyful message of any kind. For instance, we say, referring to the gospel, the knowledge of the divine plan, "Thou hast put a new song into my mouth, even the loving-kindness of our God." And it is a fact that those who have tasted that the Lord is gracious, those who have received the joy which no man can take from them, those who have tasted of the grace of God in Christ, will not only rejoice and literally sing musical songs with their lips, but they will also rejoice to have their entire lives a song of praise and thanksgiving unto God. The song will bubble over on every proper occasion, wherever hearing ears are found: so fully will the cleansed, justified and consecrated heart appreciate God's goodness and so greatly will it desire to--
"Tell the whole world these blessed tidings,
And speak of the time of rest that nears."
Wherever Christians find themselves without this joy of the Lord, and where they have no song in the house of their pilgrimage, they have reason to fear that there is something wrong,--that the connections between their own hearts and the Lord are not full and complete. If they are unacquainted with this joy and these songs, it is because they have either never fully accepted the Lord as their portion, and consecrated themselves to his service, or else because certain false doctrines have so terrorized their minds and so completely enslaved them to fear that trustful joys are impossible to them. Such should at once take the proper steps either to make their consecration to the Lord complete, so that he can put his spirit into them as members of his body, and give them the "seal of adoption," and cause them to know the joys of his salvation; or, if fully consecrated and hindered from joy and songs through false doctrine, they should diligently search the Scriptures and find the Lord's message,-- "Their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men."--`Isa. 29:13`.
IN THE CLOUDY DAY.
It is true, nevertheless, that our Christian experience is not always of a kind calculated to produce an exuberance of spirit: it is doubtless to our advantage that sometimes there are dark hours such as our dear Redeemer experienced when he said, "My soul is exceeding sorrowful even unto death." Such experiences no doubt draw us nearer to the fountain of comfort, of joy and peace, and are blessings in disguise, and amongst the "all things" which are working together for our good. But even in the very midst of trials and difficulties, and while cast down so that the songs do not abound, we may nevertheless in all conditions and at all times realize God's love and care and so firmly hold on to the Lord, with the hand of faith, that we would in the darkest moments be able to realize the joy of our Master's sympathy and love and help, and thus have the joy which no disaster of the present time can interrupt.
Despondency and loss of these joys and songs may sometimes result from ill health: in which case, if the illness be the result of selfish gratification, we have room for a lesson and reform; or it may seem to be the result of unselfish fidelity to the service of the truth, along the lines of duty, and if so, as soon as this is recognized, our joys and songs will return. In illustration let us remember Paul and Silas praising God in the prison of Philippi, while their backs were still lacerated and bleeding.
It should be the aim of the Lord's people to cultivate this joy and the conditions favorable to it, daily. The condition of our hearts has much to do with it; for this joy is not wholly dependent upon the heads,-- our knowledge of the divine Word and plan. Its possession and increase depends chiefly upon the heart-- the center of our affections. If we set our affections, our hearts, on earthly things and seek for joy through the various gratifications of the flesh, the lust of the eye and the pride of life, etc., we will thereby quench to some extent the spirit of the new mind, and correspondingly decrease the joys of the new mind. On the contrary, the more we overcome the world, the flesh and the devil, the more we seek to do the will of our Father who is in heaven, the more we seek for the fellowship and communion of our dear Redeemer, the more we seek to do those things which are pleasing in his sight, so much the more will we have of the joy and peace which no man taketh from us and which trials, difficulties and persecutions can only make the more sweet and precious.
And the more we have of this new mind, and the closer we are in sympathy with the Lord, the more we will desire to sing heartily "The old, old story of Jesus and his love."
"How happy and blessed the hours,
Since Jesus I always can see!
Sweet prospects, sweet birds and sweet flowers
Have all gained new sweetness to me."
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"MY PEACE I GIVE UNTO YOU."
"When He giveth quietness, who then can make trouble?"--`Job 34:29`.
"Like a river glorious is God's perfect peace,
Over all victorious in its glad increase.
Perfect--yet it floweth fuller every day;
Perfect--yet it groweth deeper all the way.
"Stayed upon Jehovah, hearts are truly blest,
Finding, as He promised, perfect peace and rest.
Hidden in the hollow of His blessed hand,
Never foe can follow, never traitor stand.
"Not a surge of worry, not a shade of care,
Not a blast of hurry toucheth spirit there.
Every joy or trial cometh from above,
Traced upon our dial by the sun of love.
"We may trust Him solely all for us to do;
They who trust Him wholly, find Him wholly true.
Stayed upon Jehovah, hearts are truly blest,
Finding, as He promised, perfect peace and rest."
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WATCH TOWER BIBLE AND TRACT SOCIETY.
REPORT FOR FISCAL YEAR ENDING DEC. 1, 1897.
AN ANNUAL report of this Society's work is due to our readers, almost all of whom, directly or indirectly, financially or otherwise, are colaborers and associates in this service of the Lord and his truth. It will be encouraging to you to know of the prosperity of the general cause, even as it encourages us, to learn of the progress of the work of grace in your own hearts and in the local churches in various quarters. The Lord's work is one, and every feature of it must be of deep interest to all who love him and who recognize that we are living in the "harvest" of the Gospel age, and that the Chief-Reaper is the Superintendent, under whose guidance the sickle of truth is being thrust in, for the gathering of all the true wheat into his Kingdom garner.
Hence, these annual statements should not be construed as boasting, nor yet as solicitations for further donations. Surely there is no room for boasting; all that we all unitedly have done, or can do, is so little, compared with what we all would like to do, so little in comparison to what we have received of our Lord, the value of which is beyond computation in silver or gold, that we feel regret for its smallness, and realize that we are not profitable servants who bring our Master gain, but are still his debtors to an infinite amount and can only hope to have him say to us, Well done, good, faithful servants, you have done what you could!
As for soliciting, we have never done it and will never do it. If this is the Lord's work, and as we believe a special "harvest" work, and he, the great Reaper, is in charge, we need not fear that voices and money and all things needful to its successful accomplishment will not be supplied. Our only concern should be lest we should fail to embrace all the opportunities which come our way. Let us fear, lest an opportunity for service being put within our reach (along any line), any of us should fail to improve such opportunities and be unworthy of the words, "She hath done what she could." In the election of the "little flock" for the Kingdom, nothing is more evident than that God has refused to define what sacrifices we must make--except that it shall primarily consist of a broken and a contrite heart. The outworking of our consecrated lives will prove to what extent our naturally selfish hearts have been broken and are contrite. He who loves the Lord and his cause much, will serve proportionately, and will know no limit to that service except ability; which will be so used as to make the most of it.
Nor are money talents and voice and pen talents the only ones the Lord is pleased to use in the "harvest" work: many are rendering very efficient service to the truth as Colporteurs and tract distributors. Indeed, probably one half of all who now rejoice in the present truth are indebted under God's providence to these efficient colaborers,--whose work in many respects closely resembles that of the twelve and the seventy sent out by our Lord in the Jewish harvest, who went from house to house with the good tidings of the Kingdom. Besides the fruitage already seen, it is not unreasonable to suppose that a wide influence for the truth and against error has been exerted by the DAWNS and TRACTS and TOWERS, far beyond those who have confessed the truth. There are many evidences of this, not only in the increased opposition of the "chief priests and scribes," but also in the many private and anonymous letters received, asking questions, asking for literature and expressing confidence; but as at the first advent "for fear of the Jews" holding back. Many of these of course may never become "overcomers," and may constitute members in the "great company" that will fail to take a proper stand for the Lord and his truth until the complete collapse of Babylon and the attendant "great tribulation" shall thoroughly arouse them. Others of these, however, altho timid and fearful and disposed to inquire, "Have any of the chief priests or scribes believed?" will by and by gain strength and courage from the "meat in due season" and come out bravely on the Lord's side as "overcomers."
We see no reason to think, as some appear to,
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that all that can be reached with the truth have already been reached. Quite to the contrary, altho this may be true in some places, it does not seem to be generally the case. We are inclined to believe that the Lord is using certain channels to divert conscientious persons from "Babylon" and to more or less prepare them for the full message of present truth; and from these we expect large results during the next few years. For instance; Socialism, Single-Taxism and Nationalism have attracted some people of excellent intentions who, as they see the impossibility of these systems and theories bringing the Balm of Gilead and real blessings for which the groaning creation waits, will be good subjects for the truth. We have considerable hope for a favorable influence from DAWN, VOL. IV., upon such. We see also among various earnest "come-outers" and amongst Baptists and Mr. Dowie's followers and the Christian Alliance people and Plymouth Brethren and Adventists good fields for active service with tracts, TOWERS and DAWNS,--meekly, lovingly, wisely presented, with a word in season, "seasoned with salt."
The work from this standpoint divides itself into the following branches:--
(1) The WATCH TOWER, which as your servant seeks to do you all the good possible, by stirring up your pure minds by way of remembrance, altho you know many of the things which it presents from the Scriptures, and altho its readers are generally established in the present truth. You will be glad to know that its subscription list, which quite generally represents the deeply interested, is gradually increasing. We were greatly surprised, also, that notwithstanding the depression in financial matters the number who get the TOWER free, as the Lord's poor, decreased about two thousand, while the self paid subscriptions increased about the same number. Our only fear is that some who cannot afford to pay are neglecting to avail themselves of this feature of the Lord's bounty, which he provides, and which we as his servants take pleasure in dispensing.
(2) The Correspondence Department, with which is associated the keeping of accounts, attention to your orders for DAWNS, TRACTS, TOWERS, BIBLES, etc. This department handled about twenty-one thousand of your letters, and sent out about fourteen thousand four hundred replies. Thank God for the mail facilities of our favored day. Your welcome letters, some full of joy and rejoicing and telling of successes, and some full of sorrow and trouble, asking our prayers and counsel, are all esteemed a privilege and a part of the service which we rejoice to be privileged to engage in. We trust that we of the TOWER office are also remembered in your prayers, for we have trials and discouragements as well as joys and encouragements.
"Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love,
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like to that above."
While this love and fellowship extends to all who own our Lord (whether or not they follow with us) yet properly it extends in an especial degree to those who manifest the holy spirit of love, who are striving to walk the narrow way of selfsacrifice and to whom the Lord's favor has been manifested, in the opening of their understanding to the present truth. We have efficient colaborers in this department, and will extend it to meet your demands upon it as far as possible. As frequently as possible, however, we refer to the DAWNS or back TOWERS as replies to questions; because the answers there given are generally more thorough than we could give in the compass of a letter, and besides will save time for other features of the work.
(3) The Colporteur Department.--This department might be termed the Evangel-department in this "harvest" work. Dear, consecrated brethren and sisters devote their time and strength and talents to house to house visitation to call the attention of fellow Christians to the "meat in due season" now provided by the Lord for all "the household of faith." Largely through the agency of this department nearly a million copies of MILLENNIAL DAWN in its several volumes have been put into the hands of the public, and millions of tracts distributed. Many who read this article owe their knowledge of the truth (under divine providence) largely to the courage, faith and perseverance of the dear children of God who serve in this department. Laboring not for worldly applause or advantage, but at the expense, the loss, of these, they shall surely have a gracious reward from the great Judge when he makes up his jewels. One dear brother, an Express Co.'s agent in a western city, recently interested and very active in the Lord's service, longed to be in the colporteur work or to do something to assist in this department, and finding another brother anxious for the work he became sponsor for his account and started him as a colporteur. His deficit during the year was probably $120., but he rejoices in this as the next best thing to being a colporteur himself. He has become still more deeply interested, and besides a liberal donation has written promising the proceeds of some property as soon as he can sell it. It is needless to add that he is greatly blessed in heart, and growing in grace and knowledge.
The past year has been one of greater encouragement to these vineyard laborers than several preceding, and very generally they have been able to fully
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meet their expenses by economy. They were greatly helped and encouraged by the assistance rendered them last year by Bro. Hay's donation. Several new laborers
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have recently entered this service. The fourth volume of DAWN promises to be specially saleable and an entering wedge for the other volumes and thus an aid to the Colporteurs, some of whom now are making more than their expenses. Let us remember at the throne of grace constantly these whose special service puts them into the forefront of the battle for the truth.
(4) The Tract Distribution Department.--Every WATCH TOWER reader is invited to become an active participant in this branch of the service--by enclosing them in your letter, or by wrapping one in each bundle if you keep store, or by handing them to your fellow passengers if you travel, or by handing special ones to friends and neighbors as you have opportunity, or by street distribution about the hour when prayer meetings, lectures, etc., take in or dismiss--standing at a little distance (say half a block) so as not to give offence as implying that church people need tracts, however much you may be sure that they do need them.
By reference to another column of this report it will be seen that the tract circulation for the past year reached the highest point yet attained--nearly thirty millions of pages. We congratulate you on the faithfulness which this implies. The Lord's blessing surely has been with you as fearlessly and not ashamed to own the Lord and his Word you have done what you could to dispel superstition and darkness from the minds of God's people, and to enable them to worship the Father in spirit and in truth.
All the interested have not the same opportunities for tract distribution, and some who used comparatively few were the most zealous in furnishing the financial means by which these could be supplied free in so large quantities: for be it remembered that all tracts are supplied free, being published out of voluntary contributions to the tract fund. However few and unpopular we are, dear friends, no other tract society can make so favorable a report. The Lord be praised that his free grace shed abroad in our hearts prompts us to the voluntary services. And having done what we could we feel it an offering far too small, and wholly unworthy of divine notice and acceptance, except in and through the merit of our dear Redeemer's sacrifice.
(5) The "Pilgrim" Preaching Department.-- While all of the Lord's people are pilgrims and strangers and pilgrims journeying toward the heavenly Canaan, and while all also are preachers to the extent of their opportunities and talents, yet we use the above term to describe those who are going about from place to place where as many as four TOWER subscribers reside to meet with and encourage the brethren, both with public and private meetings. Like other departments this one is for your service and the Lord's glory, and not for money making. You are not asked to guarantee a salary of one or two hundred dollars per night for the service, but it is free--no collections even are taken up, and no money solicited in any manner: not even for traveling expenses. Three brethren are at present giving their entire time to this branch of the service, while twelve give more or less of their time; all of them are very zealous, however, and seeking to be more qualified and used by the Master in his service.
The traveling and other necessary expenses of these ministers (servants) are met out of your voluntary donations to the Tract Fund; and they ask no wages, preferring to wait for the rewards which God has promised. Nor are they laggards and drones: when they visit your town or city or village it means business --the King's business, which requires energy. They come to you expecting to hold afternoon and evening meetings daily, while they stay; and their stay will be for one, two or three days as per cards of notification. These are the Lord's servants, and your servants for his sake: receive them as such. Let them receive the love of brethren; show toward them the hospitality you would surely extend to the Lord, for they are "members of his body," and like yourself his representatives.
One very earnest Brother, who for years has been a generous contributor to the work and helpful every way, writes us that being appreciated by his employer he has received a substantial increase in his salary and thereby expects to be able to considerably increase his '98 contributions to the general fund for the spread of the good tidings: and having heard one of the "Pilgrims" he desires to become responsible for the expenses of one of these, after which, if he be able to give more, it shall go to the general work. This dear Brother, who resides in eastern Pennsylvania, is as modest and meek as he is zealous and unselfish and insists that his name be not mentioned. But he does this unto the Lord, and the Lord knows of it and, we may be sure, appreciates it and will by and by reward. Graciously our Lord has provided that every one that loves him may in some manner manifest that love;-- whether by casting two mites into his treasury or by giving even a cup of cold water to one of his disciples. "Where there's a will there's a way."
(6) Through the "Pilgrims" and through leaders and others, we have reports from all over the "harvest" field, continually. We are glad to be able to inform you that while our great adversary, Satan, is permitted by the Lord to trouble and prove and sift his people as heretofore, and in some respects more than ever, yet in our opinion the Church everywhere has been growing in grace during the past year, more than ever before; and consequently is better able to stand
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such attacks and get a blessing instead of an injury out of them, even tho the siftings result in the falling away of some, who despite every effort toward "pulling them out of the fire," become "offended."
Many letters have told us of blessings which resulted from following the suggestions of the Aug. 15th TOWER,--that as an assistance in the cultivation of the holy spirit of love each should ask help from on high each morning and should review the success or failure of the day before the Lord at evening prayer; and that on alternate Sundays `Matt. 5:1-16` and `1 Cor. 13:1-13` be read and pondered. We trust that many more than we have yet heard from have followed this plan and experienced a blessing. There is a blessing in it for all who will practice it we believe and for our own part we will continue it during 1898. Who will join us? Brethren and Sisters, pray for us, as we also pray for you all!
During the year from Dec. 1, 1896, to Dec. 1, 1897, there has been circulated free the following reading matter, paid for out of the voluntary donations to the Tract Fund,--
Copies of OLD THEOLOGY TRACTS,............. 1,423,010.
" " ZION'S WATCH TOWER,.............. 332,212.
Since tracts vary greatly in the number of their pages, it is customary to state their circulation by pages. Thus stated the foregoing represent a Total of Tract Pages....................... 29,347,838.
The total number of copies of MILLENNIAL DAWN, circulated by the cooperation of this fund (not at its expense), was.............................. 69,891.
For Tracts and TOWERS sent out free,...... $7,296.90
Labor, for mailing same,.................. 540.00
Postage, freight, wrappers, etc.,......... 760.00
Foreign translations, etc., account,...... 1,341.99
Traveling expenses, "Pilgrims," etc.,..... 1,935.20
Balance cash on hand,..................... 191.80
Cash balance on hand, Dec. 1, '96......... $ 314.35
From "Good Hopes,"........................ 8,165.61
" other sources,....................... 3,585.93
"Good Hopes" blanks go with this issue, as usual; but do not understand them to be requests, they are merely notifications of an opportunity to join in this service.
The office associates and colaborers join in sending to all the TOWER readers our best wishes, Christian love, and the compliments of the holiday season. May our Lord give us all more and more to abound in all the fruits of the spirit and the service of each other and the truth.
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CONFESSION AND FORGIVENESS.
--DEC. 19.--`1 JOHN 1:5-2:6`.--
"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."--`1 Jno. 1:9`.
THE Apostle's address is not to unbelievers, unjustified persons, "sinners" in the ordinary sense of the word; on the contrary, he is addressing the justified and sanctified in Christ Jesus, and he classes himself with these, using the plural pronoun "we." The frequent mistake of applying this and similar passages to sinners in general has been injurious in two particulars:
(1) It has been injurious to the unregenerate, in that it has given some the impression that there is no difference between the Church and the world; and that all alike have access to God in prayer and for the forgiveness of daily trespasses. It has thus hindered some from realizing the necessity of faith in the atonement, and from definitely entering into covenant relationship with the Lord under the terms of the New Covenant. On the contrary all should be clearly informed of the fact that repentance and a particular, positive acceptance of Christ as their personal Savior are absolutely necessary, before they can "be accepted in the Beloved," and be treated as "sons of God," and enjoy the privileges of this relationship,--prayer, fellowship with God, divine care or providential oversight of their affairs and interests, and the favor of forgiveness of daily trespasses through the merit of the great High Priest.
(2) This oversight has had an injurious effect upon some Christians who have gone to the extreme of claiming that they can never commit sin, after their past sins have been graciously forgiven by the Lord, and after they have entered into the New Covenant relationship. Hence, we have the very wrong views and teachings of so-called "perfectionists" who claim, not merely that they are reckonedly perfect now, but that they are actually perfect in all their thoughts, words and deeds,--deceiving themselves and laying themselves liable to many grievous errors, as the Apostle declares in this connection.--`Verses 8,10`.
The object of the Apostle John in writing this epistle he clearly states, saying, "These things write we unto you, that your joy may be full." It is a noteworthy fact that the vast majority of Christians never
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experience the fulness of joy and peace and blessing that they might possess. Too many are content with simply diluted first principles of the doctrine of Christ; and, as the Apostle Paul declares, such are merely "babes in Christ." They have a blessing of course in any relationship to the Lord, but they have not the fulness of joy which would be theirs if they progressed in grace and in knowledge "to the full stature of a man in Christ." The object of the Apostle's writing them was to stir up the pure minds of believers to an appreciation and enjoyment of their privileges, that thereby they might grow and develop.
The Apostle follows the example of our Lord Jesus in symbolizing truth and righteousness as Light, and sin and every evil way as so much of opposing Darkness. God himself thus considered would be the very perfection of light,--"in him is no darkness," no sin, no imperfection. With this thought before the mind, the Apostle points out that any growth of fellowship with God which we may aspire to, must be along the lines of truth, goodness, purity; and he points out that it would be sin for us to say to others or to imagine in our own hearts that we are walking with God and having fellowship with him, if our course of life is a dark, a sinful one. Such are merely deceiving themselves and others: they are not deceiving God, and they are not getting the blessings of those who do "walk in the light."
Moreover, to the extent that we walk in the light and in harmony and fellowship with God, we will find ourselves in fellowship with all others who are like-minded. So then, if we do not "love the brethren, whom we have seen," so as to be able to have fellowship and spiritual pleasure with them, that would be an indication that we are not wholly in harmony and fellowship with God. But who are the "brethren?" Our Lord tells us that not all who profess his name are true brethren; he says, "Not everyone that saith Lord, Lord, shall enter into the Kingdom of Heaven [be recognized as his brethren and joint-heirs], but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven." We thus see that it is by our deeds and not merely by our professions that we are accepted of the Lord who again says, "Who are my brethren?...Verily, I say unto you he that doeth the will of my Father the same is my brother."--`Matt. 7:21`; `12:50`.
So then, we are not to anticipate "fellowship" with all who name the name of Christ as a proof of fellowship with the Father, and that we are in the light: we are merely to anticipate this true fellowship with those who are earnestly seeking to do the Father's will, to serve his cause and exemplify the instructions of his Word, in their deeds as well as in their professions. Between all such there must be, whether hidden or open, a bond of fellowship and union--that bond is the one faith and one baptism into the one Lord.
But while this fellowship between us and the Lord and all who have his spirit is based upon our walking in the light, our following in his footsteps to the extent of our ability, nevertheless it does not imply absolute freedom from the imperfection of sin; altho under the New Covenant arrangement nothing is charged up to us as sin except in proportion as it has been wilfully done. Nevertheless, because of the manifold temptations, and the weakness of our flesh, the result of inherited predisposition toward sin, it is impossible for us to avoid "short-comings" and faults. These may be properly termed sins as in this lesson, because "sin is a transgression of the law," however unintentional. But the divine arrangement under the New Covenant, on behalf of the Lord's people, is that these unintentional faults and short-comings need not be charged up against us as sins; but instead may be cleansed away upon our application to the Great High Priest, through the merit of the precious blood. Thus it is that the blood of Jesus Christ our Lord cleanseth us from all sin--keeps us clean from sin, if realizing our imperfections we continually make application for forgiveness.
The Apostle uses the word "sin" in a different sense than the above, further on in this epistle, saying (`3:6-9`), "Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him nor [even] known him....He that committeth sin is of the devil.... Whosoever is begotten of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin because he is begotten of God." Again he says (`5:18`), "We know that whosoever is begotten of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and the wicked one toucheth him not."
In these passages the Apostle uses the word "sin" in its full or absolute sense, meaning wilful sin, deliberate sin, intentional sin; sins that are not merely short-comings and faults, due largely or wholly to the imperfections of the flesh, inherited from our ancestors. No one, the Apostle assures us, who has been begotten of the spirit of the Lord, the spirit of holiness and truth, could have any sympathy with sin so as to wilfully, knowingly and intentionally engage therein. All who so love sin and wilfully do it and approve it after they have a knowledge of the truth, are children of darkness who love darkness and who thus show that they have the spirit or disposition of Satan.
But let us return to the consideration of the other use of the word "sin" as found in this lesson, applying the term to the faults and imperfections which God's people are zealously striving against, and seeking to stamp out of their mortal bodies, and against which they are continually fighting a good fight and coming off conquerors, and more than conquerors, through him who loved us and bought us with his precious blood. The Apostle intimates that there is danger that some will go to the extreme of denying that they have any faults, and thus deceive themselves and get into a snare of the adversary. It may be asked, What difference can it make if they are seeking to live
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godly, whether they claim to live perfectly, or admit that they are imperfect and apply continually for cleansing through the precious blood. We reply that it makes a great difference: only as we confess our sins can they be forgiven, consequently those who deny that they have any sins, faults, imperfections, have a great load of them uncancelled, unforgiven, charged up against them; and because of this they would be accounted unworthy to be taken further along in the path of light, under the lead of the holy spirit, into the heights and depths and lengths and breadths of the love and wisdom of God, as revealed in his Word as meat in due season for the household of faith. Thus we see that there is but the one proper course of faith and conduct, in which we may have a complete fellowship with the Lord: those who take any other course are making God a liar, and he would not fellowship with them, but he will leave them to the darkness of their own way. Can we wonder then that so many are in darkness and lack evidences of fellowship with God, when we see how few confess their faults and seek to overcome them and to be cleansed in the only way of divine appointment?
These things are written not to cultivate in us the thought that we may sin with impunity, and be overtaken with faults through carelessness and inattention to the divine Word, and then go to the Lord for forgiveness. Quite to the contrary, these assurances of divine favor and willingness to forgive are designed to have upon our hearts a mellowing influence which will
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make us all the more careful to avoid sin, and to maintain fellowship with him who is the perfection of light and holiness. "These things are written that we sin not;" that we become not boastful of self, self-righteous, self-justified, and thus abominable in the Lord's sight: but that, fleeing from our weaknesses and imperfections, we lay hold upon the grace of God in Christ for their forgiveness, and for grace and strength increasingly to fight a good fight against sin.
"If any man [in Christ] sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." Here again, "any man" does not refer to those who are out of Christ, but to those who are under the terms and conditions of the New Covenant. Such alone are addressed in this Epistle. The world has no Advocate with the Father, because it has not accepted Christ, and he is the Advocate only for those who have accepted him and who are striving to overcome sin.
Our Advocate is more than an advocate, more than a representative at the bar of divine justice, interested in our welfare and forgiveness; he is in addition the one who gave himself for us, who at Calvary finished the work of making a propitiation (satisfaction) for our sins. This is the reason why we may come "with boldness to the throne of grace," not only realizing that God is for us, and that our Lord Jesus sympathizes with and is our Advocate, but also and specially realizing the merit of the sacrifice which he has already paid to Justice, and which he has made fully applicable on behalf of all who love and obey him, on application.
But, says the Apostle, he is the propitiation not merely for our sins (the Church's sins), but "also for the sins of the whole world." What does this mean? Is he the Advocate for the whole world? No; not yet. The world has not yet been called and drawn to holiness and truth. During the present age "no man can come unto Christ except the Father draw him." And this drawing influence of the truth is at present extended only to "him that hath an ear to hear." A great mass of mankind have never heard in any sense of the word of the grace of God, and of the propitiation and forgiveness, provided for all in Christ. Indeed, it is a remarkably small number who "have tasted that the Lord is gracious."
Yet so surely as the propitiation was made "for the sins of the whole world," just so surely shall every member of mankind be brought to a knowledge of the fact, and to an opportunity to avail himself of the provided blessing. It is to this end that the great Millennial age has been promised and is being prepared for: and it is concerning that age of blessing to "all the families of the earth" that the Lord declares through the prophet "In that day the blind eyes shall be opened and the deaf ears shall be unstopped." It is of that time that our Lord Jesus also declared, "And I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me." It is by virtue of his having been lifted up as the propitiation, the sin-offering, "for the sins of the whole world," that our glorified Lord will eventually be privileged to be the Judge of the world and to grant forgiveness and reconciliation and restitution to all who will heartily obey him; while "whosoever will not obey that Prophet will be cut off from amongst the people,"--in the second death.--`Acts 3:23`.
As the drawing now, by the Father, is not a compulsion, but merely a constraining by the truth, through a knowledge of it, so the drawing of the Millennial age upon the world of mankind will not be a compulsion, but merely the influence of righteousness and truth constraining toward love for righteousness and thus to the reward of righteousness-- eternal life.
The Apostle seems to intimate in our lesson that quite a good number may claim an intimate knowledge of God falsely, and hence with great plainness of speech he informs us that, "He that saith I know him, and keepeth not his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him." It is thus very evident that the Apostle does not mean merely a knowledge about God but an intimate knowledge of God; implying fellowship and communion with him: he then gives us a test by which we may judge accordingly whether or not we are new creatures in the Lord and have the love of God developed in us to any extent. The test is obedience. In proportion as we keep the Lord's Word, in like proportion the love of God is perfected in us; for if we have received the mind of Christ, the holy spirit, the spirit of God, the effect will be to cause us to both will and do his good pleasure--to the extent of our ability. And this ability should be continually on the increase year by year. And altho we may not hope to be perfected until we shall be "changed" and be granted our new resurrection bodies, nevertheless all the while we may keep so closely in touch with the Lord in the spirit of our minds that we may have continual fellowship with him: and by confessing our faults and seeking his forgiveness we may continue to the end of our journey clean from sin, even tho we must still acknowledge the imperfections of the flesh,--that in our flesh dwelleth no perfection.
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BAPTISM OF JESUS AND ANNOUNCEMENT OF HIS WORK.
--JAN. 2.--`MATT. 3:7-17`.--
"This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."--`Matt. 3:17`.
JOHN, the Baptizer, was a fearless minister of the truth, whose courage qualified him well for the work given him to do, the announcement and introduction of our Lord Jesus and the new dispensation which his ministry inaugurated. And unless it be clearly recognized that a great change of dispensation was due and at hand at that time, and that John was the divine agent in announcing that crisis in their affairs to Israel, the lesson before us cannot be rightly appreciated or understood.
At the time in question, Judaism was in many respects in a more flourishing condition than it had ever before been: idolatry in its cruder forms was unknown, and Phariseeism was the controlling influence. The word Pharisee to-day has come to be the synonym of hypocrite and impostor, but at that time it was the name given to and accepted by the professedly most pious class in Israel, people who professed consecration to the Lord, who studied the Law diligently and were zealous in prayer and the propagation of the Jewish religion. It was the time of the greatest missionary effort that had ever been made by the Jews, as our Lord testified, "Ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte." The Sadducees also professed holiness of life, altho they denied much of the Scripture and were practically the "higher critics" in religious matters, among the Jews of that day.
Under these circumstances we may imagine the surprise and consternation which John's preaching would arouse when he addressed members of the leading religious sects as sinners, "a generation of vipers." He thus implied what our Lord plainly stated to the same classes, namely, that their religion was one of outward forms and ceremony merely, and not of the heart. We fear that if the same inspired teacher were to preach to-day he would similarly address and surprise many who have "a form of godliness" and outward devotion to Sectarianism and to its propagation.
"Who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?" We do not understand John's language here to refer to flames and torments after death, but to a wrath of God about to come upon that nation; because of its hypocritical formalism and failure to live up to the light and privileges which it enjoyed.--Compare `1 Thess. 2:16`; `Rom. 9:22,27-29` and `Luke 21:23,24`.
The fact that the Scribes and Pharisees came to John and were baptized of him signified repentance and turning to God; but John points out that more than an outward profession of repentance is necessary; that there should be such a reform of life as would yield fruit and clearly show the repentance. He clearly saw that the Jews were resting self-satisfied in the divine promises to Abraham; feeling that because they were his natural offspring they must therefore, necessarily, be the heirs of the promises made to him. Thus God's favor to them was proving an ensnarement, a hindrance to their proper humility of heart and carefulness of life. John would have them see that to be heirs of the Abrahamic promise would necessitate that they should have also Abraham's faith, and works or fruits corresponding and resulting. And he declares, therefore, that God is able to raise up children to Abraham, to inherit the promises, wholly outside of Abraham's fleshly posterity: which he has done during this Gospel age;--taking not stones, but Gentiles for the purpose.
Proceeding, John boldly declares that the testing time, the critical time for them as a people, has come. For centuries they had been the recipients of divine favor and blessings and mercies: now the question with them was,--To be or not to be longer God's peculiar
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people. The axe of divine judgment is whetted, and the time of crisis has come, and it would thenceforth be an individual matter and not a national question as to who shall be the children of Abraham. Every one of them in whom would be found the good fruitage of righteousness would be spared of the Lord and transplanted into the more favorable condition of the Gospel dispensation, while every one of them found unworthy would be cut off from divine favor, even tho they outwardly made loud professions. Thus cut down they would be cast into the fire,--the fire of trouble which came upon that nation, the "wrath" of `verse seven`, which ended with the complete overthrow of their polity.
John recognized and freely stated that his work was merely a reformatory and preparatory work and that the one who was to do the testing was mightier than himself--the Messiah. He declared himself so inferior as to be unworthy to be his sandal-bearer. This greater one, for whom he was the forerunner or introducer or herald, was the one who would bless all those found worthy of a blessing, by baptizing them with the holy spirit from on high; and he also would be the one who would send the "fire," judgment, tribulation or destruction upon the others of that nation found unworthy of the holy spirit. This prophecy of John we recognize as amply and literally fulfilled. Those gathered out as a result first of John's preaching, and subsequently of the preaching of the Lord and his apostles during his ministry, were blessed with the benediction of the holy spirit, the "spirit of adoption," at Pentecost; and others subsequently were gathered and likewise blessed by the ministry of the holy spirit in these; and it was not long after Pentecost before the fires of sedition, strife, envy, malice, hatred, etc., began to burn throughout the land of Israel and ultimately resulted in the utter destruction of their national existence, A.D. 70.
John uses the harvesting process as an illustration of our Lord's work; and this is in full accord with the statement of Scripture, that our Lord in the end of the Jewish age was the reaper or harvester who had a definitely appointed harvesting time, in which he gathered the real wheat of that nation into the Gospel garner and then cleaned up the field by burning the chaff or refuse. John declared that he would thoroughly cleanse the "wheat," fan out the "chaff" from the "wheat." The separation between the mere professors and the Israelites indeed should be thoroughly and completely accomplished at the hands of this great harvester during the harvest time of that age. The unquenchable fire in which the chaff of that people suffered, was the time of trouble already referred to in `verses seven and eleven`, which culminated A.D. 70. It was an "unquenchable fire" or destruction: they endeavored to quench or stop the trouble many times, but all their
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efforts were fruitless: it was unquenchable because the Lord intended that it should thoroughly consume them nationally. Nor have they ever since succeeded in restoring their national polity; nor will they succeed until the full number of the elect Church has been completed (`Rom. 11:25`), and until the times of the Gentiles (the period apportioned to Gentile governments, `Luke 21:24`) shall have run their course, A.D. 1915.
Another Scripture shows us that our Lord at this time, when coming to John to be baptized of him, was thirty years of age. The age of thirty was the beginning of manhood's estate according to the Law, and since John was only six months older than Jesus, it is the reasonable presumption that he had been preaching just six months before our Lord's baptism occurred. John's objection to the baptism of Jesus (his cousin) whose nobility of birth and character he already recognized (`Luke 1:41-44`), was because he recognized baptism only from the Jewish standpoint, and not from the standpoint of the new dispensation, which began with our Lord. John's baptism of the Jews signified merely a repentance of sin and reformation of life. But not so our Lord Jesus' baptism: it meant another thing entirely. Our Lord had no sins to repent of, nor to reform from, being "holy, harmless, separate from sinners," as John also recognized. Our Lord's baptism signified consecration, a full giving up or burial of the will, its immersion into the will of God. Our Lord made such a consecration himself at the earliest moment possible under the Law, thirty years of age. And now he was merely symbolizing that real baptism by a water baptism, which constituted an outward confession of his consecration to God, and was an example for all who should afterward seek to walk in his footsteps.
As our Lord came up out of the water the Father granted a special manifestation of approval, by communicating to him the holy spirit, marking his acceptance and sealing him as the heir of the blessings already promised. Not only was the holy spirit given, but an outward manifestation of the gift was granted, especially to John; that he might know of a surety that Jesus was the Messiah, accepted of God as such, and might announce him to those who had accepted his ministry and become truly repentant of sins and desirous of bearing the fruits of righteousness. It does not appear that the multitude saw the manifestation of the spirit in the form of a dove lighting down upon our Lord.--`John 1:29-34`.
Why the form of a dove should be adopted for a manifestation of the holy spirit is a question. We presume because a dove is a fit representative or emblem of gentleness and meekness; and from the time that a dove returned to the Ark of Noah, with an olive branch in its mouth, both the dove and the olive branch have been symbols of peace and good will. The dove, therefore, was a most fitting emblem of the spirit of meekness, patience, long suffering, brotherly-kindness, love, and faithfulness which is the spirit of the Father --the holy spirit.
At this same time came a voice from heaven, saying, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." It would appear that such a voice was heard on three different occasions. (1) At the time of our Lord's baptism here narrated. (2) On the mount of transfiguration. (`Mark 9:7`.) (3) At the close of our Lord's ministry, just before the crucifixion. (`John 12:28`.) Yet apparently these voices, while understood and appreciated by some as attestations to our Lord's acceptance with the Father, were by others variously attributed; some saying that an angel had spoken and others that it thundered. (`John 12:28,29`.) And so it seems to be with every manifestation of divine truth. Those who are in a right attitude of heart can and do receive the Lord's message and find abundant ground for faith and trust; while others, out of harmony with the divine arrangement, are continually therefore skeptical and lacking of to them satisfactory evidence. The truth, evidently, then as now, was meat only for those who hunger and thirst after righteousness; and these who have the hearing ear are such as have honesty of heart and a full consecration to the Lord.
To draw a lesson from these things specially applicable to our own day should be a part of our object. We have come to the "harvest" time of the Gospel age: again the Chief Reaper is present; not in the flesh, to be a sin-offering, but now in the glory of his exalted divine nature. The axe is laid to the root of the trees again. It is no longer a question of being a citizen of favored Christendom, nor of being a member of its various sects; but it is an individual test. Every one (not every individual in the world, just as it was not every individual in the world in the days of John the baptizer--then it was every one in the Jewish nation, now it is every one in the nominal Christendom, and does not at all refer to the masses of heathendom) is now to be subjected to certain tests, and by these tests he will either be accepted and further blessed or be rejected and suffer the consequences. The testings of the "harvest" of this age which are parallel to those of the Jewish age and were typified thereby, are clearly pointed out in our Lord's discourse of `Matt. 13:24-43`. The Jewish harvest is spoken of as being a separation of wheat from chaff, while the harvest of this age is designated a separation of "wheat" from "tares." As the Jews little realized that the Lord and his apostles in their ministry were doing this separating work by the preaching of the truth, so nominal Christendom little realizes to-day that a similar work and separation as between "wheat" and "tares" is now in progress. As the Jews in general failed to recognize the gathering of the "wheat" of their age into the garner of the Gospel dispensation, so nominal Christians to-day fail to see that the "wheat" of this age is being gathered by the Lord into his garner, the Kingdom. As the Jews failed to recognize the binding and blinding influences which came upon them and enkindled amongst them the fires of judgment, wrath, destruction, so nominal Christians to-day, while they recognize the peculiar binding together in social bundles now in progress, and while they see all the preparations for the coming great social revolution, time of trouble, wrath, burning, destruction of present systems, etc., are nevertheless blind respecting what all these things really mean, and fail to see that these are features of the "harvest" work now in progress, under the supervision of the great Reaper. They fail also to recognize him present, notwithstanding the repeated declaration, similar to that made by John at the first advent--"There standeth one among you whom ye know not."
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL:--My letters to you recently have been few and far between; but now thankfulness to our Lord and to you as his instrument for the good things of DAWN, VOL. IV., calls for a letter of recognition at least.
As with the other three volumes, it is as far as I can see in thorough harmony with the Scriptures. Chapters 1, 11, 12, 13 and 14 are grand--they impressed me especially. Chapters 2 and 3 are also splendid-- and the testimony in the remaining portions of the book, from the press, etc., is wonderfully corroborative of Scripture. I suppose most all of the Lord's people are like myself, especially interested in his Word: so while I think the statements of ministers, philosophers, statesmen, etc., in the DAWN will be very helpful to the Church, in fact almost invaluable, and were greatly appreciated by me, yet the greatest teachings and the lessons most enjoyed were such as "Our Lord's Great Prophecy." It always was a great prophecy to me, but now it has a greater meaning still. I am so thankful for a clear comprehension of that discourse of our Savior.
How many passages of Scripture make reference to this time of trouble, and yet how few we meet seem willing to believe it. They all admit we are in "dull times," "things are bad," etc.; but, as a gentleman said to me, "It is only like a point on a wheel, it is going down now, but soon it will start to go up, and we will have prosperous times till it passes the top again." That voices the popular sentiment; they fail to see the length and severity of the trouble, neither do they know that this trouble ends creation's groaning. Thank God for giving us light!
The Lord has still continued his blessings to us. I feel unworthy of them, and am trying to show my appreciation by using the opportunities and talents he gives me. Suffering for Christ is not yet unknown, neither is the accompanying grace. We love him more, know him better and trust we may ever continue to draw nearer to him who is our strength and shield, as well as our God and Father.
Yours in Christ's service, BENJ. H. BARTON.
DEAR BROTHER:--Brother Houston and myself frequently call upon each other, and have much good fellowship in the truths of MILLENNIAL DAWN. Many a time I feel overjoyed and thankful to the Lord for the clear light which you so well show us on God's own Word. My only regret is that being so busily occupied with my daily duties I am able to do so little in cooperation with Bro. H. to make known the truth. In this town, however, the views are fairly well known to most of the leaders in church matters, but their prejudice is great and their opposition most bitter. Be the truth ever so carefully set forth, and altho the vast importance of the gospel to this age be ever so strongly emphasized, any idea of future probation for the ignorant masses of the world at once sets up a strong prejudice, and we have to be careful that injury is not done to these precious truths in our hands. Bro. H. and myself feel more and more that the great thing is the personal living of the truths of DAWN. But oh! how we feel the littleness of all we can do, and how unworthy we are to be witnesses to the truth even in this limited degree.
Of Bro. H. I should not say that his work has been little. He has been able to make some very successful journeys in colporteuring DAWN, and has great power and fluency in declaring the glad tidings. Both of us take every opportunity in suitable conversation of bringing the truth under notice, and place tracts from time to time. At our Young Men's Guild meetings I have had several opportunities of presenting the doctrine of the ransom in its true light, and a good many have been interested.
As an introduction to the truths of DAWN, I find it usually very efficacious to draw attention to the endless doctrinal contradictions in the so-called Orthodox creeds of the day. In correspondence, too, I am able to do a little in the way of getting friends interested, but I must say a vast amount of indifference to such things abounds on all hands. Bro. H. and I have talked of getting up a little "DAWN Circle for Bible Study," and will see if it cannot possibly be managed judiciously this winter.
Before closing I must add that we are delighted to see that VOL. IV. of MILLENNIAL DAWN is now out, and pray that our Lord's blessing may follow every copy, and be the means of turning many from darkness to the marvelous light.
I remain, your brother in the faith of our great Ransomer, R. J. G. MILLAR.
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL:--The last TOWER came to hand in due course, and is very welcome after its vacation. "The Day of Vengeance" was, you say in the preface, partially a review, but its order, and putting affairs so plainly and compactly, is a great service to those older in the truth, while making it particularly timely and valuable to those more recently coming to a consideration of these things.
The spirit of the last TOWER is especially refreshing and edifying. Oh! that we all might be so thoroughly in the Vine that his spirit only would control us, rooting out all variance, emulation, strife, and everything contrary to this blessed spirit of the truth, that all might more and more be transformed into the likeness and character of him who bought us with his own precious blood.
I send you this word of fellowship and greeting, praying a continuance of divine favor on you and all your associates, to whom I send greeting.
Yours in the Redeemer, W. E. PAGE.
"The fourth volume of the MILLENNIAL DAWN series, issued under the ominous title of 'The Day of Vengeance,' certainly takes in a very wide field, as it gives an extensive collection of facts and figures relating to almost every phase of social, political, financial and religious matters, as they bear upon the present situation. Nor are these dryly stated; on the contrary, they are introduced in such a manner as to fascinate every reader who is at all interested in the consideration of the wonderful events of 'our day.'"-- Pittsburg Press.