ZWT - 1915 - R5600 thru R5819 / R5819 (369) - December 15, 1915
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VOL. XXXVI DECEMBER 15 No. 24
A. D. 1915--A.M. 6044
W.T.B. & T. Society Annual Report.................371
The Colporteur Work...........................371
Eureka Drama Successful.......................372
The Newspaper Work............................372
Free Literature in Many Languages.............373
Financial Sinews of War.......................373
The Carol of the "Bride" (Poem)...................373
Upheld in the "Evil Day"..........................374
The Glorious Proclamation.........................376
Logic of the Message..........................377
From Glory to a Manger........................379
God's Mercy to Israel and to Others...............379
God's New Nation..............................380
Labor of Love to Be Rewarded......................380
Perseverance in This Ministry.................381
Some Interesting Letters..........................382
Harvest Workers Successful....................382
Index to "The Watch Tower"--1915..................384
WATCH TOWER BIBLE AND TRACT SOCIETY
CHARLES T. RUSSELL, PRESIDENT
"BROOKLYN TABERNACLE," 13-17 HICKS ST.,
BROOKLYN, N.Y., U.S.A.
Foreign Agencies:--British Branch: LONDON TABERNACLE, Lancaster Gate, London, W. German Branch: Unterdorner Str., 76, Barmen. Australasian Branch: Flinders Building, Flinders St., Melbourne. Please address the SOCIETY in every case.
ANNUAL SUBSCRIPTION PRICE, $1.00 (4s.) IN ADVANCE. SEND MONEY BY EXPRESS, BANK DRAFT, POSTAL ORDER, OR REGISTERED. FROM FOREIGN COUNTRIES BY FOREIGN MONEY ORDERS, ONLY.
Terms to the Lord's Poor as Follows:--All Bible Students who, by reason of old age, or other infirmity or adversity, are unable to pay for this Journal, will be supplied Free if they send a Postal Card each May stating their case and requesting its continuance. We are not only willing, but anxious, that all such be on our list continually and in touch with the STUDIES, etc.
ALSO FRENCH, GERMAN, SWEDISH AND DANISH EDITIONS. SAMPLE COPIES FREE.
ENTERED AS SECOND-CLASS MAIL MATTER AT BROOKLYN, N.Y., POSTOFFICE. ENTERED AS SECOND-CLASS MATTER AT THE POSTOFFICE DEPT., OTTAWA, CANADA.
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OPPORTUNITIES FOR SERVICE BY COMPETENTS
By competents we mean Brethren and Sisters who have the proper qualifications, namely, good address, clear knowledge of the Truth, and ability to present it wisely and interestingly.
We have lists from all over the country of people who have sent in their cards requesting literature, thus manifesting more or less interest in Present Truth. Our suggestion is that these all be called upon by the competents of the Brethren and Sisters, with a view to seeing whether they have been side-tracked, or whether their interest continues and grows--and to help them. If they have not the STUDIES in the Scriptures they can be supplied them at the very low prices at which they are sold in any language. If they have no money the books can be loaned to them. Those who have purchased often need merely a wise call and an invitation to attend the Class of Bible Students. Thus their interest in Present Truth is fanned into a flame--a zeal for God and for the Truth.
We are carrying on such a work here in New York with excellent results. We suggest it to all the dear friends who have the necessary qualifications. It is better, in our judgment, than too frequent Volunteering. The Volunteering four times a year we believe enough.
Classes willing to undertake this campaign of visitings will be supplied with cards showing the addresses of their fellow-citizens who have written or who have purchased books within a year or two. Drop a postal card to THE WATCH TOWER Office, Brooklyn, requesting the addresses in your town or city and giving us the names of those who will participate, with assurances that they will be discreet and not seek to bore the people to buy the books if they do not wish them when brought to their attention.
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VOLUNTEER LITERATURE READY
Our first Volunteer literature for 1916 is now ready, B.S.M. No. 7-7. The principal articles are "A Great Prophecy Nearing Fulfilment"--"The First Resurrection"--"Consumption and the Good Tidings"--"Fatal Ambition vs. Noble Ambition" --"The Outward and the Inward Man."
We believe that this will be a very acceptable number for general circulation. Classes and individuals where there are no Classes are invited to place their orders immediately--for not more than they will be sure to distribute promptly, faithfully. In estimating the quantity do not exceed one paper to each family; that is, a total of one-fifth of the English-speaking population.
Volunteer numbers are supplied free of charge and sent by freight, collect. After receiving it in good order send us the receipt and we will promptly reimburse you. We find that sometimes we have had difficulty when we prepaid. Sometimes deliveries were less prompt and sometimes freight charges were collected at both ends.
We remind the dear friends everywhere that we pay the freight on Volunteer matter only. These alone are supplied in large quantities. Other numbers, for use amongst your friends and neighbors, but not in general Volunteering, we supply free, but you are expected to pay the postage or expressage. We do not keep these outside numbers in large quantities. Where not more than eight copies are ordered by mail we pay the postage, making no charge.
I.B.S.A. BEREAN BIBLE STUDIES
FOR THE MONTH OF JANUARY
Questions from Manual on Series Third of
"STUDIES IN THE SCRIPTURES"
Week of January 2..Q. 51 to 57 Week of January 16...Q. 1 to 7 Week of January 9..Q. 58 to 64 Week of January 23...Q. 8 to 14 Week of January 30..Q. 15 to 20.
Question Manuals on Vol. III., STUDIES IN THE SCRIPTURES, 5c. each; or 50c. per dozen, postpaid.
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WATCH TOWER, BIBLE AND TRACT SOCIETY
ANNUAL REPORT FOR FISCAL YEAR--1915
ALTHOUGH the year 1915 falls considerably short of previous years in respect to the Society's activities in the promulgation of Truth; nevertheless, this is one of the best reports the Society has ever been privileged to render. It so impresses us because many of the dear friends who have been active supporters of the work in the past have been so generous, so fervent, so zealous, that they left themselves with merely enough of this world's goods to properly maintain themselves and those for whom they had responsibility. Our expectations that the Lord's consecrated people might be taken beyond the veil by October, 1914, had much to do with these previous activities; leading the friends to spend and be spent in the most marvelous way in the interest of the King and the brethren, heirs of the Kingdom.
True, for two years preceding the date mentioned, THE WATCH TOWER pointed out that the grand climax of our hopes seemed not likely to be fulfilled at that time. Nevertheless, the fervent zeal of the brethren led many of them to serve to their limit. And during the year preceding, the PHOTO-DRAMA OF CREATION so greatly appealed to the brethren as a providential arrangement of the Lord for the scattering of the Truth that it quite made up for any loss of expectancy in regard to the time. We therefore consider it very remarkable that in the face of these circumstances the work has gone on, practically uninterrupted--some features of it even increasing, notwithstanding the financial depression of the earlier half of the fiscal year.
First of all, we note the beautiful spirit manifested by the Lord's people in every part of the Harvest field. A deep work of grace in the hearts and minds of the brethren is everywhere manifest. Their possession of the Holy Spirit in increasing measure is manifested, as the Apostle declared it should be, in the fruits of the Spirit; i.e., meekness, gentleness, patience, long-suffering, brotherly kindness, love. We know of these prevailing conditions, not merely through the dear brethren who represent the Pilgrim work and by whom reports are continually sent in in respect to every Class visited; but we have information of the same thing from every part of the world, through the Correspondence Department.
As an illustration of how the work goes grandly on, we note the fact that in the New York City Congregation the number immersed during the year--208--exceeded those of the preceding years. We have similar reports from all over the world, witnessing to an increasing number, coming under the influence of the Truth, and "presenting their bodies, living sacrifices," in consecration to the Lord and His service.
THE COLPORTEUR WORK
The financial strain of the early part of the year discouraged many of the Colporteurs, and led them to leave the Harvest work temporarily and enter business pursuits--it being impossible for them, for a time, to meet their expenses. Now, however, the great improvement in business everywhere, resulting from the manufacture of munitions of war for Europe, is encouraging many of these brethren to return to the Harvest work. There surely never was a more encouraging time for engaging in this blessed service.
Not only are the STUDIES IN THE SCRIPTURES supplemented by the CREATION SCENARIO; but additionally and especially, the minds of the people are open as never before, to know something about the meaning of the war, and to consider the relationship of God and the Divine Plan to the terrible war now in progress. We have the thing they need, the thing they crave; and no one else has it. We are hoping that many of the dear friends who became temporarily discouraged will perceive the hand of the Lord beckoning forward for a further gleaning in the Harvest field before "the night cometh when no man can work." The circumstances mentioned will account for the decrease in the output of the STUDIES IN THE SCRIPTURES, as shown in this report.
THE PILGRIM WORK
While various circumstances and conditions have seemed to make it advisable that some of the Pilgrim brethren be dropped from the active service, others have been brought into the work, and still others are expected to enter it in the near future. The results of the year, as shown in the tabulation, certainly compare very favorably with the year 1914. We consider this one of the most important branches of the service, and continue to commend to the love and special consideration of all the Lord's people the Pilgrims whom the Society sends forth. A special blessing seems to be going with this feature of the work at the present time. The public have an ear to hear, and the Lord seems to be giving His faithful ones more and more of wisdom and grace in the presentation of the Message. The results are gratifying.
This branch of the work, having been pushed for a year most persistently at great expense, yielded such
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bountiful results that we were loth to see the great activity in this direction curtailed. Nevertheless, it was the only wise and possible thing under the circumstances--the financial stringency. For a time, all but three of the DRAMAS in the United States were discontinued; and these were not run as continuously as before. Various endeavors were made to put the DRAMA on a financial footing to yield its own expenses. It was found, however, that in order to make it attractive to the Theater people, the DRAMA was so shortened that the main object was largely frustrated. The Society, on the contrary, had the special interest in the slides and records, because by these the great Gospel Message was delivered--the moving pictures merely being introduced to draw the audience and to hold their attention. All such exhibitions of the DRAMA have been discontinued. Hereafter it is to be shown only in its full four parts, without any curtailment. And the Lord's blessing seems to be returning to the DRAMA on the free basis.
We have now, practically, all of our DRAMA sets in operation, though not showing usually, except Sundays, in the Theaters. And the friends can usually obtain the Theaters at a very low price. In cities where ordinary Photo-Drama entertainments are not permitted by law,
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CREATION is welcomed by the Theater managers at about the cost of janitor service and lights; and we are finding that in cities where moving pictures are permitted, the Theater people are willing to give Sunday forenoon, 10:30 to 12:30, to the DRAMA, at practically no cost, except that of janitor service and light. This does not indicate the interest of the managers in the DRAMA, but merely their desire to have something which will help to give moral tone to the Theaters.
THE EUREKA DRAMA SUCCESSFUL
We have been very pleasantly surprised to note the splendid results secured by the EUREKA DRAMA outfit-- tinted slides, phonograph, records, scenarios, etc. These of course meet with their greatest success in suburban places, where the people are not so satiated with moving picture exhibits. Although the pictures are not so fine as in the PHOTO-DRAMA, they are nevertheless good, and highly appreciated. It is freely recognized that we have the largest variety of religious pictures ever exhibited; and these are introduced in a chronological and historical arrangement, which adds to their value.
To our surprise, it is found that the people really seem to give closer attention to the EUREKA DRAMA than to the PHOTO-DRAMA. Our wonderful records, so clear, so distinct, are a special attraction. Never before, we believe, have such records been put forth, giving the human voice in its full power, and so distinctly that many people have inquired why the speaker did not come forward on the platform to be seen and receive applause, some even refusing to believe that the records were those of the phonograph, insisting that no phonograph ever produced such a result.
There are 86 of these EUREKA DRAMA outfits in the hands of the Brethren in various parts, and we trust that they are all being used at least every Sunday. Many of them, we note, are used almost constantly, every night in the week. We regret that we do not have an accurate report on these. We are deeply interested in knowing that they are all actively engaged and noting the results. Only fourteen Classes are giving regular reports; seventy-two we know nothing about. And yet we do know, that thus far we have had 5,560 exhibitions reported, with a total of 1,012,268 in attendance. The interest aroused by these may be indicated to some extent by requests for literature other than that which was freely distributed-- the number of card requests for literature being 30,645.
Surely with such amount of interest manifested, with the people sitting listening to every word of the Message, while viewing the pictures illustrating the same, we would hardly ask for better opportunities for presenting the Truth--the Gospel Message. We trust that each of the DRAMAS is being kept busy; and we again express the hope that we may be informed of the activities and results.
THE WATCH TOWER
We continue to consider THE WATCH TOWER lists our best criterion in respect to the general progress of the Harvest work. The brethren will all be gratified to know that we are now printing an average of 55,000 copies of each issue. This indicates a deeper and larger interest in the Truth than ever before. Besides this, there are issues of the journal in the German, Swedish, Dano-Norwegian and Polish languages.
While we have reached and passed the mark that we some time ago set for the list--fifty thousand--we are not yet content. We have every reason to believe that our list should be double what it now is, if all the interested knew fully about THE WATCH TOWER and realized their need of its regular visits. We are dependent upon the zeal and loyalty of the brethren everywhere to make known to the interested ones, just what THE WATCH TOWER is, and to recommend to them that they send in their subscription. We believe that many are missing the blessing, and would therefore stir up into active cooperation the pure minds of all the dear brethren to this Department of activity in the Master's Cause-- to the intent that the brethren may be "built up in the most Holy Faith"--into Christ, their living Head.
THE NEWSPAPER WORK
The financial stringency has interfered more with the newspaper work than with any other branch of the service. Had we the money, we would have representatives traveling continuously, visiting the newspapers, showing the publishers the difference between the Sermon reports furnished by the Pastor Russell Lecture Bureau and all other Sermon reports. Editors and publishers believe that very little interest is taken in the Sermons by the majority of their readers. They need to be made aware of the fact that these Sermons are different, and that they appeal to the public where others do not. But financial conditions have not permitted activities along this line. Hence, there has been quite a falling off in the list of papers publishing the Sermons regularly. Nevertheless, there is still a goodly number of these.
Anybody desiring to obtain the Sermons weekly can be accommodated by addressing the Society's Office. Not many now are publishing the three-column service. Nevertheless, we can supply these to those who desire them at any price they may choose to pay. Some publishers give to the Society as low a rate as 15c per year; others 25c; others 50c; others $1. Such subscriptions sent in to us are distributed between the different papers, according to your desires, and according to the reasonable proportions that would go to each paper.
VOLUNTEERING ACTIVITIES INCREASED
The term Volunteering we apply to the voluntary distribution, by the friends, of special issues of THE BIBLE STUDENTS' MONTHLY--systematically distributed by Classes cooperating or sometimes by individuals. Where there is a Class, a Volunteer Captain is chosen, by whom the home town is districted, a portion of service being given to each one of the Class able, and desirous of participating, the shipments being made to said Captains. These activities are usually extended gradually to the suburbs of the town or city, and in some instances to
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neighboring towns or cities where there may be no Classes. The Society provides this volunteer literature without charge, and with the promise of repayment of the freight charges.
In the past, the charges were sometimes prepaid and afterwards demanded upon delivery. Now, all are to be paid on delivery and the receipt to be sent to THE WATCH TOWER Office, that the amount of the freight charges may be reimbursed to the Captain of the volunteers. In addition to this regular volunteering, we supply in limited quantities, any number of the "B.S.M."--not for promiscuous circulation, but rather that the Class may have these on hand to be given to visitors, or to those who make inquiry for answers to certain questions. We do not keep these in very large quantities. While we desire to supply them freely, we do not consider them the volunteer matter for general distribution. They are sent free, but with charges collect.
We are sure that it will surprise many of you, as it did us, to find that the zeal of the dear brethren was unabated; that the demand for this free literature for 1915 exceeded that of any previous year. In the report, this might not seem to be true, because the figures are less than those of last year. We call attention, however, to the fact that the figures include the free SCENARIOS of the PHOTO-DRAMA OF CREATION and that this free literature practically stopped with the stopping of the DRAMA. So far as the BIBLE STUDENTS' MONTHLY is concerned, the year 1915 stands at the very top of the list. The total amount, including distributions in Great Britain and in foreign lands, reaches to about 50,000,000 copies.
FREE LITERATURE IN MANY LANGUAGES
Have in mind, dear friends, that the Society is publishing free literature in nearly every language, and that the SCRIPTURE STUDIES are now to be had in twenty different languages. We cannot undertake to enumerate all of these, nor is it necessary. Whatever you have use for, write to us, explaining your needs.
Under this heading we mention the work for the blind. We have the first Volume of STUDIES IN THE SCRIPTURES, and many Sermons and WATCH TOWER articles prepared for the blind in raised characters--the American Braille--the English Braille--the New York Point. If you know of any blind people who desire to read, they can be supplied without charge--books being loaned, subject to return, postage free. Such orders may be sent direct to this Office, or addressed to "Gould Free Library," South Boston, Mass.
FINANCIAL SINEWS OF WAR
To a certain extent, the Christian soldiers are engaged in a great warfare against sin, against error, against superstition--against the Adversary of men who is specially the Adversary of the light and of the Lord and the faithful followers of Jesus. All of the Society's activities are opposed by the Adversary, and are necessarily in opposition to him and his course, and in favor of the Lord and His Message.
The Lord has very wonderfully, through His people, supplied the sinews of war--money--and that without solicitation on our part. Those who receive the Truth into good and honest hearts seem to be so impressed by it that many of them are in danger of giving more than they might reasonably afford to give, to send the Good Tidings to others. We believe that the Lord is very appreciative of such loving zeal; and that in due time those who are supporting the work financially, as well as those who are supporting the cause with their other talents, will all meet with a share in the great reward: "Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joys of your Lord."
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We are sure the financial conditions, all being taken into consideration, our readers will agree that the report shown in this issue is an excellent one--even though being far short of last year's. A summary of the work follows:
SUMMARY OF SOCIETY'S ACTIVITIES IN UNITED STATES AND CANADA
Letters received.................................. 181,834
Letters sent out.................................. 332,773
LITERATURE SUPPLIED AT COST
Output of SCRIPTURE STUDIES--Vols................. 362,344
" " Bibles and other books.................. 53,355
" " Booklets................................ 88,447
" " DRAMA SCENARIOS (bound)................. 55,630
" " WATCH TOWERS............................ 1,406,000
LITERATURE SUPPLIED FREE
Free SCENARIOS--output............................ 1,528,000
Free BIBLE STUDENTS' MONTHLY......................39,289,000
Sermons in newspapers............................214,777,060
PILGRIM SERVICE FREE
Number of Pilgrims................................ 65
Miles traveled.................................... 505,957
Towns visited..................................... 6,233
Public meetings held.............................. 1,843
Semi-public meetings held......................... 2,735
Parlor meetings held.............................. 8,971
Total attendance.................................. 833,522
FINANCIAL REPORT FOR FISCAL YEAR
Free Literature, Sermons, etc.....................180,823.69
Assistance to Foreign Branches and helpers........ 30,841.85
DRAMA Expense in forepart of year................. 53,788.65
Cash balance from 1914.......... $1,677.12
Good Hopes, Tract Fund, etc.....185,739.56
Special donation to balance.....100,713.09
THE CAROL OF THE "BRIDE"
The North Wind blows cold o'er my Garden today--
Its fierce blasts rush mad on their pitiless path;
The trees bend and sway in their giant grasp,
And cower and shrink from their furious wrath.
They plant their roots deep, and still deeper; their arms
Take on sinews of strength as they writhe in the blast.
O bitter North Wind, thy fury is vain!
For strength born of need brings the victory at last!
* * *
Today o'er my Garden the South Wind plays,
And gently it kisses the blossoms fair;
Their soft petals tremble in glad response,
And their perfume flows out on the quivering air.
The soft breeze caresses each glistening leaf,
It whispers a message to each blushing rose;
And sweet, timid violets look up at its touch--
The touch that only the South Wind knows.
It sings to the trees a low, murm'ring refrain,
And steals thro' the branches with tremulous sigh;
They clap their soft hands as they dance in their glee,
For old Winter has fled and the Summer is nigh.
* * *
O South Wind, O North Wind, ye both brought rich gifts!
My fair flowers are sheltered, my trees great and strong!
And sweeter my blossoms, and richer my fruits;
To North Wind and South Wind I carol my song!
My Beloved has come to His Garden--and lo,
Sweet spices and perfumes and blossoms most fair,
And ripe, golden fruitage I lay at His feet!
What joy could be greater! What priv'lege so rare!
October 21, 1915. ALICE G. JAMES.
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UPHELD IN THE "EVIL DAY"
"He shall give His angels [messengers] charge concerning thee, to guard thee in all thy ways; they shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone."--`Psalm 91:11,12`.
THE introduction of this Psalm seems clearly to indicate that it applies exclusively to the consecrated people of God during the Gospel Age, the spirit-begotten ones--those who abide under the shadow of the Almighty, in the secret place of Jehovah. This same thought is represented symbolically in the typical Tabernacle. The secret place where the saints abide is the Holy. None were allowed to enter the typical Holy and Most Holy except the high priest and the under priests. All of the people of Israel, so far as they were living in close harmony with this arrangement, were blessed. But the secret place, the Holy, is the one referred to in this Psalm.
Coming down to Jesus' day, we see that He was the first to enter the antitypical Holy and the Most Holy. He entered the first of the Holies when He offered up Himself at Jordan. When He made His consecration at baptism, instantly He was in the Holy, instead of being outside in the Court. If He would abide in the Holy and continue under the Shadow of the Almighty, all of God's providences would be favorable to Him and all things would work together for His good. So when Jesus had finished His course victoriously, He passed beyond the Second Veil, and entered into Heaven itself--the Most Holy. (`Hebrews 6:19,20`; `9:24`.) While in the flesh He was kept in all His ways; He was guarded of God, and not suffered to be tempted above that which He was able to bear. In the Garden of Gethsemane, the Father revealed Himself in some manner not specifically stated, except that we are told that angels came and ministered unto the Master. God "maketh His angels spirits; His ministers a flaming fire."--`Psalm 104:4`.
God can use anything or anybody as His agency, His messenger. But there were very few of the human family in Jesus' day capable of being used as God's comforting angels to our Lord. Mary of Bethany was one of these, who, just prior to the Master's crucifixion, anointed His feet with a fragrant, costly perfume, and wiped them with her hair. She was one who gave Him consolation when His mind was agitated with the thought that five days thence He would be crucified. He realized that none of the people understood, that none of them were able to enter into His feelings. But Mary's service was very precious to the Lord--very encouraging to Him.
SUBTLE TESTINGS PECULIAR TO OUR DAY
So the Lord has also used spirits--angels--and at times various other agencies, human beings and even the powers of nature, as His ministers. If the Father were wishing to send some message to us, His children, He could use the electric power that we are learning to use in wireless telegraphy and telephony. But He has not chosen to use this power as His messenger to speak to us directly. Our text gives us the thought, however, that the Lord's special supervision is over all His saints, the class which He has been selecting since Pentecost, with a view to their preparation for the Heavenly Kingdom through growth in the graces of the Spirit. But we see that this Psalm as a whole has a special application to our day, when "a thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand," and when the pestilence shall be abroad. When pestilence is in the air, it inoculates a person without his being conscious of the fact, and it is thus that we, "the feet" members of the Body of Christ, are exposed to special trials and dangers--spiritual pestilence.
This is the time to which all the prophets pointed as a time of special persecution. In the past there have been times of persecution to the professed people of God; but they were times when the right was more manifest, when a sharp line was drawn between the right and the wrong. When the question was raised, "Will you serve the Lord, or will you serve Baal?" it was not difficult to see the right and decide, "I will be on the Lord's side." In the days of the early Church, the question was, "Will you curry favor with the Roman power, or will you suffer persecution by following Christ?" It was Christ or the Emperor. Still later down, when the question was as to one's choice between one denomination or another, the issue was clearly drawn: "Am I on God's side, or am I on the side of the Adversary?" But during the past forty years the differences between the denominations have been practically ignored.
Sometimes those who were being persecuted were somewhat to blame for their persecution; for they held errors that were more or less atrocious. But all the way down, the trials and temptations were, it would appear, less subtle than they are at the present time. Today these
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great denominations that formerly fought one another are trying to be one body. It would seem on the surface as though the Millennium had come, and that the lion and the lamb were lying down together. In general there seems to be among Christian people a feeling of amity and a desire to do good rather than evil. The cases in which violent persecution is indulged are far between, and not appreciated by the masses.
For the past forty years, then, there has been a condition that is constituting a crucial test to all Christian people. The subtle doctrines of Spiritism, of Christian Science, of Theosophy, and of New Thought of different kinds, are prevalent. Likewise the theory of Evolution is widely proclaimed. Learned men formulated the theory of Evolution, and then the Higher Critics began to pull the Bible to pieces, because of "the oppositions of science, falsely so-called." (`1 Timothy 6:20`.) These false theories have constituted a miasma that has spread in every direction. There are four hundred millions of Christians, according to some; seven or eight hundred millions, according to other authorities. These include all the infants, the feeble-minded and the insane. Whether they are one minute old or fifty years old, they are reckoned members of the Church, if they have had certain drops of water sprinkled on their heads and certain words said over them.
But amongst the most intelligent of those who name the name of Jesus there has been a great falling away from the Word of God. This testing has been the most insidious, the more injurious, because it has come from the theological seminaries. Thousands have fallen. They are not about to fall, they have fallen. They have lost all anchorage to the Word of the Lord. Out of the two hundred thousand professed ministers of Christ, probably not more than ten per cent. believe in the Bible as the inspired Word of God. Ten per cent. would be twenty thousand, leaving one hundred and eighty thousand who have fallen from faith. If they have fallen from faith in the inspiration of the Bible, we may be sure that they have in a measure fallen from relationship to God. Some probably never were in relationship with the Lord in any sense.
UNFOUNDED HOPES OF THE MANY TODAY
What revelation has God made except that given in the Bible? "Having no hope and without God in the world," represents the condition of the many. They have hopes of their own, but not a Bible hope. The Theosophists have
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a hope, the Spiritualists have a hope, the Christian Scientists have a hope, and so have the Evolutionists; but the hope of all these is without foundation and will surely fail them in this testing time.
The hope of the Evolutionist is not that he can himself survive everlastingly; but that, as he learns more day by day, he may be able to beget better children, who will be more noble of character and more wise of head than he has been. In turn, these children may be able to live longer and have children yet more wise and strong. These Evolutionists believe the time will come in the distant future when their children will be so wise as to be able to take advantage of all the circumstances of life, and may continue to live forever. From our viewpoint these people are without God, without hope.
It is true that these ministers speak of Jesus, but the message that they give is not the Bible Message. They say, indeed, that there was a great deal of good in the life of Jesus worthy to be copied, that He was a good Example, etc. We think that they speak after this manner simply for its moral effect upon the people. If these men lived such a life as Jesus lived, they would reprove the people and tell them that they are living very foolishly, that they are living for self and neglecting the Word of God. These same ministers who hold Jesus up as an Example know very well that it is because of the way that He lived that He died at thirty-three years of age--died instead of living everlastingly. They admit that He was a very fine character, but the majority of them have no place in their scheme for His Ransom-sacrifice. And in urging their people in respect to following the example of Jesus, this class apparently do not urge them to lay down their lives for the Truth and in the service of God.
They tell their people not to go to war, unless their country calls them, and not until the ministers preach it; but that if it ever becomes popular to go to war, then go to war and make all the cannon possible. Meantime the preachers will train the little boys, and form of them Boys' Brigades and Boy Scouts. When war comes, then let the boys be noble Boy Scouts, shoulder their rifles and do their best to kill. Let them help uphold the war, and fight on their own side. Let their people care for and help to heal the wounded--all who have not been killed outright. Let them bind up their wounds, and get them ready as quickly as possible to go out to the trenches and fight again, and perhaps be killed.
SKEPTICISM NOW RIFE EVERYWHERE
All this is a confusion of religious instruction. It comes because these people are fallen from faith in the Bible. Some of them, seeking to hedge when inquired of on the subject of their faith, will say, "Well, we believe all the words of Jesus." And some publishers, following along the line of this growing sentiment, have published New Testaments with the words of Jesus printed in red text, so that those who wish to read His words alone have there before them these words lettered in red. But if asked whether they believe in the words of Jesus in regard to Jonah and the great fish, and in His words about the Flood in Noah's day, they will retrench and answer, "No; we believe as much as our minds tell us is reasonable, and we think the rest is all nonsense." The truth is that they have no real faith in Jesus, nor in what He declared His life in the flesh was for. They do not believe that He was a sacrifice for sin, and say so freely. They have fallen from the position of faith.
Now if the teachers of the people have fallen, what shall we say for the people themselves, the four hundred millions or the eight hundred millions? Some have been in one denomination and some in another, but in general the whole procedure has been to keep them in ignorance. That may not seem to be strictly true when we think of how many schools and colleges there are. But the fact is that only a small portion of the people ever get as far as a collegiate course, or even a high school course. Before that time they are supposed to be on the side of the deceived ones. Many of our great universities today are hotbeds of infidelity. Bible Truth is being kept from the people. With the colleges endowed with millions of money and with learned professors, and the whole Christian world, so called, under the tutelage of the two hundred thousand ministers of the nominal church, the wonder is that the people are not all infidels.
With this view, then, of the past forty years, we see a fulfilment of this Psalm. We see that thousands and tens of thousands have fallen. We see where they have fallen. We see why they have fallen. We see that the few are standing--"the feet" of Christ. As we look out over the world and see these thousands, we perceive that the few who have come into covenant relationship with the Lord are the only ones who are standing. But many even of these, because of having been overcharged with the cares of this life and the deceitfulness of riches, and false teachings, are in a trembling condition and are quite unable to stand firmly. These need our immediate help.
URGENT NEED OF THE WHOLE ARMOR
The Apostle Paul urges all the Lord's people to "put on the whole armor of God." Some of them have not had on much of the armor of God, but that of the creeds of the Dark Ages. Some of them, under the false teachings of modern Higher Criticism, Evolution, etc., have only a wavering faith. They are weak, instead of being "strong in the Lord and in the power of His might," as they should be. Now is the time for all these to be strong, in order that they may "be able to stand in the evil day," now upon us. They need to have on "the breastplate of righteousness," to be "shod with the preparation of the Gospel of Peace," to have "the shield of faith," and "the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God."-- `Ephesians 6:10-17`.
We who have put on "the whole armor of God," who have become measurably skilful in the handling of the Sword of the Spirit--the truths now due from God's Word--need to use this now in the interest of all who may be succored. They need to be assisted to put on the whole armor quickly, that they may be protected from the darts of the Adversary now flying thick and fast, that they may be saved from the errors now abounding on every hand, that they may be uplifted from their temporary fall and made strong in the Lord.
This `91st Psalm`, then, seems to be a picture of the present time; and we are to strive to be the angels mentioned in our text. These angels, or ministers, are preeminently the children of God. They are to minister to the brethren. This is the high honor God has given to His people throughout the Gospel Age. In our Lord's case angels, spirit beings, ministered to Him; and in the cases of some of the Apostles the angels appeared and ministered to them at certain times. The Scriptures declare, indeed, that the angels are "all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation." But we have very little reason to expect that God will use any of the spirit beings to do a service that may be done by His people.
According to this Psalm we see that now is the time when the "feet" members are in special danger of
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stumbling, and hence require special assistance. After the various snares of this day have been described with particularity, we read, in the words of our text, "He shall give His angels charge concerning thee,...lest thou dash thy foot against a stone." Our Lord spoke of Himself at the First Advent as the Stone of Stumbling to the House of Israel, foretold by the Prophet Isaiah. (`Matthew 21:42-45`.) The Apostle Paul refers to this prophecy that Jesus would be a Stone of Stumbling to both the Houses of Israel.--`Isaiah 8:14`; `Romans 9:32,33`.
Our Lord was a Stone of Stumbling to the Natural House of Israel in their forty years of Harvest. Similarly, we see that He has been, as foretold, the Stone of Stumbling in this Harvest, during these past forty years. His presence and His work were neither understood nor appreciated in the Jewish Harvest; and so here, the fact of our Lord's parousia, presence, is disbelieved and His Ransom-sacrifice repudiated. The events of today are manifestations of His presence. These things and the vital truths of Scripture, now more clear and luminous than ever, are stumbling-stones to the world, but are blessings to the faithful, watching ones. The true people of God, mounting on this Stepping-Stone, are lifted up to a higher view-point and kept from stumbling. The doctrine of the Ransom and the evidences of the Master's Second Presence at this time are unspeakable advantages to the saints of the Lord.
PRESENT FULFILMENT OF OUR TEXT
We see that the "stone" of our text is a symbolic stone. Satan tried to apply it literally in His temptation of Jesus, when he urged Him to cast Himself down from the pinnacle of the Temple. But Jesus said, "Get thee hence, Satan," and refused to make any such application of the Scripture. But we see the fulfilment of it in this our day. We believe that the Lord has raised up messengers, agencies, which have been very helpful to all of the "feet" class. These agencies have been various. The printed page with its Message of Present Truth has gone in many languages to all parts of the earth, to seek out and to sustain the members of "the feet" of Christ. Thousands are writing us continually that they have been recovered when they have been in great danger. Some of these had already gone into infidelity; many had lost all faith in the Bible as the Word of God. But they are strong in the Lord and in the power of His might today.
God has used these agencies, then; and these have been His ministering spirits, which have ministered to His people. We do not say that there have not been invisible agencies also, but we know the agencies that we have seen. So our text has a good message for us all. "He shall give His angels charge over thee, to guard thee in all thy ways." Whatever may be the difficulties of the Lord's children in the near future, there will be a special comfort in remembering that the Lord is able to make full provision for all His true-hearted ones, and that He will do so. He will continue to use these agencies, and there will be the strengthening of His people to the end of the way. If there are any who will not be thus led, it must be because there is something wrong in themselves. We should each see to it that we are of the "thee" class. "No evil shall come nigh thee." (`Psalm 91:10`.) That will mean Divine protection to the very end of our course.
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THE GLORIOUS PROCLAMATION
--DECEMBER 19.--`LUKE 2:1-20`.--
THE ANGELIC MESSAGE OF THE FIRST CHRISTMAS DAY--"GOOD TIDINGS OF GREAT JOY"--TO BE ACCOMPLISHED DURING THE MILLENNIUM--THE BLESSING TO COME FIRST TO THE CHURCH AND THEN TO THE WORLD--THEN "PEACE ON
EARTH, GOOD WILL TO MEN" FOREVERMORE--"GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST!"
"For unto you is born this day in the City of David
a Savior, who is Christ the Lord."--`Verse 11`.
THE Message of the angels to the shepherds on the plains of Bethlehem becomes more and more precious to each child of God in proportion as he grows in grace and knowledge. As his ears and eyes of understanding open more widely to the lengths and breadths of God's great Plan of the Ages, that prophetic Message is the more highly esteemed as an epitome of the entire Gospel. Nor can our attention be called too frequently to the great event which lies at the foundation of that Message--the Savior's birth.
It matters not that December 25th is not the real anniversary of the Savior's birth, but probably the anniversary of the annunciation by the angel Gabriel, the anniversary of the Virgin Mary's conception, our Lord being born nine months later on the calendar, or about October 1. One so great, whose birth, death and resurrection from the dead mean so much to the human family, may be remembered and celebrated any day, every day, by all who appreciate what He has done for our race. Since, then, the majority of Christian people have become habituated to the celebration of December 25th as our Lord's birthday, we need make no protest, but join with all in celebrating that day with rejoicing of heart, giving gifts and remembrances one to another, thus copying Divine favor, which gave to mankind the Son of God as a gift of mercy and love for our redemption.
For more than four thousand years the promises of God, clothed in more or less obscurity, had been given to mankind, intimating that ultimately the great curse of sin and death that had come upon the world through Father Adam's disobedience in Eden would be rolled away, and instead of a curse, a blight, would come a blessing of the Lord with life-giving refreshment. In various types, figures and shadowy promises this lesson had come down through the ages to the time of our Lord's birth, especially amongst the Jews, who were the Divinely favored and covenanted people.
Since the Jews were a people of commercial spirit, many of them were to be found in all parts of the civilized world. Thus amongst every people the faith in the one God and the hope of Israel through a Messiah were more or less made known, so that at the time of our Savior's birth, we read, "all men were in expectation" of a coming Messiah. Doubtless this expectation was based upon the interpretation of Daniel's prophecy, which we now see clearly marked the year of our Lord's majority, when He was thirty years of age and made His consecration to His work and received the begetting of the Holy Spirit, His anointing as the great antitypical Priest and as the great antitypical King over Israel and the world.--`Daniel 9:24-27`.
FROM BETHLEHEM TO NAZARETH
In olden times there were honorable cities and mean cities. Nazareth was generally recognized as one of the latter, while Bethlehem was distinctly one of the former --the City of David, Israel's beloved king. The Scriptures explain that Mary, our Lord's mother, and her husband Joseph were both of the lineage of David, and
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that in a seemingly accidental manner the prophecy was fulfilled which foretold that Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.--`Micah 5:2`.
At that time the Roman Empire bore rule over the whole world, the Jews being subject to it, but waiting expectantly, restlessly, for the coming Messiah, who would deliver them from being a subject people and make of them the ruling caste in His Kingdom, which would have dominion over the whole world. The great Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus was in power at this time, and had sent forth his decree for a polling or census, of the whole world for the purpose of taxation, etc.
St. Luke informs us that it was in response to this royal decree that Joseph and Mary went up to their native city to be enrolled; that thus it was that Jesus was born in Bethlehem; that on account of the great concourse of people at the same time and for the same purpose, accommodations were scarce and the stable of the khan or inn, was used by some as a lodging; and that Joseph and Mary, being late comers, were forced to occupy these humble quarters. Thus it was that the King of Glory, whose Kingdom is by and by to rule the world, was in the time of His flesh born in a stable and cradled in a manger.
THE ANGELS AND THE SHEPHERDS
Noble shepherds those must have been to whom the Almighty sent the angelic Message respecting the birth of Jesus, the Messiah--the Message which has rung down the ages and reached our ears, the Message which thrills us the more in proportion as we are able to grasp its meaning. First, an angel appeared to the shepherds and allayed their fears, saying, "Fear not; behold, I bring you good tidings." It would appear that fear is one of the dominating impulses of the human mind, especially in conjunction with Divine revelations.
Men realize--even the best of the race--that they are imperfect, and that the Almighty and His laws are perfect. Instinctively the world seems to realize that a curse, or condemnation of the Almighty, rests upon it; and instinctively it fears a further curse, a further condemnation, realizing its continual and increasing sinfulness. The same is true today with all except the comparatively few who are well informed respecting the Divine Plan. Thus the subject is generally obnoxious to the world--a subject which they prefer to avoid, because of a feeling of guilt and a dread of further knowledge and condemnation.
It is for the true children of God today, as it was for the angels at that time, to assure the world that God is better than all their fears--that God so loved the world as to redeem mankind from the just sentence of death, the curse that came upon all as inheritors of Adam's imperfection and sentence.
"Good tidings" is another translation of our word Gospel. How beautiful is the thought that the Gospel is really and truly good tidings! Alas, for the misrepresentations of God's Plan, because of which so many of His professed people misrepresent His character and His Word, and apply the term Gospel to their various messages from the Dark Ages, teaching purgatory and eternal torment as the portion of the race!
Let us get away from this false thought and get the truth that the Gospel is good tidings. The angel elaborated, saying that his Message was "good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people." Ah, thank God, His Plan is wider, deeper, higher and grander than anything which we had ever conceived! The Gospel Message is not merely to be good tidings to the comparatively few that now have ears to hear and eyes to see its beauties, but in God's due time it is to be good tidings of great joy to all people the world over.
As every member of Adam's race shared in his fall and in the curse of death which came upon him as a result of his disobedience, so every member of the race was included in the great redemptive sacrifice which our Lord Jesus offered and which was finished at Calvary. God's Plan in Christ, as it is being worked out and shall ultimately be accomplished, will mean great joy for all people; and the tidings of this fact were given at the very moment of our Lord's birth, because He was the One through whom all the glorious things of the Divine Purpose and Plan shall ultimately be accomplished.
THE LOGIC OF THE MESSAGE
The Message took cognizance of the fact that it was to reasonable people, who would wish to know why the unchangeable God, who had once pronounced a curse upon the race, should at any time so amend and alter matters as to supplant the curse with a blessing. The messenger stated the philosophy of the Divine Plan-- "Unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, who is Christ [Messiah] the Lord." There we have the key to the entire Gospel statement of how God could be just and yet be the Justifier of sinners who accept Jesus. --`Romans 3:26`.
The word Savior here signifies Life-giver. How beautiful is the thought that as death is the wage of sin, the curse upon the race, this Messiah who was born is to be the One who will rescue the race from the sentence by giving them life again! The explanation of how He would give them life was not made, nor was it necessary at that time. But now, in the light of the developments and with the explanations furnished through the Holy Spirit in the New Testament, we see that our Lord's voluntary sacrifice of His life, dying "the Just for the unjust," settles the claims of Divine Justice against Adam, and thus incidentally against all who share his death sentence, namely, all mankind.
Truly, the more we see of the Divine Plan for our salvation, which began to take shape in the birth of Jesus, the more we feel like shouting with the angelic choir praises to the God of Heaven, thankfulness for His mercy to the children of men! It mattered not that the babe born in Bethlehem was the Savior only in prospect, that He could not even be anointed to do His work until He reached manhood's estate thirty years later. It mattered not that even then it would be necessary for Him to lay down His life gradually during the three and a half years of His earthly ministry, to be finished at Calvary. Nor did it matter that His resurrection was still three days after His death, and His ascension forty days later; and that the blessing in general would be deferred for nearly nineteen centuries thereafter. As the angels could sing and rejoice at the first budding of the Divine Plan of Salvation, so also can all who have faith in the ultimate outcome rejoice with joy unspeakable and give praise to God in the highest and to His Son our Lord.
"SAVED BY HOPE"
Although nearly nineteen centuries have rolled away since that angelic Message was delivered, it has not yet been fulfilled except in a limited measure by faith to those who have the eye and the ear of faith--in all, a "little flock." But the bad tidings of great misery for nearly all people have been spread abroad in the name of Christ, much to the discredit of the Divine Plan and to the dishonor of the Divine character. Instead of
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carrying joy, the message has very generally carried grief and sorrow, especially to the kind-hearted and more generously disposed. Indeed we may say that no message of the Lord Jesus has ever reached all people. Even today, after nineteen centuries of propaganda, only a comparatively small portion of the human family have ever heard of the only name given under Heaven and amongst men whereby we must be saved--"nor is there salvation in any other."--`Acts 4:12`.
What, then, shall we say of the salvation which has come to those who have truly accepted Christ as their Savior, who are today rejoicing in Him as such, and who by faith are seeing the salvation of God begun in their own hearts and yet to be fully accomplished under the whole heavens? This the Apostle calls the salvation by hope. His words are, "We are saved by hope."-- `Romans 8:24`.
We are not saved actually; we are still surrounded by sin, pain, sighing, crying and dying; the curse is not yet rolled away. All that the best of the Lord's people have yet received is salvation by hope, by faith. Yet this anticipation of the future salvation, of the resurrection from the dead, of a participation in the glory, honor and immortality of the Divine nature promised to the faithful, is so strong, so clear, that those who possess it are enabled to rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory, even in the midst of trials, difficulties, weaknesses and unfavorable conditions incident to the curse which still rests upon the world of mankind.
A PROPHECY OF GOOD THINGS
The angelic Message was a prophecy of good things to be accomplished for the Church and the world during the Millennial Age. The Church is to have the first blessing. The First Resurrection is to be composed only of the blessed and holy who shall live and reign with Christ during the thousand years. Then Satan shall be bound, and the good influences of truth and righteousness shall enlighten the whole earth. (`Revelation 20:1-6`.) The declaration of the Scriptures is that the deliverance of the Church will come early in the morning of the Millennial Day. As the prophet declares, "God will help her early in the morning."--`Psalm 46:5`, margin.
But much as we rejoice in the glorious hopes of the Gospel set before us who now see, who now rejoice with joy unspeakable, we are glad that the Divine mercy and love are of such lengths and breadths and heights and depths as to encompass the whole world of mankind, and to provide a blessing for every member of Adam's race through Him who loved us and bought us with His own precious blood.
During the Millennium this prophecy will have fulfilment. The great Savior who has already redeemed us by His sacrifice will stand forth as the King, the glorified Messiah, and establish His dominion of righteousness in the world for the blessing and uplifting of every member of the race. In harmony with the words of the Apostle, those will be Times of Refreshing, "Times of Restitution of all things spoken by the mouth of all the holy prophets since the world began." (`Acts 3:19-21`.) If the Lord had based the hope of the world upon some works of merit or righteousness of the world's doing, then indeed we might have feared--indeed, the more we know of the world, the less hope we would have. But, on the contrary, the Lord has based the entire proposition for the future blessing, not upon our worthiness, but upon the worthiness and sacrifice of His Son. To you is born a Life-giver, which is Messiah the Lord.
How it adds to our enjoyment of the blessings of the coming Age to know that the trials and difficulties of the present Gospel Age are subject to the Divine supervision in the interest of the Little Flock that is now being gathered in advance from amongst men--the Elect, the Church! We see how the present trials and difficulties are the chiselings and polishings necessary to our development in the fruits and graces of the Holy Spirit in character-likeness of God's dear Son, our Lord, our Hope, our Bridegroom. How joyful the thought that soon the elect number called from the world to be "the Bride, the Lamb's Wife," will be completed and enter into her glory! How precious the thought that then they shall be privileged with their Lord and Master to extend the Divine favor of blessing and uplift to the world! What higher honor or privilege or blessing could possibly come to any one?
THE ANGELS' SONG
It was after the giving of the Message of good tidings of great joy by the Heavenly one that a host of angels appeared to the shepherds, saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will to men." This, too, is a prophecy. It is not yet true, but will be fulfilled in every particular in God's due time, which we believe is now nigh, even at the door. Not yet does God receive glory in the highest. Not yet is there peace amongst men. Quite to the contrary. God's name is blasphemed, not only by those who vulgarly and in ribald jest take the Divine name in vain, not merely by the heathen who worship devils and think that these are gods, but even by Christian people. Every day God's name is blasphemed by those who profess to be His people, who profess to uphold the Holy Name.
For be it known that blasphemy is any dishonorable misrepresentation of another. God be merciful to us! for at some time or other doubtless every one of us has blasphemed His holy name in this manner--by misrepresenting the Divine character and the Divine Plan, by picturing the God of Love, of Mercy, of Justice and of Truth as the originator, the planner, the perpetrator of the eternal torment of the great mass of His human creatures, born in sin, misshapen in iniquity, prone to sin as the sparks to fly upward!
But the Lord had mercy upon us because we did it ignorantly. Therefore we should have compassion upon others who still ignorantly misrepresent our God; and our energies should be continually bent to their assistance, that the eyes of their understanding might open more widely to perceive the lengths and breadths and heights and depths, and to know the love of God, which passeth understanding.
Noting that peace on earth and good will to men have not followed the Savior's birth thus far, and not discerning that this is a prophecy of what is to be accomplished during the Millennium, many have been inclined to change the translation of this verse so as to have it read, "On earth peace amongst men in whom He is well pleased." However, by this change the statement would not be true; for even the Lord's people have no peace upon earth. Whatever peace they have is in their hearts, and is based upon their faith in God and in the glorious things which He has promised. Our Lord Himself and the Apostles testified to this, assuring us that whosoever in this present time would live godly should suffer persecution, and that a man's foes should be they of his own household.--`2 Timothy 3:12`; `Matthew 10:36`.
Let us not confuse ourselves nor abridge the testimony of the Word, but with the eye of faith look forward to the Day of Christ, in which all these glorious
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prophecies will have their fulfilment, in which peace shall indeed fill the whole earth with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, bringing Divine favor and rolling away the curse from the entire groaning creation, as pointed out by the Apostle.--`Romans 8:22`.
FULFILLED IN GOD'S DUE TIME
Not even with the inauguration of the Millennium will this prophecy be fulfilled. Not until its close, when the human family shall have been lifted by the Kingdom regulations out of sin, sickness, pain, sorrow and death, up, up to all that was lost in Adam--not until then will there indeed be glory to God in the highest, not until then will there be peace amongst men. Nor are we to understand that the entire race will be appreciative of the Divine love and favor even after they have fully seen the righteousness of God in Christ manifested. On the contrary, the Scriptures seem to teach clearly that there will be a class who will then prove unfit for life eternal, unappreciative of the Divine favor. And it is with satisfaction that we learn that all such shall be destroyed from amongst the people in the Second Death.
Thus eventually, by the close of the Millennium, Satan and all wilful wrongdoers having been destroyed, the time will come, as declared in the Scriptures, when all voices in Heaven and in earth and under the earth shall be heard praising God and the Lamb forever. Hosanna! Glory to God in the highest! Peace and good will to men! This will be the final shout of a redeemed race when the great Plan of Salvation shall have been fully outworked according to the Divine Purpose from the beginning, as set forth in the Scriptures.
FROM GLORY TO A MANGER
The time of our Lord's birth is quite clearly fixed. In STUDIES IN THE SCRIPTURES, Vol. II., we have gone into the subject in detail, and will not here repeat our deductions. The notable census made by order of Caesar Augustus included the civilized world of that day; and according to Jewish custom each family and tribe had their names enrolled therein.
Both Joseph and Mary, being of the Davidic line, went to the City of David--Bethlehem--to be enrolled. The city is a small one, located on a hillside. The inns or hotels of that land are very different from ours. They are neither hotels nor drinking saloons, but are entered from a court-yard. Various large, unfurnished rooms are at the service of the traveler, who carries with him his wraps, in which he sleeps, and also his food and utensils for such light housekeeping as he may choose to do. Stalls for horses, camels, etc., are provided on the ground floor; and in the event of a crowd, as on such an occasion, it is no uncommon thing for people, finding the upper rooms crowded full, to make themselves nearly as comfortable in the stabling department.
Thus it came that our Savior was ushered in a most humble manner into the world which, as the Logos, He had made. (`John 1:10`.) It was there in the stable of the overcrowded inn that the shepherds found the babe, as predicted by the angels, and went forth proclaiming the fact. Mary made no boasts, however, but waited for God's due time.
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GOD'S MERCY TO ISRAEL AND TO OTHERS
--DECEMBER 26.--QUARTERLY REVIEW.--
ISRAEL A FAVORED NATION--GOD'S MERCY IN THE LAW COVENANT--SPIRITUAL ISRAEL A NEW NATION--THE ROYAL PRIESTHOOD--OTHER NATIONS UNRECOGNIZED BY GOD--HOW
DIVINE MERCY WILL EVENTUALLY REACH ALL PEOPLE.
"Jehovah is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness."--`Psalm 103:8`.--R.V.
ONE difficulty with us as Bible students has been that in the past we took too narrow a view of the Divine character and of the Bible. For more than twelve centuries the Bible was not studied. Instead, certain Bishops, thinking themselves to be Apostles of equal authority with The Twelve whom our Lord Jesus appointed (St. Paul taking the place of Judas), thought that they had full right, as Apostles, to make up a substitute for the Bible. These substitutes were styled creeds --Confessions of Faith. These were studied, and the Bible was neglected.
Under these circumstances it is not surprising that God's people got far away from the true teaching of His Word. Even when the Bible began to come back to the people in Reformation times, their poor heads were so badly clogged and confused with the false doctrines of twelve centuries of human theorizing that they were not prepared to see the Bible in its own light, but rather in the light of these creeds. Besides, they had been long taught that to doubt the creeds would constitute them heretics, and that the punishment for heresy is eternal torment. Hence the endeavor to keep in line with the creeds in all subsequent Bible study.
Now Bible students see that this was all a mistake-- that the Bible should have been studied in its own light. They see that the creeds are full of confusing errors, which really make the Word of God of none effect where they are recognized. Now our Bible studies are different, because of our clearer knowledge of these matters, as well as because we are living in the dawning of the New Age--at the time when God promised that His people should understand His Word--"The wise shall understand." --`Daniel 12:10`.
GOD'S DEALINGS WITH ISRAEL
Our Text was addressed, primarily, to the nation of Israel. On account of disobedience, God cut off Father Adam, Mother Eve and all their children from special fellowship with Him, sentencing them to death--as not worthy of everlasting life--"Dying, thou shalt die." (`Genesis 2:17`, margin.) But even this sentence God did not hasten. The sinners might live as they could.
God's Mercy was manifested toward the posterity of Abraham--Isaac, Jacob, and then all of Jacob's children. God made the twelve tribes into one nation, cementing them together by His promises to them in connection with the Law Covenant instituted by Moses at Mount Sinai. If they would keep God's Law, they would live forever-- not die at all. Moreover, they were to be blessed in all of their affairs--their health, their flocks, their herds, their cattle. Everything would be blessed.
But they could not keep this Law Covenant, because of having been born in sin, like the remainder of the race. Nevertheless God purposed that through endeavoring to keep the Law that nation should be greatly blessed. And it was so. True, He chastened them for their wrongdoings and shortcomings, but always with loving interest and care, never wholly casting them off. Their national distresses and captivities were in the nature of chastisements,
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with a view to teaching them necessary lessons.
Thus God's favor continued with that one nation--and with no other nation--from the death of Jacob down to the death of Jesus, a period of 1845 years. Even then, in casting off the nation when they rejected Jesus and crucified Him, the Lord made provision for all of the Jews who were spiritually inclined, that they might not only be retained in His favor, but might come into still greater favor at Pentecost and onward, being there begotten of the Holy Spirit--no longer to be a House of Servants, under Moses, but the House of Sons, under Jesus. (`Hebrews 3:5,6`.) Even when rejecting the nation, God intimated clearly that the time would come when His favor would return to them--after the establishment of Messiah's Kingdom--`Amos 9:11,12`; `Acts 15:13-17`.
GOD'S NEW NATION
Meantime, the saintly Jews who were "Israelites indeed" became the nucleus, or start, of Spiritual Israel. Of this Spiritual Israel St. Peter says, "Ye are a Royal Priesthood, a holy nation, a people for a peculiar purpose--that ye might show forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light."
We see, then, that the Church is God's New Creation, the new nation with which He has been dealing exclusively during the Gospel Age. He is dealing with these with a view to their education and development, that they may be associated with our Lord Jesus in His great Millennial Kingdom. Then for a thousand years He and His saintly company, gathered from every nation under heaven, will bless Natural Israel and all the nations of the world with light, with knowledge, with assistance and uplifting, for the purpose of delivering them from the bondage of sin and death, back to the likeness of God, lost by Adam and redeemed on Calvary.
It is because of this special work that God has for the Church that He has made her trials fiery ones, declaring, "Through much tribulation ye must enter into the Kingdom of God." (`Acts 14:22`.) This class of fully consecrated ones, regardless of sectarian lines, have all been begotten of the Holy Spirit. None others are recognized of God. This Church have their names written in the Lamb's Book of Life--in Heaven--and are in the present life demonstrating their faithfulness, their loyalty to God. When the foreordained number shall have taken the step
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and shall have demonstrated their loyalty even unto death, then this holy nation will be complete.
It is the Spiritual Seed of Abraham to whom belong the great promises of God. Of this class St. Paul says, "If ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's Seed, and heirs according to the Promise." (`Galatians 3:8,16,29`.) The Promise was made to Abraham, and declares, "In thy Seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed." (`Genesis 22:18`.) We have St. Paul's word for it that Christ and His Church are this Spiritual Seed, whose mission it will be, in God's due time, to bless all mankind --"all the families of the earth"--not only those who are alive and remaining at the time of the establishment of the Kingdom, but all who have ever lived. God's mercy referred to in our Text is especially toward this Spiritual Israel--even more so than toward Natural Israel.
THE BREADTH OF DIVINE MERCY
Now we come to the grand climax of God's mercy and grace. The Jewish nation was small. The Church, the Spiritual Israel, is small. But God's grace and mercy are to extend to the whole world of mankind--every creature for whom Christ died. The time for dealing with the world and giving them their opportunity of sharing in God's grace and mercy has already been appointed by the Father. It will be during the Millennium--the thousand years of Christ's Reign. He will be the great spiritual King of the earth; and His Church will be associated with Him as His joint-heirs and assistant rulers, teachers, healers, uplifters, rewarders and punishers of mankind during the Millennium. All this service of the world will be with a view to bestowing upon them, if they will, the grace of God, the mercy of God, which He purposed from the beginning, and which is to be brought to mankind through Messiah's Kingdom of Glory.
For a thousand years the rising Sun of Righteousness will bless the world, flooding the earth with the light of the knowledge of God. For the same thousand years Satan shall be bound, that he may deceive the people no more. For the same thousand years the work of blessing and restitution will progress--Times (or years) of Restitution the entire Millennium will be. Every creature will have his eyes of understanding opened to see, to know and to understand the Love of God, His tender Mercy and His Wisdom, all centered in and manifested through our Lord Jesus Christ. God's Mercy will be exercised toward the world with a view to its release from the bondage of sin and death to the full liberty of the sons of God--the same that Adam enjoyed before he sinned.-- `Romans 8:19-23`.
Thus we see "a wideness in God's Mercy, like the wideness of the sea." Thus we see that His grace, while limited first to one earthly nation, then later to an elect company from all nations, is finally to be extended to every human being the world around, bringing all to the fullest privileges and opportunities of knowledge, love, obedience and blessing.
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THE LABOR OF LOVE TO BE REWARDED
"God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love which ye have showed toward His name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister."--`Hebrews 6:10`.
DISCOURAGEMENT is a hindrance to growth in grace; St. Paul was seeking to encourage his readers. The context implies that they had experienced some setback, some discouragement. He intimates that while they had begun well, their zeal had cooled to some extent. In this chapter and on to the tenth inclusive, he points out the danger of falling back and away after we have become Christians. And to those who are likely to become discouraged he gives the exhortation of our text, "God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love." We might inquire, What great work, or labor of love, could they do that would constitute it unrighteous for God to forget to reward it? Are not good works the proper course for all mankind? How would it be unrighteous for God to forget these good works?
The answer of Scripture would seem to be that the world cannot do any good works that God could acknowledge-- "There is none righteous, no, not one." But "God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love," writes the Apostle. What does he mean? We reply, He is addressing Christians, those who have become God's children by entering into a covenant with Him. They were children of wrath, even as others; and still, according to the flesh, they are imperfect. But God is not dealing
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with these according to the flesh. He has received them into His family under a special arrangement, a Covenant of Sacrifice. In that Covenant He agreed that through Christ He would make allowance for their weaknesses, and deal with them according to the intentions of their hearts and minds, according as they would seek to please Him as His children. God has thus bound Himself of His own free will by entering into a Covenant with His people. He is bound to them, on the one side, and they are bound to Him, on the other side. Neither can escape the conditions of that Covenant.
DANGER OF LOSING THE REWARD
These Covenanters were members of Adam's fallen race, condemned to death. Ah, yes! but this is the race for whom Christ died, and who will be recovered from death and from the condemnation of sin that came through Adam's disobedience. And this merit of Christ's death was applied first for a choice class who during the Gospel Age should long after God and gladly accept His arrangement through Christ. This being so, when these heard of Christ as the Redeemer, they believed on Him, they sacrificed their earthly hopes, aims, ambitions--all--in order that they might enter into this Covenant with the Lord. The thought which inspired them to take this step was the hope that they might attain to the spiritual inheritance, to be joint-inheritors with Christ in the Kingdom to be set up on the earth. This was something to which God had opened up the way, through His provision in Christ. They gave up the earthly things for the grander, the Heavenly. They voluntarily sacrificed all earthly rights and interests. They bound themselves irrevocably to the Lord.
Now if they should make a failure in this matter, they would lose absolutely everything. The Apostle is pointing out this fact. They have acknowledged God's arrangement, and there is a great reward coming to them under their Covenant with Him. Do not, he urges, forfeit this reward by turning away from the Lord and becoming cold or lukewarm, which condition might lead on to entire rejection of God. Rather go on, and be of good courage; and the Lord, Jehovah Himself, shall strengthen your hearts; wait expectantly on Him.
In the `10th Chapter`, the Apostle tells them of how some of them had in the past endured a great fight of afflictions, and of how others had suffered with those in affliction in that they had been sympathizers and companions of those who had been so persecuted. All this was endured for the Lord's sake, for love of the brethren, and in harmony with God's arrangement. Therefore they should have confidence in God, that He loved them and appreciated all they had borne for Him. The Apostle exhorts them again not to turn back, not to be discouraged, but to be encouraged; and again he assures them of his confidence that they would persevere to the end.
THE BLESSEDNESS OF MINISTERING TO THE SAINTS
St. Paul declares that their labors of love were shown toward God's name. This honor toward God's name consisted in their ministering to the saints. This was a proof of their love for the Lord. This ministry, too, had been kept up. The saints represent God in the world. Whatever is done for the saints is, therefore, done for God. There is a distinction to be noted in the Bible as respects those who are in covenant relationship with God and those who are not in covenant relationship with Him. We have certain duties toward the world. We have responsibilities toward them. The Golden Rule is to operate always and toward all men. But we have not the same obligation toward the world that we have toward the saints. Whoever honors the saints and serves them, honors and serves God. This seems to be the Apostle's thought in the matter.
We are not to understand that the Lord would be displeased that we should do good to all men. Rather the Apostle urges, "Let us do good unto all men as we have opportunity." Be generous, be kind to everybody, but especially to the saints. (`Galatians 6:10`.) This is what is particularly pleasing to God. Every service lovingly and gladly rendered to the saints is rendered unto His glory. This is true in a very special sense; for there are people in the world who might be naturally more admirable in character, and it might be more pleasing to serve them than to serve many of the saints, who might be ruder, cruder, in some respects. But in the service to the saints there is a special blessing from the Lord. We are to have this in mind when meeting and fellowshiping with those who have become children of God, and when we have opportunities to assist or comfort them. They must have our love, our cooperation, our sympathy, our aid. There may be more or less option in respect to others, but not in respect to our brethren in Christ.
This same principle, to some extent, holds good amongst worldly people. For instance, an Odd Fellow would show favors toward an Odd Fellow, whether rich or poor, learned or unlearned, that he would not show to
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others. And the same with Masons. A Mason would show favor to a Mason the world over, whether he be rich or poor, black or white. If these are the human standards, much more so should it be thus with those who have become children of the Lord. The fact that they are disciples of Christ makes it incumbent on whoever is a follower of the same Master to do a brother's or a sister's part. "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these, ye have done it unto Me." This does not apply now to the world, but it does apply to the Church, the Lord's faithful followers.
PERSEVERANCE IN THIS MINISTRY
The Apostle says, "In that ye have ministered unto the saints, and do minister." This signifies that they were still in this proper attitude. Although somewhat discouraged in the good way, they were still helpful to one another. Another thought--it was not merely the amount of good works that they did that counted; for many good works are done by many people which would not in any sense be recognized by God or be bound to be rewarded. The works of the world are works of sinners. The world are not in covenant relationship with God. If any one does a good work, he by an unwritten law gets more or less blessing out of it. Whoever does a good work with a worthy motive will receive some reward, some blessing. It will ennoble his character and help to fit him for the blessings of the next Age, when all the world will be on trial for life before the Judgment Seat of God. The nobler the character in that Day, the fewer corrective stripes will be necessary. But in order to get the present blessing of the Lord, His special blessing, he must be in covenant relationship with Him.
The work now being done by those in such relationship with God will be worthy of His notice and reward. In the `13th Chapter of 1st Corinthians`, the Apostle points out that, with the Body of Christ good works alone are not sufficient to indicate God's favor. He declared that if he should give his body to be burned, and should give all his goods to feed the poor, there would be no real merit in it unless it was done from the motive of love. "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, I am become as sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal," was his further declaration. One might
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do these good works to have the honor of men. If they were done for any such reason, God would not consider them good works to be rewarded. The works that God recognizes as good works and worthy of His approval and reward are those done by His faithful people, who are justified and sanctified, and who serve from love to Him, to His people and to His cause.
And so St. Paul says here to these, "God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love." This is important to have in mind. It is important for us to see to it that our motives are those of love toward the Lord and His Cause and His brethren. Such good works, if persevered in according to our ability and opportunity, will not fail of a blessed reward.
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SOME INTERESTING LETTERS
HARVEST WORKERS SUCCESSFUL
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL:--
We want to thank you very much for fixing the price of the cloth-bound SCENARIO at 68c. It is really wonderful what a difference the increased price makes in our sales. It was very hard to sell them for 50c, but the people bite quite readily at 68c. How they love a bargain, even if it does cost them 18c more to secure it! The very fish that would probably be scared at the mere sight of a hook baited with a half dollar, now gather around waiting their turn to bite at the 68c morsel. We want to please the people. We are convinced that Mr. Barnum was right when he said "The public should be pleased." So if it pleases them to pay 18c more, we are glad to work in harmony with their wishes! Yesterday we tried the SCENARIOS exclusively in the afternoon for about 3-1/4 hours, and sold 21 copies--7 for cash (we fill our pockets with them), and 14 for later delivery. It is very easy to sell them; and the Colporteurs and friends should be able to put them out in enormous quantities, especially with the whole world open territory. It seems as if all the Colporteurs could handle them as a side-line, at least.
Have just received reports from several others who are trying the SCENARIOS at the increased price. One brother who was having a hard struggle to make ends meet for himself and wife and child (at 50c) is now averaging 14 per day, and is catching up fine. Another reports 20 to 25 copies in a morning's work. This is the average of a married sister, working in territory where work is booming--war materials. Another reports 100 orders in four days.
Apart from the fact that the increased price is enabling some to make out so well financially, we might mention that we are seeing some results from the SCENARIOS. One sister immersed during our recent Convention had her interest aroused chiefly through reading a SCENARIO some months ago. Yesterday we found a lady who said her husband was very much interested in the three books they got from us three years ago, and she ordered the last three as well as the SCENARIO. A man told us his wife had three books she was enjoying very much. But we must not tire you. Evidently there is work for all in the Harvest field yet.
We continue to have many opportunities for service here in connection with the local and neighboring classes, and appreciate our privileges in this connection. But we always feel that the Colporteur work is our work, and that the holding of meetings is incidental. Still, the latter sometimes help to get out the books. It is our delight to have the books up on the stand, and tell the people where we get all these things which so refresh and cheer our hearts even in the midst of the present troublous conditions. Have put out quite a few in this way, and in some instances, we trust, into the hands of those who have appreciated them.
In joyful service, J. & L. HUTCHINSON.
TWO GOOD TRUTH TESTIMONIES
MOST DEARLY BELOVED BROTHER IN THE ANOINTED:--
I am constrained to inform you that in God's hand you have been the means of blessing me and my late beloved wife. I have been intending to write you several times to let you know that the Lord has led me step by step, and also of the love and blessings He has bestowed upon me.
I was brought up in the doctrine of Swedenborgianism and was not satisfied with the life I was leading. Having no time for the creeds, I kept away from them and was at a loss to know what to do. Asking the Lord for guidance in the matter, I started to read my Bible as an ordinary book although believing that no man could understand the same on this side of the Veil.
In the Lord's providence, I saw an advertisement announcing an address by Brother R. R. Hollister--"Where Are the Dead?"--which I went to hear, but did not understand much about it. When he mentioned the STUDIES IN THE SCRIPTURES as being "Keys" to the Bible, I straightway ordered the six volumes; and when I had read the first of these, did not my heart burn? Yes it did, and with great joy. So happy was I that I ordered several copies of Volume I., to let all my friends have one, and told them of the blessings and joy received. But they told me that I had gone mad and that I had an evil spirit about me. I did not then believe in such a being as Satan; so this troubled me a great deal, and I really thought I was going mad. Every one turned against me; but still asking the Lord to help me, I fully made up my mind to read all the STUDIES through. When I had about finished the fifth volume, my dear wife, seeing the change it had made in me and in all my affairs of life, got inquisitive and also desired to read the volumes. The reading had the same effect upon her as it had had upon me, and we both grew in grace and in knowledge, and our home soon became a new home.
We desired to consecrate ourselves to the Lord, and were both immersed and took the Vow, etc. I feel sure such testimony will gladden your dear heart.
About a year later my dear wife became ill, and was ordered to undergo an operation, from the effects of which she never recovered. All through her illness the dear Lord gave her all the necessary grace as promised, and so wonderfully did she keep up that it was a big blessing to me and to all of our friends. On Sunday, July 4th, she realized that the Lord had decided to call her Home. Yes; she said that the Lord had done most of His healing on the Sabbath day, and that being "Testimony Sunday," she said: "This is my testimony to the Lord, 'All the way my Savior leads me.'"-- Hymn 12. After singing this hymn through, she said: "I am dying, and oh, I feel so happy; oh, it is so glorious to die! Oh, I feel so happy! 'Perfect peace to me is promised in my Father's House above!'" Then she called each one of us by name and said, "Give me the last kiss. Good bye!" and passed beyond the Veil.
To witness such a death as this, dear Brother, has so increased my faith that it is almost impossible to express my love and feeling to my Heavenly Father for the strength He gave me. My praise went up to the Lord then and ever since, thanking Him from the bottom of my heart for the light and grace He gave me at such a time.
My wife's relations, and even the nurse in attendance, not seeing as I do, could not understand it. It was such a blessing to them all; and I had so many inquiries as to what faith I believed in, and was asked for copies of "that beautiful hymn" she sang at her death.
Your brother in Christ,
FRANK O'C. FITZGERALD.--West Australia.
WOULD REVOLUTIONIZE THE WORLD--IF
We had a grand meeting here on the occasion of Brother Russell's recent visit, and are so thankful for having had the privilege of hearing our dear Pastor again.
The newspapers announced, after Brother Russell was here, that Dr. J. Wilbur Chapman, the great Evangelist, would tell his audience, at his Monday evening meeting, some things about Pastor Russell.
There were about 5,000 present to hear what Dr. Chapman had to say. This was in substance as follows:
"I wish that every minister in Atlanta had as much zeal as Pastor Russell. I wish that every minister was as untiring in his efforts as Pastor Russell. I wish that every member was as loyal to his church as the followers of Pastor Russell are to the teachings he proclaims. If all the ministers were as zealous as Pastor Russell, and if all the church members were as liberal in the support of the church as Pastor Russell's followers are of the support of his teachings, we would revolutionize the world within a year's time."
Thus we can see from the above remarks that even our enemies are taking note of the wonderful work that is being accomplished.
Yours in fellowship and service, W. E. HOPKINS.--Ga.
INTERNATIONAL BIBLE STUDENTS ASSOCIATION CLASSES
STUDIES AND LECTURES BY MEMBERS OF THE PEOPLES PULPIT ASSOCIATION
INDEX TO "WATCH TOWER"
VOLUME XXXVI., 1915