ZWT - 1898 - R2238 thru R2410 / R2282 (097) - April 1, 1898
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VOL. XIX. APRIL 1, 1898. No. 7.
Our New Prophetic Chart........................... 98
Views from the Watch Tower........................ 99
Poem: O'ertake Us on Our Journey,
The Memorial Supper...............................101
Is There Hope for Judas?..........................101
"By Grace are Ye Saved"...........................102
Once in Grace, Always in Grace....................107
"If We Suffer with Him We Shall
Also Reign with Him"........................109
"We Beheld His Glory in the Holy
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OUR NEW PROPHETIC CHART.
WE STILL procure and supply ($1.50 including expressage) the handsome, 5 ft. long Chart of the Ages, similar to the one in the front of MILLENNIAL DAWN, VOL. I., for parlor and hall meetings. But now we have something entirely new which every WATCH TOWER reader will want for personal and family use.
It is 34 inches long, on extra heavy coated paper, with metal mountings top and bottom and hangers. It gives the outlines of the ages and dispensations, and underneath the same, and to a scale, it shows the various lines of prophecy presented in MILLENNIAL DAWN volumes, also an illustration of the "days of creation" as set forth in the WATCH TOWER some years ago, and promised again in some future volume of the DAWN series.
The chart is too complex to be described briefly. Suffice it to say, If you are deeply interested in present truth, as presented in the TOWER and DAWN, you will surely want one of these charts for your sitting room or study wall. We have made the price 25 cents each, including postage, which will bring it within the reach of almost all. But that the poorest may enjoy it and be helped by it, we will send it free to all such on our list who drop us a postal card stating the fact and requesting the chart free, during the month of April, 1898.
For the suggestion of such a chart, no less than for the drawing of this one, we all are indebted to our dear Brother U. G. Lee, whose service was rendered free to the Lord and his people. Wherever possible, let several unite in one order, to one address, as thus the risk of damage will be decreased.
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VIEWS FROM THE WATCH TOWER.
THE chief concerns of the world are food, clothing, shelter, money and the preparation of munitions of war;--among the Christian (?) nations. Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears: turn your factories from the manufacture of the implements of peace to the preparation of war materials is the order of the day.
Great Britain vs. France and Russia, as well as Spain vs. the United States, are straining every nerve to be prepared for war, should it come;--the former over China and her trade, the latter over Cuba and her liberty. We have many reasons for hoping that a conflict will be averted in both cases. Should war come, however, in either case our sympathies would, we are glad to say, justly be with the English speaking nations. For altho England's policy in China has not been one of disinterested benevolence, there can be no question that it has been and is and will continue to be more liberal toward the Chinese than would be the yokes of other Christian (?) nations of Europe.
An armed intervention by the United States to secure the liberty of Cuba from the despotism and cruelty of the most bitter and cruel nation in Christendom would be, as nearly as can be imagined, a war on lines of disinterested benevolence. We believe that it is neither the desire of the government nor of the people of the United States to annex Cuba, while its population in all respects is as dissimilar to our own as is that of Mexico: hence whatever may be done for Cuba must be accredited either to pride or to benevolence--as with the food supplies already sent and still being forwarded by government and people to relieve victims of barbarity.
We incline to think that the President's policy will result in securing for Cuba, without war, a liberty similar to that enjoyed by Canada, and if so he will deserve the congratulations of all civilized peoples. However, should war come--either of the above suggested --it would have no special prophetic significance so far as we can see. It would mean loss of life, increase of debts: and by increased business prosperity for a few years it would really put off the great catastrophe which will overthrow all governments in anarchy.
Not long since we, in common with other journals, called attention to the inconsistency of the New York millionaire, Trustee of the First Presbyterian church, H.M. Taber, whose Will showed him to have long been an infidel. The son of the deceased has since corrected some misapprehensions which we gladly record. He declares that his father "cherished a peculiarly bitter abhorrence of religious hypocrisy," and points out that he never was a member of the church, and that he had severed his relationship of Trustee ten years before he died: his acceptance of that office originally was to gratify a dear member of his family who was a member of that Church.
* * *
In Rules for Daily Life given in last issue (which, by the way, we learn have been helpful to the friends in various localities) we neglected a very important item. It is one which is generally recognized by earthly courts and judges, but, alas, too frequently forgotten in the family and in the Church. It is this: No one is to be esteemed guilty because guilt is charged; but only after it has been PROVEN.
The charged person is not to be esteemed guilty until he or she has proved the charge untrue: he is to be esteemed and treated as absolutely guiltless until the accuser has taken the Scriptural steps outlined in
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Rule V., and has manifested or proved the guilt. If this course were followed strictly it would quickly put an end to slandering and back-biting. For if the Church slanderer found that his charges were not believed, he would abstain or else follow the Scriptural rule.
Because the fact is not generally known, we remark that any injurious or derogatory report is a slander. Webster defines "Slanderer, One who injures another by maliciously reporting something to his prejudice; a defamer; a calumniator." No one under the control of the holy spirit will engage in such "devil's business;" and each should be careful not to encourage others in such "works of the flesh and of the devil."
In referring to conscience as an unsafe guide (Rule XI), we merely meant that because of "the fall" all of our consciences need the constant guidance and control of the Lord's Word, or they will mislead us. We have no other guide than conscience or judgment; hence, the necessity of having it divinely directed. It is not enough to say, "My conscience does not reprove me."
CHURCH REVENUES DECREASE.
Commenting on the resignation of Dr. John Hall from the pastorate of one of the most prominent Presbyterian churches in the world--the resignation having been subsequently recalled--an Exchange says:--
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"Surprising as his resignation, since withdrawn, was to the public and the Presbyterian church, this reason will be even more surprising. From a surplus, large enough in successive years to build a $100,000 manse, the church has run behind, and pews once rented at $3,000, are let with difficulty. Where 10 years ago the church was giving $44,000 yearly to home missions, it is now giving $12,000, and its contribution to foreign missions has sunk from $28,000 to $9,000. As is always the case, this reduction has affected all receipts. Any church which stops giving to missions before long will stop adequately supporting its own gospel services."
The Editor proceeds to say that a similar falling off is noted in the receipts of all Presbyterian churches.
We render acknowledgment to God that the voluntary contributions to the spread of present truth have been increasing yearly, during this same period, as shown by the reports of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society;--and that notwithstanding the friends of "harvest truth" are nearly all poor--"not many rich," mighty or great among them. But where the heart has been touched and the flame of love to God and man has been enkindled, there is a burning desire to be, to do and to give to the glory of him who called us "out of darkness into his marvelous light."
"THE MODERN STEPHEN."
This is the title of a sketch in the Ram's Horn for January 29th. It represents a faithful minister of the gospel under persecution. He is shown fallen in the street, a Bible on his arm: around him lie stones labeled Hate. Around him are pictured his assailants throwing more stones: a saloon keeper hurls a stone labeled Revenge; a society man with kid gloves hurls a stone labeled Persecution; a finely dressed man resembling a banker hurls a stone labeled Malice; an elegantly dressed woman (possibly his wife?) hurls a stone marked Scandal; while a College Professor with a large head (resembling that of a certain Xenia, Ohio, Professor) is throwing stones marked Ridicule.
The cartoon is a good one, and very forcibly illustrates the changed methods of Satan and his employees for the accomplishment of the same ends as formerly. Thus are the prophets prohibited, "killed" and "beheaded" who do not shun to declare the truth, the whole counsel of God, today.--Compare `Rev. 13:15,17`; `20:4`; `6:11`; `Luke 21:17`; `2 Tim. 3:12`.
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O'ERTAKE US ON OUR JOURNEY, LORD!
When to Emmaus the disciples walked,
Downcast, their hopes to sorrow turned,
A courtly stranger came and with them talked
Whose hearts for consolation yearned.
"Why walk ye thus, with sad, dejected mien,
When brightly shines the King of Day?
The woods are decked; for, as a radiant queen,
Spring comes triumphant on her way."
"O stranger, not by us the fields are seen;
We study sorrow's pages o'er.
The day is night, and crushed our hearts have been,
Since Calv'ry's cross our Master bore.
"Jesus of Nazareth his humble name,
But rightful heir of David's throne.
We trusted for redemption; but in shame
We must our cause defeated own."
"Defeated? Say not so who hope in God.
Weep not! Jehovah's oath and seal
Attest Messiah's righteous scepter-rod
Shall Israel bless, all nations heal.
"But ought he not have suffered all these things,
And enter into glory, first
To make conciliation? King of kings
Indeed, but for our sakes accursed."
Unlocking then the mysteries of the Word,
The light the prophecies concealed,
His eloquence their languished faith bestirred,
And lo! the Master was revealed.
* * *
O kindly stranger! On our toilsome way
O'ertake us, thou who went'st before!
On thy deep footprints focus ev'ry ray
Of light that "shineth more and more."
Forsake us not, when faith and hope are weak,
But walk with us the journey through;
Full fill us with thy spirit, holy, meek,
All bonds of earth and sin undo.
Reveal thyself! With tender touch anoint
Our dimmed eyes. Revive our faith
With visions of the crown thou dost appoint
To those who bear the cross till death--
That, though at first we may discern thee not,
We shall behold thee when we rest
At twilight--all our griefs and cares forgot,
Rejoiced in thee, and by thee blest.
--R. B. HENNINGES.
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THE MEMORIAL SUPPER.
SOME friends of the truth in Georgia write that they have not celebrated the Memorial Supper since coming out of Babylon, and give as their reason: "We feel that our minds are consecrated, but our flesh is not, nor can be under surrounding circumstances. We are poor and have large families dependent and cannot deny them. Therefore we have abstained from this much desired blessing."
If we understand the brethren aright, they are laboring under some misapprehension. If we should wait until our flesh is perfect, none of us could partake of the Memorial Supper, for the Church of this age is not to expect perfection of the flesh; our perfection, if we are faithful, will be as spirit beings in the First Resurrection. Now we have the treasure of the new nature, the new mind or will, in earthen vessels,--all of them more or less marred, blemished by sin. But
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here we have benefit under the New Covenant, by the terms of which God has agreed to accept our perfect wills (backed by our best endeavors) AS OUR ABSOLUTE PERFECTION. All such can say with the Apostle, "The righteousness of the Law is fulfilled in us"--we "walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit," and as close to it as possible.
Consecration does not imply the neglect nor the forsaking of our families;--unless in God's providence his adversaries and ours should be permitted to kill us, or captivate and imprison us, and thus forcibly hinder our care, or separate us;--as was frequently the case during the dark ages. Otherwise God instructs us that reasonable care for our families is his will, and properly our duty.
Full consecration to the Lord means a full surrender of our wills to God's will and of our bodies to our new wills. It means, consequently, the putting away of sin, to the best of our ability under the direction of the Lord's Word, and a cultivation daily and hourly of the holy spirit with its fruits and flowers of meekness, gentleness, purity, kindness,--Love.
So then, dear Brethren, by faith realize that the Lamb of God was slain for our sins, and that the merit of his sacrifice covers and reckonedly cleanses us from sin in God's esteem: and so believing, and with hearts, wills, fully given up to the Lord, come to his table and partake of his emblems with mingled meekness and courage.
* * *
We have various questions respecting the fourteenth of Nisan, all of which arise from a failure to recognize that the "Passover," as understood by the Jews, refers to the Feast of Passover, and has no reference to the killing of the lamb on the 14th,--which is the thing we celebrate. With the Jew, the 14th was merely a day of preparation for Passover, and the eating of the lamb, and especially its killing, was only a part of that preparation. The Law provided that the lamb should be killed on the 14th of Nisan at even--or literally, between evenings. It was therefore within the scope of that requirement, if the lamb were killed and eaten on the 14th at any time after 6 P.M. of the 13th.
Let none of us forget to "put away all leaven"-- sin--in preparation for the eating of the Passover. Let us cleanse ourselves from all filth of the flesh and of the spirit, perfecting holiness in the reverence of the Lord." (`2 Cor. 7:1`; `1 John 1:7`.) Thus the remainder of life will be a feast of unleavened bread.
Do not make the serious mistake that leaven symbolizes merely false doctrine (`Matt. 16:6-12`); remember that it is also defined by the Apostle to signify a wicked disposition. Not merely a wickedness which would steal and lie and murder (the grosser forms of wickedness), but a form of wickedness much more likely to assail those who have even nominally accepted Christ; viz., "malice," producing hatreds, envyings, strifes, back-bitings, evil surmisings, and other works of the flesh and the devil. Let the spirit of love come into our hearts and purge us of the old leaven of malice. --See `1 Cor. 5:6-8`; `Eph. 4:31`; `Col. 3:8`; `Tit. 3:3`.
Let a man examine himself and so let him eat of that bread and drink of that cup. Each should seek to make the most of the occasion in the interest of his own spiritual welfare. Let each apply afresh the cleansing blood, and renew his consecration to be faithful to the Master until death. Remember, too, the Master's words, "Watch and pray, lest ye enter into temptation." "Brethren, pray for us!"
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IS THERE HOPE FOR JUDAS?
Wisconsin. DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL:--In reading the article on Venial and Mortal Sins in the TOWER for June 1, '96, I found a statement on page 122 which, if it is true, would seem to show that Judas' case is not a hopeless one. The statement is as follows: "On the contrary, those who have sinned wilfully and with full intent, and whose sin is mortal, do not feel penitent; but afterwards approve their sin and boast of it generally as greater light and liberty." This does not seem to be true in Judas' case. He repented of his sins, and that his repentance was sincere is shown by the fact that he restored to the Priests the money for which he had betrayed Jesus, and confessed to them that he had sinned, and in his despair went and hanged himself.--`Matt. 27:3,4,5`.
In the article on Judas' case in the TOWER for April 15, 1896, one of the reasons given for believing
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that Judas' case is a hopeless one is our Lord's statement in `Matt. 26:24`. It seems to me that Jesus could not have meant that it would have been better for Judas never to have lived, as this could not be true. For even the short span of life he did enjoy was better than no existence at all. May the meaning not be that it would have been better for Judas if he were not born yet? This seems to be the meaning in the Diaglott translation of `Matt. 26:24`. It certainly appears that Judas did not expect that the Jews would be able to capture Jesus and condemn him to death. For if that was what he expected and desired, then he would not have repented of his sin. In `John 17:12` Jesus calls Judas "the son of destruction." This would tend to prove that Judas' case is a hopeless one. But we find that Jesus applies just as strong names to the Scribes and Pharisees. He tells them they are of their father, the devil, calls them serpents and generation of vipers, and asks how they can escape the damnation of Gehenna. So it would seem that if Judas has died the second death, at least some of the Scribes and Pharisees must also have suffered it. Judas' case resembles somewhat that of the lady, described on page 41 in the booklet on Spiritism, who had permitted the evil spirits to get control of her will and lead her to wrong a dear friend, and then make her believe she had committed the unpardonable sin. She, too, would have killed herself as Judas did, if she had not been prevented. From what is stated in `John 13:2,27`, it would seem that Satan was the evil spirit who led Judas to betray his Savior.
Hoping you will kindly help me to get a correct understanding of this question, I remain,
Yours in the Redeemer, R. A. LINDBLAD.
We give the brother's argument space because it is as good as we have ever seen on that side the Judas question.
Some twenty years ago we were inclined to think that all must come to a full knowledge of all truth ere they could be liable to the Second Death; but we have come to the conclusion from the general tenor of Scripture that this is not the Lord's view and plan. On the contrary, deliberate and intelligent rejection of the first principles of the gospel seems to imply an unfitness for further favors on the ground that he that is unfaithful in that which is least, would be unfaithful also with more. Adam's knowledge of the divine plan was very slight, yet his disobedience brought full death penalty. The real grounds for sympathy with and hope for the masses is the Apostle's statement that Satan has blinded their minds,--misinterpreted the facts. All such will by and by "see out of obscurity" when Satan shall be bound--during the Millennium.
We confess little hope for the Scribes and Pharisees who, when they could find no other fault, ascribed our Lord's good works to the devil. As for Judas' tears,--were they better than those of Esau (`Heb. 12:17`)? Did his repentance lead him to a renewed and reformed life, or to self destruction?--`Heb. 6:6`.
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"BY GRACE ARE YE SAVED."
"For the grace of God that bringeth [leads to] salvation hath been manifested for all men--teaching us that renouncing ungodly desires we should live soberly, righteously and godly in this present age, waiting for the blessed hope, even the glorious manifestation of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify unto himself a peculiar people, devoted to good works."
"GRACE, 'tis a charming sound," sang the poet, nor did he exaggerate; for to all who have learned the true meaning of divine grace, that word, like the word "gospel," is a synonym for all the divine mercies which God's people may now or ever enjoy. But this word grace is little used to-day in common conversation on the every day affairs of life, and consequently remarkably few appreciate its richness, its wealth of significance, and consequently many of the statements of Scripture in which this word occurs are, to the majority of readers, deprived of their real beauty and force.
The word grace signifies favor--particularly unmerited favor. Acts of grace are thus to be clearly distinguished from acts of justice and from obligations. If this proper signification were in the minds of people when reading the Scriptures where the word grace so
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frequently occurs, it would be to all true believers a great protection against numerous of Satan's wiles and false doctrines--the general aim of which is to misrepresent the divine dealings and to pervert and subvert the divine testimonies. Every testimony to the effect that God is extending his "grace" to humanity or to the Church is a testimony to their unworthiness to justly demand those favors or blessings.
The spirit of the world in general is that of self-sufficiency and independence; following their own wisdom and lacking the instruction and wisdom from above, the worldly-wise regard themselves with complacency; they believe themselves to be quite sufficiently righteous to merit a good deal of divine blessing and reward: true, they admit also that they have imperfections, but these they expect to pay for to the full according to some law of divine retribution. Hence they are undisposed to look for or to accept pardon, forgiveness, justification through the great sacrifice for sins which God has provided. They see a law in nature according to which fire burns him who believes that it will burn and burns equally him who believes not that it will burn. And so they regard all of the laws governing
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humanity as merciless, graceless--strictly just.
The Scripture presentation of the matter does not overlook the law of retribution--that sin of any kind, the transgression of any law, will surely bring its penalty, whoever may be the sinner and whatever may be the conditions. And the propositions respecting divine grace, rightly understood, are not in conflict with this universal law of retribution: the proposition of grace is not to prevent fire from burning, but to provide a healing balm; not to prevent the wages of sin from following transgression, but to succor the repentant who desire to reform, and to help him back to divine favor and full recovery, along the lines of strictest justice; --by a willing ransom-price. And since this succor is wholly unmerited on man's part and without just obligation on God's part, it is purely of divine favor--"grace." Indeed, if it were not for sin and its retributive punishments, there would be no room for grace: it is man's necessity for grace that constitutes the divine opportunity for its exercise. Grace, however, operates in harmony with the divine laws, and not in violation of them.
Remembering that divine grace signifies God's unmerited mercy and favor, let us examine its operation in the light of Scripture:--
(1) The first movement of divine grace toward mankind was the exercise of benevolence, love and compassion toward mankind in his fallen and sinful condition. There was nothing in man to merit this compassion and sympathy; quite to the contrary: we were aliens from God and enemies of his righteous rule through wicked works,--the depravity wrought in us through sin voluntarily committed by father Adam.
(2) It was in harmony with this thought of grace on God's part, or, as we might term it, God's gracious plan, that he revealed something respecting his purpose of ransom and restitution to father Abraham;-- thus preaching first, beforehand, to him the good tidings of a coming blessing or grace, saying, "In thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blest." Abraham, and others who believed God, rejoiced in mind under the influence of this gracious promise--altho even the beginning of its fulfilment was still nearly two thousand years off.
(3) The third step of grace was in the great gift of divine love, our Lord Jesus Christ. It included the gracious arrangement made with the only begotten Son of God, on account of which he joyfully laid aside his heavenly glories and conditions and humbled himself in death as the ransom or substitute for the first Adam and thus incidentally a "ransom for all" the race of Adam.
(4) It was a fourth step of grace when God, having determined to select a Church, a "little flock," to be heirs of God and joint-heirs of Jesus Christ their Lord, in the dispensing of the divine favors or grace, promised through Abraham, began the work of selecting this Church--receiving at Pentecost the first installment, from the house of servants into the house of sons and joint-heirs. (`John 1:12,13`.) Altho tests were applied to those received into the family of sons, and altho character qualifications were imposed upon them and will be imposed upon all who will be called and accepted to this high calling, nevertheless this also was a step of grace, because there were no obligations resting upon God to confer upon us such a "high calling," such "riches of his grace in Jesus Christ our Lord."
(5) Throughout this Gospel age the same grace has been in operation doing a twofold work; (a) justifying repentant believers from the guilt of their moral obliquity, and giving them thus a standing before God in Christ's imputed righteousness;--thus making them eligible to the "high calling to divine sonship and to joint-heirship in God's Kingdom to come, and (b) then extending to them that "high calling," inviting them through the divine Word to become the "very elect." True, there are conditions imposed, and not all the many "called" will be among the few "chosen;" but nevertheless it is an inestimable privilege to be "called" and to have put within our grasp the opportunity and all the needful helps, whereby we may make our calling and election sure.
(6) The grace of God will still further be manifested when the "elect" Church shall all have been sought, found, tried, disciplined, and "made meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light;" for the blessings which will be conferred upon this glorified Church will not only be such as were not merited, such therefore as were not of obligation upon God's part, but according to the divine testimony they will be additionally great, super-abounding in grace, "exceedingly abundantly more than we know how to ask or expect;" for "eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath in reservation for those that love him."-- `1 Cor. 2:9`.
(7) Even then, God's grace will not have exhausted itself;--even after having thus honored and blessed and exalted the Church, the body of Christ, whose only merit consisted first in an honest confession of sin and an acceptance of the divine favor, and second, in their "reasonable service" in rendering their lives in obedience to him who bought them and in and through whom the divine graces were extended.
Then divine grace will begin to be fully manifested --then all shall see it, all shall know it, and all who will may share it; for then will begin the glorious
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"times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began"--the Millennial age of a thousand years; the time when the knowledge of the Lord shall graciously be caused to fill the whole earth; the time when all the sin-blinded eyes shall be opened; the time when all the prisoners of the pit (death) shall come forth, that they may be instructed in righteousness. Then, according to the grace of the divine promise, he who redeemed the world shall judge the world in righteousness, a trial, an opportunity, that whosoever will, with a knowledge of sin and its penalty, and with a knowledge of righteousness and its rewards, with a knowledge of the goodness and grace of God shining in the face of Jesus Christ our Lord, may then stand trial and be judged as to whether they will receive God's grace and its provisions of eternal life, or whether they will reject these and die the second death.
Here we behold the wonderful steps of grace. No one can intelligently believe in divine grace who holds the theory of evolution or any other theory of salvation than the Scriptural one, which recognizes man's original creation in the divine likeness, his fall into sin and death, his redemption therefrom by the death of our Redeemer, and his hope for recovery through divine grace extended now to the Church and to be extended by and by through the Church (under Christ its Head) to all the families of the earth.
Coming now to consider present manifestations of divine grace toward the Church, we note that many professed followers of the Lord fail in a very large degree to appreciate this grace which it is their privilege to enjoy. This is attributable largely to false teaching and preaching. In very much that is preached in the name of the gospel of the grace of God, the element of grace is entirely omitted, and such preaching is proportionately vain--sometimes worse than vain--in that it is delusive and subversive. For instance, how common it is for people to hear and to believe that if they "do right" they will have divine rewards at the end of life's race; but if they "do wrong" they shall have divine punishment at the end of the race. Such views ignore grace entirely, for if we are to be punished in proportion to our shortcomings and rewarded for our obedient deeds, where would be the "grace?" where would be the mercy? where would be the necessity of a Savior, a sin-offering, an atonement and a reconciliation with God? and where would be the peace through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ? None of these mercies and blessings can be rightly recognized except as the grace of God (his unmerited favor) is seen in them.
The fact is that the divine standard of righteousness is much higher than men generally understand: with God righteousness is synonymous with perfection; and hence "all unrighteousness [all imperfection, however or whenever or wherever]--is [a proof of] sin." Thus all men are proved to be sinners,--because all are imperfect, un-right. And the divine law is that the sinner, the wrongdoer, the un-right, the imperfect, shall not live. "The wages of sin is death." Whoever
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understands this can see at once that man's only hope of eternal life lies not in his own perfection, but in divine mercy, grace. To plead that we are not wholly bad, corrupt, or even that we are not so bad as some others, is to admit our imperfection, and hence to prove the hopelessness of our case except as divine grace intervenes to help us.
But, says some one, That is not a fair statement of the case. God made me as I am, imperfect; and justice requires that he shall not demand of me an impossible perfection, nor punish me for weaknesses and imperfections beyond my control.
Such reasoning implies a misunderstanding of the case. It is a mistake to assume that God made us imperfect. All "his work is perfect." (`Deut. 32:4`; `Psa. 18:30`; `Matt. 5:48`.) He neither created idiots nor other physical and mental malformations of humanity, but, as the Scriptures declare, we were "born in sin and shapen in iniquity--in sin did my mother conceive me." Our blemishes come to us from our parents, not from God. The Scriptures not only point out to us father Adam's sinless perfection, saying that he was created in the image of God, but they plainly declare that it was by his disobedience that the divine sentence of death passed upon him and passed as an inheritance, a legacy of evil, to his offspring, saying, "By one man's disobedience sin entered into the world and death as a result of sin, and so death passed upon all men, for all are sinners [imperfect]." Truly also, "The fathers have eaten a sour grape [disobedience] and the children's teeth are set on edge.--`Rom. 5:12,17-19`; `Jer. 31:29`; `Ezek. 18:2`.
The very basis of all our hopes, then, is this grace of God, operating toward us through Jesus Christ our Lord. God's grace does not subvert or set aside God's law, however, and he who would rightly appreciate and use the divine grace should recognize this fact. God's grace was not intended to frustrate the spirit of his own law: it was not intended to clear the guilty, the wilful transgressor. It acknowledges the divine law, attests its justice, and has fully met its requirements in the person and sacrifice of our Lord Jesus on behalf of Adam and all his race involved in his transgression and his penalty--death. Hence it was that "Christ died, the just for the unjust" in order "that God might be just and yet be the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus." And the only condition upon which God's grace is offered is our acknowledgment
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of our sin, weakness and imperfection, a sorrow for these and a repentance and reformation to the extent of our ability and an acceptance of Christ Jesus as the personification of divine grace. Upon no other condition can we step into this grace of God or walk in its way and inherit its rewards.
And even after we have received Christ and God's grace in him, and are no longer recognized as strangers, aliens to God, but sons, as servants of righteousness and no longer servants of sin, being imperfect, we are not free from blemishes of word, thought and deed; yet, God's grace under the New Covenant continues with us to cover our blemishes until perfected in the resurrection. Under its provisions whatever is contrary to our wills, and purely the result of hereditary weakness, may be forgiven; and our obliquity and blameworthiness be gauged only by the measure of wilfulness or assent connected with the wrongdoing. Nevertheless, to some extent, chastisements or natural penalties for violations of law may be expected: but to those under grace these will come as helps by the way, causing them more and more to detest sin, as corrections in righteousness, as chastisements and disciplines for their blessing. And even these sure penalties may be to some extent ameliorated in accordance with the wisdom of our great High priest, who, having borne all our sins in his own body on the tree, is freely empowered to abate for us so much of the penalty of our misdeeds as grace may be able to cover as un-wilful transgressions.
There is a disposition in our day, as there was a disposition in the days of the apostles, for those who have once accepted of divine forgiveness, the grace of God through Christ, to turn aside therefrom and to attempt to justify themselves by works. Even while first experiences were those of humble dependence upon divine mercy, subsequent experiences sometimes lead to the rejection of the grace that at first was so thankfully received. The Apostle wrote to some thus affected, saying, "Christ has become of none effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace." (`Gal. 5:4`.) Judged from this same standard, how many Christians to-day have backslidden --fallen from grace--lost the trust in the merit of the precious blood and in divine favor extended to us through the great atonement sacrifice. Now, as then, the disposition is to trust to works of our own righteousness, which the inspired writers tell us and which our own consciences should prove to us are imperfect, "filthy rags" unfit and unable to cover us. Yes, we need a covering before we could in any manner or degree hope to be acceptable to God, and this covering of our imperfections with the imputed righteousness of Christ, is another statement of the grace of God extended to us. This tendency to depart from a recognition of God's grace in Christ as our only hope for eternal life, and to take instead a hope of being able to walk righteously and to do justly, and thus to merit eternal life, is what the Apostle very properly calls "another gospel"--a false gospel.--`Gal. 1:6`.
This thought of the divine grace as the basis of all our mercies is interwoven with all the promises of God's Word. Thus the Apostle speaks of the gracious plan of God, and Christ as the exponent of that plan as "the grace of God and the gift by grace."-- `Rom. 5:15`.
Our approach to God in prayer is spoken of as an approach, not to the throne of justice and equity, but as an approach to "the throne of grace," where "we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in every time of need."--`Heb. 4:16`.
Again we are exhorted that our hearts be established in grace; and again told that unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of our faith; and again the Apostle declares of himself, "By the grace of God I am what I am."
According to the testimony of our text this grace is general, "for all men," and must therefore ultimately in some manner or other be extended to all men,--the dead as well as the living. The translation of our Common Version is manifestly faulty here; all men, even in this most enlightened day of the world's history, have not yet beheld God's grace in any degree, nor has it as yet brought them salvation. But since it has been provided freely for all, so ultimately it shall be extended to all, that all may avail themselves of it.
The teaching of this grace is not that we may continue in sin that grace may abound; for divine grace is intended to benefit only those who renounce sin and become servants of righteousness: and thus, as our text declares, God's grace teaches us that we should repudiate sin and live separate from every ungodly desire, in righteousness, soberness and godlikeness. Furthermore, as our text declares, this grace of God does not claim to have reached its completeness, and to have accomplished in us and for us the grand designs of the God of all grace. On the contrary, it teaches us to wait for the consummation of this grace until the glorious manifestation of the Son of God in the majesty and power of his Kingdom, to unite his Church with himself as his Bride and joint heir, the channel of mercies and blessings through which God's grace shall flow to all the groaning creation.--`Rom. 8:18-22`; `11:31`.
"RECEIVE NOT THE GRACE OF GOD IN VAIN."
"We then as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain."--`2 Cor. 6:1`.
This exhortation is addressed to such as have already recognized God's gracious character and the gift
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of his grace toward mankind,--the redemption which is in Christ Jesus. The Apostle has just been explaining this matter of how God's grace had provided a reconciliation; "that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them [but unto him who died for them]." He declares himself an ambassador on behalf of God to declare this grace and exhorts his readers not only to accept of God's grace in the forgiveness of sins through Christ, but additionally that they also should become fully reconciled or completely in harmony with the Lord, as would be represented by full consecration to him and his service, after the example of the Apostle himself.
We take it that this exhortation of our text is the equivalent of the same apostle's exhortation elsewhere, namely, "I beseech you, brethren, by the mercies of God [already brethren because already believers in Christ and partakers through him of divine grace], that ye present your bodies living sacrifices, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service." --`Rom. 12:1`.
The Apostle was here urging progress on the part of the believers, advancement from "justification by faith" to the next higher step in divine grace and privilege,--full consecration even unto death, in response to the "call" to joint-heirship with Christ in his Kingdom,--to suffer with him in the present time, and to reign with him by and by in glory. These two steps are contrasted by the same Apostle, who says of himself and others who had taken both steps, (1) "Being justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." (2) "By whom also [additionally] we have access by faith into this [further] grace wherein we stand and rejoice in hope of [sharing] the glory of God."--`Rom. 5:1,2`.
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In our text the Apostle distinctly implies the possibility that some may receive the grace of God in vain --to no purpose. We see from the connection as we have examined it, that he refers to the grace of God in justification, the forgiveness of our sins, and not to the second step of grace, our acceptance to the new nature through the begetting of the spirit. This implies, therefore, that the only object of justification by faith in this present age, is to give us a footing, a standing of acceptableness with God, from which we may be able to advance and take the second step of self-sacrifice, and become joint-heirs with Christ in his Kingdom. Nevertheless, this first step and all the privileges and blessings connected with it would be "in vain," profitless to us, if we fail to take the second step, the particular feature of the divine plan which belongs to this Gospel age.
We are not to add to the Word of God, and to say that to receive justification in vain (by not making use of it to progress to a complete consecration and newness of nature) would mean eternal torment, or even the second death: we are simply to understand it as it reads, that the intention of the grace of justification, the first step, being to qualify us for the second step, those who fail to take the second step will have no particular benefit accrue to them from the first step, which would thus have been taken in vain, profitlessly, without permanent results and advantages.
We hold that the Scriptures in general teach that only those who take the "narrow way" will gain any prize offered during this Gospel age, which is specifically the age set apart for the development of the "royal priesthood," devoted to good works--to self-sacrifices in the service of the Lord and his cause. Indeed, there is only one prize and one hope of our calling during this age--the other prize and other hope and other call will be in the age to come. We cannot therefore expect that any who take the first step of faith in Christ, and who are therefore temporarily justified because of their faith, will have a reward for a faith which did not work by love. The faith that works by love speedily goes on to full consecration and self-sacrifice, and is a sure indication of the kind the Lord is seeking for his "little flock," the "royal priesthood," the "joint-heirs." The faith, therefore, which refuses to work by love, cannot be considered an acceptable faith in God's sight. Nor can we expect that this class will be counted worthy to share in the earthly phase of the Kingdom with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets.
Why should they be rewarded? It was by God's grace that the knowledge of his grace reached them, while it passed by others. Will they be rewarded further because they have already been blessed with a knowledge of God's grace which they have rejected-- received in vain? We think not. Instead of being more worthy to receive blessings of the Lord than the ignorant world who never tasted of his grace, they are, if anything, more blameworthy, because that after having tasted of the truth they did not love it sufficiently to serve it when they found that that service implied self-sacrifice. Quite different from this was the conduct of the ancient worthies. While not favored with the "high calling" to the divine nature and jointheirship with Christ, because this "call" was not yet due to be proclaimed, nevertheless, these ancient worthies manifested a faith and a trust in the Lord and his promises which worked, and by their works manifested a love for the Lord and a loyalty to him which did not hesitate to sacrifice reputation, wealth and life itself, in obedience to the principles of righteousness revealed to them.
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Those who receive the grace of God (justification, forgiveness) in vain, permit their justification to lapse, and to our understanding have thereafter no advantage above the remainder of the world, nor has the Lord more interest in them than he has in "all the families of the earth," for whom he has prepared the gracious blessings of the Millennium. When God's time shall come for extending to the world in general his mercies and blessings, we fail to see that previous knowledge and opportunity, misused, received in vain, will be of any benefit or advantage: whether or not it will be of disadvantage and bring greater "stripes" of punishment, will depend largely, we believe, upon the measure of light enjoyed with its corresponding responsibilities, and the measure of conscientiousness with which that light was lived up to.
A much misunderstood text respecting grace is the one used as a caption for this article, namely, "By grace are ye saved, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God." (`Eph. 2:8`.) The erroneous thought given by many is that our faith is not our own faith, not of our own volition, but an impartation, a gift from God. Of course, in one sense every gift and blessing which we enjoy is indirectly if not directly from God; "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights." (`Jas. 1:17`.) But the proper understanding of the Apostle's words, we believe, is this: It is of God's grace and not of personal merit on our part that salvation is offered to us; and altho that salvation is offered to us as a reward of faith (including true faith's obedience), yet we cannot even boast respecting our faith as tho it merited the Lord's favor,--for our faith is something which is the indirect result of divine providence also; there are millions of others in the world who might exercise just as much faith as we if they had been favored of God with as much light, intelligence, knowledge, as a basis of faith: hence our faith is not to be credited as a meritorious condition but we are to be thankful to God for it, for the circumstances and conditions which have made it possible for us to exercise faith are of his grace.
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ONCE IN GRACE ALWAYS IN GRACE.
QUITE a large number of people rest themselves very securely upon the fallacy that if they have once been made the objects of divine grace, it means perpetual grace to all eternity, and insures their salvation despite anything they may afterward do or leave undone. This view is an outgrowth of false views of election and predestination,* and is hurtful to many. Like most of errors, this view is supported by misapplications of Scripture. For instance, the following:--
"Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you." --`John 15:16`.
"My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand."--`John 10:29`.
"If God be for us, who can be against us?"-- `Rom. 8:31`.
"Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth."--`Rom. 8:33`.
"What shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or sword? Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us." --`Rom. 8:35,37`.
"I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord." --`Rom. 8:38,39`.
Those who become thoroughly infatuated with the theory that God's grace, having once reached them, must abide with them through all eternity, entirely lose sight of the numerous texts which declare that all who would be permanent and everlasting objects of divine grace and love must abide in Christ, and as the Apostle says, "Keep yourselves in the love of God." They must so run as to obtain the prize of the high calling. We must lay aside every weight and the sin which doth so easily beset us and run with patience the race set before us in the gospel, if we would win the grand consummation which will mean everlasting grace. It was grace that first contrived the way. It was grace which opened the door to this race-course and invited us to run for the prize. It is grace that holds before our eyes the inspiration of the prize. It is grace that provides strength and succor along the journey in every time of need. But the necessity still remains that we shall "abide," that we shall "run," that we shall not "faint," that we shall not be "overcharged" with the cares of this life and the deceitfulness of riches.
Mark how the Apostle Peter declares the matter: after telling respecting the cultivation of the fruits of the spirit, he says, "If ye do these things, ye shall never fall, but so an entrance shall be ministered abundantly into the everlasting Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."--`2 Pet. 1:11`.
Mark how the Apostle Paul speaks of some and says that if they shall fall away after having tasted of divine grace it will be impossible to renew them again unto repentance.--`Heb. 6:5,6`.
*MILLENNIAL DAWN, VOL. I., p.96.
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Mark how the Apostle John declares, "There is a sin unto death: I do not say that ye shall pray for it." (`1 John 5:16`.) The sin unto death in the present time could be committed only by those who have tasted of divine grace, which ultimately shall reach every man and test every man; because "the grace of God hath been manifested for all men"--"to be testified in due time."
Mark our Lord's words on this subject. Speaking of those who had already received the grace of God and had already become members of his body, branches in the true Vine, he says, "I am the true vine and my Father is the husbandman; every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away." (`John 15:1,2`.)
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"He that abideth in me and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit." (`John 15:5`.) "If any man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withered." (`John 15:6`.) "Ye are my friends if ye do whatsoever I command you."--`John 15:14`.
Here, then, we have two separate lines of texts, and the question before us properly is, not which set of texts will we adopt, for we are not at liberty to choose portions of Scripture which we may prefer, or to reject portions because out of harmony with our theories: rather our theories must be modified, altered, amended, so as to be in fullest harmony with every testimony of the inspired Word. How, then, can these two sets of texts be harmonized? We answer, they can be very simply and very beautifully harmonized by giving to each its proper place and weight: they balance themselves.
The statement that none could pluck us out of the heavenly Father's hand is equally precious and equally important with the one which declares that if we do not bear fruit, the heavenly husbandman will cut us off from membership in the Vine, not permit us to abide in the Vine; but as rejected ones we shall be deprived of all his grace, and hence wither. The point to be noticed is, that so long as our hearts are loyal to the Lord and his Word and his work, neither angels nor devils nor men nor any other creature or thing would be permitted to alienate us or separate us from him who loved us and bought us; but if, on the contrary, we do not earnestly desire to abide in the Vine, and to bear the fruit of the Vine, and to work the works of God, we are thus proving that our hearts are alienated from our Lord, and under such circumstances he would not only permit us to leave him, and his work, and his word, but, indeed, would force us to do so,--as expressed in the statement, "Every branch in me that beareth not fruit, he taketh away."
From this standpoint all is clear and harmonious: it was by the action of our own wills, after we had been favored with a knowledge of the truth, that we consecrated and were "accepted in the Beloved;" and similarly by the actions of our own wills we can at any time withdraw from the Lord. He would not compel our loyalty; he seeketh not the worship of slaves, or any compulsory work or service. "He seeketh such to worship him as worship him in spirit and in truth." (`John 4:23`.) As by our own will or volition we placed our hands in the hand of the Lord for guidance, and submitted our wills to his will, to be dead to ourselves and alive to our God, so by the same will and volition we may withdraw ourselves and break our covenant and do despite to the spirit of grace, and bring upon ourselves all the loss which this would entail. But once having been accepted in the Beloved, nothing but our own wills could change this relationship: the ill will of others could not do it; and as for our heavenly Bridegroom, like the Father, he changes not--he is faithful. Nothing shall be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus so long as our wills are actively enlisted with the Lord and his cause.
It is well, however, for us to note from another standpoint the operations of grace on behalf of those who have received it. For instance, suppose that our hearts are loyal to the Lord in the sense that we do not willingly and intentionally repudiate him, or his people, or his Word, or his work, but that nevertheless from some cause our hearts become overcharged with the cares of this life, or the ambitions of this life, or the strife for the riches of this life, and so our zeal and energy for the Lord and his cause, and our fruit-bearing, are largely hindered (not stopped, but lessened): will the Lord's grace let go of us in such an hour of temptation and trial and abandon us to the Evil One? Will he say to us lightly, You are now choosing the world; I now drop you entirely; go to your choice. Or will he have compassion upon us, and remembering our frame, that we are dust, go after us as lost or wandering sheep?
The latter, we answer. Once in grace under divine protection and oversight, means always in grace until we shall have done despite to the spirit of favor, by sinning deliberately, repudiating either the Lord or his Word or its spirit. The Lord goes after his sheep frequently with the rod of chastisement, reproof, trial, difficulty, persecution, adversities, that he may correct them and bring them again to the narrow way; or as expressed in another place, the branch is pruned, many of the tendrils which were catching hold of all the various attractions of earthly life are pruned off, yet the branch remains a branch in the Vine: the very object of the pruning is to cause that branch to bear fruit more abundantly. "If ye be without chastisement," says the Apostle, "ye are not sons." Every son needs discipline to fit him and prepare him for the
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Father's service, that he may be pleasing, acceptable as a co-worker with God, not only in the present period but also in the world to come.
These chastisements will be kept up for a reasonable time, often are kept up for years. With some they result in a complete correction in righteousness, bringing the wandering sheep back, so instructed by its experiences that it will never wander more. In other cases this discipline and chastisement are repeated over and over and become a life-long lesson, and the recipients will fail to get the great prize of the high-calling, which is offered only to the overcomers.
A pen-picture of these, who having become the Lord's people by his grace, and who, still clinging to the Lord do not repudiate him, his Word and his people, yet are not overcomers of the world nor proper fruit-bearers, nor "fit for the Kingdom," is given us in `Rev. 7:14,15`: "These are they which came out of great tribulation and have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." Because the grace of God in Christ keeps hold of us so long as we do not repudiate him and his principles of righteousness, therefore that grace will bring us through if we thus abide in him and in his Word, even if it should not bring us through as conquerors and more than conquerors, but must bring us through "great tribulation;" --palm bearers, tho not crown wearers.
In still other cases, however, the chastisements of the Lord merely sour and embitter the hearts which in such cases usually become the more proud, boastful, arrogant and resentful of the rod of correction. They become deaf to the Shepherd's voice, and run to the goats for sympathy and fellowship and counsel, and speedily lose the sheep nature. For such there seems to be no hope held out in the Lord's Word. We should do all that we can to help these,--"pulling them out of the fire"--but if we find it impossible to renew them again unto repentance we may surmise the reason to be that they have ceased to be "sheep," ceased to abide as branches in the Vine.
The proper attitude of heart for all who have received divine grace, is to be anxious to bring forth much fruit and thus to be more and more like our dear Redeemer, daily growing in likeness to him, as well as in knowledge of him. "Herein is my Father glorified that ye bear much fruit," and such fruit as will remain.
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"IF WE SUFFER WITH HIM WE SHALL ALSO REIGN WITH HIM."
APRIL 10.--`MATT. 16:21-28`.
"He was bruised for our iniquities."--`Isa. 53:5`.
THIS lesson brings us down to near the time of the crucifixion. The former part of our Lord's ministry was devoted apparently to the establishment of his disciples' faith, through cures and miracles and instructions. He had taught them that he was the King long promised, the Messiah; and had promised them that if faithful to him they should participate in the glories of the Kingdom; but up to this time he had not explained to them how sufferings and death must precede the glories. "From that time forth began Jesus to show to his disciples how he must... suffer,...be killed, and be raised again the third day." It was necessary that they should know of the sufferings, that were to be expected as well as the glories to follow; but it was not expedient that they should learn of the sufferings at first, nor until their faith and confidence should become established. Here is a valuable lesson to all who are seeking to walk in the Master's footsteps--especially to such as endeavor to teach others: namely, that the truth should be told as the hearers are able to hear it; "milk for babes," "meat for men."
Noble, impulsive Peter had previously been commended for his good confession, that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ, the long promised Messiah: perhaps the Master's approval on that occasion had something to do with Peter's forwardness on this occasion. With our poor, weak, fallen natures, it is a difficult matter always to keep well balanced and to say the right thing at the right time. On this occasion Peter made a serious mistake, for he attempted to turn teacher and got out of his place as pupil or disciple, when he attempted to reprove the Master and to instruct him, saying, "This shall not be unto thee."
In his commendation of Peter's confession of him as the Christ, our Lord had intimated that it was not merely by his own wisdom that he had thus recognized and confessed, but that he had been under the guidance of the Father,--"Flesh and blood hath not revealed
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it unto thee, but my Father." So in this case, our Lord intimates that Peter evidently had come under the control of a different spirit or influence--the influence of Satan: and since Peter had become the mouthpiece of error, of Satan, our Lord addresses him as tho he himself were Satan, "Get thee behind me, Satan." Our Lord recognized that the temptation put to him at the beginning of his ministry, and which he had resisted in the wilderness, was now again being thrust at him by the same great enemy of God who was seeking to use Peter as a channel of temptation, to hinder him from progressing in the way to sacrifice which the Father's plan had marked out for him.
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What a lesson is here for every one of us to the effect that we may be either mouthpieces of God and righteousness or error and Satan;--helps or hindrances to the fellow-members of the body of Christ. How careful we should be that our words and conduct are in full accord with the divine plan as presented to us lesson by lesson through the great Teacher and his appointed, and since Pentecost, inspired, apostles. We remember in this connection the words of our Lord, "His servants ye are to whom ye render service." Many are professing to render service to the Lord and his cause, who in reality are serving the great Adversary of God and the truth.
And how many there are to-day, who like Peter attempt to turn aside those who have consecrated themselves as living sacrifices: not that they wish to do evil, but that they have not the spirit of the truth themselves, but the spirit of the world, and hence speak from the worldly standpoint, which is in direct conflict with the divine plan as respects God's consecrated Church. Let each of us take heed first, that we be not thus tools of the Adversary in stumbling others, and second, that we be not stumbled by any of the Adversary's tools who may take such positions, no matter how kind and sympathetic their manner and intentions. If they seek to turn us aside from the narrow path which our Lord marked out, they are not our true friends but most seductive enemies.
Our Lord lost no opportunity of enforcing the lesson which he had started and which Peter attempted to interrupt. He proceeded to show the disciples that not only he, their Master, must suffer, but that all who desired to be his disciples, and to sit with him in his throne and share the honors of his Kingdom, must likewise expect to suffer. Each must "deny himself, and take up his cross" and follow the Captain of their salvation. He enforces this by laying it down as a general principle, that the disposition to preserve the present life and its comforts at any cost is the disposition which will be deprived of eternal life; while the reverse disposition, that is willing to lay down the present life in the service of the Lord, his truth and his people, is the one to which God will be pleased to grant life eternal. The word that is here rendered "life," is the same that in the next verse is rendered "soul:" it is the Greek word psuche, and signifies being or existence.
Our Lord put the proposition squarely before his disciples and inquired whether they thought it would be profitable to a man if he should gain the whole world in this present life, and then lose his being,--utterly perish. The implication is that it would be much more desirable for him to lose all things pertaining to this present life, yea, and the present life itself also, if thereby the eternal life of the future might be obtained. What could be considered a valuable exchange for the everlasting life of the future which God hath promised to them that love him?
It should be noticed that our Lord says nothing here in favor of the common fallacies on this subject usually drawn from his words by mistaken inference: his words by the plainest inference contradict the very unreasonable and so-called "orthodox" views of this subject. Our Lord did not say, What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and be cast into an eternal torture --be roasted and boiled in liquid flame? Not a word of the kind. Such a statement, altho in harmony with the views often advocated by Christian people, would be wholly contrary to the divine plan and Word. Such "orthodox" teachings are, like Peter's expression, instigated by the great Adversary, Satan, as a libel and slander upon the divine character and plan. Our Lord's statement was most explicit; that is a question of life or no life; of being or no being; of existence or non-existence; of eternal life or destruction in the second death. Let those who will not hear the Lord's words believe Satan's falsehood if they prefer it: we may be sure that all who have the Lord's spirit and who are seeking to walk in his footsteps will hear his voice and be guided into the truth which now, as meat in due season, is provided for the household of faith.
In the `27th verse` our Lord handles very rudely another of Satan's deceptions. Satan, through many mouth-pieces in many church pulpits and at many funerals is declaring that every man is rewarded either with heaven or hell for all eternity at the instant of death. But here our Lord expressly declares that he will reward every man when he shall come in the glory of the Father--at the establishment of his Kingdom. This, taken in connection with the `preceding verse`, gave to the disciples and gives to us the correct thought; viz., that if we now are willing to lay down our lives for the truth, in the service of God and Christ (including the members of his body), and thus shall suffer the loss of earthly things which otherwise we might have gained or attempted to gain, we shall be rewarded by the Master with eternal life and a share in his glory--at his second coming.
The `28th verse` is separated from its connection by the starting of a new chapter and thus many are confused,* and fail to see that the record of the fulfilment of this promise immediately follows it. But this is a part of our next lesson.
*For the division of the Scriptures into chapters and verses is a modern invention, and while intended for convenience is sometimes misleading, as in this case. In the Revised Version this difficulty has been corrected.
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"WE BEHELD HIS GLORY IN THE HOLY MOUNT."
--APRIL 17.--`MATT. 17:1-9`.--
"We beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father."--`John 1:14`.
LITTLE did the disciples imagine that our Lord's statement that some of them should not taste of death until they had seen the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom, would be fulfilled within six days to Peter, James and John in the Mount of Transfiguration. Yet so it was, and evidently it produced a great and designed effect upon the witnesses, one of whom, writing respecting it, says (`2 Pet. 1:16-18`), "We have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God, the Father, honor and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount."
The transfiguration scene was not all that it appeared;-- it was a "vision," as our Lord explained to the disciples when they were coming down from the mount. In this vision, as in all visions, the unreal appears real. Just so it was in the vision of John, on the Isle of Patmos, described in the book of Revelation. He saw, he heard, he talked, yet the things thus shown him in the vision were not realities--not beasts with many heads and many horns, and angels and vials and thrones, nor real dragons, etc., merely a vision. And a vision was in every sense of the word just as good, and really better suited to the purpose, than realities would have been.
Moses and Elias were not present on the mountain, personally, but were merely represented to the disciples in the vision. We know this not only from our Lord's statement, that it was a "vision," but also from his statement that no man had ascended up to heaven. (`John 3:13`; `Acts 2:34`.) We know also that Moses and Elijah could not have been there, since they were not resurrected from the dead; because our Lord Jesus himself was the "First-fruits of them that slept"-- "the first-born from the dead, that in all things he might have the preeminence." (`1 Cor. 15:20`; `Col. 1:18`.) Furthermore the Apostle to the Hebrews distinctly mentions Moses and the prophets (which would include Elijah) and their faithfulness in the past and their acceptance with God; but he points out that they had not yet received their reward, and that they would not receive it until after we (the Gospel Church) shall have received our reward as joint-heirs with Christ in his Kingdom. "These all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the [blessings of the] promise; God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect." --`Heb. 11:39,40`.
Since, then, the appearance of Moses and Elias with our Lord was an appearance merely, we properly inquire, What was the significance or meaning of this vision? We reply, It was a tableau, illustrative of the glorious Kingdom of Christ, as our Lord had predicted, and as Peter understood it and expressed it. In this tableau, the three disciples formed no part. They were merely witnesses. Christ was the central figure; his features and garments, shining with miraculous lustre, represented in figure the glories which belong to the
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spirit nature, which our Lord received at his resurrection, "the express image of the Father's person." It is this same spirit glory that is represented in the visions of Revelation, where our Lord is represented with eyes as a flame of fire, and his feet bright as burning brass, etc. (`Rev. 1:14,15`; `2:18`.) At his second advent our Lord will no longer be flesh because, as he testified, "flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God." He is now, and every will be, a glorious spirit being of the highest order--the divine nature: and the transfiguration was intended to convey to the minds of his disciples a faint conception of the glory which excelleth.
Moses represented the faithful overcomers who preceded our Lord, described by the Apostle (`Heb. 11:39,40`), who cannot be made perfect until the Kingdom shall have been established. Elijah represented the overcomers of the Gospel age.* The topic discussed in the vision was our Lord's crucifixion. (`Luke 9:31`.) The cross of Christ is thus pointed out as being the necessary thing in order that he might enter into his glory, as he himself expressed the matter after his resurrection, saying, "Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?" (`Luke 24:26`.) There could have been no Kingdom glory without the redemptive work. But this vision portrays the Kingdom glories which will ultimately result from our Lord's death.
Possibly, too, the vision was intended to represent the two classes who will be associated with the Lord in his Kingdom, first the Church--the body of Christ, his bride and joint-heir, who shall be like him and see and share his glory, as spirit beings. These in the present time are represented by Elijah. Second, the overcomers of the past, who shall be the earthly representatives of the Kingdom, as per our Lord's statement; --The world "shall see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the Kingdom;" because they will be restored, perfected human beings: but the world will not see the Lord and the Church, his glorified spouse, because they will all have been changed from flesh and blood (human nature) and will be spirit beings and of the divine nature, and hence as invisible to men as are God and the angels.--`1 Tim. 1:17`; `6:16`; `Heb. 11:27`.
Of course, the disciples did not clearly comprehend the matter at the time, yet they realized a blessing and felt that it was "good to be there." Their meeting had started as a prayer-meeting: the three favorite disciples of the Lord accompanying him on this occasion, as on several other occasions--for instance, when he went in to awaken the daughter of Jairus from the sleep of death, and a little later than this in the Garden of Gethsemane, they were again his chosen and closest companions. We cannot suppose that the choice of these was an arbitrary one, but must suppose that there was something about these three men that made them specially companionable to the Lord. One thing about them that impresses every reader of the New Testament record is their faith in the Lord and their zeal for his cause. It was James and John who, in their zeal (but not according to knowledge), were about to call down fire from heaven upon the Samaritans, because they did not promptly recognize and cordially receive the Master. It was Peter who first promptly confessed Jesus as the Christ, the same Peter
*See MILLENNIAL DAWN, VOL. II., Chap. 8.
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who drew his sword in the Master's defense, and declared that he would die with him. The Master himself was of a warm temperament, and naturally and properly was most drawn toward those who were similarly fervent.
There is a lesson here for us, to the effect that, if we would be closest to the Master and most frequently privileged to have fellowship with him, we should similarly have and cultivate this earnest, zealous spirit. Cold, calculating people may have other good qualities, but there is no room for coldness or even luke-warmness on the part of those who have once tasted that the Lord is gracious. With such, the love enkindled should lead to a consuming zeal. It was thus with our Lord Jesus, and this was one of the reasons why he was beloved of the Father. Speaking for him, the prophet said, "The zeal of thine house hath consumed me." Let all who desire to be pleasing in the Lord's sight become so filled with the same spirit of zeal for righteousness and truth that it will consume them as sacrifices upon the Lord's altar. Thus they will be most pleasing and acceptable to him through Jesus our Lord. As a rule, only the warm and zealous ever get free from Babylon. The others coolly calculate and weigh matters so long that the spirit of the world, the flesh and the devil puts fresh blinds on them, even after they have gotten into the light and see considerable.
Peter proposed making some booths on the mountaintop for the Lord and his guests. Luke adds, "Not knowing what he said." He was bewildered, confused, but in harmony with his natural temperament wished to say something. The voice from heaven, however, seemed to say, Be still! hearken rather to the words of my beloved Son. Not a few need to learn the lesson of quietness--to hear and learn, be taught of God, before they have much to say. Peter evidently learned, as we may judge from his after conduct, to be slower to speak and swifter to hear. (`James 1:19`.) This is an important lesson to all who would be servants of the Lord: we must learn that of ourselves we know nothing, and can do nothing aright. The proper learning of this lesson means a lesson in humility and in patience, a lesson respecting our own nothingness, and that "our sufficiency is of God." Those who reach this condition become apt students in the school of Christ--not forgetful hearers, but doers of the Word: and such only are prepared to teach the truth to others. Those who are too forward and ready to teach, before they have received instruction from the Lord, are very apt not to know what they say, as was Peter's case; and if such be true-hearted and worthy of being used of the Lord as his servants, they are very apt to receive numerous reproofs from time to time.
The first lesson for such to learn is that "The fear [reverence] of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." Thus, Peter's rash expression, "not knowing what he said," found a reproof in the voice from heaven which said, "Hear ye Him." And fear fell upon the disciples.
Not only is the fear of the Lord valuable as a beginning of true wisdom, but it is valuable all our journey through. One tendency amongst those who have received the light of present truth, and who lose thereby the terrible and slavish fear inspired by misrepresentations of the divine character and plan, is to lose all fear. And according to the Scriptures this is a very dangerous condition, an ultra freedom that is apt to lead to license, under our present imperfect conditions.
It is true that "perfect love casteth out fear," but it is also true that perfect love is a very scarce commodity on earth even amongst the saints. Hence the Apostle urges, "Let us fear, lest a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of us should seem to come short of it." (`Heb. 4:1`.) The fear which we are to lose entirely is "the fear of man which bringeth a snare." He who loses the fear of God, and the fear of losing the great prize which God has held out before us, is in a very dangerous position: he is likely to become self-conscious and self-satisfied, and readily drops into the condition where he does not believe even in the just sentence against sinners, the second death, and where he is proportionately careless respecting the keeping of his own words and thoughts and deeds in strictest alignment with the principles laid down in the Word of the Lord. Having lost his fear of the Lord, he rapidly loses carefulness respecting the Word of the Lord, and inclines more and more to "lean to his own understanding," and becomes blinded to his own faults.
Let us note carefully additional encouragements to fear held out in the Scriptures. Some of these are as follows:--"O fear the Lord, ye his saints." "Ye that fear the Lord, praise him." "Let them now that fear the Lord say, that his mercy endureth forever." "Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him." "The mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him." "He will fulfil the desire of them that fear him." "The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him." (`Psa. 34:9`; `22:23`; `118:4`; `103:13,17`; `145:19`; `147:11`.) Our Lord says, "I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear." (`Luke 12:5`.) The Apostle Paul says, "Be not high-minded, but fear." "Let us also fear." (`Rom. 11:20`; `Heb. 4:1`.) The Apostle Peter says, "Honor men; fear God;" and "He that feareth him and worketh righteousness is accepted with him." (`1 Pet. 2:17`; `Acts 10:35`.) God says through the prophet that they who fear his name, are the ones who speak often together, and of whom a book of remembrance is made. And again he promises, "To you that fear my name shall the Sun of Righteousness arise with healing in his beams." (`Mal. 3:16`; `4:2`.) Of our dear Redeemer himself it is recorded that Christ "was heard in that he feared."--`Heb. 5:7`.
The lesson of these various scriptures is that, to lose fear of God, in the sense of losing fear of his displeasure or fearing to come short of the grand possibilities which he has so graciously put within our reach, would be a most serious loss, as it would probably cost us our eternal life; for those who have lost this fear are like steam-engines which have lost their governors, and are apt to run with too much liberty to self-destruction and unfitness for service. Hence, as the Apostle again says to the pilgrims who seek the heavenly country,--"If ye call on him as Father,... pass the time of your sojourning here in fear" (`1 Pet. 1:17`); not in levity, nor in worldly frivolities, nor in sensualities, nor in land and money grabbing, nor even carelessly and slothfully, but in earnest watchfulness of every word and act, to please the Lord and to copy his character and thus to make your calling and election sure to a place in his Kingdom, when it shall be established in power and great glory.