ZWT - 1897 - R2084 thru R2237 / R2135 (109) - April 15, 1897
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VOL. XVIII. APRIL 15, 1897. No. 8.
Views from the Watch Tower........................111
The Knowledge of God--Its Value...................114
The Blessed People of God.........................117
Peter Delivered from Prison.......................118
Paul's First Missionary Tour......................121
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"LOOKING UNTO JESUS!"
Look unto Christ, O Church of God,
Fear not, nor be distressed;
'Twas he who gave his precious blood,--
In him you now are blessed.
Look unto Christ, O sons, first-born,
Though darkness fill the earth,
Redemption cometh in the morn
Of restitution's birth.
Look unto Christ, O groaning race,
Thy burden to remove;
Jehovah's all-sufficient grace
The "King of kings" shall prove.--J. M. Blose.
Do not forget these. They preach the glad tidings in few words wherever they go; to your correspondents, as well as to postmen, and others enroute. Price, post-paid, 25 for 10 cents, 100 for 25 cents.
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VIEWS FROM THE WATCH TOWER.
REV. Lyman Abbott, D.D., the now widely known "Unbeliever," was engaged by the "Hicksite Quakers," of Philadelphia, to deliver a lecture, and the Y.M.C.A. hall was secured for the purpose. The Secretary of the Y.M.C.A. concluded from all that he could learn that Dr. Abbott is an "Unbeliever," and that his use of the hall would not be in the interest of Christianity and the objects of the Y.M.C.A. and cancelled the engagement. We quite endorse his judgment, altho we well know that such a view of matters will be considered narrow by all "unbelievers." If Satan presented himself in human form, well dressed, as a liberal lecturer on "Higher Criticism," well fortified with "cunningly devised fables," he would find numerous defenders and plenty of willing hearers with "itching ears;" but if our Lord or the Apostles Paul or Peter presented themselves as exponents and defenders of the Law and the Prophets, and especially of the cross of Christ as the center of the Gospel and the power of God and the wisdom of God, they would find few attentive listeners. How we see fulfilling the word of the Lord by the mouth of the Apostle,--"The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own desires shall they gather to themselves teachers,--having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables."--`2 Tim. 4:3,4`.
The same question is causing a disturbance among "Christian Endeavorers." The next convention of this society is to be held in San Francisco, Cal., in July, and as it has been discovered that a prominent Evolutionist and higher critic otherwise known as "modern unbelievers," has been assigned a prominent place in connection with the appointments for public addresses, it is concluded that himself and others of like unbelief will endeavor to use the opportunity to make a good impression for their cause upon these "Young People." A religious press controversy has sprung up, and considerable heat has been developed on both sides.
This question must yet "shake" Christendom thoroughly; and no doubt we will surprise many when we declare that, in our understanding of the Word, the vast majority will be sifted out as "unbelievers"-- so much so that to many it will appear that "the old fogy believers in miracles, and in the divine inspiration of the Scriptures," have been shaken out;--because the masses will accept the Evolution-and-unbelief theory.
As usual the adversary will endeavor to becloud the real question by sophistical statements. It will be claimed that the Evolutionary or "unbelievers" theory is the true, the moral, the logical, the enlightened view; and no doubt some will even claim that it is the Scriptural view. Those left, faithful to the Bible, will be the theologically "hard" and "tough" and "unreasonable," covered all over with barnacles of human error concerning election, foreordination, predestination and eternal torment, and their false beliefs will not only injure their influence, but will tend to further discredit the Bible, which, more than ever, will be charged with the inconsistencies of every misbelief. And these in turn, realizing the effort to overthrow their faith in the Bible as the Word of God, will not only hold it the faster but also hold the tighter all the human falsehoods and inconsistencies attached to their faith in the name of the Bible, during the "dark ages." Nor can we hope that many of these will get free from these shackles of error until the fall of Babylon (`Rev. 18:1-4`) opens their eyes to the true situation.
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However various the forms which the question may take, it will nevertheless still be--for the cross or against the cross; soldiers of the cross or enemies of the cross of Christ,--believers in the ransom or deniers of the ransom. All the so-called "higher critics," or "unbelievers" in the Bible, are of logical necessity believers in Evolution; and all believers in Evolution are of logical necessity deniers of the fact that a ransom was given for sinners by our Lord, for they claim that none was necessary. Denying original sin by a fall, and denying a ransom from the condition and penalties of a fall, they are denying the very center of the gospel-- the cross,--that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that he rose for our justification. Hence also they deny justification by faith and through the precious blood. (`Rom. 5:1,9`.) Hence, by whatever name such "unbelievers" are known, as deniers of the very essence of Christianity they are not Christians, --not believers in Christ in the only way in which belief in him is genuine according to God's Word. Instead, they are "the enemies of the cross of Christ."-- `Phil. 3:18`.
"In the cross of Christ we glory,
Towering o'er the wrecks of time.
All the light of sacred story
Gathers round its head sublime."
The "Hicksite" branch of the Quakers, for which Dr. Abbott is to speak, utterly repudiates the doctrine of Christ's vicarious atonement--the ransom. This is in keeping with our observations above.
* * *
France has begun the manufacture of a new quick-firing gun--the "Casnet." It is claimed that it will throw a shrapnel shell, loaded with 300 bullets, five times a minute, a distance of about four miles. Other "Christian nations" must similarly prepare to do murder wholesale, and Germany has already begun work on a somewhat similar weapon. The time for turning all this energy to useful arts of peace is not yet, but it is near, thank God.
* * *
The Cretan war question is only a part of the Turkish question; and our remarks on the latter in our View of Nov. 1, '96, apply in general to all with which Turkey is related. We do not expect "a general European war which will destroy present civilization" --that destruction is not due yet; but we do expect, now or soon, such a reorganization of Turkey's affairs as will open Palestine and permit the return of the Jews as settlers--forbidden by Turkey since 1891.
* * *
The Armeblatt, an Austrian military journal, describes a new murder-weapon (for use upon fellow beings of other "Christian (?) nations" and against savages, but not, we may presume, to be used against the Turks, so long as they can pay the interest on their bonds). What an amount of human ingenuity now employed on instruments for murder will be changed to new channels--to bless the already "groaning creation," when the Prince of Peace shall take control and cause wars to cease unto the ends of the earth!-- `Psa. 46:6-10`.
Here is a description of this weapon of destruction:--
"An engine of 16 horse power actuates a four-wheeled rubber-tired cycle, carrying two rapid-fire guns. These two guns, mounted on pivots, one in front, the other in the rear, can each describe a semicircle, the motion being effected automatically.
"The discharge is controlled by the motor mechanism itself, and can take place as well when the cycle is in motion as when it is at rest. The number of shots fired per minute can be varied from 50 to 700. The cycle carries 500 projectiles for each gun.
"The attendant, seated on the cycle between the two guns, has only to train them and then start his engine. He is protected in front and behind by shields, fixed to the guns.
"The cycle as a whole is also protected against bullets, and even against small artillery projectiles. Besides, the mechanism of discharge, acting automatically, keeps on working, even after the attendant is disabled.
"On a good, smooth road this cycle can go at a speed of forty-five miles an hour, so that it could distance any other kind of artillery. We can hardly imagine the effect that fifty or a hundred of such cycles would produce when all in action at once."
* * *
The Glasgow Herald (Scotland) gives a lengthy and detailed account of the Meeting of the Glasgow Presbytery on March 2, at which the terms of union with the United Presbyterian Church were discussed. We note the growing sentiment favorable to a partial union with the civil government; based upon the erroneous assumption that the kingdoms of this world have become Christ's Kingdom, and that he is the King. Oh! how changed the world's affairs will be when Immanuel's reign has really been inaugurated: "When the Kingdom is the Lord's and he is the governor among the nations." "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is done in heaven" is still the prayer of those who know the King's Word.
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The following utterance of Dr. Ross Taylor was approved by the Presbytery: Both churches agree that--
"The great principle of national religion, the principle, namely, that as Christ was King of Nations, all nations were bound to own him and to have regard to his authority in the making of their laws and in the shaping of their procedure, and not only so, but that all were bound--nations and rulers--to recognize the Church of Christ and to promote its interests in every way consistent with its spirit and enactments. That was the position which they maintained with regard to
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national religion, and that, he was glad to say, was a position in which their United Presbyterian friends in the conference which had been held thoroughly agreed with them. They were at one on the points as to the duty of nations and rulers to recognize the Church of Christ and to promote its interests in every way consistent with ITS SPIRIT AND ENACTMENTS."
* * *
The spirit of federation is growing rapidly in Great Britain, as the following from the London Daily Chronicle (March 6) shows:--
"On Monday night the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress will receive at the Guildhall probably as many as 3,000 delegates and representatives of the National Council of Evangelical Free Churches which meets in the City Temple, and in the Memorial Hall on the following three days of next week. This is not simply the first meeting in London of the National Council. Practically it is its first formal meeting. Originating in Nov. '92 as a 'Free Church Congress,' with a lamentably meagre attendance, the movement as a whole illustrates how tremendous may be the development of a very simple proposal.
"Thomas Law, organizing secretary, was able to report an enormous growth in the number of local Non-conformist councils and county federations, the influence of which it is the object of the National Council to focus upon the religious, social and perhaps even the political life of England. Since last year the associations have increased with still wilder impetuosity, not merely scores but hundreds of them having been surprised into useful existence, in almost an incredible way. On Tuesday morning this National Council will assemble with the commanding authority of delegates to the number of 1,200, and 'personal members' probably exceeding that number, representing over 10,000 English evangelical congregations. The churches represented include the Congregationalists, all the Baptist communities, all the Methodist 'Societies,' the Presbyterian Church of England, the Free Episcopal Churches, even the Society of Friends, and a host of minor religious bodies--Unitarians, however, being excluded as not conforming to the strict interpretation of the constitution."
* * *
The Pope, whose representatives have for some time past been specially blessing the Spanish war ships as they left for Cuba, found that Spain did not get victory as a result of his blessings, and now changes his course and poses before the world as the advocate of peace and liberty--sending a letter to the Queen of Spain urging peace and very liberal laws for Cuba and Porto Rico.
* * *
The following extracts from a recent speech by Lord Salisbury, premier of Great Britain, shows a clearer view of general affairs than most people get. It shows the wisdom of the confusion of the world's language for the period of the reign of sin and death; and that present tendencies toward one language might work eventual ill, were it not that the Kingdom is near at hand. The London Spectator says:--
"He remarked on the singularly rapid spread of the English race and the English language over the surface of our planet, and expressed the belief that what is said in that language will before long be intelligible, and not only intelligible, but actually understood, over almost all the world. And he insisted that this might turn out to be either a great blessing or a great curse, according to the spirit in which those who mold the convictions of the English-speaking races choose to guide the formation of those convictions. It is, in fact, a sort of reversal of the effect which the confusion of tongues,--which is said to have fallen upon the different families of the human race in the vain attempt to build a tower intended to scale the heavens,-- was supposed to have produced. In Lord Salisbury's view the difficulty which different races have found in mastering each other's language has not been by any means an unmixed evil. It has served as a kind of non-conducting medium to limit the mischief which irresponsible and mischievous talk so often produces. St. James has told us that 'the tongue can no man tame.' But what no man can tame may yet to some extent be deprived of its poisonous influence through the difficulty it finds in penetrating the speech of another people of a quite different race. For example, we Englishmen have no doubt missed the point of perhaps nine-tenths of the French witticisms produced at our expense, while the French have missed the point of even a greater number of foolishly contemptuous phrases in which Englishmen have poured forth their ill-advised conviction of their own immense superiority to Frenchmen. Had this non-conducting medium never existed, can it be doubted that the irritation of France against England and of England against France would often have been far greater than it has been? ...Let English become something like a universal language, and we shall soon find that the velocity with which either clever or ignorant ill-nature propagates its mischievous influence over the world will be indefinitely increased. With the electric telegraph working in a speech universally understood, words of hasty wrath will have a far more deadly effect than they have now, and we may find ourselves at war before we have had time either to define our purposes or explain our meaning. In short, as Lord Salisbury truly said, the universal currency of the English tongue will produce either a good or a bad effect, just in proportion to the wisdom or the folly, the self-control or the license, of the English-speaking races....But if Englishmen learn to scream, and Americans to bluster, and public opinion to discharge itself violently in muddy geysers of boiling passion in every separate Colony and State, then the universal spread of English may prove a great calamity and some day issue in a great catastrophe."
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THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD--ITS VALUE.
"Grace and peace be multiplied unto you, through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus Christ our Lord, according as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto God and life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us by his own glory and virtue."--`2 Pet. 1:2,3` --Reading of Sinaitic manuscript.
THE FIRST question coming to us in connection with these words of exhortation is, To whom were they addressed? Are these the instructions given to sinners? Is this the way by which sinners are to approach to God? No. These instructions are addressed to those who are already justified through faith in the precious blood of Christ, as indicated in the preceding verse. They are addressed--"To them who have obtained like precious faith with us [the apostles] through the righteousness of our Lord and Savior,* Jesus Christ."
The suggestion clearly is that to become believers in Christ Jesus--even justified and fully consecrated believers--is not sufficient; there is to be a progress in the life just begun which will continue as long as we are "in this tabernacle," and, if faithful, be completed in "the first resurrection." The thought of the Apostle is not year by year revivals with year by year backslidings, but rather a continued progression in the new life. This thought is quite in contradiction of the experiences of very many who assume the name of Christ, which, alas! are too often expressed in the lines of the hymn:--
"Where is the blessedness I knew, when first I found the Lord? Where is the soul-reviving view of Jesus and his Word?"
The prevalent idea amongst this class of Christians might be termed alternate subtractions and additions of grace and peace. They first get a blessing, then lose it, then find it again to lose it again, and thus continue. There is a logical reason why this course is so prevalent, and why so few know anything about the multiplication which the Apostle here mentions-- "Grace and peace be multiplied unto you." The reason is that the majority of Christians lack a knowledge of those things which are necessary to preserve to them the grace and peace found through their primary faith in the Lord as their Redeemer; and much more do they lack a sufficiency of knowledge to multiply their grace and peace. The vast majority occupy the position mentioned by the Apostle Paul (`1 Cor. 3:1`) "I, brethren, could not write unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal--even as unto babes in Christ;" "when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God."--`Heb. 5:12-14`.
*Reading of Sinaitic MS.
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An error on one subject often leads to many errors on many subjects; and so it is in this case: the doctrine of eternal torment as the penalty for the fall, from which only believers will escape, has distorted the judgment and misdirected the efforts of many of the Lord's people. With some of the most earnest the first thought is personal escape from eternal torment, and naturally the second thought is to help as many others as possible to escape such an awful eternity. With this thought as the mainspring of conduct, we cannot wonder that by such chief attention is paid to "saving sinners" and bringing them into the condition of "babes in Christ." But after they become babes comparatively little is done to develop them in the knowledge of God, that they may grow up into the full stature of manhood in Christ. As babes they are continually fed upon the milk, and hence are unused to the strong meat, so that when they do attempt its use, they are more likely to be choked by it than to be strengthened.
The Apostle points out the proper course by which the believer, having made a proper start, shall continue onward and upward in his Christian development-- multiplying his grace and his peace. It is all-important, however, that he begin right, that he be truly begotten "by the word of truth," "the faith once delivered unto the saints"--which the Apostle here terms "precious faith." This is not the faith promulgated by the higher critics. Their faith is far from precious. Their faith denies the fall, denies the ransom and all necessity for it, and consequently denies the resurrection based upon that ransom. Their faith consists in believing in their own judgments as the criterions of what is truth and what is error, and in doubting the testimony of Moses and the prophets, of the Lord and the apostles. Such a faith is not the "precious faith," is not "the faith once delivered unto the saints." And those who are building upon such a faith are not of those here addressed by the Apostle, and we need not expect that either their grace or their peace will be multiplied. We trust, however, that the majority of our readers are of those who can sing with the spirit and the understanding also,--
"My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness; I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus' name. On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand: all other ground is sinking sand."
The true foundation, upon which we should build, is,--faith in the righteousness of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,--faith that his sacrifice for sin was once for all a full and complete ransom-price for Adam and all his posterity, so that all of these, as in due time they shall be brought to a knowledge of Christ, may,
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if they will, obtain cleansing and eternal life under the gracious terms of the New Covenant. It is those who build upon this foundation that may hope to multiply their grace and peace. How?
The Apostle answers--"Through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord." At first it may occur to some that this has but a slight meaning, and that it simply signifies that we come to know that there is a God, and that there is a Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. But the knowledge of God means far more than this to the advancing and developing Christian: to him it means an intimate acquaintance with the Father and with the Son, a knowledge of the "mind of Christ," which is a full and clear representation to us of the mind of the Father. We are to grow in this knowledge by studying the Word of God, by discerning through that Word the principles which govern the divine conduct, as to how divine justice, wisdom, love and power operate. These are progressive studies. Something may be learned the first day of our Christian experience, but the end of the first year should show considerable progress in the knowledge of the divine mind; the second year should show us a still further increase, and so on.
As our intimate knowledge of the divine plan and character increases, so must also our grace increase; for those who do not attempt to come into harmony, step by step, with that which they see of the divine character will soon lose interest in such knowledge, while those who have the interest which leads to further and further study must of necessity be growing in grace continually. And as they grow in grace, so also will they grow in peace; for peace also is a progressive thing. We had peace when first we found the Lord and realized the forgiveness of our sins; but those who have made progress in the knowledge of the divine plan and character have found their peace to be an ever-increasing one; and those who have advanced some distance in the good way can speak of it in the language of the apostles and realize it in their hearts as being "the peace of God which passeth all understanding."
The Apostle, continuing, assures us that through this knowledge of God is imparted to us as by divine power "all things that pertain unto life and godliness." What an assurance! This statement of the importance of knowledge for our Christian development in every direction reminds us of the words of our Lord, "This is life eternal; that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." (`John 17:3`.) To know God, as the Apostle here explains, signifies an intimate acquaintance with "him that hath called us by his own glory and virtue." It is only as we realize something of the greatness and perfection of the divine character that we are properly able to estimate our own littleness and imperfection; only as we see the beauties of his gracious character can we become intimately acquainted with God, familiar with his graces and virtues. The influence of this knowledge and fellowship with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, reacts upon our own hearts, and has a cleansing and sanctifying effect. Thus the Apostle prays for some that they might grow in the knowledge of God so as to be able to "comprehend with all saints what is the length and the breadth, the depth and the height of the love of Christ which passeth [human] understanding." (`Eph. 3:14-19`.) Those beholding the divine character, even though but dimly, as through a glass, are thereby changed from glory to glory as by the spirit of the Lord.--`2 Cor. 3:18`.
The thought here brought to our attention is well illustrated in the modern art of photography. In photography there is necessary first of all a sensitized plate upon which the picture is to be reflected. Not any or every plate will serve such a purpose, but only one which has been specially prepared. This corresponds to the preparation of our hearts through repentance and justifying faith toward God through our Lord Jesus Christ. This first step is necessary before we can receive upon our hearts the impress of the divine character, its glory and virtue or strength. The second step is to bring the sensitized plate into good range with the features which are to be impictured upon it. This represents the proper attitude of heart; viz., full consecration to the Lord, and a desire to have his will to be our will and to have his character represented in our lives. The third step is the removal of all obscurity, all darkness, allowing the light to shine fully in upon the features to be copied. This finds its counterpart in the knowledge of God, which, as the light of truth scatters the darkness of error and sin and gives us clearer views of the divine character, and thus permits it to impress our prepared hearts and to stamp thereon his glorious character-likeness. Fourth, the sensitized plate must then be subjected to acids in order to the clearer development of the likeness. This also finds its correspondence; for our hearts, after we have gotten a clear view of the Lord, and been freely impressed with the glories of his character, require nevertheless the "fiery trials" of life, which, like the acid, only tend to develop the likeness the more perfectly. Fifth (for the correspondence continues), it is a well known fact that although photographs may be taken without the use of the precious metals, gold and silver, yet only when these are used will the photograph retain its color without fading. As heretofore seen, gold represents the divine nature, and silver represents the truth; and only in proportion as the likeness of our Lord is fixed in our hearts upon the basis
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of the truth and the divine nature can a lasting likeness be hoped for.--`Rom. 8:29`.
The world in general, of course, "knows not God," and very evidently the great mass of professing believers know very little about him. The Apostle Paul explains, that Satan, "the god of this world," is particularly interested in hindering any from obtaining the light upon the Lord's character and plan necessary to impicture it upon their hearts. He declares, "The god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the glorious light of the gospel of Christ (who is the image of God) should shine unto them." (`2 Cor. 4:4`.) Here we see the constant and irrepressible conflict--the battle of darkness against the light, as our Lord explained it in his day, saying, "The darkness hateth the light, neither cometh to the light." But all who receive and rejoice in and obey the light are the "children of the light;" and after the image of the Lord has been impressed upon their hearts, such become light-bearers to others and so shine forth upon all with whom they come in contact, reflecting the light which is shining upon them from the divine source unseen and unappreciated by the world.
At present the influence of these lights is but small in comparison with what it will be hereafter. Now, the Lord's people are like lights set upon a hill which cannot be hid, and yet their influence upon the world is comparatively small. It is still true of the
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body of Christ as it was true of the Head, "The light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not." But of the by and by it is written, "Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father;" "The sun of righteousness shall arise with healing in his beams." This will be the great Millennial day; and as a result of the shining forth of the elect Church, we are assured that all darkness will disappear and the light of "the knowledge of the Lord shall fill the whole earth."
Proceeding, the Apostle assures us that, in order to the attainment of this intimate knowledge of God which multiplies our grace and peace and gives us all things that pertain to life and godliness, God has "given unto us exceeding great and precious promises." Looking about us, we find that the majority of our fellow-Christians in the world, even of those who have the "precious faith" and trust in the "precious blood," must be "babes" in even elementary knowledge; for evidently they do not know much concerning these exceeding great and precious promises. If we would inquire of them with reference to these promises, the vast majority would answer,--Our hope is that by the grace of God, if faithful, we shall escape eternal torment and get to heaven. And many would add, If I can get just inside the door of heaven, it will be all I could ask or hope for.
What? Do they know nothing of the "exceeding great and precious promises" mentioned by the Apostle? Alas! apparently very little. But what are these promises, and who have knowledge of them?
Only those who are following in the pathway which the Apostle here marks out; who multiply their grace and peace, through an ever-increasing, intimate knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord,--those who are seeing more and more clearly the divine character and plan, and whose hearts are in a susceptible and impressionable attitude, and upon which is being fixed more and more distinctly the image of God's dear Son, who is the express image of the Father. (`Rom. 8:29`.) Before these, shining out as helps by the way, in letters of light, are the "exceeding great and precious promises" of God's Word, which to other hearts are unilluminated, dark and almost meaningless.
Which and what are these promises?
Oh, they are so many and so precious that it is difficult to know which would rank first. Perhaps first of all is the precious promise, "It doth not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is." Another is, "If I go away, I will come again, and receive you unto myself;" in harmony with which is the prayer, "Father, I will that these may be with me, where I am, that they may behold my glory." Another is, "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne." Another is, "They shall be mine...in that day when I make up my jewels." Another is, "Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." Another is, that we are "Heirs of God, joint-heirs with Jesus Christ, our Lord, if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together." Another is, that we are "Begotten again to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time." Another is, "To him that overcometh I will give power over the nations"--authority, dominion as "kings and priests unto God" to "reign on the earth." Another is that these kings and priests will reign to bless, as it is written, "In thy Seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed." Another promise is that Israel according to the flesh shall yet obtain mercy and blessing through the mercy of these kings and priests of the Gospel age.--`Rom. 11:32`.
Finally, all of these exceeding great and precious promises are summed up by the Apostle in his declaration that, through this knowledge of God and
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through the influence of these precious promises, it is God's will that we who by nature were children of wrath even as others "might become partakers of the divine nature." Oh, what a rich promise is here! How exceedingly great and precious! Who could have thought such a thing? Our highest thought might possibly have been perfection of the human nature, the earthly image of God, or perhaps, as some have sung, we might want to be angels and with the angels stand. But although angelic nature is higher than human nature, our God has not been content with offering to the "elect" Church angelic nature, but in the riches of his grace and wonderful provision he has far outdone the highest flight of human fancy and has promised that the overcoming Church, the "little flock," to whom it is his good pleasure to give the Kingdom, the bride, the Lamb's wife, shall be exalted to share the divine glory and divine nature of her Lord, as well as to share his heavenly Kingdom.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for us: we cannot comprehend why our great Creator should exalt to his own nature such poor, helpless creatures of the dust as we by nature are. But this and all the other gracious promises exhibit to us more and more the heights and depths, the lengths and breadths, of the love of our God, which surpasses human knowledge.
In view of what we already know of our Creator, especially as revealed to us in and through our Lord and Redeemer, Jesus, shall we not, as those who have come to see something of his glorious character, "press toward the mark" (`Phil. 3:14`) for the attainment of all that he may be pleased to reveal to us concerning himself, that thus we may be more and more partakers of his spirit, more and more conformed to his likeness, more and more acceptable, and by and by be actually and everlastingly accepted in the Beloved, to the full realization of all those blessings which God has in reservation for them who love him, and of which now we have the exceeding great and precious promises?
Such promises and such knowledge properly inspire our hearts to love, obedience and self-sacrifice, that we may please him who has called us to his own nature and fellowship; and, as the Apostle says, "He who hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he [the Lord] is pure."
It was to this intimate knowledge of or acquaintance with the Lord and its reward that the Apostle Paul referred, saying,--"That I might know him and [experience] the power of his resurrection [the First or Chief Resurrection, by] being made [fully] conformable unto his death [--which full surrender is possible to those only who know him well and have drunk in his spirit]."--`Phil. 3:10`.
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THE BLESSED PEOPLE OF GOD.
"Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."--`Matt. 5:3`.
IT IS only when, as faithful and obedient children of God, we reverently turn the sacred pages of his holy Word and read them as a loving epistle from our faithful God, full of wisdom and counsel and wholesome instruction, that we gather from it all the refreshment of divine grace contained in it. Thus, for instance, in the first lines of our Lord's sermon on the mount, heavenly love breaks forth in showers of blessing --"Blessed," "blessed," "blessed are ye!" Who are the blessed ones thus addressed? Are they the holy angels who do always behold the Father's face? Truly they are blessed; but these words were not addressed to them, but to the redeemed sons of men--to men rescued from the fall, whose feet were taken out of the miry clay and set upon a rock, and in whose mouth is put the new song of praise and thanksgiving for redeeming love and grace.
"Blessed are ye!" Do the blessings belong to all who have ever to any extent tasted of the favor of God? Do they belong to the pardoned sinners who, after being pardoned and cleansed, like the nine lepers of whom the Lord spoke, return not again to give God the glory? Do they belong to those who do not follow on to know the Lord,--who decline to be led of his spirit while they continue to partake of the spirit of the world? Do they belong to the proud and lofty-spirited ones, to those at ease in Zion, to the self-satisfied, the selfish, or those who in any form regard iniquity in their hearts? Ah, no! Any such who read these lines must read therein their own condemnation; for, while they are benedictions to the faithful, they are also solemn warnings to the unfaithful. The benedictions are for the poor in spirit; for those who mourn because iniquity abounds; for the meek (the teachable and humble); for those who hunger and thirst after righteousness; for the merciful; for the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and the reviled and persecuted for righteousness' sake; for those whom the Lord calls "the salt of the earth" and "the light of the world." Blessed, yes, blessed are ye of the Lord of hosts! Yours is the Kingdom of heaven; you shall inherit the earth; you shall be comforted; you shall be filled with the spirit of God; you shall obtain mercy; you shall see God, and shall be called the children of God; your reward in heaven is great; you shall by and by be as a city set on a hill that cannot be hid. "Rejoice, and be exceeding glad;"
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for these heavenly benedictions are upon your heads.
What refreshment and joy are here for all the faithful sons of God who feed upon his Word, who lean in simple faith upon the promises and obediently walk after the spirit of God. Observe again the conditions of this blessing: they are not such as we cannot comply with: they are not conditions of absolute perfection which we cannot attain while we are in these imperfect bodies; but they indicate a reaching out after that perfection,--a hungering and thirsting after the righteousness of God, a mourning for all that comes short of that righteousness, especially in self, but also
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in others, and a consequent inharmony with the general spirit and course of this present evil world. And together with the heavenly desires and aspirations there must be a meek and contrite spirit--a pliable, teachable disposition. "Blessed are the poor in spirit"--the lowly in mind, the studious, teachable ones. Such the Lord can and will lead by his spirit into the paths of righteousness, and finally into the glory of his Kingdom: --"Theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
O that our dull souls may awake more fully to all that is implied in this promise of the Kingdom! Let us meditate upon it more and more, until the glorious hope inspires to faithful endurance of hardness under all circumstances as good soldiers of Jesus Christ. How large a place did the things pertaining to the Kingdom of God occupy in the preaching of Jesus and the apostles! Indeed, the whole message of divine inspiration contained in the New Testament was briefly comprehended in that expression of our Lord--"This gospel of the kingdom." The entire work of this Gospel age was to be the preaching of this Kingdom,--"This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world, for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end [the harvest of the age] come." (`Matt. 24:14`.) This gospel--this good news--of the coming Kingdom of God, with all that pertains to it, was the constant theme of the Lord and the apostles:--"Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the Kingdom." And he commissioned his disciples, saying, "As ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand."-- `Matt. 10:7`.
We read nothing in the New Testament of any departure on the part of the early disciples from this blessed theme of the gospel of the Kingdom to the preaching of a mere lifeless morality, or of politics, or of any other theme; but the prospective Kingdom of God, its sure foundation in Christ the Redeemer, its universal dominion, its unlimited authority, its righteous character and requirements, the holiness that alone can inherit or enter into it, and the glory and blessedness to come in it and through it, were constantly held before the people to the exclusion of all side issues.
This is the Kingdom to be inherited by the poor in spirit; for only the poor in spirit--the humble, teachable ones--can submit to the discipline and training necessary to fit them for it. The heady, the high-minded, the proud, the self-conscious and self-righteous have no promise of the Kingdom, and cannot inherit it, nor enter into it; for "there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth." (`Rev. 21:27`.) So, altho in the present age many of these are esteemed of men as the aristocracy of the earth, they will not be the aristocracy of the new dispensation; but the poor in spirit will reign with Christ for the blessing of all the families of the earth. And even now, in God's estimation, these constitute the embryo Kingdom, and God is in the midst of them, and his law is established in their hearts. "The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart, and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit." "Tho the Lord be high, yet hath he respect unto the lowly; but the proud he knoweth afar off." "For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy: I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones." "Thus saith the Lord, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house [the temple] that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest?...but upon such a one will I look, upon the poor, and him who is of a contrite spirit, and who trembleth at my word."--`Psa. 34:18`; `138:6`; `Isa. 57:15`; `66:1,2`.
This is the Kingdom class, the temple class, the beloved of the Lord with whom he is pleased to dwell. Like their Master, they are often lightly esteemed among men of the world, and perhaps despised among the multitudes who professedly are the Lord's people, but whose hearts and minds are still engrossed with worldly things; but they are the prospective kings and priests of the new dispensation, and their lowly estate in the present life is only their necessary discipline to fit them for the glory and service of the time to come. These are the living stones now being shaped, chiseled and polished for their places in the glorious temple of God, the house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. Blessed indeed are the poor in spirit with such a heritage! M. F. RUSSELL.
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PETER DELIVERED FROM PRISON.
--APRIL 25.--`ACTS 12:5-17`.--
"The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them."--`Psa. 34:7`.
FOLLOWING the history of the early Church, we now come upon another period of persecution. The former persecution seems to have passed by the principal ones of the Church entirely. It manifested itself against ordinary believers rather than against the apostles and public ministers. The result, as we have
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seen, was the spread of the gospel by those who were "scattered abroad everywhere." The persecution now considered was directed against the apostles. Both persecutions were from the adversary and his faithful, but were such only as God saw best to permit, and such as would work out some good in connection with his plan.
During the reign of the Roman Emperor Caligula the Jews were kept in a considerable ferment by reason of his repeated attempt to have his statue set up in the temple, with altars for the worship of himself. While the Jews were so busy in defending their own religious liberties, the infant Christian Church was left comparatively unmolested; but now Caligula was dead, and a very different personage was his successor, and the Jews having a respite from troubles of their own, had good opportunity to cultivate their animosity against the followers of the Nazarene. King Herod Agrippa, having been obliged to cooperate with the Emperor's plans, had made himself more or less obnoxious to his subjects, the Jews; and he now sought to conciliate them, by persecuting the Christians. This Herod Agrippa was a worthy successor to his uncle, who had murdered John the Baptist, and to his grandfather, Herod the Great, who murdered the infants at Bethlehem. His first object was personal aggrandizement and the perpetuation of his own family in the kingdom. His public acts, on the one hand, were intended to continue him in favor with the Emperor at Rome, and on the other hand, to gain as much favor as possible from the people whom he ruled as king,--as representative of the Emperor.
The persecution began with the killing of the Apostle James. Seeing that thereby he gained the favor of the Jews, Herod thought it the cheapest method by which to regain popularity with his subjects and proceeded to take Peter also. What a sad blow this must have been to the early Church! James and Peter were apparently the principal leaders in the affairs of the Church at Jerusalem, as they two with John, the brother of James, were the most prominent amongst the apostles while our Lord lived. We can imagine the consternation --James already dead, Peter seized and imprisoned and his execution held over merely because it was the week of Passover, and because according to Jewish custom no one could be put to death during that week. The manifest, if not declared, intention of Herod was that Peter should be killed in some manner immediately after the close of the Passover week. Here we pause to notice a strange commingling of religious formalism with the spirit of murder: the spirit of murder was in Herod and in the Jews, yet both for the time restrained themselves in order to symbolize by the Passover ceremonial a cleansing of the heart and life, a purification toward God. There is a lesson here (for all who will take it) to be on guard lest the outward and formal observances be an utter contradiction of the real condition of the heart. While obedience to the Lord in outward observances is eminently proper, it is still more important that the thoughts be pure and good.
By this time the number of Christians in Jerusalem was evidently considerable, notwithstanding the number that had emigrated on account of persecution; and it does not at all surprise us that we are informed that these everywhere were praying to God on Peter's behalf. There were evidently no church buildings in use by the Christians up to this time: they gathered in convenient places, and quite probably there were several of these in Jerusalem. The earnestness of these prayers is evidenced by the fact that they were kept up all night, and evidently for the entire week of Peter's imprisonment; for he was not delivered until the very last night, and, when delivered, it was some time in the "fourth watch," which began at three o'clock in the morning, and he was knocking at the "gate" of Mary's home, where prayer was being made, before sunrise.--`Verse 13`.
We cannot know just why the Lord permitted the death of James and spared the life of Peter; yet, doubtless,
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both events exercised a beneficial influence upon the Church. Possibly, indeed, there may have been growing in the Church a lack of appreciation of these apostles whom the Lord had so highly honored as his mouthpieces and channels for blessing the Church. The martyrdom of one would cause his loss to be seriously realized, the imprisonment of the other would and did draw forth the sympathy, love and appreciation of the whole company; and after they had prayed so earnestly for his deliverance, we may be sure that Peter was more than ever beloved by the Lord's flock. At all events, the death of one and the sparing of the other, we may be sure, were parts of the all things that worked together for good to those who loved the Lord.
Meantime, Peter had been delivered to four quaternions of soldiers (i.e., four relief guards of four soldiers each): two of these watched in the outer courts of the prison, while two of them were chained to Peter in the cell. Thus, seemingly, every precaution had been taken against his escape. He had been delivered once before from the prison into which he had been thrust by the Sanhedrin, but now he was under military guard, probably in the Tower of Antonio, and chained to soldiers who knew that under Roman usage his escape would mean their death. The entire week had been spent in prayer on his behalf, yet the Lord had not delivered him, and each day seemed to add to the earnestness of the prayers, and to the necessity for the deliverance; yet knowing the circumstance it was difficult to judge
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in which way the Lord's providence would be interposed on Peter's behalf, if at all. Since the Lord had seen best to permit the death of James, they must have reasoned that they could not be at all certain that Peter would be delivered from death. How great and how far-reaching were the blessings of that week of trial and of prayer, of drawing near to the Lord and of realization of complete dependence upon him, we may surmise. The Lord was pleased in his providence to spare Peter to the Church, but he was also evidently pleased to be inquired of by the Church on this subject.
However, even on the last night of his imprisonment, though he expected that the next morning Herod would call for him to deliver him up to death, notwithstanding all this, "Peter slept." His noble, courageous heart was fixed upon the Lord, he trusted in divine wisdom and divine power and divine love, and was assured that nothing would be permitted to happen that would not be in some manner overruled for good. Hence, committing his all to the Lord, he was able to rest sweetly in sleep. Here was the appropriate order of things: the one directly involved so sweetly resting in the Lord's grace and love that he was free from trouble and fear, while the Church in general, though not so directly and personally concerned, were so full of loving interest on behalf of a brother that they prayed without ceasing day and night on his behalf. What they asked we are not told, but what they should ask under such circumstances we may well know from our Lord's own prayer (`Matt. 26:39-42`): whatever they asked, in propriety must have included the thought and the expression--Thy will, not ours, O Lord, be done.
When the angel awakened Peter, loosed his fetters, opened the strongly barred gates of the prison and brought him forth into the street, he left him, having accomplished his mission. Peter, amazed and bewildered, could scarcely realize at first whether it was a reality or a vision; but as he got his senses collected he comprehended that God had wrought for him another wonderful deliverance from the hands of his enemies-- Herod and the Jews. But he neither went back to taunt the soldiers, nor was he filled with self-admiration and self-confidence, so as to shout his deliverance on the way; but considering the matter carefully he concluded that his proper course would be flight to some other city, as the Lord had directed, saying, "When they shall persecute you in one city flee to another." But as a true under-shepherd he had too deep an interest in the Lord's people who were so earnestly praying for him, to leave them without some explanation: so, going to the house of one of the friends of the cause, he communicated to them the fact of his release, sent word to the leaders of the cause in the city-- "James, and the brethren"--and then fled to another place. This James was the brother of our Lord, while the James who had been killed was the Apostle, the brother of John. The fact that James and the prominent brethren were not at the house of Mary and her son John-Mark would seem to corroborate the thought that the meeting at the latter place was only one of many in Jerusalem.
The narrative of Peter's knocking at the door and the interruption of the prayer meeting, with the announcement of the answer of the prayers in a most remarkable manner, is all told with a beautiful simplicity, and indicates to us the loving spirit of fellowship and brotherhood which existed in the early Church.
The Golden Text carries a great lesson of its own in connection with Peter's deliverance. The Scriptures give us clearly to understand that the angels of God are "ministering spirits sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation." (`Heb. 1:14`.) Very seldom have they been manifested to any as in this recorded instance; yet they are present as the representatives of the Lord to do any needed work for us according to his will. But we are to understand that the angel of the Lord was with James who was killed, as truly as with Peter who was delivered; and that the deliverance of God's people is not always such as can be appreciated by the natural senses. Sometimes the angel of the Lord is present with us and grants sustaining strength to endure a trial from which we are not delivered. Such was our Lord's case: we read that an angel appeared unto him and strengthened him. Such was probably the ministration of angels to James in his time of sore distress, when his life was yielded up to a murderer. Such also have been the experiences of many: the angel of the Lord has stood with them and has strengthened where he was not authorized to deliver. It is recorded that many Christian martyrs were so upheld and blessed, that even in the midst of persecution, torture and flames, they were able to sing praises to the Lord. It is related of Bishop Latimer that when bound to the stake he said to Bishop Ridley, speaking with great equanimity respecting his own suffering, "We shall light such a candle, by God's grace, in England this day, as I trust shall never be put out again."
How it enlarges the confidence of a Christian to realize that whilst earthly powers may be in opposition, and whilst he may be really of himself powerless to resist adversaries, and whilst in addition to the flesh and blood adversaries he may realize that he battles also with spiritual wickedness in exalted places--against Satan and his minions of darkness--yet that, on the other hand, "greater is he that is on our part than all that be against us," and that all the heavenly hosts are subject to the divine will and may be employed for the advancement of the divine cause according to divine wisdom.
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PAUL'S FIRST MISSIONARY TOUR.
--MAY 2.--`ACTS 13:1-13`.--
WITH this lesson we leave the parent Church at Jerusalem, and the later Church at Antioch, and start with the Apostle Paul upon what is termed the first missionary tour. Really, however, nearly all of the work thus far done might be said to be of the nature of missionary work. Our Lord's work amongst the Jews was in the nature of a missionary work. The work which began with the day of Pentecost amongst the Jews was in the nature of missionary work. The work done by those who were scattered abroad as the result of persecution in Judea was in the nature of missionary work. The Church at Antioch was itself a mission Church. And so the missionary journey of the Apostle Paul should not be considered in the light of special mission work, as that term is used to-day (not a mission to savages and barbarians), but rather as a part of the whole work, which the Lord was pleased to specially bless and use in the establishment of the truth in various quarters distant from Jerusalem.
In a previous lesson we saw the progress made by the Christians at Antioch under the instruction of the holy Spirit through Barnabas and Paul. And this is corroborated by the testimony of this lesson that the Church at Antioch was in a healthful condition, spiritual and full of zeal for the spread of the gospel. It had in it by this time several persons of ability and full consecration whom the Lord was pleased to use in connection with its ministry; and the time had come when Paul and Barnabas could be spared to go elsewhere, to start others in the good way; and the holy spirit indicated that this should be done. How this was indicated we are not informed, and we will not speculate concerning it. Suffice it that the Church understood the directions of the holy spirit and obeyed them, Barnabas
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and Paul being agreeable also. Barnabas is mentioned first in the record because up to this time he had the more prominent position, as being older than Paul in spiritual things and perhaps also older in years. While Paul was "a chosen vessel" unto the Lord, prepared for a great service, it had not yet been fully manifest that he was the Lord's choice to fill the place of Judas, the twelfth apostle.
Apparently Barnabas and Paul were sent forth at the expense or charges of the Church at Antioch, and hence went forth as their representatives, as well as representatives of the Lord. The importance of the matter was appreciated, and the dependence of the mission upon divine blessing was recognized in the fasting and prayer and outward manifestation of appointment by laying on of hands. This laying on of hands was not by way of giving authority to preach, for Barnabas and Paul had already been teaching in various quarters for some years, and had been teaching the Church at Antioch for over a year: it was therefore merely a ceremony by which the missionaries and the Church undertaking their support took cognizance of each other as representatives and represented in this special work about to be begun. But while accepting the commission of the Antioch Church, as its representatives, the missionaries specially recognized that they were sent forth by the holy spirit.--`Verse 4`.
They had not gone far before they began the work which lay so near to their hearts;--the preaching of God's message, of good tidings of great joy, of reconciliation effected by the precious blood of Christ. They did not go to heathen people, but went to sow the seed of the Kingdom in already prepared soil: they went, first of all, as in every place, to the Jews who for sixteen hundred years had been under the law as a school-master to prepare them to receive Christ. The pious Gentiles who were "feeling after God, if haply they might find him," and who had some knowledge of the God of Israel, frequently attended these Jewish synagogues, and hence in going to these the missionaries, Barnabas and Paul, were reaching the best prepared and most religious element in every place.
The liberality of the management of the Jewish synagogues is attested by the fact that the gospel got a ready hearing in all of them up to the point where they realized that the message was likely to produce a division in their midst. If the Jewish synagogues and Christian churches to-day were conducted on a similarly liberal basis, and gave opportunity for the presentation of any subject that could be presented from the Scriptures and in harmony with the Scriptures, the present missionary work of disseminating the present harvest truth would be very much simplified. While to-day we are less subject to the violent persecution, on the other hand we are seriously handicapped by prevailing conditions and sectarian bondage.
John-Mark, the nephew of Barnabas, is here introduced to us; not as a third laborer in the special work of ministry of the truth, but as an assistant or servant to Barnabas and Paul. In this as in every place the Scriptures, while teaching that all believers are "brethren" and "fellow-heirs," nevertheless repudiate entirely the thought entertained by some to-day that all brethren are exactly on an equality in every matter. Very properly Mark did not say--"If I cannot go on an equality with Barnabas and Paul, I will not go at all." Very properly he did say that if there is any opportunity for service, if by any means I can render
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any assistance in the journey and affairs of these whom the holy spirit has indicated as special representatives, I shall be most glad to serve them, and thus serve indirectly the Lord and his cause. And there were opportunities, as there are always opportunities for those who have a will to serve the cause; and no doubt Barnabas, and especially Paul, received many helps from their younger brother who had become their servant chiefly from his desire to serve the cause of Christ. No doubt also their opportunities for public ministry of the truth were enlarged and broadened by his helpful assistance in secular affairs. Paul especially constantly needed a helper, because of his thorn in the flesh, his weak eyes.
Mark's faithful service continued for some time, but for some reason (`verse 13`) not stated he left the work, and we may judge very nearly lost his privilege and opportunity in connection with it. No one knows how much he may have lost of spiritual blessing and privilege by his failure to continue with Paul. The disagreement, whatever it may have been, apparently extended to his uncle Barnabas, and eventually led to the separation of the latter from Paul. However, years afterward John-Mark apparently saw things in a different light, and again joined Paul's company. He seems to have ultimately become a true yoke-fellow, very highly appreciated by the great Apostle. (`Col. 4:10`; `2 Tim. 4:11`.) Here is a suggestion to all of us that, no matter what may be the door of opportunity for engaging in the Lord's service, faithfulness to it is essential to progress; and there is a further lesson that if we find that we have erred and been unappreciative of our privilege the best thing to do is to repent therfor and seek a renewal of the opportunities, and to attest our loyalty by fresh and increased earnestness.
The gospel heralds continued on their journey through the Island of Cyprus, until at Paphos they came in contact with a new experience. There Satan has a special servant, a spirit-medium, a sorcerer, and false teacher. This man had ingratiated himself with the chief government official of that place, and when the latter was being reached by the gospel message the sorcerer opposed it, realizing that there can be no harmony between light and darkness, between the spirit of Christ and the spirit of demons, and that if the deputy governor became a follower of Christ and imbued with his spirit, he would be proportionately out of harmony with spirit mediumship and sorcery and all the evil works of the flesh and the devil. It was a peculiar case, such as apparently had not previously been presented; it was a contention between truth and error and the servant of truth and the servant of error. It was just such a case as was needed to bring forward the Apostle Paul's grand traits of character: opposition only made him the stronger by arousing him fully to the necessity of the case. More than this, although he had already been made the recipient of certain "gifts" of the holy spirit, he was now specially imbued with divine power, as is here indicated by the Greek text; and acting under the direction of this holy power which possessed him, he pronounced against Elymas the scathing rebuke and sentence of blindness, recorded in this lesson.
The deputy, who was evidently honest-hearted and sincere in his desire to know the truth, was thus convinced of the truth, and embraced the gospel. From this time onward Paul takes his place as the chief one in the work: hereafter it is Paul and Barnabas or Paul and his company. It is quite probable that it was a failure to recognize the Lord's leading in connection with the Apostle Paul and his leadership as an apostle of this branch of the work, and through family sympathy with his uncle Barnabas, that John-Mark here deserted the work.
The spiritual lesson here, for us all, is (1) that the Lord himself is at the helm and directing his work, and that each and all of us should continually look to him for the guidance of his work and to note how he is leading the various members in the body (`1 Cor. 12:25-31`); (2) the lesson teaches us the Lord's will respecting the promulgation of the gospel; for altho unfortunately the Golden Text chosen is spurious-- not found in old manuscripts (`Mark 16:9 to end`, being omitted by all old manuscripts--See also Revised Version), --nevertheless, the same thought, that it is the will of God that the gospel should be preached everywhere, is abundantly taught in other places (`Matt. 28:19`) and enforced by this very lesson under consideration. We see from it, too, that while certain servants are chosen and indicated by the Lord for certain special services, yet others are permitted to serve as did Mark, and still others may serve the Church at home, as did Simeon and Lucius and Manaen, and that still others--the entire Church--are privileged to cooperate in the matter of sympathy, love, prayers, hospitality and financial sustenance.--`Rom. 12:6-13`.
Circumstances have since greatly changed, and we are not to be confined to exactly the same methods of procedure now as then; but the inherent principles are the same. We neither wear the same kind of clothing, nor travel in the same kind of vessels, nor are we supported in exactly the same manner. But with all of these variances the same service is now due to be performed; namely, the preaching of the gospel to all who have "ears to hear." With the gospel presented on the printed page, and with present mail and rail facilities, a very much larger number may become public missionaries, going from place to place, holding up the
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lamp of life, carrying the good tidings from door to door. The same agencies make it possible for those who must remain at home and who can use the mails to thus go about doing good, preaching Christ and his Kingdom and its righteousness. Others in turn can go about preaching orally as well as circulating the printed page --"every man according to his several ability." (`Matt. 25:15`.) We who are living to-day have special opportunities and privileges for ministering the truth to others. Our responsibility is correspondingly large, and our faith and love and zeal should be correspondingly shown; for he who loves much and who has many opportunities will surely do much for him who has called us out of darkness into his marvelous light.
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District of Columbia.
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL:--I have just received a letter from our beloved Brother Lundy, in which he tells me that you are preparing a tract for the Hebrews. I am so delighted over the news that I cannot keep myself from writing a few words. May the Lord bless you and develop in you a true, sincere and earnest love to his people which he formed for himself to show forth his praise (`Isa. 42`), and who through the erroneous teachings of the apostate church were led to believe that Christianity is only another form of idolatry, and blasphemed and rejected the "only name given among men whereby we must be saved," and the great blessings of the gospel.
Tell my dear brethren boldly and lovingly of the true Christian creed: We trust in the living God, who is the savior of all men, especially of those who believe (`1 Tim. 4:10`); that "By his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many, for he shall bear their iniquities" (`Isa. 53:11`); that we Christians do not make the law of God void, but establish the law (`Rom. 3:31`); and that The letter killeth, but the spirit quickeneth.
Yours in the love of the Lord and his people,
CHAS. S. LABOFISH.
DEAR BROTHER AND SISTER RUSSELL:--I have been intending for some time to write you, but hitherto have had nothing new to add to the same old story of the amazing love of God for man. I am still holding on the same place of anchor--the ransom for all, the rock Christ Jesus. For the past six years I thought, like Elijah of old, that I was the only one in this place that cared for God, and that (typically speaking) many were seeking my life; but the good Lord has shown me that I was mistaken. During last Summer brother Wiltze moved to this town, and we at once met regularly for communion and study. Through him I learned that one of the members of the official board of the Methodist church with me when I resigned from the board and withdrew from the church was now reading DAWN and quite interested in its teaching. This brother had the DAWN at the time I left the church, but on the advice of the Minister he laid it away as a dangerous book. I called to see him and found both him and his wife much interested. After that they met with Bro. Wiltze and myself until they removed to near Boston, and I am informed that they meet regularly with the brethren in Boston. This greatly encouraged us to persevere in the work.
Two weeks ago I stepped into the butcher shop of a stranger to me to purchase a piece of meat, and while getting it ready he asked me if my name was Anger. I said, yes. He said he had heard of me as a reader of MILLENNIAL DAWN and that he had also been reading it. I asked, How do you like its teachings? His reply was that it was the only satisfying explanation of the Bible and the plan of salvation. His wife came in, and I was introduced to her. She was very enthusiastic, and I learned from her that her father had been a reader and believer of DAWN and its teachings for eight years, that her brother and sister and others of the family were also believers. On my way home I called upon her father and found him strong in the faith, and another daughter as enthusiastic as the father. After exchanging views for some time I invited them to come to our meetings at my house, and the next afternoon the daughter and her husband came out and we had a profitable time. I should have mentioned that before I knew of these brothers and sisters a son of the brother above mentioned had also become a believer, and was meeting regularly with us and is making rapid progress in the truth.
One week ago to-day our little company numbered eleven, all but three of whom I believe are true believers, and the others not real opposers. To-day there were only five present, but one of them was a new convert to the old gospel. And so the Lord is leading and we are rejoicing and beginning to understand why he has prevented us from closing up our affairs in this town in order to get out of it over a year ago. Some time ago we came to the conclusion that the Lord had a work for us to do here, but we could see no opening, for the ministers had effectually closed the door against us by warning their people to avoid us as dangerous persons to talk to on religious subjects, as hot-headed persons, religious cranks and disbelievers in God's Word. When these things came to us, we rejoiced that we were accounted worthy to suffer with Jesus, for in his day he was regarded very much the same by the religious people of that time. "Blessed are ye, when men shall speak all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake." (`Matt. 5:11`.) But none of these things move us, for we know in whom we have believed, and that he is more than all they who are against us.
It is a strange thing that our opposers do not try to show wherein we have retrograded in life and action, but put forth all their efforts to show what a fearful thing it is to leave the church. To leave the church is a sure passport to perdition, and a man must be bad when he leaves the church, altho he neither swears, deals falsely with his neighbors or in any way deviates from the best standard of correct living, but on the other hand has an increased love for and faith in God's Word, diligently studies it to find out God's perfect will and earnestly strives daily to bring his life and conduct to harmonize with that Word. Yet herein is
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the evidence that human nature is still the same, perverted and unregenerated and far below the standard of perfect human nature.
What a glorious reality is the religion of Jesus Christ!--glorious in its contemplation, glorious in its possession, glorious when we can get but one to espouse it, yet more glorious in its after-fruits, when we (the Church) shall have the privilege of instructing, guiding, controlling and leading our friends (now enemies) back to righteousness and to God during the space of a thousand years. We are content to do the Master's will in any way it may be required, and are rejoicing at the prospect of the progress of truth, and if need be are willing to suffer for it. May God keep us humble, willing and obedient.
Your brother in Christ, an ardent follower of the Lamb, J. E. ANGER.
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL:--It has been a long time since I wrote to you, tho I have often thought of doing so. I was indeed pleased to learn of the opportune and powerful support received by the Society, and that it will be well spent is a foregone conclusion with me. In the TOWER you strike the keynote; you are building on the Rock, "and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." How easy and natural for our poor race to err now! Thank God, most of them know not what they do! In Feb. 15 issue you make so clear the flood that is sweeping away what little faith nominal Christians have. It illustrates, "Take away from him that hath not, and give to him that hath;" or, as expressed in `Luke 8:18`, margin, "even that he thinketh that he hath."
I want to call your attention to the `last chapter of Micah`, and invite your criticism on my applications. [We think the suggestions are good.--EDITOR.] `Verse 1` seems to apply to the true Church; `vs. 3` is a picture of the present unbearable corruption in governments and the operation of trusts; `vs. 4` refers to the nominal church; `verses 5 and 6` are addressed to the "little flock," as in `Luke 21:16`; `vs. 7` is uttered by them, as is `vs. 8`. And here is where it seems to me a partial darkness and confusion comes over them, so that she that is the enemy could bring a reproach. I would also like you to notice `vs. 15`--the going out of Egypt as a type of entering the Millennium.
Your brother in the faith, E. C. LEIGH.
DEAR FRIENDS IN CHRIST:--Received the books with thanks, and the brother is earnestly seeking the truth. Please send me a few more tracts. It does me good to find one who will receive the truth, and I praise the dear Lord for allowing me that privilege of service.
I think sometimes it is because I am so unworthy that the Lord don't use me more. In my early life I lived a devoted Christian for some years, then there came a time when I was measurably thrown out of Christian society, and I became cold, neglected duty and was what is called a "backslider," tho I never felt like denying the Lord who redeemed me. But seven years since, through the providence of our dear Lord, a brother handed me the DAWN to read, and it awakened me to greater love than I ever enjoyed before. Since that time I have tried in my weak way and through much affliction to do what I could. I fear I lost my place in the Bride company when living away from Christ; but, if I did, I will continue to serve him to the best of my knowledge. His service is all-glorious to me, and I will be his in some capacity. Please tell me briefly what you think of me. I study the Word all that I am able, and try to do all the good I can.
With much love to all the saints, I remain, your sister in Christ, M. C.__________
[REPLY:--Yours is at hand, and we are glad to hear from you again. Have sent the tracts requested, and rejoice with you that it has been your privilege to find at least one eager for the truth.
You ask what we think of your case. From what you say of your Christian experience and the present
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attitude of your heart, we should say, "Cast not away your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward, for ye have need of patience that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise." (`Heb. 10:33-37`.) The Apostle calls attention to some who were not able to go out in the midst of the battle as he was, but were loyal to the truth and rejoiced in the privilege of being the companions of some who were so used. And this, dear sister, has certainly been your case since you have come to a knowledge of the present truth. You have not lacked in sympathy for all the other members of the body, esteeming it a privilege to suffer with them if you could not do so for them. And as in David's day those who remained with the stuff received equal share of the spoils with those who went to battle, so we believe that you and all of like experience will receive share in the glories which await the overcomers.
That during a considerable portion of your life you were in a backslidden condition is to be regretted; but the fact that the Lord sent you the truth was a distinct evidence of his love for you, and that you had not fallen away beyond recovery. We have no doubt that as you look back you will be able to recognize that much of your languor was caused by lack of knowledge of God and his Word, and consequently your mind was not sufficiently awakened to the necessity for active service; and even if you had tried to teach the truth you would have been unable to do so, because you did not have it yourself. Hence, we are sure that, if you ask it, the Lord will forgive all the shortcomings of the past; in fact, we have no doubt that you have already done so, and that he has granted full forgiveness. All who are truly seeking to do the Lord's will can doubtless look back over the past years of their life and realize that they omitted many things they might have done. If it were not so, it would prove either that they have failed to grow, and have a low standard of excellence, or that all they did was perfectly done (which of course is impossible, for there is none righteous, no, not one). Herein lies the value to us of the robe of Christ's righteousness, covering all our imperfections, so that our best endeavors may be acceptable in God's sight as tho perfect.
Therefore, dear sister, we encourage you to renew your hope and confidence; do with your might what your hands find to do; let your daily life be a witness for the Lord and an example of holiness; and, when you can do nothing more, "Stand." (See `Eph. 6:10-18`. --EDITOR.]