ZWT - 1900 - R2555 thru R2747 / R2622 (129) - May 1, 1900
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VOL. XXI. MAY 1, 1900. No. 9.
The Memorial Supper..............................131
A Few Sample Reports.........................132
Poem--Only a Few More Years......................134
Knowledge Increases Responsibilities.............134
Come! Weary and Heavy-laden..................136
Two Types of Sinners.............................138
The Parable of the Sower.........................140
The Message of the Kingdom...................141
News From the "British Branch"...................142
Questions and Answers............................142
Who is Born of God?..........................143
How Will the Dead Hear?......................144
Joining Trade Unions.........................144
Items: Back Issues of the Tower, etc.............130
SUBSCRIPTIONS AND BUSINESS COMMUNICATIONS
WATCH TOWER BIBLE & TRACT SOCIETY, "BIBLE HOUSE," 610, 612, 614 ARCH ST., ALLEGHENY, PA., U.S.A.
SUBSCRIPTION PRICE, $1.00 A YEAR IN ADVANCE. MONEY MAY BE SENT BY EXPRESS, N.Y. DRAFT, MONEY ORDER, OR REGISTERED. FROM FOREIGN COUNTRIES BY FOREIGN MONEY ORDERS, ONLY. SPECIAL TERMS TO THE LORD'S POOR, AS FOLLOWS:--
Those of the interested who, by reason of old age, or other infirmity or adversity, are unable to pay for the TOWER will be supplied FREE, if they send a Postal Card each December, stating their case and requesting the paper. We are not only willing, but anxious, that all such be on our list continually.
DO NOT FORGET THAT IT IS UNSAFE TO MAIL MONEY.
SEND P.O. OR EXPRESS ORDER OR DRAFT.
DAWN IV. IN GERMAN.
We are glad to announce this edition now ready. Advance orders are being filled as rapidly as possible. We thank our German brethren for the patience they have so generously exercised.
BACK ISSUES OF THE WATCH TOWER.
We have many inquiries for back volumes of our Journal. We have made up as many sets nearly complete as possible-- about 150 sets as follows:--
Eight issues of 1891; seventeen of '92; nineteen of '93; twenty-two of '94; twenty-four of '95; twenty-four of '96; twenty of '97; twenty-three of '98; eighteen of '99.
So long as these sets last we shall be pleased to supply them at the regular rate--50 cents a dozen--any year, but no less than the complete set for any year.
THE VOLUNTEER AMMUNITION.
We are sending it out as rapidly as possible, but the field is a wide one and all have not yet been supplied. Besides, new "Volunteers" are from day to day coming to see that this is a very special opportunity for serving the King's cause. If your first lot is insufficient let us have "Order No. 2 for Ammunition" by the time you are sure what will be necessary to completely supply your district.
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THE MEMORIAL SUPPER.
EACH year seems to add to the interest of the Lord's people in the celebration of the great event which lies at the foundation of all our Christian hopes--the celebration of the death of "Christ, our Passover." Each year the matter seems to be more clearly grasped by a larger number, and correspondingly the solemnity and holy joy proper to the occasion seems to be the more intense, and the overflowing blessing to be more pronounced.
Many of the little companies of the Lord's people who celebrated on the evening of April 12th have responded to our request for information respecting the numbers participating, and the measure of the Lord's Spirit and blessing prevailing. From these reports we judge that the number participating this year was considerably more than last year. Though we have not heard from nearly so many, the totals are larger. We believe, too, from the letters that the meaning of the institution was very deeply appreciated, not only as marking the great sacrifice of our Lord Jesus, but also as marking the consecration of his people to be one with him in his sacrifice.
The Allegheny Church had a most blessed season, about 290 participating. We first reviewed the general meaning of the Passover, as it was instituted with the Jews, tracing the relationship between the typical Passover Lamb and Christ the Lamb of God, our Passover, and saw in the first-born of Israel passed over in that night a type of the Church of the First-born, which God is passing over during this Gospel night. We saw that subsequently these first-born ones became the leaders of Israel as a whole, and their deliverers from Egyptian bondage, and we saw that the anti-type of that deliverance will be the ultimate deliverance of all who love God and who desire to serve him, from the bondage of the world and of sin and of Satan, the antitype of Pharaoh, and that this ultimate deliverance would be during the Millennial age, when "the Church of the First-born" ones will be associated with Christ in the Millennial Kingdom.
Next we saw how that the Jews had celebrated the type for over sixteen centuries, with no knowledge of the antitype, and yet that in God's due time Christ, the antitypical Lamb, was slain on the very same day of the month that the typical Lamb was slain; and that on the very same day in which he and his disciples met as Jews to celebrate the typical Lamb and the typical passing over, our Lord instituted a new memorial, which should not look back to the type, but to himself, as the antitype. We noted also the appropriateness of the emblems which Jesus chose to represent his flesh and his blood; we saw that unleavened bread most beautifully illustrated the purity, the sinlessness, of our dear Redeemer, and that the cup, the fruit of the vine, represented his sufferings-- not sufferings that were grievous, but joyous, endured willingly, gladly, on our behalf, and we rejoiced in these things.
We considered how we were to feed upon the Lord in our hearts while using the bread emblematically-- that we could feed upon his flesh in the sense of calling to mind the fact that only through his sacrifice could we have life, only by his becoming our substitute in death could we, as a race, be set free from the condemnation that was upon us through Father Adam's transgression. We considered the fruit of the vine, the symbol of our Lord's blood, as the sealing of the New Covenant under which God, through Christ, could be merciful toward our imperfections, accepting our intentions, even though the weaknesses of the flesh might sometimes hinder us from attaining all the desired results.
Then we viewed the matter from the other standpoint --the secondary one mentioned by the Apostle in `1 Cor. 10:16,17`, viz., that the entire Church is one loaf, and that it is the duty and the privilege of all who have become members of the one loaf, the one body of Christ, to be broken in the service of the Head and in the service of each other, that thus we might have fellowship with Christ in his sufferings and ultimately be sharers in his glory. We saw that the cup of blessing with which we bless is indeed our communion or fellowship in the blood [sufferings] of Christ, our mingling of our lives with his life, our joining with him in "filling up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ." We sought to enter into the
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very deep meaning of the beautiful symbol, and to have it in our hearts a power of God, leading us to keener appreciation of our dear Saviour, and to a keener devotion as his disciples, to walk in his footsteps.
Then, after a prayer of thanksgiving to God for the living Bread that came down from heaven--for Jesus, who was not a condemned member of the human family, but a specially provided one, suitable to be our Saviour, our Bread, our Life-giver, and for all the blessing which we have through his great sacrifice, we partook of the bread. After this we gave thanks for the cup, acknowledging that we have no righteousness of our own, even though all the past were forgiven, and that we could not hope to stand before God acceptably or to have any dealings with
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him except under the gracious provisions of the New Covenant, sealed with the precious blood of Christ. We gave thanks also that by God's grace we have been called to fellowship with Jesus, and told the Lord of our hopes that by his grace we might run our course with faithfulness and eventually be received to joint-heirship with our Master in his glory when we are partakers with him of the joys of the Kingdom.
The simple but impressive memorial being ended, it was requested that in order that the solemnity of the hour might abide with us, to our mutual comfort and joy, we should part on that evening without entering into any conversation likely to attract our minds from the precious things which filled them, but rather might, for the hours following, remember the severe trials of the disciples, and the dear Master's trials, and seek to enter into close sympathy with his faithfulness, and to be all the more on guard against the wiles of the Adversary, which seem to be so potent at this season of the year. Then singing the first hymn we were dismissed.
An incident which added to our blessing in connection with this service was the fact that our dear Brother Horace A. Randle, who for about twenty years has been a missionary in China, was with us, and took part in the service with evident pleasure to himself and profit to us all. Bro. Randle wrote us in January last that he was about to start on his long journey of 16,000 miles, with the desire and intention to reach Allegheny in time for this Memorial service. He arrived just the day before, and was very warmly welcomed by us all. He addressed us on Easter Sunday, amongst other good things telling us of his great joy in the harvest truth, and of his intense desire to make known the grace of God to all the Lord's dear people, and of some efforts he had already put forth, and some of the fruitage which the Lord had permitted him to see amongst the missionaries of his acquaintance. Yet with regret he told us of how few of the missionaries seem to have any interest in these matters, and how the majority of the responses he received were in the nature of scoffings. We hope that our dear brother will put his address into writing that we may lay it before the larger Church some time in the near future.
We have received reports, all of them excellent, from 280 celebrations--from every State of the Union and from Canada. A few of these were from solitary individuals, who had no opportunity of meeting with others, but to whom the Lord granted much blessing, compensating them for their loneliness otherwise. It may be interesting that we give the numbers participating at some of the gatherings reported, as follows:--
Baltimore, Md., 20; Brantford, Ont., 29; New York, 18; Poughkeepsie, N.Y., 16; Washington City, 23; Scranton, Pa., 28; Boston, Mass., 97; Philadelphia, Pa., 55; Toronto, Ont., 37; Tiffin, O., 22; Sippo, O., 19; Youngstown, O., 25; Cleveland, O., 38; Columbus, O., 27; Canton, O., 22; Toledo, O., 28; Wheeling, W.Va., 16; Dayton, O., 16; Indianapolis, Ind., 34; Chicago, Ill., 70; Saginaw, Mich., 18; St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minn., 23; Weatherford, Tex., 24; St. Louis, Mo., 55; Omaha, Neb., 19; Council Bluffs, Ia., 16; Vanetia, Tex., 16; Los Angeles, Cal., 61; Allegheny, 290.
We are not foolish enough to think that these figures give any occasion for boasting, for the total amounts to only a few over 2,600, and we have every reason to suppose that we have heard from two-thirds of those who celebrated: foreign reports will come later. However, we have every reason to believe that these numbers represent people who not only profess Christ, but who also are seeking daily to live the Christ-life. Moreover, they are full of the Jubilee music, and having heard the joyful sound they are all repeating it far and near. Consequently we expect a much larger showing next year, as others of the Lord's truth-hungry, famished household are found and fed with things new and old now supplied us by our Lord.
Boston reports the largest number of immersions preceding the Memorial, viz., 23.
A FEW SAMPLE REPORTS.
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL:--It is with positive pleasure I can say that sectarian bondage has no more power over me. Meditation upon this subject has occupied my thoughts for several years past. I have been deliberate and slow to act, weighing the subject on every side, lest too hasty a decision should have a reacting effect filled with hopeless regret. Indeed, I did not take the step until after much earnest prayer. Since that time the conviction has been growing stronger that no child of God can make a mistake by stepping away from modern churchianity, for instead of such an act being a step away from God, it is making a long stride towards God.
Last evening it was my privilege to partake of the Memorial Supper, tho it was taken alone. I am rejoicing in the fact that my God counts me worthy to do my share to fill up that which is behind of the sufferings of Christ.
I could distribute a few of the WATCH TOWERS that are prepared for distribution, should you think best to send them.
Yours in the hope of the gospel,
MRS. A. AXTELL,--New York.
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL:--Last evening ten of us met to commemorate our dear Master's great ransom-sacrifice on our behalf, and to renew our covenant
with the Father. It was a glad, yet solemn time. Gladness for the great privilege of a "participation of the same loaf" and in the "same cup" and for the joy to know of all the blessings that will soon come to "all the families of the earth;" it was a solemn time as we realized to some extent the price with which we were bought, and the meaning of the covenant which we had made. Prayer was offered by each one present, and we felt that we had the witness of the spirit.
We were not quite so many in number as last year, owing to three being at another little gathering, one detained by sickness, and one, we fully believe, to have "gone home" during the past year. Truly it will be a glad time when we all get "home," for we do not feel at home here. All the brothers and sisters send you love and greetings in the Lord.
Your brother, in the bonds of love,
W. E. VAN AMBURGH,--S. Dakota.
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL:--The Memorial Supper was celebrated in our home--participated in by four who met in His name. The Prince of Peace was with us and his presence and power was manifest, not to the natural eye or ear, but in holy communion with him. Bro. Barker from Boston served the little company for the first time. Bro. Heald and wife were also sharers of a rich blessing. I did not so much at the time realize or appreciate his precious presence as afterward, when left alone in sweet meditation and communion. His blessed word and promises became spirit and life to me, increasing faith and love, until I fell at his feet in wonder and worship, that I, so unlike my blessed Redeemer, so unworthy of such love and grace, be allowed even to share some little suffering for his sake. How could it be? Only that "we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us;"-- we, indeed, the clay in the hands of the potter, yielding wholly to his touch. Thus in all things I will answer, not only unrepiningly, but gladly, "Father, not my will, but thine." I thank God for his divine love, as it makes me, as a humble child, for good conscience toward God, endure grief, suffering wrongfully.
I thank God for the many helps he has provided and is providing. MILLENNIAL DAWN and the WATCH TOWER have been and are such rich food to assist us in the knowledge and truth of God, and am only sorry that I cannot induce more to eat the food they contain.
Yours in Christ--Christ the hope of glory,
A. M. BLANCHARD,--Massachusetts.
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL:--I am addressing you a few lines to inform you of the blessed time we had at the Passover Supper on Thursday evening, when thirty-seven dear ones met to remember our dear Lord's death and to renew their vows of consecration. I may say this is just one-half more than we had at the Memorial Supper of 1899.
In our lessons of last Sunday and on Thursday afternoon we studied the trials and sufferings of our Lord and Master, in the garden of Gethsemane, during the various trials before the High Priests, before Pilate and Herod, and his finishing the work upon the cross. All seemed much interested and touched; all seemed thoroughly imbued with the responsibility and necessity of a more thorough consecration in the future, to the Lord's service, and love, harmony and zeal seemed to pervade, as also at the Lord's Supper in the evening.
All seemed to realize the deep solemnity of the occasion and there was apparent but one heart, one mind and one thought in desiring to energize for the crown of immortality and every heart seemed overflowing with love to our blessed Redeemer, and our prayer is that we may be permitted to "die daily" in his cause and to his honor and glory. We ask your prayers, dear brother, and the prayers of all the dear ones in Allegheny, that we may be kept bound together in love, harmony and peace, with our Heavenly Father, our loving Master and each other during the coming year.
Your servant in the Lord Jesus,
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL:--I thought I would send you a little report of our Thursday evening (Memorial Supper) meeting. On the eighth of the month I gave a talk to the friends on both sides on the subject, "Christ our passover," and the import of the bread and wine. I did this because I intended to visit Elgin on the 12th, which I did. They told me that they were specially in need of help for that occasion, and urgently requested me to be with them. Bros. Christensen and Sims took charge of the South Side meeting and Bros. Johnson and Petersen the West Side one. The friends of both sides say they had splendid meetings;--attendance at both meetings was about 70. The attendance at Elgin was 15. We had a glorious time there. I presume you had a splendid time in Allegheny on Thursday night. With best wishes and much Christian love, I remain as ever,
Yours in our dear Redeemer,
M. L. McPHAIL,--Chicago.
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL:--Concerning the Memorial Supper there were twelve participants, Bro. Brown having gone to Plymouth to conduct the memorial services there, and two sisters being prevented by sickness from meeting with us. No doubt Bro. Watts will advise you of our meeting, but lest he should not, I give you the details. We first sang hymn 23, "Blest be the tie that binds," which is so appropriate. As we repeated the words I was filled with a sense of the solemnity of the hymn--the tie which binds us to Christ, not only here, but all over the world. Then we had prayer, in which several joined. Bro. Watts then read quite a few texts appropriate to the occasion, with comments. He dwelt particularly upon the sacrificial feature--that our partaking of the cup symbolized our willingness to suffer, even to death, with him, that we may be raised with him. As there were five present who had never partaken of the memorial with us before, Bro. Watts explained the symbols particularly. We then sang the 122nd hymn and partook of the unleavened bread and grape juice, the broken body of our dear Lord and his shed blood, renewing our covenant to be broken with him, to die with him. We then sang hymn No. 1 and dispersed quietly. My heart is filled with joy and gratitude that I am permitted to share in these spiritual blessings.
May God bless and keep you near to him, and also your co-laborers! And in this thought I am sure
all the Church here would join, did they know of my writing to you.
Sincerely yours in Him,
FRANCES C. SHORE,--Michigan.
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL:--Friends numbering ninety-seven in all gathered last evening to commemorate the death of our dear Savior and Redeemer, our now present Lord. Our gathering was held in our usual place of worship and seated in nearly a circle, three to four rows deep about the Lord's table. We meditated on the events of that greatest scene in the world's history, listened to the lesson brought us by the Lord's faithful servant, our leader, and prayed for the similar gatherings, larger than ours, and the twos and threes scattered about throughout the world. Thanks were then offered for His body broken for us, of which we all then partook in symbol, and likewise concerning His shed blood. The 23 who were immersed the Sunday previous, thus symbolizing their consecration, were with us (except five from Lynn), and this added to the impressiveness of the service, calling vividly to our minds the remembrance of our own baptism and promise of obedience, even unto death, and causing us to have a desire to be more watchful and more faithful.
Yours in behalf of the Church at Boston, with cordial Christian greetings,
H. L. ALBEE,--Massachussetts.
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ONLY A FEW MORE YEARS.
--FRANCES C. SHORE.--
Only a few more years to learn our part,
Just a few more miles the race to run;
So gather courage fresh, O fainting heart!
O weary "feet," thy journey soon is done.
Only a few more months, but full of toil,
For in the "field" are hungry souls to feed,
Then struggle on O weary, burdened one!
For thou shalt find a strength in time of need.
Only a few more days to fill with love--
Love for all God's creatures, friend and foe,
Love which shall cover every human fault,
And bring a balm for every earthly woe.
Only a few more hours, we know, for some,
Who in this life have fought a goodly fight;
Henceforth for them remains a glorious crown,
A rest within the radius of God's light.
Only a few more days of willing sacrifice,
Of patient standing when our work is done;
Soon in His radiant presence we'll rejoice,
And praise him in our everlasting home.
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KNOWLEDGE INCREASES RESPONSIBILITIES.
--`MATT. 11:20-30`.--MAY 6.--
"Come unto me, all ye that labor and are
heavy-laden, and I will give you rest."
OUR LORD would seem to have been somewhat disappointed at the result of his ministry, especially in Capernaum, where he had resided a considerable time, and our lesson opens with a warning to the people of Capernaum, Chorazin and Bethsaida, that having been favored with many mighty works and many evidences of Jesus' Messiahship, and that the Kingdom was being offered to them, etc., they would be held correspondingly responsible. As Capernaum had been greatly blessed, highly exalted, or, figuratively, "exalted up to heaven" in its privileges and opportunities, the result to it would be greater degradation, and eventually it would be brought low into the dust--destroyed, "brought down to hell," in the text, signifying brought down to hades, the death-state. And surely this was fulfilled in the trouble which came upon the Jews, and which destroyed their nationality, as a result of their having failed to accept the Messiah and the Kingdom which he offered to establish.
But though our Lord was disappointed that he was so generally rejected, he cannot have expected that he would be widely welcomed by the people. He must have known, as he elsewhere describes to his disciples, quoting from the prophecies, that he would be rejected by Israel, and that the Kingdom offer would pass by them. As a matter of fact his rejection on their part incidentally permitted the sending of the gracious call to the Kingdom honors to believers among the Gentiles, and thus we are favored at the present time.
The contrast which the Master draws between Bethsaida and Chorazin and Tyre and Sidon is a strong one. The latter two were flourishing Gentile cities, yet, as was common in such, very full of wickedness and immorality, so that evidently their names were synonymous for that which was unholy, licentious, unclean. So then, for our Lord to say that if his mighty works had been done in those unholy cities they would have repented long ago in sack-cloth and ashes, that is, with deep contrition, was to say that the people of Bethsaida and Chorazin were in very much worse condition of heart than those Gentiles: further from such a condition as God could bless.
From this we may gather that God takes a different standpoint of viewing such matters from that taken by the majority of people. He does not merely say, Is this a moral or an immoral city? Are these people decent or indecent? The question which the Lord would examine rather would be, What is the heart attitude of this people or that people, this individual or that individual? What is he aiming, striving, for? --how would he be effected thereby if granted clearer light respecting the divine will? Hence, if we look at ourselves, and find that we are not immoral, not coarse, sensual, brutish, but more refined than many others, this is well; it is what we should be in view of our favors, privileges and mercies; but we are to
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remember that we might still be very far short of what would be pleasing to the Lord, and that if God should favor us with certain privileges and blessings and opportunities, and we were to reject them, our attitude in his sight might be worse than that of the immoral.
Turning to Capernaum, most favored of all, our Lord contrasts her with Sodom, whose wickedness was very great, so that it brought upon her a fierce destruction from the Lord. Capernaum is clearly told that from the Lord's standpoint of view her people were more wicked, less worthy of divine favor, more worthy of punishment, than the people of Sodom. This was a severe arraignment, and yet, we can see, a just one, for the poor Sodomites, walking in the way of sin, ignorance of God, etc., gradually went down and down, according to the course of fallen nature, while the people of Capernaum had much advantage every way as Jews, whom the Lord had blessed with a knowledge of himself, and to whom now, finally, he had sent Messiah, and whose miracles they had seen repeatedly, and with whose beautiful character and teaching they had been brought much in contact through his considerable residence in their midst.
In view of these privileges and mercies, their rejection of Messiah and failure to grasp their opportunities branded them, so to speak, as being inferior to the Sodomites, in appreciation of righteousness and truth; for our Lord declares that the Sodomites would not have met the end they did had they had similar privileges and mercies bestowed upon them.
The question naturally arises, Why did not our Lord grant the Sodomites as good an opportunity as he granted the people of Capernaum, and why did he not grant the people of Tyre and Sidon, who were still living, as favorable an opportunity as he granted
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to the people of Chorazin and Bethsaida? We answer, that none of these people were granted a trial for eternal life. The Sodomites did not have such a trial; the people of Tyre and Sidon had no trial of any kind; nor did the people of Palestine have a trial for life eternal. The trial which they did have was a trial respecting their love for the Lord and for righteousness, and of their readiness to be his people and supporters of his Kingdom. The result of the trial showed that they were not sufficiently in love with righteousness to appreciate the Lord's Kingdom, nor to become its friends and servants; and in consequence of this their city and their land, and they as a people were rejected by the Lord from being his agencies in connection with the establishment of his Kingdom.
That no individual trial for eternal life had yet come to any of these people is evident from several facts: (1) that the whole world was under condemnation through Adam's transgression; (2) that no one could be relieved from that condemnation, so as to have a fresh individual trial for life, until the ransom price was paid, and it was not yet finished; (3) this is further implied by our Lord's statement (`verse 24`) that there would be a day of judgment future--a day of testing, a day of trial, a day to see who would be worthy of eternal life and who unworthy. (`Acts 17:31`.) In that judgment day, the Millennial age, all are to have a chance for everlasting life; for the granting of this very chance to all of Adam's race was the very object of our Redeemer's death. Meantime, the people of Bethsaida, Chorazin and Capernaum, having rejected the Lord and having been rejected by him, he nevertheless found some there, and has been selecting others since, of a special class, which he is calling to joint-heirship with himself in that Millennial Kingdom, under whose beneficent reign of righteousness a full and impartial judgment or trial for life shall be granted to all. He would have his hearers understand, however, that in that future trial time the people of Tyre and Sidon and Sodom would be treated with more consideration and allowance than those who, having many more privileges, had hardened their hearts against what they did see and know. "It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for thee," Capernaum.
How scathing was the rebuke of these words, that the people of Sodom, notorious for their wickedness, licentiousness, etc., should find more favor, more tolerance, at the Lord's hand, when he should begin the work of judging mankind, than themselves, who had been God's favored people, but who had not appreciated his favors, and had done despite unto his goodness! But if any infer from this that the people of Capernaum, when they shall be on trial for life during the Millennial age, will be unkindly treated, it would be a great mistake; because the declaration of the Lord's Word distinctly is that the world shall be "judged in righteousness"--not in wrath, malice, not with a desire to do them injury, but with a desire to do them every good possible--hence it will be "tolerable" for the people of Capernaum in that day--very tolerable--it will be a grand and blessed opportunity for them to come to a full, clear knowledge of the Lord; but it will be still more tolerable for the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, because their sins, although greater in some respects, were less heinous in the sight of God--they were less against character, more sins of ignorance.
We may assume, therefore, that during the Millennial age disciplines such people as those of Tyre and Sidon and those of Sodom, who had never known God to any degree, who had never known his laws, will be in a condition of heart much more readily amenable to the influences and requirements of that time than will be some others--the people of Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum, who having known more respecting God had misused the opportunities of the present life--who broke down their characters instead of building them.
And these are merely ensamples, for we know that all those that are in the graves shall hear the voice of the Son of Man, and come forth--"they that have done good [the saints, the overcomers] unto the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil [all mankind outside of the saints] unto the resurrection of judgment."--`John 5:28,29`.
We can readily see, in harmony with our Lord's declaration in this lesson, that many who in the present life have no knowledge and no opportunity may be nothing disadvantaged thereby in that judgment time, but on the contrary may be more susceptible to the good influences of the Kingdom and its laws than some others will be who have had contact with the
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light to some extent in the present life, but who have refused it. What a blessed promise is this one, of a future judgment or trial! How much it means to the whole groaning creation, that God, who let the sentence of Adam fall on all without giving them an individual trial, has provided a redemption for all from that first sentence, and has provided that each member of the race shall individually have a trial, a judgment, in due time, at the hands of him who died for all. And then, how favorable the conditions are to be, under which that trial will be granted! Satan is to be bound, and the earth is to be filled with the knowledge of the Lord and his goodness and his gracious arrangements on behalf of his fallen creatures, whom he desires shall not perish, but, if they will, have eternal life through Christ.
However, as our Lord distinctly intimates (`v. 5`), these things respecting the coming judgment and the blessed opportunities which shall be accorded to every member of Adam's race, are hidden from the majority --especially do they seem to be hidden from the worldly-wise and prudent, who instead of accepting so gracious a plan, are rather inclined to teach the people that the poor Sodomites went to eternal torment without ever having had a chance, and with no prospect of ever having a chance in the future, although our Lord declares that if they had had as good an opportunity as the people of Capernaum they would have repented with a deep contrition. The wise and prudent are inclined to tell us also that the people of Tyre and Sidon, although not favored with our Lord's blessing, are also to be considered doomed to eternal torment, though they would have repented had they had as good an opportunity as the people of Palestine; and finally they tell us that these people of Palestine, having rejected our Lord, must necessarily be sufferers of eternal torment, and not merely losers of the Kingdom. They fail to see; they are blind to the truth--blinded by the traditions of their religious teachers--as the Jews were.
Then, to add to their confusion, they begin to attempt to apply the Lord's words respecting a day of judgment, and of course interpret it to mean a day of damnation, instead of a day of trial. They fail to note that their claim is that the Sodomites were already in hell, suffering torments of the severest form for nearly two thousand years, at the time our Lord uttered these words. Do they think that the Sodomites could suffer any more after the day of judgment than they describe them as suffering now? What do they understand by the words "day of judgment," anyway? Evidently they have no proper conception of the meaning of the words. They see that our Lord referred it to a future time, and they are hopelessly confused and thoroughly unable to give any reasonable explanation of the matter, either in harmony with God's character or in harmony with their own wretched and God-dishonoring theories.--See DAWN, Vol. I, p.137.
How comforting are our Lord's words, that these things are revealed, nevertheless, to some--to babes, to those who are not great, not wise, according to the course of this world; to those who are of humble mind, ready to be taught of the Lord, instead of wishing to teach the Lord. This great blessing, dearly beloved, is ours, and let us be very careful that we maintain the attitude of childlikeness and simplicity, that we may continue to be taught of God, and to "know the things that are freely given unto us of God." Let us rejoice in them and use them, and let the light shine out to others. The explanation of the fact that the divine plan is hidden from the great majority of the learned, the doctors of divinity, etc., is that so it has pleased the Father to let "the wise be taken in their own craftiness," and to reveal his purposes to those of an humble mind. "Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight." (`1 Cor. 3:19`.) The Father drew to the Son at the first advent, not the doctors of the law, the scribes and the notables, but certain "Israelites indeed," in whom was no guile, though they were but an humble few. And the same class has received the blessing all down the age.
The Master realized that his special instructions must be toward those whom the Father had given unto him, rather than toward the unready and unwilling ones who would not receive his testimony because not in a proper condition of heart to appreciate. To his faithful disciples, therefore, and to all of the same class since, he declared that all things he possessed he had received of the Father; he claimed nothing of himself; and further, he asserted that no one knew him truly, fully, intimately, but the Father, and that no man knew the Father except himself, the Son, and he to whom the Son revealed him. The average reader gets very little meaning out of this passage at first. The Christian who has been making progress for years, growing in grace and in the knowledge of
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the Lord, can appreciate it much better. He realizes that while he had some knowledge about Jesus and about the Father at first, from the very inception of his Christian experience, yet it was a different matter to come to know the Father and to know the Son in the intimate sense, in the sense of becoming well acquainted with them, knowing their mind as one knows the mind, the heart, of an intimate friend. It is a privilege to receive such an acquaintance. It is not to be had by everybody; it requires seeking for and knocking for, and such seeking and knocking implies an earnest desire to have an intimate fellowship and communion. Such a growth in grace should be earnestly sought by all of the Lord's true followers who seek to be his joint heirs in the Kingdom; for without it they cannot make progress. In proportion as we know the Father and know the Son we will love them and seek more and more to do those things which are pleasing in their sight.
COME! WEARY AND HEAVY-LADEN.
Still addressing the same class, and implying that there were some present of the right disposition who had not yet become his disciples, our Lord appealed to his hearers individually, "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." The difficulty with most of the people would seem to have been that they were neither weary nor heavy laden, but on the contrary pretty well self-contented. We cannot suppose that physical weariness
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and physical burdens was the thought before our Lord's mind, but rather the heart-burden and sin-weariness, which all true Israelites must have felt, if they were honest with themselves.
We are to remember that they were under the Law Covenant, that its requirements were very exacting, and that it made no allowance for weaknesses, imperfections, errors, etc.; consequently, all of those Jews should have felt themselves continually condemned in striving to carry the burden of the Law of Sinai. Not that the law was an unjust one or impossible to be kept by a perfect man, but because all being imperfect and fallen they were unable to keep the Law Covenant. So we may suppose that amongst the Jews at that time, while the majority were professing to be holy, law-keepers, who did no sin, there were some who honestly admitted to themselves and to others that they did not, could not, keep the Law perfectly, and who therefore felt burdened and wearied with their fruitless endeavors. Such felt their need of a burden-bearer, such felt their soul-sickness and need of the good Physician, and to such Jesus addressed himself, inviting them to come to him and receive rest, relief.
This coming to Christ for rest is the first step toward a Christian life; it is justification, the acceptance of him as the satisfaction for our sins; and from the time we thus accept him, as the Apostle declares, we have joy and peace through believing. (`Rom. 5:1`; `15:13`.) But having been thus received and blessed, there is something more for us to do, viz., to learn that there is another burden and another yoke which we should take upon us voluntarily.
A yoke is a symbol of servitude, and so our Lord implies that those who are set free (either from the yoke of the Law Covenant, as were the believing Jews, or from the yoke of Satan, as were the believing Gentiles) should become his servants, should take his yoke, should learn to do his will. A yoke generally is arranged for two, and our Lord speaks of it as his yoke, by which we are to understand that he also is a servant; having come to do the Father's will, and having put on the yoke of servitude, he invites us to become true yoke-fellows with himself in the doing of the Father's will, co-laborers together with Christ in the great work of the world's deliverance from sin and death.
The secret of the ability to wear this yoke, and to have companionship with Christ in his service, and to have as a result a great blessing in our own hearts, a rest unto our souls, lies, he explains, in our learning to be meek and lowly of heart as he was. It will be impossible for those who are proud, haughty, self-willed, ambitious, worldly-wise, etc., to labor in the same yoke with Jesus, or to find the true rest of soul which we properly seek. But if we are meek, teachable, humble-minded, ready to know and to do the Lord's will at any cost, then indeed we shall find rest to our soul's satisfaction--the peace of God which passeth all understanding will rule in our hearts.
We notice a difference between the two rests of `vs. 28 and 29`. Of the first it is said that the Lord will give it to him who comes to him in faith; of the second, it is said that he finds this rest to his soul through becoming a yoke-fellow with Jesus. And so it is: there are two blessings; the first blessing is that of justification--the joy of having our sins forgiven, realizing ourselves no longer strangers and foreigners from our heavenly Father, but brought nigh by the blood of Christ; the second is the joy which comes more gradually, a fruitage, a grace, a development in the heart, the growing and abiding peace and joy of the holy spirit. This second blessing, however, is attained by very few; the majority of nominal Christians know nothing of it; and yet it is the very object of the calling of this Gospel age, and those who fail to come to the Lord and to take his yoke, and to learn of him, to become thus "copies of God's dear Son," will fail utterly of the special purpose and call of this Gospel age, and will have neither part nor lot in the Kingdom. The blessing of justification by faith is merely to fit and prepare us to take the yoke and to become a co-laborer with the Lord in the Father's service.
This yoke which Jesus invites us to come under with him is a very formidable affair from the standpoint of the world: to them it seems to be a most unreasonable yoke, a most terrible burden--to consecrate life, time, means, everything to the service of God; but from the standpoint of those who have come unto Jesus, and to whom he has spoken peace and rest through justification, the matter is very different. To such it must seem a "reasonable service," that since the Lord has graciously redeemed our lives and our all, we should use what remains of that life to his praise and glory; and after we have fastened the yoke upon ourselves we find that it is an easy one, and that with it any burden, any duty, any trial, any difficulty, any vexation of spirit, any burden of any kind that could come to us, would be light indeed, because of this yoke.
Why? Because those who wear this yoke have the assurances of the divine Word, that all things are working together for good to them; that the heavier the burden that may be attached the greater will be the blessing and the reward by and by; the more severe the experiences during the present time, the brighter shall be the glory, and the brighter shall be their character and the more sure shall they be of being fitted and polished for the heavenly Kingdom. From this standpoint every burden is light, because our yoke is appreciated, and is so easy, so reasonable; and additionally it is so light because the Lord is with us in this yoke. He is the great Burden-bearer, and will not suffer us to be tempted nor to be pressed with more of the burdens of life than we should probably be able to endure. He is watching out for the interests of all those who take his yoke upon them. Their burdens are his burdens, their trials are his trials, their interests are his interests; yea, all things shall work for good to them because they love him.
Let us remember, however, that the Lord takes no slaves in this way; he does not fasten the yoke upon any; he merely invites us to come, and then to fasten his yoke upon ourselves, to make a full consecration of ourselves to him and to his service.
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TWO TYPES OF SINNERS.
--`LUKE 7:36-50`.--MAY 13.--
"Thy faith hath saved thee."
SIMON was a very common name amongst the Jews, and hence it is not so remarkable that there were two Simons at whose homes Jesus was entertained. It is a little peculiar, however, that there are so many features of similarity connected with the two entertainments--that at both of them our Lord's feet were anointed, etc. (Compare `Matt. 26:6-13`.) It is supposed that about a year and a half elapsed between the two events, that recorded by Matthew being just prior to our Lord's death, "anointing for my burial."
In this lesson we see Simon, a Pharisee, evidently considerably impressed with our Lord's character and teachings, and more favorably inclined toward him than the majority. He thought it would be pleasant to invite Jesus to dinner, thus to honor him, and possibly have a little notoriety himself in connection with the noted Nazarene.
When our Lord accepted the invitation and attended the dinner Simon treated him kindly and politely, but did not go to any extreme of politeness in his entertainment; perhaps thinking of him as not being
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used to special attentions, but rather as being a companion of fishermen and common people generally. Simon therefore did not salute him with a kiss on his arrival, as was usual with honored guests, for that would have seemed like bestowing too much honor upon an ordinary person whom he, as a Pharisee, was not yet prepared to fully endorse; nor did he send the servant to take off the Master's sandals and to wash his feet, according to the custom of the best entertainers of that time. He may have said to himself, This man and his disciples are not used to being entertained in such style, and my servants would recognize themselves as being on a par at least with any of these men except the Teacher himself. Without, therefore, going to the extremes of polite entertaining, the Pharisee had nevertheless cordially welcomed the Lord to his table, feeling no doubt that in doing this he was honoring the Lord, and not sufficiently realizing that he was the one who was being honored, in the privilege of entertaining so noble a guest. How will Simon regard the matter when, in the resurrection time (during the Millennium), he ascertains that his guest was "the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth"?
The Apostle urges upon us all, "Be not forgetful to entertain strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels [God's messengers] unawares." The Lord wishes his people to be generous with such things as they have (but not to be vaingloriously extravagant), hence it is written again, "There is that scattereth and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet [proper] and it tendeth to poverty." It is a part of our present lesson to learn of our own mean selfishness, which all have inherited through the fall, and gradually, under the instruction of the Lord's Word, to get the victory over this and become more generous--more like our Father in Heaven.
Let us be specially generous and hospitable toward the "brethren," who really represent the Lord himself; not only as "ambassadors for God," but also as "members of the body of Christ."
The "woman of the city" mentioned, was evidently a common character, widely known to the people of the city, though she might not be known to Jesus and the disciples, who were not residents. Whatever the woman's previous life may have been, she had experienced deep contrition of heart, and a desire to live a better life. She had heard about Jesus, the great Teacher, and that unlike the Pharisees he did not disdain to speak with and to encourage fallen ones and to help them up again. She felt that she would like to go to the Lord in prayer for forgiveness, and would like to make a fresh start in life, to seek thereafter to live more consistently. She knew not how to approach the matter; she knew not what to say respecting herself; she would merely take a little offering in her hand, and while he was reclining at dinner, after the custom of that time, and while his feet would be easily accessible to her, she would venture to anoint them with the fine ointment which she had brought with her. Saying not a word, her heart too full of utterance, she reached the Master's feet, and there her tears trickled over them. By her tears he should know, more eloquently than she could voice her sentiments in words, what were the true longings of her heart for forgiveness and for reconciliation.
How merciful and considerate of our needs, is the Lord's provision that when we come penitently to his feet for forgiveness we are not required to approach him through another, nor to formulate our petition in some exact form of language--he can read our hearts and accepts our tears and even our humblest efforts to make amends and to serve the "members of his body." And even though he may delay the message of forgiveness it is but to let the roots of penitence and faith sink deeper in our hearts.
Jesus for a time seemed to heed her not, and she may have questioned whether or not he was misunderstanding her motives and her prayer, but the fullness of her heart found vent in still more tears, and tenderly she wiped his feet and anointed them with the ointment. The Pharisee, meantime, was saying within himself: Now it is most fortunate that I invited Jesus to dinner to-day, and it is fortunate that this woman came in; it affords a proof, a test, respecting the ability of Jesus to read the hearts of those about him. If he were a prophet, if he were specially empowered and enlightened of God, he would have known the character of this woman; but he evidently does not know her character, and therefore is permitting her to anoint his feet, and this seems to be a proof that he is not a prophet.
But Jesus, fully conscious of all that was going on, and with a clear knowledge of the heart of the poor woman at his feet, and of the self-satisfied Pharisee who entertained him, was planning a way by which he might do good to both of them--a way by which he might set before all present a great truth. Therefore he put a parable to Simon, saying that a certain creditor had two debtors, the one owing a large amount, the other a small amount, and when they were totally unable to pay he cheerfully and promptly forgave them both. Then our Lord pointed his lesson on this little parable, by enquiring which of
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the two forgiven ones would be most appreciative of the creditor's leniency? Simon, who had not as yet caught the import of the parable, promptly answered that the one who had the largest debt forgiven would undoubtedly be the one who would be most appreciative, and our Lord approved this answer. Then directing attention to the woman, he reminded Simon that although he had been kind in inviting him to dinner, and although he appreciated his attentions, nevertheless the still greater attentions of the woman, and the still greater marks of respect which she had showed, were evidences that while they both loved, the woman loved the more; and the intimation clearly is that the greater love was developed by a greater realization of sin and a greater desire to be relieved from it.
Of course, in one sense of the word, all are sinners, all have come short of the glory of God, and are hopeless without forgiveness; yet the Pharisee occupied a different position from the woman, because under the Jewish Law Covenant he was already occupying a standpoint of typical justification, and was seeking to maintain that standing by living a life of strict regard for the divine Law. On the other hand, the woman, although under the same Covenant, by living an abandoned life in open violation of the Law, had lost her interest in the national typical justification, and was therefore in a much larger sense of the word a sinner. Simon knew very well that while he was trying to keep the Law he was not keeping it perfectly, but infracted it in various ways from time to time, and yet he was not wilfully an infractor of the Law, as was the woman; hence in this sense of the word there was the wide difference between great sin and less sin; yet both needed the Saviour, and if the Pharisee had realized the truth of the matter he needed the Saviour just as much as did the woman; for the Law Covenant could not give him everlasting life--to attain that he must admit his sin and accept forgiveness and salvation from sin and its penalty, death, as a gift from the Saviour who honored him by consenting to be his guest.
Then Jesus turned to the woman and said to her, "Thy sins are forgiven." What words those must have been to her! Her prayer was answered--a prayer, which had arisen in her heart, and which had expressed itself through tears and ointment, had been heard, and she was forgiven and all the past treated as forever blotted out. How thankful she must have felt! Poor Simon, however, so far as we know, did not come to the point of saying, Lord, I also am a sinner, and even though I have loved less than this woman I also need to be forgiven, and I pray for the forgiveness of my sins, that I may be counted one of your followers. No; the very fact that he had a religious standing in the nominal Church, and had made a profession of holiness, seems to have stood in his way, and to have hindered him from accepting the grace of God and the forgiveness of sins. And so it is right along. How frequently do we see that people who have been living moral lives, evidently seeking to walk in paths of righteousness, are much less prepared to accept forgiveness through the Lord Jesus Christ than are some others who have been living more carelessly and who awaken to a realization of their undone condition, and go to the Lord more contritely and more earnestly, and exercise a greater faith, and feel for him consequently a greater love!
There is no intimation, however, that because of his failure to ask forgiveness, and to become a follower of Jesus, Simon was condemned to "hell," etc.; quite to the contrary, he simply followed the course of his nation (blinded by prejudice and false traditions of men). Their rejection of Jesus lost to them the privileges of joint-heirship in Christ's Kingdom, and led to their national rejection from God's favor until the opening of the Millennial age. Then, as the Apostle clearly shows, their blindness shall be removed and they shall be blest with a much clearer knowledge of the truth. Then the Lord will "pour upon them the spirit of prayer and supplication, and they shall look upon him whom they pierced, and shall mourn because of him." Then when they weep as did the woman with the ointment, God, through the glorified Christ, will have mercy on them and forgive their sins. Then their trial for everlasting life will begin.-- See `Rom. 11:25-32`; `Zech. 12:10`.
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The other guests at the table were particularly struck with our Lord's declaration that the woman's sins were forgiven her. Not recognizing the speaker to be the Messiah, the Son of God, they questioned the propriety of such words, but this was one reason why our Lord uttered the words; it was one of his unostentatious methods of calling attention to the fact that he was the Messiah, and that as such, and in view of the work which he was yet to do all power to forgive sins was in his hands.
Then he said to the woman, "Thy faith hath saved thee: go in peace." He wished her to know that it was not her tears that had brought the forgiveness; that it was not the value of the ointment that had moved him to forgive her, but that the thing which was pleasing in his sight, and on account of which her sins were forgiven, was her faith. She not only realized her own sinful condition, but she had realized that this great Teacher had the power to forgive her and to restore her, and she had trusted, and acted upon this, and our Lord wished her to realize that the reward she had received was because of exercise of this faith. And so we may realize in respect to all of the Lord's favors in the case of each one of his people. When we come unto the Lord, with tears of penitence, we are to know that they do not prevail; and if we present gifts we are to know that they do not prevail, and that the tears and the offerings could avail us nothing except as we present to the Lord our faith, accepting him as the one who has power to forgive sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. And not only is this necessary at the beginning of the Christian way, but similarly faith is necessary all the journey through. If we do not continue in faith we cannot progress. "According to thy faith be it unto thee," would seem to be the Lord's method of dealing with all who are his disciples, from first to last of their Christian walk and experience.
The center of the lesson, then, is abiding faith in the Lord: faith when he seems not to notice us; faith when things seem to be going prosperously with us in our spiritual affairs and in our temporal affairs;
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and faith equally strong when the currents and forces seem all to be against us. The victory that overcometh the world is the faith that in all conditions is able to look up to the Lord with absolute confidence in his goodness and faithfulness, and to realize that according to his promise eventually all things will work together for good to us because we are his people.-- `1 John 5:5`; `Rom. 8:29`.
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THE PARABLE OF THE SOWER.
`MATT. 13:1-8,18-23`.--MAY 20.
"The seed is the word of God."--`Luke 8:11`.
JESUS and his disciples had just returned to Capernaum, his home, from a tour of Galilee, and the multitudes, many of whom had heard him before and witnessed his miracles, gathered about him as he sat on the beach of Lake Galilee, assuredly expecting that they would hear some gracious words from his lips. And the Master never seemed weary of presenting his message, although frequently, as in this case, the mass of his hearers understood but dimly his parables. There was a fishing-boat lying near, quite possibly owned by some of his friends or relatives, and evidently with the owner's consent Jesus used the boat as his pulpit, speaking to the multitude which lined the beach, which at this point is said to rise rapidly, and which therefore would give the general effect of an amphitheatre. A traveler once made an experiment, to see how well the voice would carry under such circumstances, at this spot, and says, "It was remarkable how distinctly every word was heard, though our voices were not raised, even at three hundred yards off; and it was very easy to comprehend how, in this clear air, a preacher sitting in a boat could address a vast multitude sitting upon the shore."
The Master had no difficulty in finding a topic. Quite possibly his eye rested on a seed-sower, and as a result we have this parable, designed to show that there are different classes of hearers, and that it is not merely the eloquence or force or truthfulness of the message that determines the result, but chiefly the attitude of the heart that hears; hence the importance of the injunction, "Take heed how ye hear"-- see that your heart is in a right condition to receive the truth, if you would expect a benefit from it; do not expect that the mere hearing of the truth will profit you, irrespective of your own character conditions.
The good seed of the parable is the Word of God, the truth, even as false teaching, human philosophies and doctrines of devils, are not wheat-seed but tare-seed; our Lord is not showing in this parable what will be the result of sowing good or bad seed, but merely that the good seed can accomplish its work only in certain classes of hearts.
The class of heart that is like the "wayside," solid and compact with selfishness, not open and generous, is very unfavorable ground for the truth; nothing need be expected from such ground. The sower will let as little as possible fall on such, but whatever does fall upon it the Adversary will soon take away. "Wayside" hearers are not necessarily bad people, in the sense of grossly wicked, but they are bad in the sense of being unsuited to the Lord's present work and call. They will need to have the furrow run through them again and again, that troubles of various kinds may make them more generous, more open, more ready for the message. But in many instances the Lord will not run the plowshare of truth through such soil in this present age; rather, he will leave it for the Millennial age, when he will be dealing, not only with these hearts that were partially prepared and which have become unsuitable, but when also he will have a work to do with the great masses of mankind, which, like the virgin forests and prairies of earth, are yet uncleared, unplowed and unbroken. The great time of trouble at the beginning of the Millennial age will be a time, we believe, in which the Lord will run the plowshare of truth in every direction throughout the world, as it is written, "The plowman shall follow close after the reaper." (`Amos 9:13`.) And, "When the judgments of the Lord are abroad in the earth the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness" (`Isa. 26:9`), and thus be prepared for the new sowing time of the new age, under circumstances more favorable in some respects than the present, though less favorable in other respects.
Another class upon which the same good truth falls at the present time is one that has a good appearance upon the surface--fine soil, etc., but underneath, and but a few inches from the surface, is rock. The soil on the surface is but a veneer to hide the rock; it has the appearance of depth of character, sympathy and love, but this is merely a deception. Civilized customs have popularized at least an outward imitation of the graces of the holy spirit, and appearances of good heartedness, but down below in the real heart and intention is selfishness, that would merely follow the ways of righteousness because of popularity or because of some hoped-for gain, but thoroughly unable to appreciate self-sacrifice for anything or anybody. This class of shallow characters sometimes receives the truth with avidity, with joy, and seems to contain some of the truth's most enthusiastic followers; but this is merely for a little while, because of novelty or pride to show off, and not from love of the truth. The selfishness which is the substratum of their character will not permit them to endure hardness for the truth's sake. Consequently, as soon as they find that with the truth always goes something of persecution and tribulation they are surprised, thoroughly disheartened, and all their interest speedily dies out. This class has no hope for the Kingdom either. They are not of the kind that the sower expects will yield a crop to maturity in the present harvest.
The third class of hearers favored by the truth in this present time is referred to by our Lord as "thorny ground." This does not mean poor ground, for the thorns are to be found in the very best of ground, especially the thorns of Palestine, to which our Lord undoubtedly had reference. Of these Prof. Thomson
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says, "These thorns are not briar bushes or brambles, but are an after-growth of a variety of thistles, which come up quickly in every wheat-field of Palestine." We may say, then, that every Christian who receives the wheat or word of God into a good and honest heart during this Gospel age is in danger of having it choked with the thorns, and of thus becoming one of the class referred to in the parable, a class that was favored, that had every advantage, but which brought forth no crop worth gathering, because the thorns took possession of it to such an extent as to choke out the wheat-seed.
We have heard Christian people describe the thorns which threaten the good seed in the hearts of God's people to be theaters, card-playing, carousals, etc., etc., but this is a great mistake; the hearts that are beset with such things are probably not good ground in any sense of the word, and probably have never received the good seed. But how reasonable is the interpretation which our Lord himself gives--the
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thorns are the cares of this life and the deceitfulness of riches--just exactly what every Christian realizes. The cares of this life are not gross immoralities, but the home duties, family cares, business cares, etc. The deceitfulness of riches is not merely the baneful influence which is exercised upon those who possess riches, but especially it represents the snares, the difficulties, the entanglements, the misleadings of efforts to become rich. How many Christian people can testify that their spirituality, their love for the Lord and for the truth and for the Kingdom have been choked in great measure by wealth-coveting and wealth-seeking! How many can testify that the cares of this life have crowded out their fellowship with the Lord, and the power of his word in their hearts, and how as a result their lives are barren, unfruitful of anything in the way of character development, service of God and for the "brethren" and others.
What can such as realize that thorns are growing in their hearts and choking the Word of the Lord do to get rid of them? How can they overcome this difficulty of permitting the cares of this life to absorb their time, their talents, their influence? How can they get rid of the false allurements and attractions of riches? How can they become fruitful toward God in good works, in riches of grace in their hearts and characters, in riches of the knowledge of the divine Word and plan?
It is a difficult matter to get rid of these thorns, if they spring up and get well under way after we have received the wheat, and it will probably be a slow and tedious business to root them out; and one in which we could not hope at all for success by ourselves, unaided. All such must go to the Lord himself for the aid which he alone can give, and the method and process by which the Lord will assist them will be in the transforming of their minds so that they will mind not earthly things but heavenly things, set their affections on things above, not on things beneath, set their affections upon true riches of the divine nature and high calling, instead of on earthly riches, which are but transitory and unsatisfactory, even if attained.--`Matt. 6:19-21`.
And the way to effect this transforming of the mind, this uprooting of the thorns, is to draw time and attention away from the earthly things in a compulsory manner, limiting the time that we will give to earthly things, and devoting more and more time to spiritual interests in our own hearts and in the hearts of our families and friends. This will mean more time for the study and practice of the truth; and as the truth comes in it will be found to be the sanctifying power of God which alone can uproot the cares of this life, the deceitfulness of riches, and keep our hearts in the right attitude to bear much fruit to our Master's praise.
The "good ground" hearers are those whose hearts are in good condition, ready for the word of the Lord, plowed and furrowed by experiences. This class, free from thorns, is ready to bring forth an abundant harvest, and yet even of this class all may not yield the same amount of fruitage to our Master's sowing, for he represents that some will bring forth thirty, some sixty and some an hundred fold. He does not speak slightingly of those which bring forth but the thirty fold, but leaves it to us to discern that those who bring forth the hundred fold are the most pleasing in his sight. We have much to do with this matter of the amount of fruitage which we yield to the Lord; it will be measured by the degree of our zeal, our love for him; consequently the class bringing forth the hundred fold represents those Christians who love the Lord the most fervently, whose hearts are warmest for him, his truth and his people. The Apostle Paul was undoubtedly one of this hundred-fold class, the Apostle Peter was another, and no doubt there have been many in humble positions unknown to fame, whose love for the Lord, and zeal for his cause have been counted to them as hundredfold return for every seed of truth they received. Let us each with more and more care seek to bring forth much fruit, and as one means to this end to keep down the thorns and everything that would choke or hinder the influence of the truth in our hearts, in our daily lives, and in our words. Let us cultivate the seed and not the thorns.
THE MESSAGE OF THE KINGDOM.
Luke says, "The seed is the Word of God"; Matthew says, "The word of the Kingdom." Our Lord no doubt used both expressions--the good seed is God's word or message of the Kingdom. Indeed, the message of the Kingdom may be said to be the only message God has yet given to mankind as a message of hope. He intimated the Kingdom to Abraham when he promised him that in his seed all the families of the earth should be blessed; the intimation was that Abraham's seed should be blessed by being granted Kingdom powers which should prove a blessing to the world at large. Israel, at the time of this parable, was hoping to attain this very promise.
All the promises through the prophets pertain to the Kingdom, the time when it shall be established, the blessings which shall flow from it to the uttermost parts of the earth, when all shall know the Lord, from the least to the greatest, when righteousness shall flourish throughout the world, and when sin and sinners and Satan himself will be subjected to the powers of righteousness, in the hands of the Messiah. At
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the time of the utterance of this parable the seed, word or message of the Kingdom had taken on a special form, viz., an invitation to some to become joint-heirs with the Messiah, the heir of the Kingdom.
Whoever has never heard anything about the Kingdom has never heard anything about the gospel, for it is the "gospel of the Kingdom," as our Lord declared. Hence we see that much of the preaching of eternal torment and other things falsely called the Gospel of the Kingdom, are delusions which are not of God, not his word, not the good seed that would bring forth the good fruit. The false messages have brought forth "tares" in abundance. This good seed of the Kingdom it is that rightly received into a good heart cannot be easily choked with earthly hopes or ambitions--for the Kingdom hope is above all, grand, pre-eminent, soul-satisfying. The Kingdom hope is as an anchor to the soul, and does not permit the cares of this life to seem large and to crush it out. On the contrary, to honest hearts which have received the good seed of the Kingdom the cares of this life are merely incidental trials which are to be overcome, that thereby character may be formed, much fruit brought forth, to the Lord's praise, and a share in the Kingdom attained. "He that hath this hope in him purifieth himself," and bringeth forth much fruit.
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NEWS FROM THE "BRITISH BRANCH."
You will all be glad to learn of the safe arrival of Brother Henninges and wife at their destination. A "pilgrim" trip to the principal centers of interest was made while word was sent to the home office respecting the British postal laws, etc., bearing on the work proposed to be done there. Much interest was found at various points and the friends of the truth, we may well hope, were edified and enthused.
We were surprised and rather disappointed to find that British postal laws are much less favorable than our own. However, the Lord pointed out to us (we believe) a manner of adapting our work to the laws as they stand which we doubt not will accomplish a great work there this year. At all events we have resolved to try it for the remainder of this year at least (D.V.) and accordingly an office will be opened at once and soon as possible the address will appear in the WATCH TOWER. We have prepared over four tons of reading matter for shipment, part of which has probably already reached London, and the remainder is now on the ocean.
The following from London will be interesting:--
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL:--You did not overestimate the matter which in your last you termed a "pleasant surprise" for British brethren. Bro. Henninges' visit to us is indeed a joyful privilege and to hear him set forth things "new and old" is a pleasure that words cannot describe. We certainly feel that there is scope for much work on the lines that our brother has come over to adopt, if the way be made plain to him by the Lord.
Of course it is not for us to urge or push this matter unduly, however much we feel it would gratify us, but this we can offer, that if the Lord makes plain the way to you and him our sympathies can then take practical form. These are my personal feelings, but I know I am only voicing those of many of our dear brethren here. It would have done your heart good to have seen the little gatherings of glad faces at the last four or five meetings; to feel the warm, sympathetic hand-grasps and the cheery, honest words of encouragement and the earnest God-speeds given to our dear Bro. Henninges and his dear wife. Not but that we always have joy in meeting together and great joy indeed, but this joy seems a super-added one--a joy abounding.
We give thanks to our Lord that he has made you such a channel of blessing to us, and we pray that our
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eyes and hearts may be anointed and that we may be given that discerning spirit which discriminates between that which harmonizes with and that which militates against our Father's revealed plan. So with the boldness and assurance born of sad experience we can confidently approach our Father's throne with requests according to his will.
If there are any suggestions from you to us as to how we may aid in this present scheme for additionally helping our English brethren we shall be glad to hear from you. In the meantime we are one with you in this gospel of the Kingdom, in unity of spirit, in the bond of love and in righteousness of life.
Yours in our present Lord,
BRO. AND SISTER GUARD.
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QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS.
ABOUT MAGNETIC--HYPNOTIC CURES, ETC.
Question.--The world is full of aches and pains, disease, and naturally we look about us for relief. You have already expressed your judgment that the cures effected by Christian Scientists and Spiritualists are probably produced by improper spiritual influences, altho exercised to some extent at least in harmony with natural laws. I desire now to inquire respecting cures by hypnotism, and still other cures by so-called magnetic healers. What shall we think of these, and will it be proper for the Lord's consecrated people to avail themselves of such means for attaining health?
Answer.--We feel suspicious of magnetic and mental healing. In our judgment they in many instances are allied with or related to hypnotism; yet it is particularly difficult to draw the line here, because we all know that there is such a thing as a legitimate mental influence which we all exercise upon one another, favorably or unfavorably. We know, for instance, that hope and faith, love and joy, are healing
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and helpful influences, and that doubt and despair, anger and malice, are injurious influences, whether exercised by our own minds upon our own bodies, or upon others. In this proper sense of the word every child of God possessing the spirit of love, the spirit of a sound mind, is a mental healer, and a heart healer, a wound healer; wherever he or she may be, the influence will be uplifting, comforting, strengthening to good impulses. If therefore the Lord's consecrated ones visit the sick, their presence should be a refreshment, comforting, cheering and helpful, and so much the more if they carry in their hearts and communicate with their lips the exceeding great and precious promises of our Father's Word. With this much of mental healing we are most thoroughly in accord.
But Christian Science, Mind Healing and Magnetic Healing, running upon this same line, seem to us to carry it to an extreme--in the case of Christian Science to the extreme of lying to oneself and believing the lie, and thus gradually becoming a liar, self-deceived and deceiving others in respect to all of life's affairs. We cannot believe that any course so opposed to that which the Scriptures mark out can be of God, nor can we believe that the cures it at times effects are either natural or of God; we can only suppose, therefore, that the Adversary favors this lying and deceiving process to the intent that he may beguile the mind through further lies and deceptions far from God and the truth.
Magnetic Healing is more on the order of hypnotic healing; that is to say, the magnetic healer gains a control over the mind of his subject which is somewhat akin to the control gained by mesmerists and hypnotists, and akin to the spirit control of spiritualism over its mediums. We can have no sympathy with anything of this kind, for even if we were satisfied that the power of control was merely a human power and not a Satanic one (and we are not satisfied of this), we cannot feel that it is right for one human being to subject his mind, his will, to another, when the evidences prove that every such subjection decreases his will power and places the subject more and more in the position of a slave or machine, subject to the influence or control of others--breaking down his personality.
The Lord's people are admonished to make such a submission of their minds to the Lord, and no one else; and we are confident that the Lord will take no advantage of us under such conditions, to rob us of any good quality. On the whole, then, we urge all of the Lord's people to be on guard against mind healers, magnetic healers, etc., especially where, as in the case of Christian Science, the mind is to be given up to believe a lie, or in the case of hypnotism, it is to be given up or subjected entirely to another. Our minds are our greatest possession, and are to be given only to the Lord and to each other as directed by the Word of the Lord; and if we cannot have health without violating these principles, we can afford to be without the health for the few more days that remain under the present conditions, knowing that by and by, if faithful to the Lord, we shall have the perfect resurrection bodies promised.
WHO IS BORN OF GOD?
Question.--In `1 John 5:1` we read, "Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God." Does this signify that we are begotten of the spirit at the same moment that we are justified through faith?
Answer.--No; the Apostle, in the words quoted, is not attempting to give the complete philosophy of salvation, that being given in other parts of his own testimony, and that of the other apostles. He is discussing the condition of a believer who has not only been justified through faith, but who, continuing to be a believer, is acting upon that faith and the Lord's call which comes to the justified, and who, in harmony with that justification and call, has presented himself a living sacrifice to the Lord, and has been begotten of the Holy Spirit. He is still a believer, must always continue to be a believer, must always continue to maintain his faith, which is the foundation of his reckoned new nature in Christ.
The word here rendered "born" should be rendered "begotten;" it is the same word in the Greek as the word rendered "begotten" following it in the same verse.
Numerous Scriptures show us that our condition as sinners is such that we cannot be begotten of God through his holy spirit until after we have been justified through faith. As sinners we were "children of wrath even as others," and were "called to repentance" (but not called to the "high calling"): as repentant sinners we are pointed to the Lord Jesus as the Way, the Truth and the Life, by whom alone we can return to harmony with the Father. When we accept Christ as our Savior and his sacrifice as our ransom price we are justified by faith--reckonedly perfected--and have peace with God, and realize that we are no longer children of wrath, aliens, strangers and foreigners, being brought nigh by the blood of Christ. Our justification, however, is not our begetting to new nature, but, as the Word itself signifies, a making right of our old natures --a compensating on our Lord's part for the weaknesses and imperfections of the flesh which are ours through the fall, so that we are reckoned as tho we were perfect men--like father Adam before he sinned.
It is to such justified or reckonedly perfect men and women that the Lord sends the "high calling" of this Gospel age--a call to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, a call to suffer with him for righteousness' sake in this present time, with a promise of sharing with him glory, honor and immortality in the future, of being joint-heirs with him in the Kingdom which is to bring restitution blessings to all mankind.
The call of this Gospel age is to find the "Royal Priesthood," of which our Lord Jesus is the Head or Chief Priest, and all his faithful ones the under priests. The work of this priesthood is especially future--during the Millennial age the instruction, guidance and teaching of the world of mankind. The call to this priesthood includes two things: (1) A call in the present time to faithfulness even unto sacrifice, and none can be in this priesthood except he offers up himself a willing sacrifice in the divine service. (2) It includes the
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glorification that shall follow the exaltation of the sacrificers.
The thing which each is to sacrifice is himself, his will, his life, his all (`Heb. 8:3`; `Rom. 12:1`); but God cannot accept to his holy altar any blemished sacrifice, and hence he has not invited sinners to sacrifice themselves --for they are all blemished. None but our Lord Jesus, therefore, could be actually acceptable as a sin-offering on Jehovah's altar; hence the provision is that his church, called to present their bodies living sacrifices, and to thus have fellowship in Christ's sufferings, and by and by in his glory, must first be "justified freely from all things" by the merit of Christ's sacrifice, before they could be accepted as sacrificers "holy and acceptable to God" or in any degree come within the limitations of the high calling.
Altho the Apostle, in the verse you quote, does not particularize the three steps of (1) knowledge, (2) faith and (3) consecration, he nevertheless implies them, as will be noticed from the context: `vss. 3 and 4` tell us that the class the Apostle refers to are overcomers of the world, and that they seek to keep God's
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commandments, and do so willingly, not feeling them "grievous." Thus we see that he is speaking only of the consecrated class; and since we know that there were none righteous,--no, not one,--of all of Adam's race, and since we know also that the unrighteous could not be accepted as joint-sacrificers with Christ, we know assuredly that the Apostle John had in mind a class of consecrated and spirit-begotten ones, who previously had been prepared by a knowledge of Christ and by a faith in him unto justification.
That "new creature" represented by the new mind which is now begotten of the holy spirit when the justified believer reaches that point where he sacrifices the human will and presents himself unreservedly to the Lord, is merely "begotten." The present life is the formative period during which there is no independent life, but merely the reckoned one of our "mother," the Abrahamic Covenant. (`Gal. 4:23-31`.) Our birth will be in the First Resurrection, when we shall be "born from the dead." Then we shall have life and our mother covenant will be dead, having borne the promised seed that shall bless all nations. Compare `Col. 1:18`; `Rev. 1:5`.
HOW WILL THE DEAD HEAR?
Question.--What is implied by the expression, "The dead shall hear the voice of the Son of Man and they that hear shall live"?--`John 5:25`.
Answer.--The Greek text seems to be in full harmony with the English, and neither can be understood logically and in harmony with other Scriptures, except by understanding this to mean that the dead of mankind shall be awakened to such a condition as will permit them to hear, comprehend, understand, tho they will still be dead from the divine standpoint--dead in trespasses and sins--dead in the sense of being still under divine sentence of death. Then after hearing, comprehending, if they respond to the hearing, if they obey the voice, the command, the instruction, of that day of judgment, they shall eventually attain to perfection of life--being raised to the living point gradually by the processes of restitution or resurrection, by (through) judgments, during the Millennium.
The fact is simply this, that a fall took place, a fall from a certain standing or condition of perfection and life and a redemption was provided at Calvary, on account of which there may be extended to all who fell an opportunity to rise again. The rising, be it never so insignificant in its beginning, must go on to completion --until the subject shall have been raised out of death into life. This raising up is necessarily up to the point or condition from which the fall occurred, and anything short of that would not be in the proper sense of the word a raising out of death and to perfection of life.
When considering the word anastasis it is proper that we should interpret it along this line, which is its only true and logical meaning, and if it were in any place used in a less comprehensive sense, it would evidently be the exceptional use of it, and should not militate against its full meaning.
But let us look for a moment at the resurrection of the just ones and the resurrection of unjust ones. There will be no question as to the resurrection of just ones, that to them anastasis means a perfect raising up to perfect conditions in the First Resurrection. Likewise, we claim, is its meaning in respect to unjust ones. It does not say that all of the unjust ones will be raised up, and other Scriptures show that this will not be the case, but that only such of the unjust ones as will conform themselves to the laws of the Kingdom will thus be raised up, and that others will fall back when but partly raised up and suffer Second Death;--those who refuse to hear (obey) their Lord in that day. Compare `Acts 3:23`.
JOINING TRADE UNIONS.
Question.--Can I consistently join a Trade Union? I prefer to be free, but am threatened with loss of employment unless I join one.
Answer.--The Lord's injunctions are specifically along the lines of religion, and hence our separateness from unions should be specially along this line. A trade union has nothing of a religious worship connected with it, as have the churches and some of the secret orders. Of course, as those who are free indeed in Christ, we would prefer not to incur any obligation except to the Lord, but if obliged to join a Trade Union to obtain employment, I think you would do right to join one. I would, however, state to them that I preferred not to join them (not for the sake of the dues, being quite willing to pay my share of maintaining the proper price of labor), but from a desire to be free, lest at some time the Union might wish to dictate to my conscience what would not agree with it. I would therefore give them notice at once that I would be obedient to the demands of the Union so far as my conscience agreed, and that only.