ZWT - 1895 - R1794 thru R1910 / R1819 (125) - June 1, 1895
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VOL. XVI. JUNE 1, 1895. No. 11.
Special Items: How is the Work
Views from the Tower..............................127
Priestcraft Opposed to Liberty
The Heavenly Treasure.............................132
The Precious Faith................................134
Bible Study: The Walk to Emmaus...................135
Bible Study: Peter and the Risen Lord.............136
SUBSCRIPTIONS AND BUSINESS COMMUNICATIONS --ADDRESS TO-- TOWER PUBLISHING CO., BIBLE HOUSE, 58 & 60 ARCH ST., ALLEGHENY (NORTH PITTSBURG), PA., U.S.A.
SUBSCRIPTION PRICE, $1.00 A YEAR, IN ADVANCE, INCLUDES A SUBSCRIPTION TO "THE OLD THEOLOGY TRACTS"--QUARTERLY. MONEY MAY BE SENT BY EXPRESS, N.Y. DRAFT, MONEY ORDER, OR REGISTERED. FROM FOREIGN COUNTRIES BY FOREIGN MONEY ORDERS, ONLY. SPECIAL TERMS TO THE LORD'S POOR, AS FOLLOWS:
Those of the interested, who by reason of old age or accident, or other adversity are unable to pay for the TOWER will be supplied FREE, if they will send a Postal Card each December, stating their case and requesting the paper.
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HOW IS THE WORK PROGRESSING?
This question is asked by many whom we meet and its answer will be appreciated by many if not by all of our readers, so we reply publicly, --The great Harvest Work prospers! But we will particularize.
(1) The Colporteur work prospers. For a time, particularly during the winter months, the general business depression affected this service considerably, but with the revival of general business comes an increased activity in the colporteur branch of the service, and we feel confident that the first volume of MILLENNIAL DAWN will turn the half-million mark before the close of the present year. One day in May brought orders for over 1000 copies of this volume alone. The second and third volumes are doing well also.
We are glad to add, Those laboring in this branch of the service seem to be more than ever zealous for the truth; they are giving more attention than formerly to those whom they judge to be of the "wheat" class, watering and hoeing the seed they plant. One result is a constant increase of the subscription list of the WATCH TOWER. This we encourage, for we believe that in the busy whirl of our times, line upon line and precept upon precept are necessary to those already established, much more to beginners.
(2) "The New Branch" of the work is prospering also. Quite a number have responded to the Eight Qualifications, saying that by God's grace, they believe themselves to possess them to some degree and were striving and would strive to possess them more fully day by day. Of some of these we have personal knowledge and acquaintance, and others of them are "well reported of the brethren" for their character, faith, zeal and moderation. To all such we have given Letters of Introduction, such as we described in our issue of Oct. 15, last. And to such we have felt free to entrust the addresses of the interested ones of their own and nearby towns. In consequence, numerous little meetings--"Dawn Circles" for Bible study--have been started, which we believe are proving helpful.
Brother M. L. McPhail, as special traveling representative of the Society, during the last seven months has visited the TOWER readers in about fifty different places in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Virginia, W. Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Canada, Michigan and
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Pennsylvania. The reports from his meetings indicate that much good is being accomplished thereby, and we are urged to send him soon as possible again. Brother McPhail is the only one giving all of his time to the harvest work in this way, who does not combine the colporteur work with the other to some degree. He is the only one therefore whose home and traveling expenses are borne in full by this Society. While it is a considerable drain upon the Society's funds, we feel that Bro. McPhail's fullness of the truth and its spirit, combined with his meekness, zeal and energy, specially adapt him to this service. We will keep him going while we can.
(3) The general condition of the Church is good, and indicates itself in various ways, the most pronounced of which are the efforts to live the truth and to make it known to others.
(4) The progress of the sifting of the "chaff" and "tares" from among the "wheat" is very noticeable, and must be expected to continue, because this is the time of "harvest," the time of sifting. But, painful though it be, this is a necessary process, and marks progress toward the grand consummation when all the overcomers shall be gathered at the right hand of the Master and hear him say, Well done! good and faithful servants, enter ye into the joys of your Lord.
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VIEWS FROM THE TOWERS.
THE Pope's encyclical desiring union with Episcopalians and all Protestants has fallen rather flat. The sentiments of all except the "high-church party" are probably voiced by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Primate of all England and Metropolitan, who says:--
"I have no hesitancy in saying that, in my opinion, any corporate union with Rome, so long as she retains her distinctive and erroneous doctrines and advances her present unprimitive and unscriptural claims, is absolutely visionary and impossible."
The Scriptures indicate that there will be no general union with Papacy, but merely sympathy and cooperation: that the union or federation will be of Protestant sects, the Church of England joining with the others.
This sentiment for union of Protestants is expressed by the Archbishop in a recent "Pastoral" letter addressed to his arch-diocese, asking the members of the Church of England to offer prayers on Whitsunday for Unity. He says,
"When we consider the terrible separation of the past, when we now see so many communions,--Presbyterian, Non-Conformist and Roman Catholic, at home and abroad in America--we are moved to desire to seek Christian unity. Who can doubt that this change is of the Lord?"
We answer, that there is great reason to doubt its being an inspiration of the Lord. On the contrary, we believe that the union proposed would be of advantage to error and of disadvantage to the truth. Nor do we believe that it is inspired by right principles.
We will give our reasons for this position.
(1) The federation proposed is not a union or harmony of faith reached by growth in grace and knowledge, but a union in which vital faith in the teachings of our Lord and his apostles is to be ignored, because of a general growth of doctrinal ignorance and doctrinal unbelief, and a corresponding loss of grace which permits the skeptical to glory in their carelessness of divine instruction, as well as in their ignorance and unbelief.
(2) On the contrary, the union which the Scriptures inculcate is a union of faith and oneness of loving interest based upon knowledge--of God as our Father and Creator, of Christ as our Ransomer, and of each other as joint-heirs with Christ in the great work of blessing the world with a knowledge of God and his gracious will. It, however, has no physical union, no fences, no bonds of human dogma, form or custom. Each individual stands absolutely free in the liberty wherewith Christ makes free, and is bound only by the love of Christ which alone constrains such as are free indeed. In this sense there is too little union amongst Christians in the various sects, though there is already too much in the sense of mechanical, sectarian bondage, not of hearts, but of profession; and the proposed greater confederation would only increase this physical bondage, and hence be even worse than the present for the personal liberty of those under it.
(3) The union proposed is largely a business move. There is a strong belief in the proverb, "In union there is strength," and strength is desired for various reasons:-- (a) As strong denominations have an influence which smaller ones do not possess, so it is hoped that all denominations would be socially dignified by confederation. (b) Church people represent the wealth, culture and civilization of the world; and it is feared that the times are rapidly developing a revolution against the present social system and they feel the need of cooperation to preserve the present order, on which they perceive that their interests financial as well as social are dependent. (c) It has been their theory that they, by civilization, would convert the world and inaugurate the Millennium of peace and general blessing (quite the contrary of the Bible's presentation
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of God's program); and now that it is evident that civilization is not synonymous with conversion, but that the nominally Christianized masses in civilized countries are more to be feared than many times their numbers of the unchristianized or uncivilized (for they improperly confound civilization with Christianization), they are anxious to consolidate and put on a good appearance in numbers as well as in financial and social strength. If carried out, as desired, the confederation would take the place once occupied by Papacy, when it ruled the world with a high and
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mighty hand as "God's Kingdom ruling on Earth." (d) A few others may have other motives, but the foregoing represent the general interest in Christian federation.
We submit that a union for such reasons is not authorized by the Scriptures: that the Scriptural union is one of hearts, produced not by such motives of selfish expediency, but by the sanctifying influence of a knowledge of the truth, producing love to the Head and to each member of the body--the only proper bond of Christian union. And we again point out that the result of the mechanical union to be accomplished very soon will be antagonistic to the Lord's plan--unfavorable to the development of the little flock of saints, as well as an obstacle to the introduction of Christ's Millennial Kingdom as he has foretold its establishment.
Nevertheless, the very unfavorableness of the arrangement will serve to prove and test and make ready the Lord's people. (`Rev. 13:16,17`; `20:4`.) And as the last obstacle to the general blessing of the world, united Christendom (financial, social and religious) will be utterly wrecked and both the present heavens (ecclesiasticism) and the present earth (society) shall pass away with a great noise (confusion).
The true Christian Union is that in which each individual believer in the ransom for all is fully consecrated to the Lord; and all thus united to the head and imbued by the truth with his spirit must be one--even as the Father and the Son are one.--`John 17:21`.
The Socialists of Paris recently, on the anniversary of the Commune, at their Maison du Peuple, introduced a "Passion Play," representing the Savior's death at Calvary.
"In the dialogue the unrepentant thief reproaches Christ with the incompleteness of His mission, which, while inculcating goodness and almsgiving, did not boldly preach the right to live. The practice of that right had brought him to a more ignominious cross than that which would be a sign of glory unto all time. The pathetic reply of Christ is that He died as a malefactor for having tried to teach men to love one another. He wished for the happiness of all, but a deaf ear had been turned to His doctrine. From the Golgotha which they shared with Him the eternal light would come. The Redeemer then says to the thieves, "I bless you both." "And I forgive you," replies the bad thief.
The Socialists and all reformers feel that they have some share in Christ Jesus. This is because he is "the Savior of the world." So, too, among the Jews, "the common people heard him gladly," and probably more of them than of the aristocracy became his disciples. But not all of the common people, then or now, accepted him heartily. Now, as then, the interest of the poor, like the interest of the rich, is mostly a selfish interest. Few see the King in his beauty--the beauty of holiness. Few seek him as the bread of eternal life. Most seek the bread that perisheth. (`John 6:26-37`.) By and by all the blind eyes shall be opened, and all may at least taste of the heavenly bread.
The dramatizing of Bible subjects is becoming quite general in Paris. Mrs. Booth, commanding the Salvation Army there, finding that the old methods of the Army no longer attract the multitude, has introduced tableaux of Bible subjects, the first being "The Ten Virgins." The success was great; and now one of the leading theaters has tried the public taste with a play based on the narrative of John the Baptist, Herod, Herodias and Salome, of `Matt. 14:3-10`. The play was enthusiastically received, and will probably be followed by the dramatization of other Old and New Testament incidents.
From Paris the fad will doubtless spread to London, New York and elsewhere; and this reminds us that theatricals were early associated with religion. In Greece, according to the earliest records, it was in connection with religious festivals that dances and performances had their origin. And beginning about the fifth century and lasting down to the twelfth century the theatricals of Europe were almost, if not entirely, what were termed Miracles and Moralities, or simply "Miracle Plays," and were performed in the churches and occasionally on the streets or in convents.
At first the actors were priests; later on, monks, nuns, etc., joined. It was not until the eleventh century that the "laity" were associated. In these plays heaven and hell, angels and archangels and even Deity were represented; and although started with the desire to teach the world religious matters in an entertaining manner, the effect was bad, the influence degrading. And such will probably be the effect again. Indeed, God is at present selecting the "royal priesthood" only, and they are not such as need to be entertained and wheedled into the truth, but such as so hunger and thirst after righteousness that they will "overcome" otherwise unsurmountable difficulties in order to attain it and the divine favor. Hence God's plan is the preaching of faith in Christ crucified and obedience in walking the narrow way he trod, to glory and immortality. It is during this age, to many, foolishness; but to us who believe it is the power of God and the wisdom of God.
A new Roman Catholic Cathedral is to be built in London, capable of accommodating 10,000 people. The land is valued at $1,300,000. One contributor has donated $100,000 toward the building fund. There seems to be plenty of money for the propagation of error; but amongst the saints there are not many great, or rich, or influential; God is choosing chiefly the poor of this
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world, rich in faith, to be heirs of the Kingdom which he has prepared for those that love him supremely.
In France a movement has been started to tax the revenues of Roman Catholic communities. As a result Catholics, especially ecclesiastics, are exasperated. Socialists are delighted, hoping for an insurrection which will give them a greater opportunity.
How evident it is that self-interest is, in the main, controlling all classes in France and elsewhere. As the trouble progresses this will become evident to all, and the masses will by and by look and long for rulers who will unselfishly and lovingly rule the world in righteousness. They will come to desire the very Kingdom which God has promised and which, unknown to the world, he has been preparing for more than eighteen centuries. Yes, "the desire of all nations shall come,"--the Christ, head and body, glorified and in Kingdom power,--the Seed of Abraham in which all the families of the earth shall be blessed.--`Gal. 3:16,29`.
Three candidates for the ministry, recently before the New York Presbytery, were asked their opinion of the fate, after death, of Socrates and Plato. One declared that they were eternally lost, another felt sure that they had another chance with clearer knowledge in the next world, while the third did not know if he had any opinion on the subject. The Presbytery decided that in each case the examination was satisfactory;--probably because, like the third candidate, they had no conviction on the subject.
But why do not thinking and educated men use their brains upon so important a subject, which has to do with billions of the dead and millions of the living? Above all, why do they publicly avow in their Confessions of Faith that which not more than one in three of them really believes? Why not be honest, conscientious, truthful? Why we cannot surmise, except it be as one minister hereabouts declared, their "bread is not buttered on that side." But we do know that the untruthful and dishonest are not likely to get the truth. We presume that the Lord's estimate, like ours, is that such as are dishonest in their confessions are not worthy of more truth. The Lord is seeking a peculiarly honest people for his bride. "He seeketh such to worship him" as worship him in spirit and in truth, and not for money or reputation or social station.
In Cleveland the Y.M.C.A., Epworth League and Christian Endeavor Societies are combining their powers politically in what is known as "The Good Citizenship League." This may be considered a hint of what is to come. At first, no doubt, the energy spent will be well directed for purity and honesty in politics, and in that all honest people will rejoice. But within probably ten or twelve years, when religious federation shall have made itself felt in politics, both in Europe and America, and when, believing it to be the only safeguard against Anarchism and Infidelity, all who love peace shall ally themselves with the "religious party," then will come the danger. For, feeling their power, the tendency will be to use it arbitrarily and to trample upon the rights of others; and this, the Scriptures show, will be done, and will lead to the general collapse of the present social order.
Henry Varley, the Evangelist, who has been laboring in Oakland, Cal., was invited by the Ministers of San Francisco to come next to help them. But, after preaching and holding Bible-readings on various other subjects for some time, Mr. Varley took up the subject of our Lord's second coming and spent several sessions in pointing out that it is the center of the hope set before us in the Scriptures. This was too much for the San Francisco ministers, and they, at their regular Monday meeting, decided that if Mr. Varley wished to preach on Christ's second coming they would be obliged to cancel their arrangement
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to have him speak by turns in their churches, much as they would like to have him revive them and their flocks. They appointed three of their number a committee to visit and interview Mr. Varley, and to make known their terms. But, to his credit, Mr. Varley declined to leave out one of the chief features of the gospel and thus to prove himself ashamed of Christ and his Word, and went to Metropolitan Hall where he could preach the Word of God without restraint. God bless him! Yes, God always blesses those who are not ashamed of him and his Word.
But how strange that men who know anything about the Bible, who know that the Lord encouraged his Church with the assurance, "If I go away, I will come again and receive you unto myself; and who know that the Apostles hoped, and exhorted the Church to hope, for "the grace that shall be brought unto you at the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ;" and who, sometimes at least, pray after this manner, "Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as in heaven;"--how strange that they above all men should be so blinded, that they should hate the subject of his return, and despise those who trust therein while the promises of God are to those who love his appearing. As at the first advent, so now, the scribes and doctors of divinity are blindest of all, and cannot even discern the signs of the present times.
Emperor William's Anti-Socialist Bill in the German Congress was defeated. It was intended to increase the Emperor's power, and practically would have treated as a criminal any one who would have questioned or criticized his person or governmental policy. The Roman Catholic party was relied on to assist in making the bill a law; but it amended certain portions to favor the Church of Rome, and merely put it into a shape which pleased only themselves. No doubt they acted under instructions: Papacy wants to be paid by still greater concessions for assisting the Emperor to make his throne secure. We shall not be
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surprised if we find similar clerical parties in these United States within ten years.
Germany was the first nation to enact compulsory life and accident insurance laws for all laborers, mechanics, etc. A certain portion of the premium, from one-fourth to three-fourths, according to the danger, is paid by the employer and the remainder by the employee. England and France are moving in the same direction.
France, by a recent enactment, places herself in the lead in the matter of granting pensions for aged work-people, who have for ten years subscribed to Benefit Societies. The Socialists wanted the measure to apply to all, irrespective of the "Friendly Societies," but accepted the present measure as a recognition of principles for which they have long contended. All of God's people may well rejoice in all such well-directed efforts to assist the less fortunate members of Adam's family. Let us all more and more cultivate such sympathy in the present time, even though our hope for the groaning creation lies beyond the great time of trouble by which Messiah's Kingdom is to be introduced.
"There are now 100,000 Jews in the Holy Land, one half of whom have arrived there in the past seven years."
"Jerusalem is advocated as the initial meridian instead of Greenwich by no less a renowned society than the Academy of Sciences at Bologna."
"Rabbi J. Leonard Levy lectured last Sunday morning before the Congregation Keneseth Israel upon "Jesus, the Light of Christendom." He said:--His moral doctrines are the purest. They are mainly from the Old Testament. His ethical precepts are the highest. They are for the most part from the oldest Jewish writings. He is a faithful copy of the lovable Hillel, that sweet, meek, gentle character. Our God is his God. Our people were his people; for our God is the Universal Father and our people the human family. I do not, cannot accept the dogma that was built around his name, yet I would be mentally blind if I withheld from him the highest tribute of admiration and respect.
"The greatest tribute that can be paid to him is to be worshiped by 350,000,000 of grateful people. What a wonderful influence he has had upon the world! To the tempted he has been a fortress; to the struggling, a support. Again and again he has told them, 'I, too, was tempted; I, too, suffered, but I bore my cross; go do ye likewise.'
"Where he is remembered in his spirit, men are nobler and women are purer. Where he has entered the human heart, charity abounds and hope is strong. Where he is imitated in his spirit, woman is revered and childhood is sacred, and there grows the sweetest flower that ever bloomed, the violet of meekness spreading its perfume in the human heart."--Jewish Exponent.
A young Israelite, a cultured man, thoroughly acquainted with the Jewish faith, became acquainted with several Christian families, and conceived the idea of writing a novel in which Jewish and Christian family life would be illustrated and contrasted. In order to more fully grasp the Christian idea he purchased and read a copy of the New Testament. His study convinced him that Jesus was indeed the Messiah looked for by his people.
In Berlin, a Hebrew artist sought new subjects for pictures, and, searching for them, turned to the New Testament. As he read, the moral beauty of the Savior and the simple purity of his teachings deeply impressed his heart. The more he read, the more he became convinced that Jesus of Nazareth was indeed the Son of God, the Messiah.
Gradually, as the full number of the elect Gospel Church --"the Bride, the Lamb's wife"--is nearly completed, the "blindness" which for over eighteen centuries has rested upon "Israel after the flesh," according to divine prediction, begins to pass away in a manner that must be marvelous even to that people.--See `Rom. 11:25-31`.
Considerable uneasiness is felt in Austria by the recent triumph at the elections of the Anti-Jewish Party, whose motto is "Hang or expel the Jews, and confiscate their property." This party has triumphed in Vienna and has charge of the city government, and it is feared will similarly triumph in the national Congress or Reichsrath.
As we have already pointed out, Jewish persecution in Austria must be expected; for large numbers of them reside there, and the Lord will no doubt use persecution to awaken them, and turn their hearts and minds toward him, that those who yet trust his promises may begin to think of him whom they have pierced and to return to the land of promise.--`Jer. 32:37-40`; `46:27,28`; `Rom. 11:25-31`.
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PRIESTCRAFT OPPOSED TO LIBERTY.
[CONCLUDED FROM OUR ISSUE OF MAY 1.]
THE EARLY CHURCHES UNFETTERED.
NOT only were the individuals of the early Church free, but each congregation was free from the control of every other congregation. Even the Apostles, although by divine appointment they were competent to direct all of the affairs, did not do so arbitrarily, but always respected the rights and liberties of each congregation and of each individual Christian. They did reprove, rebuke and exhort, but it was with longsuffering and patience, and by pointing out the errors of doctrine or practice, just as the humblest of the brethren had a right to do.
The entire arrangement of the early Church was based upon (1) confidence in the Lord, and in each other as partakers of his spirit; (2) love for the Lord and for all who possessed his spirit; (3) obedience to the Lord's will, in whatever manner expressed. They recognized the
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Scriptures as the substance of the Lord's revelation, but they did not forget that God declared that he would provide teachers, helps, etc., in the Church for its upbuilding in the truth and in its spirit. They were therefore on the lookout for those whom God might be sending as such helpers; yet they were cautioned not to receive every spirit or doctrine, but to try or prove by the Word of God whether or not the teachings and teachers were from God or false teachers transforming themselves to appear as servants
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of the light. Accordingly, even the Apostle Paul gave proofs of his teachings by repeatedly referring to the Old Testament Scriptures.
Knowing the superior ability of the Apostles, and noting to how large a degree the Lord had confidence in them and used them, the early Churches readily accepted the judgment of the Apostles as to which of their number would be best qualified, naturally and spiritually, to be their "Elders," or to have the chief direction and oversight of the work in their midst. And the Apostle shows that he judged of fitness in the same manner that we now should judge, and not by some super-human intuition.--See `Titus 1:6-11`.
But it is very evident that the Apostle appointed no "Elders" in any Church contrary to the will of the congregation. It was by the will of the Church that the Apostle chose for them; they having more confidence in his experience, disinterested judgment, etc., than in their own. Love and confidence were the grounds of obedience, and not arbitrary authority. These facts must impress themselves upon all who read the New Testament with their eyes open. The strongest utterance is merely advisory; it reads, "Obey your leaders and be submissive [then the reason for this advice is given], for they keep watch on your behalf, as those who shall render an account." (`Heb. 13:17`.) Even when the Apostles called or sent any of the younger brethren in the ministry, it was not as of arbitrary authority, but as of request which they were likely to follow, because of their confidence in him as a faithful and experienced servant of the Truth. (See `2 Cor. 8:17`; `1 Tim. 1:3`.) But those calls or requests were not always obeyed; and no offense was taken by the Apostle, if the brethren sometimes felt and acted differently from his suggestions or requests. (See `1 Cor. 16:12`.) On the contrary, some of the "Elders" became self-seekers, and spoke evil of the Apostles, yet were not anathematized: the Church was merely cautioned as to how to judge, and another more suitable brother was suggested, not appointed (`3 John 9-12`) --indicating that full liberty was accorded to each congregation. But the caution was sometimes given that the spiritually minded would receive the Lord's counsel through his mouthpieces, the Apostles.--`1 John 4:6`; `1 Cor. 14:37,38`.
So also in introducing brethren to the Churches, force and authority are ignored, while the liberty of all is respected even by the apostles, who write not commandingly but entreatingly, not arbitrarily, but giving the reasons why those commended should be held in esteem. (See `Phil. 2:29,30`; `Philemon 12,17`; `Col. 4:10`; `3 John 8`.) In all this the apostles did nothing more than what all the "brethren" had full privilege to do. (`Acts 18:27`.) And those who received the letters were bound to act upon such letters only by their love and confidence; hence probably a letter of commendation from St. Paul couched in the very same words would have had a greater influence than if from some others, simply because of the unbounded confidence of the Churches in his judgment and carefulness of their interests.
As the territory was smaller and the means of travel much less complete, the letters used by the early Church were special, rather than general, and were sent to the Churches rather than carried by the visiting brethren. They were written, instead of printed, and were for one visit instead of for a year as are the Letters of Introduction now in use amongst us.
The financial methods in the early Church, although not regulated by law, were simple and full of individual liberty as now with us. Pew-rents, church-fairs, etc., were unknown as means for helping forward the Lord's cause. The "Elders" in each little congregation did not serve for filthy lucre, but of ready minds. (`1 Pet. 5:2,3`.) So far as we can judge, they served the weekly meetings without thought of compensation;--probably continuing their usual work or business for a livelihood. The traveling "Elders," such as Paul, Barnabas, Silas, Peter, Timothy, etc., who gave their entire time to the service, sometimes "wrought with their own hands" to provide their necessities, but sometimes were supported in part by the voluntary contributions of those previously served with the truth. (See `Phil. 4:10-18`.) But they all seem to have strenuously avoided asking or receiving anything from those whom they were seeking to win to Christ. (See `3 John 7,8`; `1 Cor. 9:12-15`; `2 Cor. 11:8,9`.) However, the apostles desired, for the sakes of the givers, to see the truth take such hold upon them that they would take pleasure in giving for the spread of the Truth: and therefore he accepted for his own necessities and for the necessities of those who were his colaborers and under his supervision what the Churches he had served were forward to offer. And although he sometimes pointed out the duty and privilege of the Lord's people, he never directly requested money, so far as we know, except for the relief of the poor of the Church at Jerusalem;--probably at a time of dearth or famine.
On the whole, dear brethren, we congratulate you that as representatives of the Lord to-day, on all these subjects, we all stand, so far as we can judge, in just about the same position as the early Church. The principles under which we operate are identical with those of the primitive Church, and the methods are modified only by changed circumstances and facilities.
Each individual and each little gathering is free, absolutely free, except as voluntarily controlled by love, confidence and obedience to our Lord, and love to each other. We, too, look for the Lord to SET every member in the
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body as it hath pleased him (`1 Cor. 12:26-31`); and we seek to recognize such by the characteristics laid down by the Apostle. We, too, recognize character and consecration as essential prerequisites to a believer (one who trusts in Christ's ransom sacrifice), before he could be "apt to teach" the truth. We, too, introduce by Letters which none are bound to recognize. We, too, have a general fund used in publishing the gospel, much more cheaply than we could publish separately, out of which provision those who can use tracts can have them freely whether they can contribute or not; out of which the poor are supplied with the regular visits and preaching of ZION'S WATCH TOWER; out of which the MILLENNIAL DAWN as a preacher of present truth is sent the world over on loan to the poor or at low prices and in various languages to those who can circulate it and thus share in preaching the gospel according to present improved facilities. And we, too, while pleased to see evidences of a love of the truth which extends to the pocket-book and the bank account, feel that we have neither authority nor desire to beg in the name of our Master.
Let us stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and permit love, and love alone, to be the constraining power in our hearts and lives; and in all matters of small importance, let us say as St. Paul did about wearing the hair long or short;--"But if any one is disposed to be contentious, we have no such custom [as a law], neither have the Churches of God."--`1 Cor. 11:16`.
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THE HEAVENLY TREASURE.
"Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal; for where your treasure is there will your heart be also."--`Matt. 6:19-21`.
A TREASURE is something in which we take special pleasure and delight. It is in our thoughts and plans and hopes, an inspiration in our lives, and an incentive to energy, perseverance and endurance for the hope which it enkindles. There are few people in the world who have no treasures; yet they are generally such as yield but little satisfaction, being earthly and therefore perishable. Some find their treasures in wealth, fame, social distinction, houses and lands, friends, home, family, etc., and in these they center their hopes. But all of these are subject to change and decay, and may, if the heart be centered in them, at any moment desolate the life, plunging the heart at once into an abyss of sorrow which can only be measured by the former high tide of its joy when life was young and hope new, before the shadows of disappointment crossed the way.
The wealth, laboriously gathered and husbanded with much care, may vanish in an hour; the fame, so dearly won, may change to censure at the caprice of fickle public sentiment; the social distinction, which once bade you to the uppermost seat, may by and by relegate you to the lowest seat, as one despised and forsaken; houses and lands may disappear under the sheriff's hammer; friends long trusted may suddenly turn the cold shoulder and prove untrue or even treacherous; the home you love must soon or later break up; the family will be scattered, or death will invade it, or even the love that glowed on the home-altar may flicker and become uncertain or extinct. So the high hopes of early life, centered in the earthly treasures, may in a few short years turn to ashes. How many have found it so! the moth of wear and the rust of time corrupt the fair earthly blessings; and thieves break through and steal the treasures of our possessions and our hearts, and desolation and gloom are the painful results. But it is not so with those whose treasure is laid up in heaven.
The all-important question then is, How can we lay up treasure in heaven, and what kind of treasures are accepted in that sure and safe depository?
We have the assurance of the divine Word that every thing that is pure and holy and good is acceptable there. The chiefest of all treasures there is the personal friendship and love of Christ, "the fairest among ten thousand and the one altogether lovely." If we have gained this treasure we have gained one that never changes, one whose love never grows cold and from which nothing can separate us --"neither tribulation, nor distress, nor famine, nor persecution, nor nakedness, nor peril, nor sword;" for his love and friendship are not like those of this world, which forsake us in the hour of need. Neither can "death," which often consigns to forgetfulness the friendships of this life; "nor angels," even with all the superior charms of their purity and glory; nor the "principalities and powers" of darkness that are arrayed against us to separate the betrothed virgin of Christ from her beloved Bridegroom; nor any of the "things present or to come;" "neither height" of temporary exaltation, nor "depth" of trouble and sorrow, "nor any other creature [thing]" in heaven or earth, separate from his special love the Lord's elect, who have found in him their chief treasure.--`Cant. 5:10,16`.
Nor will any other creature in heaven or in earth receive from him those marks of special favor which are, and ever will be, the chief joy of his beloved bride. Though "the whole family of God in heaven and in earth" will be blessed through him, his wife co-operating with him in the work, she alone will be his companion, his confidant, his treasure. This close relationship of the Church to Christ was set forth in the Lord's words to his typical people (`Deut. 14:2`), which the Apostle Peter (`1 Pet. 2:9`) shows belonged, not to them, but to their antitypes, the elect Church. To them he said, "For thou art an holy
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people unto the Lord thy God, and the Lord hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth." And the Apostle, after showing that the typical people of God stumbled and proved themselves unworthy of such special favor, applies the promise to the Gospel Church, saying, But ye are the chosen generation, the royal priesthood, the holy nation, the peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light: which in time past were not the people, but are now the people of God.--`1 Pet. 2:9`.
And to us God has made exceeding great and precious promises--promises, not only of redemption and deliverance from sin and death, and recognition as sons and heirs of God through Christ to the inheritance of eternal life, but more: he has called us by his grace to be the bride of his only Son and heir--the "heir of all things;" to be his intimate and eternal companion in all things; to be "joint-heirs" with him of all his possessions, so that "all things are ours" also, "if we are Christ's;" to be "partakers," too, of the "divine nature" and glory and kingdom; even to sit with him in his throne, and with him to constitute a "royal priesthood" in whom all the world shall be blessed.
Hear the invitation (`Psa. 45:10,11`), "Hearken, O daughter, and consider, and incline thine ear; forget also thine own people and thy father's house [the world and its ambitions, hopes and aims]; so shall the King [Jehovah's Anointed] greatly desire thy beauty; for he is thy Lord, and worship thou him." What wonder is it if, when we receive such a message, we hesitate and feel that we are unworthy; that in our imperfection there can be no beauty in us that he should desire us, passing by even the angels in their purity and glory. Surely there must be some mistake! has not the invitation come like the vision of a dream to be dispelled when sound judgment has awakened to realities? Ah, no! hearken again, and be reassured of the voice of Jehovah, our God; for long ago he led his inspired prophet to pen these lines for us, and now by his spirit he unseals our understanding and brings the matter to us with all the freshness of his own personality. But what "beauty" have I? I know that I have not all the graces of the spirit in their glory and perfection; but then, as I reflect, I realize that I wear the robe of Christ's righteousness; then have I not "the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit?" and have I not that faith wherewith it is possible to please God? Therefore I lay hold, with exceeding joy and gratitude, of even this gracious invitation, and, without presumption, I accept the blessed hope and press toward the mark of my high calling which is of God in Christ Jesus, humbly trusting that he who has begun the good work of grace in me will perfect it against that day when he would have me appear before him "without spot or wrinkle or any such thing."
No sooner is the gracious invitation thus accepted than the pleasure of the Lord is expressed to the prospective bride. Hear--Ye "shall be mine in that day when I make up my jewels." "Thine eyes shall see the King in his beauty." "I will give thee to eat of the hidden manna" [`John 4:32`], and will give thee a white stone [a precious token of love], and in the stone a new name written [the name of the Bridegroom, henceforth to be ours--`Acts 15:14`], which no man knoweth [`1 Cor. 2:14`] saving he that receiveth it." "Lo, I am with you alway [in thought and loving oversight and care], even unto the end of the age." "Nevertheless, I tell you the truth. It is expedient for you that [personally] I go away to him that sent me: I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself, that where I am, there ye may be also. If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and
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he shall give you another comforter, that he may abide with you forever; even the spirit of truth whom the world can not receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him; but ye know him, for he dwelleth with you and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. He that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him and will manifest myself to him: we will come unto him, and make our abode with him."-- `Mal. 3:17`; `Isa. 33:17`; `Rev. 2:17`; `Matt. 28:20`; `John 16:7,5`; `14:2,3,15-18,21-23`.
Hear again, as the Lord lifts up his voice in prayer to his Father, and our Father, to his God and our God (`John 20:17`), "Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory. I pray for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine, and all mine are thine, and thine are mine, and I am glorified in them."--`John 17:24,9,10`.
Precious words! con them over again and again, beloved of the Lord, that all their sweetness may permeate your souls and reinforce your waning powers with new vigor, courage and zeal to press along the narrow way until your eyes shall "see the King in his beauty."
Other treasures which we may lay up in heaven are those marks of just approval and distinction among all the good and holy which must result from zeal and faithfulness to the Lord and patient endurance of tribulation in his service in the present life. While an exceeding and eternal weight of glory is to be the inheritance of all of the elect body of Christ who are now laying up treasure in heaven, the Apostle Paul clearly intimates that that treasure may be augmented by special zeal and faithfulness under the peculiar trials of the present time. (`2 Cor. 4:17,18`.) Treasures also of mind and character we shall find laid up in heaven; for nothing that is good and true, and worthy of preservation, shall be lost to those who have committed their investments to the Lord's keeping. These are incorruptible treasures which neither the lapse of time nor the exigencies of circumstance will be permitted to wrest from us. The treasures in heaven will also include all those true and noble friendships founded in righteousness and truth here on earth, whether they be on the natural or the spiritual
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plane. For instance, one on the spiritual plane of being will not be disposed to forget or to ignore the loving loyalty of a former earthly friendship which often ministered a cup of cold water to a thirsty soul in time of need. Surely some special marks of favor from the highly exalted ones will manifest the appreciation of the old-time friendships (`Matt. 10:41,42`; `Heb. 6:10`), and the reciprocation of such grateful loving hearts will be a part of the treasure long laid up in heaven, then to be realized. Nor will the special friendships of those on the spiritual plane, begun and cherished here and now, lose any of their value and sweetness when mortality is swallowed up of life.
Oh, how precious will be the heavenly treasures when we view them in the light of the new dispensation--as glorious realities uncorrupted and incorruptible! With what joy shall the faithful begin to realize them when first they hear the Master's welcome, "Well done, good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of the Lord." Then will follow the welcome of all the glorified fellow-members of the anointed body; and if the jubilant songs of the angels hailed the advent of our Lord in the flesh, can we imagine them to be silent when the anointed "body" is received into glory, their work in the flesh having been finished? Surely not: if "there is joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth," the glad notes of jubilee will be raised very high when the Church shall have finished her course and entered into her reward. And as the tidings spread to earth, through the established earthly phase of the Kingdom, all creatures in heaven and in earth will be rejoicing together.--`Rev. 5:11-13`.
Who indeed can estimate the value of the heavenly treasures? Their value is past our present powers of reckoning; yet, with an approximate appreciation of them, let us keep our eye upon them and diligently lay up in heaven many of them, assured that there moth and rust can not corrupt, nor thieves break through nor steal. Let our hearts glory in the heavenly treasures, esteeming all things else as of minor importance. If our hearts are set upon the heavenly treasures only, then indeed the disappointment and trials of the present life cannot overwhelm us, though they may cause us pain and sorrow. The heavenly treasures include all that is pure and good and noble and true. Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are worthy of the aspirations of the spiritual sons of God, these are our real treasures; and let our hearts glory in them more and more.
"Let us touch lightly the things of this earth,
Esteeming them only of trifling worth," and let our treasures be laid up in heaven and our hearts dwell there.
THE INFLUENCE OF THE HEAVENLY TREASURES UPON THE PRESENT LIFE.
In this view of the heavenly treasures we can see what a marked influence such a hope and ambition must have on the present life. (1) It helps us to realize that the Lord, whose present and final commendation we so earnestly desire, is taking special notice of even the most trivial affairs of our daily life and of our conduct with reference to them, as well as when we pass through the great billows of temptation and trial that seem disposed at times to overwhelm us. (2) It helps us to realize that the future approval of even our present enemies is a treasure worth the seeking. By and by the present opponent may be converted from the error of his way, and when he shall look back and call to mind the patient endurance, faithfulness and uniform kindness of the man formerly despised, hated, reviled and persecuted, the persecuting spirit may turn to mourning and repentance, and the former hatred, to love and admiration. This the Apostle intimates, saying, "Beloved... have your conversation honest among the Gentiles, that whereas they speak against you as evil-doers, they may by your good works which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation." (`1 Pet. 2:12`.) And this love, the reward of righteousness, will be a part of the treasure of the future. Even so we are told the nation of Israel will by and by look upon him whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn because of him. (`Zech. 12:10`.) This blessed satisfaction will be part of the Lord's treasure which, at his first advent, he laboriously laid up in heaven's keeping. It was the prospect of this treasure that assisted him to so patiently endure mocking, ignominy, scorn, ingratitude, pain and death. Under all his sufferings he did not grow discouraged nor faint, but confidently looked to the joy of the future set before him--the joy of a renewed, grateful and loving race. So also our heavenly Father has for six thousand years patiently borne with the ingratitude and wickedness of men, sending his rain and sunshine upon the just and the unjust, and at great cost providing for their redemption and restitution which by and by will reveal to him also the treasure of grateful hearts which shall to all eternity ascribe to him the praise of their salvation. Similar will be the joy of all the faithful sons of God who likewise now lay up treasure in heaven.
Just as we now look back in loving remembrance upon the worthy character and noble example of a sainted father or a tender mother with a degree of appreciation which childhood could not realize, so will men by and by learn to appreciate every worthy character; and so every good and noble deed will eventually receive its due reward.
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YOUR PRECIOUS FAITH.
"That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ."--`1 Pet. 1:7`.
FAITH has in it the two elements of intellectual assurance and heart reliance. The former is faith in the abstract sense; the latter is its concrete form. It is in this latter, fullest sense we read that, "With the heart man believeth unto righteousness." (`Rom. 10:10`.) Both the head and the heart--the intellect and the affections--are necessary to that faith without which it is "impossible to please God" (`Heb. 11:6`); though many fancy they have faith when they have only one of its essential elements. With some it is all emotion; with others it is all intellectuality; but neither of these can stand the tests of fiery ordeal: they must abide together if they are to endure to the end and be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.
An intellectual grasp of the fundamental principles of divine truth--viz., of the existence of a personal, intelligent
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God, the Creator and Sustainer of all things, and of his purpose and plan of redemption through his only begotten and well-beloved Son, Jesus Christ--constitutes the foundation of faith; while trust and reliance to the extent of his promises, upon the personal God who is the author of our being and who, as a Father, invites the implicit confidence and love of his children, make up the superstructure of our faith.
The trial of our faith to which the Lord and the apostles refer is therefore a trial, not only of our intellectual recognition of divine truth, but also of our heart reliance upon God. In both respects every true child of God will find his faith severely tried, and, as a soldier of Christ, let him not fail to be armed for the conflict. If an attack is made upon the intellectual foundation of our faith we should see to it that we have a, "Thus saith the Lord," for every item of our belief. Let the Word of God settle every question, and let no human philosophies, however ingenious, lead us into the labyrinths of error; for if the foundations of faith become unsettled, the superstructure cannot stand when the winds and the floods of adversity and temptation beat against it. Doubt and fear will cause it to tremble, and when it is thus weakened the vigilant adversary will surely send a blast of temptation against it, and great will be the soul's peril.
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Let us, therefore, look well to the foundations of our faith--study the doctrine and get a clear intellectual conception of every element of divine truth which the inspired Word presents to the people of God; let us become rooted, grounded, settled, established in the faith, the doctrines of God, and hold them fast: they are the divine credentials; and let us give earnest heed to them, lest at any time we should let them slip.--`Heb. 2:1`.
But having the doctrines clearly comprehended as foundations of faith, we need also to look well to the superstructure of heart reliance, which is really in greater danger from storms and floods than are the foundations, being more constantly exposed. The Apostle Peter tells us that a tried, proved faith, a faith that has stood the tests of fiery ordeal and come off victorious, is very precious in the sight of God. That is, that every time we pass through a conflict and still retain, not only the truth, but also our confidence in God and reliance upon his promises in the dark as well as in the light, our integrity of heart and of purpose, and our zeal for truth and righteousness, our characters have grown stronger, more symmetrical and more Christ-like, and hence more pleasing to God, who is thus subjecting us to discipline for this very thing.
Therefore, "Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you. But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings, that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy." (`1 Pet. 4:12,13`.) It is worthy of notice here that special reference is made, not to the tests of intellectual belief brought about by the presentation of false doctrine, but to reproaches and persecution for Christ's sake, either for adherence to his doctrines or conformity to his righteousness; for, the Apostle adds, "If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you." He warns us to take heed only that we suffer not as evil-doers, "Yet," he says, "if any man suffer as a Christian [that is, either for Christian principles or Christian doctrine], let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God on this behalf."
The Prophet Daniel also says that particularly in this time of the end, "many shall be purified and made white and tried;" and `Malachi (3:2,3`) compares the trials of this time to the "refiner's fire" and to "fuller's soap," which are designed to refine and purify the Lord's people. The Apostle Paul urges that we fight the good fight of faith, and patiently endure afflictions to the end. (`1 Tim. 6:12`; `2 Tim. 2:3`.) And many are the words of consolation and blessed comfort offered by the Psalmist and others to the tempest-tossed and suffering people of God.--See `Psa. 77:1-14`; `116:1-14`; `34:19`; `31:24`; `2 Thes. 3:3`.
Are you then, dear brother or sister, hard pressed on every side with temptations to doubt that God's protection, love and care are yours, that his precious promises belong to you? have you grown discouraged and disheartened? do the foes seem too many and too strong for you? do the reproaches come with crushing weight, and do the clouds hang heavy over your seemingly defenseless head? Ah, it is just here that faith must claim her victory! Is it not promised, "This is the victory that overcometh,... even your faith?" It is your faith that is on trial now. In the calmer days when the sun of favor shone brightly upon you, you were quietly laying the foundation of a knowledge of the truth, and rearing the superstructure of Christian character. Now you are in the furnace to be proved: summon therefore all your courage; fortify your patience; nerve yourself to endurance; hold fast to your hope; call to mind the promises, they are still yours; and "cast not away your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward." "In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength," "Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him," and faith has gained her victory. Then in due time the Lord's hand will be recognized in making all things work together for good to you according to his promise. This proof of your faith, says Peter, is more precious than gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire.
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THE WALK TO EMMAUS.
--JUNE 9, `LUKE 24:13-32`.--
Golden Text--"He opened to us the Scriptures."--`Luke 24:32`.
ONE thought in connection with this familiar narrative is the privilege and blessing of the communion of saints. Wherever two or three are met together in my name, said the Lord, there am I in the midst. (`Matt. 18:20`.) These two disciples (not apostles: see `verses 18,33`) were earnestly discussing the sad events of the last few days, which so perplexed them all. They had trusted that he who had just been crucified was the true Messiah foretold by the prophets: he had seemed to fit the descriptions of the prophets so perfectly, but now he was very generally esteemed as "smitten of God and afflicted." Their sad and perplexed faces were indexes of their minds. They had loved the Lord and trusted in him, and they delighted to call to mind his sweet spirit, his wise counsel, his wonderful teaching and his great love for each of them personally. How strange it seemed that such a one should so perish!
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Yes, they loved the Lord, and delighted to speak one with another, and to think upon his name; and the Lord hearkened and heard it (`Mal. 3:16,17`): he was beside them all the while though they knew it not, and soon he seemed to overtake them, and gave them a stranger's greeting. Then followed the marvelous opening up of the Scriptures to them. How familiar the stranger seemed to be with the law and the prophets; and how wonderfully he wove together the web of logical and Scriptural argument, to prove it necessary that Messiah must suffer these things before he could enter into his glory! Surely enough, it was all there in the sacred writings, but they had never seen it so before. How reasonable, too, when thus viewed!
Then they told him of the strange news they had heard of his resurrection that very morning; and as he further explained how this also was so to be, as foretold by the prophets, they drew near home and the stranger was therefore about to take leave of them. But their interest in the conversation was too deep to part thus abruptly with him, and they urged him to tarry and partake of their hospitality.
Earnest inquiry and generous hospitality were strong incentives to the Lord, as they always are. So he accepted the invitation; and soon they were made cognizant of the fact that the Lord himself was indeed their guest. And his blessing sank deep in their hearts, and they said one to another, Did not our hearts burn within us by the way?
Let us take to our hearts the precious lesson of this incident, that we may enjoy more and more of the blessings of communion with the Lord and with each other. If our hearts are humble, earnest and true; if our delight is in the Lord and his truth; if our actions are guided by the noble principles of truth and righteousness; and if our candid, thoughtful endeavor is always to find the purest principles and the exact truth to the end that we may conform our lives thereto, then indeed the Lord will be pleased to dwell with us and to manifest himself to us as he does not unto the world.--`John 14:21`.
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PETER AND THE RISEN LORD.
--JUNE 16, `JOHN 21:4-17`.--
Golden Text--"Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee."--`John 21:17`.
IN addition to the special teachings of these several narratives of the Lord's appearance to his disciples after his resurrection, which were, first, to convince them of his resurrection; and, second, to convince them of his change of nature, which teachings we have noted in previous lessons, we would here call attention to the thrice repeated question of our Lord to Peter--"Lovest thou me?"--and Peter's reply, and his renewed commission to preach the gospel.
Thrice had Peter denied the Lord--though under extreme temptation--and the denial was sincerely repented of with bitter tears; and now thrice would the Lord have him reaffirm his devotion to him, and receive three additional assurances of his ample reinstatement in his love and favor.
"So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, 'Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these?' He saith unto him, 'Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee.' He saith unto him, 'Feed my lambs.'"
The question arises, With what did our Lord bring himself into comparison in Peter's mind when he said, "Lovest thou me more than these?" Could he have referred to the other disciples present on that occasion? We think not; for the Lord had no disposition either to embarrass Peter and the others with a tone of sarcasm, nor to inspire nor encourage boastfulness. And Peter's prompt affirmative answer indicates nothing of either embarrassment or boastfulness, but instead, a loving sincerity, which was glad of the opportunity to respond promptly and warmly
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--"Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee."
With what then did the Lord institute the comparison? Evidently with the fishing tackle and the business prospects represented in them. Once, in obedience to the Lord's call, he had left these to follow him; and then, in the interval of perplexity since his resurrection, not knowing what else to do, he had gone back to the old business. So the Lord inquired how he felt about it now, since the reproach of the crucifixion. It was as though he had said, Are you willing again, Simon, in the face of all the public prejudice and hate and the reproach of the cross to leave all your business and social prospects and go out again to preach the Kingdom of God and the return in glory and power of the crucified One? Are you willing, too, to incur the additional reproach and persecution which zeal and faithfulness in my cause are sure to bring?
Yes, Peter was ready, and so were all those dear disciples, again to forsake all and take up the cause of their crucified and risen Lord, and boldly and openly to proclaim the coming Kingdom and glory of him whom the Jews had taken and, with wicked hands, had crucified and slain. Only the doubt which seemed to be implied in the third repetition of the question grieved Peter. His was an ardent, warm nature, and he wanted the Lord to be fully persuaded of his love and zeal. It grieved him, therefore, to feel that possibly yet there was a shadow of doubt, a little cloud, between him and the Lord which his repentance had not fully removed. But the Lord quickly removed the cloud and enabled him to realize his full reinstatement as an accepted and beloved disciple, in full fellowship and cooperation with himself.
The question thus addressed to Peter--"Lovest thou me more than these?" is the question addressed to every consecrated follower of the Lord, without a single exception. If we have given ourselves unreservedly to the Lord, the necessities of his work are before us, to prove the sincerity and strength of our love. Nor has the reproach of the cross yet ceased: indeed, in this end of the age, as in the beginning, the reproach of the cross is bitter and determined; and it is more and more so every year as prominent ecclesiastics lead the way toward the ditch of open and avowed infidelity. So to each of us comes the testing question, "Lovest thou me more than these"--more than the business pursuits and prospects, more than the social ties and pleasures, more than ease, or comfort, or friends, or fame, or wealth, or a good name, or any earthly good?
Ah! it is truly a test question, and a question which no one can sincerely answer in the affirmative who has not the inspiring incentive of love in the heart. But pure, fervent love to Christ does quicken zeal, and enable those who have it to respond gladly and promptly, "Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee," and sends them forth with joy to prove their love by their works. "If any man love me, let him take up his cross daily, and follow me." "If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you." "The servant is not greater than his lord: if they persecuted me, they will also persecute you." "In the world ye shall have tribulation, but in me ye shall have peace." "Feed my sheep; feed my lambs."