ZWT - 1898 - R2238 thru R2410 / R2351 (241) - August 15, 1898
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VOL. XIX. AUGUST 15, 1898. No. 16.
Items: Council Bluffs Convention, etc.............242
"Be Content with Such Things as
Few are Appreciative, etc.....................246
"Have Faith in God"--"Lord,
Increase Our Faith".........................247
"Faith's Foundation Strong"...................247
"Elisha Died, and They Buried Him"................248
"Woe unto Them that are at Ease
The Prophecy of Amos..........................251
SUBSCRIPTIONS AND BUSINESS COMMUNICATIONS
WATCH TOWER BIBLE AND TRACT SOCIETY, "BIBLE HOUSE," 56-60 ARCH STREET, 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 accident, or other 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 constantly.
COUNCIL BLUFFS CONVENTION.--OCT. 1-5.
SINCE the Omaha Exposition secures very low rail-road rates, the friends in that vicinity urge the holding of a Convention at which the Editor of ZION'S WATCH TOWER shall meet with them and as many as can conveniently attend, for a Bible Study, along the lines of the Divine Plan of the Ages; and to get personally acquainted. This kind invitation has been cordially accepted by the Editor who promises (D.V.) to attend.
The Convention is called for October 1 to 5, altho it is expected that the first day's meetings will be informal (social merely), time being necessary for getting visitors properly settled. Likewise no meetings are announced for the last day, the 5th, it being left open for social meetings and conferences and leave-takings. The general meetings will therefore commence Sunday, Oct. 2nd, at 9 A.M., with a Testimony Meeting, to be followed at 10.30 by a discourse by the Editor of ZION'S WATCH TOWER. Subsequent meetings will then be announced.
The meeting place is TEMPLE HALL, No. 400 BROADWAY, COUNCIL BLUFFS, IOWA. Excursion tickets should probably be purchased to Omaha, Neb., which is just across the river from COUNCIL BLUFFS, IOWA, where the meetings are to be held. Brother Adams kindly volunteers arrangements for visiting Brethren and Sisters at moderate rates,--that clean and comfortable accommodation (three meals and lodging) can be had at one dollar per day: it will be well, however, for all visitors to provide for expenses of at least $1.50 per day to cover car-fare, etc. We mention this because we well know that the majority of those interested in "present truth" are poor in this world's goods, and must count the cost even of spiritual refreshments. There will be no other expenses and no collections: all else is provided for by the loving friends who have called the Convention.
Write a postal card to the WATCH TOWER office on Sept. 20th, if you expect to attend the Convention, stating the fact; and if others will go with you, say how many, so that your lodging may be arranged for in advance through Brother Adams.
OLD THEOLOGY TRACTS.
We have sent out great quantities of tracts lately and have depleted our stock so that several numbers are temporarily out; viz., Nos. 2, 21, 38, 40 and 41. We will have a good supply in about a month. Order other numbers freely as you can use them.
"TABERNACLE SHADOWS OF BETTER SACRIFICES."
Our supply of this booklet is exhausted: and as the plates are worn it will require to be reset. We must ask you to wait patiently for these until November.
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"BE CONTENT WITH SUCH THINGS AS YE HAVE."
"Be content with such things as ye have; for he hath said, I will never leave thee nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.--`Heb. 13:5,6`.
BAD ADVICE, very bad advice, says Mr. Worldlywiseman; it is because this advice has not been followed that we of America have made such progress within the past century. It is because the workmen of the United States are ambitious, energetic, and not content with such things as they have, but constantly trying to make two blades of grass grow, where one grew before, and to put ten dollars in the bank to one that was there before, that our nation has stepped rapidly to the front, and become noted for the genius, thrift and progressiveness of its people.
We will not dispute Mr. Worldlywiseman's statement, except to say that all of the remarkable progress of the present century is not due alone to discontent: much of it is due to freedom, which has come chiefly as the result of greater enlightenment,--an enlightenment which has come largely as a result of having the Bible in the living languages of the people and in their possession. Another element contributing to the marvelous developments of this century is one of which few take note; namely, that since 1799 we have been in the period known in the Scripture, as "the day of his preparation:" the period in which the Lord has been lifting the vail, and letting in upon the world, through natural channels, a stream of inventive genius designed to bring forward to perfection, through chemistry and mechanics and art, the devices and contrivances which will ere long most marvelously, under the guiding control of Immanuel, during the Millennium, make of this earth a Paradise. Nevertheless, we are willing to concede that ambition and discontent are present, and that they are helping in their way to bring forward the various devices which shall ultimately prove so great a blessing to mankind; but on the other hand, we contend that just in proportion as discontent is spread, in that proportion unhappiness is present, and an anarchistic spirit begotten.
We see more clearly than those looking in other directions, that discontent is permeating the entire fabric of society and making it restless, and rapidly leading to the great catastrophe of trouble and anarchy which the Scriptures point out will be the end of this present age, "a time of trouble such as was not since there was a nation." We notice also that discontent and selfish ambition are at work in the home, in the mill, in the factory and in the Church; and that wherever these touch and grind, somebody is bruised or crushed, or at least made sore and sensitive. Wherever they abound, they blight peace, joy and a holy spirit. They are in antagonism to the spirit of Christ --meekness, patience, gentleness, brotherly kindness, love. They tend toward the spirit of the Adversary, --anger, malice, envy, hatred, strife, bitterness. What wonder, then, that the statistics show that despite the great increase of medical skill, especially in the treatment of nervous and mental ailments, and despite also the more favorable conditions of birth and living, mental and nervous diseases are greatly on the increase, and asylums are being enlarged and new ones built. Nor are these conditions confined to this country; reports from Europe are to the same effect,-- even worse as respects insanity and suicide.
It would be useless to point the world to the fact that happiness, the desirable quality, is on the decrease as wealth and business are on the increase--that the grandfathers of the present generation, altho less favorably situated every way, enjoyed life better because more contented than their grandchildren of to-day:
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the world would be unwilling to go back to the conditions which were happifying in the past, and have a craving for still more of luxury for the future, and will have it or at least strive to get it, whatever the cost. Indeed, knowing this, and knowing also of the divine provision for the future, and how present discontent is shortly to teach mankind a great lesson through the wreck of the present social structure, built upon selfishness, covetousness, ambition, and discontent, we think it wisest to let the world alone, to let it take its course and reap the reward of that course, and ultimately learn the lesson which Providence will teach. We therefore say little to the world on the subject of discontent, except as their cases may come close to us and properly under our criticism and advice. Even then our advice would not be that the world should attempt the impossible thing of being content while under a spirit of selfishness and discontent; rather we will advise such to seek and find the Lord and his spirit of love and peace and gentleness and goodness, and finding it, prove that "Godliness with contentment is great gain,"--"having the promise of the life which now is and also of that which is to come."--`1 Tim. 6:6`; `4:8`.
THE THINGS WHICH WE HAVE--WITH WHICH WE
Nor should it be overlooked that this is the standpoint of all Scriptural address--the inspired injunctions and admonitions are not to the world, but to those who have become the Lord's covenanted people. The poor world, and especially the poor world who are without God, and who have no hope, have surely very little cause for contentment;--they have neither the luxuries desired for this life, nor the exceeding great and precious promises for the future life. Indeed, under the false teaching inculcated by the great adversary of God and truth and man, many not only have a comfortless treadmill existence in the present time, but are led to look forward to awful tortures in the future--a hell of unending suffering, or a purgatorial period of suffering, to last for hundreds or thousands of years. Poor world! What wonder if it is downcast, discontented, morbid, anarchistic.
But with the Christian--the true Christian, begotten of the truth (by the Word of truth, not by the word of error), how different are all these things! He sees what the world does not see, namely, the reason why God has permitted the reign of sin and death in the world for the past six thousand years. He sees more, namely that God, who has been just to inflict the penalty of sin--death, and its concomitants of disease and pain and trouble,--is also loving and gracious, and has prepared a redemption from the sentence and an ultimate deliverance from the blight of sin and death. He rejoices to know that this ransom price has already been paid and that its payment was formally acknowledged by Jehovah at Pentecost. He is instructed by the Word of grace that as a result of this redemption the whole world which was first tried and sentenced in Father Adam is to be tried again individually; and that the provision for this fresh trial was made in the "ransom for all" given at Calvary. He learns also that the divine time for this trial of the whole world, under the offer of eternal life through Christ, and the conditions of the New Covenant, is yet future--during the Millennial age--according as it is written, "God hath appointed a day in the which he will judge [grant trial to] the world, by that man whom he hath ordained--Jesus Christ."--`Acts 17:31`.
Having learned this much, he rejoices in the hope of eternal life, and longs for release from the present conditions of weakness and the fall, and for a full delivery into the liberty (freedom from sin) of the sons of God. While thus rejoicing in his new-found hope, and looking forward expectantly for its realization, at the second coming of the Redeemer, to inaugurate the times of restitution of all things (`Acts 3:19-23`), he receives a further message to the effect that since he appreciates the divine goodness already made known to him, he is privileged to know of and to share in a still further blessing. The steps of grace are explained to him as follows, by the divine Word:
(1) The step of faith and acceptance of the great redemptive sacrifice which you have already taken is reckoned to you for and as justification in God's sight; and now being thus reckoned as justified, you are to be treated as not only freed from the sentence of death in Adam, but also as tho freed from your imperfections, inherited through the fall, which are reckoned as being "covered."
(2) All this is in order that you may take the second step, which is now due; namely, you may present your body to the Lord by full consecration, and without reservation: to be or to do or to suffer, to have or not to have, to enjoy or not to enjoy further, the things of this present lifetime; and to spend yourself and be spent, with all that you have and all that you are, in the Lord's service, in the service of the truth, and in the service of all those who are in harmony with the truth.
(3) It is pointed out to you that in many respects this is the pathway which the great Redeemer trod, and that by walking in this difficult "narrow way" you will be following in his footsteps and along the same path of sacrifice which he trod.
(4) Furthermore, the assurance is given that, if you follow in this pathway faithfully, to the end of
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life's journey, all of your unwilling and unintentional blemishes will continue to be covered by the merit of
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your Redeemer's sacrifice: so that, at the end of the journey, all these who are now "called" and who thus gladly obey the "call," will be granted also the privilege of sharing with the Redeemer in the honors and glories of his Millennial Kingdom: and of being instruments of God, with the Redeemer, for conferring upon the world of mankind all the gracious benefits and blessings purchased by the Redeemer's death, finished at Calvary;--sharing in the judging of the world, in the ruling of the world, and, as members of the royal priesthood, in the blessing and helping of the world back, by restitution paths,--to all that was lost in Adam and his transgression.
Whoever has heard this glorious message, in the true sense of hearing it--with the hearing of faith and acceptance--has received indeed what is called by some a "Second Blessing." If the forgiveness of his sins and reconciliation to the Lord, through the blood of the cross, the Christian's first experience in grace, was a great blessing that could scarcely be comprehended or measured, still more is this second blessing a cause for fulness of joy, in that it has brought to us begetting of the holy spirit, whereby we know that we are the sons of God, "and if children, then heirs, heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ, our Lord, if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together." It is enough to know that, "Now we are the sons of God, and [that] it doth not yet appear what [the full completeness of the glory and blessing that shall come to us at his second advent] shall be, for we know that when he shall appear, we shall be like him."--`1 John 3:2`.
It is this class that the Apostle addresses in the words of our text. We that have such blessings would surely be unappreciative, unthankful, if we are not content with such blessed things as we have. We have such things as should make us happy under the most adverse circumstances, so far as the present life is concerned. We, by the grace of God, have found the pearl of great price, and are not only content with the terms upon which it is offered to us, but most gladly, willingly, joyfully, we count all else but loss and dross that we may retain our ownership in it,--win Christ, and be found in him,--members of the body of the great Prophet, Priest and King, who shortly, as the antitype of Moses, shall stand forth as the deliverer of all who love righteousness, from the bondage of Sin and Satan.--`Acts 3:22,23`.
All who have intelligently taken the position of followers of Christ, knew from their start in the narrow way to expect trials and difficulties and adversities, and have said to the Master:--
"Not for ease or worldly pleasure,
Nor for fame my prayer shall be;
Gladly will I toil and suffer,
Only let me walk with thee, close to thee."
We should view every affair and incident of this present life that is not painful as a cause for thankfulness to the Lord; because it is that much less than our covenant might legitimately require; for our Master distinctly informed us that the way was rugged, saying, "Whosoever will live godly in this present time shall suffer persecution." And furthermore, our Lord's own example of suffering and enduring patiently the mockings, slanders, evil speaking, and general contradiction of sinners against himself, and the examples of the Apostles, who followed closely in his footsteps in the same path, all indicate that, all things considered, we of the present time who "have not yet resisted unto blood [death], striving against sin" and the machinations of sinners and the wiles of the Adversary, have much to be thankful for, that our lines have fallen unto us in comparatively pleasant places. We have every reason for thankfulness, no reason for murmuring.
And not only are we to be appreciative of the smooth places along the "narrow way," in which the Lord gives rest to our weary feet, but we are to be thankful also for all the trials and tribulations. If by faith we have laid hold, first, upon justification; and secondly, upon the high calling, and its exceeding great and precious promises, we must thirdly lay hold also by faith on the assurances of the Lord's Word that all things are working together for good to those who have made this covenant with him, and who are seeking to perform it;--to those who love God, and who were called according to his purpose, to this high calling. Viewed from the proper standpoint, all the trials and difficulties which come to us will be seen to be mercies and blessings, designed to shape us in conformity with the lines of character manifested in our Lord and Head, and to polish us and to make us fit for the inheritance of the saints in light. While, therefore, we are not to rush into temptation, nor to bring upon ourselves persecution by injudicious conduct, yet when these things come to us as rewards for fidelity to principles of truth and righteousness, exercised in the spirit of meekness, gentleness, patience and love, we are to rejoice in them, as so many ministries of evil toward us, which under divine guidance are fitting and preparing us to further reflect the Lord's likeness, and to further be his representatives and ministers of righteousness, now and hereafter. And to shrink back from and to avoid the trials and difficulties and persecutions incident to faithfulness to the Lord and to his service, would be, in a measure at least, to draw back from our consecration, which is to
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suffer with him, that we may also reign with him--to be dead with him, that we may also live with him.
FEW ARE APPRECIATIVE--FEW VALUE THE THINGS
THAT THEY HAVE.
But evidently only the smaller number of those who have named the name of Christ, and who have made consecration of life and time and influence and all things to him, have ever appreciated these matters in their true light; and hence, not only are the so-called Christian nations the most discontented peoples of the world, but professed Christians are often among the most discontented and unhappy of individuals. Nay more, even some of those who have made the full consecration to the Lord, and some who have come to a considerable knowledge of present truth and respecting the wonderful time in which we are living, and the high calling and its object, and the glories to follow the sufferings of this present time,--many of these also, we fear, are among the discontented of the world,--unhappy, restless, not enjoying the rest which God provides for his people, not having "the peace of God which passeth all understanding" to rule in their hearts and keep all the other affairs of life in subjection and in order.
Brethren, these things ought not so to be. See to it that they do not so continue. Remember that according to our covenant we sacrificed all of our earthly interests and rights, that we might become sharers with our Master in the divine nature and all the heavenly promises. Remember that the only things of an earthly kind promised us by the Lord are that we shall have the things needful. If we learn aright the lessons of necessity, we will find that the things needful for our sustenance might mean a bill of fare of very limited variety and of very inexpensive food; and it might mean a wardrobe of great simplicity and of very little cost; and it might mean a home of very humble appearance and very small and very scantily furnished. Whatever we have more than necessity is that much more than the Lord has promised to us in this present time; and is a cause for thankfulness of lip, and gratitude of heart.
With these things rightly viewed, where is the occasion or the desire to murmur or complain about such things as we have? Where would be the desire to wish for, hope for, or ask for more than the Lord has promised to give us, and more than his unerring wisdom has seen would be best for us? If these lessons from the Lord's Word are received into the good soil of honest hearts, they will speedily bring forth, under the sunshine of the divine favor and the droppings of divine grace, a hundredfold more of joy and peace and trust and contentment and happiness and love, in the lives of all who put them into exercise: and the influence upon our families, neighbors and associates will be a good influence, for their happiness as well as our own.
Instead of complaining about the weather, that it is too hot or too cold, too wet or too dry, too bright or too dark, or that it is too foggy or cloudy or murky, or something, let us be content with such weather as we have. We did not make it and we cannot change it. And since our wise and loving heavenly Father sees best to permit it so now, we see it best to have it so now. In his own good time his favor shall reach not only the world of mankind, to lift up and bless and heal it, but will reach also the home of mankind, the earth, to bring it into the Paradisaic condition which he has promised it shall have in the "times of restitution of all things."
If your health is not the best, do not go mourning and complaining all your days; be thankful-- thankful that it is not worse, remembering that as a member of the fallen race the full penalty of sin against you is pain and suffering unto death. Whatever therefore you have, that is moderate or endurable or in some measure enjoyable, be very thankful, very grateful, and make the most of it.
Our text, then, is not only a good medicine to bring us spiritual health and joy in the Lord, but also very profitable to our physical health; for it is unquestionably a fact that the majority of people aggravate their physical complaints and diseases
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by their fretfulness and unhappiness of mind. If you are one of the Lord's children, remember the words of our Redeemer, Master and Forerunner in the narrow way, to the effect that the Gentiles (those who know not God, who are not his covenant people) seek continually after what they shall eat, what they shall drink, and wherewithal they shall be clothed, and that we should not be like unto them, because our Heavenly Father knoweth what things we have need of, before we ask him; and he has already promised, that we shall have what is best for us.
If your position in life is a lowly one, and requires continual labor to secure the things needful, do not complain, but, on the contrary, render thanks--thanks for the health and strength to perform the needed labor; thanks for the realization that the present brief life is only the schooling time, and that the lessons of the present, rightly learned, will bring riches of grace and glory which the world could neither give nor take away. Think then, on the other hand, of the fact that your condition is in some respects more favorable than that of some others who seem to be more prosperous or better situated: how many who have had wealth and leisure have found in them a curse! How
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many who have not been cursed by wealth have found that the deceitfulness of riches and the pride they are apt to induce are hindrances instead of helps in the "narrow way;" how many have found the meaning of the Lord's words, "How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the Kingdom of God."
Remember also the words of the Apostle, that not many rich, not many great, not many learned, are amongst God's chosen; that chiefly the poor of this world, rich in faith, shall be heirs of the Kingdom. Realizing that riches of faith, riches of trust, riches of contentment, and riches of godliness, with the fruits of the spirit which accompany these constitute the true riches, give thanks to the Lord that in his wisdom and grace he has so favorably situated you.
"HAVE FAITH IN GOD"--"LORD, INCREASE OUR
The same principle holds good with reference to all of our affairs, no matter what. The lesson of faith, to those who have become the Lord's consecrated people, is not merely faith in doctrines and theories, nor, indeed, chiefly this faith. The chief feature of faith is confidence in God; that what he has promised he is able and willing to fulfil. This faith grasps not only the things to come, but also the things present; this faith rejoices not only in the glory that shall be revealed, but rejoices also in the sufferings and trials and difficulties and all the rich experiences which an all-wise Father sees best to permit. Let us therefore, as the Apostle exhorts, rejoice evermore, "in everything giving thanks."--`1 Thess. 5:18`; `Eph. 5:20`.
The best illustrations of this true faith, this continuous confidence in God, is found, as we should expect, in our dear Redeemer's experiences and their narrative. Realizing that he was in the world for the purpose of serving the divine plan, he realized also continually the supervision of divine wisdom in respect to all his affairs: consequently he not only went to the Father frequently in prayer, and went to the Word of the Lord for guidance, but every experience through which he passed, and all the opposition with which he met, he recognized as being under the divine supervision. He knew that he was fully consecrated to the Father, and seeking not his own will but the will of him that sent him; he knew consequently that the Father's providential care was superintending all the affairs of his life.
This is forcibly illustrated in his answer to Pilate; when the latter said to him, "Knowest thou not that I have power either to deliver thee or to put thee to death?" Jesus answered, "Thou couldest have no power, except it were given thee of my Father." Again he said, with respect to the cup of suffering and ignominy, "The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?" Indeed, it was sufficient for him in any and every matter to realize that the Father was controlling: this thought gave him courage to do, to suffer and to bear.
And similar confidence in divine Providence is necessary to all who would come off conquerors through him who loved us and died for us. If we can feel sure that we have fully surrendered ourselves to God according to his call, we may also feel sure that all things are working for our good: we may realize in every emergency of life that the Father has prepared the cup, and will sustain and bless us while we drink it: our Lord Jesus, the Father's representative, oversees our trials and ignominy and suffering; he permits the cup to be prepared for us by blinded servants of Satan. This knowledge should not only enable us to take joyfully the spoiling of our goods (anything that we deemed precious, trade, influence, good name, etc.), but should enable us also to entreat with kindness and gentleness, and with a spirit of forgiveness those who prepare and administer the cup of our sufferings. But none can have this confidence of faith-- none should have it--except one certain, particular class; and it is not a large class as compared to the world, but a "little flock"--those who have believed in the precious blood unto justification, and who have, as members of the body of Christ, consecrated themselves unreservedly to walk in their Redeemer's footsteps, to suffer with him, and to be finally glorified together with him.
"WHAT IS FAITH'S FOUNDATION STRONG?"
In our text, after the Apostle has urged us to be "content with such things as ye have," he adds the reason or ground upon which this advice is given, saying, "For he hath said, I will never leave thee nor forsake thee." Yes; this is the true ground of contentment, the realization of the Lord's care, and that the Lord's wisdom and grace are being exercised towards us,--and that such things as he grants are the things which are best for us, and which we would choose for ourselves, if we had sufficient wisdom and insight into all the circumstances of the case.
The Apostle adds, "So then we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, I will not fear what man shall do unto me." The whole world has wondered at the intelligent courage of the humble ones of the Lord's people. The secret of their courage and of their strength is in their confidence that the Lord is their helper, that he, with wisdom and love which are infinite, is both able and willing to make all things work together for their good.
Possibly some may be inclined to wonder why so much attention has been given in these columns of late
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to themes similar to the one here discussed, and kindred topics calculated to develop more and more the spirit of love and the various fruits of that spirit, and to counteract the spirit of selfishness, and the evil fruits of that spirit. We answer, it is because we believe these lessons to be specially opportune at the present time. The Lord, by his grace, has removed many blinding errors from our minds, and given us clearer insight of his glorious plans, and revealed to us his glorious character in connection with his plan; and there has perhaps been more or less danger, that in such a study of theology the real object of all this knowledge, the object of the Gospel, may be lost sight of. It is not God's object to merely find an intellectual people, nor to instruct a people with reference to his plans, but to sanctify a people with the truth, and thus to make them "meet [fit] for the inheritance of the saints in light." We are of the opinion that the testings which the Lord designs for his people are not merely doctrinal tests, and consequently we expect, more and more, that the harvest siftings and separations amongst those who come to a knowledge of the truth, will be considerably along the lines of character, and of the fruits of the spirit.
The Lord's final decision is not, If you be ignorant of certain things you are none of mine; nor, If you have certain knowledge you are mine; but, "If any man have not the spirit [disposition, mind] of Christ, he is none of his." And if we are right in this, dear readers, it is of paramount importance that we, as soldiers of the cross, put on not only the intellectual covering, the helmet of salvation, but also the heart covering, love of righteousness and truth and goodness and purity, with the shield of faith. The breastplate of righteousness will be found to be one of the most important pieces of armor in the battle which is upon us, and respecting which we are told that thousands shall fall at our side.--`Psa. 91:7`; `Matt. 24:24`; `2 Thess. 2:11`.
Not only so, but we believe that the lesson foregoing is of great importance, because the time is short; and those of the Lord's people who do not soon start to cultivate a spirit of contentment and thankfulness will not only not be fit for the Kingdom, but will as sharers of the world's spirit of discontent be in sore distress with the world very shortly, in the great time of trouble. Contentment and the faith which it implies, are necessary to godliness: and whoever is attempting godliness without striving for cultivation of contentment will surely make a failure of it. Godliness and the fruits of the spirit, meekness, patience, gentleness, longsuffering, brotherly-kindness, love, will not grow in the garden of the soul, where the weeds of discontent are permitted to sap the strength and vitiate the air with their noxious presence and influence.
The sentiment of one of our precious hymns is quite to the point, and we desire, for ourselves and for all of the Lord's people, that condition of faith and consecration and contentment which will permit us to sing from the heart, with the spirit and with the understanding
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also, the words:--
"Content with beholding his face,
My all to his pleasure resigned,
No changes of season or place
Can make any change in my mind.
"While blest with the sense of his love
A palace a toy would appear,
And prisons would palaces prove,
If Jesus still dwelt with me there."
Who can tell that the Lord may not ultimately put some such tests to us, as these mentioned by the poet which were applied to himself and to others of the faithful in the past? Let us remember that we will not be faithful in large things unless we have learned to be faithful in little things. Let each, therefore, begin, and faithfully continue, a transformation of his life along these lines of godliness with contentment in the most trifling affairs of life. He will thus not only be making himself and others the happier in the present time, but he will be preparing himself for greater trials and tests that the Lord may be pleased to impose later, to prove to what extent we are overcomers of the world and of its spirit.
"This is the victory that overcometh the world, even your faith;" because faith lies at the foundation of all loyalty to God and his cause. Faith in the divine supervision of all our affairs not only gives peace and content, but it saps the root of all selfish ambitions and vain gloryings and boastings; because of our faith in the Lord's Word, that "He that humbleth himself shall be exalted and he that exalteth himself shall be abased." Faith in the Lord's supervision prefers the Lord's arrangement to any other as respects the sufferings of this present time and the glory that is to follow; and hence it doth not puff up but builds up in the character-likeness of our Redeemer.
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"ELISHA DIED, AND THEY BURIED HIM."
--SEPT. 4.--`2 KINGS 13:14-25`.--
"Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints."--`Psa. 116:15`.
MANY YEARS rolled by, and Elisha, the prophet, about eighty years of age, fell "sick of his sickness wherewith he died." Meantime there had been various experiences in Israel, and so far as the kings were concerned a better condition of matters had been reached, through the process of the reformation begun by Elijah. King Jehu had destroyed the worshipers of Baal, and his images and groves, and had in some measure sought to restore the worship of Jehovah, and the Kingdom had been established in the hands of his offspring, one of whom, Joash, otherwise called Jehoash, was now king of Israel.
Elisha's remarkable history as a prophet and representative of God in Israel continued during a period of nearly sixty-five years, it is presumed. He shared the difficulties and vicissitudes of Israel: sometimes much divine favor and blessing and deliverance; at other times trials and difficulties and famines, the punishments
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of neglect of God, departure from his worship, etc. One of these passed over was the siege of the city of Samaria, the capital of Israel, by the hosts of the Syrians. Elisha shared with the others the terrible ordeal of famine which the long siege developed. This was in the days of Jehu's son, Jehoram, and no doubt was on account of deflections from the Lord. In the remarkable delivery of Israel from that famine, by the overthrow of their enemies without a spear or an arrow, the Lord manifested his power as he had previously declared it through the prophet Elisha. These various lessons were in harmony with what the Lord had already covenanted with Israel as a nation; namely, that if they would live in harmony with him and his law he would bless them in every way, and that if they did not so live he would send plagues and disasters upon them.--See `Deut. 28:45`; `Amos 3:6`.
But now, at the time of Elisha's death, Jehoash was king and was evidently very humble and had come to realize that Israel's trouble lay in neglecting Jehovah; and hearing of the Prophet's illness he seemed to feel himself about to be bereft of his only helper and guide in the way of the Lord; and our lesson introduces him as weeping over Elisha. It is suggested by some that his peculiar remark, "The chariots of Israel and the horsemen thereof," may have been intended to signify that he regarded Elisha as a host in himself, as the chief defence and protection of the nation of Israel. At all events, he was in a proper attitude of mind so far as we may judge, sincerely desirous of choosing and walking in the proper course, and sorrowful that he now would no longer have heavenly counsel; perhaps remorseful, too, that he had not sooner appreciated the privileges which he did enjoy and had now come to realize.
Having gotten into a right attitude of mind, the Lord was pleased to release him and the kings of Israel from their subjection to the King of Syria. Accordingly, Elisha, under the secret counsel of the Lord, told the king to open the window to the eastward, and to shoot out an arrow, meantime placing his own weak hands over the hands of the king, he explained to him that this signified an arrow of divine power on behalf of Israel and against Syria. He further instructed him to take the remaining arrows from his quiver, and strike with them upon the floor: the king did so; but whether he had comparatively little faith in the Prophet's promise, or whether he was lacking in patriotism, and therefore lacking of appreciation of the Prophet's assurance of victory for Israel, whatever the cause, he seems to have struck the arrows in rather a feeble way, and three times only, not even asking how many times he should strike.
Elisha reproved him for this, and showed him that as a consequence he should have only three victories over the Syrians through this blessing. The Prophet evidently reasoned, and perhaps invisibly guided to such a view of the matter, that if Jehoash had been full of zeal and faith for the work of delivering Israel from its enemies, and of bringing to Israel all the blessings permitted by the Lord, he would have been more energetic to smite the floor, which to him was to represent Syria.
There is a lesson for us here, to the effect that what we do should be done with our might: if Jehovah be God, serve him; if Baal be God, serve him. But let the service be whole-hearted; for a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways; and such are not to expect much of the Lord: "Let not such think that they shall receive anything of the Lord." We have a spiritual conflict against a wily foe; and we are to be so much in earnest for the deliverance of ourselves and of all the Lord's people from his control, that we will smite him energetically, fighting the good fight of faith; and we should keep on smiting until our enemy is vanquished: we are not to be faint-hearted, nor indifferent, nor to slack our hands. Our part in the privilege of smiting down error will depend largely upon our humility, our zeal and our faith. And our works show what is the degree and character of our faith.
God evidently wished that the influence of these two reformers, Elijah and Elisha, should be deep and permanent in Israel: accordingly, the various miracles which they wrought were calculated to impress the matter upon the minds of the people. Even after Elisha's death, God gave another sign by which he would remind Israel of his power and his word, by reminding them of Elisha and his words; so that when, nearly a year after Elisha's death and burial, the Moabites invaded the land, and were burying one of their number, as soon as the corpse touched the bones of Elisha, vitality returned. The history of those times is limited, but it is quite possible that the faintheartedness of Jehoash became all the more manifest when he felt himself alone, after Elisha's death, and that he and Israel did not serve the Lord with a whole heart, and that consequently these Moabites were permitted to come upon them, as a further chastisement. And possibly it was to draw the minds of the people back again to Elisha and to his teaching, and thus to revive their confidence in the Lord, that this miracle occurred in connection with his bones. The record, nevertheless, is that Jehoash succeeded in defeating the Syrians three times, as the prophet Elisha had promised, and thus he delivered Israel out of the hands of the Syrians, from whose dominion his father Jehoahaz had never succeeded in getting free.
The Golden Text gives a cheering thought, which
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applies not only to all the holy ones of the past, but in an especial manner to the fully consecrated ones ("saints") of this Gospel age. If it were not for such assurances from the Lord's Word, our increased knowledge of Jehovah (of his greatness), and our increased knowledge of ourselves (of our own littleness), might lead us to infer that we are altogether too small for
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his notice and attention. But when we realize that our Heavenly Father careth for us, so that not a hair of our heads might be injured without his notice, nor even without his permission; and when we know that our lives are precious to him, that he is not indifferent to our welfare, temporal or spiritual, it puts a new value upon life itself, and upon all that we have and are.
Altho God does not hinder his saints from going down into the great prisonhouse of death, altho he does not shield them from the experiences of the world, yet he does do something for them even in this respect; he informs them of the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, and of the glorious time of refreshment and blessing of the future, when all that are in the graves shall hear the voice of the Son of Man, and come forth. Not only so, but he promises to the saints of this Gospel age that if they are faithful unto death he will give them the crown, the prize of life, in joint-heirship with their Lord Jesus Christ. What a kind, beneficent God we have! How different from all the heathen conceptions of God: how different from all the conceptions of the natural man. Our God is our Father; he remembereth that we are dust; he has compassion upon us. "The Father himself loveth you," said our dear Redeemer. Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his holy ones. He will not suffer his holy ones to remain under the dominion of death. In his own good time the prison shall be broken up and all the prisoners of the pit shall go forth. Hallelujah! What a Savior! He is able to save unto the uttermost all that come unto the Father by him.
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"WOE UNTO THEM THAT ARE AT EASE IN ZION."
--SEPT. 11.--`AMOS 6:1-8`.--
"They also have erred through wine, and through strong drink are out of the way."--`Isa. 28:7`.
THE THOUGHT of those who arranged the International Sunday School Lessons evidently was to make of this one a temperance lesson. Undoubtedly there was need for the inculcation of temperance, moderation, self-denial, self-restraint, in the days of Amos, as there is to-day, and as there will be so long as mankind is under the influence of depraved appetites, and weak through heredity, and exposed to temptations through association with others likewise depraved; --especially while the great adversary, Satan, is still at liberty, unbound, permitted to ensnare the depraved by putting darkness for light, and evil for good. We remember that temperance, self-control, is one of the fruits of the spirit of Christ, and as such it should be sought and cultivated by all who desire to be copies of God's dear Son. But it is a too frequent mistake to think of temperance merely as respects intoxicating liquors: the Christian may reasonably be supposed to have gotten such a victory over self, to have gained such self-control, that he will no longer be in danger as respects drunkenness, but he finds, nevertheless, a great necessity for the exercise of self-control, temperance, in respect to all the affairs of life--in matters which previously gave him no concern, respecting which he saw no necessity for self-control.
Temperance, self-control, in the Christian, is applicable to all the affairs of life; he is to be temperate in his language, not given to exaggeration or misrepresentation, better or worse than the facts; his yea is to be yea, and his nay, nay. He is to speak forth "words of soberness," and even if it be necessary to speak in correction or reproof, he is to be temperate, making sure that he speaks the truth in love, and not in severity or bitterness. His speech is to be with grace--seasoned with the saltness, the preservative quality, of his consecration to Christ,--for is he not a part of the "salt of the earth?"
The Christian's temperance is to extend to his business. He is to be moderate in his aims and ambitions, in his money-getting and money-saving. He is to remember that under the Lord's call the riches which he seeks for are heavenly and not earthly, and that the Master says, "How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the Kingdom." Christian moderation, then, will seek first the Kingdom of heaven, esteeming that its attainment would be great riches, and cheaply bought, even at the cost of earthly welfare, riches and comforts.
The Christian should be temperate in his food-- his eating, as well as his drinking. As he has consecrated himself and all that he has to the Lord, is it not, therefore, a part of his bounden duty to obtain from life the largest possible yield to the Lord's glory? Must he not, therefore, consider what and how much he shall eat, to the intent that he may render to the Lord his largest, his best, service? This will mean self-denial, self-control, for the appetite of food, as well as the appetite of drink, is considerably depraved in all. True, gluttony will not rob one of his senses, and make him crazy, as will spiritous liquors, yet overeating
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does frequently, to a considerable extent, sap the energies of the mind, or by over-stimulation weakens them. Thus many are weak and sickly through self-gratification in the matter of food as well as drink. Temperance, self-control, is the command of the Lord to all such;--not that it will benefit the Lord, but that thus we may build up proper characters,--loyal to that which is right, good, reasonable, proper.
The Christian should be temperate in his joys. He should not set his chief affections upon the earth, or earthly things--pleasure, wealth, influence, popularity, etc. He is to remember that very much of the present order of things is wholly contrary to righteousness, and he is to seek to use even approved things of this world temperately, utterly rejecting those things which are contrary to righteousness, truth, goodness, purity: he is to find his pleasure in another quarter-- in serving righteousness--in the service of the Lord, in the Word of the Lord, in the promises of the Lord, in the spirit of the Lord.
The Christian is to be temperate in his sorrows. He "sorrows not as others who have no hope," but he believes that Jesus died for the sins of the whole world, that he rose again in order to justification of those who believe and obey him, and that either now or in the age to come all mankind shall have a full opportunity to know of divine grace, and to accept and share therein, under the terms of the New Covenant. Thus may the Christian, living up to his privileges under divine grace, be temperate in his sorrows:--
"He'll bear unmoved the world's dread frown,
Nor heed its scornful smile;
Him seas of trouble cannot drown,
Nor Satan's arts beguile."
This quality of temperance, once attained, will manifest itself also in kindness, and in patience. The Christian who has developed in self-control is the one who will be the most patient with the unwilling, unintentional faults and frailties of others: he will be ready to restore the repentant ones, remembering himself also, lest he should be tempted. The Apostle has reference to this temperance in all things, when he says, "Let your moderation be known unto all men." The cultivation of this moderation from the right standpoint of desire to be pleasing to the Lord, and in full harmony with him, leads to kindness, sympathy: for, finding how many are his own weaknesses, besetments, difficulties and desires, such an one can have a larger measure of sympathy with the entire "groaning creation." As a result, this temperance will work kindness of speech and of look and of act, inspired by the kindness of heart.
There is need for this temperance, moderation, self-control, and its accompanying spirit of kindness and gentleness everywhere; in the shop, in the store, in the schoolroom, in traveling, in visiting, at home with the various members of the family,--and above all, in the Church, the household of faith, the family of God. It will help us in cultivating this Christian temperance in all things to remember that we are the representatives of God and of our Lord Jesus Christ in the world. We are his ambassadors, and as such our lives of temperance and godliness, or of intemperance and ungodliness, are living epistles, known and read of all men with whom we come in contact. It is a part of our bounden duty, day by day, to see to it that not only the thoughts of our hearts, but also the words of our lips and all the acts of life are acceptable in the Lord's sight, and showing forth the praises of him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light.
THE PROPHECY OF AMOS.
Through Amos, the Lord foretold a speedy coming doomsday, a time of trouble and retribution, upon Judah, Israel and the adjoining nations. These adjoining nations, Moab, Syria, Philistia, etc., had been subjugated to Israel, and incorporated in the Kingdom of Israel, under David and Solomon, but subsequently had separated themselves, and latterly had been recaptured and temporarily were again under the dominion of Israel. Probably it was because of their close identity with Israel, territorially and through intercourse, that they are made the subjects of this prophecy. (See `chapters 1-4`.) The principal burden
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of the prophecy, however, is against Israel, the ten tribes, and Judah, the two tribes, the Lord's covenanted people, the seed of Abraham.
The home of Amos was in Judah, where he was a herdsman, but under the Lord's direction he went into the territory occupied by the ten tribes, to deliver to them the Lord's message. Amongst other things, the Lord pointed out that the families of Israel (the twelve tribes) constituted his peculiar people, that he had brought out of Egypt, and of whom he had been specially careful to order their ways most favorably. He even declares of them, "You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore will I punish you for all your iniquities. Can two walk together except they be agreed?" (`Amos 3:1-3`.) The Lord had made himself known to no other nation, had recognized no other nation, had made a covenant with no other nation, had given his laws to no other nation; and hence this nation, Israel (in its two parts), had a special responsibility. Nevertheless, instead of God's favor making them loyal of heart to him, they had continually resisted his favor, and were not even faithful as eye-servants. The reason of this was that they
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were of a different spirit: they would not walk in harmony with the Lord while their hearts were really in harmony with sin and wickedness.
The Lord, in foretelling the troubles he would bring upon Israel, because of misused privileges and opportunities, and rebelliousness of heart, wished them to discern distinctly that these judgments of the then near future, like their previous judgments, were not matters of accident, not matters of chance, but of divine providence. Consequently, the message of Amos is likened to a trumpet of alarm, announcing the dire catastrophies that shortly would come. And the announcement is thus made in advance, not with a view to the bringing of repentance, but with a view to the proper appreciation of the judgments when they would come--that the people might know that the things coming were judgments and not accidents. Accordingly, it is written,--
"Shall a trumpet be blown in a city, and the people not be afraid? Shall there be evil [calamities, disasters] in a city, and the Lord hath not done it? Surely, the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets." (`Amos 3:6,7`.) The Lord reveals his intentions thus that his people may know and profit by the chastisements, and experiences, and recognize them as of the Lord's hand.
We are not prepared to say that all the calamities, famines, pestilences, etc., which from time to time afflict mankind, are of divine providence--judgments sent of the Lord. On the contrary, we believe that generally, so far as the world of mankind in general is concerned, they merely take their chances as respects famine, storms, pestilence, etc.; yet there are marked instances in which the Lord has evidently interposed to bring calamities upon certain nations of the world, as chastisements, as judgments for their correction in righteousness: for instance, the United States Civil War which resulted in the freeing of millions of slaves and the general awakening of fifty millions of people. Unquestionably God has made use of wars and human selfishness to awaken various nations at various times, and to let in the light of civilization. The present war with Spain may be of this character. The Spanish soldiers returning from Cuba will be wiser if not better men. All this does not prove that war is right, any more than it proves that pestilence and famine are desirable; but these things show us how God is able and willing to use even the wrath of man, and the selfishness of man, in the present time, and to overrule the effects indirectly for good, in harmony with his plan.
But there are many calamities and troubles not only national but individual, in which we have no reason to believe there is any divine providence whatever. There are epidemics of disease which very evidently are caused merely by lack of cleanliness, neglect of sanitary rules; and many calamities, such as earthquakes, cyclones, floods, etc., which give every evidence of being purely accidental, that is to say, without divine or human intervention or responsibility. We do not consider these beyond divine control, nor beyond divine foreknowledge: we do consider that in general they are the natural operations of the divine laws and regulations, which, as respects the earth at the present time, are not under special regulation for man's comfort and welfare: man's comfort and welfare being ignored, for the time being, because of sin and the curse or penalty of sin which rests upon man and upon the earth, his home. For, altho the ransom price has been paid for now eighteen hundred years and more, the results of the ransom, in the complete lifting of the "curse," have not yet been brought in, but are waiting for the Lord's due time--the Millennial age.
With fleshly Israel, the natural seed of Abraham, the Lord's dealing was different: his covenant with them was to the effect that nothing should happen to them by chance--in no sense or degree were they to be subject to the mutations of life, the accidents of nature, etc. This was God's special covenant with this one particular nation--it was a part of the Law Covenant as recorded in `Lev. 26`. Under that covenant, the seed of Abraham was to be God's peculiar people, devoted to his service, and he was to be peculiarly their God, careful of their interests. So long as that nation would be faithful to the Lord, no calamity could befall them personally or nationally; they would be spared from wars and disasters, spared from famines and pestilences; they would prosper in proportion as they would be faithful to their covenant. But if unfaithful to their covenant, then they would not only be liable to the same accidents of nature with the remainder of the world under the "curse," but might know that God would assuredly bring upon them, as special judgments or chastisements, calamities of every kind, physical and mental, individual and national. This is distinctly stated to be the Lord's rule of dealing with them; and it was to this covenant that they gave their assent at Sinai. Consequently, their failure to keep their covenant made it to them a curse, a greater burden and disadvantage than rested upon the other nations of the world, with whom God had made no covenant, and to whom he had extended no promises, but who were "without God, and having no hope in the world."
With this thought in mind it will be seen to have stronger force, that the Lord calls his people's attention to the fact that whatever calamities, disasters,
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troubles (evils, pestilences, etc.), they suffered were and would continue to be a sure proof to them that God was again chastising them for violation of their covenant with him. It is in harmony with this that he says to them,--
"I have given you cleanness of teeth in your cities, and want of bread in all your places: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord. And also I have withholden the rain from you...and I caused it to rain upon one city, and caused it not to rain upon another city: one piece was rained upon, and the piece whereon it rained not withered....Yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord. I have smitten you with blasting and mildew: when your garden and your vineyards and your fig-trees and your olive trees increased, the palmer worm devoured them: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord. I have sent amongst you the pestilence, after the manner of Egypt: your young men have I slain with the sword [in war], and have taken away your horses...yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord...Thus saith the Lord unto the house of Israel,...Seek the Lord and ye shall live, lest he break out like fire in the house of Joseph, and devour it, and there be none to quench it in Bethel [the city of idol worship]."
Having noted the character of the Lord's dealings with Israel under their covenant, that all calamities were of his providence and for chastisements; and having noticed that in the case of the nations in general, the Gentiles, the world, the calamities which come are not generally chastisements or judgments, but only occasionally so, we turn with interest to the new nation, the holy nation, the peculiar people, spiritual Israel, the royal priesthood,--now being gathered out of all nations, peoples, languages and tongues,--and we inquire, How is with these? Are all the calamities of life that may befall these of the spiritual house, to be reckoned as accidents, or are they all to be reckoned as judgments of the Lord because of sin?
We answer, Neither. As this is a "peculiar people," and being selected by the Lord for a peculiar purpose, it need not surprise us to find that he has a peculiar manner of dealing with them. He permits them in a general way to be subject to all the conditions that are upon the world, but guarantees to them that all of these calamities and difficulties which will befall them, as a part of the world, shall be overruled of divine providence so as to bring them some blessing, instead of injury. Hence, as the Apostle says, "We know that all things shall work together for good to them that love God--to the called ones according to his purpose." (`Rom. 8:28`.) These have the satisfaction of knowing that any of the causalities of life which may befall them as a part of the human family,
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or even those which shall befall them as the ones against whom Satan and his blinded followers have a peculiar grudge and hatred, shall either be overruled and made to work a blessing, or else be warded off. For we are assured that,--He will not suffer us to be tempted above that we are able to bear, but will with the temptation (too hard to be borne) provide a way of escape.
Thus we see that divine providence deals differently with spiritual Israel than with natural Israel, and still differently with the world. What a consolation to know that God is for us, not only to the extent of providing a Savior and redemption through his blood, but also to the extent of providing through that Savior "a present help in every time of trouble," and an ultimate salvation in the Kingdom to those who are faithful, loyal to him, obedient to his Word, under the New Covenant.
* * *
The lesson, and its connection, points out that certain ones in Israel were in a very ease-loving and self satisfied condition, that many of them abounded in wealth, and drank the wine of earthly pleasure and extravagance inordinately, in bowlfuls. They neither were solicitous for the Lord's praise and worship, on their own part, nor on the part of others: nor were they solicitous for the poor--they were intemperately selfish, and hence the judgments were coming upon them, the evil days of their captivity and overthrow as a nation. That their sin of intemperance did not consist solely of literal drunkenness, nor perhaps specially of this, but rather that it consisted of a drunkenness of greed, by which many of the influential amongst them were disposed to swallow up the poor and the needy, is evident from the words of the Lord's reproof:--
"Forasmuch, therefore, as your treading is upon the poor, and ye take from him burdens of wheat; ye have builded your houses of hewn stone, but ye shall not dwell in them; ye have planted pleasant vineyards, but ye shall not drink wine of them. For I know your manifold transgressions, and your mighty sins. They afflict the just, they take a bribe, they turn aside the poor in the gate from their rights, and make it prudent for those who see the wrong to keep silence."
"Hear this, O ye that swallow up the needy, even to make the poor of the land to fail, saying, When will the newmoon be gone, that we may sell corn, and the Sabbath, that we may set forth wheat, making the ephah [measure] small, and the shekel [price] great, and falsify the balancer by deceit? That we might buy the poor for silver, and the needy for a pair of shoes; yea, and sell [them] the refuse of the wheat?
"The Lord hath sworn by the excellency of Jacob, Surely I will never forget any of their works. Shall not the land tremble for this, and everyone mourn that dwelleth therein?"--`Amos 5:11-13`; `8:4-8`.
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While this prophecy evidently applied specifically to natural Israel, and its captivity, nevertheless, some of the statements respecting that evil day that came upon Israel remind us of similar statements applied by the prophets and apostles and by our Lord to antitypical Israel--Christendom;--and hence, while noting the Lord's dealing with the natural Israelites, and their day of doom or punishment, it properly brings to our thoughts the judgments pronounced upon Christendom, "Babylon the Great," which are to come in the end of this age. And as we compare the conditions, now and then, the thought that the words of Amos have to some extent a double application is strengthened.
We find to-day a similar condition of things to that which the prophet describes. Many are at ease in nominal Zion: many are boasting of their prosperity, and symbolically are resting upon beds of ivory, taking their ease, and trusting that the Church is being carried forward to the conquest of the world along a new pathway which the Master and the apostles knew not of, a pathway of roses without thorns, a pathway that is not narrow nor difficult, nor steep, but that is broad, pleasurable, easy. The wealthy are very generally members of nominal Zion, or at least liberal supporters of her arrangements, services, etc., and she in turn is appreciative, and boasts of her wealth, just as she is pictured prophetically by the Lord, in his description of the Laodicean period of the Church. Nominal Zion to-day is saying, "I am rich and increased in goods, and have need of nothing," and knows not that she is poor and miserable and blind and naked; and hence she neglects to purchase the true gold and the only wedding garment. The announcement to-day to nominal spiritual Zion, of calamities coming upon her in the "day of vengeance" just at hand, is as unacceptable and disbelieved as was the message of Amos to those who were prospering and at ease in nominal fleshly Zion, as recorded in our lesson. How unacceptable to the priests of Israel was the message of Amos, is indicated by the record, which says:
"Then Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, sent to Jeroboam, King of Israel, saying, Amos hath conspired against thee, in the midst of the house of Israel: the land is not able to bear all his words [he is disturbing the peace of those who are at ease in Zion]....Also Amaziah said unto Amos, O thou seer, flee away into the land of Judah, and there eat bread and prophecy there; but prophecy not any more at Bethel, for it is the king's sanctuary, and the king's court."-- `Amos 7:10-13`.
But as Amos was faithful in declaring the message of the Lord, and was not deterred into silence from prudential reasons, so those who to-day are spoken to by the Lord through his Word and are instructed respecting the things that are shortly to come to pass upon nominal spiritual Israel, are not to hold their peace from prudential reasons--for the fear of man bringeth a snare. They are to speak the truth in love, and to seek to pull as many as possible out of the fire of tribulation, and to bring as many as possible into the little flock of faithful ones, whom the Lord exhorted, saying, "Watch ye, therefore, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things coming upon the world, and to stand before the Son of Man."
In this prophecy of Amos, the Lord points out that the wrath he was about to permit to come upon Israel as chastisements, would, nevertheless, work out for them a blessing, and that in his due time he would bring them back again into harmony with himself, and that under more favorable conditions than in the past. We are not only to believe the calamitous portion of this prophecy, which we already see has been executed upon Israel in fullest measure, but we are also to believe the features of it which are favorable to Israel --the future blessings. For instance, we see how literally has been fulfilled the prediction:--
"Behold the eyes of the Lord God are upon the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from off the face of the earth [as a nation, a kingdom]; save that I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob, saith the Lord [the people of the nation were to be preserved as a separate people from others]; for lo, I will give the command, and I will shake about amongst all nations the house of Israel, as one shaketh things in a sieve, while not the least piece falleth down upon the earth." `Amos 9:8,9`.
The Lord thus shows his continued supervision of Israel, according to the covenant made with them. And how accurately this has been fulfilled: the Israelites as a people have been scattered throughout the whole earth, yet they have not lost their identity; as a nation they were utterly destroyed, yet unlike every other nation, they have preserved their national identity, and have not been mixed and blended with the world in general.
And if this feature of the prophecy has been accurately fulfilled to-day before our eyes, we certainly have every reason to believe that the remainder of the prophecy will be just as accurately fulfilled--that portion which applies to the restitution times, after the true spiritual Israel has been selected, when natural Israel shall be brought back into covenant relationship with God, and become the earthly agent of the spiritual Kingdom for blessing, instructing and restoring the families of the earth, under the terms of the New Covenant. This is clearly set forth in the closing words of the prophecy:--
"In that day will I raise up the standard of David which is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof, and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old, that they may possess the remnant of Edom and of all the heathen which are called by my name, saith the Lord that doeth this....And I will bring again the captivity of my people of Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them, and they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof; they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them, and I will plant them in their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land, which I have given them, saith the Lord God."
We recall the quotation of this prophecy in the New Testament, by the Apostle James, and find it in full accord also with the words of the Apostle Paul, to the effect that after spiritual Israel has been developed as the true seed of Abraham, through Christ,
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then divine favor shall return to natural Israel, and she shall obtain mercy, according to the terms of the divine covenant, at the hands of spiritual Israel then glorified.--See `Rom. 11:1-25-32`; `Acts 15:16,17`.
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"OUT OF DARKNESS INTO HIS MARVELOUS LIGHT."
MR. C. T. RUSSELL, Illinois.
DEAR SIR:--It is now about two years since I first became acquainted with your work--MILLENNIAL DAWN. The assimilation of the truth has been a very slow and laborious work in my case. The so-called orthodox doctrines of to-day had been so thoroughly instilled into my mind as to have become almost a part of my being. The force of the logic of chapter I, VOL. I., took a firm hold upon my mind from the start however, and led me to see the folly of church work as usually carried on. Gradually I was able to accept the truth regarding hell as presented in your little pamphlet "What Say the Scriptures about Hell?"
Now I have just finished reading VOL. I. for about the 6th time, and the truth has come to me in a very convincing manner, so clear, so simple, and yet so wonderful and sublime, that I have many times stopped to praise God for his wonderful plan, while I have been led to love and adore him as never before. The truth seems so clear now that I wonder how I stumbled over it so long. There is now a question in my mind as to just what my duty is regarding some money and notes in my possession which have been pledged to the China Inland Mission. The pledge was solemnly made before God before a house and lot which I used to own was sold, that if the Lord would send me a buyer the entire amount should be given to the support of a missionary in China. I now see the truth of God's plan in a different light and the sending of the remainder of the money to that field seems almost useless, and I have often wished of late that I could use the money here at home to spread the truth and help the poor, but my pledge still stands, and I do not know what to do regarding it.
I write to ask your advice and pray that God may give you wisdom in answering, as I desire to make no mistake. On a separate sheet I enclose an order for DAWNS and tracts with a renewal of my subscription to the ZION'S WATCH TOWER, also for one of the hymn books. May the Lord richly bless you and yours and may the truth shine out brighter and brighter from the gloom of the early dawn, is my prayer.
Yours truly, CALVIN DODGE.
[IN REPLY:--God be praised, dear Brother, that under the guidance of his Providence you have been led out of darkness and uncertainty into his marvelous light. God speed! Be faithful to the light and let it so shine, that men may see your good works and glorify our Father in heaven.
Your responsibility to the Inland China Mission depends upon circumstances.
(1) Did you pledge the proceeds of your property unqualifiedly to the Missionary Society? If so, to it every penny should go.
(2) But if you pledged to the Lord, that as his steward you would use that money in his service in supporting a missionary in China, the case would be totally different: you may properly consider the Lord's guidance into present truth to be his instruction to you as his steward of "a more excellent way" of serving his cause.
(3) If the latter is your case, and if after pledging the money to the Lord, you gave the "China Inland Mission" more or less directly to understand that it would be the channel you would use as God's steward, you should judge, as best you are able, whether or not or to what extent the Society undertook any obligations as a result of your declarations to it. Then judge to what extent the amount you have already contributed has reasonably met those obligations.
(4) To sum up: So far as your consecration to God is concerned, it touches every penny of the pledged sum, but leaves you free at all times to act according to the highest intelligence given you of the Lord. So far as men are concerned your donation would generally be understood to depend upon your faith in the Society and your sympathy with its work; and your loss of either of these would be understood to imply the discontinuance of your cooperation. As a rule, Societies do not reckon definitely upon any contributor: on the contrary, their rule is to reckon on a certain average of discontinuances.--EDITOR.]
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL:--The TOWER of July 15th gave us great pleasure in the reading, and was helpful in "building up." We know that a clearer understanding of the conflict between the mind of the flesh and the mind of the spirit cannot but be helpful. How beautifully the Rotherham Translation puts `Col. 3:15`: "Let the peace of Christ be acting as umpire in your hearts." We were quite interested also in the question in regard to the Christadelphian Views.
About two weeks ago we were studying the question of Death, and among other things we came across the statement in `Psa. 49:19`, "They shall never see light." Never is a long time and seemed to conflict with ransom and restitution. We looked that "never" up in Strong's Concordance with this result:--
Never--"ad," as far as or until; "naytsakh," goal or the bright object at a distance traveled towards; "lo," not.
Does not that word "never," instead of teaching everlasting death, teach "resurrection" and "the desire of all nations?" The more we study the wording of the Bible, through present-day helps, the more perfect our faith becomes in that wonderful Word of God.
Sister Bell joins me in Christian love and greeting. Yours in Christ, CHARLES C. BELL.
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL:--I often desire to write to you concerning the Church at this place, but am just as often hindered. We are all feeling very much encouraged spiritually at present. In the first place, ZION'S WATCH TOWER during this year has cheered and strengthened us in a wonderful degree. Divine principles have never been so clearly portrayed, or else we are in better condition to understand them. You have demonstrated the holy spirit of love until we comprehend more deeply what it is to "Bear all things" for righteousness' sake. We thank the giver of all good for the abundant blessing we have had through your kind instrumentality.
We have recently enjoyed a visit from our dear Brother Rogers, and we believe the fruit of his labor here will be quite marked as time rolls on. I do not know whether you have had a report of his meetings here or not. I attended two meetings at the home of Bro. Kuntz. Only a few were present, as the day was inclement, but as always "The Old, Old Story" was refreshing. In the evening Bro. Rogers and others
attended a "Mission," conducted by a Brother Dann. I was not present, but understand that Bro. Rogers gave them a rousing sermon on the ransom and restitution which was gladly received.
There are twelve in our class fully in the truth. Bros. Kuntz, Hutchinson and Bardelmier symbolized their baptism unto death last week. Sr. Grace McGee will do the same this week. How I wish Bro. McPhail could visit us now, he would be very helpful. Mother joins me in Christian love to you. We are praying for you constantly. In Christ, AMELIA POWER.
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL:--I canvassed Helena, Millersville, Burgoon and Bettville last week, every house in each place, and left a tract at each home. At Toledo last Sunday we had two good discourses from Bro. Draper, and two good audiences. [Sixteen immersed] Enclosed please find order and M. Order. Expect, D.V., to try for a while to sell DAWNS as a specialty. I purpose to be faithful in that which is least, and to do what I can for the Kingdom and glory of our Heavenly Father, who is infinite in Love.
Yours in the service of the truth, JAMES A. WEST.
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL:--Ever since the meetings, where we had the long-desired privilege of seeing you in person, and hearing your voice, I have wanted to write to you and tell you of the blessing and help received through that privilege. Indeed, I could not begin to express what those meetings were to me, of the misty places which now are as plain as noonday, of the realness of our Savior's presence, and of our "high calling," of the comfort, strength and encouragement received, to persevere in the "narrow way." I am very thankful to God that what I had so longed for was made possible. But those four days of your stay with us passed all too quickly, and it seemed that we had to say good-bye to you almost directly after meeting you.
When I am at home, and that is nearly always, I have not one person with whom I can talk about the truths that are more precious to me than I can express. Being confident that I can pass the test of loving the "brethren," you will understand that this is a great privation. But I have my beloved books, the DAWNS; and the TOWER will be more welcome and more carefully studied than ever, if that is possible.
Your Sister in the faith, S. A. YENNEY.
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MR. CHARLES T. RUSSELL, Colorado.
DEAR BROTHER:--I must take the liberty of sending you a message of gratitude in reference to your article in July 15th TOWER on the double-minded man. It was particularly enjoyed by me for the reason that for a long time the questions reviewed have been thought over, and to a great extent in the very light in which you have so clearly presented them.
From several previous articles in the TOWER I had gained the impression that you were writing not only in the light of the blessed Savior's presence, but also with a clear understanding of the principles of Phrenological science. This has now been confirmed, for which I praise the Lord.
Phrenology (as taught by its true representatives) is certainly the correct theory of mental phenomena, and those who are ignorant of its principles must of necessity be in the dark as to a proper understanding of human nature.
For some years I have contended that there was too much truth--too much light--in the phrenological science for its general acceptance in the past and present time. This is proven, to my mind, by the fierce antagonism the subject has received at the hands of college professors, physicians and especially the clergy, as well as others, whereas if they had given the matter honest investigation they could have verified its correctness time and again, every day of their lives.
Babylon's religionists refuse it because if admitted it would utterly condemn the eternal torment idea, and render that vicious theory unbearable, even to themselves. It would teach them the fact that many of our poor, fallen race have retrograded so far from perfection and the proper balance of faculties as to be entirely incapable of appreciating and accepting a "system of theology," and therefore to be doomed to eternal torture. Presume, however, they would manage to get this class of unfortunates through on their peculiar "infant and idiot" plan of salvation.
It seems to me that in the Millennium perfection will be attained gradually along the lines of phrenological principles--fully developed, of course, and under the direction of the earthly representatives of the Kingdom. In conclusion, I want again to express my thanks to our glorious Father and blessed Master for setting the truth so clearly before the remaining members of the Church. Your Brother and servant in the precious faith, G. M. HUNTSINGER.
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL:--The Day of Vengeance (DAWN, VOL. IV.) in German would be more of a good thing to have, than I had dared to hope for, and would, I think, do a great deal of good. Glad of the opportunity, I herewith subscribe for a sufficient number of books to amount to five dollars and stand ready to double this number, should it be found necessary to reach the required sum to guarantee the cost of typesetting. Your Brother in Christ, J. G. KUEHN.
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL:--I subscribe to the IV. VOL. of DAWN in German to the amount of $5 and hope that I can do better if it should become necessary. The meetings with Bro. Draper in Toledo have been a rich feast. Several of the brethren have come back again and accepted the ransom; two of them were baptized by Bro. Draper. Remember these brethren as well as myself before the throne in your prayers.
Yours in the Redeemer, S. KUESTHARDT.
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DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL:--Rejoice with me, for my soul so long in darkness is illuminated with the glorious beams of the "MILLENNIAL DAWN." I have been in the world 61 years. I have lived in Babylon since 1854. I have been a Baptist minister since 1867. During all these years I never saw the "King in his beauty," until now. Through the kindness of Elder Job Chalfant I have been reading the first three volumes of your valuable book, MILLENNIAL DAWN, and the WATCH TOWER. Never before has the gospel of our blessed Redeemer been so precious to me. The Bible seems like a new book--I see the glorious plan of redemption as I never have before. I cannot preach any more as I formerly did. The voice of the Master has reached my ears, "Babylon is fallen! Come out of her my people." I have obeyed the command, and may God help me from this on to speak the blessed present truth. Please send me the WATCH TOWER and the four volumes of MILLENNIAL DAWN.
Your brother in the present truth, D. SIMONS.