ZWT - 1897 - R2084 thru R2237 / R2152 (141) - May 15, 1897
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VOL. XVIII. MAY 15, 1897. No. 10.
Methodist Estimate of Brotherhood.................142
Views from the Watch Tower........................143
The Divine Right of Kings, etc................143
Poem: The Secret of a Happy Day...................145
If Ye Do These Things.............................145
Enoch, Elijah and the Sentence....................148
"Because Jesus Was Not Yet
The Conference at Jerusalem.......................153
The Faith That Works..............................154
Keep Thy Tongue from Evil.........................156
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METHODIST ESTIMATE OF BROTHERHOOD.
Quite a commotion has been caused in Methodist circles lately by the published statement that "The Methodist Book Concern" of New York has a Roman Catholic foreman over its Composing Room another is assistant foreman in the Press Room, and another is foreman of the Bible publishing department. These, it seems, are gradually discharging Protestants and supplying their places with Roman Catholics. Rev. Dr. Mains, one of the managers of the Concern, explaining away the matter, said (as reported by the Boston Herald) that his foreman "was probably a Catholic. He had called him 'Brother' Cassidy many years without knowing or caring what his religion was." Christian brotherhood has become very cheap when given without knowledge or care as to whether the recipient even professes to follow Christ or Anti-Christ; --and that by a prominent exponent of Christian brotherhood.
The Philadelphia Record says that the news from the financial centers of Europe is to the effect that moneylenders "are willing to lend Turkey five times as much money as Greece, at one-half the interest." Sentiment weighs in the pulpit, the platform and the press, but goes for naught in the financial affairs of the world--great and small. There cold selfishness controls.
"I tell you," said a rabid Free-thinker, "the idea that there is a God never comes into my head." "Ah, precisely like my dog," was the reply. "But there is this difference--he does not go round howling about it."--Selected.
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VIEWS FROM THE WATCH TOWER.
THE DIVINE RIGHT OF KINGS GONE TO SEED.
"A DISPATCH from Berlin relates that the Emperor William 'has attended the consecration of two new churches, and presented to each a Bible containing his autograph and a text of Scripture.' The text in one was from `John (15:5`), 'Without me ye can do nothing;' in the other, from `Jeremiah (7:23`), 'Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people.'
"These texts written by any other sovereign, even the czar, would have passed without further notice than as showing his orthodoxy, his desire to set an example in faith to his people, but coming from William they excite a wholly different thought. Admitting that the dark suspicions of his insanity heard from time to time are the inventions of his enemies, ample reason remains to believe that he is not always fully responsible for his language or his acts.
"Roman emperors set up statues of themselves and commanded the people to bow down to them in worship, in language not very different from that which this man has repeatedly used. That explains why the newspaper writers pitched upon those texts, which would have been passed unheeded if inscribed by any other man."--The Pittsburg Daily News.
In the German Emperor we have the father, papa or pope, of Germany--its earthly god or mighty one, whose will must be done in Germany, as the Almighty's will is done in heaven. He is the civil and ecclesiastical head of so-called "Protestant Germany." He holds the reins of power and so proclaims himself; and his subjects, while generally repudiating such claims, are so bound by their necessities and by the power put into their emperor's hands, that they cannot help themselves.
In the Czar of Russia we have another pope, the civil and ecclesiastical head of the millions of Russia and the Greek Catholic church; who similarly poses as God's vicegerent or representative. Less enlightened than the Germans, many of his subjects would worship him if so commanded. Indeed, they do enshrine and worship his representative, the minister of religion, whose portrait by law is exposed in all public offices with a continually lighted lamp before it, for the adoration of the people. The writer, when in Russia, seeing the portrait everywhere, inquired who it represented, and was answered, "That is Nicholas--that is our god."
The pope at Rome is the third pope, but, divested of power, his influence depends upon his securing support to his claims by civil rulers (not so ambitious as those of Germany and Russia) who are willing to give him their allegiance. The only one willing to do this to-day is the emperor of Austria.
Here we have the three Emperors of Europe representing autocratic powers and most opposed to everything like religious or political freedom of thought or action, and all are believers, almost to the extent of insanity, that the secular and religious control of the world is in their hands by divine appointment. It is not strange, therefore, that the recent visit of the German Emperor to the Emperor of Austria-Hungary, followed by a visit of the latter ruler to the Emperor or Czar of Russia, has given rise to the conclusion that an alliance of the three empires of Europe is about to be consummated. Not only do the autocratic and "divine right" sentiments of their rulers favor such an alliance, but their temporal interests as well. Russia is glad to drop fickle France with the republican sentiments, and Germany is glad to drop poor and weak Italy. On the whole, the "Imperial Alliance" is the strongest national combination of modern times. The design evidently is that at the proper time Austria and Russia will divide European Turkey, while Germany
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will be permitted quietly to absorb Holland, her navy and her colonies. At such a time Great Britain will probably improve her opportunity to take possession of Palestine, and thus will its doors be again thrown open to the Jew, and under conditions more favorable than ever before, facilitating the fulfilment of prophecy to this effect. A few years would work marvelous changes there under such conditions. Meantime the preparations for Jewish colonization progress at a wonderful rate among Jewish "Zion" societies.
THE ARCHBISHOP OF YORK IN RUSSIA.
"The Anglican Church appears to weary of her 'splendid isolation.' Not content with collecting, as she will this year, all her sister and daughter Churches
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at Lambeth, in a gathering which will include representatives from every continent, and at least prove to the world that she is as little insular in influence as in aims, she is making overtures of friendship to other churches which she once regarded only as hostile rivals. It is but a few months since some of her leading spirits asked Rome once more to acknowledge her rank in the Christian Hierarchy by admitting the validity of her Orders, and now she is making overtures, or at least offering courtesies, to the Holy Orthodox Church, a corporation as ancient as that of Rome, almost as proud and independent, and destined, perhaps in the near future, to as large an area of sway or influence. The Archbishop of York is hardly visiting the great ecclesiastics of Russia out of mere curiosity, or with a desire to reveal to them that there are Protestant prelates as dignified and as secure in their dignity as themselves. He undoubtedly wishes to draw the churches closer, if only in the bonds of friendship."--London Spectator.
There seems little likelihood of union between the Church of England and the Greek Church of Russia; but evidently they desire to draw closer together. Not long since all Protestants seemed anxious to take the gospel to the poor benighted ones deluded by the Greek and Roman Catholic churches into the worship of images, offering of incense before pictures, etc. But a desire to count numbers and make a fair show in the flesh is changing all this.
On this visit the London Globe says:--
"It turns out that one object of Archbishop Maclagan's visit to Russia was to carry to the ecclesiastical authorities there the answer of the English Primates to the Pope's Bull, The 'Novoe Vremya' is among the Russian newspapers which welcome the Archbishop. His visit, says that journal, 'emphasises the fact that in spite of all national, social, economic, political and religious differences between civilized countries and peoples, the aspiration for the unity of the churches is continually breaking forth.' Dr. Maclagan has been cordially received wherever he has gone, both by Russian churchmen and high State functionaries."
FORTY-SEVEN MINISTERS PROTESTED.
Recently Bishop Sessums of the Episcopal Church, New Orleans, preached a discourse which was printed in the Picayune. Something of its character may be judged by the following items of protest published in the Times-Democrat (New Orleans), May 6, '97, over the signatures of forty-seven ministers of that city, as follows:--
"The undersigned ministers of the Gospel in different branches of the Church of Jesus Christ unite in this public protest against the exposition of Christianity given by Bishop Sessums, as put forth in the Picayune under the sanction of his name. It is, in our judgment, a complete surrender of the whole system of grace revealed in the holy Scriptures. So far from being 'the old religion in the new language,' it is another religion in language which does not contain a single new suggestion. The syllabus offered to us is only a compend of the old heresies which have afflicted the Church of God in ages past. The 'old religion' is swept out of the Scriptures so completely that not a trace is left of that 'grace of God which bringeth salvation.' This will appear from the following specifications of its numerous errors:--
"1. Its undisguised Pantheism, in denying the personality of the divine Being, reduces him to a mere fetich.
"2. The explicit denial of the fall of man from a state of primitive holiness, with the derivation of a corrupt nature consequent thereupon.
"3. In the express denial that Christ hath 'redeemed us by his blood,' being not a sacrificial offering for sin, but consisting merely in the influence of a good example reclaiming man from the error of his way.
"4. In the open disavowal of belief in any judicial process against the sinner, and the absolute denial of the future punishment of the wicked in the world to come.
"5. In the assertion of the final restoration of all men to the favor of God in a state of probation after death.
"6. The sinking of religion into mere humanitarianism, bounded only by the second table of the law, and in which God has no rights, through the practical abolition of the first table.
"7. The significant omission, in a scheme professing to define the gospel of Christ, of the necessity of faith in the Redeemer and of repentance for sin, of love to God or any of the graces of the holy spirit.
"We purposely omit the mention of others clearly implied in the language of the bishop, confining ourselves to those which are explicitly avowed and which spring of necessity from the seed-plot of Pantheism. It is not our design to inflict upon this community a theological controversy which must range over the entire field of Christian doctrine--and that, too, before a tribunal which has no power to issue the case in a formal verdict.
"But, set for the defense of the faith as ministers of the gospel, entire silence would implicate us in the guilt of betrayal of the truth. We cannot, therefore, but deliver, once for all, this testimony against another gospel than that delivered us in the Word of God. Side by side with this, our protest, we append the syllabus of Bishop Sessums, that the reader may compare the two and judge for himself upon the issue made."
We are glad to note that the ministers of New
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Orleans as a whole are so loyal to the teachings of God's Word respecting the fall of man and his redemption by "the precious blood of Christ." We are sorry that in the Northern States there are few ministers who still hold to these cardinal and fundamental doctrines.
But what is driving off, from the teaching of the Bible, Bishop Sessums and many (the majority of city ministers) in the North?
It is the failure to recognize the logical results of the "ransom for all!" that he "tasted death for every man." Admit the value of the precious blood as "a propitiation [satisfaction] for our sins [the Church's sins], and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world," and thinking people will not be driven by the wholesale from their faith in it.
But such an admission of the true value of the blood proves a future opportunity for knowledge and trial for the millions who have gone down into the great prison-house of death without knowledge and trial. As surely as the ransom was for all, so surely all must be brought to a knowledge of the truth soon or later--else, so far as the mass of mankind is concerned, Christ died in vain; for, surely, hundreds of millions died before the ransom was given, and other hundreds of millions have since died without knowledge of the only name given under heaven or amongst men whereby we must be saved.
Let God and his Word be true! The sacrifice has been offered and accepted, the Church has been and is being blessed by it, and by and by, "in due time," it shall be testified to all;--and that will be the world's trial time, as this is the Church's. No Scripture can be found which limits the testimony and blessing resulting from the shedding of the precious blood to the present age or the present life. Quite to the contrary; --unless there be a future opportunity for the majority of our race, many precious promises of God will fail, including his promise and oath to Abraham,--"In thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed;" and our dear Redeemer will not be the "True Light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world."
We too object to such a future probation as pantheists teach, and therefore can agree to protest No. 5. But we heartily believe in, and advocate as the only key to the harmony of the Bible, a future probation for all who have not had one in the present life;--because a probation for all was bought by the one sacrifice, given once for all at Calvary.
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THE SECRET OF A HAPPY DAY.
Just to let thy Father do what he will;
Just to know that he is true, and be still.
Just to follow, hour by hour, as he leadeth;
Just to draw the moment's power, as it needeth.
Just to trust him, this is all. Then the day will surely be
Peaceful, whatso'er befall, bright and blessed, calm and free.
Just to let him speak to thee through his Word,
Watching, that his voice may be clearly heard.
Just to tell him everything, as it rises,
And at once to him to bring all surprises.
Just to listen, and to stay where you cannot miss his voice.
This is all! and thus to-day, you communing, shall rejoice.
Just to ask him what to do all the day,
And to make you quick and true to obey.
Just to know the needed grace he bestoweth,
Every bar of time and place overfloweth.
Just to take thy orders straight from the Master's own command.
Blessed day! when thus we wait always at our Sovereign's hand.
Just to recollect his love, always true;
Always shining from above, always new.
Just to recognize its light, all-enfolding;
Just to claim its present might, all-upholding.
Just to know it as thine own, that no power can take away;
Is not this enough alone for the gladness of the day?
Just to trust, and yet to ask guidance still;
Take the training or the task, as he will.
Just to take the loss or gain, as he sends it;
Just to take the joy or pain, as he lends it.
He who formed thee for his praise will not miss the gracious aim;
So, to-day, and all thy days, shall be molded for the same.
Just to leave in his dear hand little things,
All we cannot understand, all that stings.
Just to let him take the care sorely pressing;
Finding all we let him bear changed to blessing.
This is all! and yet the way marked by him who loves thee best:
Secret of a happy day, secret of his promised rest.
--Frances Ridley Havergal.
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IF YE DO THESE THINGS.
"For if ye do these things, ye shall never fall; for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."--`2 Pet. 1:10,11`.
THIS statement of the Apostle Peter is suggestive of several important thoughts: (1) It indicates the possibility to the class addressed of "an abundant entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." This is the prize of the high calling of the overcoming saints of the Gospel age. True, when we consider its exceeding glory, faith is prone to stagger at the promise that, poor and imperfect though we be, God proposes in the ages to come to show the exceeding riches of his grace in his
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kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. (`Eph. 2:7`.) Nevertheless, such is the case: "unto us are given the exceeding great and precious promises, that by these we might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust" --through the worldly desires, "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life."--`2 Pet. 1:4`; `1 John 2:16`.
These exceeding great and precious promises contemplate the adoption of these called ones by the great Sovereign of the whole universe as his sons and heirs; as joint-heirs with his only begotten Son, the heir of all things: they shall be with him where he is and behold his glory; and they shall put off this mortality, and, like him, who is "the express image of the Father's person," they shall be clothed with immortality. So shall they be forever with the Lord, and see him as he is; for they shall be like him. Having overcome the world, they shall sit with him in his Kingdom, even as he overcame and sat down with the Father in his Kingdom.--`Rev. 3:21`.
"Fear not, little flock," says the prospective Bridegroom of the Church, "for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the Kingdom," "for the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me and have believed that I came out from God." Nor will he give the Kingdom to his beloved grudgingly; for Peter says, "an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly:" there will be a glorious welcome, a joyous greeting and a coronation jubilee among all the heavenly hosts when the laurels of victory are placed upon the heads of all the overcoming soldiers of the cross, the heroes who nobly fought the good fight of faith--who kept the faith, fought the fight against the world, the flesh and the devil, and finished their course in faithfulness even unto death.
All this abundance of grace and glory is the possible inheritance of even the weakest saint who, trusting not to his own ability to make his calling and election sure, humbly looks to God for strength from day to day to endure hardness as a good soldier. If any man attempts to do this in his own strength, he must surely fail; for the fiery trial that is to try every one will prove too much for the mind of the flesh; but God who worketh in the consecrated to will and to do his good pleasure, will so fortify and equip those who depend upon his grace, that, with the Psalmist, they can say, "It is God that girdeth me with strength....By thee I have run through a troop, and by my God have I leaped over a wall;" and with Paul, "I can do all things through Christ, who strengtheneth me."--`Psa. 18:32,29`; `Phil. 4:13`.
(1) Let us not fear, then, to lay hold upon the exceeding great and precious promises when we are so fully assured that he who has begun the good work in us will finish it, if we let him. (`Phil. 1:6`.) "This is the victory that overcometh the world, even your faith"--not faith in ourselves; for we can have no confidence in the flesh. The poor, weak and faltering flesh does not warrant us in reposing confidence in its ability for the great responsibilities of soldiers of the cross. We must draw our supplies of wisdom and strength from above: they are not within us except as implanted there by the spirit of God.
(2) We next notice that while Peter's words encouragingly indicate the possibility of the glorious inheritance to all who are called, there is also the implied possibility of failure to enter into it. There is an "if," a contingency, upon which the scales of divine judgment as to our worthiness or unworthiness of the inheritance must turn. And it is in view of this contingency that Paul urges all the called ones to great sobriety of mind and carefulness of conduct, saying, "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall;" and again, "Let us therefore fear lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it." It is not enough, therefore, that we have consecrated ourselves to God as living sacrifices; that we have covenanted to follow in the footsteps of Jesus; for the consecration, the covenant, the promise, will avail nothing if we prove unfaithful to it, except to rise up in judgment against us. "Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay."--`Eccl. 5:4,5`. See also `Deut. 23:21-23`; `Prov. 20:25`; `Heb. 10:38,39`; `Psa. 15`; `Luke 9:62`; `John 15:6`; `Acts 5:4,5`.
(3) Our attention is next drawn to what is implied in this expressed contingency--"If ye do these things." What things?--The reference is to the things mentioned in the `preceding verses`; viz., that with all diligence we add to our faith fortitude; and to fortitude knowledge; and to knowledge self-control, and to self-control patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness love."
It is important to observe here that while all of these virtues are imperative requirements of those who would be esteemed of God as faithful, they are only of value as they are added to, or built upon, a foundation of faith--"Giving all diligence add to your faith," --your "precious faith," as described in `verse 1`. This faith is our abiding confidence in the divine plan of salvation, which centers in the redemption accomplished through the precious blood of Christ, who freely gave himself a ransom for all. No righteousness of our own without this foundation of faith can avail anything to commend us to God. All our works of righteousness must be built upon this faith.
But is not faith in Christ sufficient unto salvation
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without the subsequent doing of any thing? To this the Scriptures plainly answer that a faith that Christ will save us in our sins--while we still love sin and do the works of sin--is a misplaced faith; for Christ never proposed to save us in our sins, but from our sins; and God is faithful and just to forgive sins and to cleanse from all unrighteousness those who come unto him by Christ,--through faith in his shed blood (sacrificed life) as the propitiation or satisfaction for our sins, and in his cleansing power. "He that saith, I know him [Christ, as my Lord and Savior], and keepeth not his commandments [to do the works of righteousness, and to bring forth the fruits of repentance of sins], is a liar," says the Apostle John, "and the truth is not in him." (`1 John 2:4`.) Therefore the Apostle Paul also exhorts believers, saying, "Beloved, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure."--`Phil. 2:12,13`.
It was God that provided for us the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, and it is God that has drawn us unto himself and that has promised us all needed grace to walk in the paths of righteousness; and more, even to follow in the footprints of Jesus in the way of self-sacrifice. While, therefore, with fear and trembling, --with great carefulness--we endeavor to work out our salvation, it is our privilege always to realize the promised grace to help in every time of need, and to be confident that our best efforts toward righteousness are acceptable
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to God when presented through the merit of the righteousness of Christ, imputed to us by faith. (Manna 12-17)
Having this foundation, then, and "having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust" --through the desires of the flesh--and having by faith laid hold also on the "exceeding great and precious promises" of being made partakers of the divine nature and joint-heirs with Christ of his Kingdom and glory, and being anxious to make our "calling and election sure," let us consider these additions to our faith, which, if possessed and continuously cultivated, are the assurance that we shall never fall, and that an abundant entrance into the Kingdom shall be granted to us.
The first addition (virtue) is fortitude or strength of character in righteousness. This implies the cultivation of the strictest integrity in our dealings, both with God and with our fellow men,--scrupulous honesty, justice and truth being the only standard. The Psalmist clearly defines it thus, saying, "He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart. He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbor, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbor; in whose eyes a vile person is condemned; but he honoreth them that fear the Lord. He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not [i.e., who will not violate a contract found to be unfavorable to him]. He that putteth not out his money to usury [taking unjust advantage of the necessities of others], nor taketh reward against the innocent. He that doeth these things shall never be moved." (`Psa. 15`.) Such a one is a virtuous man, a man of fortified or strong character.
The second addition is knowledge--the knowledge of God and of his righteous will concerning us (revealed through his Word, by the holy spirit). Neglect of this divinely appointed means of knowledge is equivalent to setting up our own imperfect standard of righteousness and ignoring the divine standard. It is therefore important that we give all diligence to the study of the divine oracles that we may be fortified in faith and works accordingly.
The third addition, self-control, is one of the most important elements of good character. He that ruleth his own spirit is greater than he that taketh a city, is the counsel of the wise man; and many a victorious general has yet to learn to conquer and control himself. Self-control has to do with all our sentiments, thoughts, tastes, appetites, labors, pleasures, sorrows and hopes. Its cultivation, therefore, means a high order of character-development. Self-control, accompanied by faith, fortitude, knowledge from on high, implies increased zeal and activity in divine things and increased moderation in earthly things, in judgment, in conduct, in the regulation of temporal affairs, etc. "Let your moderation be known unto all men."
The fourth addition is patience. Time is a very necessary element in the process of perfecting every good thing. The fruit hastily plucked is the unripe, hard, sour, bitter fruit. Time, as well as pruning and fertilizing and cultivating and shower and sunshine, is necessary to the ripe and luscious fruitage that delights the taste. So it is also with the fruitage of plans and purposes, of education and of grace. God's deep designs work out slowly, not only in his great universal government, but also in the hearts and minds of his intelligent creatures. God is operating all things according to his own will along the lines of the fixed principles of his wise and righteous laws--physical, moral and intellectual. To be impatient in any case is foolishly to insist upon having the unripe, hasty, sour, bitter fruitage, which, if the Lord grant it, will prove a sickening penalty for the impatience that demanded it. "Let patience have her perfect work," wait God's time: "Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him." Wait the Lord's time and way and the indications of his will in every case, both with regard to ourselves and others and "they that put their trust in him shall never be confounded."
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Faith, fortitude and knowledge prepare God's people to have patience with every effort toward good, however weak,--patience with the poor, blinded world, with the "babes in Christ," with the slow and stupid, with the excitable and blundering, with the over-confident Peters and the skeptical Thomases. But to have patience or fellowship with "the unfruitful works of darkness" and sin, is the perversion of this grace; for these, wherever found, should be promptly and sharply reproved and rebuked according to their evil intent; with patience, nevertheless, toward the repentant prodigals, and always with meekness.
It is noticeable that the Lord seems to forewarn his people of great need of patience in the "harvest" or end of this age: patience toward fellow men and patience, in the warfare against evil, and in waiting for the Lord's time and method of setting right the wrongs of "the present evil world." The poor world, lacking faith, fortitude, knowledge of the divine plan and patience will fall a ready prey to unrest and anarchy in the near future. The Word of the Lord to his people is,--"Ye have need of patience."
The fifth addition is godliness, godlikeness, piety, --that devout, controlling reverence for God which yields a hearty, cheerful, loving conformity to his will --fervency of spirit in serving the Lord. This is a later development and vital element in the Christian character. Piety, godliness, springs spontaneously from appreciative and grateful hearts, whose delight is in the law of the Lord, in meditation upon his precepts and promises, and in secret communion with God in prayer and praise. Loving, cheerful activity must result from such an inner life; for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh, and the whole being is quickened to new life. Only those who have a living faith in God, and who are fortifying their characters against evil and growing in knowledge and self-control and patience are prepared to appreciate the grandeur of the divine character; and only such are really energized by a desire for God-likeness.
The sixth addition is brotherly kindness, which of necessity grows out of godliness. As God-like-ness presupposes the other graces mentioned, so its development implies an appreciation of divine justice and beneficence, and will broaden and deepen our sentiments toward all the well-disposed, however imperfect, and especially will it enlarge our hearts to all who are of the household of faith--"the brethren."
The seventh addition is charity, love,--the bond of perfectness which unites all the other graces, and as a name stands for them all.
Love to God alone is not the full manifestation of this grace; nor can there be, according to the teachings of God's Word, a sincere love for God, without a corresponding love to man: "If a man say, I love God," says the Apostle John, "and hateth his brother, he is a liar, for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?" (`1 John 4:20`.) And Jesus said, "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another."--`John 13:35`.
It is the abounding of these graces of character added to our faith in Christ as our Redeemer and Savior that insures the soul against the possibility of falling: "If ye do these things, ye shall never fall." The contingency is not in the doing of these things perfectly, and regardless of the righteousness of Christ to cover our transgressions and compensate for our daily shortcomings; but if, added to our faith in the imputed righteousness of Christ, we have cultivated all these graces to the extent of our ability, we shall not fall. When we have done all that we can do, we are still unprofitable servants, not daring to trust in our own righteousness, but in the ample robe which is ours by faith in Christ, while, with consistent "diligence," we work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, knowing that the righteousness of Christ is only applied to such as desire to forsake sin and to pursue that "holiness without which no man shall see the Lord."-- `Heb. 12:14`.
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ENOCH, ELIJAH AND THE SENTENCE.
THE ANSWER to the following query may interest others than the inquirer:--
"Since 'death passed upon all men,' because of Adam's sin; and since all had to be redeemed before they could escape from that death sentence, how came it that Enoch and Elijah escaped from it before the redemption-price was paid?"
We answer, that they did not escape, but were still under the sentence of death until the ransom was paid. The execution of the sentence was deferred in their cases, and their lives prolonged; but they would eventually have died had they not been redeemed. After father Adam was sentenced he lived nearly a thousand years, but under his particular sentence he could not have lived more than a thousand years; because the sentence read, "In the day that thou eatest thereof, dying thou shalt die." And since "a day with the Lord is as a thousand years" (`2 Pet. 3:8`), his death was fixed to take place within that "day." But God left the way open to make types of Enoch and Elijah, and hence, so far as they and the remainder of
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the human family were concerned, no limit of time for the execution of the sentence was fixed. If, therefore, it pleased God to have it so, they might have continued to live for thousands of years, under the death sentence, without dying. In Elijah's case, altho he was translated, it is not said that he did not die afterward. His translation made a type, as we have seen (MILLENNIAL DAWN, VOL. II., Chapter viii.), and he may have died and been buried afterward, unknown to men, as was Moses.--`Deut. 34:6`.
But with Enoch the case was different, as we are expressly told that he did not die. In his case, therefore, it is evident that the execution of the sentence was deferred, but there is no evidence that it was annulled. He, therefore, remained under that sentence of death until he was ransomed by our Lord's death. As a member of the fallen race, he was an imperfect man, and altho redeemed, and altho a restitution to human perfection is provided for him in the divine plan, we are not certain that he is yet a perfect man. For the Apostle seems to teach that none of those whose faithfulness was attested before the Gospel call was made will be made perfect until after Christ and his bride are made perfect. He says (`Heb. 11:39,40`), after enumerating many of the ancient worthies, Enoch included, `verse 5`, "These all, having obtained witness through faith, received not the promise [everlasting life, etc.], God having provided some better thing [priority of time as well as of honor and position] for us [the Gospel Church], that they [the ancient worthies] without us [apart from us] should not be MADE PERFECT." And since the Church, the body of Christ, has not yet been perfected in glory, it is but a reasonable inference that wherever Enoch is and however happy and comfortable he may be, he is not yet made a perfect man, and will not be until all the members of the body of Christ have first been made perfect in the divine nature.
As to where God took Enoch, we may not know, since God has not revealed that. Should we speculate as to whether God took him to some other world, and for what purpose, it would be but an idle speculation. We may not be wise above what is written. We may be certain, however, that Enoch did not go to heaven --the spiritual state or condition--for such is the record: "No man hath ascended up to heaven but he that came down from heaven--even the Son of Man." (`John 3:13`.) Elijah is said to have ascended to heaven; but, from our Lord's statement above quoted, that must be understood to refer to the air--as, when it is said that "the fowl fly in the midst of heaven:" it certainly cannot refer to the heavenly condition, which flesh and blood cannot enter nor even see without a change of nature, which change has been promised only to the Gospel Church.
Understanding, as above shown, that Enoch was preserved from actual dissolution in death--altho, already under that sentence, legally dead (`Rom. 5:12`; `Matt. 8:22`) until the ransom-price for all was paid by our Lord's death--we can see that there will now be no necessity for his dissolution, but that when the due time shall have come he may be fully and completely restored from even the measure of human imperfection he had inherited to full, perfect manhood.
So, too, it will be with those of the world who will be living when the "times of restitution" are fully ushered in: it will not be necessary for them to go into the tomb. For altho they are already legally dead, in that condemnation (or sentence) to "death passed upon all men," yet their penalty has also been legally met by another, Christ. He now holds the judgment against all, but graciously offers to cancel it entirely for each one who will accept restitution to life and perfection on the conditions of the New Covenant.
As during this Gospel age the Church, altho once, under sentence, they were dead in trespasses and sins, are reckoned as freed from condemnation, as justified, and as having passed from death unto life when they accept Christ's merit under the New Covenant, so it will be in the Millennial age with those of the world who, upon learning it, accept God's offer of life. They also will be reckoned as having passed from death unto life--as tho they had been utterly dead and then been awakened. So complete is the reckoning that those who then sin wilfully, and forfeit their reckoned life, die the second death, altho they all may not actually have died before. And indeed so too it is now with the Gospel Church--if after we, through faith in Christ, are reckoned as no longer dead, but alive toward God through Jesus Christ, we were to sin wilfully, intentionally, we would thus bring upon ourselves again (a second time) the full penalty of sin, death, and this would be the second death.
But while there are such similarities between the Lord's methods now and in the next age for justification to life, or passing from death unto life reckonedly, there are very different arrangements for the two ages or the actual passing out of death into life, when the trial of each is finished. The Church of the Gospel age walks by faith entirely, and not by sight. Her trial occurs before the actual setting up of the Kingdom, and hence each one, as he finishes his course, must wait for the crown of life. They "all die like men," and the world recognizes no difference. But while they actually die the same as other men, God keeps up the reckoned difference between those who have accepted his offer of life and become his children and others who have not done so. Hence in Scripture
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believers are not said to be dead, but to be sleeping until the "morning," when, according to God's prearranged plan, such shall have actually and in full measure the life now reckoned as theirs under God's covenant in Christ. Thus our Lord spoke of Lazarus and others as sleeping, and the Apostle's writings refer to "those who sleep in Jesus." And the Scriptures,
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throughout, preserve the same sentiment, saying,-- "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning;" "I shall be satisfied when I awake in thy likeness," etc. The only exceptions to this "sleeping" are particularly mentioned by the Apostle, when he says, "We shall not all sleep, altho we must all be changed." Those living in the time when our Lord begins to take his great power and reign, altho they all must die, because consecrated even unto death, yet they will not "sleep," their "change" to spirit-being coming in the moment of dying. And in this blessed time (according to the evidences presented in MILLENNIAL DAWN, VOL. II. and III.) we believe we have been living since April, 1878 A.D. What a blessing this is we find stated by our Lord,--"Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from henceforth--yea, saith the spirit, they rest from their labors [from weariness, etc.], but their works [not discontinued in a sleep of death] follow with them."--`Rev. 14:13`.
But during the Millennial age it will be somewhat different. Those who accept the New Covenant will no more get the perfect life instantly than we do now. They will get it at the end of the Millennial age, as we get it at the end of the Gospel age. Yet not just the same; for the Gospel Church, as we have seen, has waited in the sleep of death for the close of the age and the reward of the perfect life, while the faithful of the Millennial age, instead of dying, will gradually improve in health--mental, moral and physical--until perfection will be reached by all such, at the close of the Millennial age. Meantime, those who sin wilfully against full light and full ability will be accounted to have committed the sin unto death; and death to such, even if born in the Millennium, will be the second death.
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"BECAUSE JESUS WAS NOT YET GLORIFIED."
A READER inquires for the evidence that our Lord Jesus has yet been glorified as we have taught in MILLENNIAL DAWN. He says, "From the `Song of Solomon (2:10`) and other places I gather the thought that he (our Beloved) is just as anxious for the marriage as we (the Church) are;" and quotes from `Rom. 8:17` and `Col. 3:4`, "glorified together," as proof that our Lord Jesus will not be glorified until the Church is completed and glorified. He refers to `Heb. 1:6`,-- "When he bringeth again the first begotten into the world he saith--Let all the angels of God worship him," and holds that it will be fulfilled at the second advent of Christ.
We reply, that the matter is settled beyond all peradventure by the text which we use as the caption of this article,--"The holy spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified." So says the inspired Apostle. (`John 7:39`.) Hence, when, about fifty days afterward (after our Lord had finished his sacrifice and had been raised from the dead by the Father's power, and had ascended up on high there to appear in the presence of God on our behalf), the holy spirit was poured out upon the Church, at Pentecost, it became a sure indication that at that time our Lord had been glorified. Notice this point distinctly. If the holy spirit was not given before, because Jesus was not yet glorified, it PROVES that when it was given, a little later, he had been glorified.
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Come now, and see the picture of his own glorification, given to us by our Lord, through his servant John. (`Rev. 1:1`.) It is recorded in `Rev. 5`. He that sits upon the throne is Jehovah. The scroll in his right hand is his plan for human redemption, sealed from all until the one "worthy" to carry out to completion its details should be found and proved "worthy." The inquiry, "Who is worthy to open the book [scroll] and to loose the seals thereof?" had long been made: for four thousand years, from the giving of the promise that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head, it had been the query--Who shall be esteemed, by Jehovah God, to be worthy to perform his gracious purposes, and thus be honored above all others as the Servant (messenger) of the New Covenant of grace?
When silence prevailed, and none was found worthy either in heaven or on earth (representing the condition of things prior to the first advent), John began to weep, saying to himself: Alas! tho God has some gracious and wise plans for the welfare of his creatures, we may never know them, because none is found worthy to know or to execute them. So it was that even our Lord Jesus, prior to the finishing of his sacrifice, as he then declared, did not know all about the Father's plans, and times, and seasons.--`Mark 13:32`.
But John's tears were soon dried, when the angel declared, "Weep not, for the Lion of the tribe of Judah hath prevailed [hath overcome, so as to be accepted and declared worthy] to open the scroll and to loose the seals thereof." We know well who is meant; and the further unfolding of the panoramic vision leaves no doubt. Jesus our Lord is symbolized by a slain
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lamb restored to life, and to him was given the wonderful scroll which represents the divine plans, with authority and power to accomplish them all. Then (after his resurrection and ascension to the right hand of the Father) he was glorified and received a name above every name; then all the angels of God worshiped him; then their thousands of thousands and myriads of myriads sang a new song, saying, "Thou art worthy to take the scroll and to loose the seals; because thou wast slain, and didst redeem* unto God with thy blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation." "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, to receive the power, and wealth, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing." And when to him was thus given a name above every name, all the holy ones bowed and offered sweet incense of prayer and homage; because God had honored him by delivering to him the scroll of wisdom, and the power and authority to execute all of its provisions. He is worthy; and the Apostle declares that it is now, therefore, God's will that all "should honor the Son even as they honor the Father."--`Acts 5:31`; `Phil. 2:9-11`; `John 5:23`.
Since his glorification the Lamb has been breaking the seven seals and thus opening the divine plan before men and angels, and we now living are privileged to share this knowledge more abundantly than others,-- because, the last seal having been broken, the scroll is open to all who follow the Lamb in love and obedience and meekness; and "the mystery of God is [about] finished."--`Rev. 10:7`.
Further evidence on this subject is unnecessary; the testimony that our Lord was glorified, and invested with honor and power and dominion at his ascension, is overwhelming. His promise to his followers is that, as he overcame and was glorified to share the Father's throne (glory, dignity, power), even so they, if faithful, will be glorified to share his throne (glory, honor).
The sense of `Heb. 1:4-6` (Diaglott) is that, when God had glorified Christ, mankind in general knew it not, but when, as God's messenger, he is again presented to men, at his second advent, it will be in full demonstration that all the angels of God (all of God's holy ones) worship, reverence and obey him. And in the expression, we shall be "glorified together" the word "together" does not mean simultaneously, at the same instant, but harmoniously, to share the same glory. In proof of this, note the context (see Diaglott); the suffering "with him" or "together" does not mean that we suffer at the same time, but that we share the same kind of suffering, for the same cause of faithfulness to God, and that in due time we shall be glorified "together;" i.e., in the sense of sharing the same glory wherewith our Lord has already been glorified.
This glorification or instalment in honor and power should not, however, be confounded with the change which occurred at our Lord's resurrection; by which he was raised a spiritual being of the highest order, the divine nature. As the human body was termed a "body of humiliation," so his spirit body is termed "a glorious body." This, however, has nothing whatever to do with the glory or majesty of office to which our Lord was introduced fifty days later, when "he ascended up on high" and was received as a sharer of the Father's throne. The latter glory and majesty is shortly to be made manifest to men,--"The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together." But they will not see the Lord's glorious person, as our Lord declared before he died,--"Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more."
Likewise the Church, the "overcomers," his "body," his "bride," will in their resurrection change be granted spiritual and glorious bodies (`1 Cor. 15:42-44`) and afterward "see him [the Lord] as he is" and be caused to share his glory, to sit with him in his throne.
*Oldest MS., with evident propriety, omits us, since the angels were not redeemed.
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"Let a man so account of us as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required in stewards that a man be found faithful."--`1 Cor. 4:1,2`.
WE HAVE heretofore called attention to the fact that every member of the anointed body, the Church of Christ, is anointed to preach the gospel, the good tidings of the Kingdom of peace. See our commission as recorded by `Isaiah (61:1-3`) and quoted by our Lord in partial application to himself, the Head of the anointed body. (`Luke 4:16-21`.) Paul, in the above text, points to the same thing, having special reference to himself and Apollos and Cephas (Peter), and a general reference to all who are Christ's. (`1 Cor. 3:21-23`.) He would have us each remember that we are the divinely commissioned and ordained ministers (servants) of Christ, as Jesus also taught, saying to all who are branches in the true Vine,--"Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit." (`John 15:16`.) He also said, "Ye are the light of the world" and "the salt of the earth."
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The presence of this anointed body in the world is therefore for a purpose, a benevolent purpose toward, and in the interest of, the world, even in the present life, tho their great and most successful ministry will be in the age to come, when exalted to power and great glory as kings and priests unto God. Tho the world at present knows not God and is not subject to the law of God, nevertheless, God in his abounding grace so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son to redeem them, and by and by, under the righteous reign of his Millennial Kingdom, he will restore and bless them, and the good news of this redemption and the coming Kingdom he would have testified to them even now, as he says,--"This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations, and then shall the end [of this age] come" (`Matt. 24:14`); and in the coming age the fruit of this testimony will appear. The same testimony also serves the further ordained purpose of gathering out of the world a people for his name (`Acts 15:14`), to be associated with Christ in the great work of the Kingdom, of restoring "all things" and blessing "all the families of the earth." Being anointed with the holy spirit, and ordained as ministers of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God, it is not merely our mission to live harmless lives--simply to abstain from violence, dishonesty, slander, etc.--so that men can say of us that we never abused or cheated or ill-used them. This negative goodness is, of course, one side of a righteous character, and one without which no man is righteous; but more, much more, than this is required of a steward of God. There must be a positive, as well as a negative, goodness. This we find exemplified in the case of our Lord Jesus, who was not only "holy, harmless, undefiled and separate from sinners," but who also "went about doing good" and was abundant in good works.--`Acts 10:38`; `2:22`.
It is this positive element of character and the recognized obligation to activity that are specially implied in the term "steward," while the appointment by the Lord to such an office is also a recognition by him of those elements of a righteous character without which no one is eligible to the office. A steward, therefore, is not a person of merely harmless character, or one who is contented carefully to fold away in a napkin the talents entrusted to his care, so that the Lord, on his return, may find his own just as he left it, but he is one who makes a diligent and business-like appropriation of his one or many talents in the Master's service, so that, at the time of reckoning, the Lord may not only find his own, but also as large an increase as possible, in evidence of the zeal and faithfulness of his appointed steward.
The Apostle also says, "Moreover, it is required in stewards that a man be found faithful. Thus we see that the entire body of Christ is called, not to indolent, self-complacent ease, but to diligent and enterprising activity; and not in the spirit of a hireling, with eye-service as men pleasers, but with the intelligent, loving interest and zeal of sons and heirs of God, of ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. It is indeed "required" of stewards to be thus active in the divine service, and the Lord will not count us faithful if we simply be good and make little or no effort to do good; and even he who has only one talent is not excusable in folding that one talent away in a napkin, or in hiding it in the earth. (`Matt. 25:24-28`; `Luke 19:20-24`.) It is, therefore, most important for every one to consider what are his talents, how they are employed, and whether his course of service is day by day approved of God as faithful.
In thus endeavoring to view ourselves as God views us, it is important that we remember that not only the great talents, such as large ability, mental or physical, large opportunities of time and circumstance, or command of means, are noted by the Lord, but also that the small things are never overlooked by him. Call to mind the Lord's teaching that even a cup of cold water given to a disciple because he is a disciple shall not lose its reward; that the poor widow's two mites were more highly esteemed than the larger offerings of the rich; and when we thus perceive that the Lord is judging according to the thoughts and intents of the heart, the humblest saint can see ample opportunities to prove himself a faithful steward.
This also calls to mind the statement of the Apostle Paul (`1 Cor. 12:22,17-19`), "Those members of the body which seem to be more feeble are necessary." How true! As in the illustration, by far the larger proportion of the members are such; and their office in the body is just as necessary as that of the more notable members, for, "If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members, every one of them, in the body, as it hath pleased him. And if they were all one member, where were the body?"
What a blessed thought to every one who realizes himself a member of the body of Christ, that he has a place and an office in the body to which God himself has wisely appointed him, and that that place and office belong to no one else. It may now seem a humble place, but it is nevertheless an important, a necessary place; and in filling that place as a wise and faithful steward he is approved of God, and by and by will be exalted to his Kingdom and glory.
We know of some of these dear saints in the obscure places of the Lord's vineyard, quietly and lovingly doing with their might what their hands or heads or hearts find to do, and doing it so bravely, so nobly and so well; and yet in their humility they are apparently all unconscious of the halo of that beauty of holiness they are shedding around them to the honor of him whose name they bear. Praise God for all these evidences of his grace and these fruits of his training and discipline! They are lights in dark places, tho generally, as in the case of our Lord, the darkness comprehends it not. Yet, nevertheless, there is produced by these lights an effect which men feel and which God will not overlook. M. F. RUSSELL.
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THE CONFERENCE AT JERUSALEM.
--MAY 23.--`ACTS 15:1-6,22-29`.--
"Through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they."--`Acts 15:11`.
CIRCUMCISION was given to Abraham and his posterity as a sign or mark by which they attested faith in the divine promises. It was obligatory upon every Jew who would maintain his relationship to the divine promises, and it is still obligatory upon that nation. (`Gen. 17:14`.) We are not to forget, however, that a Jew, no less than a Gentile, is reckoned as losing earthly nationality in becoming a Christian. To all such, "old things pass away, all things become new." They are thenceforth "new creatures" in Christ Jesus, members of the "holy nation."
Inasmuch as circumcision in the flesh as a mark in the flesh had been observed for over eighteen centuries by all recognized as God's people, it should not surprise us to find that some of the early Christians, previously Jews, concluded that it was still obligatory upon all who had become children of God. All the broad distinctions between the Law Covenant and the New Covenant were not clearly distinguished at first,--even the apostles appear for a time not to have distinguished clearly on all points. Nevertheless, the Lord had held them, as the special guides of the new dispensation, and had prevented their making any declaration on the subject, until in his due time the matter was brought clearly to their attention; and then they were guided aright.
The Apostle Paul seems to have been the first to get a broadly comprehensive view of the lengths and breadths and heights and depths of the New Covenant provisions; and we are not to forget that he was probably helped miraculously to this clearness of perception by being granted "visions and revelations" more than all the others. Barnabas, his companion in the missionary tour, was naturally the first to share this knowledge, and was evidently in full sympathy with the Apostle Paul in resisting the teachings of certain Jews who attempted to Judaize the erstwhile Gentiles who chiefly constituted the Antioch Church. That that Church was in good spiritual health is evidenced by the fact that they were anxious to have the truth, whatever it might be. Accordingly they requested that Paul and Barnabas and certain of their company might consult with the apostles and elders at Jerusalem respecting the propriety of circumcision and the general observance of the Mosaic law on the part of those who were not Israelites by birth. And this plan was followed.
It was now nearly twenty years since our Lord's resurrection; and as a result of the efforts put forth by believers, Christians were now to be found in little groups throughout Asia-Minor and Syria. The brethren made use of the journey to Jerusalem as an opportunity to refresh the hearts of God's people in the various cities enroute, and these fellow Christians in turn gladly entertained them as members of the Lord's body;--setting a good example of hospitality.
Arrived at Jerusalem, they were warmly welcomed by the apostles and friends of the truth who had heard much concerning their missionary journey and its good results. Evidently, before they got to a statement of the real object of their visit, a class similar to those who had gone down to Antioch took exceptions to the method which the brethren had used amongst the Gentiles. They probably inquired, Were all the believing Gentiles whom you evangelized commanded to be circumcised, and instructed that they should keep the law of Moses? This opened up the question at once, and led to the announcement that the settlement of this question was the very object of their visit. Accordingly a council of the apostles and elders was called.
`Verses 7-21` give probably but a small portion of the discussion. It would seem that the question, What is the responsibility of converts amongst the Gentiles toward the law of Moses? had never come up for consideration previously, and the apostles, it would appear, were without very positive convictions until they began to discuss the subject. Peter, one of the oldest of the disciples, and a man of strong character, pointed out that God had made choice of him as the one who should be first to open the gospel door to the Gentiles; how Cornelius was the first of these converts, and how God poured out the holy spirit upon him and thus recognized him as a son and joint-heir with Christ, while as yet he was uncircumcised, thus proving that circumcision was not essential to divine reconciliation and sonship in the household of faith under the New Covenant. He doubtless also called attention to the fact that our Lord, who instructed them to teach all nations and to baptise those who believed, gave no instructions in reference to circumcision or any of the commands of the Mosaic law. He argued, therefore, that they had no right to put upon the Gentiles, as a yoke of bondage, the law of Moses, which God had not put upon them, but only upon the Jews, and which the Jews found it impossible to bear, and from which they (believing Jews) had to be liberated through the merit of Christ.
Then Paul and Barnabas told how God had greatly blessed their ministry amongst the Gentiles, performing many miracles, etc., and in every way attesting his blessing upon their work; and yet that work had nothing in it respecting obligation to Moses' law or
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God's command to Abraham and his seed--circumcision.
James, our Lord's brother, was the president or chairman of the meeting, and after hearing the foregoing coincided with Peter, Paul and Barnabas, adding to the argument by citing from the prophets evidences (1) that the Gentiles would be received into divine favor and (2) that the reception of the Gentiles was not to make of them Jews, but that, on the contrary, God had certain blessed provisions for the Jews to be fulfilled subsequently,--"After this, I will return and build again the tabernacle of David which is fallen down." Since Israel is to be recognized in the future by the Lord as distinct from the Gentiles, it follows that the particular national mark which distinguishes Jews from Gentiles was not to be abolished,--was not to be made general amongst Gentiles, even after they believed and became God's people.
The results of the conference were satisfactory to all present, and it was decided to send a statement of the results to the Antioch Church, both by writing and orally by Judas and Silas.
Probably only the substance of the letter is given in the brief recorded statement; but it is sufficient to show clearly that those who claim that the apostles were confused upon the subject so as almost to make a split in the Church, are greatly mistaken, for in so many words they positively declare that those who went out from them and troubled the Church at Antioch, almost unsettling their faith and peace with the statement, "Ye must be circumcised and keep the law," were not representatives of the apostles, and had received no such commandment or teaching from them. It is refreshing and strengthening to our faith to note that the Lord's promise, specially to bless and use the apostles and keep them from error in their teaching, was remarkably fulfilled, as in this case. Our Lord's words to them were, "Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven;" in other words, I will so particularly direct you that you will make no mistakes in respect to what you will command and in respect to what you will forbid.
The statement, "It seemed good to the holy spirit and to us," should not be lightly supposed to signify that the apostles "guessed at" the mind of the spirit, nor that they put their own judgment on a par with that of the holy spirit. We are to remember that they had special gifts of the spirit which guided them into the understanding of the Lord's will, and they merely assert here that not only was it the guidance of the holy spirit, but that they themselves were so in sympathy that they rejoiced that the holy spirit had not put the bondage of the law upon the Gentile converts.
The Christians at Antioch were already well instructed concerning the terms of the New Covenant, faith and the various added virtues and graces presented to us in the Pauline epistles. Such matters were not entered into by the council at Jerusalem nor referred to in the letter which they wrote in reply. The inquiry was merely respecting the obligation of the converts to be circumcised and keep the other features of the Mosaic law. The answer ignored every feature of that law, except four points; and the first three of these were mentioned no doubt as a basis of common fellowship between those who had been Jews and those who had been Gentiles; namely, (1) abstaining from meats that had been offered in sacrifice to idols; (2) abstaining from animal food that had not been killed after the manner of the Jews; (3) abstaining from the eating of blood. It would be almost impossible for those who had been reared as Jews to ignore these three points, and if the converts from the Gentiles did not observe them it would be a constant barrier to their social intercourse. Furthermore, the observance of the first restriction would be a benefit to those who were coming out of Gentile darkness, in that it would break them off from old customs which might be injurious. It was the custom among Gentiles at that time that much of the meat sold in their markets should first be offered in sacrifice to some idol. The Apostle Paul shows, however (`1 Cor. 8:4`), that, as an idol is nothing, the offering of the meat in the presence of nothing could do no harm to those who were able to understand the situation aright; but to others it might seem like sacrilege. He therefore advised the Church to abstain from eating meat offered to idols, lest it
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should make a brother to offend. The restriction as to the method of killing animals was that it should not be by strangulation, which would leave the blood in the veins, but by the Jewish method of bleeding them to death, which extracts the blood. Abstinence from the eating of blood in any form has probably also a sanitary reason back of it, in addition to a typical significance; for "the life is in the blood."
The mention of fornication was probably considered wise, for altho it should be understood as part of the law of Christ, yet nevertheless, since this evil was very common at that time amongst the Gentiles and in some cases even a part of their religious service, it was thought well to specify it.
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THE FAITH THAT WORKS.
--MAY 30.--`JAMES 2:14-23`.--
"I will show thee my faith by my works."--`James 2:18`.
MANY have supposed a conflict of opinion as between the Apostle Paul's teachings and the teachings of James respecting faith and works. We hold, however, that, rightly understood, their teachings are in fullest accord. The Jewish Law Covenant was emphatically a covenant of works, while the basis
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of acceptance under the New Covenant is faith. The law said, Do and live; the gospel says, Believe and live.
The Apostle Paul, writing to those who knew the law and who had been trained under it to expect everlasting life as a reward of faithful performance of the requirements of that law, was obliged to show that absolute obedience to that law is an impossibility as respects the fallen race of Adam; and hence that "by the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified in his [God's] sight." If, then, justification and eternal life could not be obtained by any through the works of the law, how could they be obtained? The Apostle proceeds to show that our Lord Jesus had kept the entire law blamelessly, that he thus had secured all the rewards promised to "him that doeth these things;" namely, everlasting life and all the divine blessings. The Apostle further shows that, while none can hope for eternal life through keeping the law, they may hope for it and obtain it in another way--not by doing works that would be approved under the Law Covenant, but by having a faith which would approve them under the New Covenant, and secure to them such measure of the covering of Christ's righteousness as might be necessary to compensate for all the deficiencies and imperfections of their natures which hindered them from performing the full demands of the law. Thus he tells us, "The righteousness of the law is fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh but after the spirit."
The Apostle Paul did not for a moment mean to say that a mere intellectual assent was sufficient. His teachings are in fullest accord with James' statement in this lesson, that a faith that produced no efforts or works toward righteousness would be a dead faith, a valueless faith--or worse, a condemning faith.
Nor should James here be understood to ignore faith, and to teach that works of the law would be able or sufficient to justify sinners or make them heirs of eternal life. It is probable that some in the early Church, having come to realize that Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth, and that we are "justified by faith in his blood," went to the opposite extreme, as some do to-day, claiming that the conduct of life is immaterial, if only the faith be maintained. It is probable that James had this class of persons in mind when writing this epistle. He therefore guards the reader on this point--not to think that a mere belief or faith, that makes no impression upon the life, and is unaccompanied by any efforts so to live as would be pleasing in God's sight, would be a faith of any vitality, or that would do any real good. On the contrary, that is the kind of belief that devils have.
As an illustration, he points out that, as a blessing unaccompanied by food would not satisfy a hungry person, so faith unaccompanied by works would accomplish nothing. If the challenge were put, "Show me thy faith without thy works," it would be very difficult to answer it. How could faith be shown, except by works? On the other hand, it would be taking a very proper position to say, "I will show thee my faith by my works."
Abraham is called the father of the faithful; and of him it is written, "Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness." But, as the Apostle points out, Abraham's faith was not of the kind that brought forth no fruitage of good works and obedience. On the contrary, God tested Abraham's faith, and his faith was proved an acceptable one by works of obedience; faith and works cooperated in his case, and must do so in every case, else the faith will not be acceptable.
The points to be kept clearly in mind in this lesson are (1) that no works which fallen men could do would be perfect works; consequently, none of them could be acceptable to God. (2) The Christian is acceptable to God through the exercise of faith under the terms of the New Covenant. It is this faith that counts in his acceptance, because he is unable to perform works that would be acceptable. (3) His acceptable faith must be proved by his efforts to do, so far as he may be able, the divine will. (4) Since works alone would not justify, and since faith must precede good works before they will be acceptable, and since the good works, when accepted, are not accepted on account of their own perfection, but on account of the faith which makes them acceptable, therefore it follows that it is the faith that justifies us where works could not justify us, and that the works do not set aside faith, but merely attest the genuineness of the faith.
There is a grand lesson here for all who desire to please God. It is our faith that is pleasing to him-- we at first having nothing else; but if the faith remains alone, without effort to produce fruits of righteousness in the life, it becomes a dead, a putrid thing, offensive to both God and man. He whose life is one of self-gratification and sin dishonors and injures any faith which he professes. Further, it is our experience that whoever fails to live in harmony with his faith will not be permitted to maintain it very long. It is to such as have some faith without corresponding efforts toward good works that the Lord sends "strong delusions that they may believe a lie."--`2 Thess. 2:11`.
Let us remember that the Lord's people are "living epistles known and read of all men;" that it is the works that are read rather than the faith, and hence the importance of the Golden Text, which should more and more be the sentiment of every follower of Christ, --"I will show thee my faith by my works."
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KEEP THY TONGUE FROM EVIL.
--JUNE 6.--`JAMES 3:1-13`.--
"Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile."--`Psa. 34:13`.
"BE NOT many teachers, my brethren, knowing that we shall receive heavier judgment" (Revised Version). Thus the Apostle indicates that what he has to say concerning the great influence of the tongue is directed largely to those amongst believers who attempt to be teachers; who have a greater responsibility than if they were not teachers. It is not his wish to deter those who have ability, a gift in this direction, but rather to caution all as to the responsibility of the position they thus take. If they possess an eloquent tongue it may be a channel for a great blessing, swaying large numbers to the Lord, the truth and the way of righteousness; or, on the other hand, if contaminated with error, the tongue can do almost untellable harm --injury to faith, to morals, to good works. It is indeed true, that whoever exercises the gift of teaching lays himself open to increased responsibility in the sight of God and men.--See `Matt. 5:19`; `Rom. 2:20,21`; `1 Pet. 5:3`; `Titus 1:11`; `1 Tim. 1:7`; `2 Tim. 4:3`; `2 Pet. 2:1`.
The warning in this lesson is not against the tongue itself, but against the power which we exercise upon others by the use of our tongues. Probably every person of experience will fully agree with the statement that the tongue is potent in its influence beyond any other member of the body, for either good or evil. Experience teaches also that with the vast majority it is easier to control any other organ than the tongue. So skilful a servant is it that every ambition and passion and inclination of the fallen nature seeks to use it as a servant or channel for evil. It requires, therefore, on the part of the Christian, increased vigilance, wisdom and care so to govern this member of his body and bring it into subjection to the new mind in Christ, that it shall be, not a hindrance to himself or to others, but, on the contrary, a help in the narrow way. As the bit in the horse's mouth will move and control his strength, and as the small rudder to a vessel will direct or change its course, so the tongue and the pen, its representative, may influence and turn about large numbers of people, for good or ill. How important, therefore, is the tongue, and how much more frequently do we find it employed as an agency for evil than as an agency for good, to pull down the faith rather than to build up the faith, to implant seeds of discord and discontent rather than those which will produce righteousness and peace! While this is specially true in the worldly, it is true to a considerable extent amongst God's people; and each should remember that to some extent he is a teacher, and day by day is either forwarding or hindering the cause of truth, righteousness and peace.
In the unregenerate world the tongue is indeed a "fire" causing no end of burning of wrath, envy, hatred, strife and everything that defileth the entire body, stimulating all the fallen passions and desires. No wonder the apostle declares figuratively that the tongue itself seems to be set on fire of gehenna--the second death. Its burning not only tends to bring its master but others to destruction.
In the statement, "Therewith bless we God, even the Father, and therewith curse we men, which are made in the likeness of God," we should not understand the writer to refer to himself and to the Church as using their tongues for such unholy purposes, but as speaking for the whole world, some use the tongue to praise God and some use it to blaspheme his holy name and to curse their fellow creatures. It is a willing servant in whatever direction it is guided; and hence the importance of having so important a servant and member rightly guided. Apparently, however, there were some in the Church who out of the same
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mouth rendered thanks to God and curses to fellow creatures--perhaps not often curses in the ordinary acceptation of the term, but curses in the sense of injurious words, which would lead to a baneful or cursed or evil condition; for every false teaching is a curse to those who receive it. In this sense of the word at least, many out of the same mouth send forth both good and evil influences. This is a wrong condition, and hence the importance of the warning, "My brethren, be not many teachers." Whoever would be a fountain from which would go forth the divine Word, carrying blessing and refreshment and strength, should see to it that bitter waters, false doctrines that would cause a curse, an injury--dishonoring God and perverting his Word--should not find in them a channel of utterance.
In the choice of leaders for meetings the "tongue" qualification, as here laid down should not be overlooked. The fiery tongued should not be chosen, but the meeker, the moderate, who "bridle" their tongues and endeavor carefully to "speak as the oracles of God" only. Such tongues constrain, while others more frequently wound and repel. The Word of the Lord is quick and powerful and sharp and cuts "to the heart" without bitter and acrimonious and uncharitable human expletives to enforce it. Hence the divine instruction that we "speak the truth in love."
The lesson closes with an exhortation to those who have the qualifications of teachers in the Church (wisdom and knowledge) to manifest themselves not merely by words and teachings, but also by godly lives and good works in meekness of wisdom.
While this lesson is pointed specially toward "teachers," it should be regarded by all. It is an old and true saying that "Kind words can never die," and it would be equally true to say, "Unkind words never die." Indeed, the latter live much the longer in a majority of cases--in worldly hearts especially. Let us each and all redouble our energy in subjugating our tongues, that they may always bless and "minister grace to the hearers."--Read `Eph. 4:29`.