ZWT - 1897 - R2084 thru R2237 / R2168 (157) - June 1, 1897
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VOL. XVIII. JUNE 1, 1897. No. 11.
"Raiment White and Clean".........................159
The "Little Flock" and the "Great
The Queen and Her Virgin
Post-Millennialism Makes a
Surrender Self-Will--Receive God's
Apostolic Advice to a Young Christian.............168
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ASPIRATIONS OF THE ROYAL PRIESTHOOD
O, let me give
Out of the gifts Thou givest;
O, let me live
With life abundantly because Thou livest;
O, make me shine
In darkest places, for Thy light is mine;
O, let me be
A faithful witness for Thy truth and Thee.
O, let me show
The strong reality of gospel story;
O, let me go
From strength to strength, from glory unto glory;
O, let me sing
For very joy, because Thou art my King;
O, let me praise
Thy love and faithfulness through all my days.
--Frances Ridley Havergal.
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"RAIMENT WHITE AND CLEAN."
"They shall walk with me in white [robes]; because they are worthy. The overcomer shall thus be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name in the presence of my Father, and in the presence of his angels."
UNDER the symbol of white raiment the Lord throughout his Word represents the righteousness of those whom he accepts as his people. Their righteousness in the future state will be a personal righteousness or holiness; and the guarantee of this is the promise that all who are accounted worthy, as "overcomers" of the world to be joint-heirs with Christ in the heavenly Kingdom, will in the resurrection be granted new, perfect, spiritual bodies, free from sin and impurity of every kind, and fully in harmony with their new wills or characters developed during the trial-time of this present life. That will be a time of which the Apostle speaks, saying,--"When that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall be done away." Those who attain to that glorious condition are symbolically represented as being clothed in white linen, representing their personal purity, completeness and perfection at that time: as it is written, "to her [the bride, the victorious Church] was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white; for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints."--`Rev. 19:8`.
Thus, seen, the Church in glory will stand arrayed in its own righteousness--the "righteousness of the saints;" but at the present time the saints have no righteousness of their own in which to present themselves at the throne of grace. As expressed by the prophet, "all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags." The very best of humanity, it must be confessed, are so imperfect in thoughts, words, and deeds as to be wholly unfit for a share in God's Kingdom or for any notice or favors at his hands. However, human necessities only made manifest the riches of divine grace and wisdom.
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It was for this very reason, because we were all defiled through sin, and unfit to approach into the divine presence, that God graciously provided, through the sacrifice of his Son, our Lord, a spotless robe of imputed righteousness, for all those who accept of him and the covenant of divine grace sealed with his precious blood. When by repentance and faith we desire to forsake sin and approach God, we are, by reason of obedient faith in the sacrifice, reckoned as covered before the divine eyes with the merit of him who "bought us with his own precious blood," which merit is symbolically represented as a linen garment, Christ's righteousness, instead of the filthy rags of our own righteousness. While covered by this robe, we may by faith exercise all the privileges and opportunities, which could be ours if the robe were actually our own --instead of merely a loaned or imputed robe, the property of our Redeemer. So long as by faith we are trusting in the great sacrifice for sin, and seeking to walk worthy of the Lord, this robe is ours, to have and to enjoy; but to lose this faith would be to lose all the advantages which come with the robe, and which continue only to the wearers.
The object of the granting of these robes at the present time (not to the whole world, but only to the true believers) is that they may constitute, for those who accept them, "wedding garments," giving the wearers a right to a place at the "marriage of the King's Son." This "wedding garment" (justification) is a prerequisite to an invitation to the marriage, or rather the receipt of it is itself the invitation to enter in and become participators in the present "sufferings of
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Christ" and in the future "joys of our Lord." And as no one can enter in to the marriage without first having received the robe, so any one who subsequently rejects this robe of Christ's righteousness and attempts to stand before his fellows or before the King without it, will be "cast out" of all the privileges and blessings which it secures. See parable of the wedding garment. --`Matt. 22:11-13`.
This "wedding garment" when presented to us is clean and white, representing the absolute purity and spotlessness of our Lord's holiness; and the instruction to each one who receives the robe is "to keep his garments unspotted from the world." This command is equivalent to our Lord's injunction, "Be ye perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect"--a standard to which we are seeking to attain, but whose absolute attainment in an imperfect body, and surrounded by the world, the flesh and the devil, is admitted in the Scriptures and proved by experience to be impossible. But, as the robe covers all the repented-of blemishes of the past, so it likewise covers the unintentional and unwitting imperfections of the present; so that only those things to which we give more or less of mental consent are reckoned as ours--either good or evil. Thus seen, under this arrangement it is possible for the Lord's people to walk so carefully, so circumspectly (looking all around) at every step, as to keep his garments unspotted from the world. But alas, how few there are, if any, who have ever lived up, in all the past of their lives, to this high standard,--so that at no time in all the past, since they accepted the robe of Christ's righteousness, could it be said of them, that in no sense of the word had they ever, either outwardly or mentally, given any degree of mental consent to anything that was sinful.
Seeing that the vast majority, if not all, have at some time or other given at least a partial mental assent to sin (however regretful and repentant of the thing they may afterward have been), and seeing that any such deflection from purity of heart would constitute a stain or spot upon our robe, we inquire with great concern, Is there any possibility of having such stains or spots removed and getting the robe white again? Thank God, yes; there is a way by which the spots and wrinkles may be removed from our robe and leave it once more as white and clean as at first. The stain remover is the "precious blood." As the Apostle says, "If we confess our sins he is just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
While all of our efforts (groaning of spirit, tears, fasting, etc.) could not remove a single stain, which the precious blood alone can remove; yet, nevertheless, it is expedient for ourselves that while realizing our Lord's forgiveness and the cleansing of the robe, we should promptly seek to discipline ourselves in repentance, fasting and tears: otherwise we may expect that while our Lord will hear our earnest prayers and cleanse our robe, he nevertheless would put upon us certain chastisements for our correction in righteousness and for the strengthening of our characters in respect to the points of weakness. The Apostle teaches thus, when he says, "If we would judge [correct, chastise] ourselves, then we should not be judged [corrected, chastised] of the Lord; but when we are judged of the Lord we are chastened, that we might not be condemned with the world."
While our robe covers all our unwilling personal blemishes and uncleanness in our Lord's sight, and in the sight of brethren who see each other from the Lord's standpoint, yet the Lord desires and requires that we shall come into such close sympathy with absolute purity and righteousness in thought, word and deed that we will "cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the reverence of God." (`2 Cor. 7:1`) And to this end he grants his sanctified (consecrated) and white robed ones the cleansing power of his truth, that thus his elect bride might be cleansed by "the washing of water, by the Word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing."-- `Eph. 5:26,27`.
But oh, how few of the consecrated have so great a love for purity, so great a desire to keep the garment unspotted from the world, that they are thus careful to have every wrinkle quickly removed, and thereafter to guard the robe more zealously than ever. Yet, these, and these alone, walk with the Lord in white and are overcomers, who in due time shall be glorified with him and sit with him in his throne--and it is their names that shall not be blotted out of the Lamb's book of life.
We are to understand from the Master's words that all who do not thus walk with him in white raiment are unworthy, shall not be joint-heirs in his Kingdom, will not be confessed as his bride and joint-heir in the presence of the Father and the holy angels, but on the contrary, will have their names blotted out of the Lamb's book of life--erased from amongst the names of the "elect" Church.
THE "LITTLE FLOCK" AND THE "GREAT COMPANY."
While the number of those who wear the robe of Christ's righteousness is, as compared with the numbers of the world, small indeed, yet how large a proportion of these are not walking in white, but have their robes greatly spotted by contact with the world, the flesh and the devil--by unfaithfulness or by carelessness, worldliness. We do not refer to those who deny the Lord and repudiate the ransom, thus taking
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off the wedding garment and standing with the world (or really in a worse condition than the world, in that they have rejected the grace of God): we refer to the true believers, who have made a full consecration of themselves to the Lord, and who for the sake of worldly advantages or earthly hopes or friendships or for the favors of nominal churches, are failing to live according to their covenant and privileges, and are thus, like Esau of old, selling their birthright (as new creatures in Christ) for a mess of pottage. Is there no hope for these, who fail to be overcomers, who fail to walk in white, who fail to gain the crown and the immortality to be bestowed only upon the "elect," "worthy," "overcomers?"
Yes, thank God! We rejoice that there is hope for these, because they have not cast off their wedding garments, even though they have gotten them sadly spotted and soiled by contact with the world. The class referred to are neither open nor wilful sinners, but those who unwisely are seeking to please and serve the Lord and to please and serve themselves and the world --"foolish virgins." They make a failure in every direction so far as pleasing is concerned: they do not please the Lord, they do not please themselves and they are not half satisfactory to the worldly. The only ground upon which divine favor can continue with them at all and could go after them to reclaim them is the merit of the robe of Christ's righteousness, which they still love and wear, although they have not loved it sufficiently to keep it unspotted. But, he who began the good work in them will continue it and perfect it for all who really love and trust him--even though it be completed in the great tribulation at the inauguration of the Millennium or "the day of Jesus Christ." (`Phil. 1:6`.) Since Christ became the surety for all who at heart still trust him, although not overcoming by complete self-sacrifice in full obedience to his instructions, it does not surprise us that he points out in his last communication to his Church how he will deal with this numerous class of his followers and how it will result to them,--altho he made no such proposition in their "call."
After telling of the sealing of the elect class, the spiritual Israel, the peculiar people zealous of good works, the little flock, the bride, the overcomers, a definite, predetermined number, "a hundred and forty and four thousand," gathered out of Babylon before the winds of the great tribulation are let loose upon the world, all of them bearing the seal or mark of God's favor in their foreheads--a noticeable intellectual evidence of divine favor, the impress of the spirit of the truth as well as the word of truth, our Lord shows us the "great multitude" of his followers,
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"whose number no man is able to tell" (that is, it is not a foreordained or fixed number,--none were called to be of this company), who will eventually stand before the Lord "clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands," crying, "salvation to our God which sitteth on the throne and unto the Lamb." Who are these who are not of the bride, the elect class, the overcomers, is the question? The answer is "These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple."-- `Rev. 7:9,10,13-15`.
The marks of distinction between this "great company" and the "little flock" are very pronounced, both as respects their present course and their future blessing. The faithful overcomers watch and keep their garments unspotted from the world. And this is given as one of the special conditions of acceptance as "overcomers" to joint-heirship with the Lord--"they have not defiled their garments." (`Rev. 3:4`.) They have kept "their garments unspotted from the world." They have not been willing to permit sin to contaminate them and to separate them from the Lord, but have quickly applied for and obtained the precious blood to remove every stain. They are so heartily opposed to sin and so earnest about the keeping of this garment unspotted that the adversary gets no hold upon them-- "the wicked one catcheth them not." (`1 John 5:18`.) All of this indicates a full submission of their wills to the will of Christ--they are "dead with him," and hence could not willingly practice sin. Their reward is the crown of life, immortality, to be seated in the throne, and to constitute the temple of which our Lord is the cap-stone, the chief corner-stone. Now contrast with these the "great company:" lacking the intense love and zeal of the overcomers, they do not keep their garments with sufficient care, and as a result they lose all the rewards promised the overcomers; and, having failed in the race, they would get nothing, if it were not for our Lord's grace.
But God's grace cannot admit to heavenly perfection those who have not robes of spotless righteousness; and hence we are shown that these who have not cared for their garments and kept them white must be put through a severe experience before they can in any sense of the word be sharers of heavenly favors. These severe experiences are shown in the symbol as washing their robes in a great tribulation. But to show that not the penances or sufferings would cleanse the robes, tho these might be necessary as proper punishments and disciplines, it is particularly stated that the efficacy for the cleansing is the "blood of the Lamb." Many will thus be purged, purified, and their garment, now sullied by contact with the world, often in the garb of
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nominal Churchianity, will be cleansed of every guilty stain, when they, realizing the folly of their course, shall repentantly appeal to the Lord and use his help.
But sad disappointments attach to the experiences of this company: it is because they fear the reproaches of Christ that they shirk present privileges and opportunities for walking with him in white in the "sufferings of this present time:" behold, they not only miss the present joy and rejoicing of those who are faithful, but eventually they must come through still greater sufferings, if they would attain even to a lower place. Although loving the Lord and his people they are somewhat ashamed of them and hide, as it were, their faces from them, in the presence of the worldly: and behold the Master at his coming for his "bride" cannot confess their names in the presence of the Father and the holy angels. The little flock is informed of the Bridegroom's care, and obediently watching she shall be "accounted worthy to escape all those things coming upon the world" (including the great tribulation), but the "great company," although the Lord's people, in that they have not rejected him, must be treated like the hypocrites and pass through the great tribulation in order to their purification. These, be it observed, are not a class who in any sense repudiate the Lord, they are not of those who "draw back" from the Lord, for in such he declares he has "no pleasure" (`Heb. 10:38`): and the Apostle declares that such "draw back unto perdition"--Second death. On the contrary, these are still "virgins," but foolish in that they are vainly trying to please and serve both God and mammon. They are wasting precious opportunities trying to find an easier way of following their Lord than "being made conformable unto his death."
We rejoice that ultimately these will sing praises to the Lord, and be glad in his wondrous grace. But we notice that even after their robes will be washed white in the time of trouble by the blood of the Lamb and in much tribulation, they wear no crowns as overcomers; but, having finally overcome, they are granted palms as emblems of their victory through Christ; and although they can never be the living temple of which Christ is the Head, we are told they shall be servants in that temple; and although they shall never sit in the throne, they are highly privileged to serve "before the throne." Grand and glorious privileges will be theirs, but Oh, they will lose the great prize, having sold it for the mess of pottage of present seeming advantage, which proves unsatisfying and brings bitter after results. What exhortation to holiness, to complete consecration to his will, could be stronger than this supplied by our Lord's statement of the results of more and of less faithfulness?
Probably the majority of this "great company" of tribulation saints are living to-day; for at no time in the past was there the same degree of knowledge of God and his Word, except in the early Church of apostolic times: never did so many profess to be the Lord's by consecration; and never were there so many subtle seductions from the "narrow way" of self-sacrifice. In centuries past the cleavage between the Lord's people and the world's people was much more distinct than to-day: persecution was more open and recognized, and while fewer named the name of Christ, they counted and appreciated the cost, as the larger number of to-day do not. (We of course ignore the professions and "great swelling words" of antichrist.) However, there was a great time of trouble in the end of the Jewish age in which many unclean may have been permitted to wash their robes white in the blood of the Lamb. And since then our Lord has not been without the power to bring as many as he chose through great tribulations for purification. Since the "overcomers" suffer with Christ voluntarily and the "great company" suffer because of Christ involuntarily, it might be difficult, if not impossible, for any except the Lord and the sufferers to know whether they suffered as self-sacrificers or as unwilling "tribulation" saints: but in the end of this age it will be different; for the overcomers will be taken to glory before the closing tribulation is fully poured out upon "Babylon."
THE QUEEN AND HER VIRGIN COMPANIONS.
It is appropriate that we should remind ourselves afresh of the beautiful suggestion laid before us through the prophet David respecting the wedding garment of the bride. (`Psa. 45:9-14`.) Here the Lord, through the prophet, tells us that the bride as the Queen shall be presented before the King in "raiment of fine needle work" as well as in "clothing of wrought gold." The gold clothing, as we have heretofore seen, represents the immortality (an element of the divine nature) with which the Church shall be invested in her resurrection glory. The raiment of fine needle work can be none other than the fine linen garment, clean and white, mentioned in Revelation. But here we have the additional suggestion given, that this garment will be finely embroidered.
The robe that was merely loaned to us at first, and which constituted our invitation to the marriage, to joint-heirship with the King's Son, was not at first our own, it was merely loaned or imputed to us. But it became a permanent gift from the Bridegroom to as many as accepted the invitation to union with him; and examining it carefully, they found upon it in delicate outline a stamping in graceful lines, corresponding to the richly embroidered robe worn by the King's Son. The suggestion of copying his robe was not only thus
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hinted at, but it was plainly declared that all who would be accounted worthy to be his "elect" companions, should in all respects be copies of the Bridegroom. --`Rom. 8:29`.
The careful setting of the stitches in the embroidering of this wedding garment has been the chief duty and constant occupation of the espoused virgin while waiting for the nuptial feast, at the return of the Bridegroom. True, much of the embroidering now done by us is very imperfect, because of first, our unskillfulness, secondly, our imperfections, and thirdly the disturbing influences about us (the world, the flesh and the devil). Nevertheless, we can well understand that it is the blessing of experience that is designed, and that every painstaking effort is strengthening character, and bringing us into fuller sympathy with our Lord; and that he, when he inspects his Church, will take pleasure in even our imperfect results, if they give evidence that we have bestowed effort, because desirous of bringing all into conformity with his will; and he will accept of our imperfect work as tho it were perfect, and in the resurrection he will grant us ideal bodies with ideal powers and the ideal character embroidered perfectly upon the new robe, which will be ours through his grace.
And even here, the great company, the foolish virgins, not worthy to be the bride, and hence rejected from that place of the "elect," are nevertheless pictured,
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in `verses 14 and 15`--"The virgins her [the Queen's] companions that follow her shall be brought to thee, with gladness and rejoicing shall they be brought [even tho it be through great tribulation they shall ultimately shout Hosanna!]; they shall enter into the King's palace."
Please read here the poem of page 120, POEMS AND HYMNS OF DAWN.
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"Now faith is a basis of things hoped for, a conviction of things unseen."--`Heb. 11:1`.
THE CHRISTIAN life is a life of faith. Its first step is a step of faith, and its last step is the triumph of faith. All its victories are victories of faith, and its joys are the joys of faith. In the above text the Apostle speaks of faith as a basis of hope, as something substantial upon which hope may build. Hope is not faith; but hope is that buoyant, gladsome thing that is born of faith. A hope that is not based upon faith is a mere idle fiction which has no substantial comfort in it. Faith is the basis or substance out of which the living hope springs and grows naturally. Faith, then, must be a reasonable thing, well founded in that which is fixed, immovable, sure and steadfast, even in the word of God which liveth and abideth forever. --`1 Pet. 1:23`.
Such faith is not a matter of the intellect alone, altho the intellect has much to do with it. It is also a matter of the heart--"With the heart man believeth unto righteousness." If the heart be not right toward God, the intellect is easily biased toward its own preferences, which, in the carnal mind, are contrary to the righteousness of God; and so, the heart being wrong, the mind gropes in darkness concerning those things which pertain to eternal life and godliness.-- "The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be" (`Rom. 8:7`); and, therefore, to such God does not, and cannot, reveal the treasures of his wisdom and grace.
We are taught that "without faith it is impossible to please God" (`Heb. 11:6`); and further that "faith without [corresponding] works [which attest its genuineness] is dead." (`Jas. 2:17`.) "What advantage," inquires James, "has any one, tho he say he has faith, but have not works? This faith is not able to save him." (`Jas. 2:14`--Diaglott.) And if faith without works is of no advantage, the inference is plain that without works it is equally impossible to please God. Yet, we may have both faith (or what often passes for faith) and works (corresponding with it) and not be pleasing to God. The faith not well founded, together with the works built upon it, is likely to be swept away when the storms and floods of trial beat upon it as upon a house built of wood, hay and stubble and resting on the shifting sand. It is all-important, therefore, that we have the right kind of faith, and that our works should be the outgrowth of that faith.
What, then, is faith? We answer, True faith is the reasonable and accepted conclusion of a logical argument based upon a reasonable premise or foundation. And more, it is the only reasonable conclusion to which such a logical argument could lead. Thus, reasoning on the principle of cause and effect, a principle firmly established in all the operations of natural and moral law, we see in the whole realm of nature the evidences of an intelligent Creator. We know that such effects as appear in the order of nature--as for instance the order of the spheres, the succession of the seasons, and of day and night, the growth of vegetation, etc., etc.,--could not be produced without an intelligent first cause. And so undeniable is the basis of fact thus furnished in nature's testimony, and so logical the reasoning from effect to cause, that the conclusion
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--that there is an intelligent, wise and powerful Creator--is so palpable and irresistible that the Scriptures declare the man a fool who does not accept it.-- `Psa. 14:1`.
From these data alone we have substantial testimony upon which to base faith in God, even if he had given us no written revelation of himself. And no less substantial is the testimony given upon which to base our faith in his written revelation. For all that God expects us to believe beyond the realm of our senses and observation, he has given us an undeniable foundation of tangible fact, upon which he invites us to use our reasoning powers to arrive at conclusions of which we would otherwise be ignorant. Thus faith is a conviction of things unseen, based on the logical deductions from known facts--a most reasonable thing.
It is also manifest that, since the foundation upon which to base faith, and the reasoning power wherewith to draw logical conclusions from the known foundation truths, and "the spirit of a sound mind," the holy spirit, the spirit, mind or disposition of Christ, to accept in simple sincerity all truth, are all given to us of God, so also, as Paul affirms, the faith thus derived may be considered, as it thus really is, "the gift of God" (`Eph. 2:8`), while it is also the free exercise of our own volition in obedience to the laws of conscience and of sound judgment.
There is nothing more common or necessary among men than faith. We exercise faith in the laws of nature and act upon it constantly. We till the soil and sow the seed in full faith in a future harvest to be brought forth by the continued operations of natural law, reasoning that the sun which shines to day will shine again to-morrow, that the showers of yesterday will be repeated, and that vegetation will still be true to the old law of development and growth under these favorable conditions. Who thinks of questioning these things?
Surely no one will question them who has become thoroughly acquainted with these methods in the past, and faith in them for the future is reasonable; while, on the other hand, doubt and unbelief would be unreasonable and foolish. The man who would refuse to plant for fear the sun would not rise again or the rain fall, would be rightly considered a fool. Why? Because faith is the only reasonable thing where the ground of faith is so well established. Even a child would laugh at another child who could not trust his parents for to-morrow's necessities when to-day's and yesterday's were abundantly provided for: his lack of faith would be so unreasonable. And just so when we have become acquainted with God, as all may who will study his works and ways in nature and revelation, to doubt is foolish; while full faith, perfect confidence in his wisdom, justice, love and power, is the only reasonable conclusion.
Therefore it is that "without faith it is impossible to please God." Thus faith, being a reasonable conviction of things unseen, becomes a basis of hope for the things which God has promised. As Paul expresses it, "Faith is a basis of things hoped for, a conviction of things unseen." (`Heb. 11:1`.) With the same confidence, therefore, with which we look for an autumnal harvest from our spring time seed-sowing, before we see any sign of that harvest, we should also look for the fulfilment of all God's promises in due season, even before we see indication of their fulfilment.
There is no difficulty in exercising faith in God and in any and all of his promises, if we acquaint ourselves with his character and in simple sincerity apply our hearts unto the instructions of his Word. Our faith in all God's promises should be as unwavering as our confidence that to-morrow's sun will rise. Thus it was in the cases of some commendable examples to which the Apostle Paul refers (`Heb. 11`)--of Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David and Samuel, and the prophets, who, by faith in the promises and directions of God, subdued kingdoms, shut lions' mouths, quenched the power of fire, raised dead ones to life, and, in hope of a better resurrection submitted to privations, persecutions and ignominious deaths, having faith in the promise of God, in due time to reward their loyalty to him and to the principles of truth and righteousness. When God declared that a flood was coming and commanded the building of an ark, the reasonable course was to build the ark and to warn men, altho the flood, and every indication of it, tarried for many years.
Similarly, when God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son, it was reasonable for Abraham to obey the command and to leave to God the fulfilment of the promises which centered in that son. When he commanded Lot to flee out of Sodom it was the only reasonable thing for Lot to do, to make haste and depart, tho the morning was gloriously fair.
These were commendable acts of simple, implicit and reasonable faith. But observe that in every instance of faith commended in the Bible there was good ground for faith; there was a clear command of God, a well defined principle of truth and righteousness; and no foolish imaginations or vague impressions were blindly followed. How foolish Noah would have been to spend energy and valuable time in building an ark and warning the people, if he had only imagined that a flood was coming. How culpable Abraham would have been in laying his son on the altar of sacrifice, had he only imagined that God desired him to do so. And how insane Lot would have appeared in hastening out
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of Sodom that bright morning declaring that the city
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would be destroyed, had he been given no reliable divine assurance of it.
Notice that in each instance of unusual requirement God gave clear evidence of his will according to the methods of that dispensation, either by an angel, a vision, or some remarkable circumstance--ways, however, which are not now necessary, since the completed Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments form a perfect guide to faith (`2 Tim. 3:15-17`), and which, therefore, are not now resorted to. And in the instances of suffering and martyrdom cited, God's will was clearly expressed in the principles of truth and righteousness which he ordained, and which were properly recognized as more valuable even than life. These illustrations of faith should be specially marked by very many who claim to have wonderful faith in God, when the chief wonder in it is the ability to believe so much on so slight a foundation.
In many enterprises, too, undertaken under the name of works of faith, and successfully carried on financially, faith has more foundation in the sympathies of philanthropic people, than in the plan, methods and promises of God. If Christian people make public statements that they are starting a benevolent enterprise for the amelioration of the present woes of suffering humanity, they may do it with a large degree of faith in the support of benevolent people; even the worldly are often fully as active in these directions as Christians. For instance, mark the responses to calls for help in great calamities and disasters.
Successes in the direction of popular benevolences are not always proofs of faith in God, tho those so engaged are doing good works, and public appeals for assistance are often right and proper; but a clearer manifestation of faith in God is that humble confidence which espouses his unpopular cause, which perseveres in pursuing it in the face of all opposition and without human encouragement, and which patiently endures whatever of reproach, discouragement, privation and even persecution it may bring, assured of ultimate triumph according to his promise, and finding in his blessed truth and in his approval all the present reward and incentive desired.
One expression of the Apostle Paul should not be forgotten. It reads, "Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God." (`Rom. 14:22`.) If we advertise our faith and our needs and thus make capital out of them by eliciting the sympathies and assistance of men, we are in great danger of seeking to be pleasers of men. Almost imperceptibly this motive will creep into the heart and become a governing power in our actions, often causing deflections from the straight and narrow path of divine appointment. Beware when all men speak well of you, and when multitudes are ready to line up with your work and your methods; and look well to it that no element of worldly ambition or worldly policy be in it to ensnare your feet and to allure you from the narrow way.--`Luke 6:26`. See also `Luke 4:6-8`.
There is much in the way of profession of great faith and in the relating of really improper proceedings and their results as wonderful feats of faith, which often does great harm to both speakers and hearers.
While a true faith is pleasing to God, what often passes for faith among Christians must be correspondingly displeasing to him. Some, without careful observation and study of God's ways, jump to hasty conclusions, often greatly out of harmony with the spirit of divine truth; and, acting and teaching accordingly, dishonor the Lord and bring reproach upon his cause. Among such, too, are often found the loudest boasters of faith. Their faith is so strong, so rooted and grounded and established in what God did not say, that they have no inclination to hear or heed what he did say. In such instances God would be honored far more by the sealing of the lips. Rather let our faith be expressed to God, and let our confidence be manifest to him; and to our brethren let it be manifested more by our deeds of faith than by our words. Thus was the faith of the ancient worthies attested. Where is boasting then? It is excluded by the law of faith. (`Rom. 3:27`.) The very nature of pure, true faith is opposed to boastfulness. It is sincere and too humbly mindful of personal weakness and necessary dependence on God to be boastful. In fact, a humble, faithful walk with God excludes every mean disposition, and elevates the character far beyond them.
However, the faith of which we speak is something which belongs only to the children of God. Their hearts being in harmony with God and his righteousness, his Word is unto them the end of all controversy; and their faith in that Word is the basis of their joyful hopes, the inspiration of their activities, and the anchor to their souls through all the storms of the present life.
While faith depends for its earliest existence upon a right attitude of heart toward God and his righteousness, it continues to grow and thrive by a more close acquaintance and intimate communion with God and a continual striving to attain to his righteousness. Faith, in its beginning, is always comparatively weak; but God does not despise the day of small things. "A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory." (`Isa. 42:3`; `Matt. 12:20`) So also the Lord's people who are strong in the faith are taught to bear with the weaker ones.--`Rom. 14:1`; `15:1`; `1 Thes. 5:14`; `Acts 20:35`.
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Since faith must necessarily be at the very basis of Christian character and is such an important element in its construction, even to the grand and glorious finish; and since "without faith it is impossible to please God," the effort of every Christian should be toward a continual growth in faith. To do this we must maintain a close walk and fellowship with God in all circumstances and under all conditions. Does the sunshine of prosperity make glad our hearts? Let us see that we are glad in the Lord; that our hearts are lifted to him in grateful adoration and praise for all his benefits, from whom cometh every good and perfect gift. Or, do the clouds gather and the storms of adversity beat upon the soul? then call to mind the goodness of the Lord in times past, and take courage, assured that the sun will shine again when the lessons of this discipline have been learned.--`Psa. 77:10-12`.
Nothing is more encouraging to faith than to consider the Lord's past faithfulness to us, and his promises that thus it shall be to the end. All our interests, temporal and spiritual, are in his hands, if we are his; and "no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly." "All things shall work together for good to them that love God, to the called according to his purpose." How often, as the years go by, the children of God can see this! As they realize what the discipline of life, patiently and lovingly submitted to, has already wrought in them, they see, as perhaps they could not see while passing through much of it, how necessary it has been to the developing of character in them; and so they are thankful for the rough and thorny places, as well as for the smooth, because of the peaceable fruits of righteousness, which they have learned to prize above all else.
Christians may often encourage one another's faith by mingling their prayers and praises together, and by speaking to each other of their Christian experiences, of how God has led them and borne them up under trials which otherwise would have overcome them. Such indeed is the will of God, that we should so stimulate each other by loving communion and fellowship one with another in spiritual things, and by unitedly drawing near to God in prayer and praise. This is a means of grace that no Christian who has the opportunity to enjoy can afford to forego. Yet even this must not supersede that still more potent means of grace; viz., secret communion with God, when, alone with him, we can open our hearts as to none else, assured that, even though language be lame, he is able to read the very thoughts and purposes of our hearts. From such seasons of prayer and communion come the answers of peace which strengthen faith into a firm and steady confidence; and thus we are enabled the more fully to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth and length and depth and height of the love of Christ, and of the fulness of God's loving benevolence toward us. --`Eph. 3:16-19`.
Let us endeavor to have more of that pure, true faith
"Which bears unmoved the world's dark frown,
Nor heeds its scornful smile;
Which seas of trouble cannot drown,
Nor Satan's arts beguile"--
the faith which overcomes the spirit of the world in us and about us, and which will remove mountains of difficulty, and secure all that our hearts desire, since it is written, "Ye shall ask what ye will [our wills being in harmony with the will of God], and it shall be done unto you."--`John 15:7`.
When we see, thus, how reasonable a thing faith is, how God through his natural and written revelation of himself appeals to the highest faculty of our nature (our reason) and bids us follow its logical deductions of faith in God, and to rest in and act upon its proper conclusions in studying his works and ways, we realize truly that this faith is a firm basis of hope in the things unseen, "which hope we have as an anchor, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth [by faith] into that within the vail"--into the glory of the spiritual condition. --`Heb. 6:19`. M. F. RUSSELL.
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POST-MILLENNIALISM MAKES A WORLDLY CHURCH.
--By the late A. J. Gordon, D.D.--
"THIS same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven" is the parting promise of Jesus to his disciples, communicated through the two men in white apparel, as a cloud received him out of their sight. When after more than fifty years in glory he breaks the silence and speaks once more in the Revelation which he gave to his servant John, the post-ascension Gospel which he sends opens with "Behold, he cometh with clouds" and closes with "Surely I come quickly." Considering the solemn emphasis thus laid upon this doctrine, and considering the great prominence given to it throughout the teaching of our Lord and of his apostles, how was it that for the first five years of my pastoral life it had absolutely no place in my preaching? Undoubtedly the reason lay in the lack of early instruction. Of all the sermons heard from childhood on, I do not remember listening to a single one upon this subject. In the theological course, while this truth had its place indeed, it was taught as in most theological seminaries of this country, according to the post-millennial interpretation; and with the
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most reverent respect for the teachers holding this view I must express my mature conviction that, tho the doctrine of our Lord's coming is not ignored in this system, it is placed in such a setting as to render it quite impractical as a theme for preaching and quite inoperative as a motive for Christian living. For if a millennium must intervene before the return of our Lord from heaven, or if the world's conversion must be accomplished before he shall come in his glory, how is it possible for his disciples in this present time to obey his words: "Watch, therefore, for ye know not what hour your Lord shall come?"
I well remember in my early ministry hearing two humble and consecrated laymen speaking of this hope in the meetings of the church, and urging it upon Christians as the ground of unworldliness and watchfulness of life. Discussion followed with these good brethren, and then a searching of the Scriptures to see if these things were so: and then a conviction of their truth; and then? The godly William Hewitson declares that the discovery of the Scriptural hope of our Lord's second coming wrought in him a change amounting almost to a second conversion. What if another, not presuming to be named in company with this consecrated saint, should nevertheless set his hand and seal to the affirmation that the strongest and most permanent impulse of his ministry came from his apprehension of the blessed hope of our Lord's second coming?
But how is it that this doctrine, so plainly and conspicuously written in Scripture, could have remained so long undiscovered? In answering this question we see how little ground we have for glorying over the Jews. They did not recognize Christ in his first advent because they discerned in Scripture only those predictions which announced him as a reigning and conquering Messiah. This conception they wove into a veil of exposition and tradition so thick that when Jesus appeared as the lowly and humble Nazarene they knew him not, but "hid as it were their faces from him." And this strong prepossession still obscures their vision so that, "even unto this day, when Moses is read the veil is upon their heart."
With the larger class of Gentile Christians the case is just the reverse. They know Christ crucified, and believing that the cross is to conquer the world, and that the preaching of the gospel in the present dispensation is to bring all men to God, they see no need of the personal coming of the Christ as King to subdue all things under his feet and to reign on the earth. This conception in turn has been woven into an elaborate veil of tradition for Gentile believers and "until this day, remaineth the same veil untaken away" in the reading of the New Testament.
It was not so in the beginning. For three hundred years the Church occupied the position of a bride awaiting the return of the bridegroom from heaven--she meantime, holding herself free from all alliance with this world, content to fulfil her calling in witnessing for Christ, in suffering with Christ, and so to accomplish her appointed work of the gathering out of the elect body for the Lord "until he come." A strange and almost grotesque conception to many modern Christians no doubt. But it was while maintaining this attitude that the Church moved on most rapidly and irresistibly in her missionary conquests.
Then came the foreshadowings of the great apostasy. The world which had been a foe to the Church became her friend and patron; Constantine, the Emperor of Rome, became her head, and thus the eyes of Christians began to be withdrawn from him who is "head over all things to the church." The great and good Augustine yielded to the seduction and was among the first to teach that in the temporal triumph of Christianity the Kingdom had already come, tho the King with whose return the primitive Church had been wont to identify the appearing of the Kingdom was still absent. Little by little, as the apostasy deepened, this early hope of Christians became eclipsed till, in the words of Auberlin, "when the Church became a harlot she ceased to be a bride who goes forth to meet her bridegroom," and thus chiliasm disappeared. What moreover would have been deemed an apostasy in the primitive Church grew into a tradition and a creed in the post-Nicene Church, which creed until this day largely rules the faith of Christians...
The most eminent living master of ecclesiastical history, Harnack, photographing in a single sentence the Church of the earliest centuries, says: "Originally the Church was the heavenly bride of Christ, the abiding place of the holy spirit." Does the reader not see that here is the same two-fold conception--Christ in-resident in the Church by the spirit; and Christ expected to return in person as the Bridegroom for his bride?...With no power except "the irresistible might of weakness;" with no wealth except the riches of glory inherited through her heavenly citizenship; refusing all compromise with the world, declining all patronage of kings and emperors, she nevertheless went forth conquering and to conquer.
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SURRENDER SELF-WILL--RECEIVE GOD'S WILL.
CHRISTIAN life is too often grievously destitute of real spiritual power and is essentially carnal, and it is the duty and privilege of every child of God to enter at once into the newness of life, and to walk henceforth in the power of Christ's resurrection.
Hence the starting point--instant abandonment of sin and of every known weight which prevents or hinders progress. Whatever is wrong or believed to be wrong in God's sight cannot be indulged with impunity. It is held up as utterly destructive of all holy living and testimony, as unnecessary [improper?] because wrong, and as making impossible even assurance of salvation.
Secondly, a deadly blow is aimed at self-life in its six forms: self-dependence, self-help, self-pleasing, self-will, self-seeking and self-glory; in other words, a new practical center is sought for all the life to revolve about, and in this way a new step is taken in advance. Beyond the territory of known sin there lies another almost as dangerous, where self-indulgence is the peculiar
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feature. There is a large class of pleasures, amusements, occupations, which do not bear the hideous features of secret or open sin, but which all tend to give supremacy to self.
Thirdly, the surrender of will to God in obedience. Christ must to every believer become not only Savior but Lord. (`Rom. 10:9`, R.V.) "No man can say that Jesus is the Lord but by the holy Ghost." (`1 Cor. 12:3`.) Hundreds who accept him as Savior from sin have no real conception of him as the actual Master and Sovereign of the daily life.
Fourthly, the infilling of the spirit. Here, is perhaps the most delicate and difficult part of this teaching. But it is not well to stop on phrases; whether we agree or not on the exact form of words, we must agree on facts, and conspicuous among the facts is this: that thousands of professed believers, like the Ephesian disciples in `Acts 19`, do not practically know whether there be a holy ghost or not.
Dr. Gordon discriminated between sealing, filling and anointing.
Fifthly, the Revelation of Jesus Christ in the soul as an indwelling Presence.--This is the climax of this teaching. The supreme end of the holy spirit's indwelling and inworking is to manifest the personal Christ as consciously our possession and in possession of us.
Sixthly, beyond these there is always a last stage of teaching--the privileges and victories implied in this higher or deeper life, such as the rest life of faith, power over sin, passion for souls, conscious fellowship with God, growing possession of promises, and prevailing prayer and intercession.
Wherein does this differ from the teaching now common in the majority of our churches, may be asked?
(1) It makes more of Jesus as a Savior who will save us from our sins. "The very God of peace sanctify you wholly." "Faithful is he who calleth you, who also will do it."
(2) It magnifies the necessity of surrender to the will of God and breaking with the world. In apostolic times if a man confessed Christ he knew what it meant, for the world would break with him; but now it is not so. Many professing Christians go on hand in hand
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with the world, and their lives are barren and unfruitful in consequence.
(3) It makes much of the abiding presence of Jesus. The heart is opened. He is asked to come in and abide, and faith rests upon his promise to do so. His presence causes the heart to burn as did the hearts of the disciples going to Emmaus; brings peace, as when he came over the waves to the disciples on the sea; drives out evil as he cleansed the temple; and fills the soul with joy as when he appeared to the disciples in the upper room.
(4) While the object sought is freedom from sin and effectiveness in service it makes more of receiving than doing. We must, with a childlike spirit, receive the good things God is ready to bestow before we can be a blessing to others. "I will bless thee and thou shalt be a blessing," the Lord said to Abraham. The disciples must first receive the bread from Christ's hand before they could distribute to others.
Mark Guy Pearse says:--"Some years ago I was traveling in the train; seated in the carriage alone I had the Book open at `Acts 1:8`. I was thinking of the 'Higher Life,' of which just then we had heard a good deal--vexed and angry at the little headway, and still less heartway, that I could make in the matter. There was a life of which I could conceive, very bright and very beautiful like a star. 'Like a star indeed,' I said, half scornfully, 'a long ways off, and I have neither wings nor ladder long enough to reach it.' Then my eye fell upon the word 'receive.' This was something very different. 'Receive' I said, with my difficulties silenced, and ashamed; of course I can receive. That is what the baby can do--receive. That needs no genius, no goodness, but only want. Any beggar can take a six-pence if it is given to him. I looked out of the window. The showers fell, blessing everything. But just outside the wayside station was a little cottage, and at the corner of it the old woman had set her broken pitcher, and it was filled to the brim. 'My Lord,' I sighed, humble and grateful, 'I bring thee my poor heart--fill it to the brim!' "Ye shall receive" --stay your thoughts upon the Word until it kindle longing expectation, the boldness that claims the promise as your own." --G. C. Huntington.
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APOSTOLIC ADVICE TO A YOUNG CHRISTIAN.
--JUNE 13.--`2 TIM. 1:1-7`; `3:14-17`.--
"From a child thou hast known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation."--`2 Tim. 3:15`.
THE WORDS of this lesson, addressed by the Apostle Paul to Timothy, are sound advice to all Christians, especially to such as are young in the truth, and particularly if they have consecrated their lives to the Lord and his service, and are seeking to be useful according to their consecration as his ministers or servants --whether in a public or in a private service, according to their talents and opportunities.
These words were addressed to Timothy, when the Apostle Paul was an old man, a prisoner in Rome, because of his testimony for the Lord. Nor was Timothy a child in years at the time this epistle was addressed to him. Timothy's mother and himself were converts to the gospel of Christ presumably at the time of Paul's visit to their home at Lystra during his first missionary tour. It is presumed that at the time of his receipt of this letter Timothy must have been about forty years of age. Tradition has it that he was about sixteen years old at the time of his own and his mother's conversion to the gospel. When he was about twenty-one years of age, he with Silas accompanied the Apostle Paul on his second tour through Asia Minor, and from that time on for some sixteen years he was closely identified with the Apostle in his service of the truth, until
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left by the Apostle with the Church at Ephesus, that he might help them over some difficulties into which they had fallen. It was while Timothy was thus serving the Church at Ephesus that he received the two epistles which bear his name.
Paul introduces himself not by calling attention to his personal qualities as a logician, nor by boasting of any service which he had performed as the Lord's servant and minister of the truth; but, properly, by reminding Timothy of his apostleship (one of the twelve, taking Judas' place) specially commissioned by the Lord to introduce his gospel, and specially prepared for the work by being made a witness of the Lord's resurrection, having been granted a glimpse of his glorious person on his way to Damascus and commissioned to declare the conditions for the fulfilment to men of God's promise of life, provided in Christ Jesus.
Altho the Apostle had no natural children of his own, his tender address to Timothy as his "dearly beloved son," and his invocation upon him of a divine blessing, shows that he lacked none of those fine, noble and endearing sentiments, which belong to a true parent. Indeed, the very fact that he had no natural children seems to have broadened the Apostle's sentiments to such an extent that figuratively he took into his affections, as his own children, all who accepted the gospel. We remember that he frequently used this figure of speech, "Altho ye have many teachers, ye have not many fathers in the gospel" --"I have begotten you in my bonds." On another occasion he represents his efforts for a development of a fully consecrated Christian life amongst the believers under the figure of a mother travailing for her children. This being true of the Apostle's general sentiment toward the household of faith, it would be much more true in the case of Timothy who had so nobly and truly filled the part of a son to him.
Incidentally the Apostle here points out the purity of his conscience toward God, before his eyes were opened to a recognition of the Lord Jesus, while making mention to Timothy that he prayed for him day and night with great desire to see him, and a remembrance of Timothy's tears, when they parted company at Ephesus in the interest of the truth. It was not according to the personal preferences of either that they had separated, but both had sunk personal convenience and preference in the interest of the Lord's cause.
We note with appreciation the Apostle's care over this younger brother in the truth, in whom he sees such great promise of present and future service. He realizes, perhaps better than Timothy does, the snares of the adversary, by which one placed in so prominent a position is likely to be assailed. Would he become heady and high minded?--Would he lose his faith in the cross of Christ?--Would he fall into the snare of some of the philosophies, falsely so-called?--Would he become vainly puffed up by a fleshly mind, and get to feeling himself to be a "somebody?"--Or, would he, on the contrary, be a faithful soldier of the cross, meek, humble, gentle toward all, an example both in faith and practice to those with whom he came in contact? And withal, would he hold fast to the Scriptures and be apt to teach others to look to this divine source of information? He remembered that heretofore Timothy had been so close to himself in the work that he had been measurably shielded from many trials to which he would now be exposed; and yet, no doubt he realized that, if Timothy would be prepared to take the work of a general minister, which Paul the prisoner and growing old must shortly lay aside, it was time that he was learning how to stand, complete in the strength which God supplies through his Word, without leaning so particularly, as heretofore, upon any earthly prop.
These reflections no doubt had much to do with the Apostle's prayers for Timothy "night and day;" and he now writes with a view to strengthening him along these lines, reminding him of the genuine faith and piety which he had inherited both from his mother and his grandmother, and assuring him that he believed that this had laid a deep foundation of true piety and faith in Timothy's own heart. We pause here to notice the fact everywhere kept prominent in the Scriptures that according to the divine arrangement not only are the sins of the parents visited upon the children for several generations, but also that the faith and godliness of the parents, when rightly based on the Word of God and the true promises of that Word, lay the foundation of character in their children, upon which there is the greater hope that a life of godliness and usefulness may be built.
Not only does the Apostle strengthen Timothy's mind by a remembrance of the goodly heritage of faith and piety received from his mother and grandmother, but in addition he reminds him of the grace of God specially conferred upon him (Timothy) at that certain time when he made a full consecration of himself to the Lord, to be God's servant; when the Apostle, exercising his power as an Apostle, and as was common in those days, communicated to Timothy by supernatural power an outward gift or token of the holy spirit, through the laying on of his hands. The Apostle had evidently either heard or surmised that Timothy was allowing the fervor of his zeal for God to die out, and hence here he urges him to "stir up the gift of God which is in thee." The Greek word here rendered "stir up" has the significance of re-enkindle: as tho the
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Apostle said, Reenkindle your gift by renewed energy.
The next verse enforces this view, implying that the Apostle thought that Timothy was in danger of being overcome by fear, so as to allow his zeal to abate. And hence he reminds him that the spirit of the Lord imparted
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to his people is not a spirit of fear, but on the contrary a spirit of power, energy, zeal awakened by love;--loving devotion to God, and a desire to please and serve him; loving devotion to the truth, and a loving devotion to God's people and a desire to build them up in holy things, and to do good unto all men as we have opportunity. And yet, lest Timothy should get the thought that the spirit of God led only to a zeal or energy--that might at times be unwise in its exercise and do more harm than good,--the Apostle adds that the spirit of God which he bestows upon those who are begotten as his sons is a spirit of a "sound mind;" --a mind that is fortified and strengthened by the Word of the Lord on every subject, and hence, while thoroughly fearless of man, is wise in judging of times, seasons and methods for using the energy of love which burns as a fire within the consecrated heart. O that all of God's children might appreciate, and more and more obtain, the spirit of a sound mind, by which all of their talents might be used, not only fearlessly but wisely, in the Master's service.
Continuing his exhortation (`3:14-15`) the Apostle impresses upon Timothy two things: (1) That he had been taught of God, and (2) that this teaching of God had come to him through the Scriptures, which, he assures him, are sufficient to bring him all the way to the complete realization (in the resurrection) of that salvation which God has provided through faith in Christ Jesus. It will be well for us all to remember that all the graces of the spirit, all the progress in the knowledge of divine things to which we already have attained, that may have really helped us nearer to God and to holiness, have come to us through the Scriptures of the Old Testament and through the words of our Lord and his inspired apostles: nor will it ever be necessary to go to other channels for the true wisdom which would prepare us for the salvation promised.
Proceeding the Apostle shows (`Vss. 16,17`) that the Scriptures which God inspired are profitable in every direction, and quite sufficient for the man of God. Needing no supplements of visions or dreams, either his own or other men's. They are profitable for doctrine, containing the full statement of the divine plan; and no human authority is competent to add thereto.-- Who hath known the mind of the Lord?--Who hath been his counselor? They are useful also for reproof toward others: No words that we can use in correcting the errors of others either in word or doctrine could possibly be as forcible for reproof, as the inspired words of Scripture. They are useful also for "correction," literally, "to bring up and establish one in the right." No standard of morals or of discipline can so thoroughly search out the heart and correct its waywardness as the Lord's Word.
Not, however, that God's Word is merely a statement of platitudes and moral instruction: it is far more than this; it searches the heart, the motives, the intentions, the thoughts, the ambitions, the aspirations. It pronounces a blessing upon the "pure in heart," those whose intentions are upright, honest, clean. The Word of the Lord as a correcter "in righteousness" takes hold upon all the affairs of life, and to those who are exercised thereby gives not only the spirit of a sound mind so that they are able to weigh and appreciate things from the true standpoint--God's standpoint of righteousness; but it also inculcates a righteousness toward God, and the propriety of seeking that holiness of which God is the perfect example. Moreover, it reaches down to the relationships between husbands and wives, parents and children, friends and neighbors. If permitted, it settles every matter for us on lines of justice and love.
The Apostle assures us, accordingly, that God's teachings through the Scriptures are given--"That the man of God may be furnished completely unto every good work."--Revised Version.
Here the Apostle has reference to perfection of character (he makes no reference to perfection in the flesh, elsewhere assuring us that even in his own case he realized "in my flesh dwelleth no perfection"). The perfection of character here pointed out as the proper and desirable aim of all Christians, and prepared for by the Lord through the giving of his inspired Word, should be the aim, the mark, toward which all the soldiers of the cross running in the race for the great prize should bend their energies. Perfection of character was exemplified to us in the person of our dear Redeemer, whom God has exalted to the right hand of majesty and power; and we are informed by the Apostle that the Father has predestinated that all of the "little flock" who will share the Kingdom with Christ must be conformed to this glorious image of his Son-- must have perfected characters, hearts, minds, fully submitted to the will of the Father and to all righteousness, in all things;--however imperfect the earthen vessel may be, and however incompletely we may be able at our best to carry out in every thought and word and deed all the desires of our hearts and the endeavors of our transformed minds,--new characters, the earnest or beginning of the new natures which will be completed in the first resurrection.
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--JUNE 20.--`ROMANS 14:10-21`.--
"It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor anything whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is ensnared or made weak."--`Rom. 14:21`.
IN THIS lesson the Apostle brings forcibly to our attention the fact that amongst those who have accepted Christ as their Savior, trusting in his precious blood and consecrating themselves to him, there should be permitted the greatest liberty of conscience. We need, however, to discriminate between liberty in the matter of conscience, and liberty in the matter of faith. These two very different things are very frequently confounded; and the Apostle's words in this lesson are made an excuse for fellowshipping any faith or no faith. On the contrary, the Apostle very emphatically shows elsewhere, in this very same epistle, and in all his writings, that matters of faith and of divine instruction are not matters of conscience at all; and our consciences (otherwise our judgments) are not to determine in reference to what we shall believe, in the sense of deciding our faith: on that subject the entire Church of God stands upon one platform; and whoever does not stand upon that platform is not related to the Church of God in any sense or particular.
St. Paul declared that platform emphatically when he said, "I delivered unto you first of all, that which I also received [first of all] how that Christ DIED for our sins, according to the Scriptures, and that he was raised again on the third day for our justification." Whoever received this testimony (that his sins have been atoned for) into a good and honest heart, accepting Jesus as his Redeemer, and seeking to live separate from sin and in harmony with God, and accepting from the risen Christ the robe of his righteousness, such a one was thereby "justified" from all things, from which the law could not justify. It is not, therefore, for one to say, "You may be justified through faith in the Redeemer, through faith in the precious blood, and I will be justified by works of the law;" nor for another to say, "I will be justified, not by faith in the blood, but by walking in the footsteps of Jesus." No; there is only the one name given under heaven, only the one faith, only the one door, only the one way of access into the justified state or condition. We are not, therefore, to excuse differences on this fundamental doctrine, by calling them matters of conscience, for conscience has nothing to do with the matter. These are faith differences. He who has the faith rightly based is justified, and he who has not the properly based faith is unjustified and is yet in his sins.
Neither can this question of conscience excuse from obedience to any of the matters which are clearly and distinctly taught by the Lord and his apostles, by word and example. For instance, our Lord enjoined love of the brethren: it is not the province, therefore, of any man's conscience to judge that in his case love of the brethren is unnecessary. Again, Christ and the apostles enjoined upon the Church that we should not only symbolically eat his flesh (appropriate the merit of his sacrifice) and drink his blood (share his death--be dead with him), but our Lord provided an outward symbol of this to be commemorated annually and said, "Do this, in remembrance of me." And the apostles set us the example of doing this on its anniversary. It is not, therefore, a matter of conscience, but a matter of obedience, whether we do it or do it not. Similarly, our Lord declared the immersion (burial) of his will into the Father's will and the real baptism into death, saying, "I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I straitened until it be accomplished, "finished," at Calvary; but in addition to this, the real baptism, our Lord at the beginning of his consecration symbolized it in a water immersion at the hands of John, saying, "Thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness."--`Matt. 3:15`.
The apostles also enjoined this, explaining that water baptism was "not the putting away of the filth of
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the flesh," but simply "the answer [outward declaration] of a good conscience toward God:" they instructed (`Rom. 6:2-6`) that the real baptism is a baptism or burial of the will into the will of Christ, whereby the believer becomes dead to his own will and alive to the will of Christ;--dead with him to the world, its aims, ambitions, hopes, fears, etc., and henceforth alive with Christ, to the hopes and promises set before us in his gospel. Yet, while teaching this, as the real baptism, the apostles, nevertheless, clearly taught by word and deed a baptism in water, as the outward symbol of this heart-consecration and burial of the will, whereby our good consciences would testify or answer to our faith and obedience in the sight of fellow-believers. It is not, therefore, a matter for any man's conscience to decide whether or not he will obey the voice of the Lord and of the apostles: It is merely a question of knowledge and of obedience, both as respects the real baptism of the will, and also respecting the outward, symbolic baptism in water. It is a fact, that quite a great many (mistaught) have never learned either of the true baptism or burial of the will by full consecration into the will of Christ, nor of the symbolic baptism. And some have learned of the symbolic baptism who do not understand and have never performed the real baptism of consecration. And others have performed the real baptism of consecration, but have never performed the symbolic baptism. We believe that disobedience
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on the part of this latter class in connection with the symbol will quite probably be excused by the Lord because of ignorance: but, we have no hesitation in saying that neither the real baptism, nor its symbol in water are matters that can be set aside or excused as a question of conscience (judgment) upon which each has a right to exercise his own opinion.
In the lesson before us the Apostle points out that those who have become God's people by obedient faith and consecration (so long as they maintain that faith and consecration) are amenable only to God with respect to their views of his will on minor matters respecting which he has not given positive instructions. It is to him that each one is responsible. If really and truly they bow their knee to him, and if really and truly their tongues confess to him, no human being has either the right or the ability to intervene and to judge of their consciences, in respect to feasts or fasts, new moons or holy days, eating meat or abstaining from meat--none of which things are regulated under the New Covenant. Others have the right to commend or advise on these subjects, but have not the right to command or condemn. The Apostle urges that since each one of us must give an account of himself to God as a consecrated member of the body of Christ, according to his own conscience or judgment of the Lord's will therefore, each is to remember that God is the Judge of all; and instead of condemning one another for conscientious differences with reference to feasts and fasts, etc., each should rather make sure that from his own life he remove everything that would be calculated to mislead or to stumble his brother by a violation of his conscience.
The important point of discussion toward which the Apostle's argument was directed was the eating of meat which had previously been offered to idols--and it would appear that nearly all the meat sold in the market places in heathen countries was so offered. Some of the brethren insisted that therefore they were practically deprived of eating meat at a neighbor's house or at a restaurant, and felt obliged to inquire as would a Jew. And these were inclined to look with discredit upon those who did eat such meat. The Apostle shows that his mind took the broad view, that since the idol was nothing, the meat could not have been injured in any manner. Nevertheless, while he would like to have seen all the brethren fully informed on the subject, he discouraged any attempt on the part of others to shame them into violating their consciences; and he points out to those who are strong, and who could see the matter clearly, that instead of ridiculing the weaker brethren, they should be glad to note their conscientiousness and to help them, for by ridicule and getting them to violate their conscience they might start them in a downward course which would lead to their destruction. Instead of forcing the weaker brother to use a liberty which would violate his conscience, the stronger brother, if he asked the weaker to eat at his table, should be careful to provide meat that had not been offered to idols, that the weaker brother might not be tempted to violate his conscience. Why should we be so bent on using our liberty and forcing it on others when we see that it might lead to the injury of brothers for whom Christ died? Christ left the glory with the Father and humbled himself to man's condition, and even to death, giving up life itself for our fallen race: can we, therefore, if we have our Master's spirit, do less than sacrifice some of our rights and liberties in the interest of the weaker brethren? And by so doing your good, your liberty, your right view of the matter, would not be evil spoken of.
We are indeed the Kingdom of God in embryo, and as such we are not in bondage, but realize the liberty which the poor world, ignorant of the great Emancipator, Christ, and the great emancipation which he has wrought for those who receive him, does not comprehend. But, urges the Apostle, let us remember, dear brethren, that the advantage of being members of this embryo Kingdom is not merely these liberties, which release us from the Mosaic restrictions with reference to what we will eat and to what we will drink, but it means far more, even in the present life. The most valuable blessings which we have as members of this embryo Kingdom are--righteousness (justification through Christ) and its resulting blessings of peace and joy in the holy spirit. Let us not, therefore, think that in giving up some of our liberties we would be losing the blessings and favors of the gospel: quite the contrary, we have all the best things left to us, and may the more richly enjoy them by copying our Master's self denial in sacrificing these little liberties.
And he that in these things (`verse 18`) surrenders his own rights and liberties, in his endeavor to serve Christ, serving some of the humble members of his body, is both acceptable with God and approved of men: not only will fellow men appreciate such little sacrifices, on their behalf, but God also will appreciate them. Therefore, instead of contending about our rights and privileges and battling to have these, let us rather follow in the way that leads to peace and the things whereby we may become helps one to another as members of the Lord's body. Do not permit a question respecting your food, drink or clothing to destroy the work of God--either the work of the development of his grace in your own heart, or by breaking down the conscience of a weaker brother, destroy the work which grace has begun in him. Being free from the Mosaic law we understand that all kinds of food are permissible, and none to be regarded as unclean, but if any one thinks that certain food is unclean (forbidden by God's command) it would be a sin for him to eat it, because he thus would violate his conscience.
Finally, brethren, the Apostle urges, it would be a good rule to follow, to refrain from either the eating of meat or the drinking of wine, or any other liberty whose exercise would likely do injury to another, either temporarily or permanently.