Studies in the Scriptures
Zion's Watch Tower
THE DECEPTIVE WAY
"There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but
the end thereof are the ways of death."
Selfishness should be considered the synonym of Sin.
Not that we could live under present conditions entirely forgetful of our own interests; but that these should be considered justly balanced with the interests of others, in harmony with the statement, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." Originally sin was inspired by Mother Eve’s unlawful spirit of acquisitiveness—her desire to secure knowledge in advance of the Creator’s arrangement. This spirit of acquisitiveness led her into disobedience. Father Adam’s transgressions against Divine Law was prompted also by self-interest. Believing that by her disobedience his wife had fallen under the sentence of death, he selfishly planned to be disobedient also, believing that all the pleasure of his life would die with his wife. He disobeyed, in order to die with her.
The 6,000 years which have intervened between the first disobedience and the present time have stimulated and developed selfish propensities of the human mind at the expense of its more noble, more generous, more refined qualities. Driven out of the Garden of Eden, where their wants had been supplied by the fruits of the life-giving groves, our first parents found themselves in the unprepared, unsuitable, "cursed" earth, which brought forth thorns and thistles, and variously demanded their time and attention for the procurement of the necessities and comforts of life. Thus the fertile valleys and their fruitage attained a value, as compared with human time and strength, such as the fruits of Eden would not have where plenty was obtainable by merely stretching forth the hand.—
This labor with sweat of face was a part of the curse or penalty upon the race for the disobedience, to the intent that the Divine verdict should be executed, "Dying thou shalt die," and that man should realize the difference between his condition in favor with God and his state out of Divine favor, and might thus the more fully appreciate the undesirableness of the same. We should notice incidentally, however, that this arrangement, that man should earn his bread by the sweat of his face, was designed of the Lord to be really a blessing. Without this necessity for toil the abundance of idleness which would have prevailed would have been very disastrous indeed to the human race, which had merely tasted of sin and was separated from Divine favor. The downward course of humanity would undoubtedly have been much more rapid had idleness prevailed. This was part, we remember, of the difficulty of the Sodomites. "Fulness of bread and an abundance of idleness were in her," and this led to various forms of degradation.—
HOW SELFISHNESS HAS DEVELOPED
Labor for food and raiment having become a necessity, the hours of labor became proportionately valuable.
Then came the inducement for some of the race to bring their fellows into slavery, that they might have their toil at minimum cost, thus not only securing their own leisure but laying up wealth to the extent of superior opportunity or ability. It led to bloodshed for the securing of slaves, and bloodshed again in endeavoring to rescue the enslaved. One of the earliest illustrations along this line in the Bible record is shown in connection with the capture of Lot and his family, and the Sodomites, by the army from the north, and the rescue of these by Abraham and his armed men. (
.) However, the teaching of history is full of just such incidents. Indeed, it is only of very recent time that slavery has been abolished in civilized lands. Another manifestation of slavery along parallel lines was that of one nation conquering
another and putting it under tribute. Thus an entire nation was enslaved and its people made bondsmen to another, and obliged to pay a certain proportion of the fruit of their labor for nothing—simply because the neighboring nation was the stronger or the better armed.
Slavery in its old form still exists in certain parts of the world. Elsewhere the form has been changed, though the principle of selfishness is considerably the same. In China and amongst the Malayans of India there is a servant class, really slaves to circumstances and conditions surrounding them, though not exactly the same kind of chattel slavery that fifty years ago prevailed in the United States. Wherever the Bible has gone the spirit of liberty has gone with it; for it teaches, as no other religious book in the world does, that all men stand on the same footing before their Creator—that all are sinners, that all are condemned with the same penalty, that all alike need the same salvation, and that entrance to eternal life is to all on the same basis—that class and caste make no difference whatever. Wherever the Bible has been read, this spirit of manhood has been inculcated, and the spirit of slavery correspondingly lost. However, the unbalance of the human character resulting from the fall and from the premium it put upon labor and leisure, and the consequent dwarfing of the higher qualities of the mind, because their cultivation was impossible except to those who could acquire the leisure. These conditions, continuing with us, have been ready to adapt themselves to new ones.
When it became difficult or impossible to hold fellow-creatures in slavery, financial usages were formulated and gradually organized and systematized, until today we see selfishness as rampant as ever in the world and as eager as ever to accumulate wealth, representing accumulated toil. The system under which this selfishness operates in our day has its elements of justice, its good qualities as well as its bad ones. It is the wage system.
Under this arrangement those who have the largest degree of mental power in combination with selfishness have the opportunity for becoming financial kings and princes in the world. We are now operating under the so-called law of supply and demand for brains, skill and energy; for these as never before possess large possibilities for the accumulation of wealth. That the accumulated wealth of our day is far beyond that of any other time is well known to us all. A fortune of a hundred million dollars has fallen to the lot of quite a few. A very large number have one million dollars and upward; and many thousands possess fortunes of one hundred thousand or more.
What these fortunes mean in accumulated labor it is quite difficult to estimate; but even counting labor at $2.00 per day, a man whose fortune is a million dollars has represented therein the earnings of 1500 years.
THE DAY OF PREPARATION
A factor in the great increase of wealth in our day is the great stimulation that has come to inventive genius.
This is attributed to the extra speeding of the wheels of evolution, bringing us into the "brain age." We, however, following the guidance of the Bible, and looking more carefully to the facts surrounding these inventions, disagree with this thought. We find that the inventors of our day are not all brilliant, and that in comparison to the whole population they are very few, anyway. We find evidences of as great mentality in the past as in the present. Shakespeare, Newton, Socrates, Plato, St. Paul, King Solomon, King David, Job, Moses, and the builders of the Pyramid, shine out brightly on the pages of history, and find few if any equals in our day. The Bible explanation of the inventions of our epoch is that it is the "Day of His Preparation"—preparing for the Millennium. —
So simple are some of the devices now common to us that we cannot avoid wondering why they were not discovered before. The only reasonable answer is the Scriptural
one, that the Lord did not until recently lift the veil and bring matters to our attention. We are not meaning to say that every inventor is inspired of the Lord; but we do mean to say that the Lord kept back the art of printing until the proper time to exert the influence which it is now having in the world—that the Lord did not favor general education until this Day of His Preparation; that He has allowed the world to take its own course in many of these matters until of late. The present running to and fro by which our race is commingled, and the interchange of ideas thus effected, and the increase of knowledge and education resulting, are all set down most distinctly in the Scriptures as marks or proofs that we are living in the time of the ending of the Present Dispensation—that the New Dispensation is nigh, even at the door. For proof along this line note the declaration to the Prophet Daniel, "In the time of the end many shall run to and fro and knowledge shall be increased ...The wise shall understand...and there shall be a Time of Trouble such as was not since there was a nation."—
With a wise object the Lord held back the light, the knowledge, the inventions of our day, knowing in advance what we are now learning from experience, that the effect of this upon our race, sold under sin, warped and twisted in favor of selfishness, would be to greatly increase the selfish propensities of the world in general. The inventions of our day, their labor-saving machinery, etc., all represents vast possibilities for the accumulation of wealth—accumulated toil. The most far-seeing of our race, the best and brightest minds, if they have thought of the advisability of throwing open to mankind in general all these advantages and blessings of our day, must have dismissed the thought; for all seem to be acting on the selfish plane—acquiring every advantage possible and using these for the accumulation of wealth.
True, the rush has come so suddenly that all mankind have been advantaged to some extent, even the day laborer. But as these advantages go into the hands of the few, and as the natural increase of population multiplies the number of laborers, it is not difficult to foresee what would be the consummation of the present system of competition along the lines of supply and demand.
The supply of laborers is continually increasing, the supply of labor-saving machinery represents still further increase, while the demand for labor will be only to the extent that it will yield profit to those who have come to be the possessors of the world’s wealth.
This is seen by many. The rich do not fear it; for they feel secure, and hope that if ever a distress should come they also shall feel generous. But the outlook is dreaded by many of the thinking poor, who have little confidence in the generosity plan, and who are therefore crying out for Socialism the public ownership of the wealth-producing agencies which they hope would bring competency at once and by and by wealth to all.
We are not advocating Socialism; for we believe it to be thoroughly impractical. Our knowledge of human nature leads us to believe that those who now possess the wealth of the world hold it with such a tenacity and such selfishness that they would allow the entire social structure to go to wreck rather than release their hold upon the special privileges and opportunities which they now hold in their grasp. Although Socialists do not realize it to be so, their doctrines spell anarchy—the worst possible thing so far as human interests are concerned.
We do not rest the matter with our opinions merely, but rather have formed our conclusions in accord with the Word of God, which distinctly tell us that the end of the Age is close at hand, that it will be followed by the Golden Age, the Millennial Kingdom, under the control of Christ and His glorified saints, the "little flock," from whom will proceed the blessing and uplifting
of whosoever wills of all the families of the earth.
We live in a day of rapid changes. A few more years will show the wealth of the world still more concentrated, still more powerful, and the masses of humanity still more eager for Socialism—ignorant of the fact that it will result in anarchy. We expect, in harmony with our understanding of the Scriptures, that this great crisis will be upon the world within the next eight years—a Time of Trouble such as was not since there was a nation, no, nor ever shall be.—
THE WAY THAT SEEMETH RIGHT
This way of selfishness which has prevailed for six thousand years is the way which seemeth right unto a man—the usual way, the natural way, approved by the standards of the world for centuries—opposed only by the few, who are not highly esteemed amongst men—by Jesus, the Apostles, the Prophets, and those who follow their course and teachings. We have indicated only one feature of this way which seemeth right unto a man, this selfish way; namely, the monetary. But selfishness takes hold of every affair of life. It affects the social standing and makes class distinctions along selfish lines; it affects the appetites and passions and seeks selfish gratification in every direction. Selfishness, we repeat, stands for and represents sin in its every form. Yet selfishness seemeth to a man to be right in his depraved condition; he was born with it—yea, in selfishness did his mother conceive him.—
This selfish way the Scriptures alone show is a wrong way, and results from the unbalance of the human mind, which originally was well balanced, the image and likeness of the Divine mind along the lines of justice and love. Only in the School of Christ is unselfishness taught; and in that School this is almost the only lesson and it is learned line upon line, precept upon precept, even in the principles of righteousness and godliness.
The great Teacher, Jesus, instructs us respecting the
Divine Law that Love is the fulfilling of the Law, that the entire Law of Love is briefly comprehended in the one word, Love—love for God supremely and love for our fellow-men as for ourselves. This Teacher gave the greatest illustrations of this lesson in His own conduct of life. In harmony with the Divine will He laid aside His glory and dignity as a spirit being and was made flesh and dwelt amongst men, being born under the Law, a Jew. Still in harmony with the Divine arrangement, when He reached manhood’s estate He made a full self-sacrifice of Himself, the benefit of which was to accrue to Adam and his race. For three and a half years He was laying down His life in deeds of kindness—virtue or vitality going out of Him for the healing of the multitude—until finally He finished his course in ignominy, a Sin-offering on behalf of our race.
All the lessons that our Lord may teach, therefore, along the line of love, are well exemplified in His own course. Having bought the world with His precious Sacrifice, His life, in harmony with the Divine Plan, He is about to bless the world by opening their eyes, giving them to know the difference between right and wrong, and by helping them out of their sin, selfishness and meanness back to the image and likeness of God as originally enjoyed. But this work according to the Divine Plan is reserved for the Millennial Age.
In the meantime the world’s Redeemer labors not for the world nor even prays for the world (
), but in harmony with the Divine will labors and prays for His Church, a "little flock," to whom it is the Father’s good pleasure to give the Kingdom, in association with Himself, the Redeemer. These are called or invited to separate themselves from the world and its spirit of sin and selfishness; and only so many as love righteousness and hate iniquity are drawn or desired in the present time. The vast majority of our race are left over for treatment during the Millennial Kingdom.
THE NARROW WAY—THE BROAD WAY
This "little flock" of believers, who turn from sin to be followers in the footsteps of their Master and Redeemer, are shown a new way—a "narrow way."
This is not the way that seemeth desirable or right to the natural man, to the masses of mankind. These called ones are given a special opening of the eyes of their understanding, and the ability to discern the right way of the Lord as in contrast with the way that seemeth right to fallen man. They are informed that the way is narrow, difficult, etc., and are advised to sit down first and count the cost before undertaking to walk in it.
But those who undertake to walk in this way are assured of the Master’s favor and His continued presence with them, and His aid in all of life’s affairs and are guaranteed that, whatever may happen to them, all things shall work together for their good, because they love God and have been called according to His purpose. (
They are assured that while in the present time their following of the Master will lead to the disapprobation of the world, the opposition of Satan, the traducing of their reputation, nevertheless it will be their privilege to be exceeding glad, very happy in the present life, because of their enjoyment of the peace of God which passeth all understanding ruling in their hearts, and because of the exceeding great and precious promises of the future granted to them. These promises include the prospect of Heavenly riches, dominion, power in joint-heirship with the Redeemer Himself. Because of this close relationship these are frequently described in their future glory as the Bride, the Lamb’s Wife—the marriage or union being represented as to take place at the Second Coming of Christ.
This way of the world that seemeth right to mankind in general—this way of selfishness which has become second nature to the race—our text declares leads into the ways of death. This seems astonishing! Apparently
very few realize this fact. Evidently the death here referred to is not the usual or Adamic death common to all mankind, saint and sinner, but the Second Death.
Let us examine the matter in greater detail: How does selfishness lead into the ways of death? We answer that selfishness is at the foundation of nearly every crime in the calendar. Is it murder? Selfishness, acquisitiveness, is the motive. Is it robbery or fraud, lying or cheating? Selfishness has been the mainspring. Is it covetousness, fornication or adultery? Selfishness is behind it. Is it pride, self-conceit or violation of another’s rights in any sense of the word? Usually it is because of selfishness in the heart. Is it dishonor of the Creator? This is generally a result of too high an appreciation of one’s self—a lack of proper humility and reverence. All of these paths selfishness leads into; and they are all in the direction of the Second Death, just as the narrow way in which the faithful are called to walk leads in the opposite direction to life eternal.
We are glad to know from the Scriptures that only those who have been begotten of the Holy Spirit, and under its guidance brought to a clear appreciation of the Truth, are really upon trial for life or death eternal at the present time. We are glad that God has provided through Christ and the Millennial Kingdom an opportunity for all the blind eyes to be opened and all the deaf ears to be unstopped, that all may come to a thorough knowledge of God and of His righteous will, and at the same time be granted the necessary assistance to come into harmony therewith if they will. We are glad of all these things; for evidently those who are walking in the broad road of selfishness, which leads into various paths and which ultimately would end in the Second Death, are so numerous that it would mean that the Divine Plan of Salvation would be almost a failure if there were no such provision for these in the future.
It will not be questioned by the intelligent and reflective
that if God is Love, and is the Pattern for unselfishness, as exemplified to us in the character of His Son, this is the character which He desires and approves and will bless with everlasting life. Then the majority of mankind, the great mass, nine hundred and ninety-nine out of every thousand dying under present conditions, necessarily die out of Divine favor and unfit for eternal life and the better terms on which God purposes to give it.
Indeed, we see that even the most saintly have such a selfish tendency in their flesh that if they were judged of the Lord according to the strict letter of His Law they, too, would be counted unfit for eternal life. It is the fact that they are covered with the robe of Christ’s righteousness, imputed to them because of faith and obedience to the extent of their ability, which permits these to be counted meet for the inheritance of the saints in light—reckoned as having passed from death unto life, to which they will be actually received in the First Resurrection.
UNSELFISHNESS IN HEAVEN
If we understand the teachings of the Scriptures aright, those who are in accord with selfishness are wholly unfit for the Heavenly state. Our Roman Catholic friends, admitting this, claim that practically all, even their own clerics, go to Purgatory, there to be purged of this dross of character and to be made fit for eternal life.
We agree to this proposition, but deny that there is any Purgatory in existence at the present time. We hold the Scriptures to teach that Purgatory is a condition of the future—that the entire Millennial Age will be the period of Purgatory and this earth the place. Neither can we agree to the Roman Catholic view of Purgatory, that it is manned with devils and composed of torture chambers.
On the other hand we have the assurance of the Scriptures that during that time Satan will be bound, all evil influences be restrained and the whole world be blessed.
Then, if they will, they will be lifted up out of their degradation, selfishness and sin back to the full perfection
lost in Father Adam; or failing to respond to those glorious opportunities and privileges, they will be esteemed unworthy of any further blessing and be utterly destroyed in the Second Death.—
SOWING AND REAPING
One of the points which we specially desire to impress on this occasion is that this way of selfishness which seemeth right unto a man, but which leads to paths of death and on which the masses of mankind are traveling very composedly, is an evil pathway—injurious in every sense of the word. Some one may say, "Ah, but if there is a Purgatory, a school of opportunity in the Millennial Age, why may we not indulge in selfishness now and get our lessons then?" We reply that all the tare seed and weed seed that we sow in our hearts and characters in the present time are doing much injury to us, not only as respects the present, but also as regards the future.
He that sows selfishness reaps the same and finds his crop continually increasing, so that at the close of a busy life the majority of people find themselves very much more selfish than they were at its beginning. In other words, they were nearer to an acceptable condition with God in their infancy than on their death bed in old age.
We feel that even the consecrated of the Lord’s people have not appreciated the situation aright; that while even having nominally changed from selfishness to love, while seeking to cultivate the latter more and more in thought, word and deed, they have not fully grasped the situation and are therefore making less strenuous efforts than they might make. Let all these resolve that by the grace of God they will lay aside every weight and every besetting sin, and run with patience the race set before us in the Gospel—the race in the narrow way.
Not to ourselves again, Not to the flesh we live; Not to the world henceforth shall we Our strength, our being give.