Studies in the Scriptures
Zion's Watch Tower
And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left. Isaiah 30:21
IF we have come to the forks of the road--to some crisis in our experience--and know not whether to turn to the right or to the left, we should stop at once and listen to the voice. Or, in other words, we should turn at once to the Word of the Lord, and by pondering its precepts and principles, and its illustrations bearing on the perplexing subject, seek to learn the will of the Lord, asking also the leading of His Spirit, and endeavoring to bring the mind into a loving, submissive and trustful attitude.
For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die. Romans 8:13
WHAT is it to live after the flesh? We answer, It is to live after, in conformity to, and in gratification of, the inclinations and cravings of the fallen human nature. And it is the easiest thing possible to do this. All we have to do is just listlessly to abandon ourselves to the current of our old nature, and cease to strive against it. As soon as we do this, we begin to float down the stream, and by and by we find the current more and more rapid and resistance more and more difficult.
My son, attend to My words; incline thine ear unto My sayings. For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh. Proverbs 4:20,22
FEW recognize the influence of the mind over the body. God has so organized our beings that pure, noble, holy thoughts in general have not only an elevating and ennobling effect upon the mental and moral constitution, but an invigorating influence upon the physical system. And, on the contrary, every unclean, ignoble, unchaste, unholy thought (as well as act) has a direct effect not only toward debasement of mind and morals, but toward the germination of seeds of disease already in the constitution of the fallen race.
Come out of her, My people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. Revelation 18:4
WHOEVER are worthy the name, "My people," will hear and obey the Lord's voice and come out of Babylon and "receive not of her plagues"; because their obedience in fleeing out as soon as they see Babylon's real condition will prove that they were never in real accord with her sins. Those who
after seeing Babylon and her blasphemous doctrines in the light now shining are reckoned as endorsing the blasphemies and deserving the "plagues" most thoroughly--as much or more than the "tare" class of Babylonians, because they have greater light.
This is the w
ill of God [concerning you], even your sanctification. 1 Thessalonians 4:3
COMING to the Scriptures to ascertain
we find that the great
which God asks of us is not work for others, but work in ourselves, subduing, conquering, ruling self. Everything else, therefore-- our service for the household of faith, and our doing good unto all men, by home and foreign missions, etc. --is subservient to this most important work within. For, as the apostle by inspiration declares, though we should preach the gospel eloquently to others, and though we should give all our goods to feed the poor, or become martyrs for a good cause,
, the Spirit of Christ and the Father, developed in us as the ruling principle of life, we would be
, from the divine standpoint.
Promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. But God is the judge: He putteth down one, and setteth up another. Psalm 75:6,7
WE may have desires and aspirations for usefulness which will never be gratified. The Lord may see that we could not bear the exaltation and honor which we seek. He knows far better than we do what is for our good, and so He would have us rest contented in His providence, not idle, but diligent; not careless, but watchful; not indifferent, but full of intense, earnest longing to do the will of God; yet patient under restraint, and content to be neglected and forgotten, remembering that "they also serve who only stand and wait," and that the Lord in His own well-chosen hour can lead us forth to fulfil His purposes of grace.
Love worketh no ill to his neighbor: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. Romans 13:10
HE who finds his heart not in harmony with this law of the New Covenant, love--mercy, kindness, gentleness, goodness--lacks the evidence or
that he is in any sense of the word accepted as a son of God, and a joint-heir with Christ. If we have not love in our hearts for the brethren, and love of gentleness and benevolence toward all men, and even toward the brute creation, we have not the spirit which will carry us through in making the sacrifices necessary under present conditions. It will only be a question of time with such when the power of pride or vain-glory, holding them in the way of sacrifice, will snap asunder, and selfishness take full control.
O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? Matthew 14:31
WHAT must be done to overcome this lack of faith, and to have an increase of faith? We answer that, like the apostles of old, we should pray, "Lord, increase our faith." And then, acting in harmony with this prayer, each should cultivate faith in his own heart: (a) By refreshing his memory continually with the divine promises, becoming very familiar with these in the Father's Word, (b) He should seek more and more to remember that, having made his covenant with the Lord, these promises are his, and in his heart and with his lips he should claim them as his before the Lord in prayer with thanksgiving. He should claim them in his own thoughts, and in his conferences on holy things with the brethren.
Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee. Psalm 116:7
habit of thought
has much indeed to do with his spiritual progress or retrogression, as it is also an index of his spiritual state; and good habits of thought need to be carefully cultivated. By "habit of thought" we mean that normal condition to which the mind habitually returns in the moments of mental leisure. While engaged in the active duties of life we must of necessity bend our mental energies to the work in hand, for if we do anything merely mechanically and without concentrating thought upon it we cannot do it well; yet even here Christian principle, well established in the character, will unconsciously guide. But when the strain of labor and care are lifted for a time, the established habit of thought, like the needle to the pole, should quickly return to its rest in God.
Be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. 1 Timothy 4:12
EVERY Christian should strive to be a pattern worthy of imitation--a pattern of earnest, faithful endeavor to copy Christ in his daily life, and of active zeal in His service. Patterns of perfection, of the ultimate moral glory and beauty of holiness, we cannot expect to be in the present life. Such a pattern we have only in Christ our Lord. In no such sense did Paul ever say, Follow me, or Follow us; but he did say, "Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ." (
1 Corinthians 11:1
) The apostle was a grand example of earnest endeavor to attain perfection, but not of the ultimate perfection which was in Christ only; and it is his zeal and intense earnestness in striving to copy Christ and to accomplish His will that we should imitate.
Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for My sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. Matthew 5:11,12
OPPOSITION and persecution are the inevitable concomitants of activity in the service of God, and they should be met with reason and candor; and when these fail of their purpose, then, with solemn warnings of the dangers of such a course, the wilful opposer should be left to pursue his own course while we turn to others with the message of salvation. In the opposition which our Lord incurred and the manner in which He met it, there are valuable lessons for all who are similarly tried.
Let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. James 1:4
NOT a step of progress can be gained without the exercise of this grace of patience; and not one of the graces more beautifully adorns the Christian character, or wins the approval of the world's conscience, or glorifies the God of all grace whose truth inspires it. It is long-suffering meekness earnestly striving to stem the tide of human imperfection and weakness, and endeavoring with painstaking care to regain the divine likeness; it is slow to wrath and plenteous in mercy; it is quick to perceive the paths of truth and righteousness, and prompt to walk in them; it is mindful of its own imperfections and sympathetic with the imperfections and shortcomings of others.
Love thinketh no evil. 1 Corinthians 13:5
WHOEVER neglects the Lord's commands along this line of "evil surmisings" weaves a web for his own ensnarement, however "circumspectly" he may walk as respects other matters; for a heart impregnated with doubt and suspicion toward fellow creatures is more than half prepared to doubt God: the spirit of sourness and bitterness is at war with the spirit of the Lord, the spirit of love. Either the one or the other will conquer. The wrong spirit must be gotten rid of, or it will defile the new creature and make of him a "castaway." On the contrary, if the new nature conquer, as an "overcomer," it will be along this line: if evil surmisings are overcome, half the battle against present difficulties and besetments is won.
By thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned. Matthew 12:37
ALL our words are taken by the Lord as an index of our hearts. If our words are rebellious, or disloyal, or frivolous, or flippant, or unkind, unthankful, unholy or impure, the heart is judged accordingly, on the principle that, "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh."... That as imperfect beings we may always be perfect in word and deed is not possible. Despite our best endeavors we will sometimes err in word as well as in deed, yet the perfect mastery of our words and ways is the thing to be sought by vigilant and faithful effort.
Whoso keepeth His Word, in him verily is the love of God perfected. 1 John 2:5
THE test is
. In proportion as we keep the Lord's Word, in like proportion the love of God is perfected in us; for if we have received the mind of Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, the effect will be to cause us to both will and do His good pleasure--to the extent of our ability. And this ability should be continually on the increase year by year. And altho we may not hope to be perfected until we shall be "changed" and be granted our new resurrection bodies, nevertheless all the while we may keep so closely in touch with the Lord in the spirit of our minds that we may have continual fellowship with Him.
Through honor and dishonor, through evil report and good report: as deceivers, and yet true; ...giving no offence in anything, that the ministry be not blamed. 2 Corinthians 6:8,3
WHILE in the discharge of duty to the best of our ability and when apparently we have the Lord's blessing and favor upon us and our affairs in a most marked degree, suddenly trouble may arise, adversity come, the powers of darkness seem to triumph, and for a moment we may be apparently culprits in the judgment of our fellowmen, and apparently forsaken by divine providence. Such experiences, doubtless, are needful to us; for though we may sing:-- "I would rather walk in the dark with God, Than go alone in the light," yet this might be but an empty boast unless we were put through the trying experiences which would develop such faith, such trust, as would hold to the Lord's hand, and trust divine providence in the darkest hour.
Take My yoke upon you,...for My yoke is easy, and My burden is light. Matthew 11:29,30
THOSE who wear this yoke have the assurances of the divine Word that all things are working together for good to them; that the heavier the burden that may be attached, the greater will be the blessing and the reward by and by; the more severe the experiences during the present time, the brighter shall be the glory, and the brighter shall be their character, and the more sure shall they be of being fitted and polished for the heavenly Kingdom. From this standpoint every burden is light, because our yoke is appreciated, and is so easy, so reasonable: and additionally it is so light because the Lord is with us in this yoke.
The Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Deuteronomy 13:3
THE Kingdom is only intended for those who by God's grace shall at heart become like to the Lord Jesus, in that they will love the Lord with all their hearts, with all their souls, and be able to say, "Not my will, but Thy will, O Lord, be done." No other condition than this of full submission to the Lord can make us acceptable for the Kingdom; for no other condition represents full self-submission and full love to God. And let us not forget that all the heavenly things which "eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man," God hath reserved for them that love Him supremely.
Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unfaithful nothing is pure; but both their mind and conscience are defiled: they profess to have known God, but by their works they renounce Him, being abominable and disobedient, and as to every good work worthless. Titus 1:15,16
WHAT a terrible condition this is, and how careful all the Lord's people should be, not only to have pure hearts, pure minds, but also to keep their consciences very tender, in close accord with the Word of the Lord. This condition can only be maintained by judging ourselves, and that strictly and frequently, by the standard which God has given us, His law of love. "I want the first approach to feel Of pride or fond desire; To catch the wandering of my will, And quench the kindling fire."
If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue,...this man's religion is vain. James 1:26
BECAUSE the tongue is the index of the heart, because "out of the fullness of the heart the mouth speaketh," therefore the unbridled tongue, speaking selfishly, enviously, bitterly, boastfully, slanderously, proves that the heart from whose fullness these overflow is unsanctified, unholy, grievously lacking of the spirit of Christ--hence, whatever religion it may have attained is thus far vain, as that heart is not saved, nor in a salvable condition....The Good Physician has pointed out antidotes for soul-poisoning--medicines which, if properly taken according to directions, will sweeten the bitter heart.
Thou art my rock and my fortress; therefore for Thy name's sake, lead me, and guide me. Psalm 31:3
AFTER the Lord has given us certain lessons and experiences, some of which come to us under quiet and restful conditions, the order of procedure may be changed, and the indication of the Lord's providences may lead to some breaking up of conditions which had been both favorable and unfavorable in some respects --leading into new circumstances and conditions. It is not for the true spiritual Israelite to murmur or complain, or even to express a choice; but to look to the Lord for guidance. If he can discern the leadings of divine providence, even though it be in a wilderness condition more arid and undesirable than that in which he has previously been, he is to follow the Lord's leadings unquestioningly, and with songs of faith and confidence.
Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have. Hebrews 13:5
SELFISH prayers are too expensive. Some have gained wealth and lost the truth and its service; some have gained health, only to find that with it they gained other trials no less severe: some have had their dear ones restored to them from the very jaws of death, only to wish afterward that God had not answered their prayers--or, more correctly, to wish that they had accepted the Lord's wisdom and providences trustfully, contentedly, uncomplainingly....Spiritual Israel should use wisely such things as are within their reach--accepting all as God's gifts with thanksgiving; but their petitions should be for spiritual gifts --including patient endurance and heart contentment.
I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with Mine eye. Psalm 32:8
ONE of the most important lessons for the spiritual Israelite to learn is to look to the Lord for leading in all of life's affairs--never to attempt any undertaking either temporal or spiritual, without seeking to note the will of the Lord concerning the same.... We are marching toward Canaan and know that other experiences are due us and must be undergone ere we can inherit the promises. The lesson for us is prompt and thorough obedience to the Lord's leadings without murmurings--with joyfulness; and this can only be expected on the part of those who have learned the lessons previously given them, and above all the lessons of faith,--confidence in the Lord's power and goodness and faithfulness.
For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God, sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. Romans 8:3,4
WHAT comfort and consolation are in these assurances! These are wonderful words of life, indeed! They inspire us with hope. If God will accept perfect heart-intentions, as instead of the absolute perfection of the flesh--then indeed we have hope of attaining to the standard which He has marked for us--the standard of perfection....We can walk after the Spirit, though, so far as our mortal bodies are concerned, we cannot walk up to the Spirit's requirements. Our minds can walk up to the Spirit, our intentions can be perfect; and this is what our Heavenly Father seeks in us, perfection of intention.
Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. Matthew 4:4
WE are to learn the lesson that a man's life consists not in the abundance of things which he possesseth-- food and raiment--but that his life, in the fullest, grandest, highest sense, is dependent upon his complete submission to the divine will--his careful attention to every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God...--every admonition, every encouragement, every promise, is necessary to the development of those whom God is now calling to eternal life as joint-heirs with His Son in the Kingdom. Let us then, more and more, as the disciples, pupils, of the Lord Jesus, keep in memory and act upon the suggestion of the words of this text.
Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. Philippians 4:4
WE cannot have too many rejoicing Christians, nor can they rejoice too much, if they rejoice
in the Lord
. This rejoicing is not necessarily boisterous, nor of necessity the reverse. It implies serenity, happiness, peace, pleasure of soul, however, and does not mean that noisy demonstration is essential, as some seem mistakenly to think....The only ones who can rejoice
are those who are living very near to the Lord, and who can feel always their oneness with Him, and that His protection and care are over them, and that His promise is sure, that all things shall work together for their highest welfare, as New Creatures.
Let your moderation be known unto all men. Philippians 4:5
THE Greek word here rendered "moderation" seems to carry with it the thought of reasonableness, and of not exacting our rights too rigorously. Mercy and leniency are certainly qualities required of all who would be members of the body of the Anointed. Faithfulness in the performance, as far as possible, of all that justice would require of us, and mercifulness in respect to all our requirements of justice from others should be our rule: so shall we be the children of our Father which is in heaven, for He is kind and merciful to the unthankful.
Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. Philippians 4:6
THE question may arise, Why will not God give us the things which He sees us to need without our making petition to Him and claiming His promises? Undoubtedly because we need previously to come into the proper attitude of heart to receive His favors and to be advantaged by them. Even as it is, we may be sure that we do not sufficiently appreciate the divine care bestowed upon us hitherto and now. Even in the attitude of prayer and thanksgiving we probably do not discern one-half of our causes for gratitude, as we shall see them by and by, when we shall know even as we are known.
God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. 1 John 4:16
JUSTICE fills the measure full, but love shakes it, presses it down, heaps it up and overflows justice. It is therefore something not to be demanded, nor its lack to be complained of, but to be gratefully appreciated as a favor and to be generously reciprocated. Every one who craves it at all should crave it in its highest sense--the sense of admiration and reverence. But this sort of love is the most costly, and the only way to secure it is to manifest that nobility of character which calls it forth from others who are truly noble.