BY C. T. RUSSELL Pastor of Brooklyn and London Tabernacles
"The soldiers likewise demanded of John the Baptist, saying, What shall we do? And he said unto them, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely, and be content with your wages."—#Lu 3:14.
WE HAVE our Lord Jesus’ words to the effect that John, His forerunner, was a Prophet of the very highest order: "There hath not arisen a greater Prophet than John the Baptist." John was not preaching to Christians; he was not preaching the Message that Jesus preached, namely, that "If any man will be My disciple, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me." He was preaching merely the demands of the Jewish Law; he was telling the Jews that their long expected Messiah was about to be presented to them, and that only the holy, faithful ones would be in readiness to receive Him, and would be accepted by Him and be blessed. Various classes asked what they should do to manifest their obedience, and to show a fruitage of repentance of sin. The words we are considering were a reply to the soldiers. It is just such advice as would be applicable to a soldier to-day.
The declaration, "Do violence to no man," did not signify that they were to prove unfaithful to the duties devolving upon them as soldiers; it did not mean that if a man were ordered to be arrested that they should let him go free. It did not mean that if he attempted to escape he might not suffer violence at their hands.
They were soldiers, and a soldier is a representative of the Law, and he is under orders from his superior; and, unless the matter would be very exceptional indeed, he should obey the commands of his superior to the very letter. The responsibility is with the superior. Having enlisted, he is responsible to the terms and conditions of that contract. When his period of service shall expire, he may use his judgment and liberty about re-enlistment, but until then he is a servant of the government, and bound by its general regulations. "Do violence to no man" must, therefore, be understood to mean, "Do not use your position of authority and power improperly, unnecessarily. If you are a soldier, be a good soldier, a kind soldier, a gentle soldier, a patient soldier, a generous soldier, an obedient soldier, ‘enduring hardness as a good soldier of the Lord Jesus Christ.’" The general difficulty in our day is, not that the law requires soldiers to do violent things, but that they frequently take advantage of the situation and give greater violence than the law permits or sanctions. All who desire to walk in the way of righteousness should take heed of this wise counsel, "Do violence to no man"—violate no man’s rights or interests, nor even his feelings or his reputation.
Accuse No Man Falsely.
In olden times, most of the military duty was in the nature of police service. It could scarcely be within the province of any soldier to-day to falsely accuse any one. A policeman, however, would have such an opportunity. Either spite, or revenge, or malice, or affronted dignity, might lead
OV200 some police officer to exaggerate some fault, and thus to falsely accuse—to accuse more than would be proper, or to make an accusation out of whole cloth. All this, of course, would be contrary to the principles of righteousness, and hence contrary to the Divine will.
Be Content With Your Wages.
We are not to understand that those who love righteousness and seek to do the Lord’s will must take whatever wages are offered to them, and therewith be content.
If in slavery, this might be proper enough—to be thankful and content with the best that could be done under all the circumstances, desirous, nevertheless, and patiently waiting for an improvement of conditions. The thought of the Prophet evidently is, You have enlisted for a certain period of time; you bargained for a certain amount of wage. If later on you wish you had done otherwise, it is too late to alter the matter until your enlistment term expires. If your wages seem small, and you see others about you with no more ability earning much more, nevertheless be content with your wages, because it is what you bargained for. You have, therefore, agreed to accept it as right, and are not at liberty to denounce it, or to murmur, or to demand more. If your faithful service is appreciated, and a larger compensation than agreed upon comes to you, be thankful correspondingly. But in any event, and always be content.
Godliness With Contentment.
St. Paul declares, "Godliness with contentment is great gain." With intelligent people there can scarcely be contentment without godliness. Only the unintelligent could be content without godliness. Why? Because all persons of intelligence have hopes, aims, aspirations and ambitions. If their hearts be set upon these ambitions they can only be content while success is with them, and they are apparently attaining their desires. As a matter of fact, comparatively few people find themselves very successful in attaining their ambitions. More or less of disappointment seems to come to nine out of every ten. It is difficult for the intelligent under such conditions to be content. The greater the intelligence the stronger the ambitions, and the more there will be of discontent in their frustration, and a feverish desire to overcome all difficulties, or to wear out life in the attempt to gain the ideal, the ambition. It is here that godliness comes in, as a great assistance, to a comparatively small portion of humanity. The godly are those who desire to do God’s will, and who desire God’s will to be done in them, and in respect to all of their affairs. To these alone it is possible to have contentment, even "when all around the soul gives way," and disappointment and disaster to desires, ambition and hopes comes, and yet not thereby be crushed. These concede the Lord’s will, and trust in the Divine promise that "all things will work together for their good," because they love God, and because they have been "called according to His purpose" —these can be calm and serene in the midst of all the storms of life. They have an anchorage "within the veil, whither Jesus has for them entered."
Godly Contentment a Growth.
Nor do any find that this blessed state of godly contentment can be reached in a moment. It is a result of growth in grace and in the knowledge and in the love of God. It marks a development of knowledge and faith and of obedience as children of God, to which the majority of mankind are strangers. This is, however, the ideal Christian life. It can be entered only by the straight and narrow way—by a full consecration to the service of the Redeemer—the doing of the Divine will.
Gradually, day by day, this
OV201 character or disposition, which was so marked in the Lord Jesus, becomes impressed upon those who are seeking to walk in His steps, and thus, day by day, they are being made meet, fit, "for the inheritance of the saints in light." Those who are of the world, who have not made a consecration, and who therefore are not "heirs of God and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ" to the Heavenly inheritance, are, nevertheless, to partake of a great blessing which God promised nearly four thousand years ago, saying to Abraham, "In thy Seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed." This promise guarantees that when the Church shall have reached the plane of glory, and shall have become the spiritual Seed of Abraham, all mankind will receive a blessing through the glorified Church. The blessing will consist of an opportunity for a return to human perfection and all that was lost by Adam’s disobedience, and redeemed by the obedience of Jesus; they will not only have an earthly perfection, but, additionally, everlasting life and a share in the world-wide Eden, in which there will be no more sighing, no more crying, no more dying. But, be it noted, the attitude of each individual in the present life is either that of maintaining what he has received of his parents of honor, justice, truth, righteousness and mercy, or a degradation of these qualities more or less, or an increase of them. And, according as he shall use well, or fail to use wisely the opportunities and experiences of this present life, will be his state or condition in the life to come, when Messiah shall be King, and the Church shall be with Christ on the Throne—when the promise to Abraham shall be fulfilled through them.
IN THE PRESENCE OF THE KING
IF we could always feel each little thing We do, each hour we spend Within the presence of the King, What dignity ‘twould lend!
If we could realize our every thought Is known to Him, our King, With how great carefulness would it be fraught, And what a blessing bring!
If, when some sharp word leaves a cruel sting, Our faith could know and feel ‘Twas heard within the presence of the King, How soon the wound would heal!
Oh, when the song of life seems hard to sing, And darker grows the way, —Draw nearer to the presence of the King, And night shall turn to day!