Studies in the Scriptures
Zion's Watch Tower
ALL ARE DEBTORS TO GRACE DIVINE
"Who maketh thee to differ from another? And what
hast thou that thou didst not receive? Now if thou didst
receive it, why dost thou glory as though thou hadst not
Evolutionists and Higher Critics in their so-called "New Theology" would apply our text to what they denominate the "ascent of man." They tell us that the first man was second cousin to a monkey, and that all the progress that has since been made by the various races of mankind is so much to be thankful for and to be proud of.
According to their theory each generation receives from the preceding one additional blessings, and thus the world is going onward and upward to wonderful heights, mental, moral and physical. But we cannot agree with this theory, and find the Bible story much more consistent with the facts of the case.
The Bible records and revelations teach the fall of man from original perfection and likeness to his Creator through disobedience—a disobedience which has been accentuated in proportion to the degree of alienation from the Creator. The Bible shows us also a measure of recovery or ascent of man from the depths of his degradation proportionately to his attainment of a knowledge of his Creator and his rendering of obedience to the Creator’s laws. Our text fits well to this, the Scriptural teaching from Genesis to Revelation. Man’s original perfection was a gift from his Creator. His sin was of his own voluntary opposition to the Divine will, and any progress made by any member of the race has been in proportion as he has received of the Lord’s favor and accepted the same. "What hast thou that thou didst not receive?" Let us inquire further of the Word of God and of history, Who maketh us to differ from others? Let
us see whether or not we are different by reason of a process of evolution or different because of having received more of the grace of God.
ADAM NOT A CHIMPANZEE’S COUSIN
Those who have accepted the Evolution theory instead of the Bible record seem to be so infatuated with it that they deceive themselves into believing a lie. They sometimes give the public to understand that there is but a slight difference between the lowest, most degraded member of the human family and the highest development of the brute creation, when, as a matter of fact, they well know that this is not true. They know that there is a wide difference indeed. They assure us that there is but one missing link to be found; but the informed ones among them well know that the missing link is a very long one.
Several skulls have been found which these wise men tell us belong to periods hundreds of thousands of years before Adam’s time, as Scripturally marked. But while disputing the age of these relics and denying that there ever was a man before the first man, Adam of the Scriptures, we ask these sages to account for the fact that every one of those skulls they exhibit as antiques shows a brain capacity and cavity larger than that of the average man of today. How will they explain this, in view of the fact that the brain space of the most developed ape is little more than one-half as large as the brain space of the least developed among men today? Do not these facts upset their entire theory and show that the average of human brain capacity has been decreasing instead of increasing? Do they not know also that statistics recently published in Great Britain show that the sizes of hats worn by Englishmen have considerably decreased within the last century? If it is necessary to establish some relationship between man and the ape (which we deny), would it not be fair to suppose, as one scientist of Europe has recently done, that the apes are degenerate members
of the human family? Is it not safe for the man of average information and reasoning faculties to doubt the wisdom of these scientists who guess on both sides of the question and who reserve to themselves the right to change their guesses frequently, and who show the wildness of their unreason by discrepancies of millions of years in the guesses as to the time the first man appeared on the earth?
The "common people," who heard Jesus gladly and who still listen for the message of the Great Shepherd, will feel much safer and be much wiser if they will give heed only to the Divine Word on this subject. It speaks in no uncertain terms; and its theory is not self-contradictory, but safe and sane. It tells of man’s original creation in the image and likeness of God. It explains that the fall of the race from that perfection was proportionate to the alienation from God. The Apostle explains the whole situation in few words, saying, "When they knew God they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful, but became vain in their imaginations and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became foolish, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God for the likeness of an image of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed beasts and creeping things. Wherefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts unto uncleanness, that their bodies should be dishonored among themselves. And even as they refused to have God in their knowledge, God gave them up to a reprobate mind to do those things which were not fitting."—
CHANGE FOR WORSE—CHANGE FOR BETTER
Does not the Apostle’s inspired record of the influence of godlessness toward obscenity and degradation agree well with all that we surely know from our own experiences with the race and from the records of history?
They surely do! They are satisfactory to those who are
in a right attitude of mind, but nothing is satisfactory to those who are in a quibbling attitude and seeking to ignore a personal God and man as His handiwork. The Apostle’s argument is strengthened when we look at the reverse side and consider the effect of God’s truth and grace wherever it has touched and glanced throughout the world during the ages marked by the Scriptures and since.
For instance, consider the moral, physical and intellectual state of the world in Abraham’s day. We do not go further back, because little information is furnished us in the Scriptures respecting the epoch before the Flood, and little after the Flood until we come to Abraham, who under the call from God became a sojourner in the land of Canaan, while Shem, the son of Noah, was still living.
If the theory of Evolution were correct, Abraham would have been a short remove from a chimpanzee. But what do we find was his character? The Scriptural record tells of his various weaknesses as well as of his good qualities, and thereby shows itself to be an unbiased, truthful narrative.
Its story dignifies Abraham as a most wonderful man, full of faith in God to the extent that his character is still in many respects a model even for Christians. His dealings with his nephew Lot show him to have been a most just and honorable man. His management of extensive flocks and herds, with 318 trained male servants, shows him to have been a man of affairs, with a considerably larger capacity for management than the average man of today. His pursuit of and defeat of the army which had captured Sodom and taken its valuables as spoils and its people as prisoners, including Lot, Abraham’s nephew, showed a generalship on Abraham’s part of no mean order, and a skill among his trained servants which places them also on a plane of intelligence far removed from that of monkeys.
Moreover, Abraham’s dealing with the spoils—his refusal to accept any portion of them for himself—indicates a length, breadth, height and depth of intellect
and of character far beyond that of the majority of farmers, cattlemen and generals even of this, our day.
Furthermore, recent excavations in Babylonian ruins have brought to light the fact that among that people there was a high degree of civilization prevalent at that time; that goods were bought and sold by measure and for money; that accounts were kept much after the manner of the present time among the most civilized, and far away beyond what we find among the heathen races of our time. Further, we have connected with the history of Abraham a glance at the character of the King of Egypt, which shows that the latter was governed by high principles of honor, justice and morality in his dealings with Abraham and Sarah, his wife—principles so noble that we fear they could not be matched by one-half the princes and rulers of our day.—
GOD MADE ISRAEL TO DIFFER
The children of Abraham are still to be found—the Arabs of the desert, the sons of Ishmael; the Hebrews, the sons of Isaac. Do we find that any process of evolution has brought the children of Abraham to a higher, nobler standard, mental, moral or physical, than we see illustrated in him? Surely not! Let us look at God’s dealings. He declared to Abraham that He would take his posterity through Isaac and accomplish through them a work which eventually would bless and uplift the entire human family of every nation, of every race. But as though to show us that He was not dependent upon natural evolution for the development of the Jewish people God allowed that nation to go into a kind of slavery or serfdom to the Egyptians. After a long period of such serfdom the Lord brought them forth under the lead of Moses, who unquestionably was a great leader, a great general, a good man, as well as the meekest of men. He was a man that any nation in the world might be proud of today. Surely evolution has not developed the race
up to the standard of this son of a serf. The Law given at Sinai has served as the basis in the formulating of all laws since, and its brief, succinct statement, given in
, and in
, is still the standard of all law among the wisest and best people of earth, namely, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy mind, with all thy being, with all thy strength"; and "thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself."—
True, the people of Israel, surrounded by examples of idolatry and immorality, frequently slipped back from their covenant relationship to the Lord and their endeavors to keep the Divine Law, yet on the whole that nation ultimately became in some respects the greatest and wisest in the world under the administrations of David and Solomon. True, that nation passed under a cloud and lost special Divine favor when they rejected the Messiah, yet even now the influences of the Divine Promises and Law make them still a great people, so that while without national existence, scattered among all the nations of the earth, they wield an influence in finance and in literature second to none other. Unquestionably they were made to differ from other men by reason of God’s dealings with them and promises to them. In proportion to their faith and obedience to the Lord they have had a blessing.—
HOW CHRISTIANS DIFFER ALSO
But we are not to judge of the blessing upon Israel from the standard of those who had not a sufficiency of faith to accept the Messiah in His day. Rather we should look to those faithful ones who received Jesus. The twelve chosen by our Lord from the humbler walks of life to be His Apostles have left their mark in the world as its benefactors in the very highest sense—next to that of their Lord, the Redeemer.
When we come to consider the effect of this Gospel of Christ in the world, we must differentiate between true
Christians and nominal Christians. The latter are estimated to number 400,000,000 and include both the best and the worst specimens of the human family, including true Christians. All of this mass have been enlightened more or less through the teachings of Christ and the Apostles, but only a comparatively small number of them have received that special blessing to which they were invited and which does not carry an every-way favorable opinion among men.
Keep in view our argument, based upon the words of our text, "Who hath made us to differ?" Our claim, supported by the Bible and by history, is that the degradation which came upon the world through the disobedience and fall of Adam has been to a considerable extent offset by the grace and truth which our Lord Jesus brought to light through His Message of Salvation. As the Jews were blessed by the types and shadows of the Law and the prophetic messages sent to them, so during this Gospel Age every nation of the world has been blessed with a measure of enlightenment through the Gospel of Christ—in proportion as they have received the true Message in its purity and in proportion as they have responded thereto. But, alas, these two exceptions are very important ones! Let us consider them: The Message itself has been woefully corrupted, and that by the very ones who have claimed to rejoice in it and to be its ministers. The beauty and simplicity of the original Message—that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, imputing their transgressions to Him who died for us—gradually became warped and twisted into meaning that the Heavenly Father had been endeavoring to do violence to every principle of justice and love and to send the entire race of Adam to eternal torment; that Jesus in love and sympathy had interposed Himself in His endeavor to assist our race; but that His efforts, including His death, would avail but little to the majority who have died without so much as hearing of
the only name given under Heaven and amongst men whereby we must be saved. The beautiful teaching of God’s Word, that He is now electing or selecting from the world of mankind a very special class to constitute the Bride, the Lamb’s Wife, and joint-heir in the Millennial Kingdom which shall bless all the families of the earth—this has been twisted into a most horrible doctrine.
The false view of Election is that God, in the exercise of a Sovereign authority, determined to save a handful of our race to show what He could have done for all if He had so chosen; that He is utterly regardless of the interests of the non-elect, and has provided no salvation for them, either in the present or in the future life.
The fate of those who have died outside of the knowledge of Christ, and hence outside the possibility of salvation through faith in His name, has been horribly misrepresented, so that to the intelligent thinker the God of Love—who is working all things according to the counsel of His will—is made to appear a most terrible demon, lacking in justice and devoid of love, and far inferior to the most degraded of the human family—not one of whom could be supposed to take pleasure in the eternal torment of a fellow-creature.—
Is it strange that such a perversion of the Message brought forth an evil fruitage? Is it not true that so surely as a corrupt tree brings forth bad fruit, so false doctrines will develop bad characters in those who receive them? Looking back to the Dark Ages we feel a horror as we read of millions who suffered violent deaths, excruciating tortures, etc., for conscience sake; and when we are told that these cruelties were inflicted in the name of God and religion and the Bible, we rightly feel incensed at such a perversion of the truth, and subsequently we feel a sympathy as we realize that this wrong course of action resulted from the inculcation of false doctrines—contrary both to the word and to the spirit of the Bible.
Thus we see that churchianity does not properly represent
Christ and His teachings and those of the Apostles.
Nevertheless, as we should expect, the letter of Christ’s teachings to some extent prevails even among those whose conduct indicates that they either never possessed or had lost the spirit of His teachings—love, joy, peace, meekness, gentleness, patience, kindness.
"FEAR NOT, LITTLE FLOCK"
The blessing has been in proportion as the people have returned to the true Message. Apparently a few in every land have been in that attitude of heart which enabled them to appreciate the spirit of the true Message, notwithstanding the admixtures of human philosophy and falsehood. Yet these are but few now or at any time. Speaking of this our Lord Jesus called them a "little flock," saying, "Fear not, little flock; it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom." The twelve Apostles were of this little flock class; and there have been others of this same spirit all the way down through the ages, mixed in among the tares, among the formalistic hosts and more or less confused with the false doctrines. These, despite the errors and despite their own inability, have held to the Scriptural declarations respecting the justice and love of the Creator and the mercy provided in the Redeemer. They have ignored the misrepresentation of the Divine Character by the creeds of the Dark Ages, and have in heart accepted the Lord on the terms stated by our dear Redeemer: "If any man will be My disciple let him take up his cross and follow Me."—
Following the letter and spirit of this teaching this class have been willing to be counted fools for Christ’s sake, and have sought to walk in the footsteps of Him who has set them an example, to live separate from the world, to live for God and the Truth and for the blessing of fellowmen.
But so small is the number of these and so insignificant their influence that they are not recorded among any of the great denominations of the world, but
are counted as offscourings of all denominations—sometimes pitied, sometimes scorned. What the Apostle said of such in his day is still true—the world knoweth us not even as it knew our Lord not. What our Redeemer said of this class is still true: "Ye are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own; but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you."—
But although the world disowns and despises this class it recognizes, nevertheless, in them what it terms an impractical spirit—because their conceptions, ambitions and methods are not such as would bring the greatest prosperity and success in the present time, when sin and selfishness rule in the world. The world and churchianity have so misconceived the Divine Plan that whatever is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of the Lord, while that which is highly esteemed by the Lord is an abomination in the sight of those who are not in full accord with Him.
"WHO HATH MADE US TO DIFFER?"
We have seen that truth mixed with error has made Christendom to differ from heathendom, greatly to its advantage in some respects. The teaching of the Gospel respecting the original equality of the race and respecting the final accountability of each individual to the Lord alone—to the effect that the rule of judgment will be the same for prince and peasant, for learned and unlearned—has had the effect of opening the eyes of the human understanding along this line, whereas the heathen peoples are still under superstition respecting classes and castes.
The spirit of liberty thus infused through that measure of the truth which the world could and did receive has worked marvelous reformations of one kind and another wherever the Message of the Gospel has gone. The common people have grasped the thought that "A man’s a man for a’ that," and to some extent have grasped the
thought that opportunity and education and mental power have established the rulerships of this world, but that these have neither power nor influence respecting the life to come, when all will be on a common level before the judgment seat of Christ. The little of truth which Christendom has received therefore has been liberating and uplifting and enlightening and destructive to ignorance and superstition. But Christendom has not been prepared to receive other features of God’s Message, "speaking peace through Jesus Christ." They have not received the invitation to make a full consecration of their hearts to the Divine will and service and to walk in the footsteps of Jesus. Consequently they have not received the full benefit and blessing which they might have had.
In other words, they have developed along the lines of love and liberty, while they have not developed along the lines of consecration and realization of responsibility to God. As a consequence we are rapidly approaching a time when these poorly balanced conditions will mean the wreck of our present civilization. Growth in liberty, independence, etc., in connection with growth in selfishness, is liberty working out a condition of things which the Scriptures portray in respect to the closing of this age, in which—throughout Christendom especially—every man’s hand will be against his neighbors. Selfishness gone to seed will bring forth anarchy, the overthrow of all human government and restraints, the precipitation of the most awful trouble the world has ever known. Here we have an illustration of the danger of liberty while selfishness is the motive power. The essence of the Lord’s message being rejected, the consequences will be disastrous. The greater the light the greater the responsibility; the higher the elevation the greater the fall. This is the sad picture which the Scriptures give of our present civilization. "Churchianity"—which lacks of the Spirit of the Lord, the spirit of love—will wreck itself on its own intelligence because of its own spirit of
selfishness. A measure of truth made "Christendom" to differ from heathendom, and the result will be that in the collapse the most favored will sustain the greatest injury.
But what about the Little Flock, the true Christians, who not only appreciate their liberty, freedom from ignorance and superstition, but who accept the Lord’s Message in full, and by consecration of their all take up their cross to follow the dear Redeemer, not living merely for the present joys, comforts and honors, but chiefly for the Father’s will to be done—what about these? Ah!
theirs is a peculiar case, difficult for many to comprehend.
As the Master said to them, "In the world ye shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." So it is also that the world understands them not and thinks of them merely as a class of foolish persons who have no joy, no happiness, no pleasure in life.
On the contrary, these well know that they have more pleasure, more joy, more happiness than have their friends, because there is a peace of God which passeth understanding ruling in their hearts. They not only joy and rejoice in the future prospect—in a hope of a share in the First Resurrection and the glory, honor and immortality then to be given to the Elect, but are happy in present trials, difficulties and oppositions.—
Ah, this is the secret of true peace and true joy—the love of God, the promises of God, the realization from God’s Word that present trials and difficulties are all working together for good to them that love Him, to all called ones according to His purpose—preparing them for the glory, honor, blessing and usefulness of the future—of the Millennium and after! These have learned not to care so much for the smiles or frowns of the world, as they once did. They look beyond for the smile of their Heavenly Lord and Bridegroom, and are happy, while by the eye of faith they discern that, no matter what their earthly conditions may be, they rejoice in the privilege of serving their Master and His cause.
"WHAT HAVE WE THAT WE HAVE NOT RECEIVED?"
And in these words of our text there is a thought which should help us toward humility, one of the graces of the Lord’s Spirit, without which, He tells us, we could never be acceptable to Him as joint-heirs with our dear Redeemer in His glorious Kingdom that is to bless the world of mankind very soon. Do we not see it to be true, as the Apostle expressed it, that everything that we possess—every quality of character and of its development—has come to us from the Lord; that we ourselves originated nothing whatever of which we could boast or of which we could be proud?—
Looking back into the remote past we find that our forefathers were heathen savages, and that the Lord sent to them some measure of the Gospel light. They were blessed in proportion as they received it into good and honest hearts. Coming down we find the blessings of civilization following this Gospel of light, truth and grace.
And in our own individual cases we realize that we were favorably born, and that in the Word of God we have the power of God for the transformation of the character; and that our own work in connection with this has been so inspired and enthused by the Lord’s promises that we see, as the Scriptures tell us, that God has been working in us to will and to do His good pleasure by these promises and instructions furnished us through the Scriptures. Our justification through faith in the precious blood is surely not of ourselves, but of the Lord, who provided the sacrifice and who has given us the blessed anointing of the eyes of our understanding that we might see Jesus as the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world. It was favor upon favor that we were granted an appreciation of the privilege of presenting our bodies living sacrifices, and of thus becoming disciples of Christ and followers in His footsteps, that eventually we might attain unto the First Resurrection and become members of the Bride, the Lamb’s Wife.