VOL. XXXIV SEPTEMBER 1 No. 17
A. D. 1913--A. M. 6041
Superiority of the Original Abrahamic
The Children of the Oath......................260
The Three Great Covenants in Brief............260
"Laborers Together With God"......................261
Some Glaring Inconsistencies..................262
The Law of Retribution........................263
God's Work in Our Wills and Hearts................263
Three Ways of Determining God's Will..........264
The Work Done in Our Hearts...................265
God's Supervision in World and Church.............265
World's Empires Illustrated Great
Matters of Church Discipline..................266
Graves of Greediness..............................267
The Sin of Murmuring..........................267
Selfish Prayers Answered......................268
Jealousy and Envy Punished........................269
Some Interesting Letters..........................271
Berean Questions in Scripture Studies.............271
WATCH TOWER BIBLE AND TRACT SOCIETY
CHARLES T. RUSSELL, PRESIDENT
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VOLUNTEER EXTENSION WORK
The Volunteers this year are doing nobly and we have splendid ammunition. No doubt the results will be great. However, we must not hope to know the details until we reach the Kingdom. Meantime it is ours to do faithfully what our hands find to do--what our Lord privileges us to do.
We suggest that Class Extension work find parallel in Volunteer Extension work. After you have served your place of residence, seek the Lord's blessing in an endeavor to extend the distribution of free literature to other towns and cities within a reasonable radius. The Society is pleased to supply the ammunition free of all charges. It merely wishes, with the order, the names of the places to be served and the assurance that the work undertaken will (D.V.) be promptly done--that the literature will not be permitted to lie by unused. Remember that census population includes infants and that a proper estimate of one paper to the family would be one to five of the population.
BETHEL HYMNS FOR OCTOBER
After the close of the hymn the Bethel Family listens to the reading of "My Vow Unto the Lord," then joins in prayer. At the breakfast table the MANNA text is considered. Hymns for October follow: (1) 165; (2) 166; (3) 305; (4) 179; (5) 58; (6) 4; (7) 102; (8) 330; (9) 42; (10) 39; (11) 7; (12) 230; (13) 16; (14) 12; (15) 147; (16) 208; (17) 105; (18) 145; (19) 135; (20) 8; (21) 281; (22) 109; (23) 12; (24) 176; (25) 160; (26) 222; (27) 293; (28) 101; (29) 235; (30) 244; (31) 168.
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SUPERIORITY OF THE ORIGINAL ABRAHAMIC
THE Scriptures mention three great Covenants, typified by the three wives of Abraham. These Covenants are represented in the order of those wives. Sarah was the first wife of Abraham--the only acknowledged wife. Then came Hagar, Sarah's maid-servant; and later Keturah. Sarah and Hagar each had one son, but Keturah had six. The Scriptures show that Abraham made Isaac his heir (`Gen. 25:5`), and that through Isaac both Ishmael and the sons of Keturah received their portion. The fact that Ishmael was born before Isaac did not alter the fact that Isaac was the heir.
From the very beginning, the Covenant which God had in mind was the one which is in operation in the Church-- the Abrahamic Promise, or Covenant. St. Paul declares (`Gal. 3:8`) that God preached the Gospel to Abraham in advance, saying, "In thee and in thy Seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed." (`Gen. 12:3`; `28:14`.) The same Apostle also shows that the original Abrahamic Covenant mentions two seeds, represented in the statement, "I will multiply thy seed (1) as the stars of heaven, and (2) as the sand which is upon the sea shore." (`Gen. 22:17`.) As Abraham here typified God, the Promise shows two classes developed as God's children--(1) Christ and the Church, on the spirit plane; and (2) the Restitution class of mankind, on the human plane.
St. Paul refers to these two seeds in `Rom. 4:16,17`, the one developed under Faith, and the other under Law and Works. The first, the Spiritual Seed, has been in process of development during this Gospel Age. The second, the seed according to the flesh, the Restitution class (with the exception of the Ancient Worthies, developed previous to the Gospel Age), will be developed under the New Covenant and by its Mediator, according to Law and Works, and not by Faith merely.
The Law Covenant, made at Sinai, was a type of the New Covenant, and had for its mediator Moses, the man of God. This Covenant brought nothing to perfection, however, for its mediator, as well as the people, was imperfect. St. Paul explains that Israel, typified by Ishmael, did not receive the blessing, but that The Christ received it. Later, however, Israel is to receive a blessing, as the Apostle points out; and that blessing will be brought by the New Covenant, after the glorification of the Church.
The question naturally arises, If the Abrahamic Covenant contained the Divine Promise to the full, both for the Church and for the world, why did God arrange for two other Covenants; namely, the Law Covenant, instituted at Mount Sinai with Israel, and having Moses for its mediator, and the New Covenant, which is to follow, and under which the whole world is to be blessed?
PURPOSE OF THE ADDED COVENANTS
We answer that these two Covenants were added to further elucidate the Divine Purpose, and to help us to appreciate the operation of Divine Love and Justice.
(1) The Law Covenant was added to the Abrahamic Promise, or Covenant, as St. Paul explains, to fill up the time until the promised Seed should come, to whom the Covenant applied, and this was necessary because of sin, that the high Divine standard for the Seed might be shown. The Law Covenant with Israel rendered this very service; for it set up the standard which approved Jesus and condemned all others. It also helped to develop the Jewish nation toward God and righteousness, and to fit and prepare some of them for the glorious High Calling of the Gospel Age, which ultimately came to them, inviting them to Divine favor and joint-heirship with Messiah in the Millennial Kingdom.
The Law Covenant also provided certain typical transactions and prophecies, which have been very beneficial to Spiritual Israel during this Gospel Age, illustrating to us in these types and shadows of the Law, and enunciating to us in the prophecies of the Old Testament, various matters appertaining to the blessing of the Church during this Age, and that of the world during the next Age.
(2) Through the New Covenant--the second addition to the original, Abrahamic Covenant--the world is to get all of its blessings and favors of Restitution. This New [Law] Covenant has not yet been inaugurated; for the Mediator who is to inaugurate it, and to cause its blessings to reach every member of Adam's race during the Millennial Age, has not yet been completed. This New Covenant will be inaugurated in the end of this Gospel Age, and its work will embrace the entire period of the Millennium.
Jesus, our Redeemer and Head, is the appointed Mediator of the New Covenant by virtue of the merit of His own sacrifice at Calvary. He could have sealed it and begun at once its operation, had not the Father "provided some better thing for US" (the Church, the Bride of Christ, whom God foreknew as Jesus' members), than for the Ancient Worthies. This is the Mystery--that the Gospel Age has been devoted to the development of the Body of the Mediator.--`Ephesians 3:3-6`; `Colossians 1:27`.
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THE CHILDREN OF THE OATH
The Scriptures clearly show that our Lord was the Messiah, the long-promised Seed of Abraham. (`Luke 1:32,33,55,72-74`; `2:11`; `John 1:41`; `4:25,26`.) "The Church, which is His Body," is also developed under the original Abrahamic Covenant, which God bound with an oath. St. Paul calls it "the hope set before us, which we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil." (`Heb. 6:13-20`.) Again, he says to the Church, "Ye, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of the Promise." (`Gal. 4:28`.) The Church are the children of the Oath.
Our begetting Promise, through Christ, to the new nature, is very different from that by which the Jews were constituted the House of Servants, and wholly different from those promises by which restored Israel and all the families of the earth will be brought to human perfection through Restitution processes, as children of the Keturah, or New Covenant. Since our Lord was developed under the Abrahamic Covenant, the Church also must be developed under that Covenant; for the Spiritual Seed cannot be the child of two mothers. It is written, "In Isaac shall thy Seed be called."--`Gen. 21:12`.
THE NEW COVENANT EVERLASTING
It is very evident that the world does not enter into New Covenant relationship with God individually at the beginning of the Millennial Age, and will do so only at the end of that Age. Throughout that period, the matter will be strictly and solely in the hands of the Mediator. During that time He will uplift mankind, and make them individually and collectively (as many as are willing) worthy of God's everlasting life and blessing. So then, we see clearly that the end of the Millennial Age will be the end of the Mediatorship of Christ, and will mean the personal and individual New Covenant relationship of each one of the world.
There is another view, however, which should have our consideration, and that is this: The same New Covenant that starts with the beginning of the Millennial Age will continue through all eternity. There is not to be an additional New Covenant at the end of the thousand years of Christ's reign. This New Covenant will be operated, not directly between God and man, but through the Mediator. In this Covenant, God agrees that He will remember the sins and iniquities of the world no more, that He will have nothing against them, and that they may have His blessings the same as though they were personally received of Himself. They will be received through their Representative, The Mediator, The Christ.
The whole world during the Millennial Reign will be in Covenant relationship with God, in exactly the same
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way that Israel was in Covenant relationship with God-- through the Mediator. The Law Covenant persisted after Moses died. So this New Covenant will continue after Christ shall have finished His work. The whole world will be under that Covenant arrangement. But before God finally accepts them, He will give them a test to see how many of them will be found worthy of everlasting life. Hence the test at the close of the thousand years is a test by Jehovah, a test to prove the worthiness of each to enter into everlasting covenant relationship with Him. They will not be tested as a nation or as a race, but each individual must establish his own right to this covenant relationship--a new covenant relationship in that the original, similar relationship was vitiated by Father Adam's disobedience.
Throughout the thousand years of Messiah's Reign, He as Mediator has absolute control of the whole human family. His Law and His arrangements, in full harmony with those of Jehovah, will be the ones that will be operative. They will be more favorable than any arrangement Jehovah could directly make; for mankind being imperfect, would be incapable of perfect thoughts and words and deeds for awhile, and Jehovah's Law cannot recognize sin in any degree.
The Mediator will have mankind fully under His control and regulations for the purpose of uplifting all who will. This will include the right, also, to destroy in the Second Death any who will not obey. He can exercise the full powers of an autocrat in the matter. No one will have any authority but Himself. The Son having bought the world, He will be an Autocrat for those thousand years. The Kingdom will be a Reign of compulsion. This will be necessary for the correction of the world in righteousness, with a view to their perfecting.
A FULL TRIAL GUARANTEED TO ALL
The Scriptures are clear in their declaration that God has purposed from the beginning that mankind shall have another, an individual, trial for everlasting life, wholly free from the injury received by them as a result of the failure of Adam in the first trial. Provision has been made for this, so that Justice can sanction the arrangement. To this end, Christ tasted "death for every man." He "gave Himself a Ransom for all, to be testified in due time." The due time for some is in the present Age. The due time for others will be in the Messianic Age.
Those who die during the thousand years of Christ's Reign will be those only who will have had a full trial. They will be those who remain unconverted, those whose wills are not right. But God purposes that none shall perish because of ignorance, misunderstanding. Therefore God has made full provision for the enlightenment of all (`I Tim. 2:3-6`), and that all who will be obedient shall be saved; and this full opportunity will be brought to all through Christ's Kingdom.
If, under the Messianic Reign, some will die a hundred years old, who are still imperfect, not fully restored to perfection, how can such be said to have had a full trial? The answer is that God's arrangement for every member of the race is that Christ in His Mediatorial Kingdom will help them out of their fallen condition, if they will. The condition required is that they shall accept and seek to obey the Divine will. After coming to a clear knowledge of the Truth, all such will be helped out of their weaknesses, allowance being made for all their failures through imperfection. But those who would sin wilfully under such knowledge and opportunity, would do the same if they had full knowledge and ability.
This last class are spoken of as angels, or messengers, of Satan and Sin; for whoever wilfully and intelligently sins against the Divine arrangement is of Satan's spirit. All who develop such disobedient wills shall go into the Second Death. There is nothing further for them. The whole Plan of Salvation is with a view to rescuing those who with knowledge and opportunity will be glad to come into harmony with God and to walk in the ways of truth and righteousness.
THE THREE GREAT COVENANTS IN BRIEF
As heretofore stated, the Abrahamic Covenant is first in order of time and importance. This Covenant has two parts. The first applies to the Spiritual Seed of Abraham, The Christ, Head and Body--the antitype of Isaac, or, in another figure, of Isaac and Rebecca. These are the Seed of Abraham--the Seed of Promise--not fleshly, but Spiritual.
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The second part of the Covenant applies to the world of mankind--"all the families of the earth." These are to be blessed by the Spiritual Seed with an opportunity of becoming Abraham's natural seed, and heirs, with him, of the earth and the fulness thereof. The conditions upon which they may obtain God's favor, and a Restitution to all that was lost, are that they shall exercise faith, and render obedience to the Divine provision which will be represented in Messiah's Kingdom, when it shall be inaugurated.
The Seed of Abraham--Jesus and the Church--is the legitimate Heir of this Abrahamic Covenant, wholly regardless of the Law Covenant which was made with Israel at Sinai, or of the New Law Covenant that is to be made with Israel at the close of the Gospel Age.
This Abrahamic Covenant has no mediator; but the Law Covenant had Moses for its mediator, and the New Law Covenant will have Messiah, the Spiritual Heir of the Abrahamic Covenant, as its Mediator.
The Abrahamic Covenant needs no mediator; for there are no terms and conditions upon which to base a mediation. In it God merely declared His purpose to find a Seed of Abraham, by certain selective processes of His own, and to bless and honor this Seed in connection with the remainder of mankind. This especially selected Seed of Abraham, as the Apostle points out, is Christ and the Church--God's Elect.--`Gal. 3:8,16,29`; `Rom. 8:29,30`.
GOD'S SELECTION OF THE SPIRITUAL SEED
God has taken certain steps whereby He is making a selection of those worthy and pleasing to Him, to constitute this Messianic company. His arrangement for finding these is shown by the Scripture which, referring to this call of the Gospel Age to membership in that Seed of Abraham, says, "Gather My saints together unto Me; those that have made a Covenant with Me by sacrifice." (`Psa. 50:5`.) This Covenant of sacrifice of the human will, and of all the rights and privileges and liberties of the flesh, proves a most drastic test, and demonstrates to the Lord the very peculiar people whom He desires to be the Spiritual Seed of Abraham. They become a Spiritual Seed by renouncing the flesh and all its rights and liberties--even unto death.
The Head of this Seed is the portion which contains the life for the entire Body. All the members added to Him needed, first of all, to be justified by His merit. These were not justified under the Law Covenant, which made nothing perfect; nor were they justified under the New Covenant; for it is not yet completed. But the blood which by and by will be effective for the sealing of the New Law Covenant for Israel and the world, is effective now, in advance, for the justification of those accepted as the Body of the Mediator. This is possible because these Body members were selected from the same human family as the rest of mankind. Therefore the blood which by and by is to seal and make operative the New Covenant to the world, is the same blood, or merit of Christ, which justifies freely all those now called to be saints, and joint-heirs of Jesus.
SECOND AND THIRD COVENANTS--TYPE AND ANTITYPE
The Second Covenant, in order of time, was the Law Covenant. (`Exod. 19:3-8`.) This was an addition to the Abrahamic Covenant, which addition could not interfere with the original Covenant. It was typical. It had a typical mediator, typical sacrifices of bulls and goats, a typical Atonement Day, a typical Holy and Most Holy.
The third and last is the New Law Covenant, to be instituted in the future. (`Jer. 31:31-34`; `Heb. 8:6-13`.) This cannot set aside, or make null or void, the original Abrahamic Covenant of Grace, any more than could the Law Covenant of Sinai. The New Law Covenant cannot be introduced, sealed, made operative, until the Abrahamic Covenant shall have brought forth the Seed of Abraham and invested Him with glory, honor and Divine majesty. Then this antitypical Moses, The Christ complete, Head and Body, will mediate between God and the world of mankind for a thousand years.
The basis of this New Covenant's blessings will be the merit of Messiah; but this merit will not be presented on behalf of the world, or to seal the New Covenant for Natural Israel and mankind, in order to the Restitution blessings, until first the entire Seed of Abraham, Head and Body, shall have been completed; and it cannot be completed until all the sacrificing has been finished. The sacrifice of the Head was finished eighteen centuries ago, and was typified by the bullock, in the Atonement Day sacrifices of Israel. The sacrifice of the consecrated Church, His members, who have been accepted by Him, has been going on now for eighteen centuries, and was typified by the goat, in the sacrifices of the same Day of Atonement.
Not until the Messiah shall have finished all of His sacrificial work of the Gospel Age, not until the last member shall, under His hand, have passed from the earthly condition of membership to the Heavenly condition, will the sufferings of The Christ be finished, will the sufferings which He left behind be filled up; and not until then will He usher in the blessings of the Messianic Kingdom. And those blessings will be secured to mankind by the great Mediator's applying the merit of His sacrifice on their behalf.
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"LABORERS TOGETHER WITH GOD"
"We are laborers together with God."--`1 Cor. 3:9`.
DURING this Gospel Age there has been a work of God, arranged for and carried on by Him. And that work is the selection of the Seed of Abraham. The first opportunity of being of this Seed was granted to the natural seed of Abraham--Israel after the flesh. The work succeeded so far as the gathering of an elect company from among them was concerned. And having accomplished this part of the work, God set the Jewish nation aside, while the further work of the selection of the Elect from among the other nations has continued for eighteen centuries.
"Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for, but the Election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded." The blindness is merely until the remaining members of the elect class have been found; and then God's favor will return to Natural Israel. "And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob; for this is My Covenant with them, when I shall take away their sins." Israel made a failure respecting the Election, except a few. And yet they are still beloved for the fathers' sakes.--`Romans 11:7,26-28`.
The one work of the Gospel Age has been the selection of the Spiritual Seed of Abraham, through whom all the families of the earth shall be blessed--shall become of the earthly seed. This Promise, that all the families of
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the earth shall be blessed, cannot be fulfiled until the Spiritual Seed shall first be completed. "If ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's Seed, and heirs according to the Promise." There has been but one work from first to last. And so we read: "One soweth, and another reapeth. I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labor; other men labored, and ye are entered into their labors." (`John 4:35-38`.) Whether it was at the beginning, or now at the close of the Age--the time of the reaping--it is all one work, and there is the one purpose being served, the gathering of the Elect.
If asked as to the reason why we will not enter into and engage in humanitarian work, building hospitals, looking after the poor, doing slum work, etc., our answer would be, We are so engaged. We have agents all over the country attending to that very work. In every county in the state there is an almshouse. The hospitals are taking care of the sick and the blind. The money to do this with is provided by the state--and it is the money of the citizens which is used. If anybody assists in doing some additional work for the poor, he has that privilege, he has that right.
We believe it to be our duty to be humanitarian, and our state laws are humanitarian. New York is a first class state. And if we were in Pennsylvania, we would be able to say the same. And so in respect to any state we know of in this country. As respects these humanitarian efforts, the reason we do not engage in them more particularly is that we think they are well managed by the "powers that be," according to the Government and the will of the people. And any one who thinks differently holds different views from the majority. We stand in with the majority as to the proper way of dealing with these questions. Why do we not more particularly take part in slum work? We understand that it is not for us to do. We cannot do better along this line than the majority. To interfere in these matters would imply that we have not confidence in the laws. We have no right to go about interfering with the laws.
Why do we not engage in holding revivals? For the reason that those who engage in the holding of revivals are doing something that the Scriptures never instructed us to do. Nothing in the Bible says that we are to go and pull the people in to hear some one speak. Let each do as seemeth him best. If there is any one who thinks differently, and he can do any good, all well and good; if he does more harm than good, then that, also, is his responsibility. Our responsibility is to follow the course laid down by the Bible. And the Bible does not say anything about holding revival meetings. Those who wish to do this have the privilege of so doing. This is a free country. But we do not find that Jesus did this. To any one who thinks differently, we give full liberty to do according to his will, and find no fault with him.
Why do you not take up collections for the missionary societies? is asked. We answer, You have a right to contribute to your missionary society. It is not ours, it is yours. You will be responsible to the Master for what you do, so you have full right and privilege to do whatever you think proper--and we have the same. What we are trying to do for the heathen is to show them that God is Love.
We are trying to show them that the theory of eternal torment is not the Truth, and that if they really knew the teachings of the Bible, they would see that God is a God of Love, and they would love Him; and this would be a helpful thing to them. You have a right to create a missionary fund. We would not throw a straw in your way. By and by you will hear whether the Master says, "Well done!" to your work or to ours.
As to why we do not engage in Socialism: Socialism is impracticable. We are glad that Socialism has done a great deal for the world. We are glad that we have a measure of Socialism--the street railways and cars, gas and water systems, etc. If, for instance, any family wanted to make its own gas and have its own plant for filtering water, etc., to do so would be quite an expense. And if each wanted to have its own street car lines, etc., the streets would be crowded up too much. But when Socialism goes on to tell us that it is the savior of the world, we dispute the claim. We hold that, on the contrary, Socialism is about to bring the world into anarchy. Not that Socialists wish to do so, but they are unwise.
We would be very much inclined to favor many phases of Socialism, were it not that we see in the Bible that God has a very much better way of accomplishing the same results. However, the Bible assures us that there is a great time of trouble coming, before the blessings can come. But first God is gathering out a saintly company, and testing and proving them, so that He can entrust to them the government of the future. They will constitute the theocracy of God.
We are fully convinced that the Bible is correct, that it is the Truth, and that nothing can bring about the desired result but the Kingdom of God. We are laborers together with God. He is working with us, and we are working with Him. What is the work? God's present work is finding the saintly, the true, and guiding them, fitting them for the spiritual Kingdom to be introduced. Therefore we are working for Socialism to an extent, but working in a different manner. Socialists are working according to their light, and we according to our light.
SOME GLARING INCONSISTENCIES
The various denominations represent Christian people with good desires, good intentions, and having certain fixed ideas respecting God and His will. No two of these agree. Many of their beliefs are thoroughly inconsistent. There are over six hundred different denominations. It is unreasonable for us to believe, as the Baptists do, that any one will go to a place or condition of everlasting torment for not having been put into water over his head! We cannot believe anything so unreasonable. And just the same with our Presbyterian friends and their doctrine. They are certainly sincere. They have taken hold of the doctrine of John Calvin.
If John Calvin had had the proper view, he never could have signed the death warrant to burn his Christian brother Servetus at the stake. This fact teaches us that he was not a proper teacher of theology, however good he might have been in mind and heart. And when we come to look at his theology, that God fore-ordained that a little handful of humanity should be saved, not for any good that they had done, but of His sovereign will; and that He equally fore-ordained all the non-elect to an eternity of torture--if we believed such doctrine as this, we would believe that God was the veriest devil we could imagine--to cause hundreds of millions to come into existence, knowing that He had nothing for them but an eternity of suffering! That is a most devilish thought! We cannot believe that theory. If we did, we could not worship God!
And then as to the Methodists, and their Free Grace! This does not give one much show. How could that Grace be free?--only one in ten thousand ever having a chance of getting it! We are sorry for them if that
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view appears to their minds as rational. We would not be a Methodist or a Presbyterian for a million dollars a year! Not that we do not love our Presbyterian, Methodist and Catholic friends, etc., but it would not be right for us to so believe. We find so much error in any one of their doctrines! We find that not one of them is in accord with the Bible.
We prefer to stand by Jesus and the Apostles and all who are in harmony with them. We prefer to stand for what the Bible calls the Church of the First-born, and for whatever the Bible teaches. And when we thus take our stand, we find that the Bible teaches something beautiful --that God is indeed preparing a Church, to be associated with Jesus in His Kingdom; and we find that nobody is to be roasted eternally--quite to the contrary, they are all to be blessed with an opportunity to live forever.
The Elect are the Spiritual Seed of Abraham, through whom all the non-elect are to be blessed. According to the Bible, the dead are all asleep; they do not know anything.
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"Their sons come to honor and they know it not," because "There is no wisdom, nor knowledge, nor device in Sheol, whither thou goest." We find that Jesus went to Sheol. We find that, having thus given the Ransom-price for Adam and his family, all that are in their graves shall hear the voice of the Son of Man, and come forth.
We find that during the thousand years of Messiah's Kingdom, Christ and His Church will be reigning--not to oppress the world, but to lift them up, to break the shackles of sin and death. We find that under this blessed arrangement, all will be brought to a knowledge of the Truth; and that at the close of that thousand-year period Christ will have finished His work; and that as a result of His Reign, not only will all be destroyed who love unrighteousness, sin, and who refuse to live in harmony with God, but all who were willing to come into harmony will have bowed the knee. "Unto Him [Christ] every knee shall bow and every tongue confess."
These are the reasons why we cannot work hand-in-glove with those who have opposite theories and opposite ideas. We cannot associate with systems and be bound up to creeds that are dishonoring to God and contrary to His Word, the Bible!
THE LAW OF RETRIBUTION
There will be many who will have their chance in the future who do not have their chance now. But whatever knowledge they have now will not do them any harm. A certain cast of mind cannot receive the things of God now. The Scriptures say that they cannot appreciate a God of Justice and Love. Therefore "none of the wicked shall understand" is the statement of the Scriptures. If they could understand, if they could get the right thought, they would see that every transgression, in proportion to its degree of wilfulness, will be punished in the future; hence they would know that they are treasuring up to themselves wrath.
God has established, as a general law, the principle that whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he reap. Every step a man takes down must be retraced. If every one knew this, it would make mankind very much more careful. If a man knows that there is to be a just punishment, it will make him very much more careful than if he thinks it will be an unjust punishment. Our thought is that if the people could get the proper focus on the subject of the penalty for sin, it would be the most potent factor in convincing them of the propriety of righteous living. Furthermore, we might cite to the denominations the fact that with all their preaching of eternal torment, they succeed in driving but a comparatively small number into holiness of life--into becoming footstep followers of Jesus, character copies of God's dear Son.
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GOD'S WORK IN OUR WILLS AND HEARTS
"Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God that worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure."--`Phil. 2:12,13`.
IN EVERY instance where the Apostles use the word we, they evidently refer to the New Creation, the spiritual New Creatures in Christ. When St. Paul says, "Work out your own salvation," he is addressing the Church, not the world. The world is not now on trial for salvation. "Work out your own salvation; for it is God that worketh in you both to will and to do." But when addressing the New Creature we are to remember that the personality is still maintained. For instance, the Apostle says, "Ye were bought with a price" --before you became New Creatures. It is the same ego, the same personality as before.
In the words, "It is God that worketh in you," the Apostle does not mean that God began to work in you when you were bought, but it means that from before the time of your begetting and quickening He has done so; for as the Scriptures elsewhere say, we were drawn of God, and we were called of God, before our consecration.
GOD THE MAGNET TO LOVERS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS
God is represented as the great Magnet, drawing all who love righteousness. He drew us before we became Christians at all--the truth and righteousness of our Heavenly Father was the magnet. Man having been originally created in God's image and likeness, a measure of this image and likeness still remains. And to whatever extent the natural man loves righteousness and truth and mercy, he has something that is approved of by God, who is the great Center of Righteousness, Justice, Truth and Mercy.
Some of humanity have fallen so low that the drawing power of the Magnet has very little influence upon them. In others of our fallen race there is a larger measure of our Lord's character-likeness remaining. Such as have some love for righteousness, some degree of mercy, would realize a drawing toward the great Heavenly Father. Perhaps every one of us who are disciples of Christ felt something of that drawing before we came to the Father at all. The Lord Jesus says, "No man can come unto Me, except the Father which sent Me draw him." So we must first be drawn of the Father.
But God has appointed only one Way for us to come unto Him--and this Way is Christ. Those who desire to come unto God, then, must come by this Way, and must learn the terms upon which they may come. They are told that they can come only by humbling themselves, and sacrificing self. "If any man will be My disciple, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me." So the Lord puts the barrier there, and none will come in except those who have a real, earnest desire. In the next Age, God has something to offer the rest of mankind. He will deal with them under different conditions. But now He is not looking for those who are merely feeling after Him.
To those who seek the Lord there comes the question,
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Do you love God and righteousness? Will you surrender all human will and preference, and accept instead the Divine will? If they accept these terms, then they will become Jesus' disciples. If they say, No, I cannot go so far as that! then they cannot become His disciples. As one minister said not long since, "I have not taken my consecration so seriously as that yet." So it is with a good many. They would like to go to Heaven on flowery beds of ease.
But those who make a full consecration of their lives, who through Christ come into vital relationship with the Father, are New Creatures. Does God cease to work in them after this step has been taken? No. God has provided further ways by which He works in them. It is the spirit of character-likeness to God--their love of righteousness--that so worked in them that they were willing to give up their earthly rights. That is a powerful working. God thus first works in us to will. All that we did, then, was to give ourselves to Him, through Christ. We willed that we would give ourselves up to God, if He would receive us. And He did receive us.
THREE WAYS OF DETERMINING GOD'S WILL
We receive the instruction to know the will of God through His Word, through His providences, and through all the experiences of life, in order that we may both will and do His good pleasure. When we made our consecration we willed to do God's will. But we did not see that will fully. As we go on, we see His will more and more distinctly. And as we see the leadings of His providence in all the experiences of life, we become more and more imbued with His Spirit--the Holy Spirit. Thus God gradually works in us to do. The willing comes first, then the quickening, energizing, doing.
The power that works in us to do is the same power that works in us to will. Can we will perfectly? Yes. Can we do perfectly? No. Why can we will perfectly and not do perfectly? Because the will of God has become our will, our mind. The Apostle says, "With the mind I myself serve the Law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin." (`Rom. 7:25`.) The flesh has inherited various weaknesses and fallen tendencies; therefore we are unable to do perfect works, and the flesh continually needs the Robe of Christ's Righteousness.
We need continually that the great Redeemer shall be our great Advocate, that we may come with courage to the Throne of Heavenly Grace and find mercy and help in time of need. So God is working in the New Creatures, first to will and then to do His good pleasure. And every promise of God is to this end--not merely that we should submit to His will, but that we should rejoice to do His good pleasure, that we should delight to do His will at any cost. Thus shall we work out our own salvation and please our Heavenly Lord.
WORKING OUT OUR OWN SALVATION
In order to appreciate our text we must study it in its proper setting, remembering that it is not addressed, as some people are inclined to suppose, to the world. It is addressed to a special class whose sins have been forgiven, and who through Christ have been brought into a special relationship with God, into the position of sons of God. And it is from this standpoint that they must work out their own salvation. Our salvation is to be
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brought unto us at the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
No one has salvation now except in a reckoned sense. In this sense we have been saved, and can draw near to the Father. But we are still under the general dominion of Sin and Death. We are not actually saved as yet. We must work out our salvation. In this text the Apostle is showing how it is to be done. He shows this further when he addresses the Church as Beloved. He would not thus address vile persons, or those who had no knowledge of Christ--who were either heathen or worse. The Epistle itself shows that he is addressing saints of God.
What kind of salvation is this of which the Apostle is speaking--that has to be worked out? It is not salvation in the general sense, out of sin and death back to human perfection, when conditions will all be favorable, when Satan will be bound for a thousand years, and when all the active influence of Messiah's Kingdom will be in operation. When the Apostle here says, "your salvation," he is particularizing the salvation peculiar to this Gospel Age--"so great salvation."--`Heb. 2:3`.
As we enter more particularly into this matter, to see how great a salvation it is, we are more and more astonished at its depth and height. It is not merely a salvation from sin, but it is very much more. Not only is it to be everlasting, but it is a salvation to glory, honor and immortality, joint-heirship with Messiah in all the glorious things that are His in His exalted position, far above angels, principalities and powers and every name that is named. (`Eph. 1:21`.) The wider our eyes of understanding open to see the length and breadth and height and depth of this great salvation, the grander it appears. As we think of the possibility of obtaining it, we are filled with enthusiasm--and also with fear. For what if any of us should come short of so glorious a salvation--so high a calling!
The Apostle says, "Let us therefore fear, lest a promise being left us of entering into His rest, any of you should seem to come short of it." (`Heb. 4:1`.) The slightest intimation that we are coming short of the glorious Divine standard should fill us with fear lest we miss the great salvation. This is not the fear of torment, begotten of ignorance and misunderstanding of God, such as the heathen have. They have a fear of God, a dread of God, which amounts to torment; as the Apostle John says, "Fear hath torment." But this kind of fear is cast out of us as we come to a knowledge of the Lord and are privileged to call Him Father. It is the holy fear that actuates us, altogether. We have no slavish fear, either of men or anything else. We belong to this special class, the Beloved, who have a special offer of a special kind of salvation.
OUR GREAT PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY
The expression, Work out, has a peculiar force and meaning. It suggests something that is difficult, that requires time and patience. The decision has already been made, or we would not be of this class. We settled the matter when we first made this determination. We have already presented our bodies living sacrifices. And now we are beloved sons of God; and this that we have undertaken lies before us. We see how our Master laid down His earthly life, and we see from the Scriptures that He is to be an Ensample to us. So we are to submit ourselves rejoicingly to all the providences of God--glad to have God's will done in us, whatever it may cost, whatever it may mean to sacrifice.
It is by painstaking care that we work out our great salvation. God has provided the way--made all the arrangements for us. There is nothing lacking, so far as God is concerned. The whole matter lies with ourselves. God has begotten us of the Holy Spirit. All the influences necessary for us are at our command, because at His command, because we have been called, because we have been accepted, because we have been introduced into His family through the merit of the great Advocate!
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And so much the more are we disposed to feel a sense of fear and trembling as we think of all this! There is this great position--glory, honor and immortality! The result lies in my own hands! There is not another person in the universe responsible for my success or failure but myself! I must gain that great prize! The Lord will not gain it for me. He will merely assist me in the performing of this great Covenant.
So it is very proper for us to have this fear, a realization of the fact that we are each making history for eternity. We are to be either on the great plane of glory, the Divine nature, or else on a lower plane, as the Levites; or we may go into the Second Death, and lose everything, from which there will be no recovery.
THE WORK DONE IN OUR HEARTS
As we realize these facts, it is no wonder that we tremble and fear, and feel our need of walking, as the Apostle says, circumspectly, and of weighing our thoughts, so as to be in conformity to the will of God in Christ. This is indeed a condition that might be called fear and trembling. It is a condition of great earnestness. There is no room for foolishness here, or lightness, or frivolity. God is testing every power we possess to see whether we know what we have said in our consecration vow, to prove whether we were sincere and meant it all, to prove whether to any extent we overstated ourselves and did not mean entire devotion to Him.
If we were not wholly in earnest about this matter, then we shall show it. God has done His part in making all the conditions and in accepting us. Now everything is for us to work out. Surely we should have fear and trembling as we remember this. We know that it is God that is working in us. God Himself has begun a work in us. None of the angels ever had such a work take place in their hearts. None of the angels had the offer of this salvation.
We who were of the Adamic family are being transformed and developed along the lines which the Father has marked out for us, that He may make of us a New Creation. It is He that first worked in us, through all His providences, to will. And then, after we had presented our bodies living sacrifices, He worked in us to do --not that we could do perfect works according to the flesh; God knew we could not, and is not expecting perfection in the flesh. But He is expecting perfect heart intentions. He says, My child has had the imperfections of the flesh to contend with, and by his good warfare with these he has shown his obedience to My will. If by and by I shall give to this child a perfect body, a spirit body, in the resurrection, then I am sure he will do My will. My Spirit has worked in him to will, and is now working in him to do. And he is showing Me, by doing to the best of his ability under present conditions, what he will do with a perfect body. Sown in weakness, this New Creature will be raised in power; sown a natural body, it will be raised a spirit body.--`I Cor. 15:42-44`.
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GOD'S SUPERVISION IN THE WORLD AND IN THE CHURCH
"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`.
THE Scriptures declare that "The earth hath He [God] given to the children of men." Father Adam was the first great king of the earth. After his fall, this kingdom over the beasts of the field, the fish of the sea and the fowl of the air, was bereft of the power of the perfect man, because man had begun to deteriorate. This kingdom was also bereft of the Heavenly Father's guidance by His Spirit, because of man's disobedience. It was originally intended that humanity should have God's guidance in the affairs of the earth. But humanity became insane, or mentally unbalanced. This is their condition from the deterioration which sin and death have wrought.
Satan has been blinding and deceiving and misleading mankind on various subjects, putting light for darkness and darkness for light. This power of Satan is spoken of in the Scriptures as being that of the "prince of this world." And we are told how he rules. By promoting sin, he promotes that which is in opposition to God. He "now worketh in the hearts of the children of disobedience." This work has been going on for centuries, and particularly since the time of the Deluge. Before that time Satan operated in a somewhat different manner, because men were more generally acquainted with the proper standard and less fallen than they have been since. Longevity before the Deluge was greater than now, the average length of life today being thirty-five years.
Very rarely has God interfered with the arrangement which He put into the hands of man. As mankind look back they see the blunders that have been made. Being under the power of the "prince of this world," and allowing Satan to mislead them, they have fallen into various traps. Mankind has had a more severe experience with sin and death than would have been thought possible. The Apostle Paul calls our attention to the fact that man was not always in this degraded condition. He says that when man sinned, God gave him over and allowed
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him to take his own way--to lose himself in sin and the misguidance of the Adversary.
Why should God do this? We believe that His intention was that thus, eventually, during the next Age, mankind shall see what the real nature and outcome of sin is; that they shall learn a great, permanent lesson-- that any deviation from the Divine standard is injurious; and that that lesson shall be recognized by the angels-- that they also shall see what is the result of sin, and that they shall have this great, horrible object lesson before them. One can hardly read in the pages of history what humanity has done in this course of sin without being disgusted and horrified.
Then we see how humanity could have helped themselves by seeking to follow God's way. We see that when God gave man over to a reprobate mind, and did not hinder him from taking an evil course, it resulted in terrible excesses. (`Romans 1:28-32`.) We see that God merely intervened when, in the condition of things before the Deluge, to have permitted this course to continue would have been a serious wrong. The thoughts of men were evil, and only evil continually. Therefore God brought that condition of things to an end in the Flood. And He started things afresh with Noah and his family, who were saved in the Ark. God has interposed only here and there, as in the case of the Ninevites, the Sodomites and the Amalekites. In the case of the Sodomites, God rained down fire from heaven, setting forth an example, and the kind of destruction that would better conditions--not thereby settling the future of the Sodomites, but making them an example.
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WORLD EMPIRES ILLUSTRATED GREAT PRINCIPLES
When the Babylonians essayed to be the rulers of the world, they apparently had good intentions, good sentiments toward mankind. They wished to give the world a good government. In some respects, perhaps, their rule was a benefit. At all events, it was not long before their success brought in a measure of arrogance. And then God permitted another nation to gain the ascendancy--the Medo-Persians. After them, the Grecians tried to rule the world, with a better government; and again, after them, the Romans. Each of these World-Empires, after a measure of success, toppled over and made wreck of their progress.
And so God has in a general way been permitting things to go thus, keeping humanity within general bounds in their sort of loose governments, and has merely hindered them when they went too far and were likely to hinder the Divine Program.
There was some promotion in some manner. The Scriptures say that Nebuchadnezzar became the head of gold--the head of the Gentile governments. Promotion came to him because God was pleased that Nebuchadnezzar should have this opportunity, because God permitted him to have it, and that nation to have the ascendancy. And thus with the other universal governments; and God had to do with the setting up and the pulling down. He thus permitted the world to have a variety of governments. As another instance, a certain Pharaoh was in power in Egypt at the time for Israel to be delivered from their bondage. According to the account given by the Apostle Paul, the Lord said to Pharaoh, "For this very purpose have I raised thee up."--`Rom. 9:17`; `Exodus 9:16`.
Pharaoh thus was given an opportunity of illustrating certain great principles along the lines of which God was dealing. There are some who think that God worked in Pharaoh to make his heart hard and to make him a bad man such as he was. But this is not so! He was a bad man naturally. God may have let other heirs drop out so that this particular man would come to the throne at that particular time. God set him there at that time-- not that He might influence Pharaoh to evil, but that He might show the influence of an unregenerate heart.
The plagues came. "Let My people go," said the Lord. Thus after each plague had come, Pharaoh would entreat Moses, the servant of God; and when the plague was gone he would say, "Well, you did not have much to do with it. The plague has gone anyway." And so another plague would come. And time after time Pharaoh illustrated the mercy of God, who time after time lifted the plague and had mercy on the Egyptians.
It was a lesson, not of God's working in a man to make him a bad man and make him do evil things, but a lesson of the hardening effect of God's Mercy--in taking away the plague--of its having only a bad effect, instead of softening the heart. And so it is with many in the world. They are told that God is willing to forgive them, and they think, "Well, then I can go on and sin more!" We learn from this a great lesson of God's Mercy and of His method of dealing with men. Finally came the last plague. Yet even after that Pharaoh and the Egyptians went out to capture the Israelites. The finale was that the Egyptian pursuers were drowned in the Red Sea.--`Exodus 14:5-31`.
ACCORDING TO GOD'S WILL
By faith we believe that God has a supervision of all the affairs of today. Therefore if we voted for a candidate at the last Presidential election, and if the one we thought the most suitable for election was not elected, we are not to believe it was a matter of chance. We are to assume that the Lord knew all about the election; and that in the Divine arrangement certain things were permitted to go in certain ways; and that therefore, the President, Mr. Wilson, was the most suitable as in harmony with the Divine arrangement.
We are to believe that all things are working according to the counsel of God's will--not that God touches every thought or act of every individual. Not so! But God is able so to regulate the winds of strife or contention that the results will come about not contrary to the Divine arrangement. We may be assured that so far as mere man is concerned, God does not care whether it is one or another. So far as the world is concerned, the Lord has no preference or favorites at all. It is along the line of principles that He is directing and ruling, to work out, eventually, good to all.
Thus God is arranging that all the affairs of the world shall reach a crisis soon, whether He is permitting this king to rule, or that one; or this one to be President, or that one. All things are working in harmony with His great Program. God will set down the "prince of this world," Satan, and all the arrangements he has made-- set them down by a severe fall, by a great overthrow, and will set up His own Kingdom, that will bring blessing to all mankind--His own Kingdom that will be the "desire of all nations." It will be the Kingdom of Messiah and His Bride, who is to be His Joint-heir in the Kingdom. It is the Kingdom for which we pray, "Thy Kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as in Heaven."
MATTERS OF CHURCH DISCIPLINE
We would apply our text particularly to the Church-- the Church being especially guided of the Lord, and those in which He is especially interested. In His arrangement He has provided for the setting of these members in the Church. "God hath set the members every one in the Body, as it hath pleased Him." "God hath set some in the Church, first, Apostles, secondarily, public orators, thirdly teachers, pastors, after that workers of miracles," etc.--indicating different stations in the Body of Christ. We are to remember that, as the Apostle says, God hath set the members in the Body.
In proportion as twenty or thirty or three hundred or five hundred or a thousand put themselves in harmony with His will, He will set some to be Elders and some to be Deacons, etc. How will He set them? Through the voice of the Church. Whoever should receive the appointment to be a Deacon in the Church should be faithful to the Lord and to the brethren. And whoever should be appointed as an Elder should consider it a matter of privilege, and be faithful to the Lord and to the brethren, so that he might profit the Church and be pleasing to the brethren, and above all, be pleasing to the Lord.
This is the thought the Apostle gives in his parting words to the Elders of Ephesus. (`Acts 20:17-38`.) He tells them to take heed to themselves that they may feed the flock. And he goes on to give varied advice--how they should take heed as those who should give account of their opportunities and responsibilities, which they must recognize as from both the Lord and the brethren.
Sometimes in the Lord's permission--certainly not without His permission--the classes, in their endeavor to express the Lord's will, may say, This brother was chosen as Elder last time, and we will not choose him as an Elder this time. Or they may say, He was a Deacon last time, and we will not choose him as a Deacon this time, but we will drop him. What should be the attitude of the brother thus dropped?
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SUBMISSION TO THE LORD'S WILL
We have had experience along this line--letters from those thus dropped, intimating that they think the Class has made a mistake in not recognizing their ability and not re-electing them. And our answer has been that we did not know what had been the thought back of the action of the Class, and we did not know whether the Class had acted wisely or not, but that our thought would be that the brother should accept this decision as from the Lord.
Such a one should say to himself, I have been the servant of the congregation and have appreciated it very much. I recognize that such a promotion is of the Lord, and that the service given me was of the Lord. But now, in God's providence, I am not to be an overseer for a year, or six months, or what-not. Perhaps the Lord has
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a good lesson in this for me. Perhaps the Lord wishes to show whom He will set up and whom He will not. So instead of feeling hurt or miffed or moody over the matter, I am going to say, If I can see anything in which I was derelict in my duty, I will consider it a chastisement from the Lord. I will remember the words of the Scripture which say, "Let the brother...rejoice in that he is exalted, and let the brother...rejoice in that he is abased." I am glad to see that the Class exercise independence enough to do what they consider the Lord's will. At all events, I will try to recognize that promotion cometh not from the East nor West nor South, but that God is the Judge, the Decider, and that He putteth whomsoever He will over the affairs of the Church.
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GRAVES OF GREEDINESS
--OCTOBER 5.--`NUMBERS 11:4-34`.--
"The supplication of a righteous man availeth much in its working."--`James 5:16`.
THE ISRAELITES remained at Mt. Sinai about a year. This was a time of preparation. The people were learning important lessons, as a result of their new conditions, so different from those of Egypt. The component parts of the Tabernacle were prepared, and it was set up as a meeting place between God and the people. God was represented in it by the pillar of cloud, which rested upon the top of the Tabernacle, and which at night had a flame like a torch at its top.
God's presence on the inside of the Tabernacle was seen only by Moses and Aaron, in conjunction with their privileged services. He was represented by the glorious Shekinah brightness, which rested upon the Mercy Seat. Thus the Tabernacle became the center of the nation's life and interest in relation to their God, who was their Captain and Leader, and who communicated to them through the mediator of the Law Covenant--Moses.
The people had flocks and herds; and these would necessitate their being at some distance from the Camp, but the pillar of cloud by day and its fiery torch at night would always indicate the center of the Camp, and always guide their minds to the thought that they were God's adopted people, to whom, by first right, belonged the gracious promises made to Abraham.
Similarly, antitypical Israelites may realize that God has called them from the world to be His peculiar people, and may well exclaim, "God is in the midst of her, she shall not be disturbed"--overthrown! The center of our interest is our great Advocate, who on our behalf has entered into the Most Holy, and is proceeding with His great work of antitypical Atonement.
THE SIN OF MURMURING
Those who become the people of God, who accept Him as their Guide and Leader, should never murmur, never complain. To do so is to dispute the Divine Wisdom and the Divine promises, and to that extent to break their covenant of faith, obedience and loyalty. St. Paul reminds us that the murmuring of the Israelites on this occasion carries such a lesson to us (`Hebrews 3:7-19`; `4:1-11`), which appears great or small to us, according to our standpoint and standard. The Lord's dealings with the Israelites show us that justice, love, mercy, loyalty to God and to principle are in the Divine estimation the highest qualities, and violations of these the most serious crimes. If this is not the way we have looked at matters, it behooves us to change our viewpoint and to take that of the Almighty.
This murmuring against the Lord was on the score of the manna, for which at first the people had been so thankful. They allowed their minds to grow so vexed that they wept like children as they thought of the meat and garlic and flesh pots of Egypt. They murmured against the Lord and against Moses in desiring that they might have back the conditions which they had left. Little did they comprehend the true situation. Had they been returned to the bondage in which they previously were, after even a year's experience in freedom, their lot would have seemed much more wretched than ever.
It was with Israel, however, as often with us, "Distance lends enchantment to the view." As they looked backward, they forgot the trials and difficulties of the bondage of Egypt. As they looked about them, they forgot their comforts, privileges, liberties under Divine leadership. Like peevish children, they reasoned not clearly.
MOSES TOO GREATLY BURDENED
The result of the murmuring was severe upon Moses. He was the people's representative before the Lord, and the Lord's representative before the people. Murmuring against the Lord in their experiences meant murmuring against Moses also. Heart-broken, that Prophet sought the Lord, pleading that his burden was too heavy, that the people cried to him as children to a father, and that he could endure it no longer. He rehearsed that the Lord had promised to take this people as His people and to bring them to the land promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He urged, therefore, that if this burden must remain with him it would be better for him to die: "Kill me, I pray Thee, out of hand, if I have found favor in Thy sight; and let me not see my wretchedness."
Then it was that God directed the institution of the Jewish Sanhedrin--seventy of the heads or the Elders of the people, to be the court of judges, responsible to the people and to deal with them, to hear their murmurings and to counsel them properly. In this arrangement, while Moses was still the head of the nation, the seventy Elders shared his responsibility before the people, and would more or less, therefore, be his defenders with the people.
By Divine direction Moses made out the list of these Elders, and directed them to meet him at the Tabernacle. All but two of them came. There God manifested the honor he had bestowed upon Moses as the head of the
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people, by communion with him, and then, as foretold, placed a share of the responsibility of leadership upon the seventy. This was indicated by their miraculous prophesying. This prophesying became a sign to the Elders themselves and to all who heard it. Even the two who remained in the camp prophesied at the same time. The Lord thus indicated that they should be co-laborers with and under Moses in respect to the guidance and direction of the people.
QUAIL IN OVER-SUPPLY
God then sent word to the Israelites through Moses, the message probably being conveyed through the seventy Elders selected from all the different tribes, that He was about to send them flesh food, such as they had been murmuring for. He declared He would send a thirty-day's supply for the whole people. Even Moses was astonished, though he trustfully gave the message. Under the Lord's providence, a strong wind across the Red Sea drove thousands of small birds, quail, to the vicinity of Israel's Camp and for a considerable distance all around it. As a result, the people ate freely, and prepared dried quail for future use for a full thirty-days' supply, as the Lord had said. Two days and nights they ceased not to gather in the quail.
Some agnostics have questioned this statement, thinking it to be a declaration that the birds fell in a solid mass two cubits high. The proper thought is that the birds, driven by the wind across the sea, were so fatigued by their flight that they flew low down, about two cubits in height above the ground, where they were easily caught with the hand or hit with sticks and captured. A writer on conditions in that vicinity says:
"These quail cannot sustain themselves long on the wing when exhausted. They would be easily taken when they flew at a height of about two cubits (three feet) above the ground."
Those who had been murmuring discontentedly suddenly got their desire for flesh food; and they ate it so greedily and so much of it that an insidious pestilence broke out amongst them, a fever from over-eating, called "a fire from the Lord." Many died and were buried there, and thus the place was called "Kibroth-Hattaavah," which signifies "Graves of Greediness." Thus did the Lord permit the murmurers, the unthankful, to do themselves injury and to cut themselves off from further opportunities for murmuring.
The most happy condition of mind conceivable is the one of full rest and confidence in the Lord--satisfied with God's appointments and provisions. And this is especially appropriate to the Spiritual Israelites, and particularly the Royal Priesthood, who have made a full surrender to the Lord, a Covenant by sacrifice, which includes all earthly rights and interests. Happy is it for such if they can sing with the spirit and with the understanding also:
"Content whatever lot I see,
Since 'tis my God that leadeth Me."
The spirit of discontent looks away from the Heavenly Manna of Divine provision, longing for other food of their own provision or of other earthly supply. The Lord grants such an opportunity of feasting to the full on what they are desiring, and as a result, the murmurers
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cease from being members of the Lord's family and have no further opportunity of partaking of the Manna He provides in sufficient quantity.
To give an illustration: the Bible supplies the Manna of Divine Truth. The Truth needs to be gathered, and to be ground and to be baked, but it is God's provision. It is wholesome, it is nutritious, it is the very thing that we, as the people of God, need for our strengthening and perfecting. Yet some crave the flesh pots of Egypt--the world's theories. Then He allows these to come within their reach. They fill themselves with Higher Criticism and Evolutionary theories, and as a result perish as New Creatures, cease to be the people of God, cease to walk in the Master's footsteps. They are consumed by the fire, or fever, which the errors they crave produce.
GRAVES OF GREEDINESS
Greed, selfishness, stands connected with sin of every kind. It leads to every form of immorality, to satisfy its selfish propensities. It leads to injustice and untruthfulness in its endeavor to acquire a large share of the blessings of God. It leads to anger, malice, hatred, envy, strife and murder in its endeavor to get and to hold a superabundant share of this world's goods. Selfishness is thus unrighteousness, and "all unrighteousness is sin."
As we think of the graves of greediness filled with the Israelites, we are reminded of how many Spiritual Israelites have made similar mistakes. Greedy for the things of this world, they have neglected their Covenant with the Lord and the higher interests of the life to come. Jesus said that the thorns that sprang up amongst the wheat and choked it were the cares of this life and the deceitfulness of riches; in other words, greediness.
Oh, how much all the followers of Jesus should be on guard against this spirit of the world! It is not our suggestion that none should look out properly to have a reasonable share of the blessings and comforts of the present life. The danger is that of setting our hearts upon these things, coveting them and serving them, in an idolatrous manner, and thus causing our spiritual interment, over which might well be inscribed "Graves of Greediness."
THE TEXT OF THIS STUDY
The text assigned evidently is meant to apply to the prayer of Moses for help and relief. "The supplication of a righteous man availeth much in its working." God granted the prayer of Moses, which was of a proper kind in that it was requesting help whereby the will of God might be fully submitted to, that the people might be rightly instructed to bow to the Divine arrangements. It availed much; it brought the desired result; it was in harmony with the Divine will.
On the other hand, the prayer of the unrighteous will avail much also in an opposite direction. The murmurings of the people were classed as their prayers. They got what they desired; but with it they got, not the Divine blessing, but a punishment. Let us take heed to how we pray, and that we pray for things in harmony with the Divine will. Thus will our prayers bring blessings upon our heads, and not injury.
SELFISH PRAYERS ANSWERED
We know of many prayers answered; some of these were uttered selfishly, not with the desire to know and to do the Lord's will, but with the desire to have the Lord do according to the human will and its selfish desire. Such prayers are always dangerous. God sometimes answers them.
We note one instance told us by a mother. She was a true Christian woman and had given her son to the Lord; but when he fell seriously sick and lay at death's door and the physicians said that he could not recover, the mother went before the Lord in prayer and earnestly pleaded, not that God's will should be done, but that her will might be done--that her son's life might be spared. Almost miraculously, she says, her boy began to recover. For a time she rejoiced that she had had a triumph.
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Later on, however, she learned a very bitter lesson. The son grew to manhood, but was far from a comfort to her. He had a vicious character, which often brought the mother pain and tears. She said afterwards, "I have rued that prayer, which was contrary to God's will, and which He answered according to my will. I see better now. I have learned my lesson. Henceforth I will seek to know and to do the Lord's will, and will pray that His will, not mine, be done in all my affairs. My selfishness brought me years of misery, which I had assumed would be years of pleasure and comfort." How careful we should be to "abide in Him and in His Word"!
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JEALOUSY AND ENVY PUNISHED
--OCTOBER 12.--`NUMBERS 12`.--
"Love envieth not; love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly."--`1 Corinthians 13:4,5`.
ST. PAUL includes envy, and therefore jealousy, in his enumerations of the works of the flesh and the Devil--together with anger, malice, hatred and strife. These are works of the Devil in that they are characteristics of Satan. According to the Bible account, Satan's ambition led him to envy the Almighty and ultimately to attempt to establish in the earth, with man as his subject, a rival empire to the Heavenly domain of Jehovah. His ambition and jealousy led to strife or opposition--led to a misrepresentation of the Divine character in order to deceive our first parents.
The evil traits mentioned are works of the flesh in the sense that after our race, poisoned by Satan, had come under Divine sentence, the dying process, which Satan encouraged, included evil works, evil desires of every kind. More and more our race has become subject to these adverse influences, as it has become weak, dying, unbalanced.
St. Paul urges all of the Lord's people to put off these Satanic characteristics and to adopt instead the Divine characteristics--those which have the Divine approval, and which work in us and make us more and more Godlike. These are described as meekness, gentleness, peace, long-suffering, brotherly kindness, love. We are assured that those who will ultimately become God's saintly people on the highest plane of Heavenly glory will have these characteristics well developed, dominant. The Apostle indicates that such will be granted an abundant entrance into the "everlasting Kingdom of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ."--`2 Peter 1:11`.
That Kingdom will not represent all the saved of humanity, but will be the Divine agency for carrying salvation to all the families of the earth. Nevertheless, only this one offer of salvation is now open; and only by following the prescribed course and cultivating these various qualities will any now be fit for, or be received into the everlasting Kingdom. Thus all the members of that Kingdom, as St. Paul declares, must be copies of God's dear Son, our Redeemer--not copies in the flesh, but copies in our hearts and in our intentions. This will mean to be as nearly perfect in the flesh, as nearly in harmony with the Divine requirements, as possible.
Indeed, the Bible clearly teaches that all who will ever attain everlasting life and Divine favor, even on the earthly plane as perfect men in an earthly body, must entirely get rid of everything appertaining to the spirit of Satan and sin; that they must thus get back to the original image and likeness of God as exemplified in Adam before he sinned in the Garden.
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MIRIAM'S JEALOUSY AND ENVY
The lesson of today's Bible Study tells us of a serious error made by Aaron and Miriam, the brother and the sister of Moses, both his seniors. We may safely conclude that while the two participated in the sin, Miriam's was the leading spirit. This view is fully justified by the outcome of the lesson, which shows that God's punishment rested upon her, and not upon Aaron.
The start of the matter was a question of family pride. Moses had married an Ethiopian, or Cushite, woman. We know not if this was his first wife, whom he had married in the land of Midian, and who only now joined him as the Israelites were about to start on their journey toward Canaan. Some have surmised that Moses' first wife had died, and that Zipporah was his second wife. No matter which, the fact remains that at this time she came to live with Moses in the Camp of Israel, and thus became, as wife of the great and influential leader, the first lady of the nation.
Previous to this, Miriam had undoubtedly filled the office of chief lady. It was but natural that she should feel the loss of her position and of the influence which went with it. She felt especially keenly upon the subject as she reflected that her new sister-in-law was of an alien race. This fact seemed to give Miriam's jealousy a religious footing; and she doubtless reasoned to herself, and convinced herself, that her hostility to her sister-in-law was not based upon jealousy, but upon a high moral ground, affecting the honor of God, the honor of His nation, Israel, and the future possibilities of Abraham's seed in the Land of Promise.
We are to remember that it was this same Miriam who, as the little maiden, watched Pharaoh's daughter when she went to the bathing place on the Nile where Moses was found in the little basket of bulrushes. This same Miriam hastened to bring to the premises her mother to be the nurse for the foundling, Moses. This same Miriam, doubtless, with Aaron had enjoyed special privileges in the confidence of Moses in respect to all the affairs of Israel under the Lord's leadings. This same Miriam had been recognized of the Lord as a prophetess. She it was who, with her timbrels, after the crossing of the Red Sea by the Israelites and after the sea had returned with destruction upon their Egyptian pursuers, led the Israelitish women in the song of triumph.
Thus seen, there was what we might call an excuse for Miriam's jealousy. Indeed, we cannot imagine any jealousy which could not find an excuse for its existence-- good or bad. No good people can harbor jealousy, envy, etc., without in some manner deluding themselves into thinking that the peculiar circumstances of their case fully justify their attitude.
After thinking slightingly of her brother as foolish in his course, Miriam became more and more convinced that God would not think of using especially in His service one who had thus lost caste with herself. Her poisoned mind began to see evidences that the Lord had forsaken Moses, and that otherwise he would not have fallen into what she was sure was a great mistake. She communicated her fears to her brother Aaron, and the two doubtless thought seriously and prayed much respecting the sad fall of Israel's leader and the necessity thus laid upon them to make good his dereliction.
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Aaron apparently must have been a weak character, and merely used and useful as the mouthpiece of Moses. He showed much weakness on this occasion, as he did during Moses' absence in the mountain, when in response to the persuasion of the Israelites he made for them the golden calf and assisted them in their idolatrous worship, which they desired. Miriam also probably assented at that time that such would be the only course to take to satisfy the rebellious spirit of the people.
The text implies that Miriam began to spread her seditious suggestions throughout the Camp of Israel, referring to her brother Aaron as holding similar sentiments: The people were to be prepared and the Lord was to be helped, of course, by the primary suggestion that Moses was not the only leader of the nation, that Miriam and Aaron were also prophets and in relationship with the Lord in exactly the same manner and degree as Moses. This insidious preparation of the people would make ready for the expected time when God would entirely disown Moses and speak entirely through Miriam, Aaron being her mouthpiece.
AND THE LORD HEARD IT
Too often do the Lord's people and others forget that the Lord is not inattentive to His own business, the interests of His own cause, but is working all things according to the counsel of His own will. As Bible students, we should more and more learn to appreciate this great fact and to remember that prosperity in the Lord's work cannot come by might or human power or cunning, but only by and in harmony with the Lord's Spirit, the Lord's Power, the Lord's Will.
The Lord nipped the conspiracy in the bud by suddenly calling Moses, Aaron and Miriam into His presence before the Tabernacle. All three obeyed the summons, Miriam doubtless supposing that now the moment had come when the Lord would show that she had rightly divined His intentions in ousting Moses from the leadership and appointing herself. The denouncement, however, was very different. God did, indeed, declare that Miriam and Aaron had to some extent occupied the place of prophets, in that God had been pleased so to use them; but with equal distinctness the Lord pointed out that His dealing with Moses was on a very much higher plane. To him God had spoken directly, not through dreams and visions, but in plain language. Thus the ambitions which were the grounds of the jealousy, envy and conspiracy and evil speaking, God promptly set aside.
Additionally, however, God gave a punishment. As the Divine Presence, represented by the pillar of cloud, departed from them, Moses and Aaron beheld that their sister Miriam had been smitten with leprosy. Aaron recognized that all this signified that he had assisted and upheld his sister in a sinful course. He recognized that his brother Moses was indeed the chief of God's people; and to him Aaron uttered this cry of distress and prayer for relief, saying, "O my lord, lay not, I pray thee, this sin upon us; for that we have done foolishly, and for that we have sinned. Let her not be as one dead!"
Then Moses cried unto the Lord, saying, "Heal her now, O God, I beseech Thee!" And God heard Moses and healed her then, but directed that she should be treated as every other person was treated whose leprosy was declared to be healed. All such were required to remain seven days outside the Camp, under inspection, to see that no further symptoms of the disease appeared, before they would be admitted to the Camp again.
"THE LAW WAS A SHADOW"
The Apostle explains to us that the various things commanded Israel under their Law Covenant were prophetic shadows illustrating higher things--things appertaining to Spiritual Israel. Thus, for instance, the disease of leprosy, practically incurable, except by Divine interposition, was a type of sin; and the seven days of excommunication from the favored people represented a full and complete period of tests as respects a putting away of sin, a cleansing, a return to harmony with God.
Various lessons might be drawn from today's Study. But the one in which all can probably best agree is that jealousy, envy, based upon selfishness, is amongst the most deceptive of all sins and one very serious in the sight of God, whatever may be thought of it by others.
The text supplied us is St. Paul's exhortation to the Church. And the Church, we must remember, is that special class called out from humanity in general by the Gospel Message to become followers of Jesus and joint-heirs with Him. Their call is to a sacrifice with Jesus of all earthly rights and claims, and to a full submission to the Divine will and arrangements in everything. Their covenant is to be fully submissive to the headship of the Savior and, like Him, to be loyal to every principle and arrangement of the Divine Program.
This leaves no room for any work of the flesh or the Devil. All these are to be put off, discarded, as displeasing to God. On the contrary, the fruits and graces of the Holy Spirit are to be substituted, that thus the followers of Jesus, like Himself, might ultimately attain to the fulness of Divine favor and glory, honor and immortality-- at His right hand of Power.
While, therefore, all people should strive to throw off the works of darkness and to conform themselves to the Divine arrangements under the guidance of the Prince of Life, nevertheless, the Church, especially consecrated to God, should remember that all their hopes of glory, honor and immortality are associated with the development of right characters and the opposition of the wrong. Let us also remember that "Love envieth not; Love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly." And Love, therefore, represents the full standard of the Golden Rule and the full character of God; for "God is Love."--`I John 4:8`.
The prompt punishment of Miriam and its effect remind us of the fact that such prompt dealing with sin will be the regular order under the Messianic Kingdom and will bring prompt results then. All men realize to some extent that whosoever sins will suffer; but the penalties, or sufferings, resulting from sin are often so far removed as not to be identified by the sufferer. Hence with many the lesson is lost.
Besides, our erroneous theology of the Dark Ages led many of us to misrepresent the punishment of sin as being eternal torture. Thus we directly contradicted God's arrangement, drew attention away from the present punishment and wages of sin, and made the future punishments so absurdly unreasonable that nobody believes them, or, believing them, are misled into the supposition that a dying prayer for forgiveness will permit an utter escape from their penalties. We cannot improve upon the Divine arrangement, "Whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap"--either in the present life or in that which is to come--but in no case a devilish and eternal torture.
"Upon Thy Word I rest,
So strong, so sweet, so sure;
So full of comfort blest,
So wonderful, so pure--
The Word that changeth not, that faileth never!
My King, I rest upon Thy Word forever!"
SOME INTERESTING LETTERS
I am noting a few incidents which transpired in this town last Autumn, which will interest you, I know. They are as follows: The pastor of the Episcopal Church at that time was the Rev. K__________; of the First Presbyterian, Rev. M__________ (there was another Presbyterian Church in town). The Wesleyan (official organ of the Methodist Church in these provinces) is published in this town. (You may recall that we sent you, last Autumn, quite a number of issues of the Wesleyan treating Pastor Russell and the Truth in a very unchristian manner.) Rev. K__________ became very much excited because of the circulation of some volunteer matter, and concluded the best thing to do was to send for a sufficient number of copies of the Brooklyn Eagle to cover the town and considerable outlying territory, making the statement, to one of his parishioners, at least, that the circulation of our literature "must be stopped." He had some of the supply put into the hands of some other clerical brethren, and thus the distribution was made.
About the same time Rev. M__________ preached a very severe sermon against our Pastor and the work, calling attention to the "Vow," holding it up to ridicule. Within a few weeks Rev. K__________, who was a very dignified man (and apart from theological narrowness a very nice man), died one of the most undignified deaths possible. In making a call on a parishioner, in the fire house of the town, he missed the doorway and in some unaccountable manner attempted to enter through a window leading into the ash-pit. The window had been left open, but he had to step up some distance from the ground to enter--no one can understand why it should occur. He was found two hours later dead on the concrete floor of the pit, eight feet below, from a broken neck. Recently his son, in closing up his affairs, auctioned off his walking stick, and even his overcoat. He was for years, up to his death, Archdeacon for the province.
Very shortly after, Rev. M__________'s Church was burned to the ground--he has left the town. The two congregations have voted to unite and rebuild (that is, the two Presbyterian congregations), but are now fighting amongst themselves. About the same time the pastor of the leading Methodist Church took sick and died. This means that through death and changes owing to the fire, half the ministers of a few months ago are gone. We wonder, in this Day of the Lord's judgments, how close may be the connections between these incidents.
We are glad to report the work prospering in the town. Sister Black joins me in much Christian love to you all.
Your brother in the Kingdom Hope,
W. W. BLACK.
MY DEAR FRIENDS:--
I should like to be put on your mailing list. I am getting THE WATCH TOWER and I have your STUDIES IN THE SCRIPTURES; but I want your pamphlets also, as they come out, and the BIBLE STUDENTS MONTHLY. Please send me your booklet on "Spiritism," and any treatise you may have on Revelation. You will, of course, forward bill for any charge, and I shall remit at once.
I enclose check for $5.00, which you may use as you see best in furthering the work. If possible, I shall send a like amount monthly.
I want to advance the cause of the Kingdom. The Message as you put it appeals to me in such a way that I know it to be true. It accords with our blessed God's character and Word, and stands at once so reasonable and satisfying, and so full of promise to every creature, that it must be the Gospel. I believe in Jesus Christ as my personal Savior, and that, through His precious blood. And as surely as anything ever happened to a man, I have been called by Him. I cannot neglect "so great salvation." Will you help me to work in His vineyard-- even though it is the "eleventh hour"? The wages matter not. Only to know Him is worth more than heart can dream of. To be like Him in character would be the greatest blessing of Heaven.
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THE HARVEST CALL
Come, labor on.
Who dares stand idle on the harvest plain,
When all around him waves the golden grain,
And every servant hears the Master say,
"Go, work today"?
Come, labor on.
The laborers are few, the field is white,
No rest have they who labor for the right;
From distant voices far, or near at home,
The call is, "Come!"
Come, labor on.
No time for rest till glows the western sky,
And the long shadows o'er our pathway lie;
Then a glad sound comes with the setting sun,
"Servants, well done!"
Come, labor on.
The toil is pleasant, the reward is sure;
Blessed are those who to the end endure;
How full their joy, how deep their rest will be
O Lord, with THEE! Unknown.
BEREAN QUESTIONS IN SCRIPTURE STUDIES
Series VI., Study XVI.
THE PRESENT INHERITANCE OF THE NEW CREATION
Read p. 659 to p. 661 par. 1.
(1) What are the first-fruits of the Spirit--a foretaste of future blessings--which are possessed by the New Creation in the present life? P. 659, first 18 lines.
(2) What is the nature of earthly hopes and joys? P. 659, 18th line to end of par.
(3) How do the joys, hopes, ambitions of the New Creation differ from those of the natural man? P. 660, par. 1, 2.
TRUE VERSUS FALSE HOPES
(4) When and for what purpose does Satan transform himself into an "angel of light"? P. 660, par. 3.
(5) What false hope respecting the dead has been introduced by the Adversary? P. 661, par. 1.
Read p. 661, par. 2, to p. 663, par. 2.
(6) How has Satan deceived the Church by a false hope respecting the time for the rewarding of the Lord's faithful followers? P. 661, par. 2.
(7) How have these false hopes been especially injurious to the Lord's people? P. 662, par. 1.
(8) In view of the foregoing, what is the reason for our present hope of an instantaneous change for the faithful members of the New Creation? P. 662, par. 2.
(9) What is our hope as respects the faithful of the entire Gospel Age prior to 1878, and of those who have died and are dying since that date? P. 663, par. 1.
(10) How have the hopes of the New Creation become the dread of the "Christian World"? P. 663, par. 2.
Read p. 664, par. 1, to p. 668, par. 1.
(11) Why do nominal Christians dread the resurrection of the dead? P. 664, par. 1.
(12) Note the joyful hopes of the Second Advent of Christ, and the Resurrection, as set forth in Scripture. Pp. 664 to 666.
THE THIEF IN PARADISE
(13) What is the proper interpretation of the incident of "the Thief on the Cross"? `Luke 23:42,43`. P. 667, par. 1.
(14) In order to properly understand this Scripture, how must we consider the circumstances, surroundings and connections? P. 667, par. 2, 3, 4.
(15) Did the thief request the Lord to take him to Heaven? And how does changing the position of the comma clarify the whole subject? P. 668, par. 1.
Read p. 668, par. 2, to p. 671, par. 1.
(16) What further explanation might the Lord have given the repentant thief? P. 668, par. 2, 3.
(17) What is the Scriptural significance of the word Paradise? P. 669, par. 1.
(18) Explain why we have a perfect right to change the position of the comma, and cite other instances in which the word "today" is similarly used. P. 669, par. 2, to P. 670.
ST. PAUL'S EARNEST DESIRE
(19) How does the Emphatic Diaglott render `Phil. 1:21-24`, and how does this translation differ from the Common Version? P. 670, par. 1, 2.
(20) How is the word Analusai, "return," used in Greek literature, and in the only other instance in the New Testament, namely, `Luke 12:36`? P. 671, par. 1.