VOL. XIII. AUGUST 1, 1892. NO. 15.
"UNDER HIS WINGS."
"He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou find shelter."--`Psa. 91:4`.
In the midst of the "perilous times" of this "evil day," and of the warning voices of prophets and apostles pointing out snares and pestilences and subtle dangers on every hand--and in the midst, too, of a realizing sense of the actual existence of such evil besetments and perils--how precious to the saints are the assurances of divine protection and care and personal love.
We call to mind the gracious promises of our Lord--"The Father himself loveth you;" "Fear not, little flock, it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the Kingdom;" and "He that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him and will manifest myself to him;...and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him and make our abode with him....Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."--`John 16:27`; `14:21,23,27`; `Luke 12:32`.
But warning voices and wholesome counsel are also necessary; and he is not wise who turns a deaf ear to them, and takes cognizance alone of the comforting assurances which are designed only for those who faithfully "watch and pray lest they enter into temptation." Every soldier of the cross needs to heed the Apostle's warnings--"Take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all to stand;" and again, "Let us fear lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it;" and fear also "lest, as the serpent [Satan] beguiled Eve, through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ;" "for grievous wolves shall enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after them." "Behold," said our Lord, "I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents and harmless as doves."--`Eph. 6:13`; `Heb. 4:1`; `2 Cor. 11:3`; `Acts 20:29,30`; `Matt. 10:16`.
It is necessary for the discipline, trial and final proving of the Church of God that they should be subjected to these adverse influences; for to him that overcometh them is the promise of the great reward. If we would reign with Christ, we must prove our worthiness to reign by the same tests of loyalty to God, of faith in his Word, of zeal for the truth, of patient endurance of reproach and persecution, even unto death, and of unwavering trust in the power and purpose of God to deliver and exalt his Church in due time. To such faithful ones are the blessed consolations of `Psa. 91`. Hearken--
`Verse 1`. "He who abideth in the secret place of the Most High [typified by the Most Holy or Sanctuary] shall rest under the shadow of the Almighty." We thus place ourselves under the divine protection when, having come to a knowledge of God's willingness to accept
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us as his children, we gratefully accept the invitation and approach in his appointed way, through Christ our Redeemer, and consecrate ourselves fully to his service. Such may sweetly rest in the precious promises of God, all of which are yea and amen in Christ Jesus. (`2 Cor. 1:20`.) The world does not see the overshadowing wings of divine protection, but the faithful have a blessed secret realization of it. Praise the Lord!
`Verse 2`. "I [Christ Jesus, whom David here, as elsewhere, personifies, and who thus addresses his body, his Church] will say of Jehovah, who is my refuge and my stronghold, my God in whom I ever trust" (`John 20:17`)--
`Verse 3`. "That he will surely deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, [From the deceptions of Satan, in which all those not protected shall stumble; for our Lord said that so subtle and deceptive will they be that, if it were possible, they would deceive the very elect. But this is not possible, for those who are making their calling and election sure abide under the protection of the Almighty.] and from the pestilence of destruction." [Not from the destructive pestilences of physical disease, but from the moral and spiritual pestilences of destruction --from the sinful propensities of the old nature which in unguarded moments are liable to assert their mastery and overwhelm the souls of those who are not abiding under the secret protection of the Most High; and from the spiritual pestilences of false doctrine which, with subtle sophistry, destroy the faith of the unwatchful. Such pestilences are already abroad in the shape of so-called Christian Science, Spiritualism and the various no-ransom theories which take the name of The Larger Hope, and which bid fair, both from present prospects and from the prophetic outlook, ere long to become epidemic. From all these pestilences the Lord's elect shall be protected, resting sweetly under the shadow of the Almighty.]
`Verse 4`. "He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou find shelter. [So close to his heart does Jehovah gather his loyal and faithful children that they feel the warmth of his love, and the responsive language of their hearts is, "I will abide in thy tabernacle"--under thy protection--"forever: I will trust in the covert of thy wings; for thou hast been a shelter for me and a strong tower from the enemy; for thou hast heard my vows" --my consecration--"thou hast given me the heritage of those that fear thy name."--`Psa. 61:4,3,5`.] His truth shall be thy shield and buckler" --thy protection. Yes, his truth--that grand system of truth comprised in the divine plan of the ages--is an ample shield and buckler to all who in simplicity of heart receive it and prove faithful to it. It is the armor of God which the Apostle urges all the faithful to put on--to appropriate, to meditate upon and to store up the truth in mind and heart--that they may be able, by its use, to withstand error and evil in every form presented to them in this evil day.
`Verse 5`. "Thou shalt not be afraid of the terror of the night [the dark night of which the Prophet Isaiah and also the Lord spoke, saying, "The morning"--the Millennial morning --"cometh, and also the night"--the great time of trouble which shall immediately precede it, the night "wherein no man can labor" for the dissemination of divine truth: so great will be "the terror," the tumult and trouble and persecution of that night--`Isa. 21:12`; `John 9:4`]; nor for the arrow ["even bitter words" of the opponents of the truth--`Psa. 64:3`] that flieth by day" [at the present time, which, in comparison with the dark night that is coming, is called day];
`Verse 6`. "Nor for the pestilence [moral and spiritual] that walketh in darkness [that spreads and makes its victims among those who are ignorant of the truth, or who are unfaithful to it and hence unworthy of it, and who therefore lack the divine protection and are subject to the "strong delusions" of error--`2 Thes. 2:11`]; nor for the destruction [caused by these pestilences] that wasteth at noon-day [that subverts the faith and hope of many, just when the light of divine truth is shining clearest upon the faithful, as it is shining upon us to-day].
`Verse 7`. "A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand [so great
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will be the falling away from the truth, even among those who, like ourselves, received it once with joy and who did for a time run well]; but it shall not come nigh thee."--Because of thy loyalty and uncompromising faithfulness and because of the ample armor of truth and righteousness, thou shalt stand and not fall.
`Verse 8`. "Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the recompense of the wrongdoers" --who reject the truth or who prove unfaithful to it.
`Verses 9,10`. "Because thou hast said, 'The Lord is my protection;' because the Most High thou hast made thy refuge, no evil shall befall thee" [no evils of the kind above referred to; and any other seeming evils shall, under divine providence, work together for your good --`Rom. 8:28`].
`Verse 11`. "For he shall give his angels [his messengers] a charge concerning thee, to guard thee in all thy ways. [That is, God will raise up some faithful pastors and teachers who will "watch for your souls as they that must give an account." True, there shall arise false teachers, perverting the Word of the Lord and seeking by cunning sophistries to subvert your souls; but if in simplicity of heart God's children require a "Thus saith the Lord" for every element of their faith, and carefully prove all things by the Word, they will be able to distinguish readily the true from the false. And having done so, the Apostle Paul (`Heb. 13:17`) counsels us to have confidence. The Lord our Shepherd will care for the true sheep.
`Verse 12`. "They shall bear thee [all the members of the body of Christ, individually and collectively] up in their hands [using their strength], lest thou dash thy foot against a stone"--any stumbling-stone of false doctrine, and especially that great fundamental rock-doctrine of the redemption through the precious blood of Christ;--that "rock of offence and stone of stumbling" to both the houses of nominal Israel (fleshly and spiritual). (`Isa. 8:14`.) The "feet" of the body are its last members: the saints now living are members of the "feet of Him" (Christ), the ones who are now in danger of being stumbled, as the feet of the Jewish house of servants were in danger in the end or harvest of the Jewish age.
How do such messengers of the Lord bear up the feet of Christ? By helping them to a clear understanding of the truth, and teaching and encouraging them by word and example how to be faithful to the truth, and how to run so as to obtain the prize of our high calling.
`Verse 13`. "Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder; the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet."--Thus borne up in the hands of the Lord's faithful messengers and guarded by their vigilant watchfulness, and under the constant protection of the Most High, God's trusting, faithful children shall triumph over every device of Satan either to overpower or to beguile them--whether he boisterously goes about as a roaring lion, or, whether, serpent-like, he stealthily lurks about to insert his venomous poison.
`Verse 14`. "Because he hath set his love upon me [saith Jehovah], therefore will I deliver him [from the pestilence, etc.]: I will set him on high [exalt him to joint-heirship with Christ, make him a member of the "Royal Priesthood," and a "partaker of the divine nature"], because he hath known [appreciated] my name."
`Verses 15,16`. "He shall call upon me and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him. With long life [eternal life--`John 10:28,29`; `Rom. 2:1`] will I satisfy him, and show him my salvation" --make him understand my plan.
Praise the Lord for such assurances of his loving care! Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, praise his holy name!
The great Infidel-Philosopher Herbert Spencer sees the trouble coming and helps fulfil our Lord's prediction, `Luke 21:26`. He says:--
"Since I began to write there has been a clear reaction against individual liberty. We are certainly tending toward State Socialism, which will be a worse form of tyranny than that of any government now recognized in civilization. At present the State is absorbing the individual activity of men. It is intermeddling in all manner of ways in what should be private enterprise. Gradually the State will usurp the functions of private enterprise to such an extent that the people will one day awake to it; but it will be long before they will make an effective resistance. I can not but think that the trouble will be severe --something terrible to contemplate; but I do not begin to set a date for the catastrophe, or to anticipate its horrors."
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Source of my life's refreshing springs,
Whose presence in my heart sustains me,
Thy love appoints me pleasant things,
Thy mercy orders all that pains me.
If loving hearts were never lonely,
If all they wish might always be,
Accepting what they look for only,
They might be glad, but not in Thee.
Well may Thine own beloved, who see
In all their lot their Father's pleasure,
Bear loss of all they love, save Thee,
Their living, everlasting treasure.
Well may Thy happy children cease
From restless wishes prone to sin,
And, in Thine own exceeding peace,
Yield to Thy daily discipline.
We need as much the cross we bear
As air we breathe--as light we see:
It draws us to Thy side in prayer,
It binds us to our strength in Thee.
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THE ROYAL PRIESTHOOD
"Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light....Ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious, to whom coming as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God and precious, ye also as living stones are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up sacrifices* acceptable to God by Jesus Christ."--`1 Pet. 2:9,3-5`.
At no time in the Church's history has our great adversary been so active in multiplying false doctrines and in diverting attention from the truth by introducing unprofitable and irrelevant questions as at present. Just when the exaltation and glory of the Church are soon to be accomplished, and when the faithful are about to be received into the joy of their Lord, every device is resorted to to beguile them of their reward and to frustrate this feature of the divine plan. To really frustrate any part of the divine plan is impossible: God has purposed to take out from among men a "little flock," "a people for his name," a royal priesthood; and such a company is assuredly being gathered; but whether all those now in the race for the prize will surely be of that company, is still an open question. Take heed, beloved, that no man take thy crown. (`Rev. 3:11`.) If any come short of their privileges and prove unworthy of the rich inheritance, there are others who will quickly fill their places.
We beseech you, brethren, as you value the glorious hope set before you in the gospel, that you give no heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils, as the Apostle terms them (`1 Tim. 4:1`), but that, with fixedness of purpose, you apply yourselves to the one thing which you are called and privileged to do as members prospectively of that Royal Priesthood. Let us never forget that we are a "peculiar people," separate from the great body of nominal Christians as well as from the world, having higher hopes, aims and ambitions and favored with a clearer insight into the deep things of God, having been called out of our former darkness into his marvelous light. And if thus separate from the world and from Christians who partake largely of the worldly spirit, what wonder if we find them all out of harmony with us and either ignoring or opposing us.
Such opposition is to be expected and will doubtless continue until we finish our course in death. To submit patiently to this opposition is to sacrifice our own natural preferments for the friendship and the pleasures of the present life and to endure hardness as good soldiers for the truth's sake, in whatever shape that hardness may come, in our effort to do the Lord's will and work of advancing the interests of his Kingdom. This is what is meant by the presenting of our bodies living sacrifices in the divine service. To be really in this service involves first, the careful and continual study of God's plan; second, the imbibing of its spirit; leading, thirdly, to an enthusiastic zeal for its accomplishment, and to activity to the extent
*Sinaitic MS. omits spiritual before sacrifices.
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of ability in its service, at whatever cost or sacrifice it may require.
If we are faithful in this service we have no time, nor have we the disposition, to give heed either to false doctrines or to other themes which have no bearing on the one thing to which we have solemnly dedicated our lives. Our time is not our own if we have consecrated all to God; and consequently we have none to spare for the investigation of fanciful false theories, built upon other foundations than that laid down in the Scriptures; nor have we time to devote to the ideas and pursuits which engross the world's attention, many of which are harmless in themselves, but would be harmful to us if we were to allow them to occupy consecrated time and to divert our attention from the one thing we ought to be doing. The Apostle warns us "to shun profane babblings, for they will increase unto more ungodliness;" but adds, "Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth." "Teach no other doctrine: neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions rather than godly edifying which is in faith."--`2 Tim. 2:16`; `1 Tim. 1:3,4`.
Each consecrated believer should ask himself, How carefully have I studied that which I have clearly recognized as divine truth? and how fully capable am I, therefore, of handling the sword of the spirit? Few indeed are those who can say they have fully digested and assimilated all they have received; that they have let none of these things slip from memory; that they have so treasured it up in their hearts that it is their meditation by day and by night; that they have a ready answer--a "Thus saith the Lord" --for every man that asks them a reason for the hope that is in them, concerning any point of doctrine; that they can clearly and intelligently portray the divine plan, quote the divine authority for each successive step of it, and, if need be, point out its place in the divine system of types. To gain such proficiency in the Word is indeed the work of a lifetime, but every day should see a closer approximation to that proficiency, and will, indeed, if we are faithful students and faithful servants of the truth.
If all the consecrated were thus busily engaged putting on the armor of God, and in proving it by actual use in zealous endeavors to herald the truth and to help others to stand, there would indeed be no time left for disputings on the Anglo-Israel question, or whether the earth is a plane instead of a globe, or whether the principles of socialism would be advisable among Christians in their management of their temporal affairs. Nor would there be time for politics, nor even for the good temperance-reform work, nor the work among fallen women, nor among the slums of the great cities, nor even for preaching the doctrine of divine healing. All this is work which can and will be effectually accomplished in "the Times of Restitution," now in the near future; and, besides, there are others interested in these works (and we are glad of it and bid them God-speed) while we recognize and seek to accomplish the work set before us in the divine plan. And if indeed we have no consecrated time for these things, which are only side issues and not harmful in themselves, except as they divert attention and consume valuable time which has been consecrated to another and higher use, surely there is none whatever for giving heed to false doctrines such as so-called Christian Science, and the various no-ransom or Evolution theories, all of which are attempts to show men how to climb up to everlasting life by some other way than that which the Scriptures point out, viz.: by faith in the precious blood of Christ shed on Calvary for our redemption. He that climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber (`John 10:1`); and we are commanded to have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather to reprove them.--`Eph. 5:11`.
How narrow this way! say some contemptuously of those who, like Paul, devote their energies to the one thing--the service of the truth. Yes, that will be the verdict against you, of all except the few who, like yourself, have carefully sought out this "narrow way," and who are determined to walk in it regardless of the reproach it brings. The way to the prize of our high calling is not wide enough to admit all the vain philosophies and foolish
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questions and babblings and speculations of science, falsely so called. It is only wide enough to admit the Lord's plan and those who are willing to discard all other plans and projects and questionings and to devote themselves fully and entirely to its service, and who are quite willing to bear any reproach it may bring.
Consider your calling, brethren, for ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood to offer sacrifices acceptable to God; a holy nation, a peculiar people, that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. The very object of our being called into this light is that we may let it shine. If we do not let it shine we are unworthy of it, and the treasure will be taken away and we will be left in darkness. If indeed we have received the light and have consecrated ourselves fully to God, let us ask ourselves, What am I doing to show forth the praises of him who hath called me out of darkness? Am I going forth with these tidings to my neighbors near and far? am I busy from day to day in seeking to vindicate the divine character, and to make known God's righteous ways? am I economizing time and means, and so arranging my temporal affairs as to give as much time as possible to the work? and, then, am I diligently studying to make myself thoroughly familiar with the truth, so that I may indeed be a living epistle known and read of all men within the circle of my influence?--a workman indeed that needeth not be ashamed? Can I truly affirm that I am
"All for Jesus, all for Jesus--
All my being's ransomed powers;
All my thoughts, and words, and doings,
All my days, and all my hours?"
If so, then we are just narrow minded enough to say, This one thing I do; and I make every thing else bend to this one thing of showing forth God's praises and helping others into his marvelous light. And to this end I cultivate and use what talents I possess, as a wise steward of my heavenly Master.
Dearly beloved, we impose no vows or bondage upon each other, but the call has its own limitations: the Master has directed us, saying, "Go ye and teach all nations [for the gospel is no longer confined to the Jewish nation], baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, teaching them to observe all things"--concerning our (questionable) Anglo-Israelitish origin? No. --All things concerning the shape of the earth? No.--All the vain philosophies of men who have erred from the truth, and all the subtle sophistries by which they made void the Word of God? No; preach "all things whatsoever I have commanded you."--`Matt. 28:19,20`.
This is just what the apostles did. There were plenty of errors and side issues in their day; but, ignoring them, they resolutely devoted themselves to the promulgation of the truth. Paul paid no attention to his fleshly genealogy, because he recognized himself as a new creature in Christ Jesus. It was easier for him to prove his fleshly origin as an Israelite than for any of us to do it; but he cared nothing for that. He did not care whether he was of the ten tribes or of the two tribes; for he had on none of the tribal righteousness of the law. His only ambition was to be found "in Christ, not having on his own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ--the righteousness which is of God by faith." (`Phil. 3:9`.) He says (`verses 3-7`), "We [new creatures in Christ] are the [real] circumcision, which worship God in spirit and rejoice in Christ Jesus and have no confidence in the flesh [or the fleshly relationships], though indeed I have had confidence also in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I had more: Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the Church; touching the righteousness which is of the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ."
Hear him again in his zeal for this one thing to which he had devoted his life: "And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the mystery of God; for I determined not to know anything among you save Jesus Christ and him crucified. [I riveted your attention
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on this one thing! I kept this one thing continually before you]. And my speech and my preaching were not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the spirit and power [of the truth], that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God."--`1 Cor. 2:1-5`.
Paul was a plain, uncompromising teacher. When he knew he had the truth, he spoke it with confidence, and boldly declared that everything contrary to it was false doctrine; and he taught his disciples that it was not only their privilege, but their duty also, to be established in the faith and to know, on the evidence of God's Word, why they believed, and to be able to give to every man that inquired for it a reason for the hope that was in them.
There is among Christians to-day a great lack of established faith on any point of doctrine. They say, "I think, I hope," or "Perhaps it may be so; but this is only my opinion, and it may be right or it may be wrong. I have charity, however, for your opposing opinion and for every man's opinion; for who knows which is right? I'm sure I cannot say; but, nevertheless, I have great faith and charity (?). I shake hands with every body and call him brother if he claims to be a Christian, no matter what he believes and teaches, whether he is pointing to Christ as the door to the sheepfold, or whether he is trying to teach men how to climb up some other way. In Christian love I bid them all God-speed and pray for the success of all their teachings, no matter how antagonistic they may be to each other or to the Scriptures as I read them."
All this passes among Christians generally for large-hearted benevolence and personal humility, while in fact it is an ignoble, compromising spirit that is unwilling to forego the friendship of those who oppose the Lord by opposing the truth; and which would rather see the truth suffer, and those weak in the faith stumbled, than that they should bear the reproach of Christ. Those who have real and sincere faith in God are willing to take him at his word; and with these the first principles of the doctrine should long ago have been established, much of the superstructure of gold and silver and precious stones should already be erected, and the work steadily progressing. Such are able, if they are loyal and true to God, to discern between truth and error. The Apostle John, recognizing this ability, says, "If there come any unto you and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God-speed; for he that biddeth him God-speed is partaker of his evil deeds." (`2 John 10`.) We ought to know what we believe and why we believe it, and then should be bold and uncompromising in declaring it; "For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound who shall prepare himself to the battle?"
Again, says the Apostle (`1 Cor. 2:6-10`), "However we speak wisdom among them that are perfect [developed--We are not to cast our pearls before swine]; yet not the wisdom of the world, nor of the princes [the popular leaders and teachers] of this world that come to naught. But we speak the wisdom of God, which was hidden in a mystery, which God ordained before the world unto our glory; which none of the princes of this world knew....Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his spirit; for the spirit [or mind of God in us, is so anxious to know his truth, that it] searcheth all things; yea, the deep things of God."
The princes of this world do know something of Astronomy and Geology, and have their ideas of the shape of the earth, etc., but they have not known this hidden wisdom of the divine plan, which maps out a destiny so glorious to the faithful saints who will constitute the royalty of the age to come. Let the world speculate as it may about its own themes of interest, but let us devote ourselves to the one thing in hand, avoiding foolish questions and genealogies and contentions,...for they are unprofitable and vain. (`Titus 3:9`.) Let us be faithful to our commission to preach this gospel to the meek who are ready to hear it (`Isa. 61:1`). Let the bride of Christ be diligent in making herself ready (`Rev. 19:7`), for the marriage of the Lamb is the event of the very near future.
STUDIES IN THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES.
--INTERNATIONAL S.S. LESSONS.--
SUGGESTIVE THOUGHTS DESIGNED TO ASSIST THOSE OF OUR READERS WHO ATTEND BIBLE CLASSES, WHERE THESE LESSONS ARE USED; THAT THEY MAY BE ENABLED TO LEAD OTHERS INTO THE FULNESS OF THE GOSPEL. PUBLISHED IN ADVANCE, AT THE REQUEST OF FOREIGN READERS.
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THE FIRST CHRISTIAN MARTYRS.
LESSON IX., AUG. 28, `ACTS 7:54-60`; `8:1-4`.
Golden Text--"He kneeled down and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge."-- `Acts 7:60`.
Stephen was one of the seven deacons chosen by the early Church to manage some of its temporal affairs, and thus relieve the burden of the apostles, that they might give their whole attention to its spiritual oversight--to prayer and to the ministry of the word. (`Chapter 6`.) But the early Church were all ministers according to their ability and opportunity, and so while Stephen thus endeavored to relieve the apostles of temporal cares, that the Church might have the full benefit of their superior service, he was active also in declaring the truth in harmony with the apostles.
And the Lord was with Stephen and corroborated his teaching by granting him power to work "great wonders and miracles among the people." The rapid growth of the Church under the spur of its early zeal and faith, and the clear testimony of the Lord working with them by miracles and signs, excited and greatly increased the hatred and opposition of a conservative class, who were determined to perpetuate the old institutions of Judaism at any cost; and this hatred ripened into bitter persecution, of which Stephen was the first martyred victim.
The charges brought against Stephen were (1) that he spoke blasphemous words against the holy place [the temple], saying that Jesus of Nazareth would destroy it; and (2) that he would change the customs of Moses.-- `Acts 6:13,14`.
These accusations were likely partial statements of the truth. Stephen had probably been telling the people how that material temple must pass away, and how God was about to rear a more enduring spiritual temple in which it was their privilege to become living stones; and that their temple and in fact the whole system of Judaism was only a shadow or type of the glorious spiritual favors of the new dispensation which it was now their privilege to enjoy, and that their typical system must now pass away, since the antitypical spiritual dispensation had come. We can easily see how these blessed truths would be misunderstood and misrepresented by those who were blinded and excited by prejudice and bitter hatred of the crucified Lord and his followers.
Being unable to resist the wisdom of the spirit by which he spoke, they were the more infuriated against him, and finally they seized him and brought him before the council, the Sanhedrim, and preferred the above charges against him. Stephen doubtless realized the dangers of the hour, but he was so filled with the spirit of God, and so enthusiastic over the glorious gospel he had to proclaim, that he seemed to lose all fear and all concern as to what they would do to him in his eagerness to improve this opportunity of testifying for the Lord before the assembled elders of Israel; and the peace and joy of his heart shone from his eyes, and so illuminated his whole countenance that his face is said to have been like the face of an angel.
In his reply to the charges he briefly rehearsed the whole history of Israel, showing most clearly his faith in the fact that God had marked out the whole economy of that dispensation and that he accepted the teaching of Moses and the prophets, and honored them as God's chosen witnesses of that dispensation. (`Acts 7:1-50`.) In `verses 48-50` he began to show the difference between the material temple in Jerusalem and the glorious temple which God was about to build, and how the former must therefore pass away. But here he seems to have been interrupted; for there is a sudden break in the discourse. They had heard enough, and probably his voice was for a time drowned in the din of many voices to the effect that his last statements were sufficient proof against him.
`VERSES 51-53` were probably spoken above the clamor of many excited and angry voices-- "Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the holy Spirit: as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One, of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers; who have received the law by the disposition of angels [through the agency of God's messengers] and have not kept it."
`VERSES 54-56`. This was enough: they could endure no more. They knew the accusations were only too true, but being far from penitent
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and excited to the more desperate and determined opposition, they ground their teeth with rage, and doubtless looked one upon another to see who would make the first move to lay violent hands upon him; and in the interval before the storm broke forth, Stephen, "being full of the holy Spirit [full of a holy enthusiasm for the Lord and the truth] looked up steadfastly toward heaven" [a prayerful look heavenward for grace to help in this time of need, just when the storm cloud was about to burst in its fury].
As he thus looked heavenward a picture of the glory of the Lord floated before his mental vision, and he said, "Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God." His mind was carried forward to the glorious Millennial reign of Christ--the new heavens and the new earth-- where he saw Christ stand at the right hand of God [the chief place of power and dominion]. He saw it just as we see it to-day--by faith "in the sure word of prophecy"--and in his mental vision of that future glory caught by the eye of faith, he was refreshed and strengthened in spirit while the merciless stones crushed out his consecrated life.
`VERSES 59,60`. In the midst of his dying agonies his persecutors heard him commending his spirit, his new life to the Lord, and then praying that this sin might not be laid to their charge.
`CHAPTER 8:2` shows again the brotherly love of the early Church: how devout men--men who were not afraid to be counted among the friends and brethren of the faithful martyr--carried
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him to his burial and mourned over him.
`VERSES 1,3` show the zeal of one, Saul of Tarsus, in the persecution of the early Christians and his part in the persecution of Stephen, even unto death. He consented to his death and took charge of the cast off outer garments of those who stoned him; and he made havoc of the Church: entering into every house and haling men and women, he committed them to prison. Yet Saul's was not a hopeless case, and Stephen's prayer for his persecutors did not go unanswered; for from their midst this one was shortly after raised up to be a most efficient and devoted servant of the truth.
`VERSES 1,4` show how the persecution spread to all the Church, causing all except the apostles to leave Jerusalem and remove to other parts. The apostles bravely determined to stand their ground there, doubtless in order to give courage to the scattered flock who might still look to them at Jerusalem as representatives, overseers and counsellors of the Church. Had they gone it would have seemed as if the Church were broken up. But as the others went forth they went everywhere preaching the word, and so the persecution did not really hinder, but it actually helped to spread the truth more and more. They all recognized their commission from God to preach the truth as soon as they received it.
There was no such false idea of preaching then as we find in the churches of to-day. Now chiefly those who are ordained of men, and who have gone through a certain course of human training in so-called theological schools (all of which greatly pervert the Word of God), and who wear broadcloth suits and white neck-ties, and stand in the pulpit of a fine church building, are regarded as preachers of the gospel. But then every member of the Church recognized his obligations, and his divine ordination to the work of the ministry. And so it should be to-day; for, says the Apostle Peter (`1 Pet. 2:9`), "Ye are a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people, that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light."
This is the work of the whole Church, every member of which is a priest, and every member of which should therefore diligently proclaim the word "in season and out of season" (whether at his own convenience or not) whenever and wherever he can, and by whatsoever means he is able to command--by word of mouth, by the pen or by the press, or by all the agencies he can employ.
Let us mark and profit by the example of the faith and zeal and courage and true Christian heroism of the early Church.
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PHILIP PREACHING AT SAMARIA.
LESSON X., SEPT. 4, `ACTS 8:5-25`.
Golden Text--"And there was great joy in that city." --`Acts 8:8`.
`VERSE 5`. This Philip was another of the seven deacons chosen to relieve the apostles of the temporal affairs of the Church; and, like Stephen, he not only helped in this way, but did good service also in preaching Christ in Samaria when driven out of Jerusalem by the persecution.
`VERSES 6-8` show how the Lord worked with him and endorsed his teaching, and how the people believed and were blessed and filled with great joy.
`VERSES 9-13` mention the admission into the Church, on profession of faith in Christ and by baptism, of one who was not a true convert to Christianity and who was not really consecrated to God, as his symbolic baptism implied. Nevertheless he floated along with the Church and companied with Philip and for a time was
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not recognized. Thus, even in those days, we see that there was a nominal church which comprised both the wheat and the tare element. On the contrary, the real Church, "whose names are written in heaven," has never included any but true and consecrated believers --the wheat. As time advanced and the Church increased in numbers, and the mystery of iniquity continued to work, and especially when persecution abated, the numbers of the tares greatly multiplied, until to-day the whole field of "Christendom" is so overrun with tares that the wheat can only be found by careful searching.
The tare element in the Church is not a vicious element: as in the illustration, they are, in general conduct and appearance, like the true wheat class, and can scarcely be distinguished from them until some test of character reveals the unregenerate heart, as in the case of Simon. The truth due and revealed in the harvest or end of this age is the sickle in the Lord's hand for the separation now in progress.
`VERSES 14-17` show how the Lord marked the apostles above all others of the Church as his specially chosen and empowered witnesses. While he endorsed the faithful testimony of Philip, Stephen and others, by miraculous signs and wonders in them, the power of conferring spiritual gifts on others by the laying on of hands was reserved for the apostles only. Accordingly, we read that, as soon as the information reached the apostles at Jerusalem that Samaria had received the Word of God and been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus, they sent the apostles Peter and John, to lay their hands on them, to communicate the gifts of the spirit which at that time were tokens of fellowship as well as of the Apostolic office.
It is clear, then, from this necessity of sending for the apostles in order that these might receive the holy Spirit, that none could communicate spiritual gifts except the apostles. We remember also that Paul, the Lord's choice for the place of Judas, had this seal to his apostleship.--See `2 Tim. 1:6`.
The expression, "received the holy Spirit," we understand to refer specially to the outward manifestation of their acceptance with God in the receiving of the gifts of the Spirit, then conferred upon every member of the Church. This is clear from the fact that every one, even the unconverted, such as Simon Magus, could at once recognize it. Simon evidently looked upon this new and strange power from a mercenary standpoint, and therefore he desired, not only the gifts which all members of the Church received, but also the apostolic power of conferring those gifts upon others by the laying on of hands.--`Verses 18,19`.
The possession of these gifts of the spirit did not always indicate saintship: they were evidently given to all professed Christians in order to distinguish the Church of that day from the world by these marks of divine recognition of the Church as a whole. And yet, as the apostle Paul affirms, one might possess any one, or even all of them, and be but as a sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal--a mere empty professor, lacking the chief and all-important gift of the holy Spirit, which is love; for without this chief gift the others profited nothing to the individual possessing them.-- See `1 Cor. 13:1-3`.
It is no loss to the Church of to-day that she is not possessed of many of the gifts of the Spirit which have passed away, as the apostle predicted they would. (`1 Cor. 13:8`.) But three essential gifts of the Spirit were always to remain in the Church; and, thank God, they have not passed away; for still "abideth faith, hope and charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity."--`1 Cor. 13:13`.
`VERSES 20-23`. Peter's rebuke to Simon was a severe one, indicating that death is the legitimate reward of hypocrisy, if it be persisted in. Peter was very plain in his denunciation of the man's character--and that to his face, and not indirectly or behind his back--saying, "Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter; for thy heart is not right in the sight of God, for I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity." Some of the worldly-wise of the present day would be inclined to complain of Peter's straightforward course and to say that he was uncharitable in thus endeavoring to rid the Church of a hypocritical impostor. In their desire to be all things to all men--not indeed that they may win them to Christ, but that they may increase the numerical and financial strength and prestige of the nominal church--they willingly fellowship all forms of iniquity if it is hidden under an outer robe of Christian profession.
But Peter was not uncharitable: while he thus threw off the mask and unveiled the really unregenerate heart and the hypocrisy which sought to make merchandise of the Lord's favors, he also kindly urged the sinner to repentance that he might become truly a child of God. And in so doing, he at least saved the Church of Samaria from the imposition of one whom otherwise they would have esteemed as a brother, and whose erroneous teaching might have led many astray from the truth.
`VERSE 24` indicates at least some measure of repentance on the part of Simon which was due only to Peter's plain rebuke.
`VERSE 25` shows the zeal of the apostles.
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ENCOURAGING WORDS FROM EARNEST WORKERS.
DEAR BROTHER AND SISTER RUSSELL:--I enclose $10.00, our regular donation to Tract Fund. Am sorry I could not remit sooner, but we have been rather pressed for ready money. We will try to send more as we find ourselves able to do so.
Next Sunday afternoon I shall bring a Methodist friend to the chapel. I have been working with him for ten years, and though he is beginning to give an intellectual assent to the truth, he will not yet accept it, for prudential reasons. I have given him the three volumes of DAWN, a few TOWERS and all the Tracts, and I wish him now to hear one of your restitution sermons.
The great topic among us here is the conversion --his own term--of Brother Rogers. I gave him up three or four years ago, and so did Brother West during his canvass here; and now the dear old man can scarce contain his joy. He has spent the last few Sabbaths at our home, and they are love-feasts indeed.
At the last M.E. Quarterly Conference, charges were preferred against him and he supported his new position right nobly and at considerable length. He concluded by resigning his offices and membership in the M.E. church, and now is a free man in the Lord Jesus Christ. Praise the Lord. Hallelujah!
We are continually talking and praying about the coming of the Kingdom and doing a little work, too--but oh! such a little; and that little seems often to be very unsuccessful.
ARTHUR AND JENNIE ELLIS.
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL:--I give below extracts from a letter recently received from my own dear sister in the flesh. Undoubtedly it will be of interest to the readers of the TOWER, as it was exceedingly so to Sister W. and myself.
Dear Brother and Sister:--Your welcome letter of the 11th received. We were indeed glad to hear from you, and thank you for your gift, "The Wonderful Story." It is beautiful --a wonderful story indeed! I can see its beauty as I never saw it before. It now has a new meaning to me. We would like to have the second volume of MILLENNIAL DAWN. Please send it as soon as possible. I can hardly wait for it.
I have just finished reading the first volume for the second time. It has done more for me than any other book in helping me to understand God's Word. And I am only beginning to see the truth. I enjoy greatly the new light which I received through the reading of "The Wonderful Story" and "THE PLAN OF THE AGES." The truth has indeed made me very happy, and I am hungry for more such Bible truth. Now I am beginning to understand why you left the pulpit and the Baptist church, and what you spoke of when on your last visit, although at that time I could not comprehend it on account of the muddy waters of tradition. But thanks be to God through our Lord Jesus for "the shining light" upon the sacred pages of the Word of God, which "light" has now shone into my heart. I realize that I am only a babe in faith, but with the help of God I desire to grow in knowledge, love and grace. I also feel very thankful that he has permitted me to see his harmonious and reasonable plan before "the day of trouble" comes.
Dear Brother and Sister, what I have written is my own experience. We have loaned the books to friends, and trust they will perform their mission. There are some who do not believe this wonderful truth, but that does not discourage us.
Affectionately, your sister, L. H__________.
The above letter verifies the words of the Scriptures, "Your labor is not in vain in the Lord." What a comfort lies in such a promise! It was a comfort to us in times past, and is now still more so; for after we had been so highly favored as to receive the truth ourselves, our desire went out for those who were connected with us by the ties of flesh and blood. The majority, however, did not seem able to see the truth--`Matt. 7:14`; but it seems my trip four years ago to Maryland, where my sister and her husband resided at that time, was not in vain, although for about two and a half years it seemed as if she had forgotten the testimony. From her letter, however, we see that she still remembered the tidings of great joy which shall be unto all people (`Luke 2:11`.); and when "The Wonderful Story" reached her it refreshed her mind and heart. Praise the Lord! It became, indeed, a wonderful story to our sister. J. A. WEIMAR.
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL:--Your kind favor is at hand, and I thank you very much for it. I think your expressions regarding Prof. Totten and his writings are quite correct. I have read his views, and while I have found some Scripturally supported arguments, I have found much that is merely assertion, for which I can see no proof. Certainly only the very learned (?) can
understand him all the way through: I cannot. But not so with the DAWNS. They are plainly written, easily understood by application, and to my mind well supported by the Scriptures, else I would not try to place them in the hands of others.
I have nearly finished Volume II., and it is my purpose to re-read both volumes and know every argument and point and have them all ready for use. I hope I can use them to the glory of God and the good of others.
Kindly let me know how far back you can furnish copies of the ZION'S WATCH TOWER, and at what cost? [Old TOWERS are supplied at the rate of five cents each. We can supply about two-thirds of the issues as far back as 1884. --PUBLISHERS.] I have already received much help from a few back numbers and desire to get more copies of other numbers. Also please name price of Old Theology Tracts in assorted lots of 50 or 100. [Since January 1st the O.T. Tracts, Nos. 1 to 6, 9, 10, 12 to 14 are supplied free for gratuitous distribution, and the expense is met by voluntary donations to the Tract Fund.--PUBLISHERS.]
I thank you very much for your kind wishes, and earnestly pray that I may "grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ." I thank God for the DAWNS and the light they have given me; and may his blessing rest on you and the able work you are doing for his name.
Yours in Christ and seeking to do his will,
F. A. FULLER.
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL:--Please accept the inclosed P.O. order for $35.00 as my ministration to the public service for the saints, for the past three months. It is short of my proposed "hope," but this on account of obedience to the commandment, "Give to every one that asketh of thee, and him that would borrow from thee turn not away." Indeed, I have found the saying verified, viz.: "It is more blessed to give than to receive." And I know that the Lord is abundantly able to make all things abound unto such as take heed unto his Word, walking by faith and not by sight, having laid hold of the glorious hope, which we have as an anchor of life, both sure and firm, and entering the place within the vail.
The large package of Tracts came duly to hand, and I shall exert myself the more in the blessed service of distributing them. I did so last Sunday and also this (Sunday) morning.
The Norwegian Tract was quite a glad surprise. It will be used to supply many Norwegian vessels that come into port. I have sent samples to Norway, and--if you can afford it--you may send one hundred of them to my father in Norway. As a good many people go to his place of business, it will be convenient for him to distribute the same.
With much Christian love, your brother,
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DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL:--While examining `Zech. 11:8`, I came across `Hosea 5:7`. The clear, emphatic context of the latter adds force to the exact thirty years [one month] of
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the prophet as the divinely set time during which the "false shepherds" with their "portion" or "possessions [Leeser's trans.] shall be devoured." "Now" (see `preceding verse`, noting that Israel, Ephraim and Judah, with their flocks, "go to seek the Lord, but they shall not find him, he hath withdrawn himself from them"), "Now," while in that rejected, spewed-out condition--"Now shall one month devour them with their possessions." The devouring of these is the last thing mentioned in this paragraph. Benjamin and Ephraim are next made desolate, "broken through punishment." Previous to this time God said, "Ephraim is joined to his idols, let him alone." It is in their afflictions--in the great time of trouble--that they will come to acknowledge their guilt, and to seek the Lord and his presence, saying, "Come, and let us return unto the Lord, for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind up our wounds." Another thought: In `Hosea 2:21,22` the Lord says he will answer prayer [Leeser], and the way or channel through which he will answer is indicated. He says, "I will answer the heavens and they shall answer the earth," etc. The thought is that the Anointed Christ (head and body), as a royal (heavenly) priesthood, shall make successful intercession for the earth (represented through its princes), and these princes answer the people, and so the great antitypical day of Jezreel is to be realized. --`Hosea 1:11`; `2:2`.--Leeser.
So we are to look for the existence of the "false," "foolish," "idol" shepherds, whose "arm" of power shall not be "clean dried up," and whose "right eye" (mind's eye or right understanding) shall not be "utterly darkened" till the end of the thirty years, 1908.--`Zech. 11:17`.
That the overthrow of the present nominal ecclesiastical systems shall precede the overthrow of the civil powers is thus indicated-- the former continuing only until A.D. 1908 and the latter until A.D. 1914. [We differ slightly here. The Editor expects from `Rev. 19:20` that the final overthrow of present governments
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will be at the same time as the fall of ecclesiasticism and will be followed by from five to seven years of socialism and anarchy, to end with 1914 by the establishment of Christ's Millennial government.]
The union of the two systems [political and ecclesiastical], now so generally suggested, will be only partial, for the present "shaking" is preparatory to their destruction. "General creed smashing" is on time. The two ends of the ecclesiastical heaven--Protestantism and Romanism --shall roll together, come closer and closer together, for the purpose of more effectually opposing free thought and action. The fate of these powers has thus a little while to tremble in the balance before the ever darkening war clouds will burst in all their destructive fury. The three chapters of Zephaniah and thirteen of the fourteen chapters of Zechariah seem to apply in the Millennial age, including the "lapping period." How new and blessed the Bible of to-day--God's holy Word!
I rejoice that I can share with the Chief Reaper in the present harvest. 'Tis mine to thrust in the sickle of truth every day, though not by a set form of words, in a snug, well-arranged, lengthy discourse; but we know that the spirit of the message, accompanying the word fitly spoken to a fellow-toiler, is the most effective means of preaching. Then the judicious distribution of the TOWER, Old Theology Tracts and the Dawns enables us each to preach many sermons in a comparatively short time.
How many of us, who are now rejoicing in the present glorious harvest truth, came into possession of it by reading! How few by the sermons we have heard preached! I might say that in my own experience I never have heard a sermon on any Millennial-dawn theme (though it has been mine to make and fill a goodly number of appointments for public meetings), yet I have read and re-read all that Brother Russell and those laboring with him have published for several years past, with ever increasing interest. Nearly all that the prophets have written has, during the past, been sealed--not understood--having been written for us who are living in the present "due time" for its fulfilment. Thus enlightened, we shall not walk in darkness, nor fail of our share in the work and its reward.
How unmistakably we witness the sealing effect of the harvest truth we preach. We witness the wheat, the consecrated, one by one, with zeal embracing it, and soon in the love of it joining the reapers, while the tares are gathered in bundles. Praise the Lord! Thus the work goes on. E. J. ROGERS.
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL:--Yours of the 17th at hand. Thank you for your advice. In the last lot of books you sent me there was a copy of TOWER for July '88, and I can not tell you the joy it has given me. Although an old one, it was new to me, and contained just what I needed, viz.: "Ask What Ye Will" and "The Prayer of Faith." I freely admit that I had altogether erroneous views on these subjects. Your explanation under the latter heading, of sickness and how we should receive it, was needed, for I had never understood the difference between chastisement and rebuke. Thank God for his wondrous gifts to the Church!
Revival and sanctification meetings seem to be the order of the day here. Sanctification, as taught by some, is not the pure white garment of Christ's imputed righteousness, but the filthy rags of their own righteousness, claiming that it is impossible for them to sin, and that they stand before God pure and holy. Some claim that they have not sinned for a year and some for a longer period of time. None seem to understand the Bible view, that sanctification is through the imputed righteousness of Christ supplying all our unwilling deficiencies.
How glorious it is to be permitted rightly to divide and understand the word of truth, and possess these privileges in the service. I had good success this week, selling 120 books.
Your servant in Christ, C. C. WRIGHT.
VERY DEAR BROTHER:--I still feel grieved that I was under the necessity of quitting the Colporteur field, and am hoping that my providential wheel may yet turn again in that direction. I do feel that I never can do enough for the Master, and often ask myself the question, Why am I so highly favored as to receive the message and to behold the light of the unfolding Word now due to be made known, while the world is permitted to see and not perceive, to hear and not understand.
The field here is rather limited; and what with a non-reading people under powerful pulpit influence, the good work progresses slowly; yet there are a few precious sheaves already garnered, and an impression made that I feel sure will not be effaced.
Am pleased with the last WATCH TOWER. Yes, the blind leading the blind; for many years I have been groping in the rear, but the scales have fallen, the bands are broken and I am free. RICHARD MARSTON.
[We rejoice with you that you have found the shining path of Truth. Do what you can and opportunity will increase.--EDITOR.]
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