VOL. XIX. NOVEMBER 15, 1898. No. 22.
The Colporteur Work...............................330
A Fulfilment of Prophecy..........................331
The Influence of Evil Passions....................332
Justification Must Precede
"Many Shall be Purified and Made
White and Tried"............................333
Manasseh's Transgression and
"Avoid It, Pass not Near It,
Turn from It"...............................338
The Lost Book Found...............................341
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A FULFILMENT OF PROPHECY.
"They shall cast their silver in the streets, and their gold shall be removed: their silver and their gold shall not be able to deliver them in the day of the wrath of the Lord."--`Ezek. 7:19`; `Zeph. 1:18`.
NO DOUBT some others as well as we overlooked important items of news respecting the ferocity of the bread riots in Italy during the early Summer. These accounts are so graphic, and so clearly foreshadow what may be expected during the dark trouble approaching, in which all law and order will go down before anarchy, that we think it well to give them space here even tho too late to present as news. The items were cabled from London and Berlin, as follows:--
"London.--Italy has got to the brink of revolution almost unobserved by a world intent on Spanish-American affairs. Years of discontent and grinding poverty on one side and tremendous taxation and almost unparalleled official corruption and thievery on the other, then a few bread riots as advance rumblings of the storm, have so inflamed the masses, that to-day throughout the peninsula there are burnings and murders, a peasantry in arms against the existing order.
"A secret junta has been at work organizing rebellions. The present outbreak was sooner than they planned, but may serve their purpose. It is against the dynasty, against the nobility and against the rich. Scenes already enacted bear startling similarity to those in France before the fall of the Bastile. The murder of Miller Bartella, who thanked the Virgin for dear bread, then offered the mob in vain his fortune for his life, is a picture throwing lurid light upon the situation.
"Reports coming in to-day are of renewed fighting by well armed mobs, the government in panic and a growing fear that the army may go over to the populace. Only the sternest repressive measures will serve to check the rebellion, and these are acknowledged inadequate for the bottom trouble."
"Berlin.--The accounts that reach here of the troubles in Italy show that in some parts of the country the worst outrages of anarchism have occurred. Murder and incendiarism are the order of the day. It is already known how the mob did Physician Brandis to death at Minerveno. From his house, which was set on fire, the rioters went to the residence of a mill owner named Bartella, whose mills had already been plundered. This man did not have the reputation of being a philanthropist. Only a few days before he had a thanksgiving mass read in the presence of all his employes in his private chapel because the madonna had made it possible for him to sell corn at 50 francs per hundred-weight.
"When the mob reached the house of this miller millionaire he had shots fired from the windows at them. This doing no good, he threw 1,000 francs in small nickel pieces into the crowd, but all in vain. The doors of the house were battered in, and a terrible scene followed.
"Bartella bargained for his life. He offered thousands upon thousands of francs, all his fortune, but amid savage cries of 'We want your head,' the old usurer was beaten to death. His wife was frightfully injured by blows from a hatchet, and the children barely escaped being dashed from a balcony.
"The mob then went on plundering. They penetrated all the houses occupied by the better classes, robbing and burning. After eight hours plundering the military arrived on the scene and the mob fled, heavily laden with loot."
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THE INFLUENCE OF EVIL PASSIONS.
THE FORCES of evil, and their effect, not only upon ourselves but upon others, especially the influence of the parents upon children, already referred to in these columns, was recently set forth by Prof. Gates, showing that our various mental conditions exercise a strong influence for good or evil, as respects the health or disease of our bodies. His claim is that anger, malice, hatred, fear and in general all the evil passions which sweep over fallen mankind, mentally exercise a deleterious chemical influence, through our nerves, upon the blood, while wholly pure, happifying, loving thoughts exercise a healthful influence. Referring to this subject, the Congregationalist says, "Prof. Elmer Gates asserts that the malevolent passions create poisons in the blood which are detectable by chemical analysis. It has been demonstrated, over and over again, that the nursing child can be poisoned, or even killed, by a sudden fit of anger in the mother, and we begin to understand why, when we realize that the anger actually caused material poisons to germinate in the lifegiving fluid [the mother's milk]. Then we can begin to comprehend how a state of unrest, of fear, of rage, of jealousy, of lack of self-control, in the mother, will interfere with perfect nutrition of the child, and fill its tissues with the poisons which these malevolent passions generated in the mother's blood."
Thus we see how it comes that wherever the purifying and uplifting influence of the Gospel of Christ goes, not only are the parents benefited, and caused to enter into a rest and peace and joy which the world can neither give nor take away, but additionally the influence of the spirit of righteousness, through kindness, love, extends to the neighborhood, and especially to the families of the consecrated. Thus it is that during centuries those who have come in contact with the Word of God, the fountain of the pure Gospel, have been most blessed and most uplifted in the scale of human civilization, and are the most noble specimens of the race, the best mentally, possessed of a larger degree of the spirit of a sound mind than others. And the more Christian people learn respecting the good influence of the true religion, taught in the Lord's Word, upon the health and happiness of themselves, their children and others, the stronger and the better that influence should be.
When last we referred to this subject of the influence of the mind over the body for health or for disease some seemed to get the impression that it was a concession on our part to the theories of so-called "Christian Science" which claims to be a "mind-cure," pure and simple. But we answer No; there is not the slightest sympathy between the view which we have just expressed and the theory of "Christian Science." The two theories are exact opposites. "Christian Science" teaches that there is no pain, no sickness, no sorrow, no death, except as people imagine these. Their system of cure is that people should lie to themselves and stick to the lies until by anti-suggestion self-hypnotization is effected and they believe the lie--Satan cooperating to establish this latter-day delusion that, if it were possible, the very elect might be deceived and perverted from the truth as laid down in the Lord's Word, and that still others might be confused and made skeptical.
The opposite of all this is what we teach. It is not new but old. It truthfully admits the fact (1) that the whole creation is groaning and travailing in pain; (2) that this is a part of the dying process, the result of the original sentence or "curse" upon father Adam, as the just penalty of sin. But (3) it not only assures us that we are sadly and seriously wounded, physically, morally and
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mentally undone, but it presents an all-healing remedy --the blood of Christ, the merit of our Redeemer's sacrifice on our behalf,--and offers us "life more abundant" through obedience to him. It is to such as have thus laid hold of the hope set before us in the gospel, that we declare that true faith and trust in this Savior rests the mind as well as binds up the broken heart, and thus in proportion to our faith, trust and obedience it becomes a fount of joy, peace and blessing which extends its influence to all of life's affairs and to a considerable extent to our physical health. "Blessed [every way] is the man that trusteth in the Lord:" he is able to rejoice in tribulation, in sickness, in poverty-- in every condition he is blest, and may be joyous in realizing that the light afflictions of the present time are working out a far more exceeding and an eternal weight of glory to those who are rightly exercised by them.
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JUSTIFICATION MUST PRECEDE SANCTIFICATION.
DEAR Brother Russell:--The Nov. 1st WATCH TOWER is at hand, and I note the answer given my question re Justification. But you have not quite satisfied me. I fear I did not make the question sufficiently clear. Let me state again the point respecting which I am specially solicitous:--
Do you understand the Scriptures to teach that the sinner is justified in God's sight before he is "a new creature in Christ Jesus," or, is he justified at the moment he is accepted as a member of the body of Christ, as a new creature?
ANSWER:--He is justified before he becomes a new creature in Christ.
Your difficulty arises from a failure to discern that justification and sanctification are two separate steps, both of which are necessary to those who would accept the high calling of this Gospel age, the only calling now
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extended to any. Sinners cannot be sanctified or set apart in the divine service: sinners therefore are not invited to present their bodies living sacrifices to God. Sinners are called to repentance, and to the exercise of faith in Christ as the Redeemer and only way by which they can approach God. The moment the sinner accepts Christ by faith, with a desire to approach God, he is justified by his faith, and at once becomes privileged as a justified man.
The next step of consecration should follow quickly, as soon as God's grace is fully appreciated, yet with many, because of lack of Scriptural instruction, the second step of consecration is neither seen nor taken for some time, and God apparently exercises mercy for a season, waiting for his justified creature to realize his privilege, and to present himself a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, and his reasonable service. He is reckoned holy and acceptable to God, because he has been justified--he is accepted as a sacrifice upon the Lord's altar because his sins and blemishes are not imputed to him, having been transferred to his Redeemer's account, at the moment of his justification.
We understand, however, that no one can maintain his reckoned justification who indulges in wilful sin-- nor can he long continue in a justified attitude without progressing to the next legitimate step of full consecration and self-sacrifice. If he loses his justification without making use of it in consecration, etc., he has merely slipped back again to the plane of the world, and if he has not enjoyed full opportunity for consecration, he probably will have some future opportunity to revive his justification and to consecrate himself; but in any case he loses all the precious opportunities of the high calling to the new nature, besides the blessings which he might have enjoyed in this present life. Furthermore, his greater knowledge having added to his greater responsibility, he may expect "many stripes" in the future, or disciplinary judgments, in proportion to his resistance to the light, and failure to use it.-- `Luke 12:47,48`.
But for those who have been clearly enlightened, and who have made the covenant of consecration, there is no Scriptural hope of a future opportunity with the world in the Millennial age. They, having received their full share of the ransom-bought blessings and opportunities for eternal life as human beings, and having exchanged those for the proffered "new nature," with its terms and conditions, of sacrifice of his justified human nature, must proceed to offer themselves willing sacrifices, and thus ultimately be accepted as overcomers. Or (2), hesitating and being overcome by the cares of this life, they will be liable to the "great tribulation," to be of the second company, who shall be "saved so as by fire." Or (3), by repudiation of the Lord, or the repudiation of his principles of righteousness (transgressing against their clear enlightenment), they will be reckoned as the sow which returned to her wallowing in the mire, and will have their portion in the Second Death.
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"MANY SHALL BE PURIFIED AND MADE WHITE AND TRIED."
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL:--Just a few lines to let you know that we are well. I was sorry that I was unable to be present with you at the Convention, but was with you in spirit. That very same Sunday, somehow, we seemed to have a special blessing in our afternoon meeting, and I feel sure that all the little gatherings were remembered by the brethren who were present at Council Bluffs: the spirit of that Convention overflowed and reached us who were obliged to stay at home.
I have just received a letter from one of the brethren at __________ stating that they have had a severe shaking up and sifting, at which I am not altogether surprised, considering the circumstances in the case.
The Church of this place sends love, and please accept much love from Sister Thorn and myself.
Your Brother in Christ, W. J. THORN.
IN REPLY:--We are glad to know that the influence of the Convention was far-reaching. You are quite right in supposing that the dear flock of the Lord in every place was feelingly remembered by the company there assembled. The fellowship of spirit which you mention, and the attendant blessing, is undoubtedly a part of the divine provision for the Lord's flock: where our love and sympathy go out toward the fellow-members of the body of Christ, it is sure to bring us nearer to our great Head, and thus to bring us increased blessing of fellowship with him.
Respecting the "Sifting" at __________: It should not surprise us to hear of "siftings" in every direction. That which we have reiterated for the last eighteen years becomes daily more strikingly manifest; viz., that the harvest-time of the Gospel age, which began in the Autumn of 1874, and will end with the Autumn of 1914, is to be not only a period of great spiritual enlightenment and refreshment to some, but also a period of sifting and testing to the same class. And it is but reasonable to expect such sifting to follow such blessing: for where much light is given much responsibility follows. It was just so in the "harvest" of the Jewish age; the blessings of the new dispensation, and the light from the Lord's presence (subsequently represented in his apostles), were accompanied with trials, siftings, testings, proportionate to the blessings then enjoyed.
Since the Lord has granted to us so clear a knowledge of his own character and plan, and granted us to
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see the wonderful harmony and beauty of the word of his grace, it is but reasonable that he should look for the spirit of the truth in those who have become blessed with so clear an appreciation of its letter. Judged from this standpoint, "What manner of persons ought we to be, in all holy living and godliness?" It would appear, too, that these siftings specially take hold of those who have been for some time enlightened, and do not as readily affect the beginners, altho when a root of bitterness springs up its defiling influence may affect the beginners also.
It would seem as tho worldly minds have reached certain standards respecting conduct in life which are helpful, and that while the standard of the fully developed children of God, fully enlightened by his Word, should be a still higher one, viz., the "perfect law of liberty," yet if the advanced Christian has not developed, or if he subsequently loses the spirit of love, which is the very essence of the truth, he is in a worse condition, in some respects, than those who have never looked into the perfect law of liberty;--for, losing the element of fear, and not proportionately developing the spirit of love, he is much more likely to go to the extremes of inconsistency than are those who have enjoyed the grace of divine truth in a lesser degree. Hence, while knowledge is a great blessing, and a great power, an absolute essential to the Lord's people in the present time to enable them to "stand," it is also a great responsibility.
God's object in furnishing his people "present truth," and all truth, is to develop in them faith, and all the various fruits of the spirit, which unitedly come under the name Love. Whoever, therefore, is blessed by the knowledge of the truth, and fails to cultivate in himself the fruits of the spirit, Love, fails utterly to realize
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the Lord's design in his call and in bringing him to the light of present truth. Our Master summarized this whole matter, respecting the object of giving the truth, in his prayer to the Father, "Sanctify them through thy truth." Where the truth has been received, and has been held in unrighteousness, and has not produced sanctification of life, it has been received in vain; and the only thing to be expected is that the Lord, after a reasonable trial, will cast out of the light, out of the present truth, out of the fellowship with those who are in the light, all who have any other spirit than the spirit of the truth, Love,--the law and mainspring of the new life in Christ. "For if any man have not the spirit of Christ [the spirit of love], he is none of his."
The Apostle mentions just such a condition as prevailing in the Church at Corinth, and its attendant "sifting." He first points out to them (`1 Cor. 1:10`) that there should be no divisions, but that they should "be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment." There is one line of judgment which should govern all who have the Lord's Word and spirit; viz., the letter and spirit of the truth. All should be familiar with the teachings of the divine Word, or if not familiar should be teachable, and amenable to it; and all having the spirit of love, the spirit of the truth, will be so: such, while contending earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints, will not be contentious along other lines, but patient, forbearing and meek --not envious, not heady, not high-minded, not boastful, not slanderers and backbiters.
But gradually the Apostle leads his readers onward and points out to them their low spiritual condition (`1 Cor. 3:3`), as evidenced by the facts which he cites, saying, "There is amongst you envying and strife and divisions" (a party spirit, dividing themselves under human leadership rather than uniting themselves under Christ, the true and only head). Let it be noted that the Apostle does not accuse the Church at Corinth of what would be termed gross worldly sins, murder, theft, blasphemy, etc., but of the more refined evidences of a wrong condition of heart--a lack of the spirit of love: And yet, as our Lord pointed out, anger, hatred and malice are murder in the heart. Proceeding further, however, he shows that not all of them, but only a part, are in this seriously wrong condition of heart. He adds, therefore (`11:18`), "I hear that there be divisions amongst you, and I believe it respecting part of you; for there must be also parties amongst you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you."
Likewise the siftings in progress during this harvest time are not only to separate those whom the Lord disapproves, but are also to make manifest those whom the Lord does approve: and in no way can this matter be more clearly and distinctly noted than in respect to the difference of spirit manifested where there is a division, a sifting, in progress. We do not refer particularly to the difficulty which you mention, of which we have no other knowledge as yet: we are dealing merely with general principles, which seem applicable in every such case. Those who have not yet had a sifting have had special opportunities to grow strong in the knowledge of the truth and in the spirit of it, and when their sifting does come, it probably will be severe in proportion to the blessings previously enjoyed.
We urge, therefore, upon all of the Lord's people, everywhere, that they set their own hearts in order, purging out all the leaven of malice, envy, strife, hatred, evil speaking (incipient murder), and fill every corner and interstice of their nature, so far as possible, with the spirit of the Lord, the spirit of the truth, Love: and that when siftings or separations shall come, they take heed and be not deceived by the Adversary, who always will attempt to put darkness for light, and will
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not hesitate at misrepresentations, back-biting, evil speaking, slander, etc. And as the Adversary does not hesitate at these, neither do those who become, either knowingly or unknowingly, his agents and tools. Such seem to lose not only their self-respect and sense of propriety and justice and love of truth (which even the world and nominal Christians would have), but in their bitterness of spirit seem to give full testimony respecting which spirit it is that animates them. In these trials and siftings we may be sure that only the one class will come off victors, viz., those who abide under the shadow of the Almighty, trusting in the precious blood, and seeking in all things to be conformed to the image of the Lord, not only in their doctrines, but also in the acts of daily life, and in their words and thoughts. Remember the words of the Apostle Peter, respecting the necessity for putting on the graces of the spirit:-- "If ye do these things ye shall never fall: for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."
The duty of the faithful in every case is the same: to hold up the light--to manifest the spirit of the truth and to refuse to tolerate the evil--to reprove it by the Word of the Lord and in a spirit of love and gentle firmness. The sooner all who love evil--anger, malice, hatred, etc.--depart from those who delight to speak the truth in love, the better. As the Apostle suggests of this class--"They went out from us, because they were not all of us." Let not those who love the truth and have its spirit of love depart; but let them forget not the assembling of themselves together, and so much the more as they see the Day drawing on.
But nothing in the foregoing should be understood to advise the forcing of a breach, or carelessness as to who may "stumble." Quite the contrary, true love of the brethren means patience, long suffering, gentleness, kindness,--willingness to yield to them and accommodate them in anything non-essential--in anything not opposed to the letter or spirit of the truth. For love and faithfulness to God alone takes precedence to love and faithfulness to the brethren. Each, therefore should not only sacrifice his own non-essential preferences (to preserve the unity of the spirit in the bonds of peace), but more: the Apostle declares the proper measure of this love is willingness to "lay down our lives for the brethren."
Only after we have thus done all in our power to preserve unity along Scriptural lines and a rupture is unavoidable, may we regard it as a providential sifting from which good will result. And each should previously carefully and prayerfully scrutinize his own heart and conduct to make sure that not selfishness and vainglory are ruling him, but only love. And when a rupture does occur, each should be careful to avoid any unkind words or acts and looks, which later on might be barriers to hinder the return of any who, seeing the error of their way, might subsequently desire to return to holy fellowship. And such returning ones should be most heartily and joyfully received;--"pulling them out of the fire," etc.
These "siftings" seem to emphasize the Master's words,--"Take heed that no man take thy crown." Our joy at seeing some come into the light of present truth is necessarily modified by the thought that they are probably taking the places in trial of some who have been weighed in the balances and found wanting. "Let us fear," as the Apostle suggests, lest a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of us should seem to come short of it by losing either the faith or the spirit of the truth: for the loss of either one means soon or later the loss also of the other.
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MANASSEH'S TRANSGRESSION AND REPENTANCE.
--NOV. 20.--`2 CHRON. 33:9-16`.--
"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."--`1 John 1:9`.
MANASSEH was the son of the good king of Judah, Hezekiah, the reformer, whose faith and works we considered in our last study. And tradition being true that Hezekiah's wife was the daughter of the Prophet Isaiah, we might reasonably expect from such parentage a noble son, with large reverence and spirituality, who would follow closely in the steps of his father as a reformer. But we find to the contrary, that Manasseh made the people to err and to do worse than the Canaanite nations whom the Lord had destroyed before the children of Israel when he brought the latter into the land of promise.
Manasseh was but twelve years of age when he entered upon his kingdom at the death of his father, Isaiah, his supposed grandfather, having died previously. It does not surprise us that one so young, even tho well-born and well-endowed naturally, should be in danger of taking the wrong path; indeed, it is the brightest children, the most precocious, that are in greatest danger if placed in positions of responsibility and influence early in life, without experienced advisers. Lacking experience, this precocious boy-king evidently concluded that the inferiority of the kingdom of Judah to some of the surrounding nations in riches and strength was in great measure because it did not have the same kind of gods and of religious worship. Consequently,
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it was probably within ten years of his accession to power that he began to institute what he no doubt regarded as a religious revolution, in recognition of the various deities which his father had neglected to worship and to propitiate. No doubt he was helped along
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in such a course of reasoning by friends of the false religions or by evil counsellors, who adopted his views and pandered to them and extolled the wisdom of his course, to thus gain his kingly favor and to feather their own nests;--for there seems to be plenty of such an unprincipled class in every age, everywhere.
Some have spoken of Manasseh as a most wicked person, comparing him to the worst character on the pages of history; but to us this seems unjust. We concede that he "did wickedly" as do all who violate righteousness: but we do not concede that he was a wilful, intentional evil-doer. It appears rather that his wrong course was in large measure the result of his youth and inexperience, and his ambition to be great,--which led to his loss of confidence in his father's God and his nation's religion and tradition. The religious qualities (veneration and spirituality) inherited from good parents, took a turn in a wrong direction, so that instead of being a zealous, earnest champion of true religion, he became the zealous promoter of false religion, idolatries, etc. His zeal and conscientiousness are both attested in the fact that he spent large sums of money in establishing idolatry, and even caused his own children to pass through the fire of Moloch,--a sacrifice to these false gods.
Thus it has been with zealous promoters of false religions, we believe--the largeness of the religious organs of their heads, which would have made them zealous for the service of the Lord, being misdirected made them zealous in evil, tho unwittingly. We have no record that Manasseh was a promoter of moral wickedness, except as his false religions sanctioned immoralities and led to them, and the statement that "he shed innocent blood very much:" and we consider it quite probable that this latter crime was done in ignorance also--under the frenzied zeal of false religion--Satan blinding his eyes.--`2 Cor. 4:4`.
The intimation of the context is that Manasseh got under the influence of wicked spirits, spiritism, as we would call it to-day: he placed himself under the guidance of wizards, necromancers, etc., and was guided by a wicked spirit, "a familiar spirit," who, pretending to represent the dead, and to be able to give him super-human wisdom and advice, deceived him, as they have deceived the whole world, under various forms and by various errors,--leading mankind more and more into separation from God and his righteousness, as they come under their influence.*
There is a lesson in this for all;--to the effect that no matter how well-born, how intelligent, how zealously conscientious they may be, they need right instructions --they need to become the Lord's people by the New Covenant and consecration; that they "may be all taught of God." Whosoever does not get the right teaching--the truth--to direct his conscience and zeal will be sure to be found by the great adversary and be blinded with plenty of false teaching, to pervert his talents and opportunities to the interest of falsehood, error and sin. And the same wicked spirits which deluded and misled Manasseh, and which we find are active in all parts of the world, opposing the true God and his instructions, are ready still to assist and to mislead all who have not found the only true guide to life --the Lord. How important then that all, and especially those who would make progress in religious life, should seek and find the true guide, and the wisdom that cometh from above.
The record is that God spoke to the king and to the nation respecting their wrong course, but they were so infatuated that they would not hearken--the glitter, show and sensuous fervor and spirit of sacrifice of the false religion, appealing more to the degenerate mind and heart, than the reasonable, true religion. The Lord probably spoke to these people through his prophets,-- Micah in the early part of the reign, and Nahum later on.
The arch-deceiver, Satan, the forwarder of all false systems, is still at work in the world; and while he has not been able to hinder the advancing light of Christianity, which rising in Judea, has spread with more or less effulgence over Europe and America, he nevertheless does not abandon his efforts to seduce those who have been partially enlightened with this true light. He well knows that it would be absurd to attempt to turn back Christianity, and to substitute therefor the worship of Moloch, and he makes no such attempt: but he continually endeavors gradual encroachments upon the simplicity of the gospel of Christ. With some he favors ritualism, vestments, ceremonies, genuflections, etc., that he may thus lead as near to idolatry as civilized, enlightened minds could sanction: to the intent that the worshipers might the more draw near to the Lord with a merely lip service and outward formalism, which would satisfy the cravings of their religious organism, while their hearts might be far from grace. With others the adversary suggests an opposite extreme, which equally ignores the Word of the Lord, leading the deceived to reject the simple and meaningful arrangements which the Lord has prescribed.
The Adversary's attempt upon those who have been enlightened with the present truth are more along the latter line. Those who have been made free by the
*See What Say the Scriptures About Spiritualism?--10c., this office.
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truth from various superstitions and false doctrines, from the worship of God as a fierce, merciless Moloch, and who have been brought by the truth to the liberty wherewith Christ makes free, and to the simplicity of the gospel arrangements set forth in the New Testament; these the Adversary would fain seduce to what he is pleased to represent to them as a still larger liberty--a liberty beyond that which our Lord and the Apostles and the early Church recognized:--a liberty to ignore the assembling of themselves together; claiming a greater blessing through private communion with the Lord and the study of his Word than through any human help or communion. Those whom the Adversary gets to this point, of considering their own judgment superior to the testimony of the Lord's Word, respecting his will, are in a fair way to be side-tracked entirely and very quickly.
Others he persuades to believe, that since they see the real meaning of baptism to be a heart consecration to the Lord (burial to self and the world), it is wholly unnecessary that they should perform the symbolic immersion in water--persuading that since it would be only a symbol or an outward form, to represent an invisible transaction, therefore it would be improper,--or at least not obligatory. This is an extreme of anti-formalism, which has its basis often in too great self-confidence, too large an appreciation of their own wisdom, a too small appreciation of the wisdom that cometh from above, and that has been plainly set forth to us in the Word of God. Such persons evidently do not realize that by their arguments and conduct they are claiming to be more wise than our Lord, who not only performed the true baptism, but also submitted to the symbolical one, saying, "Thus it behooveth us to fulfil all righteousness."
They also set themselves up as being more wise than the Apostles, who both taught and practiced the symbol. Our Lord commended them to us as his mouthpieces, assuring us that he would guide their judgments and teachings so that we might have full confidence in the same, saying, that Whatsoever they would make binding upon earth we might know would be binding in heaven;--so fully would they be under the control of the holy spirit in their doctrinal presentations to the Church. How unwise on the part of any who admit that God has taught them all that they know of his grace through these very Apostles, to claim a superiority of wisdom on one or two points. Such as are thus "heady" will pretty surely soon or later stumble over other truths; because it is one of the conditions that those who are "taught of God shall be the meek, the teachable: as it is written, "The meek will he guide in judgment; the meek will he teach his way."-- `Psa. 25:9`.
Others still hold that it is not proper to celebrate the Eucharist since we discern that the real spiritual significance of the Last Supper is our partaking of the merit of our Lord's sacrifice by faith, feeding on him in our hearts,--and our consecration to be broken with him in the service of his truth, and to drink with him the cup of suffering and self-denial for the truth's sake. Seeing these realities they hold that we should no longer perform the symbol of these by commemorating our dear Redeemer's death, as he commanded all his followers should do, saying, "Eat ye all of it;" "drink ye all of it:" and as the Apostles did and taught the early Church to do. Surely, such renouncements of the beautiful and simple symbols which our Lord left us is not "taught of God"--and cannot be sustained by his Word. It is the great adversary, who thus would seduce us from the simplicity and obedience which is pleasing to the Lord and acceptable to all the "meek." Let all who have been "taught of God" adhere closely to his teachings, as presented in the Scriptures, ignoring on the one hand a tendency toward formalism and idolatry, and on the other hand a tendency to lean to their own understanding and wisdom, and to ignore the simple and meaningful observances which the Lord has commanded. No other course is either reasonable or safe.
As a punishment for taking the wrong course, and to open the eyes of the king and the people, the Lord permitted the king of Assyria to invade the land, and cause much affliction, and to carry away the king a fettered prisoner, to Babylon. There the king came to his senses, and came to realize that the gods he had so zealously worshiped and sought to propitiate had no care over him: realizing his mistake, he bethought him
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of the religion and God of his fathers, and prayed to the true God for deliverance, and was heard and brought back again to his capital city and to power. The record is that "Then Manasseh knew that Jehovah is God." The clear intimation is that previously he did not know, was honestly mistaken. That his sin was largely of ignorance is testified to by his subsequent zeal in the Lord's cause--pulling down the idols and the altars which he had previously mistakenly built, under a misguided religious enthusiasm.
Manasseh's character and experiences remind us considerably of Saul of Tarsus: both were religious enthusiasts; both for a time were evil-doers, through lack of knowledge of the truth; both were remarkably chastened of the Lord, and found it "hard to kick against the pricks." Both were prompt to acknowledge divine disciplines, and to profit thereby; and both showed their sincerity by their subsequent zeal in the Lord's service.
The Lord evidently loves warm, ardent natures, altho they may be more liable to mistakes than more coldly calculating ones. It was their ardent temperaments
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that caused our Lord to specially love Peter and James and John and Paul, and which caused them to manifest so fervent love for him. If Peter did make some blunders through impetuosity he learned afterward a better exercise of judgment, under which his zeal found glorious exercise. If Paul's zeal for a time made him a bitter opponent of the truth, it afterward, under the control of the "spirit of a sound mind," made him a most valiant soldier of the cross and defender of the faith.
Therefore, let us never despise opponents or even persecutors; for they may be conscientious, but blind: they are worth far more if turned to the truth and its service than many of the cold, indifferent, listless. And if we find ourselves cold or luke-warm, let us cultivate fervency, let us fan the flame of sacred love in our hearts by frequent reflection on the Lord's grace toward us-- our covenant with him--and the exceeding great and precious promises of his Word.
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"AVOID IT, PASS NOT NEAR IT, TURN FROM IT."
--NOV. 27.--`PROV. 4:10-19`.--
"My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not."--`Prov. 1:10`.
HOWEVER well or illy Solomon followed his own teachings, it is conceded by all that those teachings were sound wisdom--as true to-day as when uttered. While Solomon's writings may not be ranked exactly with the inspired prophecies of the Scriptures, the fact that we are told that the Lord heard his prayer for wisdom, and granted the request, together with the fact that his writings were accepted as a part of the sacred canon in our Lord's day, and not objected to by New Testament writers, but on the contrary quoted from, is sufficient guarantee to us that the wisdom of these Proverbs is of a kind that cometh from above.
In the lesson under consideration the wise man represents himself as a father giving good advice to a son, and it were well for all the youth of the world, if their fathers more frequently communed with them and gave them the benefit of their experiences in life. Fathers recognize a responsibility for those whom they bring into the world, in respect to natural things, food, clothing, etc. Have they not a much greater responsibility respecting the culture of the minds and hearts of their children in the path of wisdom, justice, righteousness, truth?
One of the growing evils of our day, even amongst Christian people, is the disposition of parents, and we believe particularly of the fathers, to shirk this responsibility which they assumed when they became fathers. They incline to leave the instruction, reproof, guidance, counsel of their children entirely to others--to the church minister, to Sunday School teachers or to mothers. It is well that children whose fathers are so lacking in the proper parental instinct should have the counsel, advice, etc., of others, especially of their mothers; but all of these will not properly take the place of the father's counsel, if he be a father in the true sense of the word,--taking watch-care over the highest interests of those committed to his care by divine providence.
Nor is it merely the children who are injured by such parental carelessness of divinely imposed responsibilities: the matter reacts upon the parents--the neglected child realizes the neglect of its highest interests, and depreciates the parent correspondingly. The result is a home lacking respect for parents and hence lacking obedience to parents; therefore a home in which disorder is sure to reign--an unhappy home. In such a home it is most difficult for the Christian graces to take root or flourish in any member of the family; yet it sometimes does take hold in just such a place. Many parents learn when it is too late, how seriously they neglected to cultivate right principles in the gardens of their children's hearts, and allowed them to become overgrown with weeds of ill dispositions,--unkindness, disobedience to parents, unthankfulness, etc. We cannot urge too strongly, upon Christian parents, the necessity of training up a child in the way it should go: in precept and also in example, illustrating patience, kindness, thankfulness, gentleness, meekness, love, as essential rules of daily life. Such are giving their children a good start in the right way; a start which they need at the entrance to life, and which they and society have a right to expect at the hands of those who brought them into being.
Father Solomon suggests that the obedient son of a wise father will prolong his days, by giving heed to the good counsel. The parent's whole course of life should manifest toward his children his love for them, and his deep interest in their welfare. The child is naturally disposed to think highly of its parents, and to appreciate their advice, unless this childlike confidence has been shattered by unkind treatment, threats and parental neglect. Children reason often as correctly as do older people, sometimes more so; they should be able to reason, upon evidence, (1) that they have the parental love and interest in their welfare; (2) that parental experience in life should be valuable to them at its threshold, to start them properly. And who will say that the child thus guided and helped by parental counsel would not be saved from many of the difficulties and pitfalls and troubles in life, and from much
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sickness, physical debility, etc., to a longer life? Moreover, the parent thus interested in the child, and seeking to give it lessons from his own book of experience, will find himself profited by his review of the successes, disappointments and mistakes of his life, and the causes of these. Whoever, therefore, performs his duty as a father is blessing himself as well as his child--and adding to his own years as well as to the years of his child.
How blessed for any parent to be able truly to use the words of the `eleventh verse` of our lesson as he lies upon his death-bed, addressing his children, "I have taught thee in the way of wisdom; I have led thee [by my example] in right paths," and how blessed are such children; how much less liable than others to stumblings in life's pathway: how much more likely they are to be ready to hear and heed the voice of the Heavenly Father, and to walk in his paths.
Indeed, we may profitably apply this lesson to the sons of God, and consider God to be the speaker: for in holy things we but copy the Heavenly Father. While we were yet sinners he redeemed us, and by his love and justice he has drawn all that have been so far drawn to Christ as the Redeemer. Coming to Christ for forgiveness of sins, even justification, through faith in his blood, we thus came to the Father. It was then that the Heavenly Father addressed us, through his Word, saying, "My son, give me thine heart"--thy affections --thy love. And those who gave their love, their affections, to the Lord, gave their all; for our affections control us, whether for good or for evil. When we accepted the Lord's invitation, and gave him our hearts, our all, a living sacrifice, to be his and to do henceforth his good pleasure, it was not because we first loved him, but because he first loved us, and gave his Son to be a propitiation (satisfaction) for our sins. Now, therefore, having been accepted of the Father as new creatures in Christ, having been adopted into his family, by receiving the spirit of adoption and sonship, he speaks to us as to sons, in the language of Solomon,--that we take heed to his Word; and he promises us that by so doing the years of our life shall be many--very many, everlasting.
All who have been "taught of God" can bear testimony to the applicability of the `11th verse` to themselves and to all the sons of God: "I have taught thee in the way of wisdom; I have led thee in right paths." And all such, relying upon the exceeding great and precious promises of the Scriptures, can look forward in confidence to the `12th verse` as a prophecy respecting the divine care over all those who have put themselves thus under divine protection and instruction as sons of God, and who will to abide in his love. They are assured that their steps in the spiritual way, in the narrow path, shall be guided of the Lord, and that in their race for the great prize of their high calling they shall not stumble, so long as they are followers in that path in which the Lord's providence guides them: yea, all things shall work together for good to those who love God, supremely.
And the older and more experienced the son may be,--the spiritual son of the Heavenly Father, or the
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natural son of the earthly father,--the more he should appreciate the testimony, "Take fast hold of instruction; let her not go; keep to her; for she is thy life." It is along these same lines that the Apostle urges the Church, saying: "We ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest...we should let them slip." (`Heb. 2:1`.) It evidently is not enough that we should hear the Lord's Word; nor yet that we should receive it into good and honest hearts. It is necessary that we take fast hold of it; that we act upon it; that we incorporate it as a very part of our being: thus the spirit of the truth becomes the spirit of all the children of God;--the holy spirit in them is in harmony, in full accord, with the Heavenly Father's mind, disposition, will.
What better advice could be given to either natural or spiritual sons than is presented in the `14th verse`? We are to remember that, no matter how far along we may have gone in the "narrow way," there are always branching paths leading from it--paths of self-will, of pride, of worldly ambition, of selfishness, which lure us to leave the direct path, and which sometimes we may be in danger of entering, unintentionally, unwittingly. These paths at first emerge so gradually from the "narrow way" as to seem very little different from it, but gradually they diverge more and more from it, so that any of the Lord's people, filled with the spirit of righteousness, truth, love, may soon discern the change, the different spirit and tendency.
All pilgrims seeking the heavenly city, the Kingdom, are exhorted by the Word of God to be very watchful against all the wiles of the Adversary, especially his disposition to switch us from the "narrow way." It is well that we should be on guard, to note the spirit of all with which we have to do, and to refuse to go forward in any direction in which the spirit of holiness, meekness, purity, love, does not lead. Thus, if we have gotten into the wrong way, and our hearts be still loyal to the principle of love, we need not go far upon the wrong course without finding out and retracing our steps: but it is still better, as expressed in our lesson, that we enter not the path of the wicked.
Once entered, we may be able to retrace our steps with more or less difficulty, but the safe program is never to enter these by-paths. One of the Adversary's seductions, by which many are led astray into by-paths
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of wickedness, contrary to their consecration vows, is through the human quality known as curiosity. They reason,--"I know it is untrue and has a wrong spirit, but I want to see and know: the knowledge of evil will but do me good." But we remember that it was mother Eve's curiosity and her fearlessness to disobey the Lord's command, that got her into difficulty as the first transgressor; and this reminds us of the Apostle's words, "I fear lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity which is in Christ." (`2 Cor. 11:3`.) The wise man seeks to impress the lesson of the necessity of not tampering with evil, not touching it, not tasting of it, not putting himself within the reach of its influence, saying,--"Avoid it, pass not near it, turn in another direction away."
The spirit of liberty is a part of the spirit of the Lord, the spirit of the truth, and no Christian can too highly appreciate this liberty, nor too faithfully maintain his hold upon "the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free," nor too carefully avoid any "yoke of bondage." But this is made one of the Adversary's strong points of attack--liberty. He even used this argument upon our dear Redeemer--Use your liberty-- Command that the stones be made bread, etc. The only safe or proper course for God's children is to walk carefully in the footprints of our Redeemer and Forerunner, Christ Jesus, and to avoid every appearance of evil--avoid the use and exercise of liberty where there would be the slightest danger of being led into temptation and into sin. And be it noted that our Adversary never tempted us along the lines of liberty until our Lord set us free. The slavery from which we were set free by our Redeemer was the bondage of Sin, and being thus made free, we in consecration presented our bodies living sacrifices to the Father, in order that we might receive the adoption of sons in his spiritual family. This meant that we voluntarily gave up all human rights, liberties and preferences, accepting instead the divine will represented in the divine law, summed up in the one word, Love.
Since we have taken this step, we are no longer at liberty to do anything contrary to this law of the New Covenant, Love, even as God himself has no liberty to do contrary to it. We are therefore to scrutinize carefully all the matters, incidents and affairs of life as they come before us, lest the Adversary should beguile us from this "narrow way" of self-denial, self-sacrifice: lest he should seduce us into doing something that would be contrary to our Father's Word, and in violation of his spirit of love. Hence, if any pathway has the slightest appearance of evil, or the slightest antagonism to the spirit of our law of Love, we (as obedient sons of God) should "avoid it, pass not through it, turn from it away."
Next we have a description (`vss. 16,17`) of those who, having become the servants of Sin, have pleasure in unrighteousness. We all know of some wicked characters (men and women) who make it their business in life to entrap others, financially, morally or socially: persons to whom it seems the chief end of life to do evil, and to seduce others into evil doing; and often, as in `verse 17`, their business in life takes on this form of entrapping the unwary. In this sense it is their food and drink to do evil: they make their living in that way.
And we regret to say that we have knowledge also of a similar class of Satan's more or less deluded servants, who seem to make it their business in life. They accept good salaries for misrepresenting, yea, blaspheming, the Heavenly Father's character and plan: it is their business--to entrap the ignorant and to bind them with superstitions. Still others delight in mischief, in sowing discord, in slanders, malice, hatred, envy, strife, to stumble and entrap, mislead, the spiritual sons of God. They are not content to have these evil principles at work in their own hearts, but are active agents of the great Adversary in planting roots of bitterness, and misleading those who wish to walk in the right way. And if these last do not live literally by their evil work, it is at least their spiritual life--an evil spirit --their light become darkness. In any case the Lord's children and the world's children are to pass by all such, recognizing the unrighteousness of their course, and have neither fellowship nor sympathy with their evil work, nor countenance it in any respect.
The `next two verses` show us the two paths, and give us their general characteristics, and especially their terminations. Since there are none who are absolutely just, "None righteous, no, not one," we must understand the reference to "the just" here to signify the justified children of God--reckonedly justified by faith. And from this standpoint this entire lesson may properly be regarded as a prophecy or teaching to the justified class of this Gospel age. It is true of every one of the Lord's children--justified sons--that his path through life should be one of increasing light and blessing: one of personal progress and of blessing to others, through the light of the knowledge of the truth.
However, the application, we believe, is specially for the entire Church as a whole--Head and Body:-- Christ the Just One, we his justified members. Our Lord was the great Light, which came into the world; his consecrated followers are his representatives in the world, who seek to let their light shine before men, and to glorify their Father in heaven. The pathway of this Church, Head and Body, has lain through a wilderness state, and a night of darkness, "gross darkness covering the people" of the world in general. Divine favor
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has been manifested toward this consecrated holy Body, in that the light of the divine Word has shone upon the pathway step by step. Of this light Solomon's father wrote, prophetically representing the Body of Christ, saying, "Thy word is a lamp to my feet, a lantern to my footsteps." The Head of the Body was thus enlightened by the Word of God, and guided in doing the divine will--even unto death; and so each member of the Body has been similarly guided by the same lamp of truth.
We have the assurance that no part of the true Church's pathway has ever been left in darkness, nor will it be--even to the end of the age. As the Apostle said, "Ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief." The text under consideration seems to harmonize with this declaration, that the path of the Just would shine more and more clearly (lighted by the lamp, God's Word) even unto the perfect day. Since we have not yet reached the perfect day, we cannot know how much more brightly our lamp may shine in the future; but we do know that it is now shining more brilliantly than ever before for all those who are walking in the "narrow way." In its light we can see, as never before, the glories of the divine character, illustrated in the divine plan of salvation for mankind. We can see also our own position as sons of God, justified through the precious blood and called to be heirs of God and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ our Lord, with a clearness and distinctness that before was unknown. And yet all this light, this increasing light, as we near the perfect day, is coming from our Lamp which God provided,--the Bible.
But while the Bible lights the pathway of the true Body of Christ, the consecrated "little flock," it sheds no particular brilliancy upon the world's pathway: that is to say, no light that the world can specially profit by. What light may be reflected to the world's pathway is perhaps fully counteracted by shadows which rather confuse and perplex them. And this also is set forth
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in our lesson: "The way of the wicked is as darkness; they know not at what they stumble."
In the light of our path the Body of Christ now sees that we are in the "Day of Vengeance," that a testing is taking place with those who have named the name of Christ,--to test, to prove, to separate the true from the untrue; and again, to separate amongst the true, the consistent "wise virgins," who faithfully follow the Lord in self-sacrifice, from the "foolish virgins" who attempt to please both the Lord and the world, and make a failure of both. Our lamp shows us that as soon as this testing in the nominal Church is completed a great time of trouble will break out: "a time of trouble such as was not since there was a nation." Our lamp shows us the great stumblingstone in the path of the world's progress in its present course. It shows us that the Christian world is about to stumble over that Stumblingstone and Rock of Offence over which the typical Israel stumbled eighteen centuries ago,-- that the Christian world is to stumble over the second presence of Christ, as the Jewish nation stumbled over his first advent; and that the stumbling here will mean the wreck of Christendom, as the stumbling there meant the wreck of Judaism.
The light upon the path of the Just--the path of the Christ--shows that the present social order of Christendom is to stumble and be wrecked in a time of anarchy, because the time has come for the establishment of God's Kingdom, and because the world is not in the condition of heart to be ready to receive it, and hence are kept in darkness respecting it: "They know not at what they stumble," altho they realize that we are living in peculiar times, and that there is great danger of stumbling over something in the darkness with which they realize they are surrounded.
In harmony with this is the statement in our Lord's Word, respecting the testing of this day of the Lord: "It shall come as a thief and as a snare upon all them that dwell upon the earth [the world in general, especially the Christian world who, having made a covenant with the Lord, are living contrary thereto, and therefore are styled "wicked"--as was that servant who hid his Lord's money in the earth, and returned it to him unused]." (`Luke 21:35`.) "But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief." Of these same classes the Prophet declares, "None of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand." --`1 Thes. 5:2-4`; `Dan. 12:10`.
Let us, dear brethren, as sons of God, heed our Father's Word most carefully, that we take not the wrong paths, but that we follow strictly and carefully and watchfully the "narrow way" of consecration, self-denial, humility, love, in which shines the light of the Lamp of Truth, and which alone leads to the Kingdom.
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THE LOST BOOK FOUND.
--DEC. 4.--`2 KINGS 22:8-20`.--
"Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart."
MANASSEH'S son, Amon, succeeded him as king of Judah. Born and reared during the period of his father's blind idolatry, he seems not to have shared in his father's repentance and reformation: his short reign of two years was full of wickedness and endeavor to reestablish idolatry, and ended with his own assassination by his servants. He was followed in the kingdom by his son Josiah, a lad of eight years, who developed a very different character, became a true servant of God, and one of the greatest reform kings upon the throne of Israel. We are not to regard this as a miracle, but rather to expect and look for natural causes, as having something to do with it. We find some suggestion along this line in his name, for in olden times names were given to indicate the characters hoped for, and thus at least became a manifestation of the attitude of the parental hearts. The name Josiah signifies, "Jehovah will support." He was born during the period of his grandfather's reformation movement. His mother was doubtless,
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according to the custom of that time, chosen by his grandfather, Manasseh. Her name indicates that she was of godly parentage,--Jedidiah signifying "the beloved of Jehovah;" and her mother, the king's grandmother, was by name Adiah, "The honored of Jehovah." From such good parental stock, on the maternal side at least, we should expect the foundation of a good character, and developments substantiate this.
This religiously inclined boy, we may reasonably infer, was under the council of his religious mother, and his state counsellors were probably those whom Manasseh had gathered about him after his reformation, and who were evidently rejected by Amon. Josiah's sixteenth year dates his conversion--the date at which the chronicler says, "He began to seek after the God of David, his father." And this brings to our attention a fact that is lost sight of by many; viz., that it is one thing to be well-born and well disposed, and another thing entirely to consecrate the heart to the Lord; and this last step many morally inclined, "good" people, neglect to take,--to their own permanent disadvantage. It is not sufficient that we be well disposed, moral; it is necessary that we become the Lord's, devoting ourselves wholly to his will, and then seek after him to know his will that we may do it. It is only to those that thus draw near to the Lord that his promise extends--"Draw near unto me, and I will draw near unto you."
The result of the king's thus seeking the Lord culminated four years later, when he was twenty, in a determination to use his influence and power for the complete overthrow of idolatry throughout the kingdom; and the next six years of his reign were devoted to this work. He prosecuted it not only in Jerusalem and throughout Judah, but extended his influence over a large portion of the territory once ruled by the ten-tribe kingdom, and pushed the work of reformation and destruction of idols as far as Naphtali on the sea of Galilee. Apparently there was a certain amount of opposition to this reform-work, which required six years for its accomplishment; moreover, it seems to have required the king's presence with his servants, to insure thorough destruction of the symbols of idolatry which apparently abounded in every district.
It was on the king's return to Jerusalem, after having seen to the accomplishment of the cleansing of the land of its idols, that looking about for the next proper step to the service of God, he determined that it should be the repair of the Temple. Altho his grandfather, Hezekiah, had cleansed the Temple, repairing its doors, etc., it would appear that it had subsequently been entirely neglected, so that many of the rafters were broken, and thorough repairs were requisite. Accordingly, money donations were invited for the repair of the Temple, and the work was carried to completion.
As it was with Josiah's public work, so it should be with the heart work of all who present themselves to the Lord: they should first begin by breaking off their sins in righteousness, by utterly destroying the fleshly idols of the heart, selfishness in various forms, as the Apostle suggests. "Put away all filthy communications out of your mouths." "Put away all filthiness of the flesh and of the spirit [mind] perfecting holiness in the reverence of the Lord." (`Col. 3:8`; `2 Cor. 7:1`.) After having thus become servants of righteousness in our own hearts and lives, we may properly begin to look out for other conquests, fields of usefulness and service to the Lord. We may then begin to lend a hand in building up the true Temple of God, the Body of Christ, the Church--in cleansing it from defilements and in instituting in it the proper reforms. But all reform should begin with our own hearts first. He who has not sought the Lord personally, and then, obedient to the Lord's leading, broken down the idols of his own heart, and begun a thorough cleansing work in his own life and heart, has no business whatever to take hold of the repairs of the great antitypical Temple.
Josiah's repairing of the Temple was over two hundred years after the very similar repairing made by king Jehoash, and brought to light a very ancient manuscript of the Law, probably the book of Deuteronomy. Presumably this was the copy of the Law which Moses wrote with his own hand, and commanded to be placed in the side of the Ark, with the golden pot of manna and Aaron's rod that budded. Quite probably the Ark, as the most sacred and most valuable of the Temple's furniture, had been secreted at the time the Temple was denuded of much of its golden ornamentations to pay tribute to invaders, and was now discovered. We are to remember too, that books were little in that day, and that few could either write or read them, and that the Law of Moses was communicated to the people orally by the priests, from memory.
It is not surprising, therefore, that when the Book of the Law was found by the priest Hilkiah, it was esteemed a treasure, delivered to Shaphan, the king's secretary, and read in the king's hearing. Its delineations of the Law of God incumbent upon his people Israel, were so different from what the people had been taught by the priests, by word of mouth, that the king was astonished, and rent his garment (an expression of dismay). Nor could we expect otherwise, when we
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remember that idolatry had flourished to a considerable extent for over three hundred years, with only occasional reformations, and that during all that time the priests and Levites who had in any degree remained faithful to the Lord were without support from the people; for they had no land of their own, and were largely dependent upon the tithes, and consequently during the period of idolatry would be obliged to engage considerably in secular employment.
Realizing how far short Israel had come of the demands of the Law, and noting the punishments prescribed in that Law for unfaithfulness, the king was greatly troubled. Accordingly he sent several of his court officers with the high priest, to inquire of the Lord, through a prophet, respecting the status of the case, and respecting what should be done by
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Israel to escape the punishments which he realized justly belonged to the nation under the conditions of that Law Covenant. The prophets Jeremiah and Zephaniah were then living and prophesying, but the king for some reason sent his messengers to a prophetess, Hulda, daughter-in-law of one of his court officers. Why the king passed by two prominent prophets, to make inquiry at the mouth of one otherwise unknown in the Scripture narrative, we can only conjecture: (1) It may have been that, of a woman the king might hope to receive a softer and more peaceful message than from a man, especially as this woman, through her father-in-law, was connected with his own court, and would therefore be disposed to give as kindly a message as possible. (2) Another suggestion is that Jeremiah and Zephaniah may have been absent from Jerusalem, on preaching tours, and thus could not be readily communicated with. (3) An additional and even more forceful suggestion is that Jeremiah and Zephaniah had been prophesying in the name of the Lord publicly--foretelling the judgment of the Lord about to come upon the nation, and that their preaching probably had somewhat to do with the reformation which Josiah had inaugurated. Thinking favorably of his own reforms, the king doubtless thought their predictions unwarranted and extreme. He felt, therefore, that he knew what answer these prophets would make to his questions, and desired to hear through still another channel which he might hope would be less severe. (4) Besides, Jeremiah was the son of the high priest, Hilkiah; and Zephaniah was the king's own cousin. The king's desire, therefore, would seem to be to obtain an outside testimony, and as favorable as possible.
A moral may be drawn from this part of the lesson, applicable to individual cases. At first, when we began to seek the Lord, we recognized certain things and conditions of heart as sinful and requiring the divine forgiveness, and necessary to be put away to the extent of our ability; Josiah destroyed the idols: but it was only after we had been considerably exercised in the matter of reform in our own lives, and in connection with the Temple, the Lord's Church, that the Lord supplied that clearer knowledge of his own perfection and the righteousness of his law, which enabled us to see that with all the reforms and cleansings accomplished we still came far short of the grand standard set forth in the divine law--Thou shalt love the Lord with all thy being, and thy neighbor as thyself.
And as the king rent his garment, and manifested greater contrition of heart after years of zealous service, so it is usually with the Christian who has passed through several stages of reform, and whose mind at last discerns the true meaning of the great law of Love. Then it is that he feels more than at first his shortcomings. While the world may be considering him as a great reformer, a great saint, he himself has gotten to a place where he sees the majesty of the divine law as with a telescope, and his own imperfections as with a microscope. Then it is that he also seeks the Word of the Lord for guidance, instruction, help.
The Lord's reply through the prophetess was most direct--confirmatory of all that had been declared by the mouth of Jeremiah and Zephaniah, but adding words of comfort and consolation for the king himself. --"Because thine heart was tender, and thou hast humbled thyself before the Lord, when thou hearest what I spake against this place...and hast rent thy clothing and wept before me, I also have heard thee, saith the Lord." It was too late for any national reformation; the nation had been tried for several centuries, and it had been found wanting, and according to the divine plan the time was near at hand when the typical kingdom should be entirely overthrown--overturned until he should come, Messiah, whose right the antitypical Kingdom is, and to whom it will be given. There was no reason, from the divine standpoint, why this course should be altered, and the repentance of the king could therefore only be treated as an individual matter, and dealt with accordingly, for God has an individual providence over all those who are consecrated to him, as well as a general supervision of the affairs of the nations.
Much in this narrative reminds us of the somewhat parallel condition and circumstances at the present time. Looking back through the vista of "the dark ages," we see the parallel to Israel's and Judah's tendency towards idolatry, superstition, etc. We see false religions, doctrines and dogmas set up and worshiped in Christendom. We see here, as we saw in Judah's history, not only the worship of false gods, but also false worship of the true God--worship contrary to the commandments of his law. We see in the Reformation movement of the sixteenth century something corresponding in many respects to Josiah's reformation. It has led to a considerable smashing of false doctrines, errors and false gods--and of misrepresentations of the character and teachings of the true God. The present reformation movement also has had much to do with the cleansing and repairing of the Temple--the true Church, the saints,--and in the reestablishment of a true worship, based upon truth more clearly discerned, and better sacrifices. And finally we have found the book of God's Law--we found the Bible. It was rescued from seclusion by the Reformers, and through the printed page has been laid before all Christendom. Not only so, but to us also it is being "read,"--explained, made clear, under divine providence. We are seeing its heights and depths, its lengths and its breadths, as never before.
In this Book also, "we read the righteous sentence of the crumbling thrones of earth." We read of the "Day of Vengeance" that is coming upon the antitypical Israel, and as we inquire of the Lord respecting it, and whether or not it may be averted, we hear his decision in the Scriptures, as Josiah received it concerning his kingdom. The Word of the Lord informs us that so far as Christendom is concerned there is no balm in Gilead that will help and recover her. Her case has gone too far to be rectified, and to have the old garment patched. The Lord's decision is that the present social structure shall pass away in a great time of trouble, and that on its ruins he will establish through the glorified Church, the Kingdom which he has so long promised, and for which we are to pray, "Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is done in heaven."
Nevertheless, the Lord's promise is comforting to all those who mourn in Zion, to all those who are out of sympathy with evil and unrighteousness, to all those
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who love the law of the Lord their God, and who are seeking to serve him with all their mind, soul and strength, and to exercise his law of Love toward their neighbor also. To this class, fully consecrated to the Lord, comes the assurance, "They shall be mine, saith the Lord, in that day when I shall make up my jewels, and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him."
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Chefoo, China. WATCH TOWER BIBLE AND TRACT SOCIETY,
DEAR BRETHREN:--The two boxes of books-- MILLENNIAL DAWNS, pamphlets, tracts--despatched by you three or four months ago, via New York to Shanghai, came thence to this place where they were safely received. To me they are most welcome, even as precious bearers of light. I heartily thank you for such a bountiful supply of tracts. I will do my best to secure readers for them all. I have now studied the present truth carefully for two years, at first critically, then I wondered and admired, then was I captivated and satisfied. I read the DAWNS first alone, then with my wife, and now am reading them again with my children. Spiritual food,--such as I never before tasted, --they have been to me, meat in due season indeed.
Being persuaded that this testimony is of God, and having feasted thereupon, I desire now to rise and serve others. I have been a Baptist missionary in China since 1876. How often have I been pained, aye groaned, to see the most evident failure of missionary work, to produce self-denying followers of Christ, from among the Chinese! Last May I resigned my connection both with the Mission Board, and the Baptist Church, that I may be free from all creeds and parties, to do the Lord's work in the Lord's own way.
My desire now is to reach all missionaries and other Christians (foreigners specially) in China, Japan, Corea and Siam, and this can only be done by correspondence and advertisement, both of which methods I hope to use, to spread abroad in these Eastern lands some knowledge of the present truth. I ask your prayers for all the necessary equipment for this service,
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and that the light of the dawning of the Day may find its way into many hearts. I am, dear Brethren,
Yours, in hope of the Redemption which draweth nigh, HORACE A. RANDLE.
"Cincinnati, Ohio. "TO THE AUTHOR OF 'The Day of Vengeance,'
"DEAR SIR:--In its application of spiritual principles to social, political, economic and ecclesiastical questions, your work is the peer of Henry George's 'Progress and Poverty.'
"Respectfully, GEORGE M. HAMMELL,--
Literary Editor Western Christian Advocate,
Member Cincinnati Conference M.E. Church."
"'The Day of Vengeance' is VOL. IV. of the MILLENNIAL DAWN series--a literal exposition of Sacred Scripture seriously offensive to papists, hierarchic ecclesiasticism, world-conforming Christians, monopolists, hypocrites, politicians, adherents of parties, sects and lodges, paganized rulers of the earth, aristocrats and anarchists, money-lenders and usurers. It is an open attack upon all existing social, political and ecclesiastical organizations, in the name of New Testament Christianity. Primarily, an appeal to pessimism, it is ultimately an appeal to that optimism which believes that, after the day of vengeance, the Kingdom of Christ will come in all its glory."--Western Christian Advocate.
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL:--You will be interested in the young Hebrew I brought to the Chicago meeting. It seems a remarkable series of Providential interpositions in this case, and it makes me think it may be for some ulterior good. I expected to bring this Brother Segall to the afternoon meeting, but he came to the evening meeting. We were late, but his interest was very great; he said he had frequently thought of subjects you mentioned, and believed in the same way, but had never met any one who had talked upon them as yourself. The next Sunday we arranged to go to Brother McPhail's meeting on the West Side. He was most kindly received among the brethren, and Bro. M. had a very interesting talk with him. I had already (a week or two before) given him a copy of DAWN, VOL. I., and I asked him if he had read it. He said that he had not had time. I asked him to bring the book, and we would go through it together which we did. He has a very bright mind, and quick of apprehension, that it is a pleasure to talk on these matters to him. He said he would from that time read DAWN steadily. Two days after this he was to return to Milwaukee. We have received several interesting letters from him, and of course have replied thereto. He is staying with his parents who are orthodox Hebrews, but his conversation has been such that his father (from Germany) seems quite desirous to read the DAWN in the German language.
The history of Brother Segall's conversion from Judaism is one of the most interesting experiences I have heard of: this was some years since, but he tells me he has not been a consistent member of any Christian church, as his ideas on the trinity, on hell and on other points, were not what are generally received in the nominal church. I was most surprised at this and showed him more of the divine plan and Word, and this has stimulated his desire to be with us. We seem still to be in the days of persecution, as in the earliest Christian times, when the disciples on that account were scattered abroad, everyone preaching the glad tidings. I think this dear Brother, notwithstanding his tribulations, will take a delight in spreading the good news among his friends. In fact he has already commenced....
The preparations of Great Britain to be ready for any combined attack upon her sphere of influence seem to betoken that the rumblings of the great storm may soon be heard. May God protect those peoples who most love freedom and his holy Word.
I will now conclude, dear Brother Russell, always yours, in love and fellowship. R. W. E. BRAY.