VOL. XIX. AUGUST 1, 1898. No. 15.
"Ye Serve the Lord Christ"........................227
Poem: Some Better Thing...........................230
Interesting Questions Answered....................230
Elisha Doing Restitution Work.....................231
General Naaman Healed--Mercies
General Naaman's Gratitude....................236
The Covetous Servant..........................238
"Are They Not All Ministering
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"YE SERVE THE LORD CHRIST."
"Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ."--`Col. 3:23,24`.
SERVANTS are specially addressed by the Apostle. He points out to them not only here but elsewhere that all service should be good service, and that whether the person served were one of the Lord's people or an enemy of the truth, the work should not be slighted. The principle of the thing is pointed out, namely, that we are servants of the Lord and therefore his representatives. So then, if we find that we are in the place in which Providence has placed us, we are to serve in that place or position faithfully, perseveringly, interestedly, as tho we were laboring for the Lord, and not for men: whereas if we considered ourselves as merely laboring for men, we might labor hard and faithfully for the good, and slightingly for the unkind and froward. But a point to be remembered is that we are all servants: none are called to be masters under the gospel call; one is our master, even Christ, and we all are brethren and fellow servants.
The effect of such advice is good: first, upon the world, and secondly, upon ourselves. Worldly people are keen to appreciate good service, altho they may not always acknowledge it or properly reward it: and the Apostle's instructions here, if diligently followed, would soon have the effect of making Christians the most desirable servants in any and every field of usefulness, because their work would be more faithfully and more carefully performed, and hence more satisfactory in its results. The effect of this would be that Christian intelligence and skill would be appreciated and sought; and under the operation of the general rule, being appreciated, they would be advanced to positions of more and more responsibility, where their carefulness might be the more valuable to their employers. Thus, the name of Christ would come to be respected amongst the most intelligent people, and the inquiry would naturally be, What is there about these Christians, or about their teaching and doctrines, that makes them more capable and efficient as servants?
The answer would be, This is the spirit and result of their law of Love: they are not only forbidden to do injury to anyone, even their enemies, but they are enjoined to be faithful to everyone, and to do good even to their enemies. They are instructed to labor daily, not merely for the praise and approval of their earthly masters, but especially for the praise and approval of their heavenly Master. And then, if the inquiry came, Why should they do so? the answer would be, These Christians are not expecting earthly rewards but heavenly rewards: they are content to be "pilgrims and strangers" in this present time, and servants, if Providence so orders for them, and to learn lessons in patience, submission and love, anticipating that the time is coming when they shall be highly exalted, --when their present efforts to please their Master, by faithfulness in humble positions, shall be exchanged for a most glorious service,--when they shall be united with their Master in the great work of ruling and instructing the world of mankind, during the Millennial age.
And if the intelligent employer continued questioning, and asked, What has such a hope of the future to do with their faithfulness in the little affairs of the present life? his question would bring the answer, Their King, Master and Teacher has instructed them that all the little affairs of the present life have a bearing
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upon the development of character, and that they must develop characters of obedience, meekness, patience, love, else they will be unsuited to the future service in glory, to which they are called. Their Master has instructed them that in his view of matters he that is faithful in little things is the one who will be faithful in great things, and that only as they show their faithfulness and subordination to him, and their willingness to do his will in the present life, can they hope to be accounted worthy of the high position and great rewards which he has in reservation for those that love him. The employer would be informed further that all the tests and trials of patience and faith, in obedience to the Word of the Lord, are understood by Christians to be tests of their love for and loyalty to their Master and King, because he has so instructed. Who can doubt that the influence of such living epistles would be great for good in the world?
And what is true as respects those who are engaged in serving masters literally is true also of the entire household of faith, whatever may be their stations in life,--master or servant, mistress or maid, manager or subordinate; because all of the Lord's people are his servants. True, we are termed his brethren also, but there is nothing inconsistent with the thought of our being his brethren and still being his servants; nor would there be anything inconsistent with the thought that while all of the Lord's people are brethren some of them might, in a particular sense, be servants of brethren; and both of these thoughts are prominently set before us in the Scriptures. Each one is to share in the others' love. "Love as brethren;" and each one is to share in serving, and to esteem it a special privilege to "serve one another."
Nothing could be much more contrary to the spirit of the world, than this. The spirit of the world is to make other people your servants, and as for you, avoid serving anybody as much as possible. The spirit of Christ, on the contrary, is a spirit of service, and not a spirit of mastery, browbeating, domineering, force, compulsion: it leads those who possess it to seek opportunities for service--to "do good unto all men as we have opportunity, especially to the household of faith;" and to the contrary it leads those under its influence to be very generous and to ask or require only reasonable service from others.
The foundation principles of the Christian religion are laid upon these lines, which are the reverse of the world's lines of thought and conduct; namely, that the greatest one in the Church is the one who is the greatest servant, the one who renders most assistance to others. The greatest servant in the Church was the great Head of the Church himself, who gave even his life on our behalf. And those of his followers who desire to be great in the estimation of the Lord and so esteemed of their fellows, are enjoined that they should follow closely in the Master's footsteps, and with humility of heart be ready and seek to lay down their lives for the brethren. (`1 John 3:16`.) Nor does this mean simply formal service; it means an actual service. Our Lord's sacrifice, we see, was not merely a form or a show of interest and of love: it was the giving of his life as the purchase price for ours. So with us; we are not merely to love one another and to serve one another, in word, in profession, in title (as for instance, the word "minister" signifies servant); but we are to serve one another as we are to love one another, "in deed and in truth."--`1 John 3:18`.
Looking about us for opportunity of service we find our Lord's instruction through the Apostle, that we should seek to do good to all men according to our ability and opportunity, but especially to the household of faith. As we look first to the household of faith to see what service we can render, we find in this household some who are naturally more attractive to us than others, some whom we would find it a pleasure to serve; while others, because of more perverse natural conditions, we find less congenial, even repellant; and these we feel less disposed to serve. But this is because of a wrong view of the subject. We are to remember that all consecrated believers are new creatures in Christ Jesus and accepted of the Lord as members of his body, fellow-members with ourselves. From this standpoint only can we realize to the full the significance of the Apostle's words in our text, "Ye do serve the Lord Christ." The Master informs us that the slightest service done to the least of his brethren is accepted as done to himself. With this view of matters clearly in mind, we see our duty of service in a new light. We see that the brother or sister of high spiritual development and possessing more of the Lord's likeness and grace, whose company we find so congenial, and whom we would delight to serve, often needs our service far less than others who are of the same Body, acknowledged by the same Head, who have much more natural depravity, unconquered, to contend with. These need our special sympathy and love and care and helpfulness; for the proper conception of service is a desire to render some benefit: and there is the more opportunity to benefit or help those who most need assistance.
Of our Lord it is written that he "pleased not himself," in his serving. He did not come into the world on a mission of self-gratification and pleasure; but to render service. He himself said, "The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many." We are to have his spirit,
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and the thought with us is not to be our own pleasure or convenience, but on the contrary the necessities of those whom the Lord would have us serve,--namely, those of his household most in need of our aid. We may have less pleasure, according to the flesh, in serving such than we would have in serving others, but it is not fleshly pleasure that we are seeking; and we can
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have as much or more spiritual pleasure serving those who are the most needy members of the body of Christ, because we realize that this is the will of our Master. It is to him that we really render the service, and our highest spiritual pleasure must be in doing those things which are pleasing in his sight. And it is because our Master has so ordered, that the household of faith is to be served in preference to any other class; consequently we are to ignore the opinions of the worldly and of the nominal church and not to seek out the most degraded people of the world, and spend our energies upon them, but we are to seek the most needy members of the body of Christ, that we may be most helpful to them. The Lord will attend to the poor heathen world in due time, and the time is now nigh at hand. The first work is, as we have seen from the Scriptures, the preparation of the body of Christ; and it is to this end that we are to "edify one another, building up one another in the most holy faith."
Another thought respecting service is that the true service of the Lord and his truth may be a small, humble and comparatively insignificant service, or a larger and more prominent service. And of course, if two opportunities for service offer, which were otherwise alike, we should choose and use the larger and the more important of the two opportunities. But we are to guard ourselves against seeking for large opportunities for service, and overlooking or intentionally passing by smaller opportunities. We believe this is a common error amongst those who seek to serve the Lord Christ. They desire to do some great thing for him; they would be overjoyed with the privilege of addressing thousands of intelligent and interested hearers. They fain would sway nations to the Lord's standard. Some would be willing to use smaller opportunities, and to address a hundred or fifty or even less, yet perhaps would think it not worth while to use the little opportunities of everyday life in speaking to one or two or three, or a dozen or a score, in a day, or of handing a tract, or of loaning a book, or of circulating tracts in the railway train, or upon the street corner. These services they would esteem too insignificant to render to the Master; they feel that they must do some great thing.
This is a serious mistake, and any who find such a disposition in their hearts should at once analyze their sentiments carefully, to ascertain whether or not they have the desire to serve the Lord, or whether theirs is a desire for self-glorification,--a desire to be identified with something great, prominent and distinguished. The Lord's rule is, not to put a new servant into a very important place. The captains in the Lord's army are expected to rise from the ranks. He tells us the process of his judgment respecting fitness for prominent service, when he says, "He that is faithful in that which is least will be faithful also in that which is greater." "He that humbleth himself shall be exalted; he that exalteth himself shall be abased." And the more we look at the principles here set forth, the more we see of their wisdom and correctness. The person who is earnest and zealous to serve the Lord, so willing and so anxious for the opportunity that he will do what his hand finds to do with his might, that is a true servant; that servant shows his love for the Master,--shows that his is not a love of self and of self-advancement. Such servants, the Lord sees, can be trusted with a more important service, and consequently, when a more important service is to be attended to, usually the Lord selects one who has been faithful in a few things, to give charge over larger things. And who would dispute the wisdom of the Lord's method? He who has not humility enough to do the smallest service for the Lord, for the truth, and for the fellow-members of the body of Christ, has not humility enough to be entrusted with any larger service; for larger service might prove a great injury to himself, since it would tend to cultivate a quality which is latent in every member of the fallen race, and one which would thoroughly incapacitate him for further service, namely, pride,--self-conceit and its concomitant evils.
In thus requiring that all who would be followers of him shall be servants, not merely in name, but in deed and in truth and in spirit, our Lord lays down a rule which tends to keep out of his real flock the selfish and ambitious wolves. Yet the danger remains that, if the Lord's flock as a whole in any place loses the real conception of their call, that it is a call to service, the self-seeking disposition is apt to spread as a contagion from one to another of the entire company, until, instead of being servants one of the other, they may become a group of self-seekers; each seeking his own welfare and honor and position, and each neglecting the fact that the chief business of life is to render service to others. And each one who gets into this attitude of self-seeking himself is thereby to a large degree blinded to the proper principles that should govern. And a group of Christians in such a condition might, and very probably would, select as their principal one or leader a person of self-seeking disposition, a lord over God's heritage, instead of a servant of the flock.
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Seeing that this is the Lord's arrangement, that we are to grow in this grace by noticing and using our opportunities as servants, we exhort all who may read these lines to be more faithful, henceforth, in seeking for opportunities of service to the Church which is the body of Christ; and that thus carefully seeking they take heed that they do not pass by some of the small opportunities. Let us remember that our great Master set us an example in this direction, preaching some of his most wonderful sermons to extremely small audiences. For instance; his discourse on the Water of Life, to the woman of Samaria; his discourse on Heavenly versus Earthly things, to Nicodemus; his discourse to Nathaniel, and his discourse to the two who were going to Emmaus, after his resurrection. If we take care of the little opportunities for service, in a humble way, and are faithful in these, and render this service heartily as unto the Lord, we will by and by be granted larger and still larger opportunities. To him that hath used his opportunities shall be granted more, and from him who hath not used his opportunities, that which he has had will be taken from him. "Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily as to the Lord, and not unto men, knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward. For ye serve the Lord Christ."
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SOME BETTER THING.
Tho wintry wind the yellow leaf displaceth,
For spring's sweet harbingers it maketh room;--
Ere long the tender bud the forest graceth,
New verdure waketh from old Nature's tomb.
The snowy blossom from the orchard fadeth,
'Tis then the earnest of fair fruit we find;
Tho morning mist the landscape overshadeth,
The sunlit mountain-peaks are just behind.
Lo, in the crimson West the glory dieth,
And from his throne Day's monarch hath withdrawn!
Herein the promise of the sunrise lieth--
Already we are waiting for the dawn.
O heart bereaved, some better thing remaineth,
Tho God should seem thy treasures to remove;
Some better thing his gracious hand retaineth,
He will not fail the children of his love.
Some better thing! Thy life-joy all departed--
Its glory trailing sadly in the dust;
O cleave to him,--the Savior tender-hearted;
Thou canst not understand, but thou canst trust.
Perchance he leads to depths of self-abasement,
And storms awake, and billows round thee roll;
Give thanks! Contrition is the open casement
Through which the Dove of Peace shall reach thy soul.
O patient heart, thy best, thy brightest bringing,
With full consent upon his altar lay!
Some fair new blessing even now is winging,
All unobserved, its sure but noiseless way.
Thy purpose crossed, each sunny prospect clouded,
Still to his changeless promise learn to cling;
Altho his ways may be in darkness shrouded,
Jehovah hath reserved some better thing.
--LUCY A. BENNETT.
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INTERESTING QUESTIONS ANSWERED.
Question. Had Adam a knowledge of death by observation of it in the lower creation?
Answer. There is nothing to show that he had. But whether he had or had not witnessed death, he probably understood to some extent what God meant when he used the words, "Dying, thou shalt die." He was not deceived. Tho Adam's experience was limited, he undoubtedly understood what it meant to have life, and had some idea of what it would mean to lose his life and to be resolved into the elements from which he had been created.
Question. In `Gen. 1:28` and similar passages the word "replenish" seems to indicate that the earth had been peopled before Adam's creation. Is there anything in the claim of a pre-Adamic race? or that some of the more barbarous nations are not Adam's offspring?
Answer. You would find it of advantage when such questions come up to consult Young's Concordance and show the advocate of any erroneous view the definitions there given, and also other passages in which the word in question occurs. If "replenish" be the meaning here, it should fit the other instances in which the word is used; but it does not. The proper rendering of the word is fill.--See margin.
The Scriptures are positive in the declaration that Adam was the first human being. In `1 Cor. 15:45,47`, he is called the first man. In `Acts 17:26`, it is stated that God "made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth;" in other words, all the peoples of the earth are descended from Adam, no matter how different in color, stature, intelligence, etc., they may now be.
Furthermore, the entire testimony of the Bible must needs be set aside to give color to such a theory: for the Scriptures record that present races had their start in father Noah and that only his descendants survived the flood. And in the New Testament our Lord and several of the Apostles corroborate this record-- of Noah and the flood. The negro race is supposed to be descended from Ham, whose special degradation is mentioned in `Gen. 9:22,25`.
Question. Please briefly give us your views on `Rom. 2:14,15`.
Answer. These verses assure us that some heathen people do some good things in harmony with the
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divine law, and that to that extent their conduct meets with the divine approval. But the Apostle clearly
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shows that neither the Jews nor the heathen do all things in harmony with the divine law, nor can they, because of inherited imperfections. Hence, neither the Jews nor the heathen would be justified under the Law. God, however, has provided through Christ a justification, under the terms of the New Covenant, which excuses and forgives whatever is not wilful sin, on the part of both Jews and heathen, who receive Christ, and through his merit. Thus it is that God will justify the heathen through faith--not all the heathen, but all the heathen who will exercise the faith when the knowledge of Christ shall reach them, in God's due time.
Question. I was surprised to note your advice to any who might be drafted into the army. Would not your advice seem like compromising to avoid trouble?
Answer. It is proper to avoid trouble in a proper manner. It is proper to compromise when no principle is involved, as in the case mentioned. Notice that there is no command in the Scriptures against military service. Obedience to a draft would remind us of our Lord's words, "If any man compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain." The government may compel marching or drilling, but cannot compel you to kill the foe. You need not be a good marksman.
Question. You suggested in a recent WATCH TOWER that, if drafted and in the army, we need not shoot to kill. Would such a course be right? Would it not be fraudulent?
Answer. No; it would be quite right to shoot, not to kill. You forget, perhaps, our provisos, which were that we explain our conscientious scruples against war, and seek to be excused; if not excused, that we seek non-combatant positions, as nurses, etc.; but if compelled to go a mile or many miles as a soldier, we still need not kill anybody.
Question. Will we know each other in the Kingdom?
Answer. When the Apostle says (`1 Cor. 13:12`), "Now we see through a glass darkly [i.e., as through an obscured glass], but then face to face; now I know in part, but then shall I know, even as I also am known," he undoubtedly included in the future knowledge the recognition of friends, even as he realized himself already known of God. If we are to be partakers of "the divine nature" and inheritors of all things, we must expect to be acquainted with the beings who form a considerable part of our heritage for a thousand years as well as with our associates in that inheritance.
Question. Were not the Psalms inspired specially for song service; and is it not therefore improper to use other hymns?
Answer. David's thought in writing the Psalms may have been merely their use in song; but the Lord's object was to give prophecy to assist his people of a later period. See what Peter says on this subject. (`1 Pet. 1:10-12`.) Other prophecies of the Old Testament are written in poetical form, particularly Isaiah and Job. Our Lord quoted from both, as did also his apostles, and showed that in some of the Psalms David typified the Lord.
While some of the Psalms seem to us very suitable for singing, others we regard as less appropriate than hymns of praise of modern date. When the apostles said that we should sing "psalms and hymns and spiritual songs" (`Eph. 5:19`), he recognized a distinction between the three kinds of songs and commended all. We believe it is safe to follow his instructions, remembering the instruction, "Be not wise above what is written." However, on this subject we believe each one should follow his own conscience. Doubtless the Lord accepts the offering of song, whatever its form, so long as it comes from the heart,--just as with prose prayers; for hymns and psalms should be regarded as union or concert prayers.
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ELISHA DOING RESTITUTION WORK.
--AUG. 14.--`2 KINGS 4:25-37`.--
"Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee."--`Psa. 55:22`.
ELISHA did receive a double portion of Elijah's spirit, or power. Not only did Jordan part before him, in obedience to his faith and at the stroke of the mantle, but other important works followed. Coming to a school of the prophets, they found that in preparing the dinner of vegetables something had gotten into the stew which they recognized to be poisonous, and the dinner was spoiled; but Elisha miraculously antidoted the poison, and made the dinner wholesome. Again, the people of Jericho complained that the fountain of water which supplied them was brackish, and he healed the waters so that the fountain became known as the fountain of Elisha, and the place is so known to-day.
These may be considered as typical of the restitution works which the Elisha class will introduce to the world. What do people who are religiously disposed, and who seek to understand the Word of the Lord, need, as the first feature of restitution blessings? Will it not be that something shall be put into their mess of pottage, that will destroy its poisonous errors, and make it health-giving, nutritious? Surely the peoples of civilized lands have God's Word in their hands, and its contents are good and nourishing and health-giving; but some of the theological cooks have unintentionally added doctrines of the Evil One so that it is made to the people a poisonous dinner, injurious, as represented in the various creeds of Christendom. And what does the world in general need more than that the springs of the water of life (which have become corrupted and brackish, through false theories and misinterpretations of the divine Word and plan) should be corrected, healed, made sweet and pure and refreshing? And such restitution work will be accomplished,
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we understand, by the successors of the Gospel Church in a much larger measure than the Church itself is able to accomplish it now--the Church's work being specifically the making of herself ready.--`Rev. 19:7`.
Further, we have the record of how the poor widow and her sons were helped by the prophet Elisha, to whom she appealed in her distress. A debt was upon her, and, according to the terms of the Law, her sons would be bound to serve the creditor until the indebtedness had been discharged, or until the Jubilee year should be ushered in; and as she was a widow she needed her sons' assistance at home. The prophet saw her distress, sympathized with her, and assisted: the assistance being rendered in a manner which helped to develop her faith in the Lord. The only merchantable thing she had in her house was a pot of oil; and the prophet directed her to send among her neighbors and borrow all the empty vessels that she could obtain, and to pour all full of oil, which then she could sell, and from the proceeds pay the debt and have something left; and so she did, according to directions. Does not this act of relieving the poor illustrate restitution powers and work also? Are we not told that in that time the Lord will "lift up the poor and the needy, and him that hath no helper?" There is in this a lesson of the Lord's sympathy with us in our earthly difficulties; a lesson of his willingness to assist us to pay our honest debts; and a lesson of the propriety of paying honest debts. And there is another lesson respecting how God is pleased to bless the use of the things which we have, rather than to send us other things, or to miraculously put the money into our pockets. There is also a lesson for faith, because it was in proportion to her faith that the woman gathered a large or small number of vessels, and therefore got a larger or a smaller evidence of divine bounty and mercy. Let us, when dealing with the Lord, remember that all the gold and silver are his, and the "cattle on a thousand hills," and let our works be in harmony with our faith.
We come now to the particular feature of this lesson, the Shunammite woman and her son: and this also contains a suggestion of the great restitution blessing of awakening the dead. This Shunammite has the record of the Scriptures that she was "a great woman." Apparently she and her husband were comfortably situated in life; perhaps indeed the greatness referred in part to wealth, but evidently she was a more than ordinary woman in other respects, as is indicated by the narrative. She may have been superior to her husband in intelligence, as the narrative seems to indicate. She had the kind of greatness, too, which recognizes goodness, and reverences the Lord, and those who are his. Seeing the prophet pass her place occasionally, probably on his way to the schools of the prophets, she hospitably urged him to take dinner with her, and so, apparently, every time he passed that way he stopped to partake of her hospitality. And the more this great woman saw of the Lord's prophet the more she realized that it was a favor to have him under the roof, so she said to her husband, "Behold now, I perceive that this is an holy man of God, which passeth by us continually. Let us make a little chamber, I pray thee, on the wall, and let us set for him there a bed, and a table, and a stool and a candlestick: and it shall be when he cometh to us that he shall turn in thither." Altho apparently the husband was less religiously
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inclined than his wife, and perhaps less "great" in some other respects, yet this courteous request, expressed in so wifely and proper a manner, appealed to him, and was acted upon, and we may say that part of the woman's greatness is manifested in this her dealing with her own husband. How many women there are who, if they felt themselves the greater of the two, would altogether forget the propriety of consulting with the husband, the divinely appointed head of the family, and requesting cooperation in religious work and benevolence, rather than demanding it. Modesty and humility are true signs of greatness, both in men and women.
Hotels and lodging houses and restaurants were not arrangements of those days, and consequently hospitality was more practised than to-day. In some respects we have lost considerably by the change of customs, for the spirit of hospitality seems to be considerably less than in olden times. We believe that so far as possible every Christian family would do well, if their means would justify, to have such a spare room for the entertainment of the Lord's servants who may come their way. We believe that a blessing, spiritual if not temporal, comes to all who seek to cultivate this spirit of loving generosity, benevolence, kindness, in the entertainment of the Lord's servants,--and in general the household of faith, as they may have opportunity.
A similar spirit of benevolence and thoughtfulness for others was in the Prophet, who requested his servant to notice whether or not the kind entertainer was lacking of anything which would minister to her comfort, which he could supply. The answer was that she was childless; and seizing the opportunity the Prophet informed her that she should have a son. There is a lesson here for each of us, to the effect that if we are the recipients of favor from others--either from the Lord or his people--if we have the same spirit we will seek to do something in return. Those who accept of the favors of others, and lack the desire and fail to seek the opportunity to do as much or more in return, are certainly lacking the Lord's spirit in this particular.
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Years passed; the child grew to boyhood, and while in the harvest field was taken ill with something like sunstroke, and died. The mother, with exhibitions of great faith, laid the dead child in the prophet's room, upon his bed, and immediately started with her servant in all haste to find the Prophet. When the Prophet by the mouth of his servant asked, "Is it well?" she had faith enough to answer, "It is well;" and reaching the prophet's presence she reminded him of the fact that she had not requested the son, that he had been a gift, and intimated that if now the lad were taken away, instead of being a gift or benefaction to her the matter would be only a sorrow; yet she did not say that the boy was dead, apparently having full confidence in the power of God, through the Prophet, to awaken him, even from the sleep of death. The Prophet, full of faith also, sent his staff to be laid upon the child, at the hands of the servant; but the mother had not so much faith in the staff as in the Prophet, and would be satisfied with nothing else than a visit from him. When Elisha arrived he found the child dead, but neither did this stagger his faith: he shut the door, and prayed to the Father in secret, but not only did he pray, but he used restorative means, which finally resulted in the awakening of the child from the sleep of death, when he delivered him to his mother, whose faith had thus its reward.
There are several lessons here for us. Considering Elisha as a type, and his works as typical of the works of restitution in the beginning of the Millennial age, we note what the New Testament Scriptures clearly affirm, that vitality will be restored to humanity so that "All that are in the graves shall hear the voice of the Son of man, and shall come forth." And the earthly agents in the Kingdom will no doubt be participators to a considerable extent in restitution work along this line, as well as along other lines. Thus Elisha in his companionship with Elijah seems to represent the "tribulation saints," and subsequently the work and workers of the entire Millennial age.
But we may draw lessons of profit for the present time from the Shunammite woman's faith and the Prophet's faith and works. Apparently the Prophet was perplexed by this case. The staff in the hands of his servant had been without avail; his own efforts for a considerable time were without avail. Here was room for doubt as to whether or not the Lord's power had forsaken him. He walked the little room repeatedly, and again and again laid his face upon the child's face, and his hands upon the child's hands, presumably the meanwhile praying the divine blessing. But finally faith triumphed. This case reminds us of the one in which the disciples failed to cast out the devil from the boy, while the Lord and Peter, James and John were in the Mount of Transfiguration. Our Lord's remark was, "This kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting." So, apparently the Lord is pleased to exercise his power either slowly or quickly, according to circumstances and conditions.
We are not to consider this as a resurrection of the dead, in the proper Scriptural sense of the word resurrection. It was merely a temporary awakening from the sleep of death, as in the case of Lazarus and the son of the widow of Nain and the daughter of Jairus. These parties all, later, relapsed into death. Nor could their subsequent death be properly termed the second death, unless, after their awakening, they by wilful sin came under its condemnation. And to whatever extent we are less than perfect and possessed of life in its completeness, to that extent each is already in death, whether he have a greater or a smaller spark of vitality remaining. As heretofore seen, in discussing the subject of resurrection, that word signifies a raising up--all the way up to all from which we fell in Adam, namely, to the perfection of life.-- See our issue for April 1, '93.
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GENERAL NAAMAN HEALED--MERCIES APPRECIATED.
--AUG. 21.--`2 KINGS 5:1-14`.--
"Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved."--`Jer. 17:14`.
ELISHA'S fame was evidently very general throughout Israel, and this lesson tells us of its spread to Syria, the adjoining kingdom, through one of its captives--a maidservant in the household of one of Syria's principal generals. For some reason the Lord seems to have had more interest in Syria than in the other nations of the world outside of Israel and Judah. The reason of this probably lies in the fact that King David conquered Syria, and incorporated it as a part of the twelve-tribe kingdom, and it so continued during the period of Solomon's reign. It was thus considerably permeated with Israelitish influence. At the time of the revolt of the ten tribes and the division of Israel into two kingdoms, the kingdom of Syria seems to have regained its independence: nevertheless, because of its intimate relationship with the people of Israel we found (in our lesson of July 24), that Elijah the prophet was sent to anoint Hazael to be king over Syria, as indicating a special oversight of that people on the Lord's part, more than of other Gentile nations. No doubt because of this intimacy with Israel, Syria is frequently referred to also in the
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prophets, and her captivity to Babylon was foretold.
At all events, affairs so shaped themselves as to bring to the chief general of Syria a better knowledge of the true God, Jehovah, and that through the instrumentality of the little bondmaid. Naaman, with all his prowess in war, and his favor with the king, and the honor done him by the people, had a very serious ailment--leprosy. A man of wealth and position, he would have given almost anything to be free from the loathsome disease. The little maid, so far from feeling envious, revengeful and wickedly toward her captors, was evidently exercised by a very benevolent, kindly disposition; and perhaps indeed she had been well cared for by her captors, and was appreciative. Seeing the general's trouble she called the matter to the attention of her mistress, assuring her that there was a prophet in Israel who could heal him.
She probably knew nothing about the name of the prophet, nor about his resident city, but her account was sufficiently explicit to awaken the interest of her master, the leper, who started out on his journey to the land of Israel, to see the prophet. Naturally, he sought to bring as much influence to bear as possible, and hence took letters from the king of Syria to the king of Israel, as well as valuable presents of money, fine apparel, etc. This would be expected of a wealthy man, dealing with a wealthy man, a king. And the thought in mind of the general, as well as in that of the Syrian king, evidently was that any prophet so notable as the one indicated, and able to cure any kind of a disease, and who had already performed wonderful cures, would be found at the royal court, specially favored of the king, and made a high officer in some sense in the kingdom.
Hence it was that so remarkable a letter was written, which for the time confounded the king of Israel. It read: "I have herewith sent Naaman, my servant, to thee, that thou mayest recover him of his leprosy."
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Leprosy was recognized as being an incurable disease; therefore the king of Israel at once surmised that the king of Syria wished to pick a quarrel with him, and to have an excuse for another invasion, to carry off more spoil and more captives. The rending or tearing of the outer garment was, in olden times, a sign of sore distress, perplexity of mind; but it was much less of an operation than it would be with modern clothes. The action of the king was evidently soon noised abroad, and came to the ears of Elisha, who at once sent word that the king need have no perplexity, but should send the leper to him; intimating that he would be healed. All of this experience doubtless seemed very strange to Naaman, as he found that the king knew nothing about such a person at first, and finally had sent him to a lowly house. He was still more surprised and disappointed when the prophet did not even think it worth while to come out and salute him, or do obeisance, or make particular inquiry or say any words of enchantment, etc., but sent him a commonplace message, that he needed to go and wash several times. He was indignant; he knew that the waters of the river Jordan were muddy, far less likely to wash away any defilement than the waters of his own city, Damascus, which were beautiful, clear mountain streams. Naaman was wroth: had he come a long journey, and with imposing outfit of chariots and servants, to be treated like a dog? Was he not a great man with his master, the king of Syria, and was not the latter an influential king in those parts? "So he turned and went away in a rage."
Leprosy in the Scriptures, because it is incurable, and because it eats as a canker, is used as a symbol of sin, which cannot be eradicated from the blood and the system, except by divine power. Sometimes great sinners, and wealthy sinners, recognize themselves as sinners, and desire to be cleansed; and some of these are inclined to think that there should be some special manner of dealing with their cases, different from the general one: for they are willing to give of their influence or of their means. They forget that our God is not poor; all the gold and silver are his, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. It is, therefore, difficult for wealthy people to humble themselves, and to come to the Lord in the only attitude of humble obedience, that will gain the desired end; hence it is that the Lord said, "How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the Kingdom of Heaven"--with what difficulty will they get in,--how few of them will get in. And this applies not only to great riches of money, but also to riches of reputation and to wealth of learning. Hence we see that it is much easier for poor people, and unlearned people, and people without great reputations to come to the Lord and to accept the great gift of his grace, upon his conditions. In coming to the Lord there is no difference between the king and the beggar; both need his bounty, his grace, and it is offered to both upon precisely the same terms.
WISE COUNSEL HEEDED.
Naaman had evidently some sensible companions, servants, or possibly under officers, who "came near," approached him in a moderate and wise manner, and offered him some good advice, saying in substance, We know how disappointed you feel; we know that if this prophet had demanded of you some great thing, you would have been pleased to perform it, and not only so but would have been pleased to have rewarded him handsomely, and now because he has ignored your wealth and your presents, and has bidden you do something which seems quite common-place, it is well calculated to make you resentful; but consider the
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other side: it is an easy thing to perform, and we advise that you do so forthwith.
How excellent a thing is good counsel; it is needed, not only by the foolish, but needed also by the wise, as in this case. Naaman was undoubtedly a wiser and abler man than his servants, yet in the present case he was so closely interested that his judgment did not act as well as theirs; and they were wise servants, and were surely the more appreciated by Naaman for not simply joining with him and agreeing with his every word and every thought. They might have assented to his proposition, and said, Yes! you are insulted; we are all insulted! Resent the insult, ask the king of Syria to permit you to bring up an army against them, and teach them a lesson of your greatness, etc. But instead, they wisely counselled their general to perform the simple thing which had been directed, and all the more willingly than if it had been a very difficult matter.
So there are everywhere people who are ready to counsel evil, and they are generally more numerous than those who are ready to counsel good--in favor of peace, harmony, obedience, righteousness. Yet this should always be the attitude of the Lord's people: they are always to be peacemakers--on honorable grounds, of course; but nevertheless always striving or making for peace. How often it is that those who are inquiring the way to the Lord, especially if they are wealthy, are misdirected, by the very ones who have opportunity to help them to take proper views of the matter--to humble themselves to learn the lesson of complete submission to the Lord and his methods of getting rid of sin.
TRUE GREATNESS MANIFESTED.
The true greatness of Naaman is also here incidentally brought forward. Had he been a man of inferior mind, he would have been so haughty and dignified that his servants could not even have offered him a suggestion; or, receiving it of them, he would have resented it, as being from an inferior source; considering that his servants were not qualified to offer him any suggestions. But being a wise man, "a great man," as our lesson expresses it, he was not unapproachable, nor inclined to disrespect sound, reasonable advice, even tho it came from an unexpected and humble quarter. All of the Lord's people should realize that the little child or a person least learned either in religion or science may be able to offer a suggestion which would be valuable to the most profound thinker. It therefore is not only the Scriptural course but the reasonable, wise course, that all of the Lord's people should be so humble minded as to be approachable, and able to hear, weigh, and act upon sensible advice, even from those below them in the social scale.
Naaman dipped himself in the water of the Jordan, as directed, once--no sign of improvement; twice-- still no sign; three, four, five, six times--still no sign. The prophet had said seven times; but he might reasonably have expected that the leprosy would begin to go away with the first dip; but no, he was to exercise faith. It required faith to go to the muddy river of Jordan to bathe at all; it required faith to continue the bathing until he had fulfilled the full number of times, according to the promise. With the seventh dip came the blessing, and he was clean. His flesh came again, soft, smooth, clean, not scurfy and dead, as in leprosy.
Thus it is also in reference to sin,--moral leprosy. Every man realizes that he is imperfect, that sin has a hold upon his mental, physical and moral powers; and many are the methods advocated for getting free, getting rid of sin. The natural man suggests that he can get rid of sin for himself, without any advice from any quarter; he can wash and be clean by moral reforms which he will some day begin in earnest; he can cleanse his own flesh and spirit; he needs no prophet to teach him where or how; he has as much knowledge on the subject as anybody. He has no great high Priest and wants nobody to redeem him as his substitute. Besides, to fulfil the conditions required for the forgiveness of sin would be taking a very open and courageous step, and he shrinks from making such an outward demonstration, and considers that it would do no special good anyway: that if the Lord would save him he can save him just as well at one time and place as another. Others make the mistake of being unwilling to do anything for their own recovery out of sin; they will not go to Jordan and wash; because they lack faith. Not a profession of faith, but the exercise of an active, living faith brings the blessing.
But the sinner who has come to feel the load of his sin, its grievousness, is prepared to do a good deal if he can only get rid of it. When he comes to this place of being ready to obey the Lord's voice, it not infrequently is the result of good counsel on the part of his friends--Christian friends. He is finally prepared to take the humiliating step of acknowledging that nothing that he can do for himself will relieve his own trouble; of acknowledging that there is only the one power that is able either to prescribe the remedy or to supply it; and that is the Lord. But when finally the sinner plunges into the antitypical Jordan, "the fountain filled with blood, drawn from Immanuel's veins," and when he dips therein seven times (that is, perfectly,--seven being a symbol of perfection) then he has indeed a cleansing. He is justified by faith, justified from all which the law would not justify; he is made every whit whole, reckonedly, and has then a standing with God. We can imagine the rejoicing of
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Naaman and of his companions, and we know the still greater rejoicing of the one who, coming to the Lord, has had the moral leprosy of sin all washed away. "Being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ."
Our Lord refers to this miracle (`Luke 4:27`) saying: "Many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha, the prophet, but none of them were cleansed, save Naaman, a Syrian." Our Lord points out that there was a difference in the condition of heart as between some of these lepers of Israel and this particular
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Syrian leper, just as there was a difference in that particular widow of Zarephath with whom the prophet Elijah dwelt during the famine, and whose cruse of oil and crock of meal on this account did not exhaust. There was faith found in the widow. There was faith also found in Naaman. The "many lepers" of Israel had heard of this prophet, no doubt, as well as had the little bondmaid. But Naaman had faith in God to come seeking Elisha, and with large presents, while the lepers of Israel had not thought it worth while to seek Elisha, for help, altho in the same country. This illustrates to us the general lesson of the Scriptures, that "without faith it is impossible to please God." God tells us of his benevolence and willingness to forgive sins, yet only those who have faith in him, and who come to have their sins forgiven, only such get the blessing.
How comforting is the Scriptural assurance that the notable, general lack of faith is owing very largely to the influence of Satan, "the prince of this world," who shortly shall be bound for the thousand years of Christ's reign. "The god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not." Thank God that soon all these "blind eyes shall be opened." --`Isa. 35:5`.
GENERAL NAAMAN'S GRATITUDE.
Another matter which shows Naaman in an excellent light, and which assures us that God appreciates character, and made no mistake in sending word to Naaman respecting his prophet, etc., is found in the fact that, after he had been healed in Jordan, he did not thanklessly go on to his home, saying, Now that king and his prophet, who were so independent that they would not come down and make more ado over me, and perhaps come to Jordan with me, to see whether or not it took effect, have missed getting the present which I brought from Syria for them, and I am the gainer by just that much. No; with a true nobility of soul he desired to make some acknowledgment of the goodness which had been bestowed upon him. He probably knew something about the true God, and probably with his heart and with his lips acknowledged him, and rendered thanks for his recovery from the leprosy, so soon as he was healed: but this was not enough. As God had seen fit to use an agent in bringing the blessing to him, he rightly judged that it was as little as he could do to recognize the same agent that God had recognized--God's own accredited agent in his healing. So he returned to Elisha with the remarkable words, "Behold, now I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel; now therefore, I pray thee, take a blessing [a present] of thy servant." Here true dignity of character is shown. He was not seeking to see how cheaply he could get the favor of heaven; he did not say within himself, If Elisha had bargained with me for a large sum before I went down to Jordan, and got the blessing, then indeed I would have given him much to obtain this great benefit, but now I will put him off with some trifling gift, and no doubt, as a poor man, he will think a great deal of it.
On the contrary, he had brought a gift representing, it is claimed, over seventy-seven thousand dollars, besides much "goodly apparel," and he evidently was desirous that the prophet should receive all of this as a token of his appreciation of the great benefit conferred. Our Lord's reference to Naaman and his cure, and how the Lord's favor reached him, even tho he was a Gentile, reminds us of the fact that when our Lord healed ten lepers by the wayside, only one of them returned to give God the glory for his healing. Naaman, the Syrian, was more noble, evidently, than the other nine, if not more noble also than the tenth, who, so far as we know, offered no present--tho perhaps this was because he had nothing to offer.
This illustrates to us the difference in conduct amongst those who receive the blessing of the forgiveness of sins--cleansing from moral leprosy. Some receive it as a matter of course; some are thankful, but especially glad that they got it so cheaply--that salvation is free. It is only the occasional one ("not many learned, not many wise," not many altogether), who receives the divine blessing, forgiveness, who returns to give God the glory and to offer him a thank-offering. Not very many present either money or influence or their lives at his feet, in recognition of the boon of their forgiveness.
Addressing these who have been washed from their sins in the precious blood, who have received forgiveness of sins through faith in that blood, and who consequently are reckoned of the Lord as justified freely from all things, the Apostle says to them, "I beseech you, brethren, by the mercies of God [manifest toward you in the forgiveness of your sins], that ye present your bodies living sacrifices, holy and acceptable, to God, which is your reasonable service."
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Naaman had the spirit, the disposition, the mind, which under the favorable conditions of the Gospel age would have made of him a saint--a member of the elect "little flock," the Church. If he appreciated so largely, so heartily, his physical cleansing, who can question that he would have appreciated much more a moral cleansing, and the full reconciliation to God, and the privilege of coming into the family of God as a son and as a joint-heir with Christ? His conduct shows to us that he would have been ready to lay down his life, and all his wealth, all his possessions and his honor with the King of Syria. And this, we see, would be but a "reasonable service" for him as it is for us, and for all who have been made recipients of this great blessing of forgiveness of sins--cleansing.
But if the noble, proper spirit was manifested by Naaman, in desiring to render something in return for the mercies received, there was not less of the noble spirit in Elisha, in refusing to receive those gifts. To have received the presents would have meant the selling of the divine power which operated through him; and Elisha well knew that God's gifts are not for sale. Fortunate would it be for many who deal with the spiritual things of the Lord, in the cure of the leprosy of sin, if they could take as exalted a view of matters as did Elisha. We fear that too often the Lord's servants are ready to accept earthly rewards for their part in the healing of sin-sickness--costly apparel, gold and silver.
And then comes out still another lesson of nobility of character. Naaman requested that he might have as much soil from the land of Israel as two pack mules could carry, intimating that his desire for this earth was that he might place it in some suitable location in his own country, that he might kneel upon the sacred soil, which God had blessed, and might offer prayer to the true God, who had healed him, besides whom there is no God. And the keenness of his conscience is shown by his further remark that he knew that his king, as a worshipper of a false God, would expect him to go with him, as his servant, as usual, that he might lean upon his arm, when bowing himself before the false god; and he inquired whether or not Jehovah would pardon him for thus joining with and assisting his king in the worship which now he no longer would take part in from the heart. Elisha indicated to him that he would be forgiven for joining thus unwillingly in the bowing before the idol, as a servant with his master, the king.
We cannot doubt that Elisha sought direction of the Lord in this matter, and that he had the Lord's mind in respect to it. But why even this much sanction to a false god should be permitted may be a question. We suggest, as an explanation, that God was not then dealing with any Gentile nation, but with Judah and Israel only; "You only have I known [recognized] of all the families of the earth." (`Amos 3:2`.) The other nations were without any of God's promises, or, as expressed by the Apostle Paul, "without God and having no hope." The redemption sacrifice for the sins of the whole world had not yet been offered, would not be offered for several centuries; consequently, altho Naaman was of so honest a heart that the Lord delighted to send him to the Prophet, and to heal him of his leprosy, and altho the Lord appreciated his nobility of character, yet the time had not come for making any offer of reconciliation to the Gentiles. The only offer thus far made was to the seed of Abraham, according to the flesh.
Consequently, altho Naaman recognized Jehovah, Jehovah had not yet recognized him,--could not do so, under the covenant then in force, the Law Covenant, --and had not prepared to recognize him or any other such noble Gentile characters, until the New Covenant would go into force, later. Hence, it mattered not, except to Naaman himself, how he worshiped. His worship would not be accepted. He had no mediator! It was entirely proper, therefore, that while Naaman, having recognized Jehovah for himself, should worship Jehovah and respect him alone, as the true God, yet nevertheless, as the servant of the king of Syria, he might join in any worship that might please his master, Jehovah not having accepted or even "called" him, to become his servant. We cannot doubt that, when the Millennial age shall have fully dawned, and when those who are in the graves shall come forth, and the turn of Naaman shall come, it will find in him one whose condition of heart and mind toward the Lord will make him very ready for the good tidings of great joy unto all people through the New Covenant, sealed by the precious blood of our Lord Jesus at Calvary. We cannot doubt that so noble a character will make rapid progress under the favorable conditions of the Millennial age back to the original perfection, the image and likeness of God, lost by the whole race through father Adam.
The conscientiousness of Naaman, the Gentile, who had never before heard much of Jehovah, is strikingly
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in contrast with the deficiency of this quality in many who have enjoyed many privileges in Christian lands, and much advantage every way. We wonder much, for instance, when some of the Lord's people are translated out of darkness into his marvelous light, when their minds are relieved of the cloud of superstition and vail of ignorance which long have hindered them from seeing God's true character,--we wonder why these do not take an equally decided course and inquire of the Lord through his oracle, the Word of
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the testimony, whether or not it is longer permitted of them to bow themselves down before creeds of men, which misrepresent the divine character and plan: whether or not it is permitted of them to continue worshiping after the old manner, which they have found to be an erroneous manner: whether or not it is proper for them to lend their influence and presence at meetings whose tendencies and influences are chiefly against the truth, tho outwardly they are "religious" and have "a form of godliness." Such inquiries now, at the oracle of God, get the response, "Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues."
THE COVETOUS SERVANT.
There is still another feature of this narrative which contains a valuable lesson. Elisha had a servant named Gehazi, who had been with the prophet for a considerable time, and had witnessed many of his wonderful works; the same servant, probably, who carried his staff and laid it upon the Shunammite woman's son, and who very well knew that the Lord's power had operated through the Prophet for the recovery of the child to life. But all of this contact with divine power and goodness and mercy, and all of the illustrations of the Prophet's nobility of character and generosity--all of this counted for practically nothing, to Gehazi. He saw the rich presents that had been brought by Naaman, and allowed covetousness to enter into his heart, instead of allowing the spirit of righteousness and generosity to prevent it. He said to himself, What a pity to see this wealth thus rejected by the Prophet. I will contrive a plan by which I may get some of it for myself; then I can have olive groves and vineyards, and be a very wealthy man, and some of these costly garments will make me the envy of all my neighbors. So he ran after the departing chariot, to accomplish his purpose.
As a matter of fact, covetousness, with almost everyone, leads to various other sins--generally to lying, sometimes to murder. Nearly every crime is more or less traceable to covetousness. In this case Gehazi did not hesitate to lie, and not only so, but to misrepresent his master, and thus indirectly to misrepresent God. His falsehood was, "My master hath sent me, saying, Behold even now there be come to me from Mount Ephraim two young men of the sons of the prophets: give them, I pray thee, a talent of silver [$1944] and two changes of garments." Nothing doubting, the generous Naaman urged him to take two talents of silver, and bound them in two bags, with the changes of garments, and laid them upon two of his servants, and they bare them before him, and when he came to a secret place Gehazi took them from their hands and hid them in the house.
But Elisha called him and said, "Went not my heart with thee when the man turned again from the chariot to meet thee? Is it a time [a suitable occasion] for the receiving of money, garments, olive yards, vineyards, sheep, oxen, menservants and maidservants?" --intimating that all of these things had been the moving covetous cause before the mind of Gehazi: and no doubt at that period such an amount of money, nearly $4000, would have purchased a great deal and have made Gehazi a wealthy man. But the penalty of his misconduct was severe, for the leprosy of Naaman was given him.
The lesson here would seem to be that while some who have been ignorant of the gospel of grace of God are mightily and properly actuated by it (like Naaman), others who are in daily contact with divine grace, fail to have the right attitude of heart to appreciate it, and know of it chiefly as so much merchandise (like Gehazi). This covetousness becomes to some, even if they had already been cleansed, a renewal of the leprosy or sin. The same influence which operates favorably upon one heart, operates unfavorably upon another. This reminds us of the Apostle's statement, which is applicable throughout this Gospel age, that the gospel of Christ is either a savor of life unto life, or of death unto death. It will either have the effect of bringing us near to the Lord, in appreciation and imitation of his goodness and love, or it will have the reverse effect of repelling us from the Lord, and bringing us under a spirit of evil and selfishness. Let all who have come in contact with the grace of God take heed, lest they receive the grace of God in vain; lest instead of being benefited by it they are hardened by it, and finally should be esteemed wilful sinners on their own account.
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"ARE THEY NOT ALL MINISTERING SPIRITS?"
--AUG. 28.--`2 KINGS 6:8-18`.--
"The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them."--`Psa. 34:7`.
THE SPECIAL feature of this Scripture lesson is that there are invisible powers on every hand for the protection and assistance of the Lord's people, while doing his work. As we have already shown, there are "wicked spirits," invisible to humanity, whose fiendish delight is to deceive, mislead and ensnare mankind.* But in this lesson we have the other side of the question presented to our attention. It is an encouragement to know that, tho beset by evil spirits, the Lord's people are surrounded by other invisible agents no less powerful, whose interest in their welfare is of the highest order, and who are near to guard us in proportion as our hearts are pure, and loyal to the Lord and his Word.
Tho we do not understand the process, we accept the fact, that God has both spoken and written and operated miraculously through holy men of old. We have had illustrations of this in the preceding lessons respecting Elijah and Elisha. But how these communications
*See What Say the Scriptures About Spiritualism?--10c. per copy.
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were made to the prophets we are not informed. Quite possibly they were made through the invisible spirit beings who serve the Lord and his people. Concerning these invisible spirit beings, angels, the Apostle says, "Are they not all ministering [serving] spirits, sent forth to minister unto those who shall be heirs of salvation?" It may be that they ministered to Elijah and Elisha the information which they possessed, and which therefore constituted them prophets. For instance, in this lesson, we are informed that Elisha sent word in advance to the king of Israel respecting the movements and intentions of the king of Syria, and that his fame as a seer had extended to Syria: so that the counsellors of Syria's king explained the matter to him, saying, "Elisha, the prophet that is in Israel, telleth the king of Israel the words that thou speakest secretly in thy bedchamber."
Is it unreasonable to suppose that it was these invisible ministering spirits which were the divine instrumentality in making known to Elisha the things proper to be told to the king of Israel for his protection? We think it not unlikely; we think it probable. In one of our previous lessons we saw that, when the Shunammite woman came to Elisha to inquire about her son, Elisha said, "The Lord hath hid it from me, and hath not told me." (`2 Kings 4:27`.) From this it is evident that it was not by any power that the prophet himself possessed that he had any special knowledge, but by revelations from the Lord. And this agrees with the testimony of the Apostle Peter, who says, "Holy men of old spake as they were moved by the holy spirit." (`2 Pet. 1:21`.) Our suggestion is that the holy spirit of God communicated information to the prophets through the holy angels, the invisible spirit beings who encamp round about them that fear God. But for God to use this instrumentality in communication would make it no less his power, just as he may use the lightning or the storm to do his work, and it be none the less his work; just as we may speak by telephone or telegraph or cable, and it be as really our word and deed as tho done without those agencies of communication.
The folly of humanity attempting to cope with the spiritual powers is well illustrated in this lesson by the conduct of the king of Syria in sending an armed company to capture Elisha. He might well have reasoned that if the prophet had information of his most secret plans respecting the king of Israel, he would none the less have information respecting the proposed capture of himself. But the king of Syria and some of his people were to be taught a lesson respecting the power of the God of Israel, and of any man whom the God of Israel might choose to use as his channel or mouthpiece. Here, the foolishness of man was made to show forth the wisdom and power of God.
Elisha's servant (not Gehazi, we may feel assured, but another more worthy), seeing the armed host surrounding the city, was in terror, but the Prophet, who likewise saw the armed host, also discerned another host, more powerful, more numerous; and he entreated the Lord on behalf of his servant that he might have an
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opening of the eyes, to see that all the mountains round about them were filled with spirit beings--"horses and chariots of fire," or like fire, as all spirit beings are described in Scripture. (See `Ezek. 1:13,14`; `Dan. 7:9`; `Rev. 4:3-5`.) The Lord answered the prayer: and then the young man saw what Elisha had already told him, that "they that be with us are more than they that be with them."
It is important that every Christian should have the eyes of his understanding opened, that he may see by faith that which was shown to Elisha and his servant literally. During this Gospel age the Lord does not open our natural eyes to see the wonderful provisions he has made for us, and his power for our protection; but instead he gives us a still better knowledge of the subject through his Word of grace and truth, so that we are enabled to walk by faith and not by sight; to see the armies of the Lord encamped around about us and to recognize their protection of us, without any miracle being performed upon our natural sight. None of us are sufficiently strong to pass through the fight of Christian warfare without just such assistances as these which the Lord has provided, and which faith beholds, accepts, lays hold of, rests upon and is strengthened by.
Shall we call this faith in invisible spiritual powers and agencies of God the true spiritualism of the Scriptures --in contradistinction to the evil spiritualism which is of Satan and his fellows, the fallen angels, the "wicked spirits in exalted positions?" We believe that this is so, and spiritualists admit that there are both good and evil spirits. They are sure that there are evil spirits, because they know how these have ensnared them in evil, enticed them into sin. They know that they are what the Scriptures term "lying spirits," because they have been lied to by the spirits which communicated with them; but they insist that there are good spirits, and they think that sometimes they have had communications with these. But this proposition we dispute: we hold that all the rapping, wonder doing and other manifestations of so-called spiritists are from the Evil One, and his consorts entirely.
A very small amount of common sense should convince anyone that the holy angels must have something better, higher, nobler, to do than are the various
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practices of these so-called spirits who speak through mediums and by obsession. Indeed, we hold that the good spirits, the holy angels, make no communications with man now: that these communications belonged to a previous time, when they were appropriate and necessary as the channels of divine communication. We do not need their ministry through mediums to-day, and are especially forbidden to seek communication or knowledge through such channels: this for the same reason that we do not need the testimony of the inspired seers and prophets to-day; because God has made an abundant provision for us through the prophetic utterances of the past, to the intent that we of this Gospel age should walk not by sight nor by communication with the angels, but by faith. We may realize no less clearly, but even more clearly, than did the ancients that he who is on our part is more than all they that be against us; we may discern by the eye of faith that the "angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them;" we may realize that all the powers of heaven--"more than twelve legions of angels"--altho invisible to us, are nevertheless present, and fully subservient to every will of our glorious Lord; and that thus surrounded and protected we are living "under the shadow of the Almighty" and, as it were, in the hollow of his hand.
In this connection we are reminded of our Lord's words respecting his faithful disciples, his "little ones." He assures us that the very humblest of those who are his have high connections with the heavenly throne, saying, "Their angels do always behold the face of my Father in heaven." (`Matt. 18:10`.) That is to say, as the angels are all "ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who shall be heirs of salvation" (the Gospel Church), there are some of them who have a charge, a watch, a care over each member of the body of Christ. Perhaps one guardian angel to each saint, perhaps more than one; but we have the Lord's assurance that his provision is "sufficient." One thought that our Lord's words give to us is, that these holy angels, charged with ministering to and caring for the elect, are in no danger of being detained so that they must wait for a long time on more important business before having access to the Father: on the contrary, they always have access to him, they can always see his face; and through the Redeemer, and by these agencies, God is ever ready to respond to our cries and to cause all things to work together for good to them that love him.
Turning to the host of Syria, the prophet prayed to the Lord that they might be smitten with blindness, our Common Version says; but from the original text the thought would appear to be not the loss of sight, but a bewilderment or hallucination, somewhat similar to that produced by hypnotism; when a person sees or imagines that he sees things differently from what they actually are. Exercising this power upon the host, Elisha guided them to the city of Samaria, saying, "This is not the way, neither is this the city; follow me, I will bring you to the man whom ye seek." And this was true, for Dothan was not Elisha's city, his home was in Samaria, and thither he took them; and he did indeed bring them to the man they sought, namely, himself; but not after the manner that they had expected. The narrative proceeds to say that when he had led them into the city of Samaria (under the influence of some power like hypnotism), he then said, "Lord, open the eyes of these men, that they may see," and then they understood where they were. They were completely in the hands of their enemies; surrounded by the king of Israel and his soldiers.
The king of Israel inquired whether or not he should smite them with the sword? Such an inquiry seems to indicate a considerable change of the kingly attitude toward the Lord and his representative: the reformation work was taking effect; Israel's kings were learning gradually that the will of the Lord was to be considered, and that to neglect his counsel would be unwise indeed. Elisha, in his reply, shows a large and benevolent heart, in full accord with the highest teachings of the New Testament. He showed the king that these men should not be put to death; but that instead a better way would be to return good for the intended evil. Accordingly, the king made a great feast and entertained his enemies and sent them home. We cannot doubt that they marveled at their peculiar experiences, and the happy outcome of what seemed for the moment so great a disaster. We may suppose, too, that they had a higher degree of respect for the Lord and his prophets and the king upon the throne of Israel, than they ever before had.
There is a lesson in this for us also: the best victories are the bloodless ones; the ones in which the spirit of righteousness and mercy and benevolence gains the victory over the spirit of rivalry, ambition and selfishness. This, under the New Covenant, among the soldiers of the cross is known as fighting the good fight and overcoming evil with good. It may not succeed in fullest measure in the present time, but nevertheless it will develop in ourselves the peaceable fruits of righteousness, and prepare us for a share in the strong government of the future, which with one hand will restrain the wicked and all the powers of evil, while with the other hand it blesses, washes, refreshes and anoints with the oil of gladness and blessing all the willing and obedient of the entire groaning creation.