VOL. XIX. DECEMBER 15, 1898. No. 24.
Gathering the Lord's Jewels.......................363
"As Many as the Lord shall Call"..............364
"Spake often One to Another"..................366
"The New Song in their Mouth".................367
"The Lord Hearkened and Heard"................368
Tract Society's Report for 1898...................368
"Unto You is Born a Savior".......................371
"The True Light that Lighteth
Index for Zion's Watch Tower, 1898................376
Dawn, Vol. III., in Swedish, etc..................362
Do You Desire Z.W. Tower for 1899?................362
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GATHERING THE LORD'S JEWELS.
"They shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels."--`Mal. 3:17`.
JEWELS have a value of their own, an intrinsic quality, and no doubt would be appreciated, if they were very plentiful, but their appreciation is all the more marked because of their comparative scarcity. The figures and similes used throughout the Scriptures by the holy spirit are full of significance, and this one as well as others. When the Lord likens his faithful people to the precious stones, jewels, it signifies that there is an intrinsic value or beauty that he appreciates, and it implies also that such characters are in comparison to the world very scarce--a "little flock."
Our text points to the close of the Gospel age, and not only tells us that the Lord will not gather his jewels sooner, but implies also that the only class to be gathered at that time will be the jewel class--he comes to make up his jewels. We have here a contradiction of the ordinary thoughts on this subject: (1) That the Lord has been gathering his jewels all along for the past six thousand years: evidently an erroneous thought, since he has appointed a day, in the end of this age, in which he will gather or make up his jewels. (2) It exposes the fallacy of the thought that everybody who is respectable, half-way decent, is to be gathered to the Lord, and share in his Kingdom, for it distinctly points out that a very exceptional class only will be sought for and gathered.
The class here described as jewels are contrasted with other classes in the context (`vs. 15`), "the proud," who have much of the success of the present time, and workers of wickedness, who tempt God, and are not careful to please and serve him--and such evidently are the majority of mankind. The jewel class is described in `vs. 16` as "They that feared Jehovah"--that reverenced him, "and that thought upon his Word."
But we inquire, where are jewels usually found? The answer of the figure is that jewels may be found in very unexpected places, as for instance the diamonds of South Africa are sometimes mingled with the ordinary gravel, and sometimes embedded in a bluish black clay. They all require to be searched after, and generally require to be washed from the mire, before being prepared to refract the light. So some of these "jewels" whom the Lord is now seeking out from the world, are found in the ordinary walks of life, and some came from deep down in the mire of sin. The Lord does not expect to find in the world of mankind the jewels which he seeks in perfect order, shaped, cut, polished and ready for the setting in glory. On the contrary, by one class of his servants he lifts them out of the mire of sin and out of the horrible pit, and washes them, cleanses them from sin through the merit of his own precious blood, and through his Word: and then through other servants and providences he polishes them with divine skill, to the intent that they may reflect and refract the light of the glory of God--the divine character,--justice, wisdom, love.
As the diamond, in its rough state, uncut, unpolished, would have no more value than any other common stone for ordinary purposes, so those whom the Lord is selecting and preparing as his jewels are to derive their ultimate value from the cutting, shaping, polishing of their characters under divine providence: as it is written: "We are his workmanship." (`Eph. 2:10`.) We cannot suppose the illustration to be perfect in every particular, yet we may readily see that, while divine grace is to be credited with the entire outcome, the beauty and grace of the finished jewel, yet nevertheless, divine grace operates according to principles and conditions, under divine law. As the experienced diamond miners reject the soft clay and various of the
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hard stones, in seeking for those of the desirable kind, so the great Jewel-Gatherer operates according to a principle in seeking for his jewels.
"EVEN AS MANY AS THE LORD SHALL CALL."
The hardness of the diamond may be used to represent character, and we are to remember that character belongs to the individual, and not to God. Each of us must have his own character, and only in proportion as each has character, can he hope to be accepted finally as a jewel, for those without character will not endure the tests. As the diamond-seeker lays hold upon everything in his path that gives evidence of having the diamond quality, so divine grace, operating in the diamond field of the world (Christendom, and wherever the Word of the Lord has gone), lays hold upon all who have anything resembling character. The soft, the pliable, the uncrystallized, are not being sought now, and coming in contact with divine grace are passed by. Only such as give evidence of character are thought even worthy of washing and testing.
The hard crystallization of the diamond corresponds to willingness towards righteousness in the individual; and unless there be such willingness toward God and righteousness, there is none of the jewel quality which the Lord is now seeking. It is those whose wills are formed, crystallized, set, determined, for righteousness, that the Lord is now seeking. And here we have the imperfection of the simile; for, while all diamonds are alike hard, the great Jewel-Seeker accepts some in whom the crystallizing process is incomplete, and "helps our infirmities," developing in us by his providences the quality of firmness for righteousness, at the same time that he polishes us.--`Rom. 8:26`.
But even when the rough diamond has been found, as before observed, it would be of no value, except as it could be cut--indeed, of less value than other stones and clay for many purposes. So it is with those whom divine grace finds in the mire of sin, as having, nevertheless, will or character desiring righteousness, truth, goodness, justice,--"feeling after God" (`Acts 17:27`): the great Jewel-Cutter, the great Lapidarist, must really give them all their value, by his wisdom and skill in shaping, cutting and polishing them. Yet, on the other hand, he could not cut, shape or polish that which had not the quality or character, the will for righteousness, essential to the receiving of such a polishing. Those, therefore, who are in the hands of the great Lapidarist, and undergoing his polishing process, must first have passed through the previous experience of having been found of divine grace--found of the Lord Jesus; must first have been washed; and must have been accepted as having wills desirous of harmony with the divine mind. Therefore, they may take pleasure in all the trying experiences and difficulties through which our Lord Jesus causes them to pass, as various parts of the grinding and polishing process, necessary to their completion as Jehovah's jewels, to be made up with the close of this Gospel age, and to be set in the gold of the divine nature, to reflect the beauties of the divine character forever.
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It is in harmony with this thought that the Apostle encourages us to rejoice in tribulation, knowing that it is working out for us patience, experience, hope, brotherly-kindness, love,--the various facets of the jewel essential to it in the eyes of him who is shortly to gather his jewels. The Apostle again speaks of even the most trying and difficult experiences of the Christian life as being "light afflictions," and he speaks of the present life as being, in comparison to the eternal future, but "a moment," saying, "Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;"-- `Rom. 5:3-5`; `2 Cor. 4:17`.
"ABANDON US NOT IN TEMPTATION."
The lapidarist takes firm hold upon the jewel which he has already tested, and proved to have the requisite jewel quality, and encasing it in a suitable instrument, he presses it against the friction, a lap-wheel, with just the required amount of pressure to cut away the roughness and unevenness, and to effect the necessary shaping and polishing. The process requires great skill, otherwise at times much of the value of the stone might be lost through misshaping; hence only skilled workmen are employed in this department.
For instance, the celebrated Kohinoor diamond originally weighed nearly 800 karats, but in the hands of a poor cutter was reduced to 280 karats. Yet so much of a diamond's value depends on skilful cutting, that more than one-half of its size was subsequently sacrificed in recutting it, to obtain symmetry, beauty and refractive power, and now it weighs less than 107 karats.
So it is with the polishing of the Lord's jewels: their value depends much on proper cutting; and this is entrusted only to the skilled hands of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom we are assured in advance that he was tempted in all points like as we are--that he himself passed through similar experiences of testings, etc., at the Father's hands. He knows just what we need to perfect us, so that we will be pleasing and acceptable to the Father, to reflect and refract the light of his glory when it shall fall upon us in our finished state. A part of our lesson is to have faith in this great Master-workman whom the Father has appointed to shape and polish us. We may require much more trimming on some sides of our characters than on others; and the disposition often is to "draw back," to be not fully
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submissive, to fear that the Lord has forgotten and abandoned us in trial. But infinite wisdom assures us, guarantees us, that this is not so and that to draw back would leave us "unfit for the Kingdom."--`Heb. 13:5`; `Luke 9:62`.
The earthly lapidary imbeds the jewel he is polishing in cement, except the facet which he is grinding, so that neither he nor others see it during the operation, except as he lifts it, cools it and examines the progress of his work; but all the while he knows just what is being done, for he has an instrument called a "Lapidary's Dial," which indicates the position of the jewel exactly and avoids the poor cutting of olden times.
And just so it is with the Lord's jewels: "The world knoweth us not"--it has seen the wheel of discipline which has been cutting the Lord's jewels for centuries, but it has not understood the necessity and value of the process. It may even have caught an occasional glimpse of the jewels but not to any advantage --not so as to be able to know the real merit of their characters nor the value of the cutting and polishing, for even the already finished facets are smeared with the cement and the slime from the grind-wheel. But the great, loving Master-workman and Lapidarist-in-Chief knows and has explained it all to the "jewels;" and they know in part now, and by faith are trusting all the remainder, singing in their hearts, "He knows, he knows!" "He will not suffer us to be tempted above that we are able to bear, but will with the temptation provide also a way of escape." Yes, the Lord knows just how much pressure to apply,--just how much friction is necessary--and will not willingly afflict us, nor cause tribulation which he cannot and will not overrule for our good. And being thus assured that all things are working together for good to them that love God, his living jewels can "rejoice in tribulation," knowing that it is working out in them the peaceable fruits of righteousness--of love, and that such experiences are essential, and that without them they could never be amongst the gathered jewels.
"WHAT SON IS HE THAT THE FATHER CHASTENETH
Our text, after speaking of the gathering of the jewel class, drops the figure, and refers to the same class as God's sons, saying, "And I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him." Here we have the distinction always held out, as between those who are servants merely, and those who are serving sons. Moses was faithful as a servant over his house (natural Israel), but Christ is faithful as a Son over his house (the elect Church)--the house or family of sons, who have received the spirit of adoption, the holy spirit. Altho sons, yet they must learn obedience no less thoroughly than if they were merely servants. Indeed, as sons, it is all the more necessary that they learn the lessons of obedience to the Father; more, much more, is to be expected of a son in his father's service, than of one who is not a son. He is expected to engage in the service in the spirit of his Father, moved by the same impulses of justice and love, because "begotten again" by that spirit of holiness. As a son he requires not less careful but more careful training than a servant: more careful disciplining at the Father's hands; for is he not his representative and to be his heir?--`Heb. 3:5,6`; `12:7`; `Rom. 8:15,17`.
While these sons are not to be spared from the polishing processes necessary to make them acceptable as sons,--"accepted in the Beloved,"--nevertheless, they are to be spared from something, our text assures us. Other Scriptures show us that this class is to be spared, (1) from the great time of tribulation which is to come upon the whole world of mankind in the end of this age: in harmony with our Lord's words, "Watch ye, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man." (2) They are to escape the thousand years of judgment or trial, coming upon the world, which has its beginning in the time of trouble of "the time of the end." Thus the Apostle declares that this class of faithful sons, the jewel class, "shall not come into condemnation [judgment] with the world."--`Luke 21:36`; `1 Cor. 11:32`; `John 5:24`.
Nor does this imply that the world's trial or judgment will be an unendurable one, for, quite to the contrary, we are assured that it will be most favorable, that the Lord "will judge the world in righteousness" during the Millennial age. But for the Church to have share in that trial would mean a prolongation of the period of trial; it would mean also a thousand years of delay of entering into the joys of the Lord in the fullest sense,--a thousand years of delay in attaining to that which is perfect. And not only so, but, as we have seen from other Scriptures, and as is implied in this Scripture, the class now being selected is a jewel class, differing in many respects from the world of mankind in general, all of whom have been redeemed, and for all a way of escape has been provided, from the inherited Adamic sin and penalty.
"AFTERWARD IT YIELDETH THE PEACEABLE FRUITS
Nor are we to suppose that those who are now pressed against the wheel of tribulation, trial, affliction, difficulty, are thereby made miserable. Quite to the contrary, they realize, as the Scriptures point out
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they should, a joy and peace which the world knows not of,--which the world can neither give nor take away. And when it is remembered that their severe experiences and polishings are "but for a moment," as compared with the longer disciplines of those who will be dealt with in the Millennial age,--when it is remembered also that in proportion to their trials and difficulties they are granted the "more grace," and additionally that the reward shall be exceedingly, abundantly more than they could ask or think, according to the exceeding great and precious promises of the divine Word,--then we can see that this house of sons, these "jewels" now being prepared by the Lord, are truly highly favored above all men, and may well take the spoiling of their goods (worldly reputation, etc., included) joyfully: knowing that these things are but working out their "far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory."--`2 Cor. 4:17`.
In speaking of us as sons of God, the Scriptures declare that we are in the school of Christ (the same thought as the cutting of the jewels): and of those who will ultimately be accepted as sons, they show that they will be such as finish their course with joy,-- such as will have complied with the predestinated conditions; viz., that all who will be of that son class (the jewels) must be copies of God's dear Son, who himself is the greatest, most brilliant and absolutely perfect one.--`Rom. 8:29,30`.
This process of seeking the house of sons, the jewels, and polishing them, has already been in progress for over eighteen centuries; and the Scriptures indicate to us that now the end of the age is upon us, the time for making up or gathering these jewels, and setting them in the glory of the divine nature, preparatory to the new age in which they shall be exalted as the light of the world. The signs of the times clearly indicate, in harmony with this, that the great time of trouble for the world is nigh, even at the door, to prepare the world for the coming blessings. Hence we see that if we are to be amongst the acceptable jewels, amongst the sons who shall be spared from the calamities approaching, we have need to give diligence, and to cooperate with the great Master-Workman,
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that the shaping and polishing of our hearts, our wills, may be perfected quickly, and that we may be ready to share a glorious part, when he comes to make up his jewels, his loved and his own.
"THEN SHALL YE...DISCERN BETWEEN THE RIGHTEOUS
AND THE WICKED."
The Lord, through the prophet, indicates that as soon as the jewels shall have been gathered there will be a general change in his dealings with the world of mankind. `Verse 15` shows how it is at the present time, while the polishing of the Lord's jewels progresses: --the unfaithful and the worldly frequently seem to have the advantage; but `vs. 18` points out that after this polishing of the jewels is completed, and they have been set in the great crown of rejoicing at the end of this age, "Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not."
Now, while evil predominates, while "the prince of this world" (`John 14:30`) reigns unbound, and while "they that tempt God are even delivered," it would be difficult, by outward evidences, to judge of who are the Lord's favored ones. Indeed, his favored ones, his "jewels," seem to be less favored and have more afflictions, more trials, more persecutions, more difficulties, a narrower way, than others. And amongst them, consequently, are not found many great or rich or wise, but chiefly the poor of this world, rich in faith, and prospectively heirs of the Kingdom (`Jas. 2:5`). But when these shall be glorified with their Lord in the Kingdom--then there shall be a general change, a turning round. No longer will the wicked and those who tempt God be found in power and in influence and in prosperity, and the humble, the meek, the godly, suffer persecution and tribulation: but contrariwise, of that time, when Christ's Millennial reign shall be inaugurated, it is declared prophetically, "In his day the righteous shall flourish," and the "evildoer shall be cut off"--Satan shall be bound also.--`Psa. 72:7`; `37:9`; `Rev. 20:2`.
"THEY...SPAKE OFTEN ONE TO ANOTHER."
But glancing back at the context, we see another suggestion respecting the disposition of this "jewel" class during their time of polishing. We read, "They that feared [reverenced] the Lord spake often one to another." (`vs. 16`.) Ah yes! What could be more natural than a desire for communion with all who are of "like precious faith," all who are similarly in the hands of the Lapidarist, undergoing polishing, all who are of the same character, disposition, as respects God and his righteousness? Our Lord points out that "love of the brethren" will be a marked quality in all his servant-sons, for he that loveth him that begat loveth also him that is begotten of God. (`1 John 5:1`.) And the tendency of the mutual love of the "brethren" is to meet frequently and (personally or through the printed or written page) to speak to each other. The Apostle Paul distinctly calls to our attention the propriety, yea, the necessity, for this class meeting together. He exhorts, "Forget not the assembling of yourselves together,... and so much the more as ye see the day [the day of gathering of the 'jewels'] drawing nigh." It is to the same end that our Lord has made some of his promises to his people collectively, saying, "Where two or three
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of you are met in my name, there am I in the midst." --`Matt. 18:20`; `Heb. 10:25`.
There is a thought also in the word "together:" the sons of God are not merely anxious for a meeting, in which the world, the flesh and the devil will commingle --they are anxious specially for fellowship with each other, with those who have similar characters, similar faith in the precious blood, similar consecration, and who are similarly passing through the hands of the great Polisher, to be prepared for association in glory. This desire for fellowship with one another is not selfishness, nor an impropriety; on the contrary, our Lord declares that those who love the light come to the light, while those who love darkness shun the light, and the Apostle inquires, "What communion hath light with darkness?" and he points out distinctly that while Satan and the children of darkness may simulate the table of the Lord and the grace of his truth, yet there is no real harmony or fellowship between their table and the Lord's table, upon which he sets forth the precious truth for his loved and his own. --`1 Cor. 10:21`. See WATCH TOWER for Dec. 1st, '95, "The Cup of the Lord and the Table of the Lord."
When we read that these faithful "spake together," we naturally inquire respecting the topic of their converse, the subject upon which they communicate. it is not stated here, but is clearly stated elsewhere in the inspired Word. The Apostle points out that such "mind heavenly things," and contrasts them with others of the earth, earthly, who "mind earthly things," and whose god is their belly. Their converse, therefore, will not be respecting earthly pleasures, food and raiment, the ambitions of the natural mind, the pride of life, etc., but will be respecting "the things which belong unto their peace," the things which are uppermost in their hearts: for these are all seeking first the Kingdom of heaven and its righteousness, and in earthly matters are "content with such things as they have," --as the Lord's providence shall arrange for them.
THE NEW SONG IN THEIR MOUTH.
Neither do they come together to lament the trials and difficulties by the way, altho there may be some occasions when the majority may "weep with those that weep." Usually, however, the proper condition is that in which each should live so in the light of the Father's countenance that the trials and difficulties of the present life, which would be terrible and burdensome to the world, unsustained by divine grace, will be to these but "light afflictions:" and as children of the heavenly King, instead of going mourning all their days, they will rejoice--rejoice in tribulation and adversity, as well as in prosperity. Accordingly, as the sentiment of this class, it is written,--"He hath put a new song into my mouth, even the lovingkindness of our God."
It is quite in harmony with this that the Apostle prays for some, that they may be enabled to "comprehend with all saints the length and the breadth, the height and the depth of the love of God, which passeth all understanding." Those who have received the "new song," and have comprehended its meaning, with the saints in general, will have, in this love of God, and in the wide and deep and high, glorious plan of God for the salvation, first of the elect Church and subsequently of the world of mankind--"whosoever will"--an abundant theme, a never-ending theme, a theme above all others, which will fill their hearts and fill their minds. It will crowd out worldly topics, as being not worthy to be compared. It will crowd out complainings and murmurings, as being wholly improper on the part of those who have been recipients of so many divine favors, and "much advantage every way," in that we have delivered unto us the divine oracles,-- and especially in view of our adoption into the family of God as sons and "joint-heirs with Jesus Christ our Lord, if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together."--`Rom. 8:17`.
"HIM THAT IS WEAK IN THE FAITH RECEIVE."
While it would be wholly improper for the consecrated ones to thrust out others who desire to meet with them, or to attempt to judge the hearts of those who profess faith in the ransom and full consecration to the Lord, yet to the extent that those who have received the holy spirit of adoption let their light shine out properly, and seek to "edify one another," and to "build one another up in the most holy faith," in that proportion the insincere, the unconsecrated and the hypocritical will find less and less to attract them. And in consequence "those who fear the Lord and who think upon his Word" find all the more of blessed spiritual communion and edification.
The class of whom the Apostle says that they are sensual, earthly, having not the spirit of the Lord, make disturbance when they come amongst the true sons of God, and do injury, because with them, as well as with others, it is true, as it is written, "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh," and their hearts, filled with pride, selfishness, vain-glory and ambition, overflow through their mouths; and communication with such is unprofitable. From such evil hearts come evil words of envy, slander, hatred, malice, strife, selfish suggestions contrary to the word and spirit of the Lord. Such edify no one; their influence is always pernicious; they build not up in the most holy faith, but, on the contrary, tend to develop and to cultivate roots of bitterness, whereby often "many are defiled." --`Heb. 12:15`.
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Those who fear the Lord, who reverence his name, who think upon his Word, who are seeking to copy his disposition, and to be fashioned under the hand of divine providence, should see to it that the class we have described, of whom the Apostle declares that their envy, malice, hatred, strifes, etc., are works of the devil, do not get opportunities to work their evil works. They should do this, first, by showing their disapproval of all evil-speaking and evil works: and those who cannot show their disapproval by words of kindly admonition, pointing out that such things are not from God, but from the Adversary, should at least manifest their disapproval in their withholding any look of sympathy with such a course, and by breaking off the conversation, and very generally avoiding the company of such; and by the more strict attention to their own words and conduct, that therein they may "show forth the praises of him who hath called us out of darkness into his marvelous light."
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"AND THE LORD HEARKENED AND HEARD."
Another thought in this connection, that we should not overlook, is that brought to our attention in the words, "And the Lord hearkened and heard it." How often would the sons of God be greatly blessed as they meet together to talk over the divine plan, the divine goodness, wisdom, love, justice, and to help one another, and to encourage one another with psalms, hymns, spiritual songs, and by refreshing one another's minds with the exceeding great and precious promises which belong to them that reverence the Lord,--how much would such be blessed, if they could always have in memory this statement, that the Lord is hearkening, is listening to our conversation when we speak together. He listens to see which, out of good hearts, speak forth those things which are loving, gentle, pure, good, true, as distinguished from those who are careless of the truth, and whose words are vain or frivolous, or worse than this, slanderous, enmitous and selfish.
And even amongst those who are on the Lord's side, amongst those who are showing forth his praises, endeavoring to build one another up in the most holy faith, and in the fruits and graces of the spirit, --we may be sure that our Lord hearkens to such teachers and helpers, and takes knowledge of the purity of their motives, as well as of their words; he takes knowledge of whether they are seeking to glorify themselves, or to glorify him in their use of such privileges and opportunities. If their words are boastful, it would indicate pride in the heart, a flaw in the "jewel," which would make it unworthy to be amongst those to be "gathered." If vaingloriously any attempts to take to himself the honor which belongs to the Lord, he is showing himself disloyal to his Master, Christ. Such would thus prove that he had not the spirit of the Master, who humbled himself, and who gave all glory and honor to the Father, in respect to every feature of the great salvation.
Let all the sons of God remember the importance of honesty, "truth in the inward parts," when they come together as members of the body of Christ, to study the divine Word, and to help one another, and "let nothing be done through strife or vain glory," but let each esteem the other greater in saintliness than himself,--seeking to see, so far as possible, in each other the good, the noble, the true: and let each seek to watch his own heart, and to know of his own blemishes. Thus let personal humility and love of the brethren keep pace with our growth in knowledge of divine things; otherwise let us be assured that we are in the sifting and separating time, and that all who have not this spirit of humility, patience, gentleness, brotherly-kindness, love, will surely be separated.--`1 John 2:19`.
Some will not be amongst those who are gathered as jewels, because the jewels which the Lord will gather will be pure, "first-water" diamonds--stainless. They are to be faultless in love before the Father; and perfect love not only casts out fear, but casts out also selfishness, animosity, evil surmisings and evil-speakings, as well as self-love, pride. O how beautiful will be the Lord's jewels! How full of meaning is the statement that our Lord Jesus, the great Jewel, polished by the divine hand, and after whose likeness we are to be polished, "shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired [head and body] of all them that believe in that day"--by all those who, during the Millennial Day, come into harmony with God, through Christ, under the terms of the New Covenant sealed by the precious blood.--`2 Thess. 1:10`.
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WATCH TOWER BIBLE AND TRACT SOCIETY.
--REPORT FOR FISCAL YEAR ENDING DEC. 1, 1898.--
WE ARE confident that many of our readers, deeply interested in the present "harvest" work are anxiously awaiting this annual report: for such reports show, as nothing else can so accurately show, the real status of the work in which you as well as we are absorbingly interested. There is a wide difference between interest and curiosity; and it is the former that we seek to serve. We seek no publicity for our affairs before the world; but feel it a privilege as well as a duty to report yearly for the satisfaction of our many colaborers, who otherwise might judge of the work merely from their own surroundings and experiences and be either unduly elated or depressed and discouraged.
It will be interesting for those of our readers who preserve and file their WATCH TOWERS to look back over these annual reports to their first appearance-- for 1891. The progress for these eight years is encouraging to the friends of the truth and astounding to its enemies. The lesson is that the work of grace is progressing; for zeal must be either the result of superstition or of grace: and as it must be admitted that WATCH TOWER readers, translated out of darkness into the marvelous light of present truth, are freer from superstition and from bondage to human creeds than others, it is but reasonable to credit their zeal to growth in grace and knowledge and to increasing thankfulness for the liberty wherewith Christ makes free.
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If each year has seemed to bring intenser trials, testings and siftings, and to inspire opponents to more bitter and yet more unscrupulous envy, hatred and slanderings, each year has also found those who are walking as "children of the light" stronger, more on the alert against "the wiles of the devil," and better prepared to resist him and his blinded servants: because better armed with the panoply of divine truth and forewarned by the Captain of our salvation to expect such things. To such the divine promise is fulfilled so that they are enabled to realize that all things are working for good to those who love God,--the called ones according to his purpose.
For several years back we have felt (when making out these reports) that we had reached the highest limit, and that of necessity the showing of the following year would be smaller: but thus far we have been agreeably disappointed, and the year 1898 quite outranks its predecessors, as will be seen from a study of the following reports and a comparison with those of previous years.
By the Lord's favor the present year has brought to the Society the ownership of the entire plant at Allegheny: --the WATCH TOWER, the Bible House with its complete outfit of office fixtures, type, stock of Bibles, DAWNS, booklets, tracts, etc., together with tons of valuable electroplates of DAWNS, tracts, etc., in various languages. The Bible House is a four-story building, built for our use and intended from the first to be sooner or later presented to us. It is valued at $34,000, and has against it a mortgage of $15,000, which may remain indefinitely--the interest on it being more than provided for by extra rooms rented out. The net equity of this entire donation is appraised by the Society's Board of Directors at $164,033.65. This much of an explanation is necessary, that you may understand the Treasurer's financial report which follows --which of necessity will assume a slightly different form from previous ones. Formerly the Tower Publishing Co. met all expenses and furnished the books, tracts, etc., to our Society at an agreed upon price: now the Society pays its own expenses, buys its own paper--in a word, does its own publishing. Formerly the Tower Publishing Co. furnished the capital, and all debts of colporteurs, etc., were owing to it: now this Society furnishes its own capital, and all such accounts are owing to it.
We have separated this special donation in the account, because it is out of the usual, and so that the records of future years may not be overshadowed thereby. It will hereafter appear as "Plant, Real Estate, etc."
The items of borrowed money need explanation. Several friends of the cause who have already contributed liberally had money which they desired should go to this Society at their death; but they desired that it be actively in use in the service of the truth while they
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live, and presented it to us on these terms: if they should ever come to need a portion or all of it, they are to call for it--giving reasonable time. If they never need it and do not call for it, it shall at their death be credited in their names as donations. Some of these need interest on their deposits to live on, and get it: others do not need interest, having other income, and get none.
Envious enemies will as usual whisper that these reports and the "Good Hopes" blanks are solicitations for money. We deny this: we neither covet, nor ask for any man's silver or gold, and entreat that those who feel thus send us nothing. Our God is rich. He tells us that all the gold and silver are his, and we believe him. He is abundantly able to give us ten times as much annually, if he choose. What he supplies for the spread of the truth is but a drop in the bucket, as compared with the millions spent annually in the propagation of error. But we are satisfied and thankful, and appreciate his wisdom. We perceive that as the lack of "laborers" in the harvest-field is a call and an incentive to some to enter who would not enter if the supply were abundant, so with those who have the financial "talent"--the fact that the means for the propagation of the truth is so meager as compared with the plethora of error, furnishes opportunity and incentive to the consecrated to do with their might in this direction also. And our experience is that all who are active in the Lord's service, using in love whatever talents they possess, are the most blessed and stand the firmest. Is it then wrong for us to make known to such opportunities for service that will bring them spiritual returns and blessings? No! It is duty! It would be wrong to withhold the knowledge and the opportunity. It would be withholding a means of grace.
Our report of the work we classify as follows:--
(1) ZION'S WATCH TOWER we esteem as a messenger used by our present King to stir the hearts and minds of his people whom he is feeding with the meat of present truth. As such it is your servant, and its editor rejoices greatly in this privilege. Respecting its service during the year, that is not for us to report --the Lord knoweth. We have merely done what we could, regretting that we could not serve the "brethren" more and better. We have, however, been encouraged by many letters telling us of help by the way rendered to pilgrims on the "narrow way" to the Celestial City. But we are waiting, hoping, praying and striving, trusting that the Master's decision may be, "Well done, good and faithful servant,--thou hast been faithful over a few things."
We hear almost daily of some who are deeply interested
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in these things and who long for the regular visits of the WATCH TOWER but find themselves financially unable to spare even one dollar a year. Every issue of the TOWER contains our offer to supply such, as "the Lord's poor," free, if they will write us to this effect, yearly. We know not what more to do for this class: those who think they can pay later may have credit indefinitely, while to the hopelessly poor it is sent as cheerfully as to those who do pay. Possibly the fact that the WATCH TOWER is no longer of individual ownership, but the property of the Tract Society may encourage more of these classes to ask that they may receive--freely.
(2) CORRESPONDENCE DEPARTMENT.--During the year we received 29,523 letters and sent out 14,371, --our largest record thus far. We value very highly the privileges of the mail, which bring us into so close touch with so many of the Lord's people throughout the world: from your letters we are the better enabled to appreciate and sympathize with your varied experiences of joy and sorrow, your trials and triumphs, and to reflect these in turn upon you all, through the WATCH TOWER,--blending these with the light of divine revelation through the lenses of the Scriptures, to our mutual benefit. As an evidence of the general character of much of this correspondence (that it is not merely "business") we note the fact that we received about twenty-five special requests for remembrance at the throne of grace each week, or thirteen hundred during the year. These are remembered regularly, specially, and are personally mentioned in prayers, in addition to our general requests for the welfare of all the Lord's flock, at our WATCH TOWER home which is on the fourth floor of the Bible House, and shared by the office assistants. Moreover, those who ask our prayers usually assure us that we are remembered in their petitions, morning and evening, daily. The very knowledge of this loving interest and sympathy is a blessing, a strength, an encouragement, and helps us to esteem our share of the trials of life as "light afflictions, which are but for a moment," designed of the Lord to "work out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." Thus--
"We share our mutual joys, our mutual burdens bear;
And often for each other flows the sympathizing tear."
"Blest be these ties which bind our hearts in mutual--LOVE!"
(3) THE COLPORTEUR WORK. This we sometimes describe as the Evangel branch of the work; for by it the good news is being borne everywhere, much after the manner of the work of the disciples at the first advent--when they went from house to house and from city to city to make known--the Kingdom of Heaven at hand. The dear brethren and sisters engaged in this service often endure hardness as good soldiers of the cross of Christ. And they need, and because of their self-sacrificing service deserve, the love and sympathy and prayers of all of the Lord's faithful people,--they have ours daily. Theirs is the pioneer work, so indispensable.
It is a mistake to suppose that this service is merely for those who are out of other employment: it is for those who seek first the King's business, preferring it to all other. These colporteurs forsake other vocations of greater ease and profit to use their talents in this fullest, best and truest sense, whether the world so recognizes them or not. Moreover, in going from house to house they get better opportunities for presenting the true gospel than can be had in any other method known to them or to us.
It will be noticed from the Secretary's report following that the number of DAWNS disposed of this year fell behind that of last year; but really the quantities were about the same--the difference being accounted for by the eight thousand copies of VOL. IV, sent to TOWER subscribers in 1897. Besides, the booklets have become quite a feature--very effective in the spread of the truth. Nor do the Colporteurs merely circulate the DAWNS: they leave tracts where DAWNS are refused, note the interested ones and call in the evenings and help them, and before leaving a city introduce them to the WATCH TOWER, or, if possible, start them as a little meeting of truth seekers and servers. God bless these noble servants! There are evidences that the improvement of times is encouraging others to enter this service with all their time.
Nor should we neglect to mention the many noble souls, whose family duties hinder continuous service for the truth, who are nevertheless doing with their might what their hands find to do, to find the "lost sheep" of Spiritual Israel and to bring them to the green pastures of present truth, and to point out to them the glories of our Heavenly King and the beauties of his Word and plan. These sent out thousands of DAWNS and booklets the past year--loaning, selling or giving them gratis, according to circumstances and judgment--together with millions of tracts. These also are faithful soldiers and overcoming, and being blessed accordingly.
(4) PILGRIM LABORS.--The "Pilgrims" are chosen from amongst those whose age, experience, knowledge of the truth, general "moderation" and ability for public speaking, and freedom from domestic cares and obligations fit them specially for their service. They visit the friends at different accessible points where there are as many as five WATCH TOWER readers and hold meetings with them--counseling them in the good way. Four brethren are continually engaged in this
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work at present, besides a number who give a portion of their time.
These take up no collections, either publicly, or privately. Their expenses are met out of the Tract Fund and are very moderate. Receive them joyfully as ministers (servants) of the Lord. And be prompt to avail yourselves of their ministries, for their stay will be short--from one to three days. They come prepared to speak at least twice a day, so drop other matters, so far as possible, and enjoy with them a feast at the Lord's table. Cards are sent out by the Society notifying you of the coming of these "Pilgrims." It is desirable that some, at least, of the meetings be for believers of "this way"--but you may rely upon it that any thus introduced to you by card, as "Pilgrims," are fully competent to hold public meetings that will be both creditable and profitable.
(5) TRACT DISTRIBUTION.--All WATCH TOWER readers are considered representatives of the tract work, and are supplied on application with all they can use judiciously as sample copies. Some who can and do supply the funds have fewer opportunities for tract distribution than others who are unable to contribute to the fund--and thus this service is blessedly divided. The report of our Secretary and Treasurer on quantities of tracts distributed and of the economy with which such large results were attained is surely good cause for rejoicing. No other Society in the world ever attained anything like such results at so proportionately low cost. The secret of this is, that the WATCH TOWER force labors for the love of the truth and for a future reward--accepting merely their very moderate expenses, from the Society's funds.
"Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the Word of the Lord may have free course and be glorified."-- `2 Thes. 3:1`. Very truly your brother and servant in Christ, C. T. RUSSELL, President.
TREASURER IN ACCOUNT DR.
To Cash on hand, Dec. 1, '97,..................... $ 191.80
" " "Good Hopes,"............................. 9,286.65
" " Other Donations,.......................... 2,114.07
Special Donation:--ZION'S WATCH TOWER,
office, plant, books, tracts, type, electroplates,
etc., etc., including the Bible House building.
Value, appraised by
Board of Directors,.............................$186,000.00
Less--Mortg. on Bible House,..................... $15,000.00
Obligations to friends, ..................... 6,966.35
Net Value of Special Donation,...................$164,033.65
TREASURER IN ACCOUNT CR.
Net Appraisement of plant, stock, cash,
etc., approved by Audit Committee of
Board of Directors,.............................$188,401.53
Less--Mortgage on Bible House,....................$15,000.00
Obligations to friends,..................... 6,453.32
Working Capital, Dec. 1, 1898,...................$166,948.21
Copies of MILLENNIAL DAWN, circulated
during the year 1898,........................... 62,027
Copies of various "Booklets," circulated
during the year 1898,........................... 20,658
(This department of the work is self-supporting.)
Copies of ZION'S WATCH TOWER supplied
gratis, to "the Lord's poor," and other
sample copies, sent out free,................... 228,313
Copies of Tracts sent out during the year,....... 2,091,875
This, represented as usual when referring
to tracts, represents tract pages,.............. 40,778,102
E. C. HENNINGES, Sec'y & Treas.
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"UNTO YOU IS BORN...A SAVIOR."
--DEC. 25.--`HEB. 1:1-9`.--
"Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord."--`Luke 2:10,11`.
"CHRISTMAS Day," in celebration of our dear Redeemer's birth, has for long centuries been celebrated on December 25th; and altho it is now well known that this date is in error, and that it more properly corresponds with the date of the annunciation to Mary, nine months before our Lord was born, and that he was born about October 1st,--nevertheless, since the Lord has given no instructions whatever upon this subject, and since it is proper to do good deeds and think good thoughts upon any day, it cannot be improper, in harmony with general usage, for us to remember in a social way our dear Redeemer's birth at this time.
Our Lord Jesus was God's great gift to Israel and to the world, as yet appreciated fully only by the Spiritual Israelite. Through him also all of God's gifts are promised and to be bestowed. (`Eph. 4:8`.) In view of these things, the custom throughout Christendom of making Christmas Day a joyful one, by the interchange of little tokens of love in the family, and to the poor, seems most appropriate.
The central thought of our Golden Text is that Christ is a Savior, provided for the world--for "all people."
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And while all may gather something of the force and meaning of the word "Savior" as signifying deliverer, its underlying force and significance are not generally recognized. It is supposed that the Lord and his disciples spoke the common language of Palestine, the Syriac, and in that language this word, rendered Savior, signifies "Life-Giver." How much force this adds to the meaning of this beautiful text! Jesus was born to be a Life-Giver, and this joyful news is to all people. He may give life to whomsoever he chooses; and he chooses to give it, in harmony with the divine will, only to those who come unto the Father through him, by faith and obedience.
A life-giver is a father, and it is from this point of view that our Lord Jesus is prophesied to be, by and by, known as the Everlasting Father--the Giver of everlasting life--to the obedient of the world, not to the Church. (`Isa. 9:6`; `1 Pet. 1:3`.) Adam, the father of the race, failed to give to his posterity perfect and lasting life: through sin he came under the sentence of death himself, and transmitted to his posterity only a blemished, dying condition. What the whole world needs, therefore, is life--eternal life,--and in sending Jesus into the world, God was meeting our necessities most bountifully.
But God does not propose to give eternal life to any of his creatures unless that gift would be a real blessing: and we know that eternal life would be a curse, instead of a blessing, to any not in full accord with the Lord and his righteous arrangements. Accordingly, we are told that all who would have the life which Jesus came to secure for mankind, and to offer to all, must accept the same according to the terms, conditions and limitations of the New Covenant--faith in the Redeemer and heart-harmony and obedience to God, to the extent of ability. In the present time (sin abounding and Satan deceiving and blinding) not many can appreciate this great gift of God's love, and not many become his disciples in verity. This is the time, therefore, in which the Lord selects, "elects," from the whole world of the redeemed ones the "little flock," who shall be joint-heirs with Christ in the Kingdom.
But thanks be unto God, we can now see that the plan of salvation does not stop with the gathering of the elect Church, but that in the full sense of the word it is merely beginning there. And the testimony of the angelic choir which sang at our Savior's birth, and of the angel who declared, "Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people," shall yet be completely fulfilled.
In the lesson above set forth (`Heb. 1:1-9`), the Apostle calls attention to the fact that our Lord Jesus and his testimonies were but further developments of the great divine plan of which God had been speaking to his people Israel, "at sundry times and in divers manners" in the past. He points out that if it was always appropriate to hearken to the Lord's messengers, it is much more appropriate that we hearken to the great Chief Messenger of Jehovah, our Lord Jesus, "whom God hath appointed heir of all things."
He next points out the basis of our good hopes of salvation through Christ--the basis on which divine justice and love may operate toward fallen mankind; viz., that this Jesus "himself purged our sins and has sat down on the right hand of the majesty on high," far above angels and principalities and powers.
When the Apostle points out the high exaltation of our Lord Jesus, and that it was a reward for his obedience in suffering death on our behalf, he proves four things: (1) That our Lord Jesus did give a ransom for our transgressions, which was satisfactory to the divine justice; so that through his stripes we might be healed, notwithstanding the sentence of eternal death which was against us through father Adam's transgression. (2) He proves this by the fact of our Lord's resurrection and high exaltation above angels, to share the Father's throne and nature in glory. (3) This exaltation of the Savior implies power--power to carry out the blessed provisions of the New Covenant, which he merely sealed with his precious blood. It must yet be made effective to mankind. (4) To make it effective
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will imply the use of the power and exaltation granted to this Life-Giver by Jehovah. Having bought the world from under the sentence of death he will in due time proceed to the establishment of the heavenly Kingdom: thus he shall bring in everlasting righteousness as the law of earth; lay judgment to the line and righteousness to the plummet; sweep away all the refuges of lies; bind the great Adversary, Satan; and, opening the eyes of the blind and the ears of the deaf, he then will cause all mankind to know respecting the love of God which passeth all understanding, which would not that any should even perish, but that all might turn unto him and live.--`Isa. 11:9`; `28:17`; `35:5`; `2 Pet. 3:9,13`; `Rev. 20:2`.
The exalted and fully empowered Life-Giver will then stand ready, not only to make known to all mankind the terms of the New Covenant under which all may have eternal life, by obedience to God in him, but as the great Prophet he will stand ready to teach, and as the great Priest he will stand ready to help their infirmities and to direct their paths in the way of righteousness.
"Hallelujah! What a Savior!"
"He is able to save unto the uttermost all that come unto the Father by him." "I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation, to everyone that believeth."
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"THE TRUE LIGHT THAT LIGHTETH EVERY MAN."
--JAN. 1.--`JOHN 1:1-14`.--
"In him was life, and the life was the light of men."--`John 1:4`.
REACHING far into the past, to the beginning of earth's creation as mentioned in Genesis, our lesson informs us that even then the Logos, the Word, existed, with God. "The Word" is a very good title for our Lord Jesus in his prehuman condition: it is the translation of the Greek word Logos, which might more literally be rendered, "the Expression:" for the great and honorable one, the heavenly Father's companion "before the world was" made, who is declared to have been "the beginning of the creation of God," was in every sense of the word a full and complete expression of the divine will, mind, purpose, character. Of this First-begotten-one the Apostle writes that he was "in the form of God"--a likeness of Jehovah (`Phil. 2:6`), but he does not claim, as our common version would appear to make him say, that the Logos thought it not robbery to be equal with the Father, Jehovah God. The Apostle's argument is to the very contrary of this: he is showing that the Logos was fully subservient to Jehovah; and that it was a proof of this subserviency and obedience and humility, that the Logos became flesh, the "man Christ Jesus." And further, in harmony with the same humility and obedience to the Father, he became obedient to death, even the death of the cross; and on this account ("wherefore") Jehovah God highly exalted him by a resurrection to the divine nature, far above angels, principalities, powers, and every name that is named,--to a position higher than any other, higher than his prehuman condition, next to the Father, and an associate of his throne, his glory, his power, his nature.
What the Apostle does say is to the very contrary of the statement of our common translation. A good translation is furnished in the Emphatic Diaglott:-- "Who, tho being in God's form, did not meditate a usurpation to be like God, but divested himself, taking a bondman's form." This is in agreement with the rendering of the passage by various Greek scholars, thus: "Who...did not think it a matter to be earnestly desired," --Clarke; "Did not earnestly affect,"--Cyprian; "Did not think of eagerly retaining,"--Wakefield; "Did not regard...as an object of solicitous desire,"-- Stewart; "Thought not...a thing to be seized,"-- Sharpe; "Did not eagerly grasp,"--Kneeland; "Did not violently strive,"--Dickinson; "Did not meditate a usurpation,"--Turnbull; "Who, being in the form of God, counted it not a prize [margin, a thing to be grasped] to be on an equality with God, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant."--Revised Version.
But altho the Scriptures nowhere place the only begotten and well-beloved Son of God on an equality with Jehovah himself, either while he was here on earth, nor while he was the Logos, before he was "made flesh," they do assure us that now, in his highly exalted condition, the Logos still, Christ Jesus still, he is partaker of the divine nature, glory and all power in heaven and in earth; and accordingly we are instructed that "all men should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father." (`John 5:23`.) However, our lesson introduces us to our Redeemer in his prehuman condition, a spirit condition, higher than the angels, and assures us that all things were made by him: literally, "Without him was not one thing made that was made." Thus we see that in all of Jehovah's creative work on every plane the Logos had preference--"that in all things he might have the preeminence."--`Col. 1:18`.
The number of Bible students who are non-critical is very large. It is not, therefore, surprising that many have fallen into the error of supposing that this `first verse of John's Gospel` is a declaration that the Logos was the full equal of Jehovah--that the Word, the message, was the full equal to the one who sent the Word, the expression, the message. Yet this is contradictory to reason, as well as contradictory to the testimony of our Lord Jesus himself, who unequivocally declared, "Of mine own self I can do nothing; as I hear I judge;" and again, "The Father is greater than I."--`John 5:30`; `14:28`.
Scholars are all aware that the word that is translated God in the Old Testament is not equivalent to the word Jehovah. Altho its significance is "mighty one," it is frequently used for others besides the All-mighty, Jehovah: it is used for angels; it is used for great men; it is used for false gods. The word Jehovah is the specific name for the All-mighty One, to whom all other elohim (gods--mighty ones) are subject. So in the New Testament, the word theos is the equivalent to elohim, and signifies mighty one. It is used in the New Testament most frequently in reference to Jehovah himself, but sometimes, in referring to man, and to false gods, and several times in referring to our Lord Jesus. The `first verse of John's Gospel` is a marked instance of the use of theos in referring to Jehovah's Logos, his Only Begotten Son, "the beginning of the creation of God." (`Rev. 3:14`.) But the critical Greek student should find no difficulty in distinguishing between these two Gods, and noting that the one is distinctly referred to as the superior of the other, for this distinction is clearly shown by the use of the Greek article before theos in referring to Jehovah, and the absence of that article when theos is used in referring to the Logos. The effect of this, expressed in our English language, would render the passage thus:--
"In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with the God, and the Logos was a God. The same was in the beginning with the God."
This translation will not be disputed by any Greek scholar; and it sets at rest all ground for dispute respecting the primary relationship between the Father and the Son. Indeed, the expressions, "Father" and "Son" imply what is elsewhere stated,--that the Son "proceeded forth and came from God" (`John 8:42`). Otherwise these terms, Father and Son, are meaningless. A son can never be his own father, nor can it be claimed that a son never had a beginning, for the term, son, implies a life, existence, being, which had a beginning, and which was derived from a father. The Scriptures, when permitted to interpret themselves, are beautifully consistent, and harmoniously reasonable. But when warped and twisted by preconceived ideas and false doctrines, the light of truth becomes darkness, and mystery is written upon everything connected therewith--not the
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mystery of God, however, but "the mystery of iniquity," of darkness, of error.
"In him was life." Our Lord's separateness from the human family is thus pointed out: in no other man than "the man Christ Jesus" was there life. In all the race of Adam, the entire human family, aside from Jesus, death was working; it thus reigned in the entire race from the time father Adam became disobedient and forfeited the life that was in him originally, and was able to impart to his posterity only dying conditions. It was this life in Christ--the fact that he was separate from sinners, holy, harmless, undefiled, that constituted this Savior, whom the Father sent, a beacon light of hope for our race. Had he in any manner forfeited his rights to life, either before he came to human conditions, or while he was the man Christ Jesus, our light of hope would have been extinguished: but possessing his rights to life he, according to the Father's program, laid down his life on our behalf--a corresponding price for the life of Adam, which had been forfeited through sin;--a corresponding price, therefore, for all who had a share in Adam's death penalty.
Having thus bought us with his own precious blood, he thus became light-giver, hope-giver, to the world of mankind, and also its life-giver. Praise God for this great light and life provided for a dying world; and altho it is true that the light shone amidst the darkness of
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human depravity without being generally comprehended or appreciated, it is also true, nevertheless, that "that was the true [antitypical, the real, genuine, not counterfeit or typical] light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world." It matters not, therefore, that this true light was not comprehended and appreciated by the Jews in the days of his flesh, and that he is not comprehended even to-day by the world of mankind; he, nevertheless, is the true light, and in the Father's due time he shall accomplish the great plan of God, of which he is the center, the expression, the Logos;--he shall enlighten every man born into the world. Nor shall any be permitted to languish in darkness, or to fail of eternal life by reason of lack of knowledge; in due time all the blind eyes shall be opened, all the deaf ears shall be unstopped, and the blind shall see out of obscurity the great Light which God has raised up, to be a prince and a Savior for whosoever cometh unto the Father through him.--`Isa. 35:5`; `John 8:12`; `14:6`.
True, only a minority have yet seen this light, for still "Darkness covers the earth, and gross darkness the people." (`Isa. 60:2`.) We are waiting, however, for the glorious Millennial Day in which this great light, this true light, shall shine forth as the sun in the Kingdom of the Father, and when his faithful ones, his jewels, chosen and polished during this time of darkness, shall be glorified with himself, and be associated in the great work of enlightening mankind, and as the Seed of Abraham, in blessing all the families of the earth with this enlightenment, and with accompanying opportunities for harmony with God, and eternal life. --`Matt. 13:43`; `Rom. 8:17`; `Gal. 3:16,29`; `Gen. 22:17,18`.
Nothing in this, however, offers excuses for those catching even a glimpse of this great light in the present time. Blessed are their eyes if they see, and their ears, if they hear, and such will have the graver responsibilities and "stripes," if they do not walk according to the light which they have received.-- `Luke 12:47,48`.
The Apostle carefully distinguishes between the messenger of the light and the Light itself. Subsequently (`John 5:35`) our Lord speaks of John the Baptist as a burning and a shining lamp (mistranslated light). A totally different Greek word is used when our Lord is spoken of as being the Light, but this same Greek word, phos, is used with respect to the Church which is the Body of Christ, and with her Lord partaker of the holy spirit. Respecting these members of his Body, members of the ecclesia, the elect, our Lord expressly says, "Ye are the light of the world," using the very same Greek word that in this lesson is used with respect to himself. It is this same word, phos, that is used in the following Scriptures: "If the light that is in thee become darkness;" "The children of the light;" "What union hath light with darkness?" "Put on the armor of light;" "Now are ye light in the Lord;" "Walk as children of the light;" "Out of darkness into his marvelous light;" "Walk in the light, as he is in the light." A similar distinction, as between John and Christ, is to be noted in the fact that our Lord is the Logos, the Word, while John the Baptist was not the Word, but was merely "A voice crying in the wilderness."
When the Logos was made flesh, became the man Christ Jesus, altho he was in a world which he had created by the Father's power vested in him, yet the world did not recognize him, and even his own nation, to whom he specially presented himself, received him not. Nevertheless, some of them received him, and as many of them as did so were blessed--blessed with the power and privilege of becoming sons of God, whereas previously their highest possibility had been to be God's servants and friends. Here we note the change of dispensation from the Jewish to the Christian, and that this change was made possible by something which our Lord did or offered. What he did was to redeem the Jews from the sentence of the Law Covenant, under which they rested, and to redeem all mankind from the death sentence which came upon all through Adam's disobedience.
Until this ransom had been paid to divine Justice, the condemned ones could not be received back to the condition of sonship primarily enjoyed by father Adam, but forfeited for himself and posterity when he became a sinner. The mission of the great Light into world was not only to redeem man's life, but also to enlighten him and to restore as many as may be willing to accept sonship, and this work has not yet been accomplished. Nay, it may be said scarcely to have begun, for only a remnant of his own nation received the true Light; and only a little flock in all, from every kindred, nation or people, have received him and his blessing, as now offered to mankind,--the vast majority being blinded by Satan, and thus hindered from seeing the true Light, as the Apostle explains.--`2 Cor. 4:4`.
Those called during this time of darkness, when gross darkness covers the people, are called to what the Scriptures denominate a "high calling," a heavenly calling--not merely to a restoration to human nature, and its privileges and blessings lost through sin: they are called to special fellowship with the Logos himself --called to be partakers of his light, and sharers with him in the future work of enlightening and blessing
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the world. These are sons of God in an especial sense --in a sense different from Adam even in his state of innocence. (`Luke 3:38`.) These are invited to be sons of God on a plane of sonship higher than the angelic sons; viz., as heirs of God, joint-heirs with the Logos, partakers with him of the divine nature, which is far above angelic and all other natures.--`2 Pet. 1:4`; `Rom. 8:17`.
This power to become sons of God is not granted to sinners, but to the justified--to those who have been justified by faith, by believing on his name. These are begotten, not after the ordinary manner in which fleshly children are begotten, not by blood, nor has the will of the flesh anything whatever to do with their begetting, as it always has to do with the begetting and character in a fleshly begetting. In their begetting of the spirit of the truth, altho that truth may be presented through human agencies, the begetting cannot be accomplished by the will of man, but only in proportion as the natural will is rejected and ignored, and the will of God received instead. The Apostle `James (1:18`) explains this begetting, saying, "Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures." These "new creatures in Christ Jesus," sons of God and prospectively joint-heirs with Christ, are expected to receive of the Father's spirit so fully (through the word of his grace) that they will be willing to suffer reproach for his cause and his truth, and like the Logos himself be willing to lay down their lives for the brethren, in harmony with the divine arrangement of this age, as living sacrifices to God, holy, acceptable through Christ. And it is only upon condition that they suffer with Christ that they may hope eventually to be his joint-heirs in the Kingdom and glory and power promised him by the Father.--`Rom. 8:17`; `John 1:11,12`.
The `fourteenth verse` goes back to take up the subject at the same point as `verse five`, and to repeat the narrative from another standpoint. "The Logos was made flesh, and dwelt among us." This does not teach what is ordinarily called the doctrine of the Incarnation, which is understood to signify that the only begotten of the Father, the Logos, came as a spirit being, and inhabited a fleshly or human body for a time, and was again liberated from that body at or about the time that the body was crucified. This view of the incarnation of the Logos makes nonsense of much of the Scripture, and beclouds and mystifies the minds of many Bible students. From this standpoint they think of our Lord as really a spirit being, who never ceased to be a spirit being, and who never was in any sense of the word a man, a human being, but who merely appeared to be a human being, but actually was not. From this standpoint of view our Lord's prayers to the Father, his temptations in the wilderness, and his tears and dying cry are all made to appear as so much clever acting; because this false claim makes it appear that he really was so far above human conditions that he could not be tried, tempted, suffer, etc. Furthermore, it implies that he did not really die, but merely appeared to die, and that at the moment the flesh was crucified the Logos merely stepped out, and became a silent invisible spectator of the tragedy of Calvary.
But it was no such farcical sacrifice for sins, and pretended death without dying, that God had typified during the preceding sixteen hundred years, in the sacrifice of bulls and of goats, etc., year after year continually. Adam's death-sentence was a real sentence, a genuine penalty, and the ransom by which we are made free from sin was a no less real sacrifice, which our Lord--"the man Christ Jesus"--gave on our behalf. --`1 Tim. 2:5,6`.
The Apostle assures us that he who was rich for our sakes became poor: he did not merely pretend to be poor, by merely putting on an outer coat of a lower nature, but he actually became poor, actually left the glory and honor of a higher nature, he actually humbled himself and took human nature;--not, however, fallen human nature, not sinful flesh, but the human nature unfallen, the likeness of humanity free from its blemishes through sin and death.
This is in exact accord with the Scriptures under consideration, "He was made flesh:" literally, "he became flesh." Nothing less than this great stoop or humiliation enabled him to be our Redeemer, and qualified him to give to God the ransom price for man's transgression; as it is written, "By a man came death, by a
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man also came the resurrection." It was a man that was sentenced to death, and neither an angel's life, nor the archangel's life, nor any other life than a man's life could be the "corresponding price" which would release Adam and his posterity from the death penalty. Just so the sacrifice of lower animals could never take away sin; because, altho innocent of sin, they were not of the same identical nature as the sinner, and therefore could not be accepted of divine justice as man's ransom price. The Logos did not die in his change from spirit nature to human nature; but when "the man Christ Jesus" died, it was the full giving up of life in every sense of the word--nothing was retained; "He gave all that he had" (`Matt. 13:44,46`),--he gave his life, the life of the man Christ Jesus, which had previously been the life of the Logos. His being ended: "He poured out his soul [being] unto death; he made his soul [being] an offering for sin." This is further testified to by the Lord himself who, after his resurrection, declared, "I am he that liveth and was dead--behold, I am alive forever more." "Christ dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him."--`Isa. 53:10,12`; `Rev. 1:18`; `Rom. 6:9`.
"We beheld his glory," his grandeur, his perfection, his nobility; it shone out clearly to those who had eyes to see it--those who were not blinded by the prince of this world. These very glories of the man Christ Jesus attest fully that he was not of the sinner race of Adam, but that he was indeed an exception to all mankind; giving evidence of having been begotten of the heavenly Father, in that he was full of grace and truth. "As he was so are we in this world," says the Apostle: and altho we are by nature sinners and children of wrath even as others, yet by grace we have been begotten again to a new nature, and this grace of God operating in our hearts, enlightening, purifying, sanctifying, should, gradually at least, transform us, change us "from glory to glory," bringing us more and more to the likeness of God's dear Son, our Redeemer and Lord, to whom, with God the Father, be praise and thanksgiving now and forever, for "so great salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by our Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him."--`Heb. 2:3`.