VOL. XVI. DECEMBER 15, 1895. No. 24.
Views From the Tower..............................283
Poem: Lead Thou Me!...............................285
Tract Society's Report for 1895...................285
Thy Shield and Thy Reward.........................287
The Law of Development............................288
Bible Study: David and Jonathan...................290
Bible Study: The Birth of Christ..................291
Bible Study: Review...............................291
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"THE TESTIMONY OF THE LORD IS SURE."
"Stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong."
"Take unto you the whole armor of God that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and, having done all, to stand."
"Watch and pray, lest ye enter into temptation."
"GOOD HOPE" SUPPLEMENT.
AS usual at this season we enclose blanks for the convenience of those who desire to use them. The knowledge of what may be expected is very helpful in gauging beforehand the work that may be undertaken. No obligation is incurred by filling out these blanks: they state very plainly that they show only what you hope by God's grace to do. Should you not do as well as you "hope," the balance will not be charged or in any manner considered a debt. The report for the past year, furnished in this issue, should be very encouraging to all concerned.
THE TOWER FOR 1896.
AS will be seen by the terms, above, ZION'S WATCH TOWER desires to visit regularly all who desire its visits. The terms are so liberal that none need be without it--for all can command at least a postal card for a request to have it as one of the Lord's poor. We desire, however, to hear from all if they desire to have these semi-monthly calls; for we do not wish to send it where it is unwelcome or merely tolerated.
We, therefore, ask to hear from all readers as promptly as possible. If the money for 1896 is not convenient to you now, say so. If too poor to afford it, state that. Do so before your name is taken off our lists. Expect tag on Feb. 1 TOWER to show credits received by us up to December 31.
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VIEWS FROM THE TOWER.
THE Prophetic Conference mentioned in our issue of October 1 has just been held (December 3-6) in Allegheny, instead of in Pittsburg and at the date first proposed. Four of its sessions were held in the Fourth U.P. Church, and the remainder in the First Presbyterian Church, opposite the Bible House.
Although not a conference in the sense of interchange or discussion, its meetings were very enjoyable to all interested in the second coming of our Lord.
The speakers, mostly Presbyterians and United Presbyterians, included Bishop Nicholson, of the Reformed Episcopal Church--all men of ability--and much truth was set forth. So far as we noticed (and it gave us great satisfaction), every speaker acknowledged the Bible as the only inspired authority, and appealed to it as the only test of what they presented, and many of them scored the "higher critics;" and the value of our Lord's sacrifice at Calvary was also made prominent, as the only basis of true faith and of our acceptance before God.
We were disappointed, somewhat, that after pointing out clearly, from the Scriptures, that our Lord's second coming will not be after the conversion of the world, but before it, and after showing ably that all of God's past and present dealings, for six thousand years, are but preparations for the Millennial Kingdom, the speakers seemed to overlook the most important part of this subject; viz., What will be the character and extent of the work of Christ and the Church for the world of mankind during the Millennium? But then we must remember that these dear brethren do not yet see that the full meaning of the ransom for all is a full opportunity for eternal life for all. They hold that those of mankind living at the time of the establishment of the Kingdom will be blessed with special opportunities for coming to a clear knowledge of the truth, and thus of attaining everlasting life in "the only name;" but they do not see that the "blessed hope" extends to the millions and billions of earth that have gone into the tomb without either faith in or knowledge of "the only name." Thank God! we can see that the "ransom for all," given by our Lord, included those who are prisoners in the great prison house of death (sheol--hades); and that by and by, in promised "times of restitution" (`Acts 3:19-21`), the prison doors shall be burst for them by the great Redeemer (`Isa. 61:1`) and "all that are in the graves shall hear his voice and shall come forth" "and they that hear [obey] shall live [everlastingly]." (`John 5:25`.) And to ascertain which will "hear [obey]," all must stand before the great white throne of justice, then established, and be judged [tried] according to the things written in the "books [of the Bible]" (`Rev. 20:11,12`), even as the Church is now being judged during the Gospel age.
We were pleased to note the reverent interest of so many of our fellow citizens, and are more than ever convinced that there are thousands of true "sheep" in Babylon whose eyes and ears will yet open to the good tidings of great joy for "all people." After the various sessions several of our brethren were active in distributing OLD THEOLOGY TRACTS--"Bringing Back the King," and "Do You Know?" which were well received, some inquiring for more for their friends. One or two of the speakers made some caustic references to the OLD THEOLOGY TRACTS and to MILLENNIAL DAWN, but this we feel sure was only because their eyes are only partially open to the truth. In most of them we feel that we could discern a large measure of the Master's spirit, by which together with their faith in the Redeemer we recognized them as brethren in Christ, even though they cannot yet venture to bear the reproaches of the whole truth.
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We believe that good will result from the Conference. Already many are inquiring for more light, and we are giving it to them as best we are able. We fear that some of the dear friends in their zeal for the truth offend and separate many who need our help and whom we desire to assist. The Bible expresses some hidden truths in very forceful language-- "mother of harlots," etc.--but it is our judgment of the Lord's will that, while we are not to shun to declare the whole counsel of God, we should do so as wisely and lovingly as possible, and instead of adding repulsive vehemence, to such strong passages of the Lord's Word, as would make our hearers misjudge our motives, we should "speak the truth in love" --explaining such passages in their kindest rather than in their severest light, showing that not persons but systems are referred to. We urge that all remember to copy our Lord, of whom it was written, "Grace is poured into thy lips." "His mouth is most sweet." Let all the cutting be done by "the sword of the spirit," the Word of God.
As a further comment on the Conference, which we believe will interest you all, we give below an article by the Editor, published in the Pittsburg Post, Dec. 9:-- "To the Editor of The Post:
"It is reported that I approached the Prophetic Conference in Allegheny and requested an opportunity to present views in opposition. The impression thus given is very erroneous, and I crave a little of your space wherein to correct it.
"In the first place, I made no such request; nor did I authorize anyone to make it for me; nor did I know of any such intention on the part of my friends. Indeed, so far from desiring to oppose the gentlemen, I have heard as many of them as possible, and with great interest and pleasure. I am glad, indeed, that truths so important are handled in so scriptural a manner, and glad, also, that so many of our fellow-citizens are availing themselves of these privileges. The speakers are certainly far in advance of Christian thought in general on this subject of the long-promised Millennial kingdom.
"As many are querying what are our points of difference, I will state them briefly.
"(1) The conferees hold that our Lord Jesus is still a man, and that his return will be in the flesh.
"I hold that the Scriptures teach that he is no longer a man, a fleshly being, but that he is now a spirit being, as he was before he was made flesh; that he humbled himself, and took the fleshly form of a servant only for the 'suffering of death' (`Heb. 2:9`); that, having accomplished man's redemption by the sacrifice of himself, he was glorified with the glory he had with the Father before the world was; and that hence he is not to be expected to return a flesh and bone
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being, but a spirit being. When made flesh he was made lower than the angels, but now, highly exalted by the Father, he is far above angels. (`Phil. 2:9`; `Eph. 1:20,21`.) Hence his coming as a spirit being would not be visible to men, as he declared before he died, 'Yet a little while and the world seeth me no more.' (`John 14:19`.) The Apostle also declares that we know Christ after the flesh no more (`2 Cor. 5:16`); and even at his second coming, 'without holiness no man shall see the Lord.' (`Heb. 12:14`.) He assures us, however, that the holy ones shall be changed and made like Christ (spirit beings), and that, when 'changed,' they shall see him as he is.--`1 John 3:2`.
"(2) The Conferees hold that the Kingdom of God will be a fleshly kingdom, with an earthly court, of which Christ and his saints in the flesh will be the kings, etc., associated with which will be the kingdom of Israel--all fleshly and all visible.
"I hold that the Kingdom of God (Christ and the saints) will be a spirit kingdom, as invisible as that of Satan, the present 'prince of this world'--because it will be composed of spirit beings. The power will be everywhere present, ruling and overruling, for the welfare of the redeemed world during the 'times of restitution.' (`Acts 3:19-21`.) First blessed under the Kingdom will be Israel, whose fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (not spirit beings, but resurrected and perfect men), shall be recognized by Israel and all the nations as the 'princes' (`Psa. 45:16`) of earth, and as the representatives of the invisible spirit kingdom of Christ. Hence it is written: 'The Kingdom of God cometh not with observation--neither shall ye say, Lo, here! or lo, there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is [to be] in your midst [everywhere].'
"(3) The conferees hold that the 'Man of Sin' of `2 Thes. 2:3-8` has not yet come, and they are looking for and expecting him daily, rather than expecting the Lord. They expect that this wonderful human being will pervert the hundreds of millions of India, China, Africa and the islands, and (no less wonderful) the civilized millions of Europe and America to believe in him as God; so that all (Jews, Mohammedans, Buddhists, Brahmins and Christians) except the elect Church will worship him as the Almighty God. And this stupendous work, and much more, he is expected to accomplish in less than seven years from the time he makes his debut.
"But to me such expectations are both unreasonable and unscriptural. It is unreasonable, in my judgment, to suppose that while millions of Christians and millions of money have failed to make any impression upon the heathen millions in eighteen centuries, one literal 'man of sin' could ever, under any circumstances, accomplish such a work. And as for the civilized nations, they daily grow less reverential toward both God and man; and nothing would seem to me more improbable than that a short seven years should witness so radical a change, and that a human being would be mistaken for God and be worshiped as God by all except the 'saints.' True, a miracle could be performed; but God works no miracles of that kind.
"As to the unscripturalness of such expectations, I am prepared to furnish to all who will request it, the evidence that this passage of the Scriptures (which to my brethren seems to necessitate such an incredible exposition) has already been fulfilled in every particular. These brethren, instead of looking for the 'Man of Sin,' should recognize him, and should now be looking for the 'parousia'--the presence --of our Lord and the setting up of his Kingdom.
"I must, of course, take exceptions to the peculiarly horrifying expectations of Bishop Nicholson--that our sun will shortly meet with an accident, which will so intensify its heat as to kill off all of earth's population except the few who shall hide among the icebergs. The good Bishop has gotten unduly excited. There is no danger of such calamity. Prophecies now in course of fulfilment, which would be interfered with by such a program, are our sure guarantee. Even the bishop must concede that the time between now and 1897 is very short for this, in addition to his 'Man of Sin' program, and the return of the Jews to Palestine.
On the other points, I am in substantial accord with
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the utterances of this Conference. And while I should be very willing to discuss these points of difference, either publicly or privately, with these or any other earnest Bible students, at any time, I totally disown any hostility toward these gentlemen and their worthy themes.
"It may be expected that I should make some reply to Prof. Morehead's strictures upon my publications, called MILLENNIAL DAWN. When the gentleman says that these deny the bodily resurrection of our Lord, etc., and that they teach that Christ 'was here in 1874 and will be here again in 1914,' he greatly errs, and, no doubt unwittingly, bears false witness against his neighbor, as the thousands who have read MILLENNIAL DAWN could testify. But his charge, that our Lord Jesus Christ was created, has enough truth in it to require an explanation.
"The Professor holds that our Lord Jesus is one and the same person as the Heavenly Father; and the difference of names merely represents different offices and characteristics of this one being.
"To my understanding of the Scriptures, the oneness existing between the Father and the Son is not a oneness of person but of sentiment and will, just as the true Church of Christ, although of many persons, is ultimately to be one--not one person, but one in faith, hope, knowledge and service. Thus our Lord prayed for the Church--'that they may be one as we are.' (`John 17:12,21`.) Scriptures proving that the Father and Son are not one in person are numerous, and familiar to all. And, if they are two persons, which was first, according to the Bible, the Father or the Son? The names themselves explain: Father signifies sire, life-giver; Son signifies offspring. To this thought the following and all scriptures agree.
"Our Lord Jesus' words were: 'My Father is greater than I.' (`John 14:28`.) 'The Father hath sent me.' (`John 5:37,27`.) 'Not my will, but thine [Father] be done.' (`Luke 22:42`.) 'Father, glorify thou me with thine own self, with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.' (`John 17:5`.) 'To him that overcometh I will grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame and am set down with my Father in his throne.' (`Rev. 3:21`.) The emphatic apostolic statements are that the Heavenly Father was the Creator of our Lord Jesus. Hear their testimony--He is the 'first born of every creature'-- literally 'first brought forth of all creation.' (`Col. 1:15`.) He was the 'beginning of the creation of God.' (`Rev. 3:14`.) He was not only the beginning but the ending; not only the first, but the last, of Jehovah's direct creation. (`Rev. 1:17`; `2:8`.) This 'Only begotten of the Father,' in whom dwelt all the Father's fullness, was designed in all things to have preeminence above all others--that all should 'honor the Son even as they honor the Father' (`John 1:14`; `5:23`; `Col. 1:19`); and hence, as the Father's representative, 'all things were made by him, and without him was not anything made that was made.' (`John 1:3`.) To this agree the words of the Apostle 'To us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things and we by him.'-- `1 Cor. 8:6`.
"Speaking of the Millennial kingdom, the Apostle declares that God the Father subjects it to Christ, and that when by his reign evil shall be subdued, Christ will deliver up the Kingdom to God, even the Father; that Christ our Lord will be subject to the Father.--`1 Cor. 15:24,27,28`.
"We commend the Scriptures cited to the careful consideration of the thoughtful. 'Thy word is truth!'
"Thanking you in advance for your courtesy, I subscribe myself, yours respectfully, CHARLES T. RUSSELL."
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LEAD THOU ME!
Lead thou me ever! Lead thou me!
Dark is the way; by faith alone I tread.
Thus in each age thy saints have walked with thee,
Content to "bear the cross," as thou hast said.
Dead to the world! Alive, dear Lord, to thee!
Oh! well we know, dear Savior, thou art near,
And though the way be dark, love knows no fear.
Lead thou me ever! Lead thou me!
And as by night the pillared fire did shine,
O'er Israel's path to the dividing sea,
So now thy light serene illumines mine.
And armed with peace divine, thy saints can stand the strain,
E'en though they wealth and honor must resign;
For we endure with thee, with thee to reign.
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TRACT SOCIETY'S REPORT FOR 1895.
OUR accounts are run from December 1 to December 1, in order to permit our report to reach you before January 1. The present report is for the year ending December 1, 1895. We recognize our stewardship as being unto the Lord, and trust that the use made of the time, opportunity and means has been pleasing and acceptable through him to the Father. But inasmuch as our fellow-contributors to this Fund are to be sharers in our Lord's "Well done!" it is proper that they should know of the results of our united efforts, and thus share our present joys and encouragements. Amongst these co-laborers we reckon not only those who contributed funds, "Good Hopes," etc., and those who contributed time and strength, as Colporteurs, but those also who, having no opportunity for the latter service and no means for the former privilege, have "done what they could" in circulating OLD THEOLOGY TRACTS and DAWNS and TOWERS. Nor do we forget to reckon amongst these helpers those whose opportunities for service are few, whose efforts are necessarily confined to the building up of their own characters, and the few with whom they are associated, and who often cheer and encourage us with kind words of love, sympathy and fellowship, assuring us as some do, that no day ever passes without their mention of us before the throne of grace. Yes, these too, in thus "holding up our hands" do a service that is appreciated both by the Lord and us.
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Notwithstanding the fact that the year has been far from a prosperous one with many, it has shown a slight increase over last year in the sales of MILLENNIAL DAWN, a slight increase in the Tract Fund receipts, a considerable
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increase in the WATCH TOWER subscription list (the surest index of the number deeply interested), and quite a large increase in the tract-pages circulated. The work in England and Scotland has made quite an advance within the past eight months--three brethren having found greater opportunities for serving the truth than they had previously recognized.
These annual reports are among the best evidences of the progress of the work of grace, no less than the work of service (financial conditions being kept in mind); for it requires heart-interest to touch the pocketbook, also to circulate unpopular literature. By this rule of evidence it would appear that those favored by the Lord with a knowledge of his gracious plan are growing more "fervent in spirit, serving the Lord." But in still another way we are enabled to know of your welfare; viz., by your letters. Through these we learn of your hopes and fears, your difficulties and perplexities, your successes and discouragements as individuals and as companies. Through these letters we know that many of late have been passing through severe trials and testings which we trust will all work for their good--purifying them as gold is refined, by the elimination of its dross. "Pray one for another," and, "Brethren, pray for us."
This pastoral work extends all over the world; for the "harvest" work extends now to every land. The same mail which brings many queries on many subjects, and requests for remembrance in prayer, and kind expressions, or occasional fault-findings, from all parts of our land and Great Britain, sometimes brings also an inquiry from individuals or groups of the interested in Africa, or India, or Australia, or South America, or the West Indies, asking for advice from God's Word concerning the ways of life. Some of these require no reply; or only a reference to a back number of the TOWER or to the DAWN, while others require replies at considerable length. But all that we can do is gladly done, for the Lord and his people. It will, perhaps, surprise some to learn that we received about 20,000 letters during the past year, 12,939 of which were answered.
In the handling of this correspondence, and in other departments of the work, we are blessed by the Lord in having assistants whose hearts and hands join with ours in this blessed service to the King, his people and his truth. All are actuated by the spirit of the Master, so that they do not count their lives (time, talent, strength) precious unto themselves, that they may be spent "in the service of the King."
In the Treasurer's Report herewith presented you will find no salaries of thousands of dollars--the item which usually eats up such funds. The office expenses, including the items of rent, fuel, light, taxes, etc., are borne by the TOWER PUBLISHING CO.
During the year from December 1, 1894, to December 1, 1895, there have been circulated, at the expense of the Tract Fund, Copies of the OLD THEOLOGY TRACTS,........... 1,440,374 " " ZION'S WATCH TOWER,............ 122,616
Since tracts vary as to the number of pages, it is customary to state their circulation by pages. The foregoing, so stated, represent 26,505,972 pages.
The total number of copies of MILLENNIAL DAWN circulated by the cooperation of this fund, but not at its expense, was 87,526.
For Tracts, and for TOWERS sent out free, $ 8,388.53
Postage, freight, wrappers, etc.,........ 826.63
Labor, for mailing same,................. 520.00
Foreign translations, etc.,.............. 844.40
DAWNS to the poor, and hopeless,
long standing, abandoned debts of
former Colporteurs, etc. (Monies
ever received on these accounts
will be credited to
the Tract Fund direct.),............... 896.95
Interest on accounts of Colporteurs,
etc., owing to TOWER PUBLISHING CO..... 570.71
Expenses of traveling Evangelists,....... 1,172.63
From "Good Hopes,"....................... 5,868.85
" other sources,...................... 7,351.00
These reports are certainly very encouraging to all who love the Lord's cause, and who, being blessed thereby themselves, are seeking to bear the "harvest" message and to "gather together" his saints unto HIM. (`Psa. 50:5`.) They will help to offset discouragements which are sure to come to us all. One item alone is unfavorable--that of interest. The debts for which the Tract Fund is responsible to the TOWER PUBLISHING CO., and for which the latter has pledged its credit (notes), because of the money stringency, and because of our desire to assist the colporteurs and others, has climbed to the large sum of $10,623.31 against which there is an offset of $1,111.48, paid in advance by some of the most successful colporteurs, and subject to their future orders. This leaves a net balance of $9,511.83 on which we pay interest. In view of this we must refuse additional credits to those already in debt, and ask them to use every reasonable effort to cancel their indebtedness, and thus relieve us of trouble and loss of interest. (This
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indebtedness is entirely aside from WATCH TOWER subscriptions in arrears, and those which are supplied free to the Lord's poor. We do not wish to stop your paper so long as you are interested in it. See page 2 and write at once.)
Let us unite our prayers and efforts that the year beginning may show "a work of love well done" on the part of each of us severally and all of us collectively. Experience proves the wisdom of the Lord's arrangement that "his people" should be developed by "overcoming;" and that their love and harmony with his spirit, should thus be put to the test. Let us watch and pray, and continually seek to provoke one another to love and good works.
Great Shepherd of the sheep, continue, we pray thee, to lead and direct thy flock!
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THY SHIELD AND THY REWARD.
"After these things the word of the Lord came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield and thine exceeding great reward."--`Gen. 15:1`.
THESE words were addressed to the "father of the faithful," and as a heritage they descend to his children--to all those who are of the faith of Abraham (`Gal. 3:7`; `Rom. 4:16`), whether of the fleshly or the spiritual seed. Abram had entered into covenant relationship with God. God had called him to separate himself from his native country and kindred and friends to follow the course of his providential leadings toward an unknown land. And Abram, in full reliance on the promise of God, had obediently severed the familiar social and business ties, and, with his wife and family and father and nephew who shared his faith and obedience to God, started on his pilgrimage to the unknown land. And having entered the land and received the promise--"All the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it and to thy seed forever," etc.-- though he was not then permitted to own a foot of it, he wandered up and down in it as a pilgrim and stranger, encountering difficulties, too, in coming in contact with the godless inhabitants of the land and with the Egyptians, yet always believing that what God had promised he was able and willing also to perform in his own good time and way.
But that which taxed Abram's faith most was that, as the years rolled by, not only was the promise of the land delayed, but also the promised heirs who should inherit it; for not even one heir had yet come.
It was in one of these seasons of discouragement-- though not of despair, for Abram never relaxed his faith, but trusted and hoped still when in darkness and perplexity --that God in a vision graciously encouraged his fainting heart with the above words of cheer and hope--"Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield and thine exceeding great reward." Then Abram was permitted to inquire into the mysterious ways of God and received the renewed assurance that the promise had not been forgotten, and that his hope would certainly be realized.
We find a very similar fatherly providence in the case of Jacob, who also, in the faith of Abraham, had forsaken all to follow the Lord's leading. In a time of great perplexity and trial of faith the Lord appeared to him in a vision prophetic of the future glory of his Kingdom and of the communication of its heavenly and earthly phases, and again confirmed his covenant unto him (`Gen. 28:10-15`); and Jacob arose from his sleep on the stony pillow, bearing in mind the bright vision of the Kingdom glory-- of the messengers of God ascending and descending upon
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the ladder suspended 'twixt earth and heaven--refreshed and comforted, saying, "Surely the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not....This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven."--`Gen. 28:16-19`.
Thus God has always been watchful over his people, never suffering them to be tempted or tried beyond their power of endurance, yet permitting them often to be very severely tested. The consolation here offered to Abraham is that offered to all who are of the faith of Abraham, and its parallel in the New Testament is that precious statement of our Lord (`John 14:21-23`), "He that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him and will manifest myself to him,...and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him." So in the midst of all the temptations and trials that beset us in our earthly pilgrimage, while we walk by faith toward the blessed inheritance reserved for the overcoming saints, we also may recognize the voice of our God, saying, "Fear not: I am thy shield, and thine exceeding great reward."
"Fear not," beloved; "there is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear; because fear hath torment" (`1 John 4:18`); "If God be for us, who can be against us?" or "Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect?" Say in your heart as did Paul, "I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus."--`Rom. 8:31-39`.
Do hosts of foes oppose themselves--place obstacles in your way, hinder your influence and seek to dishearten you by heaping upon you reproaches, and do circumstances seem to conspire against you to fill your heart with alarm and dread? say to your soul, "Fear not," "hope thou in God," and mark his loving providences as--
"Through waves and clouds and storms,
He gently clears thy way,"-- until a blessed acquaintance with God through such experiences develops in the heart that perfect love that casteth
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out fear. Then shall you enter more and more fully into the blessed rest of faith, and like the eagle that soars above the storm cloud, live at such an altitude of Christian experience as to enable you to rejoice in the Lord always and in everything to give thanks.
"Fear not, I am thy shield," saith Jehovah. Then "Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? Hope thou in God." He would not have one of his children live in an atmosphere of tormenting fear, but would have them happy and always rejoicing in the glorious liberty of the sons of God, free from all fear and corroding care by simply trusting in him, ever remembering the blessed promise--"The Lord Jehovah is a sun and shield [to shine upon our pathway and into our hearts and to protect us from all the fiery darts of the wicked]: the Lord will give grace and glory; no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly."-- `Psa. 42:5`; `84:11`.
"I am [also] thy exceeding great reward." Notice, the promise is not put in the future tense, having reference to the promised glory of his people in the ages to come; but it is present, "I am," etc. Yes, the abiding presence of God, manifested to the hearts of his people now, even to-day, in the midst of its cares, its vexations, its labors, its trials of faith, patience and endurance, this is the blessed present privilege of all his saints. And not only the presence of God, but also of his dear Son, our Lord and Savior, is also vouchsafed to us so long as we faithfully maintain our covenant relations with him.
Should the child of God, the heir of glory, the inheritor of all the exceeding great and precious promises, and the present companion of Divinity itself which condescends to our low estate, ever feel desolate or forsaken or alone? or fear that his love will ever forsake or leave him to be tossed helplessly upon the billows of misfortune at the mercy of the prince of this world who now worketh in the hearts of the children of disobedience? Ah, no! Greater is he that is for us than all they that can be against us. We are not alone in the world; for we have the blessed promise, "I will never leave thee nor forsake thee." (`Heb. 13:5`.) Nor is the smallest interest of ours overlooked.-- `Matt. 10:29-31`.
How truly "exceeding great" is this present "reward" of the faithful saints who are daily and hourly walking with God--going about the Father's business, spreading abroad the honor of his name, meekly bearing the reproaches of Christ, enduring hardness as good soldiers in his service and taking up their cross daily and following in the Master's footprints. Truly we can say to the world, as did our Lord, "I have meat to eat that ye know not of." The world cannot comprehend our joy, nor know the sweets of this fellowship with God and with his dear Son; for "The secret of the Lord is [only] with them that fear him."--`Psa. 25:14`.
This joy in the Lord is, however, also compatible with much suffering; for the saints are all to be made perfect through suffering, which was true also of those who shall constitute the earthly phase of the Kingdom. And, like their Lord, Christ Jesus, they will all be considered of the world as "smitten of God and afflicted." This is because the world cannot comprehend either the plan or methods of God for the refining and perfecting of the gold that shall by and by shine in the glorious Temple of God. Consequently, like faithful Abraham, we must be content to walk with God by faith and not by sight, like him hoping to the end for the promise, not expecting here to realize aught but the earnest of our inheritance, which we have in the present reward of the divine presence and approval.
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THE LAW OF DEVELOPMENT.
"When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things."--`1 Cor. 13:11`.
SPIRITUAL law is as fixed in its principles and operations as is physical law. If it were not so the physical could not be so frequently used as it is for illustrations of spiritual things. Thus, for instance, in spiritual life, as revealed in the Scriptures, we have duplicated that principle so well known in physical law, of growth and development --first the blade, then the ear, and afterward the full corn in the ear; first the infant, then the boy, and afterward the full grown man; first the babe in Christ, then the growing child, the young man, and finally the full stature of a man in Christ. (`Heb. 5:13,14`; `1 John 2:12-14`; `Eph. 4:13-15`.) In both cases there is also a marked similarity in the process of development. As in nature both plant and animal life are sustained by appropriate nourishment, food, light, heat, air, etc.,--thus strengthening them to perform the various functions of their being, so the spiritual new creatures in Christ must have and appropriate proper nourishment that they may continue to live and grow. There is this difference, however, to be observed between the physical and the spiritual life in the processes of development; viz., that the former matures quickly, while the latter is of slow growth--a plant to bloom in eternity.
As new creatures in Christ--babes in the family of God--we realize our adoption as sons only when we have renounced the vain pomp and glory of this world and turned fully to God, claiming no righteousness of our own, but humbly accepting the imputed righteousness of Christ. No one is even a babe in Christ who still cherishes iniquity in his heart, or who fails to recognize his need of the covering of Christ's righteousness. But having been converted,
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turned about, from sin to God and righteousness, having learned of Christ, having put off the old man (the carnal, sinful disposition) and put on the new man, which, after God, is created in righteousness and true holiness (`Eph. 4:24`), and having been renewed in the spirit (disposition) of our minds, we are reckoned sons of God, babes in Christ. And from that infantile standpoint, which has in it, undeveloped, all the elements of the man, the duty and privilege of such is to grow, to develop as new creatures in Christ. We are not to content ourselves with the lispings and prattlings of infancy, nor with the milk diet suitable to that age, but, making due use of these as stepping-stones, we should go on unto perfection.
It was in view of such considerations that the Apostle penned the words of our text. He himself had rapidly passed on from the early stages of Christian character to higher degrees of development, and yet he was not counting that he had attained the perfection which was the mark at which he was aiming. (`Phil. 3:13,14`.) He had, however, passed beyond both infancy and boyhood to the stature of a young man in Christ. Looking back over the pathway of his Christian experience, he recognized these different stages, and for our profiting recorded his thought, saying, "When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things."
This was true both of his natural life and his spiritual life--the reference being specially to the latter, of which the former was merely an illustration. By the illustration he would draw our attention to the fact that if we have been
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children of God for some time we should be able, on looking backward over our Christian experience, to trace a good degree of advancement toward the mark of perfection. While as mere babes in Christ our hearts must always be loyal to God and true to righteousness, our very inexperience causes us often to stumble: our knowledge of the right ways of the Lord is very imperfect, and our powers of discernment are very unskilled: we have much to learn both of revelation and experience. The child in Christ has its own childish understanding, thoughts and ways, and his brethren in Christ should not expect from him the wisdom of the sage. Nor should he himself presume to have such wisdom; for only through knowledge and the discipline of experience does wisdom come; and then, only when we have allowed them to work in us the peaceable fruits of righteousness.
For our growth and development in the Christian character God supplies all that is needful in the way of nourishment, and it is our part to make use of all the help he sends. By study and meditation upon his Word of truth, by prayer and communion with God, we partake more and more of his spirit, and are led into a closer acquaintance both with the Lord himself, and also with his works and ways. And by exercise of the strength thus gained in active service of the Lord, we are prepared to receive more and more of the fulness of his grace, and so to go on from grace to grace, and from one degree of advancement to another.
But notwithstanding these recognized principles of Christian growth and development, it is a lamentable fact that many who can point with exactness to the day and hour when first they gave their hearts to the Lord and received the holy spirit, the seal of their adoption, are compelled to realize, when they consider the matter at all, that, instead of advancing toward the stature of men in Christ, they have actually retrograded. Often such painfully look back to the blessedness of that first experience of the grace of God in their hearts, and say:
"Where is the blessedness I knew
When first I sought the Lord?
Where is the soul-refreshing view
Of Jesus and His Word?"
It is a thing of the past with them, and its joys have fled. Why is this? It is because they have failed to appropriate the means of grace which God has supplied, and because, instead of striving against the downward tendencies of the carnal nature, they have allowed those old dispositions to rise up and reassert themselves. In some cases a morbid desire for something new and strange has led away from the truth into the forbidden paths of human speculation--philosophy and science, so called--until the mind became bewildered and confused in the labyrinths of error--the snares of the wicked one. In other cases the measure of truth possessed has been held in unrighteousness. The tongue has been permitted to wag in the service of sin and uncleanness, manifesting unkindness, lack of Christian courtesy and forbearance, evil surmisings, self-exaltation, pride, boastfulness, vaunting, etc., etc. And these unholy indulgences have been excused and even cultivated; they have not been striven against nor repented of; hence the spiritual decline.
It is for these causes that the blessed sense of fellowship and communion with God, experienced when first the holy spirit set the seal of adoption upon the heart, has been lost by many. God cannot dwell in a heart so unfit for his presence. And no Christian can look back to the time of his first experience as a child of God and recall any such evil disposition at that time. Had his heart been in such a condition then, God would not have accepted him; and it is only as we strive against sin that we can continue to abide in his love and favor.
Who cannot look back to his first experience in the Christian life and remember how the love of God filled his heart and overflowed toward all his creatures, especially to them of the household of faith--a love that could bear well the beautiful description of `1 Cor. 13:4-7`. "Charity [love] suffereth long and is kind, envieth not, vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up; doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
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beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things."
Realizing such to be the will of God, this was the attitude of heart which the seeker after God sought to attain. And such an attitude he was enabled to realize when the spirit of adoption sealed him as an accepted son of God. Yet God, who remembers that we are dust, that we are morally weak from the fall, knew with what difficulty we must endeavor to maintain this condition of heart and mind when assailed by temptations, and worn with the disappointments and trials of life. Nevertheless, he does look for the cultivation of these graces of character in us. He does, and has a right to, expect us to strive to live godly, and to war a good warfare against the world, the flesh and the devil. And, therefore, notwithstanding the facts of trials and temptations, the maturer growth of Christian character should find our first love deepened into a more steady, constant and enduring thing, not characterized, perhaps, with so much of the gush and fluster of youth, but rather with the mellow benedictions of a more nearly ripened character.
That the Church in this sifting and proving time will be individually tested as to character, as well as to faith, is certain. The prospective heirs of the Kingdom must, like their Lord, be tried and tested in every point; and it behooves everyone, therefore, to watch and pray, lest he enter into temptation, and diligently to cultivate such a character as will stand every test applied to it. But in the hour of testing let none mistake love of peace for love of righteousness. Let us see to it that the same mind dwells in us that is in Christ, our pattern. So shall we be children of God, beloved and owned of him.
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DAVID AND JONATHAN.
--DEC. 15.--`1 SAM. 20:32-42`.--
Golden Text--"There is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother."--`Prov. 18:24`.
TRUE friendship is a rare flower on our sin-cursed earth, and when it is found and proved it should be greatly prized. It is an element of the original likeness of God. True friendship can never exist in a heart where selfishness reigns; for the moment self-interest is crossed, the false and fickle friendship begins to decline or proves treacherous.
The friendship of David and Jonathan was evidently of the true kind; for it was proved on the part of both in the furnace of trial, and it held fast through years under circumstances of temptation which meaner souls could never have withstood. It was founded, not upon a mere fanciful whim on the part of either, but upon real moral worth in each; and those points of moral worth were the attractions and bonds of their friendship. Both were devout men of God, men of faith and of godly courage and heroism, and lovers of truth and righteousness; and it was the discovery of these elements of character in each other that knit their souls as one.
Jonathan, the eldest son of King Saul, was the natural heir to his throne, and doubtless would have succeeded his father had Saul not incurred the divine displeasure and so forfeited that privilege for his posterity and cut short his own career. (`1 Sam. 13:13`.) Jonathan was a devoted son to his father and a devoted and energetic servant to God and to his people. The deep attachment of father and son is manifest from several facts: Jonathan could undertake his dangerous expedition against the Philistines only by keeping his project a secret from his father. (`1 Sam. 14:1`.) The effect of Saul's strange vow was emphasized by his affection for his son. (`1 Sam. 14:39-44`.) That dearest object he declared he would sacrifice, if need be, in fulfilment of his vow. But the people rescued him, declaring the Lord to be on the side of Jonathan. There was very marked and intimate confidence between the father and son. (`1 Sam. 20:2`.) "Behold my father will do nothing, either great or small, but that he will show it me." And Jonathan had great influence with his father (`1 Sam. 19:6`), and was very active in cooperation with him in the defence of the Lord's people against their foes and oppressors.
Jonathan loved the Lord and his people, and had strong faith in the power of God on their behalf. Like David before Goliath, with faith in God he with his armour bearer approached the garrison of the Philistines, saying, "It may be that the Lord will work for us; for there is no restraint to the Lord to save by many or by few."--`1 Sam. 14:6`.
In that beautiful friendship there was no spirit of rivalry, no jealousy, no vain glory, although Jonathan was the natural heir to the throne of Israel, and David had been anointed to take his place; though Jonathan was of the royal family and a man of some thirty odd years, while David was but a shepherd youth, probably about twenty-three years of age. Each in simplicity of heart accepted the Lord's appointments as wisest and best, and determined nobly to do his part toward the Lord and toward
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his people and toward each other. And so Jonathan, cooperating with his father in the duties of his office to Israel so long as the Lord sustained him in power, nobly used the privileges of his position for the protection and preservation of the one whom he knew to be appointed to reign in his stead.
And while Saul, filled with envy, malice, hatred and revenge against this one whom he regarded as his rival and the rival of his house, determined, and continually sought, to slay him, Jonathan, by every means in his power, protected and defended him, even at the risk of his own life. --`1 Sam. 20:32,33`.
When David first came to the house of Saul to minister to him, and Jonathan's soul was knit to that of David, "Then Jonathan and David made a covenant because he loved him as his own soul; and [in recognition of the fact that he was the Lord's anointed--the Lord's choice for the kingdom by and by] Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was upon him, and gave it to David, and his garments, even to his sword and to his bow and to his girdle." Thus they covenanted faithful friendship to each other, being subject in all things to the will of God.
And when David was taking leave of Jonathan to fly for his life from the face of Saul, again they covenanted perpetual friendship. "And David arose out of his place
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...and [approaching Jonathan] fell on his face to the ground, and bowed himself three times [in token of great respect for both the person and office of his friend]; and they kissed one another, and wept one with another until David exceeded." And Jonathan said, "Go in peace, and the Lord be with thee, as he hath been with my father. And [when thou comest into the kingdom] thou shalt not only while I live show me the kindness of the Lord, that I die not; but also thou shalt not cut off thy kindness from my house forever [as he foresaw David might be tempted to do when later the descendants of Jonathan might urge their claims to the throne]; no, not when the Lord hath cut off the enemies of David every one from the face of the earth....And Jonathan caused David to swear again, because he loved him; for he loved him as his own soul." --`1 Sam. 20:13-17`.
Only once again they met, a year or two later. It was under very similar circumstances, in the wilderness of Ziph. Saul was still hunting for his rival to slay him, and again Jonathan, learning of his situation, sought him out. "And Jonathan went to David into the wood, and strengthened his hand in God. And he said unto him, Fear not; for the hand of Saul, my father, shall not find thee; and thou shalt be king over Israel, and I shall be next unto thee; and that also my father knoweth. And [again] they two made a covenant before the Lord."--`1 Sam. 23:16,17`.
In this touching narrative there are valuable lessons which we cannot afford to overlook. (1) It shows that true and enduring friendship is possible, though it be of rare occurrence.
(2) It suggests that true and lasting friendship can exist only between noble and unselfish souls, whose wills are fully submitted to the will of God, and who are actuated by the fixed principles of truth and righteousness.
(3) It suggests that if such friendship existed under the dim light of the Jewish law, it ought to be of much more frequent occurrence under the light of the gospel. True, there may not always be just such circumstances to make it manifest, but there are many similar circumstances. There are always temptations to rivalry, to the ignoring of the will and appointments of God and the substituting of one's own will and way.
When tempted thus, let us call to mind the noble examples of Jonathan and Samuel--Jonathan strengthened the hand of David in God, and saying, "Fear not, ...thou shalt be king over Israel, and I shall be next unto thee;" and Samuel saying of Saul, his rival, "See ye him whom the Lord hath chosen, that there is none like him among all the people!" So let us "in honor prefer one another," and ever rejoice to see the Lord's will and the Lord's way prosper.
The friendship of David and Jonathan seems also to be suggestive of that beautiful accord which shall exist between the glorified Church and the earthly princes who shall be next to them in the Kingdom of God. There will not be a note of discord or rivalry or jealousy between them; for each will be delighted to fill his honored place in the wonderful plan of God, and will love the other as his own soul. Though the Gospel Church will receive the first place of favor offered in the Abrahamic covenant, and the ancient worthies will find themselves next in honor, they will rejoice to have it so, because divine wisdom and love have so planned it.
And as David remembered his covenant with Jonathan not to cut off his kindness from the house of Jonathan (`2 Sam. 9:1-13`), so the glorified Church will remember its covenant to bless the ancient worthies first, and then all the families of the earth who will then be under their jurisdiction. Their loving ministry through the law and prophecies and their noble examples of godly life and character, which have been so helpful to us, while Satan was hotly pursuing us ("as a roaring lion," `1 Pet. 5:8`), as Saul pursued David, shall be held in "everlasting remembrance."
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THE BIRTH OF CHRIST.
--DEC. 22.--`Luke 2:8-20`.--
Golden Text--"Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people."--`Luke 2:10`.
FOR comments on this lesson see our issue of July 1, '94; and do not fail to note in the announcement of the golden text that the good tidings of great joy shall be to all people "in due time" (`1 Tim. 2:4-6`) and then "Whosoever will, let him come and take the water of life freely."
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Golden Text--"Thy Kingdom come."--`Matt. 6:10`.
WHILE our Lord taught his disciples to go and preach "The Kingdom of heaven is at hand;" he also taught them, and the Church all through the age, to pray, "Thy Kingdom come." Both of these thoughts were true. The Kingdom in its incipient, embryo condition was then at hand-- the Gospel Church in its formative, probationary state was about to be organized under the care of the twelve apostles, who in turn were supervised and inspired by the Lord. But the Kingdom was, and is, yet to come in glory and power.
"The sure word of prophecy" indicates that in 1878 it began to be established and that the process of establishment will be from that date to 1915, when the Kingdom in its glory of power and righteousness will have come. The true Church, whose names are "written in heaven," and which have not been blotted out because of unfaithfulness (`Luke 10:20`; `Rev. 3:5`) will then be exalted to reign with Christ. They shall be like him, and see him as he is, they shall reign with him a thousand years, and they shall judge the world in righteousness and bless all the families of the earth.--`1 John 3:2`; `Rev. 20:6`; `Isa. 32:1`; `Gen. 28:14`; `Gal. 3:16,29`.
This is the Kingdom to which the dying thief referred when he said, "Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy Kingdom;" to which Jesus referred when he said, "Fear not, little flock [the faithful Gospel Church]: it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the Kingdom;" and which in the parable of the young nobleman he represented himself as going away to receive, and to return again to receive his faithful people unto himself as "joint-heirs" of that Kingdom. (`Luke 23:42`; `12:32`; `19:12`; `Rom. 8:17`.) If we have the witness in ourselves that we are now accepted of God as members of the Kingdom in its present embryo condition, let us endeavor by faithfulness to make our calling and election sure to the Kingdom in its completeness and glory and power.