VOL. XXV. FEBRUARY 1, 1904. No. 3.
Views from the Watch Tower........................ 35
Cost of Christianizing the World.............. 35
Science Falsely So Called..................... 36
Entered Into His Rest............................. 36
"My People Do Not Consider"....................... 36
"Power on Earth to Forgive Sins".................. 39
The Sabbath Was Made for Man...................... 41
Who are Real Christians?.......................... 43
"Filling Up That Which is Behind"................. 46
Public Ministries of the Truth.................... 48
Memorial Supper, 1904............................. 34
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On the evening of Tuesday, March 29th, after six o'clock, will be the proper time for the celebration of our Lord's Memorial Supper;--on its anniversary according to the Jewish system of reckoning in vogue in our Lord's day and still. The Jewish Passover, lasting a week, begins the next evening at six o'clock. We do not celebrate the Passover, but the killing of the antitypical Passover Lamb. "Christ our Passover (Lamb) is slain for us, therefore let us keep the feast."--`I Cor. 5:7`.
PASTOR RUSSELL'S DISCOURSES EVERY MONDAY.
By a special arrangement with The Pittsburgh Gazette a stenographic report of Pastor C. T. Russell's discourses will be printed on Mondays. We will send you "The Pittsburgh Gazette" (daily) and ZION'S WATCH TOWER twice a month for a period of 12 months for $3.25, which is about the price of The Gazette alone. The subscriptions must be paid in advance and sent to us. For terms for extra copies of the Monday Gazette, see our issue of January 15th.
NOTICE.--Where Gazette agencies are established the issues desired can be readily obtained through them. The Gazette refuses to mail papers to towns where they would interfere with the agents already located.
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VIEWS FROM THE WATCH TOWER.
IT takes $300,000,000 a year to "keep up the work of Christianizing our own land," says the Central Christian Advocate (Kansas City, Mo.), while "fully 1,000,000" is annually absorbed in the Christianization of the whole world. "The money is almost wholly voluntary." Of the sum required for the United States, the same paper says:--
"The sum of $31,000,000 was laid on the altar by Catholics, $26,000,000 by Methodists, $20,000,000 by Presbyterians, $14,000,000 by Episcopalians, $12,000,000 by Baptists, $75,000 by the Salvation Army. In addition to these expenditures noted above, there were also paid out, under church supervision, funds estimated as follows: For new buildings, $27,000,000; for hospitals $28,000,000; for education, $21,000,000; and for Sunday schools $7,000,000.
"The progress and wealth of church institutions in this country can be impressively illustrated by a single comparison. In 1800 there were 2,340 churches, valued at $1,500,000; to-day there are 178,481, valued at $724,971,372. These figures speak not of selfishness, but of the truest altruism, of philanthropy, and of the willingness to pay the price of enthroning Christ in the world."
Fifty years ago, we read further, the annual outlay for church purposes throughout the entire world was but half as much as it is to-day, or $500,000,000. The $1,000,000,000 of the present year, moreover, will be wholly inadequate in the years that are to follow, because "the resistless advance of Christianity is accompanied with an increasing cost," which can be met only by "the free-will offerings of men, women and children." "This cost is in a sense the measure of the increasing determination of good people that Christ shall be enthroned king."
"The philosophy of the ages is the Christianizing of the world. That is the key to the evolution going on everywhere. Christianity is making its steady and resistless advance, now here, now there, now everywhere, like the rising waters of a universal tide. It explains the past achievements of the best in the race, and inspires our hope for the future of the race. What will be, ultimately, will be well, because it will be Christlike.
* * *
A blessing surely comes to everyone who conscientiously sacrifices time or money in the laudable effort to help fellow-creatures. We rejoice to give credit for some measure of unselfishness being represented in these figures, but reflect that some of this money may have been drawn, threatened or coaxed from rather unwilling givers, and that the collectors of some large benevolent societies receive one-half of their collections for their services, which are not perhaps wholly unselfish. However, even if we were uncertain that present compassing of sea and land to make a proselyte were no better in its result than in the olden times missions (`Matt. 23:15`) we should still agree that the stirring of men's hearts to sympathy and giving does good to the givers: another demonstration that it is "more blessed to give than to receive."
On the other hand we are not so sure either that this money was given to "enthrone Christ in the World." A strong evidence to the contrary is that when our Lord's second coming and kingdom are referred to, even amongst preachers, the subject falls flat, if indeed it does not arouse angry opposition. These things and others lead us to fear that it is self-enthronement in the world that is sought. Sectarian or Churchianity enthronement, we believe, is greatly coveted by Protestants as well as Catholics. They could almost ignore their differences and combine--so anxious are they to conquer the world.
But we are glad that even though the Lord may permit them again to get a measure of control, as Papacy had it during the dark ages, we have the assurance of his Word that it shall not again triumph to the same extent, but be cut short by the great time of trouble which will usher in the real reign of Messiah, which they do not desire.
We are glad, too, to believe that their opposition is largely the result of blindness, and that with the later opening of the eyes of their understanding they will rejoice in the new heaven and new earth conditions (the new social and ecclesiastical conditions) introduced by that long-promised Kingdom of heaven, which will surely prove to be "the desire of all nations."--`Isa. 65:17-25`; `Hag. 2:6,7`.
Meantime now, as during the dark ages, God
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has "a peculiar people" whom he is calling out and educating for his coming work. These bend their energies, physical and financial, to the work they see directed in the Lord's Word:--the preaching of the gospel of the Kingdom and the gathering of those having hearing ears, not to sectarian "bundles," but to the Lord himself. Though insignificant in name and fame amongst the worldly wise and mighty, these are mighty now in the Lord's hands to the pulling down of the strongholds of error. And in the future, glorified as the "Lamb's wife," they shall be joint heirs with their Lord in the glorious Kingdom work of blessing all the families of the earth with the true light and assistance. These can afford to be peculiarly like Christ and the apostles now, that by and by they may be like them in glory.
SCIENCE FALSELY SO CALLED.
Our wise men, anxious to disprove the Bible record of the Creation, "prove" much by the stone formations of the earth's crust; and freely talk about millions of years being necessary to produce the stone conditions which are everywhere apparent. Their long arguments and wise conclusions were made to look very silly recently by an accident near East St. Louis. A car of lime and a car of potatoes were partly submerged together in the river. The slacking lime fired the car and the astonishing result was that every potato was turned to flinty stone in less than twenty-four hours. The Lord's people have no need to feel ashamed of the old Book.
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ENTERED INTO HIS REST.
PILGRIM Brother Henry Weber has passed beyond the vail, to be forever with the Lord. We rejoice on his behalf. He finished his earthly course on Thursday, January 21st, at 2.15 p.m., at his home --Oakland, Md.--and was buried on Saturday, the 23rd. A large gathering, composed of his family, friends and neighbors, was addressed by the Editor of this journal, from the text, "Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord from henceforth: yea, saith the Spirit, they shall rest from their labors, but their works shall follow them."--`Rev. 14:13`.
The dear Brother's faithfulness as a servant of the Lord and the Brethren and the Truth is too well known to our readers to require comment. He had been a true Christian for many years. At first an active Episcopalian and Y.M.C.A. worker, he was counted of the Lord worthy to know of Present Truth, and from then until the day of his death, he was "not slothful in business, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord." Very many now rejoicing in the light of the divine plan of the ages have good cause for thanking God for the efficient services of this dear Brother,--either as the planter or the waterer of the good seed of the Kingdom.
As we believe that we are now living in the time indicated in the text by "henceforth"--the time of the Lord's second presence for the setting up of his Kingdom,--and as we believe that our dear Brother was one of the faithful of the Kingdom little flock, so let us believe that, his labors (toil and weariness) having ceased, his work nevertheless continues--beyond the vail.
We are not Scripturally informed what is the character of the work of the Church beyond the vail (the Lord and the risen and "changed" saints), but we may be certain that in some way it pertains to the "harvesting" of the "wheat" and the binding of the "tares," etc. Hence, although we will sadly miss our dear Brother, as a friend and as a Pilgrim and as Vice-President of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, nevertheless we sorrow not as others who have less substantial hopes. Rather we rejoice with him and hope soon to see him and the dear Redeemer and all the Royal Priesthood, and to participate in the heavenly service. But meantime it behooves us to remember that our remaining days in the flesh are further opportunities for running toward the mark for the prize, or for standing fast thereat, that no man take our crown--but that we make our calling and election sure, so that an abundant entrance into the Kingdom may be granted us by our Lord, with the words, "Well done, good, faithful servant, enter thou into the joys of thy Lord. Thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things!"
Brother Weber left a very interesting family--his wife and one of his sons being confessors of the Lord and his Truth. For the remainder of the family we have strong hopes that the good influence of the father's character in daily life may be still stronger with them since his death-- drawing them also to full consecration to the same Savior and his "reasonable service."
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"MY PEOPLE DO NOT CONSIDER."
"Consider what I say, and the Lord
give thee understanding."--`2 Tim. 2:7`.
CONSIDER--reflect, think, study, ponder. Whatever may be said of the heathen religions and of churchianity in respect to their requiring little thought, little study, this is not the case with the religion of the Bible. It is not a religion of credulity-- "shut your eyes and open your mouth," and swallow what is put therein. True, it is a religion of faith;-- but a faith based upon reasonable evidences--a knowledge of God, whose plan and character it reveals. Hence it is that the Scriptures invite the faithful to consider, to search, to prove, saying, "Come, let us reason together." And it is worthy of note that all the false systems of
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religion and churchianity, misnamed Christianity, to a large extent reverse this scriptural order, endeavoring to obtain harmony, union, on a basis of comparative ignorance, rather than on a basis of growth in grace and in the knowledge of the Truth.
As we see this to be true today in nominal spiritual Israel, so we find it was true in olden times in fleshly Israel, to whom the Lord declares,--"The ox knoweth his owner and the ass his master's crib; but Israel doth not know, my people do not consider." (`Isa. 1:3`.) We are not to understand the Lord to mean that the Jews had no knowledge of him whose sacrifices and ceremonial law and worship had their daily attention: neither should we be understood to imply that nominal Christians, who in various ways manifest some respect and reverence for the Lord, are wholly ignorant of him. The thought is rather that God's professed people today, as in olden times, while knowing something about their Creator and Redeemer, do not know him in the sense of being really acquainted with his character. In many respects they worship a strange God, because they have failed to get rightly, thoroughly, acquainted with him. Such an acquaintance can only be obtained along the line suggested in our text: by giving heed, by considering, reflecting, studying the revelation which God has made respecting himself. Not that the Scriptures give us a detailed description of our Creator; but, rather, by revealing to us his plans, they permit us through an understanding of the divine plans to have an understanding of the divine character which those plans exemplify and illustrate. As a man is known by his works, so God is known by his works. Whoever, therefore, would know God--appreciate the divine character-- must come to such a knowledge through an acquaintance with the divine plan which God is outworking.
Satan, the great adversary, seems to understand this matter thoroughly, and employs his arts of deception to hinder men from appreciating the divine plan, and thus to hinder an appreciation of the divine character --to prevent a real knowledge of God. He has been successful, marvelously so, as the Apostle declares, along these lines. The God of this world has blinded the minds of them which believe not,--lest the glorious light of the goodness of God, as it shines in the face of Jesus Christ, should shine into their hearts. (`2 Cor. 4:4,6`.) It is impossible for him to hinder all knowledge and all appreciation of the Creator, because the quality
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of reverence is deeply engraven in the natural man who, though fallen and deranged, nevertheless instinctively looks for a God to worship. Satan's work, therefore, is and has been the blinding and deceiving men,-- many of whom, as the Apostle declares, are feeling after God, if haply they might find him.--`Acts 17:27`.
The adversary's success in blinding mankind would not be so easily accomplished were it not that he persuades men not to reason upon religious subjects;--that upon every other subject than religion, thought, consideration, reasoning, are advisable, but that on religious subjects, credulity, mistaken for faith, is the safe, the wise, the acceptable course. So great has been his success that we find not only the heathen world in ignorance, and superstitious upon religious matters, but that the same principles, in a lighter form, prevail in Christendom --not only amongst Catholics but also amongst Protestants. The remedy for this general evil must be sought and found by all who would be saints, overcomers, --every one of whom must know the Lord not merely theoretically but actually, through a knowledge of his character by a knowledge of his plan.
Let us note how the Scriptures urge God's people to consider. They are to consider the natural things of the Lord's provision, as they touch with these in the course of human life, and are to read in them certain great lessons respecting the Creator. For instance, notice our Lord's statements, "Consider the lilies of the field." (`Matt. 6:28`.) "Consider the ravens." (`Luke 12:24`.) Our Lord calls attention to how such simple things in nature should be studied, be considered. The lessons to be learned in connection with all the affairs of life will be helpful to such as approach the study from the right standpoint, of faith in the Creator, and a realization that he is necessarily the embodiment and representative of the very highest and very noblest qualities of which the human mind could conceive;--that he is perfect in Justice, perfect in Wisdom, perfect in Power, perfect in Love. From this standpoint of faith we can learn a great lesson from considering the lilies. Their beauty teaches us that the Lord has a keen appreciation of the beautiful, and the fact that it comes to them without their toiling or spinning, teaches us that God is abundantly able to produce the beautiful without our aid, and that if necessary he could likewise clothe us miraculously. It teaches, further, that since he has not thus made provision for our necessities, it must be because he has seen (as the Word declares) that the experiences of life in the development of the resources of nature, in providing for our own needs, will be helpful to us.
As we consider the ravens and sparrows, and note how the Lord has made provision for their necessities without barns for the winter time, it teaches us that his power and wisdom could similarly, if necessary, provide for the necessities of his people, miraculously or otherwise; and that in leaving humanity more subject to the vicissitudes of life than the little birds, the Lord doubtless intends thus to instruct mankind and to develop its reasoning faculties in respect to life's interests and necessary provisions, and in a manner that will be more
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helpful to him, better calculated for his development than would such a provision as is made for the dumb brutes. Faith can learn in all the affairs of life lessons of divine wisdom, and may assure itself reasonably, in harmony with the Lord's suggestion, that human beings are much more valuable than many sparrows, many ravens, many lilies, in God's sight; and that we may therefore more reasonably trust to his goodness and his interest in human affairs.
Thus considering, and looking through the little affairs of life, and noting the divine character as revealed in them, the mind is prepared for the still greater revelation of God's goodness set forth in his Word, which assures of his sympathy for humanity in its fallen condition, and of his willingness to assist in man's recovery from sin and death along lines in harmony with justice and love. Considering, from this standpoint, the love of God revealed through his Son Jesus commends itself at once to our hearts as being in full accord with what we find to be his general character--justice, wisdom, love. The heart that thus considers makes progress, grows in grace, in knowledge, in love. The heart that fails to consider the little things fails to be able to appreciate the larger things, and thus is hindered from a proper consideration of God and from a proper appreciation of his plan, and thus from a proper appreciation of his character.
It is David, the prophet, who exclaims, "When I consider the heavens, the work of thy fingers!" (`Psalm 8:3`.) To the Prophet, whose mind was rightly directed and who considered these things, "day unto day uttered speech and night unto night showed forth knowledge;" and as a result King David--before the Gospel dispensation, before the giving of the holy Spirit of adoption, before the coming of the inestimable blessings which are ours today--gained a large appreciation of his Creator, which became to him an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast. The large conception of the divine character gained from the consideration of the divine work, even as seen in nature, brought the prophet-king near to God, in humility, in veneration, in love.
But if such a consideration of the heavens and the things of nature are profitable and helpful, how much more profitable is the consideration of the still higher things revealed to the Gospel Church through the holy Spirit since Pentecost. The Apostle Paul calls our attention in this direction saying, "Consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus." (`Heb. 3:1`.) But how few of those who read the Scriptures have ever followed the Apostle's suggestion? how few have ever considered Jesus from the standpoint suggested, --as the Church's Apostle or special teacher sent of God to specially guide and instruct the Church, and as the church's High Priest to whom the faithful occupy the relationship of under priests? Had more consideration been given by the Lord's people to these matters, a larger number would undoubtedly be much farther advanced than they are today, in the knowledge and love of God. They would have seen that if Christ is a special teacher, a special High Priest of the Church, and the Church his special pupils, brethren and under priests, then there must be, according to the Scriptures, at some future time, a still greater blessing in which both High Priests and under priests will be the agents of God in blessing all the families of the earth.
Again the Apostle speaks of the high spiritual things which we are to consider, after we have taken our first lessons in considering the natural things, the lilies, ravens, heavens, etc., saying, "Consider him who endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds." (`Heb. 12:3`.) Alas, how many of God's true children become weary and faint in their minds, and are in danger of losing the chief prize because they have failed to think upon, to study out, to comprehend, to consider the Lord and what he faithfully endured of opposition. As they would consider his perfection and how, as represented in him, the light shined in darkness and was not appreciated, so they would expect that the light shining from them would not be appreciated either.--(`John 1:5`.) As they would consider how the Lord suffered in every sense unjustly and for righteousness' sake, and then would reflect that their own conduct, even though well meant, is imperfect, it would strengthen them to endure hardness as good soldiers, and not to be weary in well doing, and not to faint under opposition. It would enable them to realize what the Scriptures plainly declare, namely, that experiences and testings are necessary to the Lord's people and if rightly received these all work out everlasting blessings.
Such consideration of the Lord and what he endured and the reflection and realization of their own imperfections while seeking to walk in his footsteps, would tend to bring them not only to appreciation of the Lord's sympathy for his people and his grace toward them in covering from his sight their unwilling imperfections, but additionally, this consideration would lead to sympathy for their fellows in the narrow way. The Apostle intimates the propriety of such reflections, saying, "Consider one another to provoke [incite, inspire] unto love and good works."--(`Heb. 10:24`.) Oh, how much the Lord's people need to remember this injunction, if they would have proper forbearance and love one toward another,--to consider one another's sacrifice, to think of each other's imperfections, peculiarities or good qualities, as the case may be. With the Christian brother consideration always means to think kindly,
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charitably, even of the blemishes which love cannot hide. These blemishes are not to be considered lest they sour our hearts and arouse in our minds an opposition to one another; nor are they to be considered as an excuse for gossip or slander. The Apostle explains that we are to consider one another with a view to ascertaining how we can be most helpful to each other in the narrow way, most edifying, most strengthening, most inspiring.
But now another matter: Looking back to our text we find that the Apostle has united in it two thoughts: first, the necessity of considering; second, the necessity of having divine assistance in order to the reaching of a right understanding. "Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding."
The natural man may assent to a great deal of what we have here written; yet in some particulars it will be beyond his grasp. It is only for those who approach the study of the divine will from the right direction-- only for those who consider from the standpoint of the school of Christ, learning of him--only such have the divine assistance which the Apostle mentions, the understanding which comes from the Lord. It requires faith in God and his Word in order to be able to rightly appreciate either the natural or the spiritual things which are ours, and to feed thereon in our hearts and to grow strong thereby in our characters.
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"POWER ON EARTH TO FORGIVE SINS."
--`MARK 2:1-12`.--FEBRUARY 14.--
AFTER the busy experiences of the Sabbath day, referred to in our last lesson, our Lord withdrew from Capernaum to a desert place for private communion with the Father. Later his four disciples joined him, as also others, who urged his return to Capernaum, but instead he went for a time to other cities and villages of Galilee. Our lesson marks his return to Capernaum, where the people soon learned of his presence and gathered in large numbers to see and hear him.
It was probably at Peter's house, which in construction was
LIKE OTHER ORIENTAL HOUSES,
that the gathering was held. Many of these houses are built with a central court or yard, from which access is gained to the various rooms, which receive their light and ventilation from the yard and are usually one story in height. Oft-times a part of this yard is covered with a tile roof, making of it a kind of veranda. The outside wall extends two or three feet above the roof, which is reached by an outside stairway and in summer is the usual sleeping place. Some of the incidents of this lesson imply that this was the arrangement of the house in which our Lord was stopping, the multitude coming around by the door in the courtyard, and our Lord probably addressing them from the further end of the veranda or covered part of the court.
"He preached the Word unto them." How we would have enjoyed hearing him! how we would like even now to have a stenographic report of his "Wonderful Words of Life"! His text must have been from the Old Testament, as the New was not yet written. Quite probably his message was respecting sin and the defilement which comes to humanity through sin, and the penalty which God has prescribed, namely, death. We can mention many excellent texts for such a discourse, as, for instance, "Though thy sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow." Or the types of sin and its cleansing, as represented in the treatment of the lepers under the Mosaic Law; or the types of the Law showing the necessity for the sin offerings and the work of the atonement day, as being the blotting out of sins and the reconciliation of the people to God; or the type of sin represented in the fiery serpents of the wilderness and the cure for their venom in a look at the brazen serpent on the pole, typifying our Lord. In any event we may be sure that the grand truths of the Gospel were gloriously set forth by him who "spake as never man spake."
While the preaching was in progress, four men bearing on a stretcher a palsied companion approached the house; but the throng at the door, intent upon hearing and seeing, would not make way, even in the prospect of seeing a miracle performed. Full of faith, the bearers carried the stretcher up the stairway to the top of the low roof over to the veranda: some of the tiling was lifted and, apparently without ropes, the stretcher was handed to those below, immediately in front of the place where the Lord stood preaching. Of course
THE PREACHING WAS INTERRUPTED.
However, the Lord evidently interwove the circumstances of the interruption with the lessons of his discourse. He quietly waited and mentally reflected upon the faith of the man and his companions while the sick one was thus being lowered before him, and then said to the sick, "Son, thy sins be forgiven thee." We doubt not that in the Lord's providence this declaration of the forgiveness of sins came in opportunely with Jesus' previous discourse. Here was an opportunity to show that the great difficulty afflicting the whole human family is sin, without which there would be no sickness, no pain, no death, no separation from God. The Lord did not ask the man respecting his previous course in life, nor wait for him to express sorrow for sin, but handed him a pardon as a gift or benefaction. One thing, however, he did have--a condition indispensable to pardon--he had faith, faith in the Lord as the sent of God; and at that time he could have had no greater faith than this, no more particular understanding of how the grace of God extends toward us through Jesus.
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This teaches us several lessons: First, how important faith is in the Lord's estimation--he asked for faith, not for works--though of course he knew, and we all know, that if true faith were exercised corresponding works would naturally and unavoidably follow. Another lesson it taught is the willingness of the Lord to forgive sins, to ignore them, to deal with us as though we were free from sin. This, however, does not mean a total blotting out of the sins, so that they could not be revived by our loss of faith or misconduct. The parable of the two servants who were forgiven a large debt, and one of whom was subsequently cast into prison for the very debt he had been forgiven, because he did not exercise mercy toward his fellow-servant, is a proof of this. Forgiveness extended to us now on account of faith is of the nature of a covering or hiding of our sins. As the prophet expresses the matter, "Blessed is the man whose sin is covered-- unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity." (`Psa. 32:1,2`.) Our sins are not imputed so long as we would renounce them and seek to follow the Lord in faith and in sincerity. The time for the blotting out of sins, their complete eradication, is future, as the Apostle Peter declared. Our sins will be blotted out when we receive our new perfect bodies, in which there will remain no trace of the weaknesses, imperfections and maladies that came upon us because of original and subsequent sin.-- `Acts 3:19-21`.
"WHO CAN FORGIVE SINS BUT GOD ONLY?"
Our Lord perceived the thoughts in the hearts of some of his hearers in connection with this declaration that the sick man's sins were forgiven him, and he answered the objection--not specifically and in detail, but in a general way. He asked them to bear witness as to which would be the easier thing to do, and which therefore would be the more complete test of his divine authority and powers. They had thought that the forgiveness of sins would represent greater power and authority than the doing of miracles, but our Lord illustrated how much easier it is to declare the forgiveness of sins than to perform a cure, and then he did perform a cure as proof that he did have the authority to forgive sins. He said to the palsied man, "Arise, take up thy bed and go thy way." And immediately the miracle took place; the sick man was cured and able to bear away his couch on which he had previously been carried.
The question of the scribes may arise in some minds today
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and we confess that it is not entirely answered even by the miracle. The miracle shows us that the Lord did have the power to forgive sins, but it does not explain to us the philosophy of the arrangement by which our Lord Jesus was permitted to suspend the condemnation of sin which the Father had imposed. We suggest that he had authority to do this, to pronounce the forgiveness of the sins, because he had come into the world to be the Redeemer of mankind --because he had already made a covenant of consecration unto death at the time of his baptism--because at the very moment when he made this declaration he was in process of giving his life, "laying down his life," for man's redemption. Our Lord's authority, therefore, is well established. He had already done much of the work necessary for the blotting out of sins; he had left the glory which he had with the Father; he had become a man; he had consecrated his life; he had partially given it, and very shortly the sacrifice would be complete at Calvary. On the strength of all these facts, our Lord was evidently justified in declaring the man's sins forgiven.
CAN OTHERS FORGIVE SINS?
We may perhaps put an old thought in a newer and more startling form when we say that others besides Jesus can forgive sins. We do not refer to the claim of power by Catholic priests that, through the operation of forms and ceremonies and the sacrifices of the mass, they are commissioned to forgive sins; but we do refer to the commission of God's consecrated people, the Royal Priesthood. These, as the members of the body of Christ, as ambassadors for God, as mouthpieces of the Lord, are fully qualified to declare to people today--to all true believers in Jesus--the very words which he addressed to the paralytic of this lesson. We have said, and do say, and will continue to say to all penitent believers in Jesus--to all who have come to a knowledge of God's grace in Christ, and accepted him and his Word--to these we are privileged to declare, Thy sins are forgiven thee;--thy sins are covered by the sacrifice of Calvary, and if thou wilt continue steadfast in faith and in obedience, thy sins shall ultimately be completely blotted out, and thou shalt have a share in the glories of thy Lord, in resurrection power, free from every sin and stain and blemish.--`Acts 3:19`.
Which is the greater power, to work miracles upon the natural body or to work a miracle of grace in the heart?--to straighten crooked limbs or to straighten out moral characters?--to heal those palsied and benumbed in body or to apply the vitalizing current of Truth, which will vivify and quicken those who are morally comatose, benumbed by sin, deadened to righteousness, truth, goodness, etc.?--to open blind natural eyes or to open the eyes of men's understanding, that they may see the lengths and breadths and heights and depths of the divine character and plan?
Again we hold, as in our last lesson, that the great Head of the Church has given to the members of his body greater works to do than those which he did; because under his blessing and guidance we are living in the time when, under the anointing of his Spirit, it is possible to do these higher and greater works.
THE LESSON OF HELPFULNESS.
Several other lessons may be drawn from this narrative. One of these is the propriety of helping to bring one another to the Lord, to the Truth, to the influences and benefits and blessings sure to come from the contact with Jesus
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or the members of his body. A very large proportion of the blessing which has been bestowed upon the Lord's people through the Gospel has come through individual and private effort. In saying this we do not make light of preaching, studying, tract distribution, etc., etc.,--we are glad to believe that the Lord uses all of these to carry forward the Truth and to make it known,--nevertheless, we believe that there is an individual work also to be done, a personal work. We advise that all of the Lord's people, while giving diligence to use opportunities for general service of the kinds mentioned, do not forget nor neglect to look for opportunities for individual service in bringing their friends and neighbors to the Lord and into contact with the Truth.
Many in the world hear about Jesus, hear about the great Jubilee times of restitution coming, hear about the blessing of all the families of the earth through the Seed of Abraham, hear about the call and the election of the Seed of Abraham at the present time, and have the desire to approach the Lord and to make consecration and to obtain a share in the blessing that is now being offered, yet they are morally paralyzed. They need some one to help them into the Lord's presence, to help them to the point of making a consecration of their all to the Lord. They have faith to some extent, yet they are weak in other respects, and they need others who are stronger than themselves to assist them.
To what extent are we each and all zealously using the opportunities which the Lord has put in our power to glorify his name and to bless our sin-sick neighbors, not only by telling them about Jesus and his wonderful words of life, but to what extent are we additionally helping them to come to him? There are various ways in which we may assist, by word, by letter, by invitation to meetings, etc. However, one necessary element in all help is that our own course of conduct must be in accord with that which we commend to others. If we ourselves have been to Jesus and learned of him and caught some of his self-sacrifice and love, we will be the better able to help others who desire to come to him. They who would be the ambassadors of the Lord in telling men of the forgiveness of sins and the privileges of sonship in the present time, must themselves manifest not only a faith in their own forgiveness but, additionally, must show a transformation of life in progress, evidencing the fact that they are now the friends of God, that they have been with Jesus and learned of him.
It is one thing to "bore" our friends and children with our religion, and quite another thing to manifest always such an interest in their spiritual welfare as would draw them to us for assistance when, under divine providences, they might desire to seek the Lord. Our experience teaches that many parents, otherwise loving and careful, neglect this matter, and hold themselves too much aloof from their children, particularly on religious matters. Furthermore, there is a delicacy on this subject with the sincere, lest they should be thought hypocritical, that makes them more diffident than on most other subjects. And many desirous of a word or two of encouragement and sympathy, have approached friends for advice, and have been repulsed by a joke or a worldly spirit. Every member of Christ, every Royal Priest, should remember that his first business in life, aside from his own development, is to help others to the Redeemer. Let us each strive this year, more earnestly than ever, to let our lights shine out, so that those seeking the Lord may be drawn to us as his representatives; and that in coming to us they may not be repulsed by our words or manners, but find us anticipating, sympathetic, helpful.
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THE SABBATH WAS MADE FOR MAN.
--`MATT. 12:1-13`.--FEBRUARY 21--
Golden Text:--"It is lawful to
do well on the Sabbath days."
FOR A TIME our Lord's ministries were attractive. The "common people heard him gladly," and "wondered at the gracious words that proceeded out of his mouth." But by and by the scribes and Pharisees, the prominent people, socially and religiously, of that time and country, began to feel envious of him. Our Lord's conduct and teachings were in sharp contrast with their own, which were largely tinctured with hypocrisy. The more popular the Lord became with the people the more envious were those who considered themselves the religious, the intelligent, the God-respecting Jews. They despised others, calling them publicans and sinners. They evidently realized that although the promises were made to their nation as a whole, yet when the time would come for the establishment of the Kingdom only the true Israelites would be accepted as participants in it. They flattered themselves that they would be this favored class and correspondingly held aloof from the "common people."
There is a considerable similarity between the classes of scribes and Pharisees in our Lord's day and the so-called orthodox Christians of our day. In some denominations particularly there is evidenced this same spirit of despising others outside the favored cults. We are not meaning to say that there were no good Pharisees, nor are we meaning to say that there are no good people amongst those professing "orthodox" views today. Quite the contrary: but we do claim that orthodox and social and financial lines do distinctly mark and separate the people. We hold that the Lord is no respecter of wealth or of men's persons, but that he looketh at the heart, and that the pure in heart and the sincere in consecration are acceptable to him regardless of color or social or other standing amongst men. We see at the present time that the Truth is gleaning in every quarter--gathering some from amongst the wealthy
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and intelligent, some from amongst the outwardly pious and strict, some from amongst the poor, and some "publicans and sinners."
NOT MANY GREAT, WISE OR SELF-RIGHTEOUS.
It is noteworthy that quite a good many WATCH TOWER subscribers are prisoners in penal institutions. These men became culprits under the traditions of men taught by the scribe and Pharisee classes of today, who have since found the Lord precious to their souls, and his Truth sanctifying to their heads and hearts. Reports received from the Columbus, Ohio, penitentiary from a Brother who is serving a life sentence there for crimes committed before his eyes were opened to the Present Truth, tells of the work done in that prison during the past year. Over one hundred and fifty copies of Volume I. DAWN (and some of succeeding volumes) have been in circulation in the prison, besides thousands of tracts and sample WATCH TOWERS. We have now thirteen regular WATCH TOWER subscribers in the institution. Four public meetings were held during the year, besides numerous private conferences on the precious Gospel of God's dear Son.
"THERE WAS A DIVISION OF THE PEOPLE
Thenceforth, during our Lord's ministry, the scribes and Pharisees and doctors of the law continually opposed him. And it is noteworthy that it was their attacks upon him that brought forth some of the most precious truths of our Lord's ministry. As some one has said on this subject, "The flint of opposition struck out divine fire that has never ceased to burn. It was like the cannon ball from the enemy at Sebastopol, which opened a spring of cold water for the besieged garrison." And thus it is still: those who today make an attack upon the Truth only cause its beauties and harmonies to be the more clearly discerned by those whose eyes of understanding are opened and whose hearts are in a proper attitude to appreciate the Truth. Thus our Lord's ministry and the ministry of all his faithful people since has been in the nature of a testing. The light shined in the darkness and the darkness opposed it and comprehended it not, but was nevertheless reproved by it.
Our lesson tells us some of this opposition. Pharisees who were unjust in their dealings in daily life, and who our Lord declared were ready to devour widows' houses, by taking advantage of circumstances to buy them in cheaply at forced sale, etc., and who he declared made long prayers in public for show, that they might be thought religious--these same people were great sticklers for the Sabbath day, and being amongst the Lord's most violent opposers they found fault with his more reasonable interpretation of the Sabbath law. Our Lord's conduct and language respecting the Sabbath show that he dealt with the matter from the standpoint of principle rather than of technicalities.
GOD'S LAWS ARE MEANT FOR BLESSINGS.
The Sabbath was made for man--was made for the benefit of mankind, for men's physical, mental and moral rest and recuperation and strengthening. The Pharisees viewed the day as though God specially desired to have the Sabbath day observed, and had created man for that particular purpose. Evidently they were in error, and our Lord had the proper conception of the Law and fulfilled it accurately.
As the disciples with the Lord walked through the field of grain, feeling hungry, they rubbed some of the kernels in their hands to separate the chaff, and blowing the latter away they ate the grain. Under the strict divisions which the Pharisees had framed this would be counted as threshing and winnowing the grain, and would be forbidden as violating the day of sacred rest. Our Lord defended the disciples against the charge, and in proof pointed out to these Pharisees how David, when pursued by King Saul, had procured from the priest the unleavened cakes on the Sabbath day, and that this was a clear violation of the Law, which forbade any other than the priest to eat that bread. Our Lord wished his hearers to see that the emergencies of the case justified the deviation from the rule. It was a case of necessity--it was to preserve life.
Another illustration he gave was that of the priests serving in the temple every Sabbath day, and how the Law specifically provided for the labor which they would perform, and hence that such labor could not be considered a profanation of the Sabbath. He then called attention to the fact that these disciples who were with him and serving him were doing still more consecrated work than the priests and Levites in the temple, because he--the representative of the Father--was greater than the temple; hence anything made necessary in the service of the Master should not be considered a violation of the Sabbath Law.
Turning the matter upon the accusers our Lord declared that they did not understand the principles underlying the divine arrangement, else they would not have been seeking an accusation against persons who were innocent. He would have them see that the whole difficulty lay in their own hearts. They had evil thoughts and wished to find fault and had erred, whereas if their hearts had been in the proper condition they would have been full of feelings of mercy and compassion.
THE SPIRIT OF GOD'S REQUIREMENT IS MERCY.
This fault-finding disposition, that is ready to accuse and condemn everybody, indicates a wrong condition of heart--one which all the Lord's people should be on guard against. It is not the spirit of mercy and kindness and love which, as the Apostle explains, thinketh no evil. It is a spirit out of harmony with God's disposition, for, as our Lord explains, God desires mercy rather than slaughter; and those who are ready to condemn others give evidence that they lack the Lord's spirit of mercy and forgiveness.
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This was the offense which our Lord charged against two of his noblest disciples in the early part of their discipleship. When the people of Samaria refused to sell the disciples food, because the Lord did not stop with them and perform miracles amongst them, as he was doing amongst the Jews, the disciples, James and John, were indignant, and said to the Lord, "Wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven and destroy these men and their city?" but Jesus answered, "Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of: the Son of man came not to destroy men's lives but to save them." So with all of the Lord's disciples: their continual study should be to avoid that hypercritical disposition to sentence and to destroy other people while desiring mercy for themselves. The rule which the Lord establishes is that we must expect from him mercy only in proportion as we shall exercise this grace toward others.
LOVELESS CRITICISM PERVERTS THE MIND.
As illustrating this tendency to fault-finding and how it grows upon one, a story is told of a young lady who once expressed to Hogarth, the great satirist, a wish to learn to draw caricatures. Hogarth replied, "Alas, it is not a faculty to be envied. Take my advice and never draw a caricature. By the long practice of it I have lost the enjoyment of beauty. I never see a face but distorted, and have never the satisfaction to behold the human face divine." So it is with those who unsympathetically practice fault-finding and criticising others' faults; they become so proficient in the matter that they never see good qualities, but merely the deficiencies. Their own happiness is thus injured, as well as the happiness of others. It is well that we should be able to note defects--that we should not be blind to them entirely; but we may here well apply our year-text, and remember that we ourselves are most profited in noticing in others whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are reputable, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, rather than by noticing and thinking upon their defects and ignoble qualities.
"THE SON OF MAN IS LORD OF THE SABBATH."
We do not understand this to mean that our Lord claimed authority to set aside the Sabbath day, which God had appointed to the Jews in the Law--in the ten commandments. We do understand it to mean that as the Father's representative, as the great Teacher, he was competent to expound what constituted the proper observance of the Sabbath. To as many as received him his word on the subject would constitute the highest law--the highest interpretation of the divine law, far exceeding any dignity, rules and regulations of the Jewish Talmud or system of law interpretations and definitions. To his followers his words still constitute the highest law, and by his grace we are able to comprehend the meaning of his statement that the entire ten commandments are comprehended in the one word, Love--love for God supremely and love for our fellow-man.
This talk about the Sabbath and our Lord's defense of his disciples doubtless occurred while they were on the way to the synagogue. It was a part of the Pharisaic interpretation of matters that no food should be eaten by any true Jew until after he had gone to the synagogue and worshipped. This probably accounts for the disciples being hungry and eating of the ripe grain en route.
In the synagogue was a man with a withered hand, and the Jews wishing to find ground for an accusation against the Lord before the congregation, the latter was asked the question whether or not it would be lawful to heal on the Sabbath day. Since our Lord's healing was not done by manual labor, but merely by the word of his mouth, the captiousness of his adversaries is most evident. Their hearts were wicked, even while they were apparently arguing for a more strict observance of the divine law. Let us learn from this that the heavenly Father is not pleased to see us even defend what we believe to be right in a captious and unjust attitude of mind. Mercy, goodness, love, are the elements of character which he desires to see in the spiritual Israelites, and without which we cannot long continue to be his children.
Our Lord soon answered the query and showed the weakness of his opponents. They knew well enough that nothing in the Mosaic Law could be construed by them to
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interfere with pulling an ox or an ass out of a pit on the Sabbath, even though it might require considerable exercise, --a good deal of labor for several persons. How foolish then for them to find fault with our Lord, who by one word could rebuke the disease and help one of their brethren of the seed of Abraham. After thus rebuking them and explaining that it was lawful to do good on the Sabbath day, our Lord healed the cripple.
We have no space here to enter into a discussion of present-day Sabbath observance--to point out the distinction between the seventh-day Sabbath, which was given by the Lord to the Jewish nation and to it only, and the Christian privilege which we enjoy at the present time, of worshipping and praising the Lord and studying his Word and being free from business cares and responsibilities on the first day of the week. This subject, however, is treated quite at length in MILLENNIAL DAWN, Vol. VI., which we trust will soon be in the hands of all the interested readers of this journal.
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WHO ARE REAL CHRISTIANS?
--`MATT. 7:21-29`.--FEBRUARY 28.--
Golden Text:--"Be ye doers of the Word,
and not hearers only."--`James 1:22`.
FOLLOWING our Lord's course, we reach in this lesson a more particular stage in his work. After the example of Peter, Andrew, James and John, others became disciples or followers of the Lord, until we may presume that his company was of considerable numbers. It was about this time that, after prayer in solitude in the mountain, our Lord made choice of the twelve who should be his special representatives or apostles; and whether it
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was before or after this selection from amongst the other disciples or followers that he gave the Sermon on the Mount, we may not be too positive, but evidently the two events occurred about the same time.
Our lesson is really a portion of the Sermon on the Mount--a conclusion to it. Supplementing Matthew's statement with that of `Luke 6:43-49`, we find that our Lord gave several illustrations of true discipleship at this time: (1) The straight gate and narrow way by which any might become his disciples; (2) the fruit-bearing test of being his disciples; (3) the difference between words and deeds in the Lord's estimation; (4) the vital results as illustrated by the two buildings, the one on the sand and the other on the rock.
THESE TESTS IGNORED BY CHURCHIANITY.
In our day, when the public teachings of the ministry of nearly all denominations is so different from the teaching of the Scriptures, we believe that the degeneracy of faith and practice would be much more rapid than it is were it not that very many feel it a duty to read a portion of the Scriptures daily, even though they think little about their meaning. In such readings lessons like the one we are now considering occasionally present themselves; and the lines of true discipleship are here so distinctly drawn, that the mere nominal professor is made to shudder while the true Christian is profited in proportion as he determines by the grace of God he will seek to so conform his life that he may become more and more a copy of God's dear Son.
The general thought of today in the pulpits and in private conversation and at funerals seems to be that in civilized lands everybody is a Christian and sure to go to heaven eventually, except such persons as are moral reprobates --such as are to be found in penitentiaries and prisons --and even for them hope is entertained that ere they die they may express some regret for their misdeeds. Such regrets are seized upon by their friends as evidence that they have become Christians, and gone to heaven too.
FALSE DOCTRINE IS CHARGEABLE FOR THIS.
While condemning the foregoing as wholly wrong, we nevertheless sympathize with those whose confusion of thought is thus manifested. Their unscriptural views of what constitutes a Christian is the result of two things: (1) Teachings of the dark ages handed down through the creeds of Christendom from the "mother of harlots" to her "daughters"--creeds inspired by the teachings of those who, in centuries gone by, persecuted one another to the death for differences of opinions on doctrinal subjects-- tortured one another with rack and sword and fagot. (2) To this bad foundation of error there has come within recent years a larger spirit of enlightenment and generosity in which we rejoice. But the two qualities--the errors of the past and the generosity of the present--produce a very bad combination of doctrine for modern Churchianity--a doctrine which seeks to be reasonable with itself, and which, in so doing, runs counter to a great many teachings of Scripture. The present lesson is an illustration of this.
From the standpoint of orthodox Churchianity and its teaching of eternal torture for all except those who become Christian, our Lord's words in this lesson seem very unreasonable, very unsatisfactory, very heart-rending. From their standpoint a strict application of this lesson would mean not only that the heathen world is without hope in the future, but also the civilized world and the vast majority of those called Christians have nothing to expect in the future except tribulation--eternal torment, because rejected of the Lord and not recognized as Christians, not recognized as members of his Kingdom, his Body, of his Church.
THE TRUTH ALONE IS CONSISTENT.
It is only when we get rid of the smoke and darkness and confusion of Babylon and the dark ages and their creeds, and get back to the pure, unadulterated words of the Lord and apostles and prophets, and by the grace of God are granted some opening of the eyes of our understanding, only then can we see these matters in their true light. Our Lord's discourses continually reiterated that he was seeking for some who should be counted worthy to constitute his Kingdom, to sit with him in his throne, to be his joint-heirs, to rule and to judge Israel and all the nations of the world. Not until we learn to differentiate between the Church, his Bride, the members of his Body, the Kingdom class, and the world that is to be judged or ruled by this Kingdom class in due time, can we get a clear conception of the divine purposes progressing throughout this Gospel age.
From this standpoint we can see most clearly why none can be of the Kingdom class unless they shall develop faith and character above and beyond that of the world in general. We can see why these should be called upon to bear the good fruits; we can see why they must walk the narrow way of self-denial, self-sacrifice and character development in order to be fitted and prepared for the great work the Lord has for them to do for the world in the coming age--in the Millennium. It seems to be peculiarly difficult for the majority of people long blinded by false doctrines to see that the heavenly Father has
SPECIAL TIMES AND SEASONS FOR THE VARIOUS DEVELOPMENTS
OF HIS WORK.
The world is getting a certain kind of experiences in the present time which will be valuable to it in the future --when God's due time shall come for blessing all the families of the earth to be on trial for life or death everlasting. Meantime, with those present experiences come the disciplines of the laws of nature--under which poverty, sickness and mental and moral derangements follow excesses of evil doing as pain follows contact with fire. And it is not an unreasonable hope that with the lessons of the present time before them, the world during the Millennial age will act more wisely than at present; that under
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the favorable conditions prevailing then many will not only rejoice in the great plan of salvation, but will avail themselves of it--many who are now careless in such matters, partly because they cannot see or walk by faith.
It is when we realize that the present time is one for schooling, discipline, chastening, proving the characters of those who hear and accept the divine invitation, that we see the reasonableness of all the restrictions and requirements attaching to such special discipleship. No longer do we wonder that our dear Redeemer said, "Strait is the gate and narrow is the way that leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it"; no longer do we wonder that it is recorded that he spake in parables and dark sayings to the intent that the majority should not understand his message --to the intent that only Israelites indeed might appreciate and accept his call. No longer do we wonder that he declared that only those who would forsake all could become his disciples; no longer do we wonder that discipleship means self-sacrifice even unto death. Now we see that our heavenly Father could make no easier terms than these in connection with the peculiar high calling to joint heirship with his Son in the Kingdom to which he is now calling a little flock.
"NOT EVERY ONE THAT SAITH UNTO ME, LORD, LORD,
SHALL ENTER INTO THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN."
The point of this lesson is specially for those who have named the name of Christ, and who are professing to be his disciples. It is not enough that we profess discipleship; unless the matter goes deeper than this we will be rejected. Our professions of discipleship must be sincere, and the Lord knoweth the heart and will. Although he will judge us leniently so far as unwilling and unintentional weaknesses and imperfections are concerned, he will judge us most strictly in respect to our purposes, the intentions of our hearts. Our Lord is not here referring to the Church in her present condition as the embryo Kingdom: he refers to the glorified, actual Kingdom to be established at his Second Advent. His faithful will enter into
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that Kingdom by the resurrection change--by participation in the First Resurrection, which is to include only the blessed and holy.--`Rev. 20:5,6`.
While the Lord's people of the present age are not to be judged by their works but by their faith, as the Apostle Paul distinctly points out, saying, "By the deeds of the Law shall no flesh be justified in God's sight," but we are justified by faith, nevertheless, works will be required. By our works we must demonstrate our faith, and, thank God, imperfect works can demonstrate to him the loyalty of our intentions, our wills. Hence the Apostle James says, "I will show thee my faith by my works," and to this all the Scriptures agree. If our works demonstrate to the Lord the sincerity of our faith, that faith will be acceptable to him and we will be counted perfect and be granted a share in the Kingdom, great and precious things which the Lord has in reservation for those who love him--not merely in word but also in deeds--for those who strive by the deeds of life to show forth, to demonstrate, their love.
The Lord carries this illustration to a considerable length, showing that he does not merely refer to people who are nominally called Christians en masse. From the Lord's standpoint the great majority of these would be merely classed as Gentiles; because they have never entered into any covenant relationship with God. The reference in this passage is evidently to those who have outwardly made a consecration of themselves to the Lord-- to those who have outwardly professed a change of heart and vital relationship to the Lord. More than this, he includes not only a few, but "many," who in their outward course of life have in some measure acknowledged the Lord publicly and as here expressed.
"IN THY NAME HAVE CAST OUT DEVILS, DONE MANY AND
This represents a class claiming relationship to the Lord and public ministry in his name--far above the ordinary masses of Churchianity. Our Lord declares that unless our consecration shall lead us to more than miracle-working and calling ourselves Christian, and preaching to others in the Lord's name, it shall profit us nothing. In order to have his approval "in that day" it will be necessary that we shall develop characters in conformity with the Father's will--in conformity to the Lord's Word. Nothing but character will stand the final tests.
All about us in so-called Christian lands we see and hear many in public prayer and hymns of praise call repeatedly Lord, Lord, yet whose conduct, so far as we can see, bears no good fruit, but rather evil fruitage. Many of them are like the thorns and briars to which the Lord likened them. They reach out with helping hands to lift man up, to bless and to ennoble, but the thorns and briars tear and do injury. We live in a day when little of this injury is done physically, because the laws of civilization would take cognizance of such evil deeds and punish the evil doers. Nevertheless, the thorny and briary people find abundant opportunity for injuring others with their lips, with their tongues. Slandering, backbiting, malice, hatred, envy, strife, proceed from them because this is their nature. These bramble and thorn bushes may indeed tie on clusters of grapes and figs to deceive, but the thorny and brambly character will be sure to manifest itself to those who come near them in the contact of daily life.
No wonder that our Lord determines that such are unfit for a share with him in his Kingdom and its great work of judging and blessing the world of mankind. How could busybodies and backbiters and slanderers be fit for the Kingdom of God's dear Son? Saying, Lord, Lord, or performing some miracle in his name, does not warrant them in expecting the great blessings which the Lord has in reservation for those who love him and who in turn are controlled by the spirit of love toward him and toward all the household of faith.
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OUR FAITH STRUCTURE MUST HAVE PROPER FOUNDATIONS.
We are aware that in our day the confused and confusing doctrines handed down from the dark ages have become so obnoxious to reasoning people that they are inclined to say, Away with doctrines! it matters not what a man believes; it matters everything what he does. We sympathize with those who hold this sentiment, although we cannot at all agree with it. We hold to the contrary that doctrine is all important both to faith and works. If it were not so the Lord would not have given his doctrines so important a place in his teachings and in his parables as in the one now under consideration. No man can build a proper life unless he have some foundation, some doctrine, some faith. A man with no faith, no hope, is sure to be correspondingly lacking in character. We believe that the important thing is that we should have a proper foundation, a proper faith, a proper doctrine upon which to build character and good works.
Our Lord's illustration shows the possibility of building upon two kinds of foundation--a worthy and unworthy sort. But let us notice before we go further that this parable does not represent the heathen in any sense of the word, nor does it represent any who, living in civilized lands, have the eyes of their understanding so beclouded by ignorance and superstition, and their ears so dulled by the god of this world, that they do not hear distinctly the Lord's message. The parable is addressed to him "that heareth these sayings of mine"--who understands my teaching. The heathen have no place under this designation, neither have the great majority of those who profess Churchianity.
The parable then most clearly finds its two classes in those who have heard the good tidings and who have received them who outwardly have made consecration to the Lord, and who outwardly are building their hopes upon his promises. The hopes built upon the Lord's promises and unaccompanied by works are hopes built upon the sand. It is only a question of time until the great testing time shall come and such hopes will be shown to be worse than useless. They will be shown to have deceived their possessor, who thought himself safe in his assurances of a share in the Kingdom. Such hopes, such faith, as fail to obediently strive to do the Lord's will, such faith and hopes as consider that obedience is not essential to a place in the Kingdom, are falsely founded; their overthrow will come with great disaster.
On the contrary, those who build with obedience, their hearts as well as their tongues confessing and honoring the Lord, their deeds corroborating their faith, and their fruits bearing testimony of their vital relationship with the Lord --these shall pass through all the storms of life and shall never be moved, never be shaken, because they are on the foundation. No wonder that his hearers thought that our Lord's teachings were different from those of the scribes and Pharisees. There was a positiveness in his teaching not to be found elsewhere. And so it is today: the Word of the Lord is reasonable, logical and satisfying in a manner and to a degree that nothing else is.
"SAVED SO AS BY FIRE."
The Apostle Paul (`I Cor. 3:10-15`) uses this same illustration in a slightly different manner. His illustration shows only those who are built upon the rock, Christ Jesus, but shows that two classes are building upon the rock and that while all such builders will be eventually saved, gain everlasting life, there will be nevertheless two classes of them--some saved abundantly in the Kingdom and others "saved so as by fire"--by passing through great tribulation. The Apostle's explanation is equally possible, whether we apply the gold, silver, and precious stones of the proper building to true doctrines, in contrast with the wood, hay and stubble to false doctrines, or whether we apply these symbols of gold, silver and precious stones as signifying character development, the results of sound doctrine, and the wood, hay and stubble the deficiency of character development.
The general tenor of all these lessons is that all those who think worth while to be on the Lord's side at all in this present age will do wisely if, after counting the cost, they completely lay aside not only their besetting sins but their ambition and their hope and every desire of an earthly kind--that their entire interests may be devoted to the Lord, to knowing his will, to serving him. These are they who really love the Lord more than they love houses or lands or father or mother or children or self; these are the Lord's Jewels, who shall be joint-heirs with him in the Kingdom and in the great work of blessing all the families of the earth in due time. "They shall be mine, saith the Lord, in that day when I make up my jewels."
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"FILLING UP THAT WHICH IS BEHIND."
Question.--(1) What significance should we attach to the Apostle's words, that the heavenly things are cleansed by "better sacrifices" than those offered by the Jewish priesthood for the cleansing or atonement in the typical system? (2) When did those better sacrifices begin and when did they end? (3) What will follow the completion of those better sacrifices? --that is, what will be the outward manifestation or blessing that will follow their completion?
Answer.--The better sacrifices are the antitypical ones begun by our Lord Jesus, and participated in by his faithful footstep-followers, who are invited by the Lord, through the Apostle, to present their bodies living sacrifices, holy, acceptable unto God, and their reasonable service (`Rom. 12:1`); and assured that in so doing they are filling up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ for his body's sake, which is the Church (`Col. 1:24`), those antitypical sufferings occupying the entire Gospel age. They began when our Lord consecrated himself to death at baptism. They reached a large degree of accomplishment when he finished the sacrifice at Calvary. The finished sacrifice represented in value all that Justice did, or could, demand as the ransom price for Adam and his
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entire race. Consequently our Lord, when he ascended up on high, was fully prepared to present his sacrifice to divine Justice as in full offset for the sins of the whole world.
But the divine plan contemplated an Anointed One composed of many members, under the headship of Jesus; and in harmony with this arrangement those who would be invited to be members of the anointed body were granted the opportunity of participating with the Head in his sacrifice, that they might also in due time be participators with him in the divine nature and the glorious work of the Kingdom, the restitution work. For this reason alone, and not because of any lack of sufficiency in our Redeemer's sacrifice, his work before the Father when he ascended up on high was merely applied for the household of faith and not for the world.
True, certain passages of Scripture speak of our Lord's work as "a propitiation for our sins [the Church's sins] and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." This, however, according to the clear showing of the type, is an accommodated expression, referring to all the work which will ultimately be accomplished by our Lord as the result of his atonement sacrifice. Nothing is more clearly taught in the Scriptures than that atonement has not yet been accomplished on behalf of the world, but as yet only on behalf of believers.
All this is most beautifully typified in the Day of Atonement sacrifices.* These are shown to be one, in the sense that they are all performed by the High Priest and in the one day, and as parts of the one great atonement; but they are distinctly divided into two as respects the sacrifices: (a) the bullock, which represented our Lord sacrificed, and its blood applied specifically for the priest's members, and his house, typical of the body of Christ and the household of faith; (b) following this came the sacrifice of the goat, not for the same class--not for the members and household of the priest--but "for all the people." The blessing of God resulting from the sacrifice of the bullock was merely upon the priestly tribe, representing the Church, and the household of faith of this Gospel age. Only by reason of our Lord's sacrifice would any of us have any standing whatever before the Lord, or any privilege whatever in the way of sacrifice. Not until the sacrifice of the goat had been complete, and its blood had been sprinkled upon the Mercy Seat, was there a passing over or remission of the sins of the people. And so, in the antitype, the blessing of the Lord has come to the household of faith during this Gospel age, granting us the great privilege of becoming joint-heirs with the Lord, while the foretold blessing of the world, "all the families of the earth," waits--waits until the sacrifice of the goat shall have been finished--waits until the High Priest shall thus, by the sacrifice of his body-members, make atonement for the sins of mankind in general. As soon as that work shall have been accomplished we may be sure that the blessing of the Lord, the manifestation of his forgiveness, etc., will be made known to the whole world of mankind, and the curse still resting upon the race as a whole will then be lifted from every creature, and instead the light of the knowledge of the glory of God shall flood the earth.
"Ye see your calling, brethren"--your invitation to the priesthood--the Melchisedec priesthood. We see our Lord Jesus as the great High Priest, and his faithful ones of this Gospel age, as a Royal Priesthood, under his headship. We thus consider the High Priest of our profession, order, Christ Jesus. Only the High Priest could offer the blood of these atonement sacrifices at the Mercy Seat. He offered first himself, and during this age has been working in his members to will and to do, enabling them thus to sacrifice, and giving merit and character to their sacrifices, making them acceptable as a part of his own. He will shortly finish the work and present the whole before the Father, and this will signalize the closing of this Gospel age of sacrifice; for there will be no opportunity of participating in this sacrifice after the elect members shall have filled up the measure assigned to them by their Lord.
When we think of our priesthood, let us call to mind the statement of the Apostle, that every priest must have somewhat to offer. (`Heb. 8:3`.) Our Lord had himself, the Perfect One, to offer--a sacrifice well pleasing to the Father. No other soul in all the world could have presented this sacrifice, for no other was worthy, and any addition to it would have been not only a superfluity, but an insult to him who arranged the plan. But the redemption having been guaranteed in our Lord's death, Justice could make no objection, and did make no objection to his appropriating a portion of this merit to those who, believing in him and being justified by faith in his blood, and thus accounted righteous, should desire to follow in his steps of sacrifice, and be counted in with him, and have their sacrifices, counted in as a part of his sacrifice on behalf of the sins of the whole world. In order to be members of this Royal Priesthood, then, it was necessary that we offer something, and we offer ourselves. We offer ourselves, not as ourselves, but as those justified through our Redeemer's merit, and desirous of being counted in as members of his body, and having whatever sacrifice we may perform counted in as a part of the general sacrifice of our Lord. The heavenly Father is pleased to accept the matter in this way; more than this, he planned it and foreshadowed it in the typical sacrifices of ancient times.
This is in full agreement with the Apostle's statement, "By man came death, and by man came also the resurrection of the dead." The first man, who brought death, was Adam; the second man, who brought life is our Lord; but our Lord has accepted a little flock as members of his body--"one new man." This is in harmony with the statement, also, that "there is one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time." It was for all in the most absolute sense--because without that sacrifice all could not have received the intended blessing, and because all are to receive the blessing as a result of that sacrifice, in God's due time. The fact that the Church is associated with the Lord as his members during this Gospel age alters the matter not one whit. It is still of him and by him and through him, and not of us nor by us nor through us, that the blessings are to come to mankind.
*See "Tabernacle Shadows of Better Sacrifices."