VOL. XXV. MARCH 15, 1904. No. 6.
Views From the Watch Tower........................ 83
The Era of Religious Toleration............... 83
Views of a Cleveland D.D...................... 84
Russia and the War............................ 84
Noah's Ark Well Proportioned.................. 85
Mental Toxin and Anti-Toxin................... 85
"His Way Is Perfect".............................. 86
"Christ Brought Life and Immortality
to Light Through the Gospel"................ 87
"What Think Ye of Christ?"........................ 91
Interesting Questions Answered.................... 94
Public Ministries of the Truth.................... 96
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VIEWS FROM THE WATCH TOWER.
THE ERA OF RELIGIOUS TOLERATION.
DR. ALEXANDER McKENZIE, pastor of the oldest Trinitarian Congregational Church in Cambridge, and Dr. DeNormandie, pastor of the ancient Unitarian Church of Roxbury, exchanged pulpits recently; and the next Sunday the Rev. Dr. George A. Gordon of the Old South (Third) Church and the Rev. James Eells of the First Church (Unitarian) exchanged pulpits, and, later in the day, Drs. Gordon and Eells officiated together at the communion service in the First Church, to which Dr. Gordon invited his people.
These facts have much significance when locally appraised, but they are only part of a movement by no means sectional or denominational. The pastor and pastor emeritus of the leading Trinitarian Congregational Church in the State of Iowa have just refused, on conscientious grounds, to belong to the Ministerial Association of Des Moines, "so long as fellowship is denied
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to Jews, Catholics and Unitarians," and this because, "in their opinion, the action of the association in withholding fellowship from the ministers of these churches does not represent the Christian sentiment of the churches; does not measure up to Western standards of hospitality, and finds no justification in the ideals of modern civilization." Notwithstanding the Rev. B. Fay Mills still affirms that he is a Unitarian in theology, he is being welcomed to the pulpits of more than one Orthodox Congregational Church in Wisconsin, and is being accepted as a teacher of social Christianity. So that this new mood of fellowship between two long-alienated wings of the one denomination is not confined to Massachusetts or to Connecticut-- as the recent State conference's action with respect to the church in Plymouth proved--but has extended to the interior, hitherto deemed unreservedly conservative." --Boston Transcript.
* * *
PILATE AND HEROD MADE FRIENDS.
The very occasion of our Lord's rejection and crucifixion was the same in which Pilate and Herod were reconciled. Similarly, as the foregoing shows, we have now reached the time when the wide extremes of Trinitarianism and Unitarianism are reconciled; but in this the very moment when both should be harmonized by the Truth, both unite against it. It seems a trifling thing that Unitarians, who utterly repudiate our Lord's pre-existent state and his leaving the glory of the Father and that he was our Redeemer, should be fellowshipped by those who go to the opposite extreme and claim that Jesus was one in person, in substance, with the Father and his equal in power and glory.
Why, under the circumstances, should the view which harmonized all the Scriptures on the subject-- that shows our Lord's pre-existence next to the Father and above all others, which shows him while on earth to have been "the man Christ Jesus," "holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners"; and which Scripturally presents him as now "highly exalted, far above angels, principalities and powers--be opposed in every way imaginable?
The secret reason is that all these ministers have become Higher Critics and Evolutionists;--in plainer terms Agnostics or Infidels. The Trinitarians no longer believe in the trinity and have repudiated the Bible as a divine light. They are fulfilling prophecy, unwittingly, and fancy that they are making a great advance. (`Isaiah 29:14`). Truly they are ridding themselves of unscriptural traditions received from the dark ages, but at what a cost! They are discarding cardinal truths which their errors obscured and which alone kept them at all in touch with the Lord. We want none of their union in unbelief: but the "One Lord, one faith, one baptism," and one God and Father of our Lord Jesus, who is above all.
Now is the time for true soldiers of the cross who have put on the "whole armor of God" to wisely, carefully, loyally help the dear "brethren" who are still loyal to the Lord and confused by present-day developments. Let us not hesitate to "lay down our
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lives for the brethren"--our time, talent, influence-- doing all as unto the Lord, the Captain of our salvation.
VIEWS OF A PROMINENT CLEVELAND D.D.
Evidently some ministers realize their true situation. Note the following plain statements, clipped from the Cleveland Plain Dealer:
"In speaking yesterday of his recent utterances regarding the surprisingly small number of persons who joined Cleveland churches last year, Dr. Wood said:
"'The arithmetical phase of the church problem today, I believe, can be explained in no other way than by the expression, "Old things have passed away, all things have become new."
"'The old systems of thought and expression, and the corresponding action, are working today, and there is abroad in the world a deep-seated conviction that something better is needed--a crying out of the soul for something that the church has not yet been able to supply, but is earnestly reaching after. The apparent decay of, and lack of interest in, the present religious life, instead of being discouraging and disheartening, ought to be considered in the light of truest optimism.
"'There is a marked transition. Yet I believe that out of all the debris of the present will come a new way of thinking, which will be more in accord with the divine plan for the uplifting of the race.
"'Preachers today are conscious that the message they bring to the people is not a message which supplies the heart's demands, and many of us, I believe, would be glad to become prophets of the Higher Truth were it not for the fear of losing our positions as safe leaders among men. But the time is near at hand when, if the voice of the Christian ministry is to be heard, clergymen must take their stand for those things which are true, as against those things which they have been trying to make themselves and the world believe are true.'"
RUSSIA AND THE WAR.
Russia in Manchuria is thus described by Senator Beveridge, who has recently visited there:
"Although the Russians are slothful, their course in Manchuria has been wonderfully modern. By the side of every filthy, reeking Chinese town has arisen a clean, orderly Russian town, with wide streets, often paved, handsome residences, public buildings, amusement halls, churches, parks with band-stands, drives-- in every respect like the modern small cities of our Middle West. Thus is the Chinese population of Manchuria being taught, not by precept but by example.
"One of the great services Russia has rendered Manchuria and all the countries of the globe which sought to trade with that province was the destruction of the thriving bands of brigands who invested the country, and whose power had so grown that they captured every shipment of goods across the country not previously protected by insurance in an office established by the bandits for that purpose. The Russians, it seems, in a short war on these marauders, slew over two thousand, and hunted the remainder to the far corners of the empire."
Senator Beveridge finds the Russian to "have more understanding of the Oriental temperament and Oriental conditions than is possessed by any other European people, and scarcely less than the Japanese themselves have. Because of this fact Russia has succeeded so well in eastern Asia. It is feared and hated in war, but liked in peace. The Russian never retreats from ground once occupied, and when he makes war he is terrible. He never parleys. In peace he is quiet, orderly, just. He minds his own business, and is kind, untiringly patient and conciliatory. But when he makes war he makes it so thoroughly that he never needs do the same job over again. This is the keynote, as sounded by Skobeleff, the hero of all Russians: 'My system is this--to strike hard, and keep on hitting until resistance is completely over; then at once to form ranks, cease slaughter, and be kind and humane to the prostrate enemy.'...
"Holy Russia looks to the regeneration of the world as one of her great, if, indeed, not her greatest historic mission. Of course, even the most fanatical Russian churchman does not consider this a thing of the present day or the present decade or the present century. Indeed, the centuries, to the thought of the Russian churchman (or, for that matter, the Russian statesman), are small matters. 'All in God's own time' is the motto of the Russian peasant. If 'the mills of the gods grind slowly' to us, they do not grind slowly to the Russian. He sees no particular reason for hurry. Let the processes of evil and good work out their distinct results naturally. Let the world's age-old battle between darkness and light not be waged in the flash of a spark struck from the meeting of swords of single combatants in some portion of the universal field. It is a gigantic struggle, in which the decades are but moments and the centuries but hours. In the end light will conquer darkness, thinks the Russian; and, to his mind, the Christian faith is the all-conquering light and the Greek Orthodox Church the only true bearer of that sacred torch."
The New York Press contains the following interesting item on the war:
"A United States naval officer of high military reputation gave The Press his opinion at the outbreak of the war that the Russian war-ships, guns and torpedoes would be of no value to the Czar, because his 'people do not know how to use their tools.' Since the Russians have so abundantly confirmed his judgment of their navy--blowing up their own ships on their own mines, firing into their own lines and generally doing more harm to themselves than to the enemy--it will be of interest to see if his views are also well founded as to the Russian army. This officer believes that the Russian army will be proved far inferior to its efficiency of thirty years ago, for the reason that the Russian in the ranks is not a thinking man or capable of independent action. In the old manner of fighting in mass one man was as good as another so long as he had a strong stomach for combat, since he could be directed and controlled by the officer standing near him, even flogged (literally with whips) into quick and soldierly action.
"In the fighting line of today, however, the men of the ranks, strung out at great distances, in 'open formation,' taking ranges where the enemy cannot even be seen, and in return being fired at by those they cannot see and whose position they cannot locate (thanks
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to smokeless powder) without intelligent deduction, must all be capable of independent action and thoughtful action or they will fail to perform any useful function in a battle. A subaltern cannot be near all his men. He cannot give them commands except for general formation and maneuver unless by signal. If a soldier does not find the right range, there is no one to give it to him, if he is firing to the right when his enemy is to the left of him, no one will discover the fact for him. On the firing line today every man who carries a rifle, to be an efficient soldier, must be capable of self-command, his own sub-lieutenant, lieutenant and captain when necessary. And he must know something of the science of war, of which, the American officer declares, the Russian in the ranks, having an extremely low intelligence and absolutely no education (ninety-six per cent. of the Russians cannot read), is totally and densely ignorant.
"However brave the Russian is, therefore--and the American officer concedes him the greatest amount of sheer animal courage--he is not expected by military men of the modern school of war to make much better use of his fighting tools on land than on sea. If this opinion should prove to be a fact in the land campaign which is now following the brilliant performances of the Japanese afloat, the Czar, with his hope of military ascendancy utterly crushed, will begin to think, no doubt, of educating his millions on millions of subjects who have never been permitted even to see a printed letter; and in such event the Russian war, terrific defeat though it should be, would come to be a blessing to the Russian people gaining this boon, and to the world."
"Russia's behavior since war with Japan was declared, and especially in the interval since the Port Arthur engagement and the sinking of two Russian warships at Chemulpo, is suggestive of anything but a power flushed with confidence. The studied and insistent appeals to Christendom that are proceeding from St. Petersburg, setting forth the respects in which Japan has violated, or seems to Russia to have violated, the law of nations since the beginning of hostilities may be warranted or not, in the judgment of competent international lawyers. But at any rate it is apparent that Russia has been surprised, and that she is beginning to realize poignantly the difficulties by which she is confronted. Her complaints are a plain confession of physical weakness. It would be no marvel if Russia should succeed, by the diplomacy which has for many decades been her chief reliance, in so enlisting the sympathies of France and Germany as to complicate affairs in the gravest manner."--Pittsburg Press.
NOAH'S ARK WELL PROPORTIONED.
The New York Tribune credits to the Syren and Shipping the following comparison of the ark with modern vessels:
"Within the last ten years the general dimensions of the ark have been closely followed by cargo steamship builders for deep sea and the American Great Lakes service. According to the Bible, the ark was 480 feet long, 80 feet wide and 48 feet deep. Her tonnage was 11,413, and she had plenty of room for pairs of all the distinct species of animals that are classed by Buffon-- 244--and she could have accommodated a thousand persons, and then have had plenty of room for the storage of supplies. In the seventeenth century Peter Jansen, a Hollander, built a vessel of the exact proportions of the ark, and she was successful, as the records of the time show, in making money for her owners. Noah, 'the Father of Naval Architecture,' is held in profound respect by naval architects of today, who know how immeasurably the Phoenicians, Greeks and Romans and all other shipbuilders fell short of the excellence of the type of the ark as a commodious, safe and economical vessel."
MENTAL TOXIN AND ANTI-TOXIN.
That thoughts may poison is a well-proven fact. Depressing thoughts interfere with the cerebral circulation, impairing the nutrition of the cells and nerve centers. The result is that the organs and tissues manifest lost or impaired function--loss of general nutrition follows--and a break-down is inevitable. Fear, worry, anger, envy, jealousy, and other negative thoughts, reflect themselves most disastrously in the human system. Fear has paralyzed nerve-centers, and turned hair white over night. A mother's milk has been poisoned by a fit of anger. Fear and hate--father and son --have produced insanity, idiocy, paralysis, cholerma, jaundice, sudden decay of teeth, fatal anaemia, skin diseases, erysipelas and eczema. Epidemics owe their rapid spread and heavy death rate to fear and ignorance. Epidemics may kill their dozens--fear kills its thousands. All the brood of negative, fearful, selfish, hateful thoughts manifest themselves in physical conditions. Stigmata or marks upon the body, caused by fear or desire, are quite common in the annals of medical science and psychology.
Professor Gates, of the Smithsonian Institution of Washington, D.C., in his investigations of the effect of mental states upon the body, found that irascible, malevolent and depressing emotions generated in the system injurious compounds, some of which were extremely poisonous; he also found that agreeable, happy emotions generated chemical compounds of nutritious value, which stimulated the cells to manufacture energy. He says:
"Bad and unpleasant feelings create harmful chemical products in the body, which are physically injurious. Good, pleasant, benevolent feelings create beneficial chemical products which are physically healthful. These products may be detected by chemical analysis in the perspiration and secretions of the individual. More than forty of the good, and as many of the bad, have been detected. Suppose half a dozen men in a room. One feels depressed, another remorseful, another ill-tempered, another jealous, another cheerful, another benevolent. Samples of their perspiration are placed in the hands of the psycho-physicist. Under his examination they reveal all these emotional conditions distinctly and unmistakably."
Remember, this is not "the airy fancy of some enthusiastic mental scientist," but is the testimony of a leading scientific investigator in the laboratories of the Smithsonian Institution, one of the best known scientific institutions of the world. "Chemical analysis," mind you--not "transcendental imaginings."
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Now I have said enough about the toxin and a little about the anti-toxin of the mind. I might go on for hours, stating example after example, illustration after illustration; but the tale would be just the same. Now, what are you going to do about it? Are you going to keep on poisoning yourself and those about you with vile, malignant thoughts reeking with the miasmatic effluvia of hate--emitting the noxious exhalation of fear and worry? Or will you cease being a psychic pest-house, and begin to fumigate and disinfect your mind? And after getting rid of all the microbes of fear and worry and the bacilli of hate, jealousy and envy, open wide the windows of the mind and admit the bright sunshine of love, and the bracing air of confidence and fearlessness.
Come, friends, let us get out of this habit of poisoning the air with fear, worry and hate thought. Let us join the ranks of the Don't Worry company--the fearless brigade, the invincible, conquering army of Love. Let us be bright, cheerful and happy--the other things are not worth while. Let us be confident, expectant, hopeful and cheerful--these things are winners. Let us be filled with love for all men and God, and we will find that life is one sweet song. Love, faith and fearlessness are the ingredients of life's great antitoxin. Try it and be blessed.--Selected.
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"HIS WAY IS PERFECT."
"As for God, his way is perfect: the Word of the Lord is tried; he is a buckler to all those that trust in him. For who is God, save the Lord? or who is a Rock, save our God?"--`Psa. 18:30,31`.
GOD'S way is his plan or purpose, that which he purposes to accomplish and which he is steadily working out according to the counsel of his own will. Men also have various plans and purposes of their own which they try to work out as nearly as possible. Some men purpose to amass a fortune; some to acquire a liberal education and vastly to increase their mental capacity and power; others to gain fame and popular applause, or social or political preferment, etc., etc. But to most men the way they choose proves unsatisfactory after a brief trial, and they turn restlessly from one way to another; and even when they pursue one way to the end they realize that it has been an unprofitable way--that the end was not worthy of the strife necessary to gain it.
Then again men have their various ways or theories as to how God will or ought to accomplish the world's salvation. Some claim that it will be accomplished by a process of evolution, and that it is due to the race by right. Some of these blasphemously claim that the present degradation of the world is directly chargeable to God, who, they say, is the real author of all the sin and wickedness we see in the world--that he made men so, and is therefore bound IN JUSTICE to bring them up to a better condition. There are others who claim that God has predestinated the vast majority of mankind to eternal torment without any will or choice of their own, their doom having been unalterably sealed before they were born, while a small minority were likewise unalterably elected to eternal salvation and happiness.
But these and various other incongruous theories are only the ways of men, and have no foundation in the Word of God, except as men pervert that Word. It is a serious matter for any of God's children to accept or entertain such views of his character and plan when they are so clearly stated in his inspired Word; and
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any one who can hear our heavenly Father's character thus traduced without feeling or expressing his righteous indignation is disloyal to God and unworthy to bear the name of Christ. If we have so much regard for the friendship of those who advocate such views of God's character that we cannot reprove their course, we also rank ourselves with the enemies of the Lord, and he will surely so regard us. Such indifference to God and his Truth shows clearly that there is something wrong at heart; and sooner or later such will drift into the outer darkness unless they promptly repent and resolutely determine to make no compromises with error, and to cultivate no friendships with the enemies of the Lord.
But, "As for God, his way is perfect;" and his Word clearly sets forth his way to all the simple-minded ones who take him at his word and who have no fine-spun theories of their own to establish. In coming to God's Word it is always important to remember that our attitude should be that of the disciple and not of the teacher. Such an attitude is itself a long step in the direction of a knowledge of the Truth; for it is written that God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble. (`James 4:6`.) If we come to his Word as reverent students, expecting to find therein the delineation of the pure and righteous character and plan of our God, that plan and character will be revealed to us; but if we come to it in a captious spirit and with impure and unholy thoughts and ambitions, we have just the kind of poor, imperfect brains that can warp and twist the Scriptures to suit our own ideas. If we put on the colored glasses of prejudice we can read God's Word as seen through them only.
And this is what the Psalmist implied when he said, "With the merciful thou wilt show thyself merciful; with an upright man thou wilt show thyself upright; with the pure thou wilt show thyself pure; and with the froward thou wilt show thyself froward. For thou wilt save the humble people, but wilt bring down high looks." (`Psa. 18:25-27`.) And again we read, "A scorner seeketh wisdom and findeth it not, but knowledge is easy unto him that understandeth;" and, "There
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is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death."--`Prov. 14:6-12`.
Oh, how we need to beware of "high looks" and of the pride that goeth before destruction and of the haughty spirit that precedeth a fall! (`Prov. 16:18`.) For if in pride we go about to establish our own ways, and do not fully submit ourselves to the right ways of the Lord, we will surely deceive ourselves and be led away by the error of the wicked, so that God's way or plan, as viewed through the colored glasses of our ambitions and prejudices, will seem to our obscured vision as the Psalmist describes--unmerciful, impure and perverse, instead of what it really is--merciful and holy and righteous altogether. There is nothing more dangerous than pride, whether it be manifested in a love of display or in ambitions to be great or to be thought well of by others. If we are ambitious to be more generous than God, and go about to establish the idea of the absolute certainty of the everlasting salvation of every individual, when God plainly speaks to the contrary; or if we ignore God's appointed means of salvation, which is by faith in the precious blood of Christ shed for the remission of sins, and endeavor to climb up to life by some other way, and to teach others to make the same effort; or if we repudiate the doctrine of the original perfection of man, who was created in the image of God, and also that of his own free will he fell into sin and thereby incurred its just penalty-- DEATH, and not eternal torment; or if we seek out any other human invention contrary to the Word of God, and go about to establish it, it is pride that is asserting itself; and if it be not promptly humbled it will surely and shortly end in complete alienation from God.
Dearly beloved, let us fear lest a promise being left us of entering into God's rest--into the rest of abiding faith in his way, his glorious plan--any of us should come short of it, and instead of calmly and confidently resting in God's way and in the blessed hope of its glorious outcome, we be left in confusion and doubt upon the whole subject.
But if you have thus far stood firmly in the faith of God's way we are persuaded better things of you; and if, with the Psalmist, you can say, "My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed" (`Psa. 57:7`); if your heart is established in love and reverence and faith in the sure Word of God, then you may also say, "For thou wilt light my candle: the Lord my God will enlighten my darkness." (`Psa. 18:28`.) Yea, has it not been even so? Surely hitherto the Lord hath led us. The language of the prophet applies to all those humble and faithful ones whom the Lord has been leading --"For by thee I have run through a troop [of opposing enemies]; and by my God have I leaped over a wall" [of bondage, into the glorious liberty of a son of God].--`Psa. 18:29`.
Beloved, have you been thus overcoming? have you been following the Lord's leading? have you found, and are you still abiding in the sweet rest of faith in his plan, in his way, and not your own? "As for God, his way is perfect": it is just and merciful and benevolent and wise and practicable, and sure of a glorious termination. "The Word of the Lord is tried": when fully understood it will stand the test of every argument that could be formed against it as to its justice, its wisdom, or its benevolence. Of this we are fully assured by our Lord, who prophetically declared that the testimony of those who come to a full knowledge of God's plan will be--"Great and marvelous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints."--`Rev. 15:3`.
"The Lord is a buckler [a defense] to all those that trust in him; for who is God [is mighty] save the Lord? or who is a rock [a safe anchorage to our souls] save our God?" There is no other one to whom we may anchor our faith and hope; but securely anchored to him we may trust and not be afraid, and may sweetly rest under the shadow of his wing. "The Lord liveth; and blessed be our rock; and let the Lord of our salvation be exalted."--`Psa. 18:46`.
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"CHRIST BROUGHT LIFE AND IMMORTALITY TO LIGHT
THROUGH THE GOSPEL."
--`MARK 7:24-37`.--APRIL 3.--
Golden Text:--"Without faith it is
impossible to please him."--`Heb. 11:6`.
WITH this lesson we start a new quarter in studies of the earthly life of Christ. Since it falls on what is generally observed as Easter Sunday, those who have arranged the lessons suggest, without breaking the narrative of Christ's ministry, that this lesson be treated from the resurrection standpoint. The thought is a good one, especially for those whose eyes of understanding have been opened to some realization of the glorious things of the Millennial Kingdom, for which the whole creation is groaning and waiting. These and not others can properly get a connection between our Lord's miracles and the resurrection life of the Millennial age.
LIFE-RIGHTS FOR THE WORLD
SECURED BY THE PRECIOUS BLOOD.
From this standpoint we perceive that while our Lord Jesus came into the world to die on man's behalf, to redeem Adam and his race from the sentence of sin--
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namely, death--he did, additionally, two other important works. The redemptive work was the principal one, without which there could be no future life of any kind. The laying down of life daily until the sacrifice was finished at Calvary may, therefore, be designated the principal or foundation work accomplished by our Lord. Without that nothing else could have been of any avail, but on that foundation the other two works could proceed. The Apostle declares that the Lord brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel. This means that no clear and definite hope respecting eternal life had ever previously been given to any one--even to the Jews. While other nations were without God, having no hope, the Jews did have a sufficiency of divine revelation to inspire a hope in the resurrection; though the philosophy of it--how God could be just and yet release those whom he had justly sentenced to death--they could not see, because it was not time, and therefore was not yet revealed.
Christ brought LIFE to light by explaining to those who had ears to hear that he had come into the world to "give his life a ransom for many." (`Mark 10:45`.) He explained further that the time would come when all in their graves should hear his voice in kingly authority, and awaken from the sleep of death--come forth from the prison house of the tomb. The people even then might have wondered what advantage there would be in such a release from the tomb if they would still be subject to the pains and aches and demon oppositions of the present time. Our Lord fortified the testimonies of the prophets respecting the Millennial age, which they declared would be a period of universal blessing, with nothing to hurt or destroy in all the holy Kingdom. He showed how this could be by the various miracles which he performed; for he not only preached the Kingdom of God, taught his disciples to look forward to it and to pray for its coming and blessing and power, but in the various miracles which he performed he illustrated that its powers would prevail amongst men for their blessing.
He healed all manner of diseases and cast out demons, and thus gave evidence that in God's due time, as the great Physician, he will be armed with the abundant
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power which will completely restrain Satan and all the fallen angels from all work of evil in respect to the human family, and when he will lift up the poor, the lame, the deaf, the blind, the dumb, out of their present tribulation. And moreover, this temporary release which he brought to those who by faith accepted his favor, illustrated still higher blessings, labors and privileges--the opening of the eyes of the understanding, the curing of the leprosy of sin, the returning of the withered powers, as well as the awakening of the dead--that all might see and hear and know of the righteousness which God approves and of the life everlasting which will be its reward, and that all might be helped out of the present bondage to sin and imperfection, etc., into the full liberty of the sons of God. Thus the Lord brought life--everlasting life--to the view, to the knowledge, of those who hear his message of the Kingdom and the blessings to flow from it.
IMMORTALITY OR DIVINE NATURE ONLY FOR THE ELECT.
He brought IMMORTALITY to light also. In addition to everlasting life for the world, he opened up a way by which a special class of footstep-followers might share with himself the glory, honor and immortality of the divine nature. The world in general was not expected to understand or appreciate this. On the contrary, the natural eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man the things which God hath in reservation for them who love him --for the New Creatures--for those who are begotten of the holy Spirit, and that make their calling and election sure to joint-heirship with him in the Kingdom.
Our Lord's ministry and teachings can only be rightly appreciated when viewed from these three standpoints:-- (1) His own sacrifice as the redemption price for Adam and his race--laying down his life day by day until he cried, "It is finished." (2) His general teachings --which in due time will be applicable to the whole world--respecting the outcome of the redemptive work, the reconciliation of the world to God, the complete forgiveness of the world's sins, the great trial or judgment or opportunity then to come to the world through the Kingdom which the Redeemer, as the Mediator between God and man, will establish for the deliverance of mankind from the adverse conditions within and without, and for the assistance of all who desire to return to harmony with the Creator. (3) The call to special discipleship, to walking in the narrow way, to be baptized with the baptism of death that he was baptized with--and thus by divine grace through this arrangement to be fitted and prepared for a share in the heavenly Kingdom--to sit with Christ in his throne, and participate in the dispensing of all the wonderful blessings of the Millennium to all the families of the earth.
It is with this thought that we follow the lesson before us. Jesus and his disciples, after the feeding of the five thousand and the stormy night upon the sea of Galilee, spent some time in Capernaum. There the Lord gave the sermon which illustrated that his hearers should think less about the loaves and fishes which he had given them, and should appreciate more the higher things. They should recognize him as the Bread of Life that came down from heaven; they should feed upon his words and thus gain life everlasting. The time had not yet come, however, for the general dispensing of this life everlasting--that work belongs to
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the Millennial age. He therefore was seeking specially for such as were particularly hungering and thirsting after righteousness. Of this class were the apostles, whom he was now training for the future work which he would accomplish through them after the new dispensation, to begin at Pentecost.
GOD'S FAVORS FOR HIS CONSECRATED PEOPLE.
With his disciples our Lord traveled north-westward to the borders of the country called Tyre and Sidon, so named because of the prominent cities by these names which were there situated. He did not announce himself publicly to the people there, but his presence soon became known, showing that the fame of his miracles and teachings had spread throughout the whole of Palestine. A Canaanitish woman living as a Greek was amongst the first to hear of his presence, and coming before him she cried or wailed for assistance for her daughter. Our Lord on this occasion acted very differently from his custom, and doubtless for the purpose of imparting a lesson. Although usually so prompt to hear and to sympathize and to heal, on this occasion he paid no attention to the woman, according to Matthew's account, who tells us that the disciples came to the Lord and urged him to send her away-- either grant her request and send her away or refuse her request and authorize her expulsion.
The poor woman's importunities were not for herself but for her daughter, who was possessed of a demon, an unclean spirit; and, so far as we have any knowledge, most of these fallen spirits, demons, are unclean, depraved, and their influence upon those possessed by them is an unclean, injurious one. Sometimes they do indeed simulate purity, and on numerous occasions we have heard of their attempts to personate holy ones--even the Lord; nevertheless the whole tendency of these evil spirits seems to be toward impurity of thought and conduct on the part of those possessed and through them upon others.
Finally, in answer to the woman's cries and to the expostulations of the disciples, our Lord did speak, but very differently from his usual message. He merely intimated to the woman that his miracles and services were not intended for the world in general but for God's covenanted people, the Jews. He followed the Jewish custom of the time, of speaking of the Gentiles as dogs, yet he modified the matter, for instead of using the word which would signify the detestable brutes which infest the Orient and are the scavengers of the streets, he used another word signifying the little or pet dogs of the family. The woman, strong in her faith in the Lord's power, was equal to turning the unfavorable answer to her own benefit, and to urge that as the little pet dogs got some of the surplus from the table of the children, so she as an outsider might be granted some of the Lord's favors without in any degree working disadvantage to the Jews, to whom our Lord's ministry was specially sent and given.
WITHOUT FAITH IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO PLEASE HIM.
This shows the earnestness and faith of the woman. Such an exhibit would surely be pleasing to the Lord. Indeed we can see in our own experiences as Christians that many of the Lord's dealings with us are along the lines of developing and testing of our faith. He is good and gracious of heart, however we may have misunderstood him in the past, and however his character and plan may have been maligned and misrepresented by the Adversary. It is impossible for us to come near to the Lord except as we shall exercise faith and trust in him, in his goodness, in his power, in his wisdom, in his love. All things are possible, only believe--is the lesson which the spiritual Israelite of today needs continually to learn, as the apostles of old prayed, "Lord, increase our faith." Along this line it were well that we should pray, and that we should seek continually to accept the lessons of life from this standpoint--as lessons or instructions in faith. We are not in this ignoring the necessity of obedience to the divine Word, but are holding that wherever faith exists the works will correspond to it and be proportionately large or small. Hence the stronger our faith, the more our works are sure to be under the divine arrangement. Our Golden Text well says that without faith it is impossible to be pleasing to the Lord.
Faith is a matter of cultivation, of development. The same apostles who cried out in terror when the storm was upon the Sea of Galilee gradually grew stronger and stronger in faith until, as the records show, they could and did trust the Lord in his absence and where they could not trace him. Similarly it should be a part of our daily lesson to cultivate trust in the Lord, and to think of the experiences in the past in our lives and all of these lessons in his Word, that thus our faith in him may become rooted and grounded.
FAITH REWARDED AFTER BEING TESTED.
The Lord said unto her, "O, woman, great is thy faith." (Matthew.) Her faith was strong in its love for her daughter, in its perseverance and persistency, in its humility, recognizing matters just as the Lord recognized them, and not according to the general sentiments of the Greeks and Gentiles--that the Jews were merely pretentious and not more in divine favor than other peoples. It was strong in overcoming great obstacles, --even our Lord's apparent repulsion. We would not consider this heathen woman's conduct to be in every sense of the word a pattern for the Lord's consecrated and enlightened people. The strength of faith is the only one that we should copy. As for us who have become the Lord's people, and are no longer strangers,
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foreigners, dogs, but children adopted into the Father's family and recognized by the Lord as "brethren," it would be no longer appropriate that we should cry or entreat or beseech in any wise for things which the Lord is not pleased to give us.
The Master himself represented the difference between the things which the Gentiles might do and the things which we as his disciples might do, saying that our petitions and seeking should not merely be for the bread that perisheth, for after such things do the Gentiles seek--merely the earthly things and with importunity; but seek ye first, chiefly, the Kingdom of God and the righteousness which is appropriate thereto, and all these things of an earthly kind will be added unto you--in such measure as will be for your best interests. Our petitions, our requests, our cries to the Lord, therefore, should be for the holiness of heart, for the filling of his Spirit, for the spiritual food, refreshment, strength; and as for the natural things, he knoweth the way we take and what would be to our best interests as New Creatures. We are to leave this to him: he would not be pleased to see us importuning him for things
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which he did not give us, for to do so would not be an exemplification of faith in him, but the reverse--an exemplification of doubt, a manifestation of fear, that he was forgetting or neglecting his promise to give us the things needful.
Our Lord informed the woman that the faith manifested in her saying was sufficient, that her request was granted, that the demon was gone from her daughter. The woman's faith was further manifested by her immediate withdrawal. She took the Lord's word implicitly; if he were what he claimed and had the power that she believed, he would not lie to her. Many of the Lord's people today seem to lack faith along these lines--to have less than this poor heathen woman. Many of them hear the Lord's word assuring them that those who come to him have their sins forgiven, yet Little Faith bids them doubt and keep on bemoaning their sins and requesting forgiveness, which the Lord has assured them would be accomplished from the time of their acceptance of it. They fail to exercise the faith and they fail proportionately of the blessing and peace and joy.
So far as the record goes our Lord did nothing in that quarter except for this poor woman, and the spiritual lessons connected with it were evidently less for her than for the disciples, for we have no record that he taught her or taught anyone of that vicinity. Departing thence, our Lord took an easterly course along the northern borders of Palestine, and crossing the river Jordan began to come southward toward the Sea of Galilee. Matthew says that he made a stop in the mountain, and that a great multitude brought their sick to him; the lame, blind, dumb, maimed and many others they led to Jesus' feet and he healed them, and the multitude wondered and glorified the God of Israel.
Our lesson gives one particular instance from this multitude of healings. A man who was both deaf and dumb was brought to Jesus, and his treatment was peculiar; the Lord took him apart privately, perhaps to impress upon him the lesson. The man could not hear, and hence the Lord imparted the lesson through signs, touching his tongue and touching his ears, and then with a sigh he glanced heavenward, as indicating that the sympathy of heaven was moved for the man's assistance, and immediately the blessing came and he was healed. This may have been the first miracle in that region, and possibly the multitude coming, as Matthew records, were attracted by it. Our Lord's injunction that it should be kept quiet seems to have been understood, not as a command, but rather as a suggestion that he was not seeking publicity. Nevertheless, when the faith was manifested and the poor afflicted ones were before him the Lord never refused to give the blessing. Thus we are taught that when the due time shall come for the blessing of all the families of the earth, the Lord will not withhold a blessing from any; all who desire to be blessed may then have his favor.
BLESSED ARE OUR EYES AND EARS OF UNDERSTANDING.
As New Creatures who have already in a figurative sense risen with Christ to walk in newness of life, to walk in his footsteps, we have our eyes opened and our ears unstopped and our tongues loosed, so that we may not only see and enjoy the grace of God ourselves, but we may speak of his goodness and love to others. In many respects those to whom the Lord grants the special knowledge of the Truth in this present time have a suggestion that it is not for everybody, that we are to be discriminating in our endeavors to dispense the Truth, and that some of these great blessings of the Lord which are to us like pearls are not meant for all; that we should not cast our pearls before swine, or before those who manifest no disposition to know of or receive the Lord's favors. But with us, as with the healed one in this lesson, the message is too good to keep; we love to tell the story, it did so much for us; we desire that all who are blind and deaf may come to the great Physician and be healed; we desire that all who are stammering in their endeavors to tell the good tidings may have their lips touched by the Master and henceforth speak plainly the glorious things of the Gospel of Christ. And as the Master would not reprove this one in the lesson, neither does he reprove us if in our zeal we go sometimes to the extreme of trying to tell the good tidings to those who have no ear to hear, or endeavor to make disciples of those who are swinish and not at all inclined to spiritual things, or of following the Lamb whithersoever he goeth.
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The heart of this lesson is that we who are risen with Christ in the spirit of our minds should walk in newness of life while still in this mortal body and still amongst men; that we should look forward to the glorious change of the First Resurrection, when we shall be actually in the Lord's likeness and see him as he is, sharing his glory and participating with him in dispensing all these blessings of life and healing to whosoever will accept these favors in the glorious Kingdom time which we rejoice to know is near at hand.
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"WHAT THINK YE OF CHRIST?"
--`MARK 8:27-38`.--APRIL 10.--
Golden Text:--"Thou art the Christ, the
Son of the living God."--`Matt. 16:16`.
IT was probably toward the close of the third year of our Lord's ministry that the incidents of this lesson transpired. In all this time of now three years from the beginning of John's ministry, we have no record that either John or Jesus had publicly proclaimed the Messiahship of the latter. There was wisdom in this. When we remember the expectations of the Jews for eighteen centuries, that the coming of the Messiah was to be the great event for their nation and for the world, and that his Kingdom was to accomplish the blessing of all the families of the earth, we can readily see that their ideas of the glories connected with this heavenly King were such that had Jesus announced himself the Messiah at the beginning of his ministry, the effect would have been disappointment to the degree of disgust. Without political or social influence, without wealth or name or fame as a leader and commander of the people, or a general of armies, he would have been regarded as mentally unbalanced to have made such a claim.
He merely took the position of a religious teacher with whom divine power was specially present, divine power manifested in the dignity of his manner, the grace of his lips, the authority of his teaching, and his wonderful works--healing diseases, casting out devils, walking upon the water, stilling the storm, etc. It would appear that John the Baptist knew more than anyone else respecting our Lord's mission. This is indicated by the sending of the query to Jesus, "Art thou he that should come, or look we for another?" John's knowledge apparently came less through Jesus than through the spirit of prophecy, which indicated to him that the one upon whom he saw the holy Spirit descend was the special ambassador of Jehovah. Even John's faith was staggered by the absence of the glory and prosperity he had anticipated for Jesus. What, therefore, the sentiment of the masses would have been, had Jesus been publicly proclaimed the Messiah, we can readily imagine.
BE YE WISE AS SERPENTS, HARMLESS AS DOVES.
But now, after his disciples had been intimately associated with him for three years, and after John the Baptist had been dead for a year, the time had come for Jesus to prepare the disciples for the ignominy and death which he knew to be in store for him. But even then the matter was approached in a wise and careful manner. O, that all of the Lord's dear people could learn the value of wisdom in connection with their endeavors to serve the Truth! Our Lord not only taught us to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves, but he exemplified this lesson in his own course, saying on another occasion to the apostles, "I have many things to tell you, but ye cannot bear them now." We, too, should learn that there are opportune and inopportune times for mentioning certain truths, and that there are wise and unwise methods of presenting them. It is not enough that we do not speak untruths, it is not enough that we speak the truth; additionally we should see to it that we speak the truth in love, and love that is trained uses wisdom that it may accomplish the more good.
Our Lord would draw out the apostles and seek to crystalize in their minds the thought which he knew already was forming or formed. Leading up to his intention he inquired respecting the general voice of the people as to who he was. The answer that some thought him John the Baptist risen from the dead, and others thought him Jeremiah or one of the other great prophets risen from the dead (Matthew's account), showed that the public mind was being exercised--was noting that he was not an impostor. As we read later on, some of the people were ready to inquire, "When Messiah cometh, will he do greater works than this man does?" All of these sentiments indicated the wisdom of the course pursued by our Lord, and that it was taking effect--that instead of being ridiculed, he was respected by the people, some of whom even thought to take him by force to make him their King.
Now the Lord addressed his disciples as implying that they were separated in his mind from the rest of the people, and should have a clearer knowledge of him than others, and his question is. "Whom say ye that I am?"--with the intimate acquaintance that you have had, what is your opinion? Peter, probably the eldest of the disciples, and in general a leader and spokesman amongst them, answered for them all,--"Thou art the Christ [God's Anointed One: Hebrew, the Messiah], the Son of the living God." This answer proved that Jesus
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had rightly judged that the time was ripe for such a confession of him amongst his apostles, and for the first time he intimated to them that their surmises on the subject were correct--that he was more than Elijah, Jeremiah, or any of the prophets--that he was the long-promised Messiah.
THE HUMILITY OF OUR LORD.
Our Lord's answer, given in another account, distinctly acknowledges the correctness of Peter's statement, and declares that flesh and blood had not revealed it unto Peter, but the Father in heaven. We are struck with the modesty of our Lord Jesus in respect to this proclamation of himself as the great Messenger of the Covenant. How beautiful a lowly mind is! and if it was beautiful and appropriate in our Lord, how much more appropriate it is for us who are his followers and who have nothing of ourselves--nothing that we have not received through him. How appropriate the Apostle's words, when, after speaking of how Jesus humbled himself to become a man, and to be obedient unto death, he exhorted us saying, "Humble YOURSELVES, therefore, brethren, under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time." Indeed, we may be sure that none will share with the Lord in his exaltation who do not learn at heart this lesson of humility. "The Lord abhorreth the proud but giveth grace to the humble."
Jesus charged his disciples that they should tell no man that he was the Messiah. This was an item of truth intended only for themselves as yet; and to have proclaimed it in a general way might have created more or less of insurrection, and might have hindered the carrying out of the divine arrangement respecting his ignominious death. They could still proclaim the Kingdom of heaven at hand, they could still speak of Jesus as the great Teacher and man, they could still wonder as to whom he might be; but the proper time for making him known as the Messiah would be after he had finished the work of sacrifice which the Father had given him to do. Indeed he could not be the Messiah except by accomplishing this work. He must purchase the world of mankind before he could become its Lord and Life-giver, its Restorer, its Messiah.
Now for the first time Jesus began to teach his disciples to expect his ignominious rejection by the Jews, his ultimate death, and his resurrection on the third day. Matthew's account makes this still more explicit, saying, "From that time he began to teach them these things." What a sifting, what a testing of the hearts of his apostles, and yet how wisely it was done! They must be prepared in advance for his shameful death, else it would prove such a shock to their faith that they could not recover from it, neither believe in his resurrection. But now, after nearly three years of experiences, and when they had just confessed him to be the Messiah, and by so confessing had crystalized the thought in their own minds, it must have been a severe blow to all their hopes and aspirations to be told of his ignominious death. How could he be the Messiah, and yet suffer death at the hands of his enemies? How could he bless all the families of the earth, and yet be put to death as a malefactor?
These things must at first have appealed to them as inconsistent; but all the more the announcement would prepare their hearts for the explanation of the Scriptures which Jesus was ready to impart. The statement that he began to tell them about his coming death implies that thereafter this was frequently a subject for discussion and consideration between him and them. The same Lord, with no less wisdom, is still guiding in the affairs of his Church, and still teaches us line upon line, precept upon precept, as we are able to bear the Truth, and our preparedness for it will be proportionate to our nearness and fellowship with him. It is worthy of note, also, that the deep things of the divine plan are revealed to us only as we have confessed Christ. To this class it is given to know the mysteries of the Kingdom which are withheld from others. Only if we have fully confessed Christ are we granted a knowledge of the fact that all who would be his disciples must take up their cross to follow him, must suffer with him if they would reign with him, must be dead with him if they would live with him.
SLOW TO SPEAK AND SWIFT TO HEAR THE GREAT TEACHER.
Our Lord uttered this statement respecting his rejection and death openly--before the entire twelve apostles; but Peter, possibly elated by our Lord's words of commendation that the Father had revealed the matter to him, took our Lord aside privately to whisper to him that such sentiments should not be introduced nor expressed before the apostles--that it would be discouraging to them all, and that anyway there was certainly a mistake about the matter, for such things could never happen to him--must not happen; he must so order his speech and his conduct that these things would not happen. He must not violently antagonize the chief priests or elders, to thus lead them to conspire for his death. Allowance must be made for Peter, in that he was not only the eldest of the apostles, but quite a good deal older than our Lord, and that he was of a very ardent disposition, strong and impulsive. However, Jesus--who had a few moments before commended Peter for his appreciation of the fact of his Messiahship--now rebuked him, not privately, but in the presence of all the apostles. He probably knew that this would be the best method of correcting Peter's sentiments, which, should they spread amongst the apostles, would be very injurious to them all. Hence,
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our Lord's rebuke was pointed, sharp, and made known to all the apostles. He said, Get thee behind me, Satan --adversary; thy words are not in accordance with divine wisdom, but in accord with human wisdom. We are not to understand that Peter was turned into Satan, nor that Satan got possession of him, but rather in taking such a position he was becoming an opponent of the divine arrangement, as Satan was and still is.
There is a great lesson in this for us. Even though we be the Lord's disciples, and honored ones at that, we might very easily reach such a position as would be antagonistic to the divine arrangement and thus put ourselves unintentionally on the side of Satan, and become his ministers or servants. Our Lord emphasized this again on another occasion, saying, "His servants ye are to whom ye render service." It is not enough that we have named the name of Christ and have placed ourselves under his banner, and called ourselves by his name, and rejoiced to be accounted his servants; it is necessary that we see to it that we are rendering him service, and that our energies are not being spent in opposition to him and really in cooperation with the Adversary.
It is our opinion that a great many are in this very position today. Unwittingly they are on the Adversary's side of many questions connected with Churchianity and sectarianism, and especially does this seem true of many ministers in the nominal Church. We may assume that some of them, at least, have made a full consecration to the Lord, yet as a whole they are standing in opposition to the Truth--supporting the errors of the dark ages and helping to blind and mislead the people. Let us each be careful, let us each see to it that we be not disposed as Peter was to be wiser than the Lord, and to attempt to tell him how matters should be conducted. In everything connected with the Lord and his service, let us, as the Apostle exhorts, be slow to speak and swift to hear and to obey the divine plan.
THE MILK OF THE WORD--THEN ITS STRONG MEAT.
The foregoing special lessons were to the apostles apart from the multitude; but later on Jesus began to teach the multitude as well as his disciples some of the deep things pertaining to his mission and the conditions upon which any might become his disciples. There is a lesson in this also for us: We are not to put tests of discipleship to the forefront in the preaching of the Gospel. We are not to meet inquirers with the announcements of the "straight gate and narrow way" and the lessons of self-sacrifice, as they come to us to hear something about the Gospel of God's dear Son. There are primary lessons for them to learn first. They should be instructed respecting the goodness, love and mercy of God, respecting the redemption accomplished through the blood of Jesus and that it is free and for all, respecting the glorious times of restitution which God hath spoken by the mouth of all the holy prophets since the world began, and respecting the call of this Gospel age to association in the Kingdom. They should know these things with considerable clearness before being informed of the cost--the self-sacrifice even unto death which is the price of joint-heirship in the Kingdom. This appears to have been the Lord's method, and we cannot do more wisely than follow it.
The time had come when not only the twelve apostles but all of the people, who were deeply impressed with the teachings of Jesus, should know what it meant to be his followers. In other words, a time of sifting had come--the time for presenting doctrines that would shake off, sift out, from close sympathy, fellowship and discipleship, all except the Israelites in whom there was no guile. We remember that while there were thousands who attended the Lord's ministry and were miraculously fed by him--amongst all the thousands upon thousands who heard him and profited by his healing, his teaching, and the wonderful words which proceeded out of his mouth, only "about five hundred brethren" (`I Cor. 15:6`), true disciples, remained faithful to the end. The remainder were all sifted out by such teachings as these that were now for the first time promulgated.
The substance of these discourses is briefly stated to have been that, if any man would be the Lord's follower or disciple, he must practice self-denial and cross-bearing. Of course these words are used in a figurative sense: they signify that all who will be the Lord's disciples and share his Kingdom and glories, will be tested in faith and obedience to such an extent that they will fall out by the way unless their faith and interest are so deep as to lead them to ignore themselves, their own earthly interests, pleasures, appetites, and to seek chiefly for this joint-heirship with the Master in
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the Kingdom. They must regard the pearl of great price as worth more than all else, so that they will be willing to dispose of, to give in exchange for it, every earthly interest and thing--houses or lands, parents or children, the love and esteem of friends and neighbors --choose obedience to the divine arrangement at any cost, else they will not be worthy of the Kingdom. They must count upon such crossbearing, such a crossing of their own wills, submission to the divine will.
CHOOSING BETWEEN GOD AND MAMMON.
Emphasizing this lesson, the Lord says that it amounts to a question as to whether we love the present or the future life. He who sets great store by the present life, in whose heart the joys promised in association and joint-heirship with our Lord in the life to come does not overbalance present interests and hopes and aims, that person would lose the life which the Lord
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was proposing to give to his disciples--the life eternal, in the Kingdom, with "glory, honor and immortality." While our Lord used these words particularly in reference to the elect class which he is seeking as joint-heirs in the Kingdom, and therefore particularly in respect to immortal life of the Kingdom class, nevertheless there is a large sense and degree in which his words will always be applicable to all men--in the next, the Millennial age, as well as in the present age. Whoever will attain eternal life, either as member of the Church which is being elected now or as members of the restitution class which will be developed during the Millennial age, can only have the eternal life by a full submission of himself and every interest to the will of the Lord. Whoever self-willedly refuses such complete submission will thus prove himself unworthy of eternal life on any plane, for the terms of life-eternal are full obedience to the divine will.
From this standpoint the force of our Lord's words is manifest: it would profit no man if he should succeed selfishly in gaining the whole world, and as a result of that selfish will, which is opposed to the divine will and its law of love, bring upon himself the utter destruction of the Second Death. What would compensate a man for the loss of his soul--his existence? Assuredly nothing would compensate, for without existence there could be no possession or pleasure.
The lesson then is that if we are granted hearing ears and understanding hearts in this present time, and a knowledge of the exceeding great and precious things which God is offering during this Gospel age, we would be without excuse before the Lord if we were to despise his offers and selfishly choose self-control and a share in the world rather than joyful submission to the divine will and a participation in the sufferings of the present time and the glories which shall follow when, as members of the Kingdom, it will be our privilege to participate in the showering upon the world of the blessings secured by our dear Redeemer's sacrifice. (`Gal. 3:29`.) Similarly, those who will live during the Millennial age, after the present offer of the Kingdom shall have been withdrawn, and when the offer of restitution will be made to every creature, those who then selfishly refuse to submit their wills to the Lord's will fail to make progress in the highway of holiness toward perfection, and instead of gaining life eternal they will fail and fall into the Second Death. In other words, there will never be any other way of attaining life than a full renouncement of every selfish aim, object and desire, and the full acceptance of the divine will.
A SAVOR OF LIFE UNTO LIFE OR OF DEATH UNTO DEATH.
Our Lord sums up this lesson respecting the necessity for self-denial and cross-bearing by showing what it would really mean--that to confess him and the great truths of the divine plan for which he stands as the representative, would surely mean at the present time to bring upon one's self the opprobrium of the world, for whosoever will live godly in this life shall suffer persecution. To live godly will mean not only to abstain from crimes, but to live up to the light which God gives us, to be faithful to the principles of truth and of righteousness. Those who are blinded by the god of this world so that they do not recognize Jesus as the Messiah, the sin-bearer and coming King, are proportionately irresponsible at the present time. Their responsibility will come when this knowledge reaches them, and ultimately the knowledge of the Lord shall fill the whole earth.
The time, therefore, will come when they will be responsible, and when the Truth will be to them either a savor of life unto life everlasting, or a savor of death unto death everlasting--the Second Death. But those who know the Truth, and who allow shame to hinder them from espousing it, may be sure that they are not disciples of Christ, that they cannot share in the life which he is now holding out as the reward of the overcomers --immortal life. All those who will be acknowledged before the Father and before the holy angels at our Lord's second advent will have proved so loyal to the Lord and to the principles of righteousness that he will take pleasure in acknowledging them, and the Father will also acknowledge them as being copies of his dear Son, their Lord.
The Lord has given us examples of those who are bartering the glorious hopes and opportunities of participating in the Kingdom for the things of this life. The type in the Old Testament mentioned by the Apostle Paul is that of Esau, who for a mess of pottage sold his birthright. Foolish as was that transaction, it was only a type: much more foolish is it for those who are now having the opportunity by the Lord's grace of becoming joint-heirs with the Lord Jesus, in the glory, honor and immortality of the Kingdom, to lose all these privileges and advantages and favors--to trade them, as it were, for a mess of pottage--for a more favorable condition in this present life, for greater honor amongst men, or for wealth, or for the affection and sympathy of husband or wife, parents or children. The prize is of so great value that nothing is comparable to it.
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INTERESTING QUESTIONS ANSWERED.
Question.--Why did the Jews ask the question recorded in `John 1:25`, evidently surmising that Christ would do a baptizing work?
Answer.--They recognized that John was doing a great work in reformation outside the nominal church system of their day, and they assumed him to be a messenger of God; and as all were in expectation of Messiah and of an Elias to precede him,
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they inquired of John as to the matter; and when he very humbly disowned any great authority or position, they raised the question of your text, which implies: If you are a person of no special authority, neither the Messiah himself, nor his forerunner, nor a special prophet, why do you start in to do a special reformatory work, and introduce as a symbol of cleansing this baptism, which is known as John's baptism, and wholly without precedent among the Jews?
Question.--What hope will there be for the progeny of the fallen angels? (`Gen. 6:1-4`.) Have we any reason to hope that they share in the redemption accomplished by our Lord, or that they will be participators in any measure in the restitution and resurrection processes of the Millennial age? If not, why not? Would they not stand related to the human family in much the same way as our Lord Jesus stood related to the same through the mother and not through the father? Would not this seem to imply that they should be sharers, therefore, in the redemption and restitution?
Answer.--You will find this subject very fully treated in DAWN, Vol. V. See Chapter 4, on "The Undefiled One," and page 115, respecting the Nephilim, children of the fallen angels by the daughters of men. In connection with the fuller treatise on this subject we link the two together as your question does, and repeat that we find no hope for these Nephilim, since they were not of Adamic stock. We call your attention to the fact that our Lord Jesus, not being of Adamic stock, was not a sharer in its condemnation and curse, and hence, similarly, would not have been a sharer in its blessings. We are to remember that the way in which he profits our race is not by being one of us in sin and imperfection, but because he was not one of us he was able to give his separate and uncontaminated existence as our ransom-price. The blessing upon Adam and his family, coming, as it will, through Jesus, as its purchaser, who gave himself instead of Adam, thus redeemed him and all who were in him at the time of his transgression and condemnation. This clear-cut distinction most positively shows us that the fallen angels and their progeny were in no sense of the word Adamic stock, and, hence, were in no sense of the word covered by the ransom.
Please consider a few questions along the line of practical life. (1) Is it sinful to compose or sing secular songs?
Answer.--We would not consider it sinful to compose secular songs so long as the moral tone of them would be good and helpful to mankind. We are to use our talents in the highest and best manner known to us. In respect to attending theatres of high class: We think that very generally this question may be decided by the aid of the following questions: (a) Have I the means to spend in this manner, and is it the best use I can make of those means to the Lord's glory? (b) Would my influence be helpful to others if thus spent? (c) Could I make a better use of my time--to make it more beneficial to myself or to others in personal upbuilding?
(2) Is levity improper in Christian life? Answer. --The Apostle urges us to sobriety. This, however, need not mean moroseness of disposition, conduct, language, etc., but rather earnestness. We
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have as Christians undertaken a great contract--a death-contract as regards the flesh; and levity is not to be very much expected in such a funeral, and especially not from the corpse. We may say, however, that we differ constitutionally; and while the Lord has said, "Blessed are those who weep," he certainly has not forbidden us to laugh. Quite probably, experience tends to bring sobriety, and sobriety is, generally speaking, the most proper condition for the representatives or ambassadors of the great King.
(3) Is it sinful to dress well? Answer.--It is not sinful; but many things that are not sinful are still not expedient. We are to consider ourselves stewards of the Lord's means, and whether or not he would approve of rich and extravagant clothing. We are to consider, secondly, whether or not such clothing would be helpful to us in our influence in favor of the Truth. We are to consider whether or not such dressing would be calculated to have a very good influence or a very bad influence on those who cannot afford rich clothing. These things would seem to indicate modesty and simplicity, yet they need not signify coarseness nor carelessness nor mean appearance.
(4) Is dancing improper? Answer.--Not in itself. That is to say, the mere exercise of dancing might in some respects be beneficial, especially if gentlemen danced with gentlemen and ladies with ladies. But with such limitations we fancy that dancing would lose much of its charm. We reason, therefore, that its charm is not morally helpful and that Christians would do well to avoid it, and to take their exercise in some other manner, better calculated to stir up heart purity.
(5) Is it wrong to eat meat? Answer.--The eating of meat is not sinful, if the meat be honestly obtained and of good quality and healthful to the system. Our Lord ate meat during his ministry and also, on two occasions, at least, after his resurrection. This is a sufficient answer to those who claim that the eating of meat is sinful. "In him was no sin."