VOL. XX. AUGUST 1, 1899. No. 15.
The Indianapolis Convention......................195
The River of Salvation...........................196
Returning from Captivity.........................198
Who May be Coworkers.............................200
Despise Not the Day of Small
Questions and Answers............................205
Between God and Man
(Millennial Dawn, Volume V.).................194
SUBSCRIPTIONS AND BUSINESS COMMUNICATIONS
WATCH TOWER BIBLE AND TRACT SOCIETY, "BIBLE HOUSE," 610, 612, 614 ARCH ST., ALLEGHENY, PA., U.S.A.
SUBSCRIPTION PRICE, $1.00 A YEAR IN ADVANCE. MONEY MAY BE SENT BY EXPRESS, N.Y. DRAFT, MONEY ORDER, OR REGISTERED. FROM FOREIGN COUNTRIES BY FOREIGN MONEY ORDERS, ONLY. SPECIAL TERMS TO THE LORD'S POOR, AS FOLLOWS:--
Those of the interested who, by reason of old age, or other infirmity or adversity, are unable to pay for the TOWER will be supplied FREE, if they send a Postal Card each December, stating their case and requesting the paper. We are not only willing, but anxious, that all such be on our list continually.
::R2507 : page 194::
GOD AND MAN.
MILLENNIAL DAWN, VOL. V.
We have pleasure in announcing that Volume V. of MILLENNIAL DAWN series is now on the press. It will (D.V.) be sent to all paid up subscribers to ZION'S WATCH TOWER (including those who have requested credit for the year, and those who are receiving it free as the Lord's poor)--as September 1st and 15th, and October 1st and 15th issues of this journal. There will be no other issues for the four dates named. If you do not receive a copy before Sept. 30th it will not be our fault. If your account differs from ours be sure to let us know all particulars. Notice the tag on the wrapper. Jun.9 means that your subscription is settled for only to and including June, 1899--that you are in arrears. Dec.9 means that your subscription is settled for, up to the end of the year and should be renewed in December
or written about.
::R2507 : page 194::
This volume will, we believe, furnish an abundance of spiritual food for the two months (September and October). It should be thoroughly masticated, that it may be well digested and give strength to head and heart and hand. It is our prayer and hope that it may be a great blessing to the readers of this journal; and that through them as fellow servants of our one Lord and Master it may honor him and bless many.
::R2508 : page 195::
INDIANAPOLIS CONVENTION ECHOES.
OUR RECENT "Believer's Convention" was certainly a success--so voted by all who were in attendance, so far as we have heard. It was a spiritual feast of fat things, for which we render thanks to the Giver of all good. Our present Lord seemed to gird himself and serve us with "meat in due season," and with the "wine" of his own spirit of love and devotion. It was good to be there. The attendance was about 250, of whom about 200 were visitors from twenty states of the Union, including Massachusetts on the East and Washington on the West, Texas on the South and North Dakotah and Minnesota on the North.
The announced program was carried out with but slight modifications. Brother Owen, the leader of the Indianapolis meetings, conducted the opening "rally" so successfully that every one felt at home forthwith and well acquainted; indeed, there were quite a number of street and train recognitions without previous acquaintance or introductions--each seemed to recognize the spirit of love: as our Lord declared, "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one for another."
Brother Owen's assurances that the Indianapolis Church most cordially welcomed us all was abundantly attested by the careful provisions and kind attentions shown to all--the poorer as well as the financially comfortable, and the blacks as well as the whites: for there were four or five deeply and intelligently interested colored brethren in attendance.
::R2509 : page 195::
According to our custom no collections were taken up, either publicly or privately: indeed, the only semblance of a dispute during the three days' meetings was occasioned by some of the visiting brethren insisting with the Reception Committee that they be permitted to share some of the general expenses; while the latter insisted that they had everything provided for, and that the visitors had sufficient journey expenses. We mention this to illustrate the general spirit of the Convention--the spirit of love and benevolence--so much in contrast with experiences we have all had in "Babylon."
One novelty of this Convention which differentiated it, so far as we recall, from all others, was the attendance of two who had previously been spirit-mediums, but who now rejoice in the better knowledge of the truth. One of these declared in the Testimony Meeting that he had been a medium for fourteen years, but thanked God for deliverance through the reading of What Say the Scriptures About Spiritism?
It was remarked by some that while the managers of the Epworth League Convention had a Bishop present to discuss "The Life of Lincoln," and an ex-Confederate General to discuss "The Closing Days of the Confederacy," our Convention, in almost continuous session from 8 A.M. to 10 P.M., had no time for social questions, and knew nothing but Jesus Christ, and him crucified, and the blessed hopes which center in the great transaction of Calvary.
One of the most impressive services was the baptism on Saturday afternoon in the Central Christian Church, kindly put at our disposal for two hours and a half. Forty-two symbolized their immersion into Christ's death, by immersion into water--twenty-two brethren and twenty sisters (two of the former colored). The youngest seemed about twenty-five and the oldest about seventy years old. It was a service long to be remembered, and brought a blessing to those who witnessed it as well as to the participants. Our prayer is that the convention as a whole may have buried us all more completely and more deeply into death with Christ, and that walking in newness of life now we may all be prepared to share with him in "his resurrection" --"the first resurrection."
::R2507 : page 196::
THE RIVER OF SALVATION.
AUG. 20.--`EZEK. 47:1-12`.
"Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely."--`Rev. 22:17`.
MANY OF the particulars connected with this vision described by Ezekiel are so circumstantial to the land of Israel as to give considerable ground for belief that it will have a literal fulfilment in the future; and in connection with the vision is shown a new division of the land of Canaan amongst the twelve tribes. But whatever literal fulfilment the vision may have, we may be positive that it is to have a grand fulfilment as a symbol, for the life-giving river here brought to our attention is undoubtedly the same one described six hundred years later, by John the Revelator, and referred to in our Golden Text.
Referring to the description of the river starting from the Temple, Prof. Davidson says, "The natural fact upon which this conception rests is this, that there was a fountain connected with the Temple hill, the waters of which fell into the valley east of the city, and made their way toward the sea." So far as we may know, this fountain never was of any considerable size, and never would be, without more or less of a miracle, for at present the entire country is arid, except in the rainy season. From this fountain the Valley of Kedron leads directly to the Dead Sea, which, as is well known, has no connection with the ocean waters, either on the surface or subterraneously, and is 1308 feet below the sea level.
However, there are evidences that at one time the Dead Sea was on a level with the ocean, and if by earthquake or otherwise the connection between it and the ocean waters were re-established it would rise to its old level, which would make of it an inland sea 150 miles long, and five to ten miles wide. And such a filling up of its basin would have a marked effect, not only upon the humidity of the atmosphere in its vicinity, but also upon the water-springs of lower Palestine. The natural result would be, not only that the Dead Sea would be sweetened of its brackishness, and become like the ocean, but also that the springs in the vicinity of Jerusalem would be greatly enlarged so as to produce some such river as this described in the prophecy, and these springs in that now parched desert country would cause its vegetation to prosper. It is worthy of note that this valley now occupied by the Dead Sea was once most fertile,--before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. We read, "Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere, before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, --even as the garden of the Lord." (`Gen. 13:10`.) And the restitution of this country to a Paradisiac condition is what the Prophet Ezekiel describes, if his language be given a literal interpretation at all--and this it seems to demand, as well as the symbolic interpretation.
There are many who seek to apply this prophetic vision as a symbol to the present time, and claim that this river of salvation has been flowing through the world from the days of Ezekiel until now;--especially during this Gospel age. These interpreters claim that the depth of the water up to the ankles would represent a date when Christians numbered fifty millions; the depth of the water up to the knees a period when Christians numbered a hundred millions; a depth of water up to the loins a date when Christians numbered two hundred millions; and a river that could not be waded, representing the present time, when the population of Christendom is estimated at four hundred and fifteen millions. But can we agree with this interpretation? Is it reasonable, is it Scriptural?
(1) We answer, No; it is not a reasonable interpretation, for, if we may judge of the Christians so-called in the past by those so-called in the present, we must conclude that the river is far from pure, "clear as crystal:" indeed, all will agree that if nine-tenths of those who name the name of Christ, but who deny him in their daily lives, were to withdraw from all profession, the Christian Church would be greatly blessed by their withdrawal and the influence of the Church and the light from it would be increased many-fold. Bishop Foster, of the Methodist Episcopal Church, sized up the situation well when comparing the professed church to a sheep-fold, he pronounced the vast majority "black, ring-streaked and speckled." We all are confident that only a comparatively little flock are of the class mentioned by the Lord as being reckonedly washed whiter than snow, through his grace and truth.
(2) It is not a Scriptural view. The Scriptures declare that God's grace at the present time is not comparable to a river, but in our Lord's words, "It shall be in him [each believer] a well of water springing up
::R2508 : page 196::
into everlasting life." (`John 4:14`.) And those Christians in whom God's grace is a fountain of life and refreshment are comparatively few. They are those who have been "begotten of the spirit of truth" through the Word of truth. They are the "sanctified in Christ Jesus;" they are the "little flock," to the faithful of whom it is the Father's good pleasure to give the Kingdom.
No Scripture anywhere suggests that the water of eternal life is now free; nor that all are now called to drink of it. Our Lord Jesus himself declared the contrary of this, saying, "No man can come to me except the Father which hath sent me draw him." (`John 6:44`.) The drawing or calling of God through a knowledge of his grace is only unto those who have ears to hear, amongst those to whom the call is addressed; and the call has been specially sent to and has specially reached
::R2508 : page 197::
only comparatively few of the earth's fifteen hundred millions,--chiefly the inhabitants of Europe and America. And of this comparatively small number to whom the Word of the Lord has been sent, and of the still smaller number who have had "ears to hear" that call, only a still smaller number are chosen, as we read, "Many are called, but few chosen." (`Matt. 20:16`.) Not many are called, in proportion to the whole, but many are called in proportion to the number chosen, the few, the elect.
Returning to the Prophet's vision, we note that the waters flowed out from the house of the Lord, from the Temple, and that wherever they went they brought vitality and refreshment, healing, restitution life--even to the Dead Sea. This to our understanding is a picture of the grace of God during the Millennial age, when from the Church, the house of God, the Temple, "the habitation of God through the spirit" (`Eph. 2:22`), the stream of the water of life, healing, restoring, rejuvenating, shall flow to all the families of the earth, whose condition is represented by the wilderness eastward of Jerusalem. The result will be the blessing and restitution of all the living families of the earth willing to receive the blessing. And it means more: for the Dead Sea fitly represents the vast multitude of mankind which has gone into the tomb, and the water of life shall reach even these, and bring to them also awakening from death, opportunities of restitution.
That the fulfilment of this vision could not be a thing of the past nor of the present is evident when we remember that the house of God, the Temple, the Church, is not yet completed--that the present is the time in which the Lord is fitting the "living stones" for the Temple,--is chiseling, fitting and polishing each for the place to which he is called. The present Gospel age was typified in the building of Solomon's Temple, by the period of preparation of the materials, after which we are informed that the whole house came together quickly, each stone fitting to its place and each timber to its position, and that without the sound of a hammer or any tool of iron. So with the "living stones," as the Apostle Peter calls the Church. (`1 Pet. 2:5`.) These are "builded together for a habitation of God through the spirit," and the building will not be completed until the last of these fitted and polished stones is laid in its position. Then the glory of the Lord shall fill the house,--the Church will be glorified. Then will have come the time represented in this vision, when the stream of the water of life, truth and grace shall flow from the glorified Temple.
As there is no completed Temple yet, so there is no river yet; but when the Temple is completed, when the various members of the body of Christ are brought together and united in glory, honor and immortality to the Head of the Church, then from this united and glorified company of God's elect shall flow the symbolic river of water of life, clear as crystal. In each member of this Temple class, in each of these "living stones," already is a well-spring of truth and grace, and when these many well-springs shall have thus been united to the great Head and Fountain, the result naturally will be a stream of good proportions,--a river. To this coming time of blessing of the world our Lord refers, saying, "He that believeth on me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water." (`John 7:38`.) In order to be of this class in whom the great river of water of life will take its start, it is necessary, first, that the believer shall now come unto Jesus and drink of him, the great Fountain of life; and it will be as a result of this partaking of the great Fountain that all of the elect Church shall become minor well-springs and fountains in due time.
Turning to the description of this same symbolic river, furnished us in the Book of `Revelation (chapter 22`), we find abundant evidences that it does not refer to the present time, but to the Millennial age. For instance, it is symbolically pictured as having trees of life on either side, whose leaves are for the healing of the nations--not for the healing of the Church, which at this time is the glorified Temple from which this river proceeds--and this healing of the nations signifies, as plainly as a symbolic picture could indicate it, restitution,--the healing of the woes of the groaning creation, its sin and sickness and imperfection.
We notice also that the proclamation which will then be made will not be restricted, as at the present time, to "even as many as the Lord our God shall call." (`Acts 2:39`.) It will not be to an "elect" class; it will no longer be said, "No man can come unto me, except the Father draw him." The call at that time will be general--to every creature--"Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely." We notice further that that broad invitation is extended by God through the holy spirit and the glorified Church, as it is written, "The spirit and the bride say, Come!" We notice further that this expression, "the bride," unquestionably places this call in the future, because, altho the elect Church of this Gospel age is called out from the world to become the bride of Christ, she does not become such, does not enter that exalted station, until in the end of the age she is perfected in glory and in the likeness of her Lord. Then will come "the marriage of the Lamb:" and not until after the marriage will there be a bride; and not until after the bride has thus been accepted as such can "the spirit and the bride say, Come!" to the nations--the Gentiles.
This same glorious City (Kingdom), the glorified New Jerusalem, the Church, and the river of the water
::R2508 : page 198::
of life gushing forth therefrom, are brought to our attention in `Psalm 46`: "There is a river, the rivulets of which shall spring from the City of God, the holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved. God shall help her early in the morning." The connections here also show that these rivulets are not to be expected to flow out as a river, until the Millennial morning, and the context refers particularly to the time of trouble with which the present age shall end and the Millennial morning shall be introduced.
Those whom the Lord our God has called, and who, in obedience to that call, have come to Jesus, the Fountain of life, and through him have tasted that the Lord is gracious, should let the Word and grace of God dwell in them richly and abound, making them neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of the Lord and in his service. It is for these to seek enlargement in the grace of God, that as well-springs they may be deeper and wider and more and more filled to overflowing with that grace and truth which came by Jesus Christ. It is for these to see to it, each for himself, that he has not received the grace of God in vain, and that this well-spring does not become choked with the rubbish of this present evil world, its aims, its hopes, its ambitions, its pride, its desires of the flesh;--that thus, under divine providence and supervision, we may be made meet for the inheritance of the saints in light, and have fellowship with our glorious Lord and Head in the sending forth of the river of salvation unto the ends of the earth in "due time;"--the river of the water of life, clear as crystal, to whosoever will of all the families of the earth.--`2 Pet. 1:4-11`; `2 Cor. 6:1`; `Col. 1:12`; `1 John 1:3`.
::R2509 : page 198::
RETURNING FROM CAPTIVITY.
AUGUST 27.--`EZRA 1:1-11`.
"The Lord hath done great things for us,
whereof we are glad."--`Psa. 126:3`.
THE BOOKS of Ezra and Nehemiah are not prophetical, but historical; they take up the history of Israel where it was laid down by the scribes who wrote the Books of Chronicles. Ezra, the writer of the book bearing his name, was a scribe or educated man, whose genealogy is traced back through the priesthood to Aaron. (`Ezra 1-6`.) Ezra was not amongst those who went up first to Jerusalem under the proclamation of Cyrus: indeed, he was probably not born until a considerable time after that notable event.
The record of the `first six chapters of Ezra` covers a period of twenty years; and then an interval of about fifty years transpired before the events recorded in the `seventh chapter`--Ezra's commission under King Artaxerxes of Persia to go up to Jerusalem and establish the worship of God. The history of the return from captivity, and the experiences of the people and their difficulties in connection with the rebuilding of the Temple, Ezra probably got from the records of the scribes at Jerusalem.
The `Book of Second Chronicles` closes with the declaration that the king of the Chaldeans, Nebuchadnezzar, carried away the treasures of Jerusalem, broke down its walls, burned its palaces, and carried its people captive to Babylon, and then declares that this desolation of the land and the city was in fulfilment of prophecy, the word of the Lord by Jeremiah, that the land should lie desolate and keep a Sabbath of rest seventy years. It also declares that this seventy years' desolation was brought to an end by the decree of Cyrus in the first year of his reign. Thus has the Lord clearly marked the beginning of the seventy years and their end; yet we find that chronologists in general reject this plain statement of the Scriptures, and begin to count the seventy years at a much earlier date than the destruction of the city (for we are to remember that there were three distinct captivities at about that time).*
It seems to be no easy matter to determine the chronological order of Medo-Persia. Cyrus is called the Persian, and Darius is called the Median, and whether they reigned jointly for a time seems difficult to determine. It would appear that Cyrus was in some respects the chief, yet that Darius was the representative of authority in Babylon for a time, and that upon his death Cyrus became sole emperor. Daniel most positively declares that Darius the Median succeeded to Belshazzar's kingdom (`Dan. 5:31`; `6:28`), and this was before even Daniel had thought to search the prophecy of Jeremiah and to calculate the date when the seventy years desolation would end, and to pray for the preparation of Israel for the promised deliverance when it should come. (`Dan. 9:1-16`.) Chronologists in general fall into error here in attempting to fit together the conflicting and disconnected scraps of secular history covering this period: they overlook the bridge over that period furnished by the Lord's testimony that the "seventy years' desolation" began with the close of Zedekiah's reign and ended with the first year of Cyrus,-- a well established date, B.C. 536.
We are not told by what agencies the Lord operated when he "stirred up" the heart of Cyrus to fulfil his will, in letting go the captives, and hence we are at liberty to surmise on the subject. We presume it likely that, as Daniel was speedily made a high officer in the kingdom, he had access to King Cyrus, and quite probably
*See MILLENIAL DAWN, VOL. II., Chap. 2.
::R2509 : page 199::
called his attention to the Scriptural predictions which marked him as the divine agent, even referring to him by name.--`Isa. 44:26,28`; `45:1-5`; `Jer. 25:1-12`; `29:10`.
It is quite possible, also, that the Lord used other means in stirring up the heart of Cyrus: possibly he reflected that by such a course he would firmly establish himself in the good will of the Israelites, who numbered millions amongst his new subjects, and comparatively few of whom he might feel sure would avail themselves of his generous offer of liberty to return to their native land. It would appear that this was the custom of Cyrus in respect to the religions of all the various peoples whom he conquered. Nebuchadnezzar had thought to unify the people by bringing to their minds one god, and compelling worship to him. Cyrus seems to have followed an opposite rule, and sought to make himself popular with his subjects of various religious inclinations by doing something to the honor of every prominent god whose devotees he conquered. Thus he posed as a general deliverer of the people and as the servant of all the gods.
Moreover, he may have had in mind the fact that Egypt was a country of great fertility, and that it would be of great convenience to have Jerusalem as a friendly way-station between his capital and Egypt, so that in case of war he would have friendly representatives at Jerusalem to spy upon the enemies and to render assistance to his forces. Possibly some of these, or possibly all of these, were the considerations by which the Lord stirred up the spirit or will of Cyrus to make the proclamation of liberty to the captives of Israel.
It was not an expulsion of the Israelites from the province of Babylon, for evidently as a people they were highly esteemed of their neighbors. The proclamation merely gave liberty to those who desired that they might return to Palestine, with the king's approval: and that those who remained might not feel that the king would be offended if they gave of their substance to help the enterprise, the proclamation made special mention of the fact that such cooperation would be pleasing to the king.
We may readily suppose that the majority of those who thought upon the Lord and who trusted in the promises made to the fathers, which centered in the Holy Land and the Holy City, were poor, for it seems that in every case poverty is more favorable to religious faithfulness and zeal than wealth; and yet that there were some both wealthy and zealous is abundantly testified to by the liberal contributions made by the captives themselves for the rebuilding of the Temple. The vast majority, however, were evidently well pleased with their foreign home, in which some of them had been living for seventy years, some for seventy-eight years, and some for eighty-nine years (those carried away captive at the same time as Daniel), while many of them were born in Babylonia. Many had intermarried with their neighbors, many were immersed in business projects, and many perhaps felt themselves too old for such an undertaking. Thus did the Lord sift them, that he might gather back to the Land of Promise such only as had a fervent zeal for the Lord and full trust in his promises.
The sifting of Israel began in the separation of the two tribes from the ten tribes, for the rapid spread of idolatry in the ten tribes gradually drew those faithful to Jehovah to the two-tribe kingdom, whose king was of the line which the Lord had promised to bless. Subsequently, when the two tribes also had grievously gone into idolatry, the Lord carried them all captive to
::R2510 : page 199::
Babylon, and now he stirred up Cyrus to make a proclamation for volunteers to return to the Land of Promise. The Lord, we may be sure, did not wish the return of any except those who had reverence for him and faith in his promises. We may therefore conclude that the company which did return, numbering in all not quite fifty thousand, was composed of the very choicest of all Israel out of all the tribes, the tribes of Judah, Benjamin and Levi being most prominently represented amongst these returning ones, as most of the faithful ones for several centuries had been found in their tribes. It should be noticed, however, in reading Ezra's account of the return from captivity, that the division of the nation of Israel was no longer recognized after the return--they are invariably spoken of as "all the people of Israel," and the sacrifices offered were for "the twelve tribes of Israel," and these statements are repeated over and over again. The ten tribes were no more "lost" than were the great body of those carried captive from Judah lost when they neglected to return under the proclamation of Cyrus.
The chief men of Judah and Benjamin and the priests and Levites took the lead in the matter of accepting the provisions of King Cyrus' decree, and we read concerning the others that they were "those whose spirit God had raised to go up to build the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem." In what way the Lord raised their spirit or disposition we are not informed. We may suppose, however, that those whose hearts burned with faith in the divine promises to Israel and with zeal to be and to do what would be acceptable in God's sight, would be awakened, quickened, by the decree of Cyrus, which was of God's instigation. Moreover, the Lord may have providentially directed other matters not here particularized, in channels favorable to the return of those who had confidence in him and faith in his promises. The fact that many of these returning ones were of the poorer class is implied
::R2510 : page 200::
by the statement that many of their neighbors "strengthened their hands" with presents of money, goods, beasts and other valuables. Such offers would be a great encouragement and would probably be considered as the leadings of divine providence in the direction of the return by such as were looking for providential leadings. Furthermore, the generosity of Cyrus was manifested in his sending back the precious vessels of the Temple, which must have been of immense value. The larger vessels are enumerated, in all 2499. These, with the smaller articles not specified, amounted in all to 5400, as stated in `verse 11`.
Sheshbazzar (otherwise called Zerubbabel, which means, "Born in Babylon"), who was of the royal family of David and Solomon, was appointed the governor of the colony, which was nevertheless subject to the Persian empire and its successors,--the kingdom authority, removed from Zedekiah at the beginning of the seventy years' desolation, never being restored to the present time--as was foretold by the Lord through the Prophet, saying, "I will overturn, overturn, overturn it: and it shall be no more, until he come whose right it is; and I will give it him"--Messiah, at his second advent.--`Ezek. 21:27`; `Luke 21:24`.
We have already seen that natural Israel's captivity in Babylon is Scripturally represented as a figure of the captivity of Spiritual Israel in mystic Babylon; and that the deliverance by Cyrus was to some extent a representation of the deliverance of Spiritual Israelites from mystic Babylon by Christ; that the fall of Babylon before Cyrus was figurative of the fall of "Babylon the Great," and that the message, "Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin," applied not only to literal Babylon, but also now applies to mystic Babylon. In view of these things it is but proper that we should consider Israel's return from Babylon as to some extent representing the deliverance of the zealous of Spiritual Israel from mystic Babylon--a work now in progress. "Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues."-- `Rev. 18:4`.
But now, as then, comparatively few, even of the consecrated class, are willing to undertake the trials and difficulties incident to the leaving of the settled affairs, comfortable quarters, contracts, engagements, etc., entered into in Babylon. The only ones disposed to risk the hardships and to go forth into the desert, leaving the strong walls and protection of sectarianism, are those who have great confidence in God and great respect for the promises made to the Seed of Abraham. The call to return to the old paths, and to rebuild the Temple of the Lord, and to replace therein the vessels of gold and silver (the precious truths of the divine Word--setting them in order as at first) is appreciated by the few only; yet these are encouraged by the Lord's providences, by the riches bestowed upon them from every quarter--not riches of an earthly kind, but of a spiritual sort,--precious truths, valuable lessons and experiences, providential leadings, etc. These encourage such as are of faithful heart to go forward and by obedience to become heirs of those glorious things that God has promised to them that love him.
As all the bitter experiences through which Israel passed were, under providential guidance, used to sift, separate, purge and purify the proper class to be ultimately brought back into the Land of Promise as the heirs of the kingdom, so the experiences through which the Lord's people have passed during the "dark ages" in captivity to Babylon, no less than through recent experiences, all tend to show us the necessity for separation from the world and its spirit, all lead us to appreciate more than ever the divine arrangements by which the Lord is making ready for himself and his service a peculiar people, zealous for the Kingdom, zealous for the Lord's Word, and zealous for all good works.--`Tit. 2:14`; `1 Pet. 2:9`.
It is not for those who rejoice in the Lord's promises and leadings to be sad, and to leave Babylon with regrets ("Remember Lot's wife!"), but full of joy in the Lord and hope in his good promises; saying in the language of our Golden Text,--"The Lord hath done great things for us, whereof we are glad." Those not thus stirred in spirit may as well stay in Babylon, as they would only prove snares and stumbling blocks to others.
::R2510 : page 200::
WHO MAY BE COWORKERS.
SEPT. 3.--`EZRA 3:10` TO `4:5`.
"The temple of God is holy, which temple ye are."--`1 Cor. 3:17`.
ABOUT FOUR months must have been required for the return of the captives from Babylon to Palestine, for later Ezra, with a smaller company, required that length of time. (`Ezra 7:9`.) Arriving at their destination about July or August, probably the first steps were to provide at least temporary homes amid the ruins of Jerusalem and the small towns in that vicinity. But as it was a religious motive which prompted their return--faith in God and his promises--we find, as we might reasonably expect, that very speedily after their arrival the public worship of Jehovah was begun--probably about the beginning of their "new year," October.--`Verse 6`.
Evidently the Lord's hand was with them, and it was of his providential guidance that their first work, in connection with the restoration of the Temple and
::R2510 : page 201::
its divinely appointed services, was the building of the altar. This will at once appeal to the intelligent Christian as an illustration of the truth so forcefully set forth in the Scriptures, that all approach to God, all reconciliation, all at-one-ment with him, must be by and through the great sacrifice for sins which Israel's altar typically represented. Vain are all the approaches to God which recognize not as their basis the sin-offering which God himself provided--the "ransom for all."--`1 Tim. 2:6`.
The site of the Temple was Mount Moriah, and one of the most prominent spots on that mount is supposed to have been the site of the altar. This place selected for the altar, under divine guidance, is believed to have been the same spot upon which Abraham offered his son, Isaac, the type of Christ, and received him again as from the dead in a figure, the Lord providing as his representative, upon the same spot, the ram caught in a neighboring thicket.--`Gen. 22:3-13`; `Heb. 11:17-19`.
It is supposed that this same spot was subsequently the threshing-floor of Araunah, where David offered the acceptable sacrifice to the Lord which stayed the plague. (`2 Sam. 24:21-25`.) The Mosque of Omar now occupies the site of the ancient Temple built by Solomon; and the Mohammedans, who have great respect for the holy places, have left the site of the ancient altar exposed to view, protecting it with a railing. The visitor may there see to-day the very spot on which thousands of typical sin-offerings were sacrificed, the base of the various altars which were erected from time to time. It is of solid rock, and has a rather distinct groove or trench about it, which probably conducted the blood of the slain animals to what seems to be a natural drain or sewer by which the blood flowed in the direction of the Valley of Jehoshaphat--the valley of graves.
As we viewed this historic rock some years ago, and thought of the thousands of beasts slain there as types of the great ransom sacrifice, and noted the natural passageway by which the blood was carried off, our thoughts reverted to the Lamb of God, the great
::R2511 : page 201::
sacrifice for sins, and how the life which he laid down became a fountain or stream of life, not only for the dead of Israel, but all who died in Adam. The flow of blood toward the valley of graves seems to speak symbolically of life for the dead, secured through our dear Redeemer's sacrifice. But we remember that not only the bullock of the sin-offering was slain at this altar, but as well the goat of the sin-offering was slain there: not only the blood of the typical bullock, but also the blood of the typical goat, then, must have passed through that natural channel or drain; and this reminds us of how the Church, as members of the body of Christ, are during this age filling up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ, sacrificing even unto death--for we know that, as the bullock represented the great High Priest, our Lord, so the goat represented the under-priests, the Church which is his body.* (`Col. 1:24`; `Rom. 8:17`.) And, as we have already seen, all the members of the body of Christ, the Church, must finish their course and lay down their lives, before the great work of this Atonement Day, the Gospel age, will be accomplished, and the healing and life-giving stream reaches the dead world with blessings and opportunities of eternal life.
The beginning of the offering of sacrifices in connection with the Feast of Tabernacles, at the beginning of their "new year" (in the seventh month of their civil year), was a time of special rejoicing with the Israelites --it was always the most joyous season, but on this occasion the return from Babylon and recent evidences of returning divine favor added to its joys. And immediately the work of repairing the Temple was decided upon. They had brought certain gifts from the Israelites still remaining in Babylonia, and these were added to from the means of those who had returned, and the sum thus accumulated gives good evidence of the zeal of all concerned. As nearly as we may be able to judge, the total value of the gold and silver donated would amount to about $400,000. (`Ezra 2:68,69`.) It would appear that this sum was of three parts of about equal proportions, one-third contributed by those who remained in Babylonia, one-third by the few wealthy of the returned Israelites, and one-third contributed by the mass of the people, about $3 each.-- `Nehemiah 7:71,72`.
We have never considered it proper to solicit money for the Lord's cause, after the common custom; and yet we are thoroughly convinced that there is a great blessing in giving, and that those who do not learn to give deprive themselves of a great spiritual grace, and endanger their spiritual prosperity, if not their spiritual life itself. But the giving, to be acceptable in the Lord's sight, must be voluntary--free-will offerings --"not of constraint." Accordingly, it is our judgment that money raised by the various begging devices in the name of our Lord is offensive, unacceptable to him, and does not bring his blessing either upon the givers or the work accomplished. "The Lord loveth a cheerful [willing] giver." He seeketh such to worship him as worship and serve in spirit and in truth. --`2 Cor. 9:7`; `John 4:23,24`.
Full of zeal for the Lord's cause, the people celebrated the corner-stone laying of the new Temple with great eclat. One of the special features of their worship was praise, and we think it safe to say that singing the
*See Tabernacle Shadows of Better Sacrifices.
::R2511 : page 202::
Lord's praise has been amongst the greatest blessings and privileges of worship enjoyed by the largest number of the Lord's people throughout this Gospel age also. The power to praise God in song has been conferred upon man only of all earthly creatures, and how appropriate that he should use this power to praise the King of kings!
If those Israelites, the house of servants, returning from their bondage, and remembering the covenant promises of God to them, had cause for singing and shouting Jehovah's praise, much more have we, who belong to the house of sons, great cause to tell abroad the great things which the Lord hath done for us. We were all servants of sin once, under the bondage of sin, ignorance, superstition and death, but God, through the great Cyrus, has permitted us to go free. Appropriately, therefore, our first step should be to recognize the sacrifice of the altar, and then to offer praise to him who hath called us out of darkness into his marvelous light, for "He hath put a new song into our mouths, even the loving kindness of our God."
The Apostle assures us that, however appropriate, inspiring and refreshing are the songs of our lips, still more appropriate and still more appreciated of the Lord are our heart-songs, the joy and rejoicing of the new nature--"singing and making melody in our hearts unto the Lord." (`Eph. 5:19`.) And this joy and singing in the heart, this heart-thankfulness to the giver of all good, necessarily finds expression, not only in Christian carols, but also in all the acts and words of life--all of which constitute the hymn of praise and thanksgiving continually ascending before God from his people.
"My life flows on in endless song,
Above earth's lamentation;
I catch the sweet not far-off hymn
That hails a new creation.
Through all the tumult and the strife
I hear the music ringing;
It finds an echo in my soul;
How can I keep from singing!"
We read, "They sang one to another in praising and giving thanks to the Lord, saying, For he is good, for his mercy endureth forever toward Israel." (Rev. Ver.) This is considered by some to be an indication of the Lord's will respecting Christian worship--that it should be done by choirs instead of by the congregation, and that it should be in the nature of solos and choruses. There can be no doubt whatever that selected and trained choirs can render better music than can the general average of Christians. Nor can we doubt that this would be particularly true of the time mentioned in our lesson, when musical and other education was very deficient, and when the most that the majority of people could do was to "make a joyful noise unto the Lord." But two things in this connection should be kept in mind:--
(1) That so far as the Christian Church is concerned, the Lord has left her entirely without restrictions in such matters--to praise the Lord with heart and voice, according to her love and zeal and judgment. It is not, therefore, for one to judge another respecting the use of his love, zeal and judgment in offering the Lord worship in songs of praise, whether with instrumental accompaniment or without: it is for each individual and each church to exercise the liberty which the Lord has granted. However, we do urge that all remember that it is not the excellence of our music that will make it acceptable to our Lord. For we may well suppose that the harmonies of the heavenly choirs quite outmeasure the best efforts of earthly choirs, and hence could not hope that the Lord will receive our songs of praise because of their intrinsic merit. Their acceptance at all will be because they are expressions of the heart sentiments; and this being true all who have heart sentiments of thankfulness and gratitude should be encouraged to make "a joyful noise unto the Lord," as acceptable and pleasing to him through the merit of our Redeemer.
"Let all his children sing
Glad songs of praise to God!
The children of the heavenly King
Should tell their joys abroad."
(2) It should be remembered that fleshly Israel was typical, and that their priests and Levites, selected for the offering of sacrifice and for the offering of praise, typified the Church, the "royal priesthood," and household of faith. We are to remember, too, that their songs of praise typified the songs and melodies of our hearts. From this standpoint we see that the setting apart of a special choir of Levites for praise would not be in any sense of the word a sanction or command for the selection of trained choirs, separate and distinct from the congregation of the Lord's people: indeed, it would quite contradict the common practice of hiring unbelievers to do church singing. None can offer acceptable praise to God except those who are of the priestly tribe,--"the household of faith."
Amongst those who were present at the laying of the foundation stone at the rebuilding of the Temple were some who probably as small children could dimly recollect the glorious Temple of Solomon, and who now, returning from seventy years' captivity, were eighty or more years old. These wept as they contrasted the glorious things of the past with the small beginnings before them. Doubtless there was a great contrast, and yet quite probably distance and childhood's eyes lent an enchanted glory to their recollection of the former things. But their cries were drowned with the rejoicing of hope, and this was well. So with Christians
::R2511 : page 203::
who have gotten free from Babylon, and who are seeking by the Lord's grace to build their faith again on the old foundation laid by Christ and the apostles at the beginning of this age--they are apt to think backward to the blessings and privileges of the early Church, and to weep and sigh for those by-gone blessings. It is well that we should highly esteem the favors of God manifested in the primitive Church, its simplicity of worship and purity of faith and apostolic privileges, to the intent that these may stand before our minds as ideals in the work of reconstructing our faith and hope and love upon the old foundation; but it would be quite improper for us to give way to weeping at such moments;
::R2512 : page 203::
rather should the necessities and exigencies of our time lead us to energy and the thought of divine favor in our deliverance from Babylon, lead us to rejoice and to sing the new song which the Lord has put into our mouths, even his loving kindness.
"The people of the land" were of mixed nationality, placed as colonists in that portion of the country of Palestine previously occupied by the ten tribes. This colonizing of mixed peoples was in pursuance of the general policy of the Assyrian and Chaldean empires, of removing captives from their native soil to new homes, thus breaking the ties of the fatherland, destroying patriotic feelings, that by these means the sympathies and interests of the people might be the more readily attracted to and united with the one central government at Babylon.
These "people of the land" (subsequently known as Samaritans) were disposed to be friendly to the returned Israelites, and proffered their aid in the building of the Temple, but their assistance was refused, the Israelites realizing that if these "strangers" were permitted to share in the work of constructing the Temple they could with propriety claim a share also in the character of the worship which would be established therein, and they foresaw that it would open the door to laxity in religious matters, and perhaps to the old idolatry, on account of which the Lord had so severely chastised them. Their course in this matter has been freely criticised as "narrow" and ungenerous, by those who have not rightly appreciated the situation. We are to remember that God's covenants were exclusively to the seed of Abraham, and not to other peoples, who were known as Gentiles.
As an illustration of this exclusiveness, and a proof of its propriety, we note the fact that our Lord did not preach to others than the seed of Abraham, saying to his disciples, "Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not; but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." And of himself he said, "I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel."--`Matt. 10:5`; `15:24`.
It would be well for those of Spiritual Israel who are now returning from captivity in the various provinces of "Babylon the Great" to remember this lesson. They find mixed peoples ready to express more or less of sympathy with them, and to offer more or less of cooperation in the reestablishment of the true worship of God in its primitive simplicity. The natural inclination would be to accept such proffered assistance, and to call every such assistant a "brother," and to accept and use not only the labor but the gold proffered, regardless of the fact that it comes not from true Israelites. Indeed, the general tendency of our time is not only to be willing to accept the money and other aid of worldly people in the Lord's service, but to beg for it, and to scheme to get it by every device conceivable,-- fairs, suppers, subscriptions, collections, etc., etc. The tendency in every case must be to bring in a foreign and unsanctified influence, and to do great injury to the true Israelites. This indeed may be said to be one of the chief troubles with nominal Protestantism to-day. Zion is full of "strange children," and their voice and influence predominate in the business affairs of the churches, in the doctrines, etc., etc. The true Israelites in comparison are but as a little flock of sheep amongst many goats and some wolves.
When "the people of the land" found that their money and services were not acceptable, and that they could have neither part nor lot in the construction of the Lord's house, it offended them and made them enemies; and from that time onward they persistently opposed the work of the Israelites. So it will be with Spiritual Israel; those who conscientiously live separate from the world in spiritual matters, and recognize as brethren in Christ only those who confess to circumcision of the heart and adoption into God's family, will find themselves opposed by moralists, liberalists and higher critics, as well as by the masses, who hate the light, because it condemns their darkness--doctrinal and otherwise. Nevertheless, this is the only good and safe course to pursue. Better far is it that only true Israelites should be recognized as brethren, and thus the wheat be separated from the tares.
Some one has well said:--"The Christian in the world is like a ship in the ocean. The ship is safe in the ocean so long as the ocean is not in the ship." One of the great difficulties with Christianity to-day is that it has admitted the strangers, the "people of the land," and recognized them as Christians. It does injury, not only to the Christians, by lowering their standards (for the average will be considered the standard), but it also injures the "strangers," by causing many of them to believe themselves thoroughly safe, and needing no conversion, because they are outwardly respectable, and perhaps frequently attendants at public worship. It
::R2512 : page 204::
lowers the standard of doctrine also, because the minister who realizes that at least three-fourths of his congregation would be repelled by the presentation of strong meat of truth, withholds the same, and permits those who need the strong meat, and could appreciate and use it to advantage, to grow weak, to starve. Furthermore, the worldly spirit and the fuller treasury have attracted "strangers" into the professed ministry of the Gospel, many of whom know not the Lord, neither his Word, and who consequently are thoroughly unprepared to feed the true sheep, were they ever so well disposed.
The lesson in connection with the building of the Temple, the Lord's Church, "which temple ye are," is that worldly persons, worldly methods and worldly aid and wisdom are to be rejected. As all the living stones are to be polished, fitted and prepared under the eye and direction of the great master-builder, the Lord, so all the servants, all the ministers of the truth, engaging in this work, are to be, so far as we have to do with the matter, such only as manifest a circumcision of heart, and thus show themselves to be Israelites indeed. Much and serious has been the injury done to the Lord's cause by the selection of workmen whose chief recommendation has been that they had some ability as public speakers, a good address. Rather let us remember that none may engage in this work as true Israelites unless they be in full accord with the Master-builder, and by their ability in rightly dividing the Word of truth show themselves to be workmen that need not to be ashamed.--`1 Pet. 2:5,9`; `1 Cor. 3:17`; `2 Tim. 2:15`.
::R2512 : page 204::
DESPISE NOT THE DAY OF SMALL THINGS.
MANY, AS they note the mighty opposition to present truth, and the comparatively few who have ears to hear it, and hearts to obey it, are inclined to discouragement. They are in danger of despising their God-given opportunities as a "day of small things," and hence of letting slip valuable opportunities for service to God and his people. For such the Lord sends a message, saying,--"Strengthen ye the weak hands and confirm [make firm] the feeble knees. Say to the timid of heart, Be strong, fear not: Behold your God! Vengeance cometh! the recompense of God. He will come and save you. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped."--`Isa. 35:3-5`.
Think of the possibilities, remembering that now as in Elijah's day there are probably more than seven thousand Israelites indeed who have not bowed the knee to Baal. But consider the possibilities within reach of the twenty thousand readers of ZION'S WATCH TOWER as follows:--
If each one will interest another one this year, it will mean 40,000 in 1900.
If all have similar zeal and success it would mean 80,000 in 1901; and 160,000 in 1902; and 320,000 in 1903; and 640,000 in 1904; and 1,280,000 in 1905.
But suppose that only one in ten of the readers are fully consecrated--their all upon the Lord's altar as "living sacrifices, holy, acceptable to God" and doing "their reasonable service,"--how then would it show? Thus:--
At present 2,000; in 1900 it would show 4,000; in 1901 it would show 8,000; in 1902 it would show 16,000; in 1903 it would show 32,000; in 1904 it would show 64,000; in 1905 it would show 128,000.
But the average should be more than this. Each of the consecrated, watching and praying and improving every opportunity, and permitting no day to pass without some special witness for the Lord and his truth either by word or pen, should expect to reach more than one each year. If they have not averaged better than this in the past, they should seek and pray for more opportunities and especially for more wisdom to see and to use their opportunities. Let us all make sure that the Master at last can say of us as he said of one of old,--"She hath done what she could."-- `Mark 14:8`.
Never before were there so many possibilities of serving the truth--God's provision for his people.
(1) All the interested may have ZION'S WATCH TOWER regularly free if they cannot afford the moderate subscription price, and will write us to that effect: or they may have it on credit, if they prefer it so; and if they can never pay and will write us to this effect, the debt will be cancelled.
(2) All TOWER readers are supplied, free, all the tracts they can use--for enclosing in their letters,
::R2513 : page 204::
for distribution on railway trains, at conventions, etc. Millions of tracts are thus circulated annually.
(3) For those who can devote their time to colporteuring the DAWNS and booklets every reasonable arrangement is made; and about fifty brethren and sisters are giving their time and strength in this way.
(4) For others who cannot thus "minister," the Lord has opened a new department of "Volunteers" for Sunday service in the free circulation of the "meat in due season" represented in the booklet, The Bible vs. Evolution. Many have taken hold of this opportunity, and at present we are unable to meet the demand as promptly as we would like. We know not
::R2513 : page 205::
what results the reaping will show, but are sure that the "reapers" are being blest and strengthened by their service.
(5) Opportunity to secure the DAWNS, etc., at extremely low rates for loaning to neighbors and friends.
Evidences multiply that all those facilities for service are at a most opportune time: when the fall of Babylon from steadfastness on even the first principles of the doctrines of Christ is awakening the Lord's people and calling them to come out of her; and when they need the helping hands of true "brethren" to guide them into the light of truth now shining. For we firmly believe that all in Babylon must come out of her, if they would be of the Bride class; and that none of the "brethren" who will be amongst the "overcomers" will be left in "darkness."--See `1 Thes. 5:2-5`; `Rev. 3:18-22`; `13:14-16`; `20:4`.
"Lord, increase our faith!" If we believe that we are in the "harvest" time of this age, and that the "harvest" work is in progress, and we participators in it, let us believe also that the great Chief Reaper is thoroughly able to use us as well as to bless us in his service; and let none look at clouds and discouragements, but let each do with his might what his hands find to do, with the eye of faith "looking unto Jesus," our Captain, and determined that, whether or not he shall be able to bring many unto the Kingdom, the King shall at least have evidence of his love and zeal and effort so to do.
::R2513 : page 205::
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS.
Question.--Are not present conditions less favorable to the performance of the injunctions of `Eph. 4:28`, and `2 Cor. 12:15`, than were the conditions at the time the Apostle wrote? Is not the labor market more glutted now than then?
Answer.--No doubt circumstances and conditions varied in the Apostle's day as they do now, but we have no reason from history to suppose that the average working man of that time was more favorably situated in wages, opportunities for labor, etc., than at present. Indeed, it is very doubtful if labor was at any time in the past as well housed, as well clothed, and generally comfortable, as at the present time. This does not mean that we consider the laboring class too well cared for at the present time--nor that we think their condition all that could be desired. Gladly would we improve, if we could, the general conditions of labor. It is well, however, that we should not cultivate in ourselves or in each other a spirit of discontent, which can do no good, but is likely to work injury; and to this end it is well that we should not deceive ourselves or others into thinking our load unendurable or harder than that of other days, when it is really better by a very great deal.
Question.--In a family of seven, when all the incomes foot up an average of $1 per day for working days, how would it be possible, after providing food, clothing, rent and fuel, to put by anything or to give away anything?
Answer.--If you mean that the total income of seven persons is only $1 a day, $6 a week, we admit that it is small, and that it would require extraordinary economy to "provide things decent." But permit a kindly suggestion, dear brother, that there should be no family of seven persons at the present time unable to earn more than $6 per week--unless through some accident, some misfortune. A man who cannot earn more than a dollar a day ought to consider very earnestly the question whether or not he could afford to get married, and assume the responsibilities of a father, and any woman asked to become a wife should give earnest thought to the financial side of the problem before accepting such an invitation. Circumstances and prospects may have been more favorable at the time of marriage, but so soon as such circumstances became unfavorable the propagation of a family, for which only an unsatisfactory provision could be made, should not have continued--continence, self-denial, should be practiced by Christians under such circumstances, and be considered not merely a "virtue," but a "duty." Nor should they unduly bemoan their lot, but on the contrary remember what the Scriptures so clearly set forth--that the heavenly Father knoweth what things his children have need of. By cheerfully seeking to conform to the proper necessities of the case, and accepting such as divine providences in the case of the consecrated, a great blessing may result, for, as the Apostle declares, "All things work together for good to them that love God--to the called ones according to his purpose."
Question.--Under such circumstances, how is the father to follow the Scriptural injunction to lay up for his children? Did Mary make provision for her son Jesus? Did not the son make provision for the parent?
Answer.--"How just are God's commands,
How wise his precepts are!"
Scriptural injunctions we may understand to be applicable only so far as it is possible for us to follow them. If we find it impossible to lay by anything, we may consider ourselves excused from this provision or advice. But our effort should be to follow the Scriptural injunction, if it should only be to lay aside one
::R2513 : page 206::
or two or five cents out of each day's earnings. The Lord should at least see our effort to follow his instructions, and we would surely have a blessing in such endeavors.
We do not understand the Apostle to mean that aged parents should slave themselves to provide for grown and healthy children. While the offspring are children their future welfare should be provided for by reasonable education, etc., and when such children are grown, they should take pleasure in caring for their aged parents. Mary was probably at least fifty-five years of age when Jesus, having evidently cared for her himself, committed her at his death to the care of John. And the Apostle shows that his thoughts on the subject were in full harmony with this, for, when speaking of widows, he says, "If any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to show piety at home [by caring for their dependent relatives], and to requite their parents: for this is good and acceptable before God."--`1 Tim. 5:4`.
Question.--Is there not in the Scriptures quoted a cold business tone, indicating that man's wisdom had more to do with them than the spirit of the Lord, who so tenderly spoke of the Father's care and love, and who must have known to what straits many of his people would be brought in taking up his cross and following on, and the separation from worldly ways and means of obtaining a living--clubs, labor unions, church unions, etc., in harmony with the injunction, "Come out from among them and be ye separate"?
Answer.--No, dear brother; we are to consider that the same holy spirit guided in all the writings of the apostles, and that God's Word is not yea and nay. Surely no Scripture writer more prominently or more fully set forth the Lord's love and care for his people, and the necessity for full separation from the world, than did the Apostle Paul who wrote the Scriptures which you criticise.
On the other hand, we are to realize that the circumstances in which we are placed have not come to us by accident, but, according to the Scriptures, have come to us under direct supervision of God,--if we are his consecrated people. Consequently, instead of repining, rebelling and bemoaning, we are to accept the Lord's provision as being the best for us, as "new creatures," according to his divine wisdom. We are to seek to do as nearly as he has directed us as lies within our power, and the remainder entirely beyond our power we should take to the Lord in prayer, asking increase of wisdom, increase of grace, increase of strength, to know and to do his will more and more perfectly for the future, and whatever may have been our errors in the past, our loving Father has made abundant provision in Christ for our forgiveness and aid. And doubtless God's reason for permitting some of our experiences is that we may learn just such lessons necessary to the shaping and moulding of our characters into most perfect harmony with the divine pattern, our Lord Jesus.
Question.--In the Old Testament we read, "Trust in the Lord and do good, and verily thou shalt be fed." I would like to know whether or not this and similar Old Testament expressions are applicable to the called-out ones of this Gospel age, or were they merely applicable to the Jewish age, when, according to the Law Covenant, God gave temporal rewards for obedience?
Answer.--As heretofore pointed out, the promises to fleshly Israel were temporal and, as you suggest, guaranteed temporal prosperity as a reward for obedience. But are the promises to the Lord's faithful ones of this Gospel age smaller or less precious, because they do not guarantee riches and friends and freedom from blight and drouth? May we not realize that the promises made to us are much more comprehensive,
::R2514 : page 206::
having the promise of the life which now is, and also of that which is to come? (`1 Tim. 4:8`.) Is it not still true, and most abundantly emphasized in the New Testament, that "No good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly"? If all things work together for good to them that love God, we may be sure that if riches or ease or luxury are withheld from us, they are withheld for our blessing, and may rejoice in such evidences of the divine care. Is it not in the New Testament that the Apostle declares, "Godliness with contentment is great gain"? and must not therefore contentment be a possible thing to those who will live godly in this present time, even tho they suffer persecution, and even tho they be not so prosperous in temporal matters as some others?
The lesson of faith, dear brother, is an important one for all to learn and, if we are slow in learning it, we will probably be kept under the necessary experiences that much the longer--because the Father loveth us and seeketh in us this good quality. Faith will not look at any of the divine arrangements as unkind or cold, but will see in them all, and in all of life's experiences, the very blessing most needed, and can sing,
"Content, whatever lot I see,
Since 'tis my God that leadeth me."
Question.--Please consider, briefly, the following Scriptures additional to those recently sent you:-- `Phil. 4:10,15-17`; `1 Cor. 4:14`; `2 Cor. 11:8,9`; `Luke 6:38`; `2 Cor. 10:11`.
Answer.--These Scriptures seem to be along the same lines as those considered in our last issue, to which we again refer all readers. We consider them in order.
(1) `Phil. 4:10,15-17`:--This Scripture indicates that the Apostle, who was giving his entire time to the ministry of the Gospel, labored at tent-making or other secular business only when such a course was made necessary in providing things honest in the sight of all men--and rather than be burdensome to any, or even to request assistance. The Apostle here recognizes as the Lord's judgment that any laborer is worthy of his keep, unless he has missed his calling, or is incapacitated. The Apostle did not mistake his calling, and if the Church recognized him as a servant called of the Lord and being used effectively in the
::R2514 : page 207::
ministry of reconciliation, it then became their privilege to cooperate with him in that ministry by supplying his temporal needs. And in the case of the Church at Philippi it would appear from the Apostle's testimony that they had appreciated and used their opportunities properly and repeatedly. All are not talented for public service of the truth, and whenever one is discovered by the brethren to have special gifts and talents and zeal for the ministry he should be encouraged in that direction, and the others less qualified in these respects should take pleasure in assisting such an one, and thus they would be reckoned as having a share with him in the fruit of their combined labors.
In the Apostle's case there was no room to doubt that his ministry was owned and accepted of the Lord, and that he was an apostle--one specially sent forth, and whose services were specially guided by the Master; and that his entire time was given to the work and was needed for the work.
(2) `1 Cor. 4:14`:--The context preceding shows that the Apostle felt considerably hurt that the Church at Corinth, which he himself had established through the preaching of the gospel, had been quickly turned aside by false teachers, who had denied Paul's apostleship. The Church at Corinth had seemingly flourished financially and socially, and suffered little persecution. They were correspondingly unable to rightly sympathize with the Apostle in his active ministry of the truth, and the many hazardous incidents connected therewith. In the context he addresses them rather ironically, saying, "We are fools for Christ's sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honorable, but we are despised,... and labor, working with our hands." In the `14th verse` the Apostle assures his readers that he is not so writing in order to cause them pain and shame, but to awaken them to a proper appreciation of the true situation, to the intent that they might be to a larger extent co-laborers with him--sharers in the sufferings of Christ, that in due time also they might have share in the glory to follow.
(3) `2 Cor. 11:8,9`:--These verses show us that the Apostle was careful to avoid the money question in his preaching. He never so much as asked assistance from the Corinthians while he was with them; not that he would have refused to accept assistance if it had been tendered, nor that he considered that it would have been any less than their duty and privilege to have assisted him, but that he had confidence that the Lord would supply his necessities in the best way, and was willing rather to present the Word of God without charge, to the intent that his ministry should be the more impressive, as an exhibition of the fact that he sought not their money but their highest welfare. He assured them of this by letter afterward, explaining to them that others had been more careful to look after his necessities than they, and had a corresponding blessing. The Apostle wrote of the matter subsequently, not because he desired a gift, but because he realized that whoever receives the truth into a good and honest heart and is really benefited by it must partake of its spirit of generosity, and do his share in forwarding the truth, else he will go backward and lose some of the blessing and light already received.
(4) `Luke 6:38`:--This verse represents the general principle of divine dealing--"The Lord loveth a cheerful giver," and causes his smile and blessing to rest upon such, whereas those who receive the Lord's favor and fail to be exercised by the spirit of benevolence, receive correspondingly less of spiritual blessing.
(5) `2 Cor. 10:11`:--This does not signify that if the Apostle wrote them respecting benevolence in money matters he would also preach to them upon this subject. His own expressions clearly indicate that he did not follow this course, and that his writing upon the subject of money-giving was from a standpoint wholly separate from any solicitations on his own account. The context shows that he was reproving some one in the Church who had been walking according to the flesh and not according to the spirit, and his declaration here is that he would speak in the same denunciatory manner if he were present with them.
::R2515 : page 207::
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL:--At last I managed to get to London to see the brethren, being hindered from an earlier visit. Brother Guard very kindly provided for me whilst there. I found in London both that which cheered and that which made me sad. It may be said that there are three classes; (1) the scattered ones, whom I found generally lacking in interest; (2) a company who meet regularly in the north of London, and who reside chiefly in the West and North. Brother Sheward, as far as I could judge, is the main-stay of this meeting, which is now getting beyond things we understand; and (3) a meeting in Stratford, East London, which meets in Bro. Guard's home and is in full sympathy with the TOWERS and DAWNS. It was with these all my meetings were held. I went on the 8th of June and held meetings the same day, Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings, Sunday afternoon and evening, and again on Tuesday.
::R2514 : page 207::
The day-time I spent looking up the odd ones, and hard work it was. London is such a big place, and some districts ten or more miles apart. I called upon our dear Brother Hart and spent some little time with him, besides seeing him three times at our meetings. Bro. Guard is another dear brother, to all appearances sincerely desirous of pleasing God. He is rather stern in countenance, but very kindly in disposition, and I believe he does his best for the brethren. We had a good time together. Our meetings were attended by forty or more people, all apparently deeply interested. I found their meetings had been, to my mind, rather too open, inasmuch as they allow interruption at any time; indeed, they had taken the form of conversation more than not. As brother Guard has some ability, I counseled him to develop the idea of worship more than they had, and let questions be asked and answered afterwards if need be. Or, in many cases it would be altogether preferable that a newly interested one should be allowed private opportunity rather than a whole
::R2514 : page 208::
company should be kept waiting whilst every old question is again threshed out.
There is, as you have often said, a tendency, when one is freed from Babylon's bondage, to swing to the other extreme not only in doctrine but ceremonies, and some forget the prime object of meeting together,-- worship. I am thankful to God for Bro. Guard and the dear brethren with him.
There was much to encourage one. One feels more than repaid by the hearty words "God bless you!" The brethren generally seemed helped and encouraged by my visit. Perhaps some of this was due to the form of worship we had. I judged the brethren were needing exhortation, and by the grace of God I was enabled to encourage them.
I was unable to get but a short time with Brother Sheward, but I was satisfied with even that. He was courteous,--one could expect that,--but he is developing a cynical trait of character, I am sorry to say. "I suppose you have some difference with Brother R., Brother Sheward?" "Well, yes! a little theoretically, but practically nil." This I found to be quite in error, for the practical difference is as between light and darkness. He could not define his position. On my saying it was negative, he admitted that was so. He denies the "high calling;" does not know what to hope for; neither does he know his position as touching the world, thinking there is probably the same hope for it as for us now. I pointed out to him how that his philosophy left a vacuum; which he also admitted. His chief claim is that none have understood or been "begotten of the spirit" since the apostles' days, that Bro. R. has made a brave attempt at the elucidation of the mystery, but has failed. "Bro. R. has done a great work and is now exhausted, nothing more need be expected from him." Presumably we are to look to Bro. Sheward (seeing he is not exhausted) for any further developments of truth(?).
I should say that Bro. Sheward's theory of a spirit-begotten condition is "an ability to ring up Peter, for instance, and ask his statement as to an interpretation, etc." So we are to come to Spiritism by a new route. What assured him chiefly was that all the company meeting with him were agreed. As I asked for some Scripture for this or that statement, he admitted he could not prove, but claimed that I must disprove. There was not much opportunity for that, he was so busy telling me of his beliefs. Well! I came away quite sad, but assured, nothing could be done while he was in the same mind. To me it is another
::R2515 : page 208::
case of "the wisdom of this age." What a need for those who have responsibilities to guard themselves well! I did not seek opportunities of interviewing the members of his flock. He invited me to stay over Sunday and listen to them when they had a better opportunity of telling me, but I declined.
It seems as if the truth received into any other than "good ground" (sincere hearts) creates an insatiable desire for new things; and if nothing new be forthcoming, something must be invented.
I will write again shortly after I have given the brethren in Liverpool a call. With kindest good wishes in the Lord, I am, dear brother,
Yours in the Lord, JESSE HEMERY,--England.
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL:--Your esteemed favor of the 28th was joyfully received, because you say in it you expect to be able to send to us again Brother Draper about Oct. 1st. I feel especially pleased over the prospect, and I have good reasons to believe others feel the same. He seems to possess the faculty of stirring up, and waking up, those who have the harness on, as well as comforting and strengthening those that are feeble and halting to press on and entirely forsake the old way which in almost every case is more or less the way of Babylon. I have great reasons to rejoice and be glad and thankful every day for God's loving kindness which, when seen in its purity and grandeur, more than offsets the tribulations, trials and sorrows that surround us on all sides. But it makes me greatly ashamed of the complaining spirit that has heretofore often possessed me. I greatly desire to be separate from every defiling thing and to be clean in thought and desire as well as in person; and I freely acknowledge that your writings have opened to my view the precious, loving character of the Almighty, and of our dear Master, as no other light ever did, and have greatly encouraged me to accept the invitation to freely partake of the bountiful feast of fat things, so wonderfully brought to our view by your pen. Oh how gladly and thankfully I partake of them, and what a longing desire it has created in me to do something useful in return for these great benefits!
I will enclose a small remittance to you, not small when compared with my income, but small compared to what I would like to make it. Desiring for your complete success as heir with Christ to the Kingdom, and with Christian love to all the Church, I am,
Your brother in Him, A. B. PERINE,--Kansas.
BELOVED BROTHER IN CHRIST:--It is after 11 P.M., but I must drop you a note before retiring, in reference to the meetings of Brother McPhail, the last one of which was held in Philadelphia this evening. To say we have been blessed is putting it too mildly. I believe we will all be better men and women in the Lord for what we have received of our heavenly Father through the instrumentality of this dear brother. He addressed one meeting Friday, two Saturday, and three to-day, and all the meetings were well attended, especially to-day's. Friends were here from Wilmington, West Chester, Chadd's Ford, Lansdale, Doylestown, Newport, Camden and Scranton.
During the entire series of meetings a beautiful spirit of love was in evidence. Everyone seemed to enter heartily into the spirit of the discourse, which can truly be said to have been in the demonstration of the spirit and in power. I believe I can safely say that the past three days have been the most momentous in the experience of the brethren in this city. We feel very thankful, dear Brother, that when Bro. McPhail's route was laid out the brethren in Philadelphia were remembered.
The Lord has blest us greatly of late, and I think the Philadelphia Church is in an excellent condition spiritually--there is love, unity, and peace, as well as a deepening confidence in God's ability to make all things work together for our good. Excuse the haste in which this is written. With Christian love to you,
Yours, BENJAMIN H. BARTON,--Philadelphia.