VOL. XVII. MAY 1, 1896. No. 9.
Special Items..................................... 90
Views from the Tower.............................. 91
"Have They not Heard?"............................ 94
Bible Study: "God be Merciful to
Me, a Sinner................................ 98
Bible Study: Stewardship of the
Pounds and Talents.......................... 98
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VIEWS FROM THE TOWER.
CHRISTIAN (?) Italy, like other Christian (?) nations of Europe, has been trying to do its duty to the heathen of Africa to teach them something of modern civilization, as represented in the liquor traffic and in land-grabbing. Italy felt that duty called her to conquer and "protect" the Abyssinians;--that is, she would "protect" such as she did not destroy with her modern implements of warfare, that they, as her slaves, might be heavily taxed and help her to live in luxury and pay the interest on her present enormous debt. But the Abyssinians surprised the world by nearly exterminating the army invading their home. In view of this they may be regarded as less "barbarous" than Italy had supposed, and as not needing Italy's civilizing taxation.
Christianity was introduced into Abyssinia as early as 330 A.D., but it was of the corrupt type so early prevalent, and represents many of the errors of the Romish, Greek and Armenian systems. But Protestant missionaries and Bibles published for them by the British and Foreign Bible Society have done much to elevate their moral and religious standing. What will the Abyssinians now think of the British assisting the Italians by advancing upon them the Egyptian army?
The following from La Figaro purports to be a letter from Negus Menelek, king of Abyssinia, to Mr. F. S. R. Clark, an English missionary, Feb. 3, some little time before the Italian army attacked him and was defeated. We quote as follows:--
"You are mistaken in believing that I do not care for your prayers. All prayers of believers are dear to me, even when they come from the children of Europe. Not all are aggressors in my kingdom; not all commit the iniquity of attacking those whom they hope to find weaker than themselves: not all have bent the knee before Baal, the god of destruction and the slaughterer of brothers. Many, I am sure, still truly adore the God of the cross, the God of justice and of peace. With them I feel in perfect communion of faith, and I am happy that they pray for me, for my household and for my people.
"I only wish they would make truth dwell in the sanctuary, and that instead of a mutilated gospel, which explains the confusion and the infidelity of the peoples of Europe, they would return and lead others back to the true gospel which began with the creation of the world.
"By what right do they efface the whole portion of it which precedes the coming of Jesus Christ, and have they done away with what God established for all time?
"What you call the Old Testament is as true as the New, and what is contained in it must be respected and observed by those who follow Jesus and the apostles, announced by the prophets.
"Never did Jesus abolish the distinctive mark of his race, since he was subject to it by his mother on the eight day. [Circumcision, still practiced by Abyssinians.] To suppress that which God established "from age to age and from forever to forever" is to weaken the faith, is to furnish the same spectacle shown by the Christians of Europe. It is not only without that they use violence, but also within, against the Jews who are, nevertheless, Christian souls, and to whom we owe our Savior. There are more than 300,000 of them in my kingdom, and, though they enjoy almost complete independence, they are obedient and industrious subjects. They never conspire, pay all tributes, and respect our abuna as much as do the Christians. If they are worse in Europe, it is because the Christians, too, are worse. Our Lord Jesus forgave them on the cross: why should we persecute them? You [English], at least, do not persecute them. May the other Christians of Europe imitate you.
"What you need is to return to our God, to observe all his ordinances, to no longer separate Moses and the prophets from the apostles or St. Peter from St. Paul. Whoever wishes to serve God must humble himself and obey. You know that, envoy of God. Teach it in Europe and Asia. I am having it taught in Africa.
"May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
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Little as we have in common with any of the so-called "Catholic" systems of Christian religion--the Greek, Roman, Armenian and Abyssinian--we nevertheless consider it a shame that, if the Armenians cannot be protected from the Mohammedan Turk, the Abyssinians must be scourged by Roman Catholic Italy, backed by Protestant and enlightened Britain, while civilized France has just finished a conquest of Madagascar, which for some time has been known as "the first heathen nation converted to Christ" in modern times. The heathen pay dearly for their acquaintance with civilization and so-called "Christian nations." Evidently selfishness is the basis of all this injustice. All this, however, may be a necessary experience to prepare men for the true Kingdom of Christ.
* * *
In Chicago a number of Presbyterians broke away from the Fullerton Ave. Church, and, with "Rev. Dr. John Rusk," organized an independent congregation known as the "Church Militant." This Church, in order to emphasize their Christian (?) liberty, recently invited Col. Robert Ingersoll to preach (?) to them. Mr. Ingersoll did so on Sunday, April 12. The public press account is as follows:
"With a prelude that included an invocation, the repeating of the Lord's Prayer in unison, the reading of the `tenth chapter of Luke, beginning with the twenty-fifth verse`, the singing of a Hosanna, of "Nearer my God to Thee" and "America," Col. R. G. Ingersoll stepped to the rostrum of the Church Militant and for nearly two hours expounded to the congregation his views upon 'How to Reform Mankind.'
"Although admission was strictly confined to ticket holders, the street in front of the theatre was blocked with people long before the opening of the doors, and even after the interior had been packed more than a thousand men and women besieged the entrance. On the stage were 400 or more representative citizens, including nearly every member of the Appellate and Superior judiciary and several county officials, delegations from every medical and law college and institution of learning in the city and suburbs, and a number of retired preachers. Every sect and denomination of importance, without exception, had its representative.
"When Col. Ingersoll made his appearance, arm in arm with Rev. Dr. Rusk, there was loud applause. In the prayer that followed the musical exercises Rev. Dr. Rusk asked for a special blessing on Col. Ingersoll as one who was endeavoring to show the world how this life might be made one of usefulness and joy. Rev. Dr. Rusk invoked a dispensation for Col. Ingersoll's wife and children, and in his introductory remarks spoke of the agnostic as "the man who is endeavoring to do this world good and to make it better." Rev. Dr. Rusk added that this was no time to reason, no time to disagree with the faiths of men or beliefs of men, when they were trying to make the world better than they found it. No matter, he said, whether a man believed in God or not, if he expounded the truth.
"As Col. Ingersoll stepped to the rostrum he was welcomed with applause that lasted for over a minute. His text was from Shakespeare, "There is no darkness but ignorance." He discoursed fluently on the evolution of intellect and the necessity for education; on the evils of war, showing that it costs $6,000,000 per day; on how to lessen crime by teaching criminals "the naturalness and harmony of virtue." [A difficult lesson for intelligent men to learn. All of their experiences attest the contrary, and agree with the Scriptures that to the natural man virtue is quite unnatural. ED.] He advocated homes for all the people, proper, useful education, etc., and then gave his views of what a church should be, as follows:
"Now it seems to me that it would be far better for the people of a town having a population of 4,000 or 5,000 to have one church, and the edifice should be of use not only on Sunday, but on every day of the week. In this building should be the library of the town. It should be the club house of the people, where they could find the principal newspapers and periodicals of the world. Its auditorium should be like a theatre. Plays should be presented by home talent, an orchestra formed, music cultivated. The people should meet there at any time they desire. The women could carry their knitting and sewing, and connected with it should be rooms for the playing of games, billiards, cards, and chess. Everything should be made as agreeable as possible. The citizens should take pride in this building. They should adorn its niches with statues and its walls with pictures. It should be the intellectual centre. They could employ a gentleman of ability, possibly of genius, to address them on Sundays on subjects that would be of real interest, of real importance.
This is a "natural" man's mistaken conception of what Christ's church should be. He rejects Christ, and cannot be expected to have his spirit or mind on the subject of what, why and how his church is "called" "out of the world." And alas! the Church, two thirds full of unconverted, "natural" men, see no better than this Infidel teacher. Indeed, to "natural" men the advice of "natural" men must appear more reasonable and more consistent than the teachings of the Word and spirit of God. It does not surprise us, therefore, to see many
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turned from the truth unto fables (`2 Tim. 4:4`), and congregations and denominations moving from the hopes and methods set before us in the gospel to hopes and methods of their own misconceptions and unbelief.
But the close of the address pictured the real Church of God glorified, in a manner and degree little realized by the orator, who meant rather to describe Nature--his god. He said:--
"The firmament inlaid with suns is the dome of the real cathedral. The interpreters of nature are the true and only priests. In the great creed are all the truths that lips have uttered and in the real litany will be found all the ecstasies and aspirations of the soul, all dreams of joy, all hopes for nobler, fuller life. The real church, the real edifice, is adorned and glorified with all that art has done. In the real choir is all the thrilling music of the world; and in the starlit aisles have been, and are, the grandest souls of every land and clime."--Compare `Eph. 2:21`; `2 Cor. 6:16`; `1 Pet. 2:4,5`; `Rev. 3:12`; `21:22`; `Matt. 13:43`.
The "Church Militant" convinces us that it is free-- not only free from Sectarian supervision and creed bondage (a good thing), but free also from Christ, a very dangerous freedom. Yet it is still true that truth only can make "free indeed." Whatever the state of their hearts, if Christians at all, they sat for two hours in the seats of the scornful
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and took counsel of the ungodly. The blessed of the Lord do not so, as is particularly stated in the `first Psalm`.
How this circumstance shows the blindness of Christ's professed followers, that they who should be the light of the world should be so dark that they feel their need of, and request the instruction of one whom the god of this world hath blinded; who is so blind that the light of the glory of God as it shines in the face of Jesus Christ our Lord has not yet penetrated his mind;--almost as blind as the "fool" mentioned in `Psalm 14:1`. Verily, Mr. Ingersoll chose a good text, There is no darkness like ignorance; and if, as the Scriptures declare, "The reverence of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom," then Mr. Ingersoll is still in gross darkness, the "True Light" not having shone into his heart. What could he know or teach of the true hope for the groaning creation?
We have not yet heard whether or not some of the brethren in Chicago improved the opportunity to offer to the congregation, as they came out, some of the truth in printed form, but if they did not they missed a grand opportunity. There probably were some of the really truth-hungry children of God there, who, starving for lack of true food for their souls, are looking and feeling after it in a wrong direction. All men are awaking, and all as they awake are hungry: Satan will supply them poisoned food in abundance and under favorable conditions; let us who have the truth redouble our activities if we hope to hear our Master say, Well done! good, faithful servant,... enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.
* * *
The Christian Denomination, otherwise known as "Disciples," have very rigid ideas respecting baptism (immersion in water). They teach that immersion is the door to justification, or forgiveness of sins and acceptance as God's people. They lay stress upon the Apostle's statement in `Acts 2:38`, and fail to notice that he spoke to the Israelites, already God's people (`verse 36`), and not to the Gentiles. They overlook the fact that it is faith, not water, that justifies.--`Rom. 5:1`; `4:2-4,13,22-24`. See TOWER for June 15, '93.
The Cedar ave. Disciple Church, Cleveland, having recently broken over the unwritten law of the denomination, and having received into membership a Christian man who had not been immersed, a great stir has ensued, and, as a sign of disfellowship, the donation of this church to the Foreign "Christian" Missionary Society was refused. But nevertheless the influence is spreading, and the South Side Christian Church of Indianapolis is also receiving members who have not been immersed.
The result will no doubt be a disruption of the denomination, for its membership will be started to thinking; just as other circumstances are arousing thought in other denominations. It is all a part of the shaking and waking up, proper to this time of "shaking" (`Heb. 12:28`), that the true Christians of all denominations may get free from denominational thraldom; henceforth to be bound, not as members of human institutions, but each as a branch in the true vine--Christ. Instead of unions in cliques, societies and denominations, bound tighter and tighter to prevent disintegration, each individual Christian must stand free from all human alliances, that he may be most completely united to Christ, and, in fellowship and bonds of love only, with all who have Christ's spirit. The fall of Babylon means the setting at liberty of those whom God calls "My people."--`Rev. 18:4`.
* * *
Abbe Courbe, parish priest of Dion, Vichy, France, has just published a book, which he distinctly states is done with the consent of his superiors, in which he presents the view of a future Millennium. (This is the very opposite of the Roman Catholic theory, which all along has claimed that it was fulfilled during the period of Papal triumph, from the eighth to the eighteenth century, closing with Napoleon's triumph, which it claims began the "little season" of `Rev. 20:3,7`. This book may be an attempt to "hedge" a little, and indicates at least a doubt as to the previous interpretation.)
The title page of the book, translated from the French, reads as follows:--
"The great occurrence ("coup") with its probable date. That is to say the great chastisement of the world and universal triumph of the Church, which will probably occur between Sept. 19 and 20, 1896. The secrets of La Salette compared with the prophets of the Bible and other authorities."
As here indicated the author expects a one-day (24 hour's) battle, whereas we see from the Scriptures that it is a forty-year battle day, begun twenty-one years ago, whose latter part is to be a time ["day"] of trouble such as never was before. (`Dan. 12:1`.) Like the bloody predictions of others for this year, this of course will fail. The year will doubtless bring its share of troubles, but much remains to be done before the great revolution shall occur which will wreck society.
* * *
Electrician Thos. A. Edison has developed the "Roentgen ray" or "X ray" to such a degree that in a recent experiment he was able with his naked eye to look through an eight-inch block of yellow pine and see the outlines of his fingers. He has still greater hopes of future experiments.
Professors Pratt and Wightman have conceived that these penetrating rays might be utilized not only in locating diseases but also in curing disease by killing the disease germs. They have been experimenting with the germs of Dyphtheria, Cholera, Influenza, Typhoid fever and Consumption; and report excellent results. They believe that the X-rays will kill these germs or bacilli and thus stop the dreadful ravages of these diseases. These things are telegraphed throughout the world, yet how few realize their meaning--that the long-promised "times of restitution"
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are approaching and that our present Lord is thus making ready for blessing the world physically, by natural means, which are none the less of his providence.
If any one wonders how restitution could possibly rejuvenate the aged, let him read of a sample case, possibly granted for the purpose of illustration, as follows:--
"Middlesboro, Ky.--Mary Crabtree, who will be 91 years old the 15th day of August, is now in possession of all her faculties, has cut a new set of teeth, and can read without glasses. The most remarkable fact of all, however, is that her hair, which was snowy white, began to turn dark again eighteen months ago, and now is of a dark, glossy brown, just the color it was when she was a girl of eighteen."--The Philadelphia Press.
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"HAVE THEY NOT HEARD?"
"But I say, Have they not heard? Yes, verily their sound went into all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world."--`Rom. 10:18`.
BY many this scripture is understood to mean that in Paul's day the gospel had been universally proclaimed and heard; but it requires only a little reflection and observation to see that this view is not correct. For instance, it would be contrary to the reasoning of `verses 12-15`.--"How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? and how shall they preach except they be sent?" Besides, it could not have reached the portions of the earth then almost or entirely unknown,--e.g., America, Lower Africa, Eastern Asia or Australia. Nor had it gone in a full, clear sense to all even of the then known world.
The Apostle's meaning is clear, however, when his discourse is considered as a whole, and when it is remembered that he is addressing Israelites--those who had been under the bondage of the Law Covenant. The ninth, tenth and eleventh chapters should be taken together and studied as one subject. Then it will be seen that the Apostle, reasoning from the Old Testament Scriptures, is showing that the
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gospel is to be preached to all the world, and not to Israel only, as some had imagined. To support this argument he repeatedly quotes from the prophets.
It should also be borne in mind that the prophets seldom spoke of things as future, but instead, they took a future standpoint and spoke of things future as though they were present, or accomplished in the past. Thus Isaiah, in referring to the birth of Jesus, a thing then future, spoke of it as though already accomplished, saying, "Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given." (`Isa. 9:6`.) Thus also "went," in the above text, should be understood; and the real meaning of the passage is seen to be, Verily, their sound goeth, or shall go into all the earth. The statement of `Colossians 1:23`, properly understood, is in harmony with this: the gospel which the Colossians heard was not to them exclusively, nor to be confined as heretofore to Israel, but was to be preached, declared or made known, irrespective of birth or nationality, to every creature who has ears to hear it.
To make clear Paul's argument, we will briefly paraphrase `Romans 9:30` to `11:36`, as follows, calling special attention to Paul's quotations from the prophets:--
`Rom. 9:30-33`.--What must we conclude, then, concerning God's dealings with Israel and the Gentiles? We conclude that though Israel has been seeking to be right and justified before God, for over 1600 years, and the heathen nations were indifferent to and ignorant of needed justification, yet now that it is offered, Israel will reject, and the heathen will accept, the gospel of justification and reconciliation. Why? Because Israel, as a nation, vainly expect it by works, while the heathen will accept it by faith in Christ's finished work. Israel, feeling so confident that she can approve herself to God by works of obedience, stumbles at the simplicity of the gospel and will not believe that Jesus was the propitiation (satisfaction) for the sins of the whole world. Therefore, instead of accepting of redemption through Christ, they have stumbled over and rejected the only way to God. This was foreshown by the prophet `Isaiah (8:14`). "Behold, I lay in Sion a stumbling stone, and rock of offence; and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed."
`Chap. 10:1-4`.--Though I speak thus plainly about Israel and their stumbling, do not understand me to rejoice in their fall, for I desire and pray that they might be saved. I do not accuse them of indifference and wilful unbelief; nay, they have a zeal for God, but they have a plan and way of their own, and are thus blinded to God's way and plan of justifying through a ransom. They hope for salvation through the keeping of the Law in every particular, which in their degenerate condition is an impossibility; and they reject Christ, who before the tribunal of justice became the ransom, the substitute for all who will accept his service; and for all such he met and fulfilled the penalty of the Law, which is death.
`Vss. 5-10`.--Moses explains (`Lev. 18:5`) that the man who does right according to the Law shall continue to live, and not die; but in all the time since Moses thus wrote, none have succeeded in meriting life; death claimed all. It is therefore useless longer to look to works. We are proclaiming that Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness to every one that believeth. Jesus' death settled the claims of the Law upon all under it who accept of his ransom; and this is the good tidings which we now proclaim--that a right to life may be had by accepting of the redemption provided through Christ's sacrifice for our sins.
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But, my brethren, as Moses also said (`Deut. 30:11-14`), this thing is not hidden from them, neither is it far off, difficult to understand. And those who banish prejudice and exercise faith will not say, Who ascended into heaven to bring Christ down from above, or who descended into the grave to bring Christ back from the dead? But what will faith say? Faith will say just what Moses said (`Deut. 30:14`). The word (that is, the truth we preach) is nigh thee, even in thy mouth and in thy heart--it is reasonable and plain, that you may understand. Faith, finding abundant foundation in the teaching and mighty works of Jesus and his apostles and in the testimony of the prophets (unimpeachable witnesses), accepts the facts of the coming of Christ from above, of his death, his resurrection and ascension. Unless you believe this, you of course cannot accept of his sacrifice as being the end of the law and the cancelling of its death-penalty against you as violators of it.
But if you would lay hold of this great salvation, you must publicly and openly confess that Jesus is Lord--your Master; that by his death he purchased you, and thus became your owner; for "To this end Christ both died and rose and revived, that he might be LORD [owner, master] both of the dead and living." (`Rom. 14:9`.) And you must not only own and believe that he is your purchaser, your Redeemer and Lord, but also that he is a living Lord, that God raised him from death and highly exalted him to a higher nature than that which he gave as our Ransom. To believe and thus confess is acceptable with God, and to such believers it will be plain that Christ settled all the condemnation of the Law against them, and such may have joy and peace in thus believing. After all, it is with the heart that men believe. No matter how much their minds may be convinced of the truth, if their hearts be stubborn they will not believe. Brethren, get your hearts right, and then you will be able both to believe on and to confess Jesus as your Lord.
`Vss. 11-13`.--This general principle, that faith is the condition of release from condemnation before God, is proved by the Prophet's words to apply, not only to Israel, but to all mankind, for the Prophet declared, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. (`Isa. 28:16`.) This shows that, no matter how much preference was shown the Jew under the Law, there is to be no preference shown under the gospel, for the same Lord over all is rich enough to settle the claims of all that come unto him and ask for a share in the benefits of his ransom sacrifice. We have proof of this also in the prophecy which says, "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." --`Joel 2:32`.
`Vss. 14-17`.--This brings us to another question, namely: Is it not very proper to preach the good tidings of ransom and salvation through Christ to the Gentiles, as well as to Israel? Certainly; the quotation last made implies this; for how could they call on Christ as Lord without believing? and how could they believe on him except they should hear? and how could they hear without a preacher? and how can preachers go forth with this message unless authorized of God? Hence it is evident that God meant this good news to be preached to all the Gentiles as well as to Israel--to every creature. Not only can we reason it out logically thus, but we find a positive statement that the good tidings will be preached, which implies that the Law Covenant will be at an end to every one who hears and believes. The prophets Isaiah and Nahum testify of this preaching, saying: "How beautiful the feet of him that bringeth good tidings of peace [reconciliation through his blood--the remission of sins], and bringeth good tidings of good [things which come as a result]."--`Isa. 52:7`; `Nahum 1:15`.
But we must not hastily suppose that when preached all will receive the good tidings; for the Prophet, speaking of things future as though they were past, again testifies of the result of the preaching, saying, "Who hath believed our report [our preaching], and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?" (`Isa. 53:1`.) This implies that the real believers and confessors would be few, at least for a while. But this proves that faith is to be the result of hearing--of hearing God's truth--and not a result of keeping perfectly the Law.
`Vss. 18-21`.--Now we inquire, Will the fact that few will believe prove that the testimony will reach only a few? No, it is bound to reach all, in proof of which I again quote from the Prophet. He says, speaking from a future standpoint: Their sound went into all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world. This proves that all the Gentiles shall yet have this gospel preached to them. But what about Israel? Shall not they as a people come to know--understand and appreciate-- the good tidings? Yes, but not for a long time; they are yet a stiffnecked, stubborn people. As Moses said (`Deut. 32:21`), God will [have to] provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation will he anger you. Isaiah speaks yet more pointedly of Israel's rejection of the message, and of the acceptance of it by the heathen, saying: I was found of them that sought me not, I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me. And, speaking of Israel, he says, "All day long I have stretched out my hands to a disobedient and gainsaying [self-willed] people."--`Isa. 65:1,2`.
`Chap. 11:1-5`.--In view of these declarations of the prophets, showing that Israel will have to be thus dealt with and disciplined, I ask: Hath God utterly cast away his people Israel? God forbid; for I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God hath not utterly cast away his people whom he formerly recognized and favored. Call to mind Elijah's prayer against Israel, saying: Lord, they have killed thy prophets and digged down thine altars, and I am left alone, and they seek my life. But mark God's answer: I have reserved to myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the
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knee to Baal. (`1 Kings 19:10,18`.) Even so at this present time there is a remnant who through God's favor will accept the good tidings and will not stumble. I, Paul, rejoice, that I am of that favored remnant.
`Vss. 6-8`.--But now another point: This remnant is not saved by works of the Law, nor because they almost kept it, but by accepting of salvation as God's free favor through Christ. While Israel as a nation fails to receive the blessing sought by works of the Law, the chosen ones, the remnant of Israel, and those of the heathen who receive the gospel, will obtain a special blessing far higher than Israel ever dreamed of. These being justified, not by works, but by faith in Christ as their Redeemer (substitute), thereby gain
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the privilege of becoming sons of God on the divine plane and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ, the Redeemer, in the coming kingdom. The rest, both of Israel and the nations, will be blinded to this privilege. The God of this world will blind all except those who, by faithfulness, make their calling and election sure--a "little flock."
`Vss. 9,10`.--David also foretold Israel's stumbling, saying, "Let their table be made a snare and a trap and a stumbling-block and a recompense unto them [i.e., their downfall shall be over the very blessings which God gave them; over their blessings they shall stumble. God had given them food such as he gave to no other people. To them God had committed the oracles of truth, the prophecies and the types which foreshadowed the sacrifice for sin and the blessings following that atoning sacrifice; yet, becoming proud and vain of the honors conferred, they thereby stumbled over the very graciousness of God's plan shown to them in types]." (`Psa. 69:22,23`.) Thus their eyes were darkened, and they were bowed down to see only the earthly promises.
`Vss. 11-14`.--But now we come to another question: Admitting that Israel will stumble, and is stumbling, as foretold, I ask, Have they stumbled to fall irrecoverably? will they never again come into fellowship with God? God forbid that they should forever remain cast off. The significance of their fall is rather to be a blessing to the Gentiles than a permanent injury to Israel. And we may reason that if their fall from favor results in riches to the world (the Gentiles), then their restoration to favor, which God's promises guarantee, will imply an abundance of divine favor both to Jews and Gentiles. I speak to you Gentiles thus, because, being the apostle to the Gentiles, I desire to show the importance of the Gentiles in God's plan, and to stimulate my countrymen to emulation, and thus recover some of them from blindness.
`Vss. 15-21`.--Thus is seen the breadth of God's plans. We know that there are certain promises made to Israel which must yet be fulfilled; and if they would be temporarily postponed and a blessing unexpectedly given to the Gentiles, it argues that God's plans, as we now see them, are broader than we had at first supposed, and include Gentiles as well as Jews; for if the casting away of them opens a door of favor to the Gentiles, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead? that is to say, God's promises to Israel are such as imply their resurrection from death, their restitution; and now that we learn that the world in general may be reconciled to God because their sin was atoned for by the ransom, we may reasonably conclude that "life from the dead," restitution, will be offered to all the heathen, as well as to Israel. We see Israel to be merely a first-fruit of the world, the first favored; and if God has a blessing for them, as promised, it follows that he has the same blessing for other nations; for if the first-fruit, or sample, be holy --acceptable and blessed of God--so also the mass which it represents (the world in general) will be holy.
The covenant promise of God out of which the kingdom classes are being developed is the root, and fleshly Israel as branches were first developed. But, because of unbelief and pride, most of these were broken off, and wild, heathen branches were grafted in instead, with them to partake of the life of the root, yea, the very fatness of the promise; yet they should not be puffed up against the broken-off branches, but humbly and thankfully remember that they are occupying the place originally belonging to the natural descendants. Walk humbly, for if because of pride and unbelief they failed and were cast off, God would be as likely to cut off the wild branches under similar circumstances. [How we see this fulfilling in the breaking off of many of the Gentile branches--now blinded and being cast off. They are no more respected than were the natural branches, and are broken off for the same cause. (`Rev. 3:15-17`.) Only the elect few branches, the "little flock," will remain.]
`Vss. 22-24`.--Here we find two prominent characteristics of our Heavenly Father illustrated--his love and his justice--his goodness and severity. He is abundant in mercy and goodness, but will by no means clear the guilty. His goodness is manifested by the promise and the blessings it contains, and his just severity in the cutting off from those favors of all the unfaithful. But even in cutting Israel off, God is merciful and kind; for even though cut off as a people from the chief favor, they still have every advantage as individuals, and as such, any may be reengrafted, if they exercise the needful faith, though, as we have already seen, their hearts are hardened by the past favors of God, so that most of them are less ready than the Gentiles to accept of the gospel.
`Vss. 25-27`.--Here is a fact not generally known; it is a secret as yet--a mystery--and will show you that God's plan is more comprehensive than you have yet appreciated; and by showing you that you have not all wisdom, it will enable you to keep humble and to search for the further unfoldings of God's plans. The mystery is this: The blindness and breaking off of Israel will not continue forever,
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it will last only until the choicest, fittest branches from the Gentiles have been properly engrafted on the root --the Abrahamic promise. Then the broken-off branches shall be reunited to the root. The fact is, the root of promise contains a double set of branches; first, the select branches, natural and engrafted, the spiritual seed of Abraham, the Christ which is to bless all nations; and, secondly, a lower order of engrafted branches--Israel restored--the natural seed of Abraham through which the spiritual seed will principally operate in blessing all nations.
Thus seen, Israel as a whole will be saved from their blindness in due time, and will yet share in the very blessings they expected when they were broken off; viz., the natural or earthly part of the blessings--the better or spiritual part of the Abrahamic blessing being conferred upon the elect, then chosen, who through much tribulation and crucifixion of the flesh and following of the Master are counted worthy of the chief honor, the spiritual blessings. What I state as to the recovery of Israel from her cast-off condition is already stated, but obscurely, by Isaiah the prophet (`59:20,21`), and I will throw light upon it by stating it clearly, as follows: "There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them when I shall take away their sins."
`Vss. 27-30`.--This prophetic statement shows us that though the natural branches are treated as enemies for the present, for your exaltation, yet really they are still beloved of God, and he has blessings yet in store for them, as promised to their fathers; for any free gift and promise which God makes is sure of fulfillment. He fully foreknew this temporary lopping off before he made his promises concerning them, and, knowing the end from the beginning, it is unnecessary for him ever to repent of a promise.
Let us now analyze this prophecy and see that it implies what we have before suggested to be God's plan; viz., to bring the natural branches again into God's favor. "Jacob" clearly means fleshly Israel, and from these ungodliness is to be turned away--but not until God himself shall "take away," or "put away," or "blot out" their sins. As elsewhere shown, the sins of the world will not be put away, until the close of the Gospel age, until the sufferings of the body of Christ are ended. During this age, only the sins of those who now believe are cancelled or put out of sight by God. But he who now justifies believers, will then justify them also, when they become believers in the ransom. He will thus take away their sin through the same ransom which he gave for our sin--even his Son.
In turning away ungodliness a Deliverer is required. This is none other than Christ, the great Deliverer whom Moses promised. He shall deliver from all evil, from death, from pain and sickness, from ignorance and blindness, from every oppression of the devil. He shall bind Satan and set free his captives. This Deliverer is the complete Christ, the members of the body with the head united, complete, no more twain, but one. This Deliverer comes out of Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem, which is the mother of us all. (`Gal. 4:26`.) He is the first-born of Zion, the overcomer and heir of all things. Hence, before the promised blessings come to Jacob (fleshly Israel), the heir of the spiritual blessings must first be developed.
Nor should we suppose that the blessings and deliverances will stop with Jacob; for, as already shown, they are but a first-fruits of restored mankind; and when they are turned to God, they shall become a channel through which the Deliverer will bless and release "all the families of the earth."
`Vs. 31`. Lift up your eyes and take now a comprehensive view of God's dealings with Israel--both spiritual Israel and Israel after the flesh--and see how grand and large is the plan of God, which as yet is only budding. As for a long while you (Gentiles) were strangers and aliens from God, and seemingly unloved and uncared for, yet now you have obtained mercy and favor, while fleshly Israel is cut off, even so these of the fleshly house are now unbelievers and cut off that by and by they may obtain mercy and find favor through you. That is to say, God is blessing them at the very time he is cutting them off; for in blessing you and preparing the spiritual seed and Deliverer, he is making ready to bless them through you, when you as the body of Christ are complete. (`Gal. 3:29`.) Thus through the mercy which God now shows you, he is also providing mercy for them, to be manifested in his due time.
`Vss. 32-36`.--God treated Israel as a nation of unbelievers, and cast them aside nationally, in order that he might have mercy upon them nationally, and bring them as a people to inherit the earthly promises made to them.
Looking at the deep workings of God's plan thus, in the light of what he tells us is future, as well as of what is past, how wonderful it is! Oh, the rich depths of God's wisdom and knowledge! How useless for us to try to discover his dealings except as he is pleased to reveal his plans to us. His doings are all mysteries to us except as we are
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enlightened by his Spirit. Who knew this gracious plan, so much beyond human conception? Who helped the Lord to arrange such a plan, think you? This is not human wisdom. God only could be its author. A Jew never would have planned to graft in Gentiles to share the chief blessings of the promise! A Gentile never would have arranged the original stock and branches Jewish and himself a favored graft. No, the plan is clearly of God, and well illustrates both his goodness and his just severity. Of him is all the plan; through his power it is all brought to pass; and to him be the glory forever.
When the spirit of Paul's argument is caught, it can be clearly seen that he quotes the words, "Their sound went into all the earth and their words to the end of the world," AS PROPHECY yet to be fulfilled, and not to prove that the gospel had been universally published, but that it would be in due time.
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"GOD BE MERCIFUL TO ME, A SINNER."
--MAY 10.--`Luke 18:9-17`.--
Golden Text--"The publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me, a sinner."--`Luke 18:13`.
WHILE the Pharisee presents to our minds the extremes of conceit, selfishness and hypocrisy it is always well to remember that there are many approaches to that disposition which give sure signs that those who have and who are cultivating them will by and by mature the same kind of fruit unless they change their course. The spirit of meekness, which is the spirit of all true children of God, is the very opposite of the spirit of proud, boastful self-righteousness. It is only this spirit that can gain the ear of the Lord and bear away the answers of peace, as illustrated in the case of the publican so strikingly in contrast with that of the Pharisee.
How this calls to mind the words of wisdom and of warning to guard against every approach to a spirit of pride and vain glory:--"Be sober, and watch unto prayer"; "Be sober, be vigilant" against "your adversary, the devil; I say...to every man...not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly"; "In simplicity and godly sincerity" have your "conversation in the world." (`1 Pet. 4:7`; `5:8`; `Rom. 12:3`; `2 Cor. 1:12`.) It is the intoxication that comes from imbibing the spirit of the world that leads to that foolish boasting of which a man in his sober senses would be ashamed, and such intoxication is an abomination in God's sight and is unworthy of the least of his children; for every sober man must realize that he is far, very far, short of perfection. Boasting, therefore, is only an evidence of ignorance and of intoxication with the worldly spirit.
To further enforce this teaching, our Lord calls attention to the beautiful, artless simplicity of childhood as a pattern in this respect of what all must be who would enter the Kingdom of God. To be a child in guilelessness and simplicity, however, is one thing, while to be a child in understanding and development of character is another; and it is in the former, and not in the latter respect, that we are to be children. And it is in this respect that the people of God are spoken of as his "little ones" (`Luke 17:2`), and by the beloved John as "my little children." They may be old in years and gray-headed, but their hearts are young and preserve the sweet simplicity of childhood. On the other hand, they may be ripe in character and learned in the wisdom of God, as was the Apostle Paul, who said, "When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man I put away childish things." And the same apostle also says, "Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men." "Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong."--`1 Cor. 13:11`; `14:20`; `16:13`.
The simplicity of childhood, realizing its need, confesses it and asks mercy, instead of attempting to deceive itself by philosophizing. In this respect we must continue "children," we must continue to admit our own imperfection, continue to admit our need of mercy, continue to trust in the precious blood provided to cleanse us from all sin, if we would continue to have the Heavenly Father's ear and favor, and if we would continue to be "justified" in his sight.
We urge upon all the importance of sincere prayer; --private or "closet" prayers, "family" or "household" prayer and "social" prayer with fellow-Christians. Each has its special importance to everyone who is running the heavenly race; and each has Scripture sanction. They need not be lengthy: indeed few of the Scriptural examples of prayer were so; but they must be sincere, from the heart and not a lip service. Heart prayers are always accompanied by efforts of life in harmony with the prayers; while lip prayers are usually in contradiction of the living epistle. Prayer without corresponding endeavor is like faith without works; it is a dead, worse than useless, thing.
Prayer is required, not to change God's plans, but to bring our hearts into such a condition as will prepare us to receive and appreciate the blessings which God has freely promised and which he delights to grant to his children. Hence our requests should be such only as God has authorized us to ask and expect. Our requests should be unselfish: The Apostle remarks that some ask and receive not because they ask amiss (not in harmony with the Lord's arrangements), to consume the things asked for upon selfish desires. --`James 4:3`.
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STEWARDSHIP OF THE POUNDS AND TALENTS.
MAY 17.--`Luke 19:11-27`. Compare
also `Matt. 25:14-30`; `1 Cor. 4:1-7`.
"He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much; and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much."--`Luke 16:10`.
THE Parable of the Pounds and the Parable of the Talents, as companion parables, illustrate from different standpoints the responsibilities of the stewardship of God's people. St. Paul says, "Let a man so account of us as of the ministers [servants] of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God." This stewardship and ministry, while it belonged in a special sense to the apostles, belongs also to the whole Gospel Church, all of whom have the anointing and the commission (`Isa. 61:1,2`) and the consequent responsibilities of the sacred trusts committed to them. And as stewards of God we have nothing of our own, nothing with which we may do as we please; for, says the Apostle, "What hast thou that thou didst not receive?" Nothing. And what have we to call our own that has not been included in our covenant of consecration to God? Nothing. Consequently all that we have belongs to God, and we are merely stewards of his goods.
"Moreover," says the Apostle, "it is required in stewards that a man be found faithful"; and the parables under consideration show what is considered as faithfulness to our stewardship. To merely receive the gifts of God is not faithfulness, tho many seem to think so. Many indeed seem to think they have done God a great favor in merely accepting his grace through Christ, and are satisfied to make no further efforts. But such make a great mistake; for faithfulness, as here shown, consists in a proper and diligent
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use of our gifts in harmony with the divine purpose and methods; and both the Lord and the Apostle point to a day of reckoning, when even the secret things will be brought to light, and all the counsels of the hearts shall be made manifest.--`Luke 19:15`; `12:2,3`; `8:17`; `Mark 4:21,22`; `Matt. 25:19`; `1 Cor. 4:5`.
We observe that in the former parable each of the servants received exactly the same thing--a "pound," while in the latter the gifts varied: one received five talents, another two, and another one, "every man according to his several ability." The "pound," being the same to all, fitly represents those blessings of divine grace which are common to all God's people. Among these are the Word of God and the various helps to its understanding, the influences of the holy spirit, the privileges of faith and prayer and communion with God and fellowship with Christ and with his people. But the "talents" being distributed according to every man's several ability, represent opportunities for the service of God along the lines of such abilities as we possess. They may be talents of education, or money, or influence, or good health, or time, or tact, or genius, with opportunities for their use in God's service.
In both parables our Lord is represented as about to take his departure to receive for himself a kingdom and to return. And a part of their object was to disabuse the disciples' minds of the idea that his Kingdom would immediately appear. He thus intimated that while he was about to return to his Father in heaven there would be an interim between then and the time of his return, during which time their faithfulness to him would be fully tested, and that all that would prove faithful to their stewardship in his absence would
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be owned and blessed of him in his Kingdom upon his return.
The commission to each and all of the Lord's stewards is expressed in the words, "Occupy [which, in old English, signified, "Do business with," "Use," "Traffic with"] till I come." And the first business with the King on his return is not to deal and reckon with and judge the world, but to reckon with these servants to whom his goods--the "pounds" and the "talents"--had been committed; to see how much each had profited thereby, as a test of their fidelity, to determine what place if any should be granted them in his Kingdom. Notice also that the reckoning with them is as individuals, and not by groups or classes.
In plain language, these parables teach that it is the duty of every Christian to make good use of all that the Lord has given him. The right use of the "pound" is to diligently profit by all the means of grace for the spiritual upbuilding of ourselves and others. We cannot afford to neglect any of these; for we cannot do so without loss. If we neglect to consider and ponder the principles and precepts of God's Word, or to heed their wholesome instructions; if we fail to consider or to follow the leadings of the holy spirit; if we neglect the privilege of prayer and communion with God; or if we fail to cultivate the fellowship and communion of saints, we are folding our "pound" in a napkin. It cannot yield its legitimate increase while thus unused. Christian character cannot grow and develop in the neglect of the very means which God has provided for its perfecting. In such neglect a spiritual decline is sure to set in; and the more persistent and long-continued is the neglect, the less realized is the decline, and the less inclination is there to energy, diligence and zeal in correcting it. But in the diligent and proper use of these means of grace there is a "feast of fat things" which is sure to build up and invigorate the spiritual life and cause it to bring forth much fruit unto holiness, which is the increase for which the King is looking.
Yet the parable shows different degrees of increase in different cases following the right use of the "pound." The "pound" in the care of one servant gains ten, while with another it gains five. This reminds us of what we commonly observe, that even the same means of grace do not profit all to exactly the same extent. Some, for instance, are by nature more studious and thoughtful, or more generous, or grateful. And therefore the appeals of the various means of grace to the heart differ in different individuals, and the consequent fruitfulness also differs in quantity. Another illustration of the same thing is also found in the parable of the sower (`Matt. 13:8`), where the seed in good ground produces fruit in varying quantities--some thirty, some sixty, and some an hundred fold.
But all such fruitful characters are appreciated and rewarded as "overcomers," and of the "little flock" to whom "it is the Father's good pleasure to give the Kingdom." The different measures of fruitage--the thirty, sixty, and hundred-fold, or the ten pounds and the five, mark differences in obstacles to be overcome, etc., rather than unfaithfulness in the use of the means of grace. Some may work long and diligently for small results, while the same effort in others of more resolute will and of greater continuity may accomplish great things. Some by slips and occasional backslidings, from which they subsequently recover, lose time and opportunities which can never be regained, although they are forgiven and generously reinstated in the divine favor and thenceforth run with diligence and patience to the end.
All of these, therefore, because of their faithfulness, because they have overcome the obstacles in their way and have diligently cultivated the fruits of the spirit in the use of all the means of grace provided, are accorded a generous welcome into the everlasting kingdom, although the best efforts were short of perfection, and each must still have the robe of Christ's righteousness imputed to him by faith. But the degrees of exaltation in the kingdom differ according to the measure of their fruitage here. The steady diligence that secured the gain of "ten pounds" here is rewarded with corresponding exaltation there, which figuratively is likened to authority over ten cities; while the faithfulness which was sometimes interrupted and imperilled by dangerous backslidings afterward healed, but which apart from these perseveringly gained "five pounds," is rewarded with an exaltation in the Kingdom represented as "authority over five cities."
The Parable of the Talents illustrates fruits of labor. In it the ratio of increase is the same with both of the faithful servants--each doubled his "talents"; and the same approval is expressed to each, according to the principle mentioned by Paul (`2 Cor. 8:12`),--"If there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not." A truly "willing mind" to serve the Lord will always find a way to serve him in the use of whatever talents are possessed; and the increase is sure to follow; and if not under our immediate, present observation, it will appear by and by. "God is not unmindful of our work and labor of love," however unfruitful it may appear to us. The fruit will be manifest by and by when all the secret things shall be revealed.
The differences of reward, accompanied by the same words of approval and welcome to the Kingdom glory and joy of the Lord, call to mind those scriptures which bid us rejoice in all present opportunities for that suffering and service which attest our faithfulness, because they work out for us "a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory," and also remind us that there will be some least and some
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greater in the Kingdom of heaven. This is an incentive to "lay up treasures in heaven," where moth doth not corrupt and where thieves do not break through and steal.-- See `Matt. 5:11,12`; `2 Cor. 4:17,18`; `Matt. 11:11`; `6:20`.
But what of the faithless servant who wraps his "pound" in a napkin (who failed to make use of the means of grace for his own spiritual upbuilding and character development) and who buries his "talent" (of time or means or education, or ability of any kind, great or small) in the earth-- in the service of self and Mammon? Is there any reward for his faithless misuse of the Master's goods? No! even that which he hath shall be taken away, and he shall be cast into outer darkness. (`Luke 19:24-26`; `Matt. 25:28-30`.) The principle announced in the golden text is that upon which the rewards are to be given. Great trusts are to be committed to the "overcomers" of this age, and their worthiness must be tested: they must endure the tests, and thus be proved.
The citizens that hated him (`verse 14`), and sent a message after him, saying, We will not have this man to reign over us, represent not only the Jews who cried, Away with him! Crucify him! We have no king but Caesar! but includes also all who having come to a knowledge of Christ and his coming kingdom are so out of accord with righteousness that they do not desire the promised Millennial Kingdom. Wrath will come upon these, a great "time of trouble, such as was not since there was a nation," soon after the "servants" have been reckoned with and rewarded. "Bring them hither and slay them before me," speaks of the Lord's righteous indignation against evil doers, but in no way cuts off hope of forgiveness for those who shall then repent and become loyal subjects of the King.
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ENCOURAGING WORDS FROM FAITHFUL WORKERS.
DEAR BROTHER AND SISTER RUSSELL:--I wrote you some time ago that I had commenced to hold meetings in the house of a poor widow who was in great trouble. She seems to be much comforted, and is eager for the truth.
I was much encouraged recently to learn that two to whom I had spoken two years ago followed up the subject and have become deeply interested. Glory to His name! It seems wonderful to find undeniable evidence that the Lord has blessed one's feeble efforts. Another lady to whom I talked tells me that she has read the three volumes and uses the TOWER explanations of the S.S. Lessons in the Sunday School. I am kept very busy. I held four meetings last Sunday, three of them with an audience of one, the other with an audience of three. It would save much trouble if I could get the people to meet all together, but so far I have not been able to do so. Therefore, in order that they may hear the truth of God's plan I go to them. Three of them are old ladies from 50 to 60 years, one of whom has been bedridden. I sometimes think that if we could perform miracles, as the disciples did, we could then get many followers, if we could make the lame to walk, etc. But it seems that such is not the plan of God for these days.
I know that my poor efforts have slow results some times, but I recall the words of St. Paul, not to look back, but to press forward to the prize which is in Christ Jesus. The Lord is so good to allow the light to shine even here on me; and if it is his divine will, I would like that its rays should reach those to whom he leads me to speak of the precious truth.
Bidding you Godspeed, Respectfully, Mrs. A. A.
[This dear co-laborer has caught the right idea. An audience of one is not to be spurned by us, who follow in the footsteps of him who was pleased to serve the lone Samaritan woman; and, if we despise not the day of small things, he will not only bless us for our humility and warmth
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of zeal, but also those whom we serve, and finally grant us still larger opportunities for service. The spirit that will search out the poor and aged and afflicted, in order to comfort them with the glad tidings, is the spirit of Christ. He "went about doing good;...for God was with him."--Ed.]
DEAR SIR AND BROTHER:--I do not wish to intrude upon your time, but judging your heart to be something like mine, I trust good news will be no intrusion.
The Master has very graciously and lovingly been leading me for the past two years. I used to like Christ, felt very grateful to him for forgiving my sins and for the peace I even then felt, and was willing to do a great many things for him. Now I think I can truly say I love him with all my being; and what a wonderful change has come over my whole life! Truly, he is the one altogether lovely.
I have been a member of the Methodist denomination for a long time, but probably by the time this reaches you I will be no longer. I also have a Bible class in the Sunday school; but last week I received a letter from the pastor stating that my class was becoming annoyed at my persistence in teaching doctrines of Adventism (?), and giving interpretations to passages which according to Methodist doctrine were unscriptural, and requesting that I desist.
I had determined upon the withdrawal some time ago and asked for guidance as to the best way to do it. And the Master seems to have opened the way much more effectively than I could have done. The letter referred to was in reply to one of mine to the pastor setting forth God's dealing with men as I understood it.
A number in the city are much interested in the DAWN. What the next step will be I do not yet know; but he who has opened one door can certainly open another. So I have no fear, my only anxiety being that I may be willing to take the next step when it is made plain.--`Phil. 3:14-15`.
[A later letter says:--] I have your very kind favor, also the DAWN and tracts. The five volumes are already gone. Enclosed find order for more.
The Father, Christ and Heaven all look so much more glorious and lovely as I get some of the cobwebs of tradition and creeds cleared from the picture, that I want to help clear them from before the eyes of others.
The many ways the Lord has taken to open my eyes, seemingly so adapted to just my peculiar needs, would take too long to mention, but to me they are so manifestly from him that I cannot doubt. Suffice it to say, so far as I know my own heart and mind, everything has been laid upon the altar, and as fast as new light comes to show me more, I receive it very thankfully, and lay that also upon the altar.
I appreciate very much your personal prayers for me and mine, and I am glad to be able to ask the Father daily that his favor and spirit may be granted you and yours, that you may be able and willing to do his will completely.
Yours in Christian fellowship, W. E. V.