Vol. XX. NOVEMBER 1, 1899. No. 21.
The Volunteer Work................................226
The Boston and St. Louis Conventions..............227
Which is the True Gospel?.........................228
The Gospel According to Catholicism...........228
The Gospel Presented by Calvinism.............229
The Arminian View of the Gospel...............230
Nehemiah's Consecration and Prayer................233
Nehemiah's Faith and Works........................236
SUBSCRIPTIONS AND BUSINESS COMMUNICATIONS
WATCH TOWER BIBLE & 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.
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THE VOLUNTEER WORK
In our issue of April 15 the offer was made that wherever the friends of present truth would volunteer to serve the Lord and his brethren by distributing the booklet, The Bible vs. the Evolution Theory, to the Church people of their cities and towns the same (a 5 cent pamphlet) would be supplied free.
The motive behind this large expenditure is the hope of reaching some of the Israelites indeed, in Babylon; and we know of no better method of serving the truth to such that is open to the majority of those who have pledged themselves living sacrifices to lay down their lives for the brethren.--`1 John 3:16`
Brothers and Sisters in all parts of our land and in Great Britain promptly responded; and as a result we are only now getting ahead of the home demand, and preparing a large shipment for England. Now the Transvaal war excitement makes it advisable to postpone the distribution in England; and hence we inquire for more volunteers at home, who can be promptly supplied: our British brethren can be supplied later from those now on the press.
The dear "volunteers" who have already engaged in this service report great blessings upon their own hearts in this little service for our King and his "brethren." Some, having finished the work in their own cities, are reaching out into adjacent towns. Some have been led to study the truth because of their appreciation of the faithfulness to principle exhibited by these "volunteers."
The volunteers of each town should act in unison, as much as possible. Make out your list of Protestant churches in your place, and estimate the probable attendance (not membership): then appoint one of your number your scribe to report to us the number of churches and the number of booklets you can judiciously use. All want some part in this "harvest" work. The Master says, "He that reapeth receiveth wages [blessings, now] and gathereth fruit unto everlasting life."
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THE BOSTON AND ST. LOUIS CONVENTIONS.
BLESSED seasons of spiritual refreshing both of our conventions proved to be. We have every reason to believe that the Lord not only used them as channels of blessing to the "brethren" already interested, but also to others who came with friends or through curiosity. Under the Lord's providence the daily press of both cities gave us liberal notices which reached some of the Lord's hungry sheep.
The WATCH TOWER announcement styled these "Believers' Conventions,"--as signifying believers in God's Word at this time, when so many professed Christians are falling into disbelief through the influence of the Evolution theory, "higher criticism," infidelity, etc. And the word "believers" is widely known as signifying adherents to the doctrine of the Second Coming of our Lord. We are "believers" and hope always to be such, but let us beware of thinking of or using this as a distinctive or sectarian name--to distinguish and separate us from other Christian believers. We do not want to be separated from other believers, but to continue to love and cherish and fully fellowship all who with us trust in the sure Word of God, even tho they do not yet see eye to eye with us on all points respecting that Word's teachings.
The announced programs were pretty generally carried out: at Boston addresses were delivered by Bros. Thorne and Graham of the Boston company, Bro. Alexander of the Yonkers, N.Y., company, Bro. Barton of the Philadelphia company, Bro. Weber of Maryland, Bro. Lewis of Cohoes, N.Y., Pilgrim Bro. McPhail of the Chicago company (who also conducted the musical features) and by the Editor of this journal. And in the testimony meetings all had good opportunity of which very many availed themselves. Visitors about 100; attendance on Sunday about 250. Many strengthened; all refreshed; and so far as we know none disappointed and turned empty away.
St. Louis had a larger territory to draw from, being more central, and the number of visitors was about 200, and the Sunday attendance about 400. Amongst the speakers were Bro. Dann of the St. Louis company (who also conducted the musical program), Bro. Moffatt of Florida, Bro. Henninges of Allegheny, Bro. Owen of Indianapolis, Bro. Weber of Maryland, Pilgrim Bros. Willis and Draper, and a number of others. Your servant, the Editor of this journal, was obliged in obedience to the wishes of the friends, to occupy
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very much more than his proportion of the time at both conventions;--especially at the last one.
In both Conventions the spirit of love and fellowship prevailed; and if even one jar occurred or one discordant note sounded, we did not learn of it. The local churches had given careful attention to every detail of arrangement for the visiting "brethren"--including the free entertainment of those who needed such provision. Their reception committees in both instances were tireless in their loving endeavors to make all comfortable. May the Lord abundantly reward them each and all!
At Boston, symbolic baptism was administered to twenty-three, at the hands of Bro. Woodworth. At St. Louis forty-one (21 males and 20 females), at the hands of Bro. Henninges. Bro. Dann informs us that as a result of the Convention they have an increase of about 30 in attendance, and that several more desire to confess Christ in symbolic baptism. The meetings have been forced to move to the more spacious quarters at Nineteenth and Morgan streets.
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As usual, the money question was kept out of notice. One dear brother came to us, saying, "Brother Russell, I wanted to contribute something toward the expenses of this convention, but they will not accept it. I want to get even on the matter somehow, so you must accept it for the Tract Fund." Another dear brother sent ten dollars by mail, saying that he could not attend, but wanted a share in the good work and would be glad to help meet the expenses of some of the poor in attendance. Indeed, several have since sent "Convention Thank Offerings" to the Tract Fund.
"Praise God from whom all blessings flow."
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WHICH IS THE TRUE GOSPEL?
From the St. Louis Republic, Oct. 9, 1899.
Sermon delivered before the St. Louis Convention of Believers in the Second Advent, by Pastor C. T. Russell of Allegheny, Pa. at the "Tabernacle," cor. Nineteenth and Morgan streets, St. Louis, Mo. Sunday afternoon, October 8, 1899.
THE SPEAKER took for his text the words of the Apostle, "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth."--`Rom. 1:16`.
The speaker declared his desire to present a true gospel sermon, yet he reflected that this expression, "gospel sermon," had become so perverted that many Christian people might expect to hear the very reverse in some respects of what he would have to say on this subject. By common consent a gospel sermon has come to be understood to signify the shaking of the congregation, and indeed of nearly all mankind, over an imaginary abyss of everlasting torture, with the effort to intimidate them thereby to a thorough reformation of life in hope of thereby escaping an awful eternity. True, this gospel of damnation is not so generally preached as it once was, because the more enlightened minds of cultured people repudiate it as a fetish of the past. But it is still to be heard in country places, occasionally in a city pulpit and at a camp-meeting, and at the street meetings of the Salvation Army and at their barracks. The speaker did not wish for a moment to criticise the honesty of intention of those who thus preach. He was not speaking in criticism of persons but of doctrines, when he declared such preaching to be as far from the Gospel as the east is from the west, as he hoped to show before finishing his discourse.
Before proceeding to present the true Gospel of the Scriptures he considered it only proper that he and his audience should first hear from the general mass of Christian people on this subject. "After eighteen centuries of theological study and Christian development in thought, what does Christianity present to the world to-day as the Gospel of Christ?" The speaker begged his hearers to remember that if any remarks should be dropped which might be construed as not complimentary to any of the creeds of leading denominations, no uncomplimentary remarks would be made respecting fellow-Christians themselves, for he desired to respect every true Christian and his conscientious convictions. But in demonstration of the truth he found it necessary to hold up some of the published creeds of Christendom, and to show their inconsistencies in the light of the Scriptures and in the light of the intelligent consciences of those who subscribed to these creeds, some of whom doubtless had never realized fully to what they had committed themselves when they affirmed these creeds to be truthful representations of their Christian faiths. Everything that the speaker would say would be said in the kindest of spirit and with the best of intention to lift up the light of truth and to draw the hearts of all the Lord's people to him, and to put to shame only those elements of darkness and falsity which are contrary to the Scriptures, contrary to sanctified common sense, contrary to all that is holy and just and true. And he expected to make his remarks so moderate that not a solitary intelligent Christian within the sound of his voice could take the slightest exception.
There might be said to be three distinct statements of the Gospel--leaving out those of smaller denominations. (1) We have the Gospel according to Roman Catholicism. (2) The Gospel according to Calvinism. (3) The Gospel according to Arminianism. Calvinism represents the central thought of the great denominations known as Baptists, Presbyterians and Congregationalists. Arminianism represents the thought of the Methodist family in its various branches, and of Free-will Baptists. However, there are many affiliated with Calvinistic churches who really entertain the Arminian doctrine. So we may say that Protestantism is about equally divided between Calvinism and Arminianism. Let us examine these three Gospels, which represent nominally nearly two hundred millions of the civilized world, called "Christendom."
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ROMAN CATHOLICISM.
The Gospel according to Roman Catholicism is that all men fell into sin and under sentence of eternal torment: that Christ accomplished a redemptive work which, supplemented by the sacrifice of the mass, and by prayers and penances, permits all believers (Roman Catholics) to escape that eternal torment, which will be the sure portion of all heretics, regardless of their good works or morals. As for its own people, it holds that even its highest officials, including Bishops and Popes, go to Purgatory for refinement, purification from sin and to be prepared for heaven. It claims that some will spend only a short time in Purgatory, assisted out of it by the merit of prayers, masses, etc., on their behalf by their friends after death. But their expectation is that ultimately Purgatory will be no more, its thousands of millions being
prepared for a better and happier condition. But according to all the great theologians of Papacy, and according to all the papal bulls, all Protestants, all rejecters of Papacy's teachings, will suffer endless torment. This is the Roman Catholic Gospel, fairly presented as we understand it. It does not seem to us to be very good news, very good tidings, even to those who get the very best it has to offer, and it certainly would be very bad tidings to all out of harmony with Papacy.
Let us next look at the great Protestant doctrine represented in the word Calvinism--the doctrine of the election of the Church and the reprobation of all others.
THE GOSPEL PRESENTED BY CALVINISM.
Calvinism claims that faith in Christ is essential to salvation and it admits that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. Calvinism requires more than a mere knowledge of Christ and belief in him as a man. It requires at least some manifestation toward righteousness of life before any could be recognized as being of the elect Church. Consequently, according to Calvinism, the elect Church could not include the heathen of the present time and all the way back through the past, who have never heard of the only name given under heaven or amongst men whereby we must be saved. Stretched to its very broadest, Calvinism could not include more than one in twenty of earth's fifty thousand millions that are estimated to have lived from Adam's day until the present time. In other words, according to the broadest possible estimate of this view, more than forty-seven thousand millions of humanity were "passed by" as non-elect in the divine plan. And what does this mean? It means, according to Calvinism, that God, who knew the end from the beginning, before creating this world and mankind upon it, determined that he would "pass by" and not elect those forty-seven thousand millions of his creatures to life and happiness, but would predestinate them to an eternity of torture, and that carrying out this diabolical plan, he prepared a great place large enough to hold forty-seven thousand millions, and fuel sufficient to produce the necessary combustion there to all eternity--did all this with a full appreciation of all the facts and circumstances of the case.
Moreover, we remember the statement of Calvinism which many of us learned in our youth, to the effect that God's favor toward the elect is not because of any worthiness on their part, nor because of any works which they had done, but "of his own sovereign grace" he saves them from the horrible conditions which he has predestinated shall be upon the others. Now if the salvation of the elect is not because of their works or worthiness, but because of God's sovereign grace only, the simplest mind can see that God might without any violation of principle have extended that sovereign grace to others--to all, since it was not because of worthiness nor because of works, but merely of his own volition that any are saved,--according to Calvinism.
The celebrated Jonathan Edwards, when preaching upon this subject in New England years ago, after picturing the awful torment of the non-elect was asked the question, Would not the thought of the anguish of the lost mar the bliss of God's people in glory? His answer in substance was, No; you will be so changed that such matters will not affect you; you will look over the battlements of heaven and see in torment your neighbors and friends, yea, your own parents and children, brothers and sisters, and turning round will praise God the louder because his justice is made manifest.
Now, my dear friends, I do not charge any who are here present with having so false a view of the divine character and plan as this. Indeed, I am glad to note that our Calvinistic friends in general are repudiating this doctrine, realizing that there is in it a serious lack, not only as respects divine love, but also as respects divine justice. I was glad some years ago to note that some of our dear friends were so moved by higher and nobler conceptions of the Almighty that they wished to rid themselves of any part in so blasphemous a statement respecting his character and his plan. I was sorry, however, that when the matter of "the revision of the Presbyterian standards" was taken up it was found that only a minority was in favor of revision, and I was still more sorry to note that that minority of intelligent, godly people was willing to continue to confess to such a horrible misstatement of their true views--willing, shall I say, to continue to "blaspheme that holy name" because a majority of their brethren were unwilling that such blasphemous misrepresentations should be discontinued.
I am glad to believe that if this matter were brought to the intelligent attention of Presbyterians in general, a large majority would be found willing, nay, anxious, to undo the wrong and to make such reparation as would be within their power, by way of honoring the great Jehovah and attesting their appreciation of his love and his justice, as well as of his wisdom and of his power. This is just the point: Calvinism, in its anxiety to establish the wisdom and power of God, his foreknowledge and his ability to carry out his plan, has conceived of a plan which is far from the correct one, lacking both in justice and in love.
It may be argued that love is a grace and that its exercise is not incumbent upon Jehovah; that all that could be asked or expected of him would be simple justice, and some might be ready to claim that God's dealings with these forty-seven thousand millions whom he "passed by" was in strict accord with justice; but this we deny. We claim that having the power to create mankind would not justify their creation if the creator saw that the result would be the everlasting torture of a single creature. Justice would say that power is not to be exercised to the injury of another, and that to exercise the creative power under such foreknown conditions would be injustice. And wisdom attuned to justice would say, Better a thousand times never to have created anybody than to have created one being to suffer unjustly eternally.
This statement, dear friends, is a fair, impartial statement of the Gospel according to our beloved brother John Calvin and those who subscribe to the Westminster Confession, and their allies. This surely
is not the gospel of which the Apostle Paul said, "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ." Paul would assuredly have been ashamed of such a gospel, and so are all true Christians, who have the true spirit of love and justice,--none more so, perhaps, than those who unfortunately, through circumstances of birth, etc., and hitherto without realizing what it meant, have been lending their names and influence to this great blasphemy against the divine character.
THE ARMINIAN VIEW OF THE GOSPEL.
Let us now examine the Arminian view. This view is growingly popular. Its message or gospel is, God is love--he loves you; he loves everybody; he is doing all that he can to save everybody; if you are lost it will not be God's fault, but your own. On the surface, at least, this theory seems much more loving and much more just than the one already examined, but before we go far we will also find it very defective, very far from either a reasonable or a Scriptural gospel. We will find it inconsistent with its own statement--illogical. For instance, while it sounds nice theoretically to say that God is doing all that he can do to save the whole world at the present time, everybody knows that that is not true; that on the contrary you or I or any other intelligent human being, if possessed of the one-thousandth part of the divine power and wisdom could speedily accomplish the evangelization of the whole world. Nor will it do to say that God has committed himself to a certain mode of procedure through his Church, and that if the Church fails to contribute with sufficient liberality both money and evangelists the heathen will not hear of "the only name given under heaven or amongst men whereby we must be saved," but will go to eternal torment, etc. It will not do to say that God is doing all that he can do and is hampered by the lack of interest in the church; because his wisdom and foreknowledge foresaw all these conditions as they are, and he could not justly be excused from the real responsibility of the matter, since he is the Creator, and in him is vested the all-power as well as the all-wisdom. Such a claim as this would be tantamount to saying that God has erred in wisdom when he thought to leave the conversion of the world to the Church, seeing that the Church has not accomplished this. Such a claim would be merely excusing God from doing all that he can do, instead of showing that he is doing all that he can do.
But let us look more critically into this matter. If this view we are criticising is correct, if God is doing all that he can do to save the world, and if he has been doing this during all the past ages, then without question the world's conversion is a hopeless thing, and we can never expect to see better results than at present. This theory presupposes a race or battle between the Almighty and Satan, each seeking to capture the human family, and to the discredit of the theory it shows Satan the victor thus far. Starting out with one pair, both on the Lord's side, the first 1656 years ended with a flood in which the whole world of mankind was blotted out because of wickedness, and only eight persons reckoned sufficiently righteous to be preserved. Starting again with those eight persons counted sufficiently righteous for preservation, we find that there are in the world to-day fifteen hundred millions, and that out of that whole number there are about one hundred millions nominal Roman Catholics and one hundred millions nominal Protestants, and a very much smaller number of true "saints of God." What would be the lesson from this if the Arminian theory be correct, that God is doing all he can do to save the world? The lesson would be that with all his good intentions of love and mercy our God is thoroughly incapable of the work he undertook to do. And if these are the results in six thousand years, what could we hope for in the future? How many hundreds of millions of years would it be before the whole world would be converted? We answer that according to statistics it would never be, for statistics show that the natural increase of population throughout the world is far, far beyond the proportion of even nominal conversions from heathendom. Indeed, according to some good reckonings the percentage of Christians every year is decreasing, the births of heathen lands so far outnumbering the births of Christian lands--even counting all the children born in Christendom as Christians.
Is any Christian, in view of these facts, prepared to claim that our God has been doing all that he can do for the conversion of the world? If so, that Christian may as well write upon his hopes at once the word "Ichabod." If we saw that the Calvinistic view magnifies the wisdom and power of God at the expense of his justice, we find on the other hand that the Arminian view magnifies the love of God at the expense of his character for wisdom and power. The true gospel must show the divine Wisdom and Power in full accord with his Justice and Love.
But, my dear friends, we may as well now as at any time concede that there is comparatively little difference in the outcome of these two popular Protestant Gospels--the difference is merely a theoretical one respecting how the results are to be reached. The results themselves are the same in both cases--the eternal doom and torment of over forty-seven thousand millions of human creatures. For our Arminian friends agree that there is no salvation aside from faith in Christ, the only name given; and they admit also that of those who believe in Christ only the sanctified are of the real Church; and their gospel is also that only the real Church is to be saved and that all others are to be eternally and most horribly tormented;--some claim in literal flames, others say by the torments and gnawings of conscience and remorse, which they proceed to say will be worse than the literal flames,-- and we respond, if worse, so much worse for the argument. All will surely agree as respects these two theories or gospels held out to the world by Protestant Christendom that it would make no difference to the poor tormented creatures of the forty-seven thousand millions, whether they got into that awful state of hopeless woe by divine predestination and lack of love and justice, or by divine incapacity and lack of foreknowledge and proper arrangements. We believe that no true Christian will be ready after examining the subject thus far to say that he approves either of these
theories, and that he is not ashamed of both of them.
Now let us proceed to examine what is the true Gospel, presented to us in the Word of God--the Gospel of which the Apostle was not ashamed.
The word "gospel" itself should be the clue--should save the intelligent Christian from being misled by the various theories that are propounded under this label. The word "gospel," as is well known, signifies "good tidings," "good news," and we want to say here that if any one thinks it good news that one out of a thousand of the human family is to be saved and the remaining 999 to be eternally tormented, he is either not a Christian at all, or is decidedly undeveloped in Christian character, in mercy, in love, in justice. In our opinion he is at most only a "babe in Christ" who has need first of the milk of the Word and subsequently of the "strong meat" thereof, that he may grow up into Christ in all things, and be able to comprehend with all saints the lengths and breadths and heights and depths of the love of God which passeth all understanding.
When occasionally we come across some one who gives evidence of being a Christian, and who still entertains such horribly blasphemous views respecting the heavenly Father's character, we feel like quoting to him the Lord's words through the Prophet, "My ways are not as your ways, nor my thoughts as your thoughts, for as the heavens are higher than the earth so are my ways higher than your ways and my plans higher than your plans." (`Isa. 55:8,9`.) And part of our object in this discourse, dear friends, is to have those, whose eyes are anointed of the Lord that they may see spiritual things, discern some of the Lord's higher ways and higher plans which he presents to us in his Word under the name gospel--good tidings.
The Apostle tells us that God preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, "beforehand" signifying before it was due to begin; for the gospel did not begin with Abraham, but with our Lord Jesus Christ, as the Apostle again declares, "This salvation began to be declared by our Lord and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him." (`Heb. 2:3`.) All that ever went before our Lord's preaching was not the gospel, but merely types and promises which foreshadowed it. Let us notice next what the Apostle says was this forestatement of the gospel to Abraham: he says that it was couched in the words, "In thee shall all nations be blessed." (`Gal. 3:16,29`.) Notice this carefully: it does not say, In thy seed shall one out of a thousand out of the families of the earth be blessed, and the remainder all be doomed to an indescribably horrible eternity, but the whole gospel is a gospel of blessing, applicable to all the families of the earth-- through Christ, the true seed of Abraham.
When our Lord Jesus was born into the world, the heavenly Father sent a message respecting him, and the angels who bore that message declared that it was a gospel message. Let us hearken that we may note what they say about the eternal torment of the vast majority of our race. They said to the shepherds, "Behold we bring you good tidings [gospel] of great joy, which shall be unto all people." (`Luke 2:10`.) Let it be distinctly noted that the gospel of the angels, like the gospel communicated to Abraham, contains no reference to the damnation and eternal misery of any of the Lord's creatures, and consequently our friends of the Salvation Army and others, who in ignorance preach damnation and call it the gospel, are doing so in utter violation of the meaning of the word and of all the uses of that word throughout the Scriptures. However well they may mean, they are certainly in this committing a wrong, a grievous wrong, and we long to see the light of the knowledge of the goodness of God shine into their hearts and relieve them of this blindness which comes not from God nor from his Word, but from the prince of darkness.--`2 Cor. 4:4`.
It will require all of the Millennial age (which is to follow this gospel age in which we live) to bless all the families of the earth with the joyful knowledge of divine grace in Christ. Just so surely as the forty-seven thousand millions went down into death without hearing of the Savior, without coming to a clear knowledge of the truth, without the good tidings of great joy reaching their ears,--just so surely must they all come forth from the grave that this very gospel message of "good tidings" may be declared to them, and that they may be tested thereby and either be accepted to eternal life or destroyed, as unworthy of life, in the Second Death. We say just so surely, for three reasons: (1) The announcement of the gospel to Abraham says, "In thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed," and all of these forty-seven thousand millions belong to this very class specified, the families of the earth--and they have not yet been blessed with this knowledge of the only name wherein is the blessing. (2) The same is true of the message by the angels,--the good tidings of great joy is for all people, and these forty-seven thousand millions of humanity are surely the great bulk of all people. (3) We are sure that this testimony must be given to them in the future, because the Scriptural declaration is that "Christ died for the ungodly," "he tasted death for every man," and as a consequence every man must have an opportunity granted him for the purpose of benefiting by that death, and of availing himself of the privilege of opportunity to have eternal life which was secured by our Lord's ransom sacrifice.
But some one would perhaps say, Christ died only for the sins of the Church and not for the sins of the world, and consequently the sins of the world cannot be forgiven them. We answer, No; the Scriptural declaration most positively is not only that "Jesus Christ by the grace of God tasted death for every man," "to be testified in due time," but additionally the Apostle says, "He is a propitiation [satisfaction] for our [the Church's] sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." (`1 John 2:2`.) What could be plainer than this? If the price for the sins of the whole world has been paid to Justice, we may rest well assured that Justice will furnish opportunity through the Redeemer whereby all these whose sins were atoned for may come to a knowledge of Christ, and to an opportunity of accepting divine grace through him.
But some one will say, "Why should God adopt a plan which would necessitate a resurrection of the
dead, and a post-resurrection trial for eternal life? We answer, first, that it is not for us to inquire why the Lord adopts certain plans which differ from those which our poor finite minds might claim for him; rather it is for us to acknowledge that our wisdom is insufficient on such a subject and that we should come humbly to the Lord to hear from him whatever he may be pleased to inform us respecting his purposes. And as a matter of fact only those who approach the question from this standpoint need expect to see the truth or to "comprehend with all saints the lengths and breadths and heights and depths of the love of God." --`Eph. 3:18`.
God has pleased, however, to reveal to us some of his reasons for arranging his plan as we see it. He assures us of his full wisdom and power to manage every feature of his own work according to his own good pleasure, assuring us that he knows the end from the beginning, and that the end will fully justify every step that he has taken. His Word, no less than observation, shows us that during all these six thousand years the world has been getting a lesson respecting the exceeding sinfulness of sin and its wages of sorrow and death. His Word assures us also that during the next age, the Millennium, the whole world will be brought to a knowledge of the way of righteousness and love and peace, and will see this law in practical operation, and will see its beneficent results in all those who will then come into harmony with the great Mediator. Thus mankind learns the lesson of evil and its consequence first, and then of righteousness and its blessed results under divine providence; and thus fully equipped with knowledge on both sides of the question and instructed by the Royal Priesthood, mankind will be ready for the tests, that will be applied by the Lord Jesus, under which the obedient and faithful will be granted full perfection and eternal life, and the disobedient and incorrigible will "be destroyed from amongst the people."--`Acts 3:23`.
Another matter, and really the key to the whole question which we are discussing, is revealed in God's Word, viz., that in the divine purpose the promised "seed of Abraham" that should perform the great work of blessing all the families of the earth, is to be one, in the sense of one kind, but not in the sense of one person--that is to say, that the seed of Abraham consists of Jesus Christ the Head of the Church, and of the Church which is his body. Not the nominal or professing church, but the true Church, "whose names are written in heaven," and who walk in the footsteps of their Lord, and are found faithful unto death and shall be granted with their Lord the crown of life. This Gospel age intervening between the time of the great sin-offering and the time when the blessing of earth's billions will commence, God has set apart for the work of selecting or electing the body of Christ, the Church, the Bride, the "little flock," the "royal priesthood," the joint-heirs with Christ in his Kingdom. These, like their Head, are called with a "high calling," a "heavenly calling," and the salvation provided for them is higher than that which God has purposed for the world in general. He is selecting this "little flock" and trying them and proving them, fitting them and polishing them for the heavenly Kingdom, and to these, as the Apostle Peter declares, God has given "exceeding great and precious promises [far beyond any promises given to any other of his creatures] that by these [promises] we might be partakers of the divine nature," and joint-heirs with his Son. This is denominated a "heavenly calling" in contrast with the earthly salvation intended for whosoever will, in due time.
This is another feature of the Gospel, dear brethren and sisters. If it is splendid, good news to know that ultimately all families of the earth are to be blessed through the Christ, it is still an additional feature to the good news to know that God has invited us to become members of the Christ company, "members in particular of the body of Christ." No wonder the Apostle calls this "our high calling," our "heavenly calling;" and it is to the attainment of this that the Apostle exhorts all the faithful to lay aside every weight and every besetment and to run with patience the race set before us in the gospel, looking unto Jesus the author, until he shall have become the finisher of our faith.
This is the gospel, dear friends, the one we find set forth in the Scriptures, set forth by Paul himself, and of which he was not ashamed. This gospel shows the character of our Creator in a most wonderful light, --his Wisdom, able to discern the end from the beginning; his Power, able to accomplish that which he pleases; his Justice, squaring every feature of the plan from first to last, according to the most absolute features of righteousness; his Love, whose lengths and breadths and heights and depths we have not yet been able to explore; a love which sympathizes with his creatures in their fallen estate; a love which provided a Savior, and a great one; a love which prompted that Savior to give his life as our ransom price; a love which met all the requirements of divine Justice for us; a love which still pursues mankind, and in this Gospel age calls us to joint heirship with his Son in a nature and Kingdom far above angels, principalities and powers, of which the Apostle says, "Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us that we should be called the sons of God." This love, still pursuing, will use the "elect" glorified house of sons, of which Christ Jesus is the Head (`Eph. 1:22`), in blessing all families of the earth with full opportunity of knowledge and full assistance up the highway of holiness (`Isa. 35:8`) that so many as will may have restitution to all that was lost in Adam by coming back into harmony with God through the great Mediator.-- `Acts 3:19-21`.
Verily, dear friends, of such a gospel we are not ashamed, "for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth." It has in our hearts a transforming and renewing power, a sanctifying power which no error could possibly have, and which all the theories of eternal torment have never equalled and never will. Let us more and more "show forth the praises of our God, who hath called us out of darkness into his marvelous light," by renouncing all God-dishonoring creeds and theories, and instead hold forth the Word of life, and witness the good confession --the "good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people."
All who will declare the true gospel will need to be well shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace (gentleness, patience, meekness) for, strange to say, they will find bitter opposition from professed servants of the Lord who have been blinded and prejudiced by Satan's misrepresentations of the gospel, by which he seeks to drive from the Lord all who have a remnant of reason and will use it in their religious thinking. But all who have ears to hear, and who do hear the true gospel, will quickly distinguish it from the miserable counterfeits which for so long have passed current among God's people. Let all such remember that ability to see is an evidence of divine favor, and let them not be ashamed, but glorify God on this behalf. Let such remember, also, that their acceptance of truth as due in the face of unpopularity is a part of their testing. The Lord puts his plan, his Word, as his representative, saying--He that is ashamed of me and my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with his holy angels.--`Mark 8:38`.
"Good tidings of great joy which shall be unto all people!"
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NEHEMIAH'S CONSECRATION AND PRAYER.
NOV. 5.--`NEH. 1:1-11`.
"Prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day."
ALTHO the book of Nehemiah is a historical one--that is to say, not a prophetical or inspired one--we are nevertheless to regard its historical presentations as having been supervised by divine providence and intended for the instruction and edification of God's people. In these respects it corresponds to the books of Judges, Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, Ezra, Esther, etc., and in these respects it differs from the prophetical books which present to us directly the words of divine inspiration. This book is sometimes recognized as the Second book of Ezra, because its narrative is the sequel to that of the book of Ezra. Undoubtedly, however, Nehemiah was the writer of the major part of it, additions being made of other features by some other historian. Portions of the book are apparently copied from the State archives and written in the third person, while Nehemiah evidently was the writer of the portion presented in the first person.
Dr. Howard Crosby calls attention to the fact that altho the Book of Nehemiah is strictly historical, it nevertheless in a very remarkable manner outlines or shadows in various parts a Christian's experience. He says:--
"It is interesting to see how admirably the Book of `Nehemiah` tells the story of the soul's renewal. In the `first chapter` is the conviction and confession of sin and unrighteousness; in the `second`, the determination to rebuild with God's grace; in the `third`, the actual rebuilding of the soul's defences in sanctification; in the `fourth`, the attacks upon the soul from without; in the `fifth`, the assaults from within; in the `sixth`, the sly temptations of the Adversary, in the guise of reasonableness; in the `seventh`, the successful accomplishment of the spiritual work and ordering of the soul in godliness; in the `eighth`, the study of the Word; in the `ninth`, the Christian's faith confessing its weakness; in the `tenth`, the covenant relationship emphasized; in the `eleventh`, the systematizing of the advanced soul in the godly life; in the `twelfth`, the thankful acknowledgement of God in everything; and in the `thirteenth`, the sad exhibition of the Christian's fall, and need of the renewed influences of the spirit. When, on the close examination of the book, we see how exactly this outline is filled up, we can hardly believe that such a spiritual application was not intended in the recorded history. It is probable that Bunyan took his Mansoul from the study of this book."
Nehemiah informs us that he held the office of Cup-bearer to the king of Persia, at his palace, Shushan --the principal of the three Persian capitals. In ancient times the Cup-bearer was a confidential favorite with the monarch, highly trusted; he had access to the king's presence continually, and not merely on state occasions, as the political officers. His office was in the nature of trusted friend and counsellor, through whom instructions were sent, not only to the king's household servants, but also to ministers of the realm. Such trusted servants were expected to have a general oversight, especially of the household, and to be able to guarantee the king against conspiracies upon his life; he was expected to taste of the king's food in his presence as an assurance or guarantee that it had not been poisoned. In presenting wine to the king, it was the custom for this officer to pour out a sample for himself, and from this probably originated the title of Cup-bearer. Somewhat similarly, in Great Britain, various persons of high rank are known as
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Chamberlain, Master of the Household, etc.
It may be inferred from various statements of `chapter five, especially vss. 16-18`, that Nehemiah had inherited great wealth, and we must think of him as a young man, gifted, educated, and highly honored by the monarch in the position which he held. That it was not impossible for Hebrews to occupy confidential and high positions in the Persian empire is shown in the cases of Daniel, Esther and Mordecai.
We saw in a previous lesson (August 27) that those who returned to Jerusalem under the proclamation of Cyrus were for the most part the poorer of the captives who had not prospered exceedingly in the provinces of Babylonia. Nehemiah's parents had
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possibly been too comfortably situated and too prosperous to take a deep interest in the return. Nehemiah himself, as a young man in good position, had probably not given great thought to the fact that God's chosen nation was at this time for the most part a homeless people, and that the holy city was in a deplorable condition. Josephus informs us that while walking outside the city wall Nehemiah noticed some travel-stained strangers, was attracted to them by their Hebrew language, and conversing with them found one of them to be a relative of his, and that they had recently returned from Jerusalem, which they described as being in a deplorable condition.
The Lord evidently permitted this circumstance, which exercised a great influence upon the mind of Nehemiah, stirring up the naturally good soil of his heart not only to sympathy with his persecuted co-religionists at Jerusalem, but also to consider the whole question of Israel's rejection from divine favor, and the forewarnings of this rejection given in the Law and the prophets, and the promises of a return of divine favor with the return of Israel to a proper condition of heart. As he thought upon the question his entire nature was stirred, plowed to its very depths; and he resolved that he would not only pray the Lord for divine blessing upon the true holy city, but that he would consecrate himself and the wealth which God had committed to his care, and his favored confidential relationship with the king--all these he would devote to the answering of his own prayers.
He realized, however, that the work he was undertaking was of no small magnitude: he realized that to express to the king a sympathy for his own nation and its captive city might readily be misunderstood to be a lack of loyalty, and that thus he might not only fail to have the king's favor and assistance in connection with the project, but might, on the other hand, arouse his opposition and enmity, not only against himself, but also against his people. And at that time for a Chamberlain to arouse his monarch's ill-will might readily mean, not merely his removal from office, but the confiscation of his property, or even the taking of his life.
With these facts before our minds, we not only gain an exalted opinion of Nehemiah's consecration to the Lord and the service of his people, but we also perceive the reasonableness, nay, the necessity, for his continuing in an attitude of mourning, fasting and praying, and waiting for the Lord to open a favorable opportunity for nearly four months before that opportunity came.--`Neh. 1:1`; `2:1`.
The mourning probably came first; then followed the fasting, self-denial, self-correction, that he might know the better the mind of the Lord on the subject; then discerning what he concluded was the Lord's will in respect to himself, the use of his time, talent, influence and means in the relief of his brethren, and consecrating his all fully to this service, his mourning, fasting and praying continued until the day that the Lord opened to him the door of opportunity, thus accepting his offer, his sacrifice.
We may pause here to note the fact that all Christians to-day should have much of the spirit, the disposition, of Nehemiah. Being Israelites after the spirit and not after the flesh, their interest will chiefly be in the prosperity of spiritual Israel. Numbers of these, like Nehemiah, are still in Babylon, and a few of them, like him, possess wealth and influence there. Such as take note of the dishonor and contempt and abuse aroused against their faithful brethren will be touched with love and sympathy for the brethren. Their hearts will thus be turned longingly to look for the promises of God respecting spiritual Zion and her ultimate deliverance, and they will feel an earnest desire to be with and of the Lord's faithful ones, and such true fellowship will make them ready to sacrifice their temporal interests in the Lord's cause as well as to fast and pray for it. Those with such a spirit will be sure to have an increase of divine favor which will permit them to sacrifice their all and to share the privations and oppositions to which their brethren are subject, and being in a right condition of heart they will appreciate this as being a great privilege, a great honor.
Such, however, will do wisely if they follow Nehemiah's course of earnest prayer and constant seeking for the opportunity which will permit them not only to make their sacrifice, but to make it most effectively as respects the Lord's cause.
Our previous studies on this subject showed us that the wall of Jerusalem had been considerably repaired after the return from Babylon, but this repair work had been discontinued by imperial decree because of the representations made by the rulers of the Samaritans, who, we remember, were provoked by the refusal of the Israelites to permit them to join in the work and to consider them as Israelites; subsequently this hatred was intensified by Israel's course in instructing the people that those who had married Samaritan wives had violated the divine command. We cannot doubt that the return of these wives would be taken as a gross insult by the Samaritans, who evidently felt that under all the circumstances they were at liberty to oppose these poor Jews in every way in their power, even resorting to open attacks upon the people and the breaking down of the walls, the burning of the gates, etc. They felt secure in this lawlessness, because the imperial government of Persia showed the Jews no favor.
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However, we see that God used this very matter of trouble upon the Jews to raise up for them wealthy and friendly brethren yet in Babylon to come to their relief. Just so it is sometimes with the spiritual Israelite --the trials and difficulties which seem most discouraging and disadvantageous are often the very means which God employs for stirring up others of his people and bringing them needed relief. This again emphasizes the lesson which is taught throughout this narrative of Nehemiah respecting trust in the divine supervision of his people's interests, and the propriety of our not only trusting God but seeking to cowork with him along the lines of his providence.
The condensed statement of Nehemiah's prayers which he furnishes us is interesting and instructive. The opening sentence reminds us of the opening statement of that which we designate the Lord's Prayer: "Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name." It is an acknowledgment of the divine greatness and relatively of the petitioner's littleness. It is a recognition also of God's faithfulness: His name is honorable, his character is unassailable, his ways just and true. Nehemiah, after acknowledging God's faithfulness toward those who love and obey him, acknowledged that the entire difficulty which had led to all the trouble upon Israel resulted from their sins-- their neglect of God and his promises, their failure to keep their part of the covenant.
And properly he included himself in this matter, for heretofore he had been like the others, chiefly careful for the things of this life, and tho doubtless honest and honorable in his dealings, he had been neglectful of the great promises of which he was an heir with the others of his nation. Altho he had not been sharing personally in the severe afflictions, he now shared them sympathetically with the faithful ones who had returned to the Land of Promise, and he might therefore voice a prayer for all. He summarizes the divine threatenings and promises expressed by Moses' lips (`Deut. 28`), expressing his thorough confidence in the Lord, that as the punishments predicted had been meted out to Israel as a people, so assuredly the promises of the regathering could be relied upon implicitly.--`Rom. 11:29,32`.
There are lessons here profitable to all Israelites indeed who are in trouble because of past unfaithfulness to their covenant. All such should remember that the very fact that their indifference and neglect of the Lord has separated them from him according to the declaration of his Word, only proves the fact that God who is the same yesterday, to-day and forever is ready and willing to receive them back into harmony and favor if they but retrace their steps. To all such the Lord says, "Draw nigh unto me and I will draw nigh unto you."
Nehemiah's prayer reminds us also of the fact that Israel was not gathered at the first advent because as a nation they did not come into the attitude of heart here exemplified by Nehemiah. Had the whole nation been of Nehemiah's attitude at our Lord's first advent the gathering of the elect would have been accomplished there: the Bride class would have been selected from the twelve tribes, the Kingdom would have been established, and the work of blessing all the families of the earth would have begun there. But as we have already seen* the unreadiness of that nation resulted in their receiving a "double" of chastisement from the Lord--so that they have since received as long a period of punishment without favor as they previously received with favor. And now their "double" being ended, the Lord's message to
*See MILLENNIAL DAWN, VOL. II., Chap. 7.
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them is, "Comfort ye, comfort ye my people; speak ye comfortably unto Jerusalem, and cry unto her that her appointed time is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned, for she hath received at the Lord's hands double for all her sins." (`Isa. 40:1,2`.) Now the recovery of Israel is due and is in progress, and as soon as the spiritual Israel is complete and glorified the light will begin to shine upon fleshly Israel. --`Rom. 11:25-27`.
Thus we see that Nehemiah's prayer has not yet been fully answered. The Lord has not yet gathered the natural seed of Abraham, who have faith in him, from the uttermost parts of the earth: but we do see that he is ready to do this quickly now, so soon as he shall have gathered the spiritual seed to heavenly conditions through the first resurrection. The gathering of natural Israel will not of course include all Jews, but merely such of that blinded people as maintain their Abrahamic faith in the divine promises. And these doubtless will be gathered through a great time of trouble through which fleshly Israel may still expect to pass. Their favor-time has commenced, and hence the "Zionist movement," but it will be requisite as a part of the favor, which shall bring them near to the Lord and back to the Land of Promise, that they shall endure great persecutions, from which the Lord shall deliver them.
But altho Nehemiah's prayer was not fulfilled on the large scale he had before his mind, because the Lord's due time had not yet come and because the people were not then ready for such blessing, nevertheless his prayer was answered, for he was granted the desired opportunity to devote himself, his influence, his wealth and his time to the Lord's cause. And even tho the results were far from what he expected,
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we may be sure that they brought to his heart a rest and a blessing: and we may be sure also that they brought him into that condition of mind which was pleasing to the Lord, and we may reasonably expect that Nehemiah will be one of the class mentioned by the Apostle in `Heb. 11:39,40`, for whom is reserved a share in the earthly ministration of the Millennial age under the glorified Church.
A lesson for the spiritual Israelite in this is that altho his prayers may not be answered in the manner he had anticipated, nevertheless he may rest assured that all things are working together for good to him; and that the Lord's way eventually will work out a far more exceeding and an eternal weight of glory. Therefore let us, as spiritual Israelites, perform our consecration and pour out before the Lord our prayers in harmony with his promise, and realize that in the end, when we shall know as we are known, we will see clearly that the Lord was answering our prayers in the most efficacious manner.
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NEHEMIAH'S FAITH AND WORKS.
NOV. 12.--`NEH. 4:7-18`.
"Watch and pray."--`Matt. 26:41`.
NEHEMIAH'S earnest desire to spend himself and his service for the Lord's glory and for the blessing of his people inspired his prayers, and such prayers always bring an answer of some kind: such prayers mean faith and cooperating works. Charles Reade, the converted novelist, briefly sums up the circumstances by which Nehemiah's heart-burden was brought to the favorable attention of the king, as follows:--
"The answer came (1) through an arbitrary, self-willed and passionate king, who a few years before had issued an edict against Jerusalem, and put a stop to the building of its walls. (`Ezra 4:8-24`.) (2) It came through Nehemiah himself, and the feelings which prompted his prayer. The burden of his spirit and the earnestness of his fasting and praying left their marks on his countenance. Usually he was able to conceal his heart's sorrow (`2:1`); or during these four months it was the turn of others to serve the king. When he came again before the king the change was apparent, and the king noticed it. 'Why is your countenance sad?' No reply. 'You are not sick?' Still no reply. 'This is sorrow and nothing else.' Then Nehemiah was sore afraid, and I will tell you why. His life was in danger. Even a modern autocrat like Louis XIV. expected everybody's face to shine if he did but appear, and how much more an Artaxerxes. If he had ordered this melancholy visage away to prison or death it would have been justified by precedent."
God gave Nehemiah favor with the king so that he not only was permitted leave of absence to engage in the work which his heart yearned for, but in addition he was appointed Governor of Judea, with letters instructing other governors en route to Jerusalem to grant him necessary aid, together with a safe military escort. Apparently the preparations for the journey occupied nearly a month, and the journey itself about three months, bringing Nehemiah and his retinue of servants to Jerusalem about July.
It will be remembered that Ezra, in making this journey through a country infested with thieves and brigands, would not ask a military escort from the king lest it should seem a reflection against the divine providential care, of which he had spoken to the king: but Nehemiah, being offered the escort, did not permit any spirit of bravado to hinder his acceptance of it. In both cases we see that the right course was pursued, tho in some respects the conditions were opposites. Spiritual Israelites need to learn both of these lessons--to trust fully in the Lord's provision, be it great or small, and in no case to refuse reasonable safeguards, when under the Lord's providence they are furnished. We remember that one of our Lord's temptations was along this line--to perform a hazardous action for which there was no necessity--to leap from the pinnacle of the Temple. Frequently the Lord's people are beset by the great Adversary to attempt foolish or impossible or unnecessary things, simply to show their faith. Such should take a lesson from our Lord's reply in his temptation, "Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God:"--we are not to tempt divine providence, nor to expect miracles to be wrought on our behalf where the divine arrangement has not made them necessary.
Arrived at Jerusalem, Nehemiah did not at first tell the chiefs of the Jews of his purposes; but secretly, in company with his personal attendants, he took a survey of the condition of the city walls by moonlight for three nights, meanwhile maturing in his mind the plan he was about to suggest. There is a valuable lesson here for spiritual Israelites: how necessary it is that if we desire to do a good work we first thoroughly inform ourselves respecting the needs of the case, so that our course of conduct may be both reasonable and efficient. This is none the less true and important if the walls which need repairing and building are the walls of spiritual Zion, the Church of the living God, the holy Jerusalem; nor less so if they are the walls of our characters, our own hearts, our own dispositions. We want to take a full survey of
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the weaknesses and deficiencies in order to be able, under the Lord's direction and by his assistance, to build up ourselves in the most holy faith, and to similarly build up others of the true Zion. Inspection properly precedes intelligent and profitable reformation of any kind.
Nehemiah did not begin his work by chiding his brethren with unfaithfulness to God or lack of enterprise, etc.; such a course would have further discouraged them, and would have made them feel antagonistic, and perhaps to say, "You will see how it is yourself when you are here a few years," and some would then have taken pleasure in his failure to do more than they had accomplished. Neither did he begin by boastfully saying, "I have come here to do such a work, and within an incredibly short time you will see it accomplished; I will accomplish in days what you have failed to accomplish in as many years." To have taken such a course would have been to arouse the opposition of the very ones without whose aid his mission, humanly speaking, would be sure to be a failure.
Many Christian people can learn a valuable lesson here: the lesson that whoever desires to be a co-worker with God should work in the Lord's way and be guided by the spirit of love--for love does not think unkindly or ungenerously or slightingly of the efforts of others, nor is it boastful. On the contrary, its trust is in the Lord, and its boast therefore must be in him. This lesson is valuable to us also in respect to individual efforts in our own hearts--to build up good characters acceptable in God's sight through Christ Jesus. We are to remember that nothing is gained, but much to be lost, by thinking or feeling boastfully of what we hope to attain in self-control and character-likeness to the Lord: nor is much to be gained by mourning and weeping over misspent opportunities of the past. The proper course is to begin work afresh with confidence, not in ourselves, but in him who called us and who has given such exceeding great and precious promises. This is our way to success in individual development, and also in our labors upon the walls of Zion, as it was Nehemiah's successful method for the building of the natural, typical Jerusalem.
In answer to his prayer and earnest study, God gave Nehemiah great wisdom and tact in his work, and calling together the chief representatives of the people he laid before them his plans, in which they
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were all to be associates and partners in whatever blessing and honor might accrue from this service. His plan was to divide the work on the wall so that each person of prominence and capability should have a certain share of the work and the responsibility, as well as of the subsequent honor of success. Moreover, his plan was that each should undertake the building of the wall nearest to his own residence: he would not only be interested in having the work done, but also in having it substantial, (1) because of the credit for the rapid and good workmanship, and (2) because he would be anxious that the wall should be strong in the vicinity of his own home.
There is a lesson here for us: our Lord declares that he gave "to every man [in the Church] his work" (`Mark 13:34`), represented by his talents, and each should seek to know his talents and to use them, and should not attempt the use of talents not given him, and a work therefore not committed to him. Again, each of us should begin "over against his house:" we, too, should begin our reform work at home.
In our experience in character-building, the same lesson of turning everything to good account may be profitably applied; for instance, if by nature we are quick and impulsive, let us not only seek to restrain such impulsiveness from speaking evil and wrong, but let us exercise it in the speaking of that which is good and profitable for edifying, gradually accustoming ourselves to use this talent in a favorable and not in an unfavorable manner. Have we large combativeness, let us, while seeking to restrain this quality of our being as respects evil doing and injury to others, learn to exercise it kindly, lovingly, in opposing wrong, "in contending earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints." And so with all the so-called baser organs of our fallen, unbalanced condition--they may all be turned to usefulness and helpfulness if but rightly directed by our wills and the spirit of a sound mind-- "the mind of the Lord."
The text of our lesson particularly relates to the difficulties and emergencies which arose after Nehemiah had wisely gained the assent and cooperation of the leaders of the people, inspiring them with his enthusiasm --after the work of building the wall had been begun. Then it was that enemies and oppositions began to show themselves. The leaders of the surrounding peoples had for centuries cultivated a hatred of the Jews, (1) on account of their exclusiveness when obedient to the Lord's command; (2) because of their racial differences and animosities, including the differences of their religions; (3) they had all experienced the fact that the Israelites, when under divine favor, were prosperous and capable beyond themselves--the same reason which to-day causes such a hatred of the Jew throughout Europe: (4) like birds of prey, they had been fattening at the expense of the Jews, and this marauding would be interfered with by the rebuilding of the wall and the establishment of a more permanent government in Jerusalem.
Just so it is with individuals who, having learned
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the weaknesses of their own characters, resolve by the grace of God to build themselves up along the lines of justice, meekness, patience, love. They immediately find themselves beset with enemies bent on hindering their work for selfish reasons; the lust of the flesh and the eye, and the pride of life, like Philistines, Ammonites and Arabians, take council together against the building up of a character with which they would not be in accord, and which would hinder the exercise of their depraved instincts. Such a uniting of forces, such a conspiracy against the "new creature," is not begun until he begins the work of rectifying, building in his life the wall of righteousness.
Similarly, this illustrates the position of the Lord's people as a Church; so long as they live carelessly, drowsily, inattentive to the doctrinal and the practical bulwarks of Zion, they are not subjected to specific attacks from the great enemy and his deluded servants; but from the time that they realize that in the rubbish pile of human tradition and falsity are to be found gold, silver and precious stones for the erection of the walls of Zion--from the moment that they begin to use the same, and to build according to the original pattern, contending earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints--from that moment, we say, they are subjected to the conspiracies of the great deceiver and his Philistine and Ishmael hosts--Babylon--and then for the first time every faction and party is ready to conspire and unite against them, wroth, angry, not because injury has been done them, but because the progress of the truth is of itself a rebuke to all who are not of the truth.
Apparently the most zealous of the Israelites resided in Jerusalem, or near it, while others, less zealous, resided in various favorable localities nearer to the Samaritans, etc., and were more or less influenced by their customs, methods and views, and therefore were less in sympathy with the repair work at Jerusalem. These seemingly are referred to as Judah (`vs. 10`), and expressed their doubts respecting the prosperity of the work, saying that it was useless to attempt so great a work because of the amount of rubbish requiring to be handled and disposed of, both to make ready for the work on the foundations and also to secure the suitable building stones. These early proclaimed that the laborers would soon weary of their task, and the builders be forced to suspend the work. They were not enemies of the Jews, and are not here classed as their adversaries, but they were lacking in faith, and hence were hindrances to the work by reason of their discouraging suggestions. Just so in the individual case, where reforms and character-building are commenced, he finds in himself various disheartening suggestions respecting the difficulties and impossibility of the work he is undertaking. These must be resisted. Similarly, in the work of Zion, in building up the waste places, reassembling the stones of precious truth from the rubbish-heaps of sectarianism: there are those who are in sympathy with the apostolic teachings who nevertheless clearly discourage the builders, and are thus, without intending it, to a considerable extent adversaries of the work.
As for the open adversaries, their first attempt was to stop the work with ridicule (`2:19`; `4:1-3`), "Even that which they build, if a fox go up he shall even break down their stone walls." Sarcasm is one of the most successful of our Adversary's weapons, and with it he slays many and hinders many from progress in the work of building their own characters and from the work of building upon the walls of the true Zion: but the faithful are not to be disconcerted by scorn or ridicule or irony; they build on and their Adversary becomes the more aggressive as he finds that he cannot stop them with ridicule. So it was with these open adversaries of Nehemiah and his faithful co-workers. They planned a sudden assault by which they would take the builders unawares, and by killing off some of their leaders would stop the work.
The people of Judah who did not favor the building and who lived amongst the Samaritans, etc., learned of this conspiracy, and having a brotherly interest in the builders, sent them word, apparently advising them to desist from the work lest it would bring against them the destruction contemplated. But the builders were not to be thus intimidated, and instead of stopping the work they armed themselves for defence, Nehemiah setting bodies of men upon the eminences behind the lowest parts of the unfinished walls, the points where the attack would most likely be made, and where their enemies would most surely see them ready for defence. But finding them forewarned and forearmed, the projected attack was abandoned.
Just so it is with the individual: when he cannot be dissuaded from his work of character-building by sneers and sarcasm, the attempt is made to vanquish him before he has gone far in his reformatory work. He is attacked along the lines of his weaknesses by the great Adversary, and finds necessity for the armor of the Lord, the shield of faith, the sword of the spirit, the helmet of salvation, etc., that he may withstand the attacks from the fiery darts of the wicked one. And just so it is with the Lord's people as they unite together for the study of his Word, as he has counseled them--"forgetting not the assembling of themselves." The Adversary will attack them as a little company, endeavor to frustrate the object of their assembling, endeavor to dishearten them before they have made much progress in the knowledge and practice of the
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truth. But if they will only go to the armory they will find that the Captain of our salvation has made abundant provision that we should not be helpless in the hands of our Adversary, for, as the Apostle declares, "we are not ignorant of his devices." And here it is well to remember what proved so helpful to Nehemiah and his faithful little band, of which he says, "We made a prayer unto God and set a watch against them day and night." This is our Captain's instruction to the Christian soldier, "Watch and pray." Let us not forget either of these important prerequisites to safety and victory.--`Eph. 6:10-17`; `Heb. 10:25`; `2 Cor. 2:11`.
Not only did Nehemiah see to the arming and preparation of his band, but additionally he stimulated their faith, saying, "Be not afraid of them: remember the Lord, who is great and terrible, and fight for your brethren," etc. We are to remember, as soldiers of the cross, that our Captain has instructed us that to be full of faith, full of good courage in our reliance upon him, is a matter of primary importance in respect to our work and victory. His word is, "This is the victory that overcometh the world, even your faith." In our battle against sin and everything that would hinder the work to which the Lord has called us, and to which we have consecrated ourselves, we fight for the new creature, not for the old; yea, we expect to lay down the old nature in death, and already we reckon
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it dead, and put forth all of our efforts on behalf of the new creature. And similarly our brethren for whom we are fighting are contending earnestly for their deliverance from the thraldom of sin and of error --these brethren are also new creatures, brethren of Christ, sons of God; and the Apostle exhorts us, saying, "We ought also to lay down our lives for the brethren."--`1 John 3:16`.
As is often the case, the preparation for the conflict was all that hindered it; and so with the Lord's people, those who most carefully prepare themselves with the armor of God are much less frequently attacked than those who neglect the armament.
Thenceforth, not only Nehemiah's servants, but all the people, seem to have maintained their armament, while they prosecuted their work, and so must the Christian Church and Christian as an individual maintain their defensive armor and keep watch against the Adversary while seeking to build up themselves and others in the most holy faith. Our faith and our works must cooperate to bring the desired success, and as success attended Nehemiah's efforts and that of his coadjutors, so success is sure to come to all of the Lord's people who follow this prescribed course. "If ye do these things ye shall never fall, but so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."--`2 Pet. 1:4-11`.
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DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL:--Many thanks for VOL. V. It is truly a wonderful book and inspired me with awe when I read it and wonder why God has permitted me to understand his wonderful plan even as well as I do. My husband is reading it every spare moment. Sister Mooney has not yet received her copy of DAWN V. and thinks her subscription paid. Please have it seen to. ISABELLA LUNHAM.--Illinois.
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DEAR SIR AND BROTHER:--I have just completed the first reading of VOL. V. and it is not necessary to commend it. It commends itself to every thinking mind that will weigh its arguments. There is however one position taken on page 352 in reference to `1 Thes. 4:14` that confuses me and if your position be the correct one and the sleepers referred to in `verse 15` are the same sleepers referred to in `verse 14` it would imply that the general resurrection of all the dead must take place before the glorification of those of the Church who are alive at that time. I state the matter as clearly as I can in the hope that you will point out wherein my difficulty lies.
Yours in the hope founded on the Ransom,
A. F. HENKELS.--Pennsylvania.
[REPLY.--Your favor of the 6th is at hand. I am glad to know that you have enjoyed thus far the study of DAWN VOL. V., and that it commends itself to your heart and head, except on the one point mentioned. On that point I would say:
We must distinguish as between references to the Church and references to the world. Both classes die, both classes sleep, both classes need resurrection, yet they are different classes in every respect. In `1 Cor. 15` the apostle points out that "as by a man came death, by a man came also the resurrection of the dead." He further points out that "As all in Adam die, even so all in Christ shall be made alive," but "every man in his own order" or class. Some will be made alive in Christ now at the end of the present age as his bride and joint-heir, and will be of the first order or first resurrection: others will be made alive in Christ during the Millennial age, completed at its close as his children, and will constitute the second order or subsequent resurrection. Both orders are referred to in the same connection.
Now in reference to the text which troubles you, `1 Thes. 4:14,15`. `Verse 14` refers to mankind in general, and `verse 15` to the Church. All mankind "sleep in Jesus" as we show on page 352 of VOL. V., and all mankind are to be awakened, but not all in the first order or first resurrection. The apostle passes from the consideration of the general fact to the consideration of the first order, the Church, which is always made most prominent throughout the New Testament
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as most interesting to the Lord's people. Thus in `verse 15` he speaks of the last members of the Church at the close of this age, indicating that the change of the remaining members will not precede that of the same class who have already fallen asleep. That this second class refers not to the world in general who "sleep in Jesus," but to the saints, is clearly indicated in the `16th verse`, where they are spoken of as the "dead in Christ." The whole world sleeps in Jesus in the sense that Jesus bought the whole world, and is to be the quickener or lifegiver to the whole world; but only the saints are dead in Christ--members of Christ's body, the Anointed body. I trust this will make the subject more clear to you.--EDITOR.]
MY DEAR BROTHER:--Inasmuch as it has been something more than a year since I have written you I feel at liberty to trespass upon your time for a little while now to thank you for VOL. V. of MILLENNIAL DAWN. It is, in my judgment, with the possible exception of VOL. I. the most instructive of the DAWN series yet published. I feel assured that members of the household of faith privileged to peruse its pages will with myself acknowledge having received from it a blessing and spiritual uplift.
While my most earnest studies during the past years have been to be thoroughly clear upon the foundation stone of the gospel--the Ransom, yet in this work I have been permitted to see many new beauties of the height and depth and length and breadth of God's love through our dear Redeemer toward us as a class and the entire race as a whole. Many of the points brought out in the chapters devoted to the operations of the Spirit, as for example, "the spirit of fear," as treated on pages 213 and 214, must of necessity be exceedingly helpful, as I feel confident all true children of God have had similar tempting and discouragements.
The short chapter upon "the spirit of a sound mind" also will be especially helpful to other dear ones who like myself are found by the truth a little lower down the scale of Christian character than the majority of professing followers of our dear Master at least appear to be. All of the company here in Philadelphia are quite hearty in their praise of the whole subject from first to last and acknowledge having received great blessings from it for which we thank our heavenly Father sincerely.
We continue to have excellent meetings at which the spirit of our dear Master is displayed by all. The number attending and interest shown is, I think, all we could look for, inasmuch as we are so scattered.
Hoping this may find you well and enjoying all spiritual and needful temporal blessings, with Christian love to yourself and all your household, I remain,
Yours in the love and service of our Redeemer and King, J. WYLIE MACALLISTER.--Pennsylvania.
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL:--I have received VOL. V. of DAWN and I am reading it very carefully. I think, as do all with whom I have talked, that it is "meat in due season" and my prayer is that all may benefit by it and be able to "give a reason for the hope that is in them." There are some who have not received theirs as yet. Will you let me know when you can let me have 25 or 30 of them and the price, paper covers? There are a great many who have read the four volumes that do not subscribe for the TOWER that are anxious for it. I consider it good for those who have never read any of the other volumes. The "atonement" is a grand theme for every Christian to fully understand. Please find checks and orders. And may that peace and fellowship of Christ which prevailed at our Boston Convention remain with us forever, is the prayer of, Your Brother in Christ,
WM. J. DAVIS.--Massachusetts.
[We now have DAWN VOL. V. in good supply. For prices see second page of this journal. Encourage all who manifest any interest in present truth to become WATCH TOWER subscribers. Assure them that if too poor to pay they are thoroughly welcome to its visits free upon the terms stated on page 2. Those who hope to be able to pay in the future may say so and have it continued year by year indefinitely; so long as they continue to ask for it. We desire that so far as possible the WATCH TOWER lists may represent all who are interested in the Divine plan of salvation as presented in MILLENNIAL DAWN: nevertheless we are all aware that this would increase its issues three or four fold. And this is what we desire--not for our gain but for the assistance which we believe would thus be rendered to many who need it.--EDITOR.]
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL:--It gives me pleasure to write you again. You will find report of meetings, etc., on list sheets, therefore will not say anything about them in regular letter, except that some interesting meetings have been held since I left St. Louis.
Words would fail to express the amount of spiritual and intellectual benefit I derived from the convention. It was indeed "a feast of fat things" to me, and I think also to all the other interested friends present.
Since the Council Bluffs Convention (held a little more than a year ago), I have met quite a few of the friends who attended it and all confessed that it was a means of great spiritual blessing to them.
I am more and more convinced that these conventions are being greatly blessed of the Lord to the edifying of his people, and the dissemination of "harvest" truths amongst many, who will be benefited by them later. There are four results of such gatherings in which I greatly rejoice: (1) the direct benefit to the Church, by way of instruction, fellowship, etc., (2) the distribution of DAWNS, Tracts, etc., (3) the newspaper reports, many of them more or less favorable, and (4) it gives to many of the Lord's dear people, that you otherwise might not meet in the flesh, an opportunity to become personally acquainted with you.
And this last reason, dear brother, may be of more importance than you would be willing to admit.
With much love in the Lord, your brother and servant, FRANK DRAPER.--Pilgrim.