VOL. XIX. FEBRUARY 1, 1898. No. 3.
Views from the Watch Tower........................ 35
Christianity and Conquest..................... 36
United States a Kingdom of God................ 36
The Church a Social Club...................... 36
Evangelist B. Fay Mills' Theology............. 37
Zionism and the Messianic Prophecies.......... 37
"To Whom Shall We Go?"............................ 38
"Ye Cannot Serve God and Mammon".................. 42
"They that be Whole Need Not a
"Freely Ye have Received, Freely Give"............ 45
Interesting Letters............................... 48
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VIEWS FROM THE WATCH TOWER.
CHRISTIANITY AND CONQUEST.
"IT WOULD be difficult for a confirmed cynic to make a more bitter comment upon what we may term political Christianity than has just been offered in the conduct of the European Powers toward China. In considering the partition of that Empire, the natural rights of its Government and people have not been taken into account, but only the desires and covetousness of the rival spoliators. And, however mild may be the later negotiations of the Germans at Kiao-Chau, their first intent, and the direct command of the Emperor, was to 'strike with a mailed fist' and take whatever they wanted by force. That is, or was, the attitude of that nation of Christian Europe, whose ruler most vaunts himself upon his divine right.
"Briefly stated, the doctrine is that heathen nations have no rights which Christian nations are bound to respect. The powerful Christian nations of Europe approach the weak heathen nations of Asia, to oppress and rob and murder. They say, 'Let us rob them of their land, which we covet'--in the name of him who commanded, 'Thou shalt not steal' and 'Thou shalt not covet.' They say, 'If they resist us, let us kill them'--in the name of him who said, 'Thou shalt not kill.' They say, 'Let us oppress them and compel them to do our will'--in the name of him who said, 'Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.' That is what the Christian nations are practically saying and are actually doing....
"For Prince Henry of Prussia, who leads this great campaign against the Orient, and who goes thither to avenge the death of missionaries and to carry the beneficence of Europe to the benighted heathen, declares in terms that he will preach not Jesus of Nazareth, but William of Germany; not Christ crucified, but William crowned! Let there be no injustice done. Here are his identical words, spoken with the foreknowledge and approval of the Emperor himself: 'One thing,' he said, 'is the aim that draws me on. It is to declare in foreign lands the gospel of Your Majesty's hallowed person (das Evangelium Eurer Majestats geheiligter Person), to preach it to every one who will hear it, and also to those who will not hear it. This gospel I have inscribed on my banner, and I will inscribe it whithersoever I go.' Such, then, is the evangel of these few closing years of this nineteenth century of the Christian era.
"The German seizure of a part of China is probably the consummation of a long laid plan. There is reason to believe that such action was decided upon some years ago, to be taken as soon as a pretext was afforded. The pretext came in the murder of a couple of missionaries, and the seizure of Kiao Chau immediately followed. That the murders occurred when they did was a matter of chance, but the time could not have been chosen more opportunely to serve the German Emperor's ends. A foreign campaign for the acquisition of a new empire in China will give him the greatest possible aid in getting his Navy bill through the Reichstag, especially since the murdered missionaries whom he is avenging were Roman Catholics, and it is the Roman Catholic vote in the Reichstag that he most needs. It will also serve to divert German attention from domestic distress and to make the people forget their poverty for a time in their enthusiasm for what is termed the honor of the Fatherland.
"There is perhaps no need greater than this latter, unless, indeed, it be to remedy the poverty, instead of merely glossing it over with military glory. For Germany, with all her progress, is wretchedly poor. With one of the greatest armies in the world and with commerce whitening--or blackening--every sea, her people are grovelling in abject poverty. The facts in the case are actually startling. In England the line of exemption from income-tax is drawn at $800. In Prussia it is drawn at $225. One would think that would leave all except paupers subject to taxation. On the contrary, it taxes only 8.46 per cent. of the people. No less than 91.54 per cent. of the people of Prussia, then, have to live on incomes of less than $225 for each family! That is a picture of poverty literally appalling. That more than 29,000,000 out of 32,000,000 people
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should be living on incomes of less than 62 cents a day, such an income generally having to suffice for a whole family, is the blackest picture of German social economy that any enemy of the Fatherland could wish to draw.
"A generation ago matters were not as bad as they are now. Or, if they were, the people had not yet been waked to a realization of the fact, and they had no one in particular to blame for it. But Germany is now wide awake. The people know and feel how wretchedly poor they are. Rightly or wrongly, they blame the Government for it. Some demand more aid from the Government, in tariff protection and bounties. Others clamor for free trade, which may not increase their incomes, but would, they imagine, lessen their expenses. Others see in the vast expenditures for army and navy the source of all their woes. And others, weary of the problem, seek to escape it by expatriation. There is a desperate chance that foreign war, or at least colonial conquests, may for a time allay the rising discontent. But that will be an anodyne for the pain, not a remedy for the disease. The latter is something that is to be sought through other mediums than blood and iron."
* * *
Thus does the New York Tribune comment on the greed of the so called Kingdoms of God and of Christ --"Christendom," whose kings and emperors claim to reign "by the grace of God." No wonder, then, that people whose religious theories are in line with and built upon such claims, and who believe that the Bible so teaches, are inclined to repudiate the Bible and to modernize Christianity and make of it a society for social and political reform, and without creed or any tests as to religious faith. Alas! that God's wise and gracious plan and its record, the Bible, should be so misrepresented amongst those who love and seek righteousness, justice.
THE UNITED STATES TO BE A KINGDOM OF GOD.
Notwithstanding the foregoing and all the records of the past fourteen centuries that claims on the part of worldly governments to be Kingdoms of God are hypocritical and blasphemously false, there are quite a number of very good but very much blinded people, who think that they could add to these Kingdoms of God another, if they could but get the name of the Creator into the Constitution of the United States. These people recently held a convention in the City of Philadelphia to forward their views and unanimously passed the following resolution without debate:--
"We recognize in our various young people's societies, in connection with the visible church, one of the mightiest forces on the side of Christian citizenship, and that we gladly anticipate the day when the united forces, now for many years drilled for active service, will, in connection with other Christian forces, so control the Constitution and administration of our Government that this nation will be a confession before the world, and, in fact, a kingdom of our Lord."
THE CHURCH A SOCIAL CLUB.
The Rev. Dr. Rainsford (Episcopalian) who is a leader in the Social Uplift movement in New York City recently preached a sermon to men, in which social and political and moral reasons only seem to have been advanced as reasons for joining and attending church. Commenting on quotations from that sermon a metropolitan editor says:--
"It will be seen that in all this there is no reference to the Church as a divine institution, in which lies the means of salvation for men. It is treated as a fallible human institution, which commends itself to men as a voluntary association simply, of moral and religious usefulness to them. That there is any divine obligation to join the Church and that its sacraments are a means of salvation is not contended by Dr. Rainsford. With all its faults, his argument is, the church is a desirable association for men, and attendance upon its services is of moral advantage to them.
"That is, in the view of Dr. Rainsford, the church is a sort of religious club to which a man should go for moral improvement. He says nothing about any religious belief required by it from him, but inferentially leaves him to believe or deny according as he is minded. So far as the Bible is concerned, he gives men an example of denial by himself refusing to accept its infallibility. Go to church, he says in substance, because the influences in it are good and pure, as a man might say, associate with refined people if you wish to take on refinement.
"Dr. Rainsford, moreover, commends the church specifically as a political club, and he referred to the late municipal election to illustrate its advantages as such. In that campaign his particular church was especially active as a political club. The Citizens' Union movement, so-called, was started in St. George's Church. Its candidate for Mayor was one of its vestrymen; the Chairman of the concern was another, and among the officers generally were a majority of that vestry. Dr. Rainsford, therefore, calls on men to join St. George's as a political club."
Thinking people have seen for some time that the religious features are gradually being dropped out of the "churches" and "gospels" of our day. This began
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in the centres of culture, but it is spreading everywhere.
* * *
Another earnest Christian gentleman, Rev. Robt. Johnston of London, Ontario, speaking at another convention for social uplift, said:--
"I utter no slander upon our own time nor upon any nation when I say that as an age we have lost the vision of the Almighty. The remarkable resources of our great continent, resources that multiply in variety and increase in vastness the more we learn of them, throw in the path of the nation exceptional dangers. History has written it in letters big with the ruin of
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nations and vivid with the fires of devastating armies, that an age of mammon worship and of luxury is ever an age of withering blight upon all institutions of social and civic strength. And such, in this free land of ours, this age threatens to be, unless God in his mercy turns us from our infatuation. The age needs heroic souls who, with clarion call, will, in the old prophetic spirit, lead us back to a sight of things that are true and eternal."
These men see clearly enough that our civilization, energized by the spirit of selfishness, is leading the world to the great whirlpool of discontent and destruction which the Scriptures have distinctly portrayed, but which they have misread because of their false creeds and theories which have led them to believe that human efforts are to bring in the Millennium of blessing and peace in which God's will shall be done on earth as it is done in heaven.
Mark the earnest prayer for heroic souls to lead the Lord's people back "to a sight of things that are true and eternal." We cannot question the sincerity of this prayer, and yet, strange to say, experience proves that nine out of ten, if not ten out of ten, of those who use similar language, are thoroughly unapproachable so far as the truth and appeals to God's Word are concerned; and the "heroic soul" that ventures to present the real "glad tidings of great joy, which shall be unto all people," is tolerably sure to need a great deal of heroism and divine grace to take meekly and patiently the disdainful, cold reception which he will encounter and the calumnious epithets that will be hurled at him.
But why should good men be so bound up with error? It is the influence of sectarianism and is undoubtedly a part of the blinding influence of Satan, which the Apostle Paul describes in `2 Cor. 4:4`. And such bounden and deceived ones deserve our sympathy rather than any unkind feelings. We can rejoice in the fact that the time is near when Immanuel with his elect and then glorified "little flock," the true Church, shall bind Satan and set at liberty his blinded captives. --`Rev. 20:2,3`; `Isa. 61:1`.
EVANGELIST B. FAY MILLS' THEOLOGY.
Evangelist Mills, after for a long time preaching hell and damnation instead of the Gospel of Christ-- that the entire race is doomed to everlasting torment because father Adam ate the forbidden fruit, found it too much for his heart as well as too much for his intellect to believe. Consequently, some time ago he changed and switched off to another gospel--equally unscriptural: he is now a Universalist. Note his statement of his present faith as presented in a Boston sermon and reported by the Boston Herald, as follows:
"You need not ever give yourselves the least concern about the old question of God's forgiveness for the past. You have had wrong ideas of God. The past does not need forgiveness or atonement in his sight. It is only the present that needs correction and the future that needs inspiration.
"I realize to-day that the only real, powerful motive for the future for intelligent people, that shall lead them to practice purity and to grow in all that is good and beautiful, will be what might well be called 'the social motive for individual righteousness.' As I said in a former sermon, the old individualistic motives, and the appeal to man to be good on the ground of personal reward or punishment, has become an ignoble appeal, and has been abandoned by the best minds and noblest souls. Woe be to us if the stronger motive and impulse for righteousness does not take its place, and this motive is nothing more nor less than the realization that we are all bound together in a common body of humanity--that if one suffers, all must suffer; that if one sins, all must be hampered in their development, that "no man liveth unto himself," and that in any real sense, no individual can be truly saved until the whole community is saved."
How remarkable it does seem that the great Adversary is so successful in getting people to believe either one or the other of errors, extremes, and keeps hid from them the golden truth between!--that the penalty of Adam's sin was death, destruction, and not life in torment, and that this death sentence has been inherited with its mental, physical and moral blights in a natural way, by heredity (`Rom. 5:12`); and that a ransom for Adam (and hence for all lost through him) was paid by the death of our Lord Jesus, who died, the just for the unjust, to open for man the way back to life, and whose second advent is to be for the double purpose of glorifying his elect little flock and restoring to perfection and life so many as will accept divine favor on divine terms.
ZIONISM AND THE MESSIANIC PROPHECIES.
Some years ago, being curious to know how learned Hebrews view the Old Testament references to Christ, --as "a lamb for the slaughter," etc., we visited a friendly Rabbi, and asked him the question. He replied that Hebrews apply those prophecies to the Hebrew people and their centuries of bitter experiences under more or less of persecution. We are forcibly reminded of this false method of interpretation by the statement of Dr. Herzl at the Basel Congress, held Aug. 29th, last;--to the effect that that Congress was the birth of their Messiah;--that the Messiah class which they hope will fulfil all the good promises of Scripture concerning Abraham's seed was there organized. It appears, too, that the date (Aug. 29) was selected in harmony with a tradition prevalent among the Bulgarian Jews to the effect that Messiah would be born on that date.
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This is quoted with some assurance of endorsement by Rabbi Joseph Krauskopf in a recent discourse from which we quote the following comment on the Zionist movement and Congress. He said:--
"The boldness of that dream startled the world. As for me, when the full report reached me and I read the fearful story of the 'Judennoth,' that was submitted to the congress, I could not wonder at the statement made by Dr. Herzl, the president of the congress, during the first day's session: 'The Bulgarian Jews have long believed that the Messiah should be born on a 29th of August. They were right, THE MESSIAH HAS BEEN BORN TO-DAY in the Zionist Congress.'
"It was a magnificent assemblage of Israelites that had gathered there in congress. Two hundred delegates, representing as many hundreds of thousands of people, had come with a most sacred purpose, that of putting an end to the persecutions and miseries of millions of Jews, by reacquiring for them of their own native Palestine and reestablishing them there in peaceful and honorable industries.
"It was beyond doubt the most remarkable gathering in the whole history of Israel. The venerable Dr. Lippe opened the congress and Dr. Herzl gave the key note of the movement, comparing the inflictions of the modern anti-Semite with the Jew baiter of former centuries. A similar tale of woe was told by Max Nordau. It was the same refrain by all, and the congress concluded that the settlement of Palestine was the only solution of the Jewish question.
"It was a dream and yet not all a dream. Some very stern reality was beneath it all, which neither skeptic nor scoffer can sneer away. It has come to stay. The superstructure of the castle will, in all probability, take a different and more practical form from that outlined in its first designs, but the foundation upon which it rests will remain unchanged. Among those builders who had come from different parts of the world to discuss the plans for an ark of safety, there may have been many a visionary, but there were also those who know from personal bitter experience the real need of an ark that is to bear the Jew high on the crest of the flood of the 'Judennoth' that is rushing in upon us from all sides. The foundation timber is: Relief of the fatally congested centers of Jewish population by means of agriculture and colonization at home, abroad, in adopted lands, in Zion, anywhere, everywhere, but always agriculture with its accompanying handicraftsmen, industrialists and men following professions.
"Upon research, I have found that Palestine, with the adjacent countries stretching between the Euphrates and the Tigris, that are now almost deserted, could amply support millions of agriculturists. The soil is luxuriantly fertile, the climate salubrious, the water pure and abundant, the irrigation canals of the ancients still available. The winters are short and mild, the summers long enough to ripen two harvests. The products of all the land can be laid down in the capitals of Europe within five days after their shipment and in price and excellence they can drive from the market those of other competing countries. Because of these conclusions I have been proclaimed a Zionist and asked to attend the second congress at Jerusalem next summer."
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"TO WHOM SHALL WE GO?"
"Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life."--`John 6:68`.
THERE are numerous voices in the world, calling mankind to follow in the pursuit of pleasure, of riches, of wisdom, etc., and various are the inducements presented, and to the young and inexperienced the bewilderment of so many attractions is great. But experience has taught many of us, that these seductive Siren voices would but lead us to shipwreck upon hidden rocks and shoals, and that "all that glitters is not gold." We have learned that the cravings of our own human natures are quite unreliable, that we are fallen beings, that our tastes and appetites are perverse, and so depraved that frequently we crave the things that tend to do us injury, and are inclined to reject the things which are best for us. Our Lord speaks of these various voices calling mankind and leading astray, and contrasts them with his own call of his own "sheep" who hear and obey it, saying, My sheep hear my voice, and they follow me; strangers will they not follow, because they recognize not the voices of strangers. --See `John 10:3-5`.
Not all are able to hear and recognize the Shepherd's voice in the present time; the majority are deaf on this subject, however acute their hearing may be as respects the inducements held out to them by the world, the flesh and the devil. Consequently the Scriptures say, "He that hath an ear to hear [the gospel] let him hear." But the opening of our ears to hear the good tidings, of which Christ is the center, does not close them to the various voices of selfishness, ambition, pride, avarice, and vain-glory, and the other voices proceeding from the world, the flesh and the devil: it would seem indeed that, after accepting us to be his sheep, and after giving us some opportunity to learn the sound of the Shepherd's voice, the voice of Truth, we are intentionally exposed to the various voices which would call us away from our Shepherd, and from following in his footsteps. And Oh, how many stray away! "Walking after their own desires." How many thus become side-tracked on the way to the heavenly city! How many are ultimately entirely switched off into another direction! How many have thus gone "back and walked no more with him!" How few, what a "little flock," they are that follow on, day by day, to know the Shepherd more fully, to walk in his paths, and ultimately
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with him to reach the heavenly Kingdom!
It will be remembered that the words of our text were called forth by a certain sifting of the discipleship. Our Lord's ministry had progressed considerably: at first, the people hung upon his words and said, "Never man spake like this man," and "great multitudes followed him." But towards the close of his ministry, as the jealousy and animosity of the "Doctors of Divinity" and the Pharisees began to manifest itself, he became less popular, and in our context we find that many of his hearers were leaving him, and he said, "Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given him of my Father. From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered and said unto him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life." Such siftings and testings of the Lord's disciples have been in progress throughout the Gospel age, and still continue. Many have directly or indirectly, intentionally or unintentionally, repudiated the great Shepherd, his leading and his instruction. Some, because the chief priests, scribes and Pharisees said, "He hath a devil and is mad. Why hear ye him?" Some, because they did not understand his teachings, and they said, "This is a hard saying: who can believe it?" Others, because his teaching drew the line too sharply between righteousness and sin, between God and Mammon; and we may understand as literal our Lord's statement that eventually only a "little flock" will be found worthy of the Kingdom.
It may sound harsh to some, because of their misconception of the subject, when we say that the Lord's message and leading were as much intended to shake off and repel one class, as to attract and to hold another class. That would be inconceivable, if the ones repelled and shaken off were understood to be shaken into a hell of eternal torment, and such is the general misconception of the subject. On the contrary the attraction and the drawing was to the Kingdom, and the repulsion was from the Kingdom, and the sifting and separating of our Lord's day, and since and at the present time, is to the intent that the Lord may gather out and separate from those who nominally profess to be his followers, and to be seeking heirship with him in his Kingdom, all who are unworthy of those blessings. As it is written, concerning the end of the Gospel age, and the final glorification of the "little flock," "He shall gather out of his Kingdom [class] all things that offend and them that do iniquity....Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the Kingdom of their Father." We may rest assured that none who are fit for the Kingdom will be sifted out. Of such it is written, "No man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand;" and again, "If ye do these things [hearken to the voice of the Lord and cultivate his spirit and walk in his ways], ye shall never fall [for so doing], and an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."
How all-important then it is, that we have our minds thoroughly made up respecting the voice that we will obey and the footsteps that we will follow--for "a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways." We "cannot serve God and Mammon," however much we try. We cannot hear and obey the voice of Satan and Sin and the World and Self and the Flesh, and at the same time hear and obey the voice of the Good Shepherd, the voice of Truth, the voice of Love. Let this be settled and fixed in our minds, that it may keep us from all wavering after we have once taken our place amongst the Lord's sheep.
In order that the decision may be the proper one, and in order that it may be the final decision, from which we will not think to turn, it is well that we should note the different voices calling us, and to what they lead. We will not notice these voices as they appeal to the world in general, but merely as they appeal to those who have already heard the voice of the Good Shepherd. They assume that they will not antagonize our faithfulness to the Shepherd, but that they will heartily cooperate. The Shepherd, however, declares that this will not be the case; that the selfish voices of the world are calling, influencing, drawing away from him and the path in which he leads his sheep.
Wealth calls to us, holding out its golden charms, and promising great things; suggesting meanwhile that our religious zeal is right enough, but overwrought, fanatical, and that in this measure only it is in opposition to wealth; and that even if obliged to leave the Lord for the sake of wealth it need only be temporarily, and that soon, having acquired wealth, we could pursue after him with redoubled energy and thus gain the Kingdom. Alas, how delusive! and yet how many are attracted by this call and presentation! Well does the Apostle say that "The love of money is a root of all evil, which some coveting after have erred from the faith and pierced themselves through with many sorrows." Then, too, how false are these hopes, how few amongst the many who pursue wealth ever attain it! Indeed, it is not the wealth that is the evil, for God is rich above all; it is the love of earthly wealth and the manner in which it absorbs the heart affections, away from the truth and its service and heavenly things, that constitutes the evil and the snare of wealth which remarkably few ever resist, overcome and bring into subjection to the divine will.
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Many hear the voice of Fame, and pursue it, if peradventure they will become famous, highly esteemed among men. The impelling motive here is, in part at least, pride and approbativeness--ambition for self-- not for God, nor for righteousness. And how few who turn aside from the Lord's way, in whole or in part, to gain fame, worldly renown, honor of men, ever attain to fame in any considerable measure! It is a false voice leading on to false hopes, soon shattered in death, if not before: it would induce us to turn aside from the humble path of obedience and self abasement in the divine service whose reward is "Glory, honor and immortality" at God's right hand of favor.
Others hear the voice of worldly pleasure, and see the millions of earth seeking it in the gratification of the flesh: and there is a great drawing to go with the multitude, seeking pleasure through the gratification of our perverted natural tastes. How long it takes us to learn assuredly that worldly pleasures are fleeting, and that they have a bitter which counterbalances every sweet, and that the tendencies of Vanity Fair are quite contrary to the new ambitions, new hopes, new desires of our new natures! How many efforts all of the Lord's people have made, to blend or mix the pleasures of the world with the heavenly joys, only to find that they will not blend, and that true happiness for those who would abide in Christ and follow in his footsteps, means the rejection of all pleasures which have a sinful combination or tendency! How long it takes us to learn that the only pleasures which the new creature can truly enjoy, are those in which our Lord can be our companion, those which we can discuss with him and in which we can enjoy his fellowship!
All of these besetments, be it noticed, have their roots in selfishness--they are all in some form inclinations to self-gratification: on the other hand the voice of the Good Shepherd is calling us away from our debased
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selfish conditions, moods and desires, to a higher plane of sentiment, a plane of benevolence, love of God and righteousness and fellow men, which seeks to "do good and to communicate." We see, too, that having set before us the new conditions, our Lord, our Teacher, is permitting the selfish tendencies of our natural hearts and of the world in general to call us in other directions; so that by learning to resist these, we may more and more establish for ourselves strong characters, rooted, grounded, fixed, in righteousness and love, strong and able to resist the weaknesses of our own flesh as well as the influence of friends and of the world in general.
Only such as thus develop character can possibly be "overcomers" of the world, and only such will be accepted of the Lord as his joint-heirs in the Kingdom. It will thus be seen that the Lord is not merely seeking for those who will make a covenant with him, but by lessons of trial and discipline and testings by the way he is seeking to prove his people--to test them, to find and to separate to his own service not those who are strong in self-will, strong according to the flesh, but those who, abandoning the will of the flesh, give themselves so completely to the Lord that they become transformed by the renewing of their minds,--"strong in the Lord and in the power of his might."
In harmony with this thought are the words of the Lord to fleshly Israel, the typical people,--"The Lord your God proveth you to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul." (`Deut. 13:3`.) This explains the object and intent of the divine course with us, the true Israel, throughout the Gospel age: he has been proving his people, testing them, to ascertain the degree and the strength of their love for him. He tells us that "Not everyone that saith, Lord, Lord, shall enter the Kingdom:" that many who make the covenant of full consecration will fail to keep it, fail to obey its requirements, and that their failure will indicate a deficiency of love for him, and that self-will still reigns in their hearts, giving God only the secondary place. And the Kingdom is only intended for those who by God's grace shall at heart become like to the Lord Jesus, in that they will love the Lord with all their hearts, with all their souls, and be able to say, "Not my will, but thy will, O Lord, be done." No other condition than this condition of full submission to the Lord can make us acceptable for the Kingdom; for no other condition represents full self-submission and full love to God. And let us not forget that all the heavenly things which "eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man," God hath reserved for them that love him supremely.
Hence, however desirable it may be that our friends and neighbors should surrender themselves to the Lord on their death-beds, if they will not sooner surrender, it is nevertheless very evident that those who so repent in their dying hours, are not to be regarded as in any sense of the word, "heirs of the Kingdom;" for it is not supposable that in the few short hours or days after their repentance they could develop the requisite staunch characters: they have not passed through such testings of faith and love and zeal for the Lord as would develop in them the characteristics of "overcomers"--the Kingdom class. Those who surrender to the Lord on their death-bed may, however, be encouraged to hope for his blessing in the Millennial age, and for an opportunity to come to a fuller knowledge of the Lord and to have an opportunity to cultivate character in that Paradisaic condition--as the Lord promised to the dying thief.
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If we could but keep in memory the fact that every trial, every persecution, every difficulty of life, permitted to come upon those who have made the covenant of sacrifice with the Lord, is intended to prove them, to test their love, to see whether or not their characters are fixed, rooted and grounded in righteousness and being built up in love, it would put all these trials, difficulties and temptations in a new light before us, and greatly assist us in fighting a good fight and overcoming. We would say, If by these little trials the Lord is proving my love and devotion to him, then, however trifling they may be or however important, I will diligently use them as favorable opportunities to demonstrate to my Lord the fulness of my love and devotion to him and his cause. Thus viewed and thus met, every trial and every difficulty would prove to be a blessing: as the Apostle puts it, "Beloved, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;" "greatly rejoice, tho now for a season ye are in manifold temptation, that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than that of gold that perisheth, tho it be tried by fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ." "Blessed is the man that endureth [faithfully under] temptation; for after his trials he will receive the crown of life which the Lord hath promised to them that love him." "These light afflictions, which are but for a moment, work out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory"--if rightly utilized.--`1 Pet. 1:7`; `Jas. 1:2,12`.
Thus we are again assured that those who love the Lord, and who in consequence will receive the Kingdom, will be those whose love will have been tested by trials and temptations on the way to it. Those who do not love the Lord with all their hearts, in whom self or some other idol has first place, will be seduced by the world, the flesh or the devil into some form of rebellion against the divine Word or divine providence: they will have schemes and theories which they will prefer to the Lord's plan, and their own theories and plans when analyzed will usually be found to be based either upon selfishness or ambition or upon an evil spirit of envy, hatred, jealousy, etc.
The Lord's leading and the Lord's words lose their attraction to such, and they lose their interest correspondingly, and like those who turned away from the Lord at the first advent, saying, "This is a hard saying" --they walk no more with him. But some will continue to walk with the Lord; some will not be driven from him by any of the arts and wiles of the evil one. They are such as are at heart fully the Lord's, not their own; they will follow wherever the Lord may lead, because they have no will except his will. These will follow the Lord in the narrow way of trial, discipline and testings during the present life, and by and by, as he has declared, "They shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy." (`Rev. 3:4`.) Nor will this company lack in numbers by reason of the falling away of some. No, it will be full, complete, the predestinated number which God foreordained he would select to be joint-heirs with his Son, our Lord Jesus. His foreknowledge permitted him to make full allowance for all who would turn back, as well as to foreknow that the requisite number would go on.
Those who go on will all have the general character of Christ--faithfulness to the Lord and to his word of promise: and when various voices call in various directions, away from the narrow way of consecration and sacrifice, humiliation and self-denial, they, in answer to the Lord's query, "Will ye also go away?" will answer as did the apostles of old, "Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life." They know nowhere else to go; they cannot turn back, for they can see clearly that to turn back on their part would be as the Scriptures express it, to "turn back unto perdition," to the second death. Having heard the calls of the world, the flesh and the Devil, they have seen also the emptiness of all their false promises, and how none of them can give a satisfying portion. But in our Lord's call they have recognized not only righteousness, justice, but have recognized, also, the promised reward of righteousness through Christ, which he has promised to them that love him--namely, eternal life.
Nowhere else is there such a promise; from no other quarter comes such a hope; in no other service, therefore, could they think of engaging but in this service. With the hope of obtaining this prize of eternal life, they could rejoice even in laying down this present life. Truly, this is that "blessed hope." With such hopes before them, clearly understood, and with the narrow way distinctly marked out, and with an understanding of why it is so narrow and why so few find it (because it leads to the great exaltation of the Kingdom and its joint-heirship with Christ), who could think for a moment of turning aside, or even listening, to the voices calling to wealth, honor, fame, pleasures of this life, etc., seeing that even hearkening to them would interrupt our progress in the way to the Kingdom, and thus frustrate our hopes and make the exceeding great and precious promises of none effect to us. The rather, therefore, will we lay aside every weight and the sin that doth so easily beset us, and run with patience the race set before us in the gospel.
As the faithful disciples realized a meaning in the Master's teachings at the first harvest which the majority could not realize, so now at the second advent his words have a preciousness and a meaning and a force to those who are in heart-harmony with him,
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which they do not have to others; hence now, as at the first advent, some are stumbling and going back, and others are being drawn to the Lord more closely than ever, by the "present truth" which he is supplying as "meat in due season." As we progress in the way, toward the close of this harvest, we shall not be surprised if the way should grow still narrower, more difficult, and if the tendencies to "stumble" should become more frequent. Let us each, therefore, more and more be on our guard against the wiles of the Adversary; and let the perfect love of God rule in our hearts, driving out self-love and world-love, and their pride and ambition and folly; and let this devotion to God bring into our hearts the promised fulness of joy
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and rest and peace; and let us abide in him, the Vine, and be fruitful branches, responding to all the prunings of the great husbandman with more abundant fruitage; and if beguilements come to us, let us view the matter as did the apostles and say, "Lord, to whom should we go? thou hast the words of eternal life."
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"YE CANNOT SERVE GOD AND MAMMON."
--FEB. 6.--`MATT. 6:24-34`.--
"He careth for you."--`1 Pet. 5:7`.
PROBABLY no other period of the world's history ever had as great need, as our own, for this lesson. The spirit of our times seems to lead directly to the service of Mammon--wealth, earthly advantages and comforts. The attainment of Mammon's reward would appear to be the main object of life, to which every other interest is made subservient, so far as Christendom is concerned. As we look into the far East this is less so; the millions of India and of China know far more contentment in their ignorance, than do the millions of Christendom with their large degree of knowledge. Knowledge evidently is not conducive to peace, happiness, contentment:--"Godliness with contentment is great gain."--`1 Tim. 6:6`.
What is known as the progress of civilization is in many respects good, excellent; but it has a wrong motive power. The motive power of modern progress is selfishness--Mammonism--and increasingly so. Nor can we imagine that the civilized world, intellectually awakened but not in heart regenerated, not possessed of the spirit of Christ, the holy spirit, the spirit of love, could be in its present condition moved by any other spirit than that which possesses it--the spirit of selfishness, the spirit of Mammon. We are not, therefore, surprised to see what we do see on every hand--a mad rush and struggle for wealth, and for position and fame which are wealth of another kind and bring financial wealth. The spirit of selfishness in the millionaire stirs him to activity and to the use of his opportunities, not because he needs more, but because he is possessed of the spirit of avarice, the spirit of Mammon: the same spirit exactly takes hold of the artisan who, with a moderate income, has secured for himself and family a modest little home and a frugal competence. Many of these are now reaching out after wealth, and finding by experience the truth of the Apostle's words, "They that will to be rich [whether they succeed in carrying out their will or not, if they have the will, the Mammon spirit] fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts [desires and habits] which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money [the Mammon spirit] is a root of all evil: which, while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith [crowding out the spirit of love and wisdom from above, and losing the spirit of the truth, also the letter of the truth and the faith], and pierced themselves through with many sorrows."--`1 Tim. 6:10,11`.
It is impossible for us to read each other's hearts and to know positively the mainsprings of activities in each others' lives; and hence the Lord's people are likely to be misunderstood by the world. The child of God is commanded to be "not slothful in business, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;" he is also commanded to provide things needful for those dependent upon him: thus required to labor for his daily bread, he is brought in contact with others not begotten of the heavenly spirit like himself, but who have as the mainspring of activities the love of money--Mammon. It may be difficult from the world's standpoint to note the difference in the two spirits in the two classes, for both are active, energetic, patient and persevering; and both are paid at the end of the week in the same coin, and both are counted by the world as servants of Mammon. Wherein then lies the difference?--Which are the servants of God? and how can we know them?
"By their fruits ye shall know them," said our Master. What will be done with the proceeds of the labor, is the only outward evidence we could have respecting what was the motive of the laborer. If the proceeds of the labor are merely accumulated in property or in banks or in old stockings, or if the proceeds of the labor over and above the necessities of life are merely used in gratification of the flesh, in trinkets, bric-a-brac, or other forms of self-gratification, or for evil purposes, the only reasonable deduction would be that the laborer was inspired to his energy by the spirit of selfishness, and that he is a servant of Mammon. But if on the other hand the proceeds of energetic
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labor, after appropriating for the necessities of life, are used benevolently in the Lord's service, in the service of the Lord's people, in "distributing to the necessities of the saints," either temporally or spiritually, or to the necessities of "the groaning creation;"--if this be the use to which surplus moneys are put, the reasonable inference is that the laborer was energized not by a spirit of Mammon, a spirit of selfishness, but by the spirit of the Lord, the spirit of love; because the use of the same in the Lord's service would be a proof of the motive and object of the laborer.
This simple rule (by which we may all test ourselves, even if we may not measure others by it too carefully) would seem to show us that the great mass of mankind are servants of selfishness, servants of Mammon, and not servants of God, whose main object in life after providing things decent, and honestly, for themselves and their dependents, would surely be to use it to glorify God and to bless their fellow creatures. Let each one who has named the name of the Lord judge himself very carefully along this line:--scrutinizing his own objects and methods, and determining according to this lesson whose servant he is--a servant of selfishness and of Satan, or the servant of love and of God.
Nothing in what we have said is intended to imply that it would be wrong for any of the Lord's people to own his own home or to enjoy some of the comforts of life; nor to make a reasonable provision for tomorrow, with a view to the necessities of his family, and for such uses as he may consider to be the Lord's will respecting him and the means entrusted to his stewardship. (`2 Cor. 8:21`.) But it would be a great mistake for the child of God to make, should he conclude that he must spend no money in the service of the Lord and of humanity until he has attained a certain competency in life. Whoever adopts this theory and plan will almost assuredly find by the time he obtains a competency, that he has gained so much of the spirit of Mammon as to be less satisfied, less contented than ever; and that he has lost so much of the spirit of the Lord, the spirit of love and generosity, that he has little disposition to spend his strength for anything that will not selfishly minister to his personal comfort or the gratification of selfish aims. And if he who earns $1,000 a year should have the spirit of devotion and is sure to be blessed in its exercise, the same is true of the man who earns but $100 per year: even if he have difficulty in obtaining the necessities of life, he will be blessed in heart, in mind, in spirit, if he will deny himself, sacrificing something of earthly gratification, in order to render some thankoffering to the Lord.
The great argument which the Adversary uses to enlist servants for Mammon, and to get the servants of God to attempt to serve both God and Mammon, is fear: fear of want, fear of distresses. In our lesson, therefore, the Lord takes up this feature first, urging his followers, not as `verse 34` would represent the matter, to be thoughtless, indifferent and careless in respect to our food and clothing, but, to be without worry--not anxious and fearful and troubled about tomorrow and its affairs. The plowman, when he breaks up the land, and the sower, when he scatters the grain, are taking thought for the morrow, in a proper, legitimate manner that has the divine approval: if they are God's children they are to plow in hope, and sow in hope, and wait for the crop in hope; and to trust that, if the Lord should permit some blight or drouth to render their labors unfruitful, he nevertheless will not leave them destitute, but will care for them and provide for them in some way. And they are to exercise their confidence in his goodness and to expect that all the lessons of life are profitable ones in preparation for the eternal life, if they will be rightly exercised by them.
Our Lord's words in this lesson in which he encourages confidence and trust in the Heavenly Father, are not addressed to mankind in general--not addressed to the "children of wrath," but addressed to those who have become "children of God" upon the terms of his Covenant. This point cannot be too strongly urged: it is very necessary that those who have never made a covenant with the Lord should know that the promises and blessings of the divine Word are not theirs and will never become theirs until such times as they come unto God in his appointed way, and take upon them his prepared covenant. All his promises are yea and amen only to those who are in Christ Jesus.
This class, while just as busy, just as active, just as fervent in spirit as any of the worldly, have not the fret, have not the worry of the others; because the Lord Almighty has covenanted with them that he will do for them according to heavenly wisdom what would be for their highest welfare. So then, these can rejoice--
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"In every condition, in sickness, in health,
In poverty's vale or abounding in wealth."
The Lord's people, while active in the affairs of life, are not working for the things of this life, but are seeking the Kingdom of God: it is the first thing, the principal thing, the principal object of life and energy. God has promised his people a share in an everlasting Kingdom which shall bless the whole world, and this exceeding great and precious promise fills the heart, fills the mind and constitutes with love and hope the mainspring of every question in life. And in seeking the Kingdom, they are also seeking God's righteousness; because no one who loves unrighteousness will
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love God's Kingdom which will be the foe of all unrighteousness and sin. And only those who love righteousness and who labor for righteousness are in any proper sense seeking God's Kingdom and its reign. An earnest Christian traveling salesman was once asked the question: "What is your business?" He replied, "I am preaching the Lord Jesus Christ, and selling hardware for __________ & Co. to meet my expenses." This is the relationship between God's people and their earthly occupations that should be recognized and fully lived up to by all who win the prize.
Our Lord assures us that if the main thought of our hearts is his service and the promotion of righteousness and an attainment of the Kingdom which God has promised to them that love him, then we need carry no anxious cares respecting the future. As his disciples we will have trials and tribulations enough, day by day, and will need daily to lean upon the Bridegroom's arm as we seek to walk the narrow way. Sufficient for each day will be the evil of itself: and thanks be to God also, we have the promise that daily his grace shall be sufficient for us.
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"THEY THAT BE WHOLE NEED NOT A PHYSICIAN."
--FEB. 13.--"FOLLOW ME!"--`MATT. 9:9-17`.--
HERE we have Matthew's own account of his acceptance to the apostleship. He had undoubtedly been acquainted with the Lord and his work, and the Lord acquainted with him, prior to this call. The Lord had evidently seen in his heart an honesty of intention that made him worthy, not only of the truth, but of this great favor--the apostleship. It is worthy of note that Matthew tells us of himself that he was a publican (`Matt. 10:3`), while none of the other evangelists make this comment, doubtless because the occupation of a publican was considered a very dishonorable one--unpatriotic. Publicans were usually men of some ability as business men, sharp, shrewd, quick at accounts and discerning. Their occupation was that of collecting taxes for the Roman government, and it must be said that, while there may have been honest publicans who collected their taxes with justice, both to the Roman government and to the tax-payers, yet the class as a whole had the name of being tricky, unscrupulous, dishonest. It was claimed on the part of the taxpayers that they were frequently oppressed and made subjects of extortion by the tax-collectors who thus accumulated wealth not only as foreign emissaries, but as leeches and parasites upon their own suffering countrymen.
Hence, for Matthew to tell us of his previous occupation as a publican may be esteemed an evidence of his humility, and his desire not to represent himself more honorably than was truthful. On the other hand, our Lord's choice of a publican to be one of the favored apostles indicates the impartiality of his selections; and implies that Matthew could not have been one of the dishonest publicans. It shows us also that our Lord passed by no Israelite indeed merely because there was prejudice amongst the people against him or his class. As an evidence of the detestation in which the publicans were held by their Jewish brethren, we note the fact that they were classed with sinners and harlots in New Testament usage, and that the Hebrew Talmud classes them with murderers and thieves, and regards their repentance as impossible.
Matthew was known by the name of Levi, while he was the publican (`Luke 5:27`), but his name was changed when he changed his occupation and became a member of the Lord's company. His new name, Matthew, signified "the gift of God," just as Simon, the son of Jonas, had a new name given to him, namely, Peter, "a rock." But how great a change the gospel of the Kingdom produced upon Matthew, to lead him to forsake all--the profitable income of his occupation, leaving it to others--and to become a follower of the despised Nazarene!
The influence of the fact that our Lord would accept a publican to be his disciple, was far-reaching, and no doubt inspired an interest in our Lord amongst the degraded and outcast classes. We are not surprised, therefore, when we are told shortly afterward, that many publicans and sinners resorted to our Lord, and gave ear to his teachings. Nor did he treat them after the manner of the scribes and Pharisees, but on the contrary received them as the children of Abraham --as some of the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
This breech of the rules of etiquette amongst the Jews was a great surprise to the scribes and Pharisees who, however much they opposed the Lord, recognized him as a great teacher; hence, they did not think of him as demeaning himself or degrading himself by receiving sinners, but asked the question, Why he did this, and promptly received the answer that the more sick a man is, the more need he has of a physician. They were ready to admit that the publicans and sinners were in need of a physician, but many of them did not realize their own need of a physician: hence, Jesus was certainly giving his services where they were needed. This furnished our Lord with an opportunity to preach a very short sermon from a text in `Hosea (6:6`) to the effect that his message was not a message of destruction, but a message of mercy, and
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that his call to the Kingdom was not a call of the righteous, but of those who realized themselves to be imperfect. And herein lay the distinction between the two classes and the reason why publicans and sinners were more attracted than the self-satisfied Pharisees: the latter trusted in themselves that they were righteous and spurned to ask or accept mercy; the former admitted that they were unrighteous and had need of mercy. Humility and a realization of the need of a Savior, and a great one, are essential to all who would come unto the Father through Christ and his atonement.
The influence of Jesus' ministry was beginning to be recognized; it was increasing while John's work had for some time been decreasing, and comparisons were naturally instituted. One of these was respecting the fact that Jesus had given his disciples no specific directions respecting fasting; and the inquiry as to why this was so. Did our Lord disapprove of fasting? The answer came promptly to the effect that fasting is a concomitant of mourning and sorrow, and that our Lord's disciples could not consistently fast and be troubled at this time;--because the Bridegroom was with them and their joy was at its full. He pointed out, however, that, later on, times of trial and sorrow and fasting would come to his disciples.
Fasting is proper enough when intelligently done and from a right motive, but it is certainly worse than useless when done as a formality or ceremony, or to be seen of men, that they might think us holy. Fasting is specially commendable to the Lord's people at times when they find themselves lacking in spirituality and exposed to severe temptations from the world, the flesh and the devil; for by impoverishing the physical force and vitality, it may assist the full blooded and impulsive to self control, in every direction. We believe that a majority of Christians would be helped by occasional fasting,--a very plain diet for a season, if not total abstinence. But fastings, to be seen and known of men or to be conjured up by our own minds as marks of piety on our part, would be injurious indeed, and lead to spiritual pride and hypocrisy which would far outweigh their advantages to us in the way of self-restraints.
The Lord wished his disciples to recognize the difference between the work he was doing in starting a new dispensation, and the work that John the Baptist and the Pharisees had been doing in attempting to reform the Jewish nation. He illustrated this under the figure of patching an old garment with a piece of new cloth, or putting new wine that had not yet fermented into old wine-skins whose strength and elasticity were gone and which would be sure to burst under the pressure of the fermentation. This was perhaps the first intimation our Lord had given of the fact that Israel as a nation would not be found worthy of the Kingdom and would be rejected. Likewise, it was the first intimation that the class which he was gathering was not being gathered with a view to reforming the nation or readjusting its affairs, but with a view to constituting the nucleus of a new nation, "a holy nation, a peculiar people," which, when fully developed, would be fit to be his joint-heirs in the Kingdom and to engage with him as his bride in inviting all the families of the earth to receive divine favor, symbolized as "water of life," which will be offered free.--`Rev. 22:1,17`.
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"FREELY YE HAVE RECEIVED, FREELY GIVE."
--FEB. 20.--`MATT. 10:2-15`.--
THE LORD selected his disciples from time to time during the earlier part of his ministry, but it was not until they had received considerable instruction from him that they were recognized in their office of apostles, and fully empowered for their special work. They had freely received of the Lord the good tidings of great joy that he was the Messiah, and that the time for the establishment of the Kingdom was at hand; and now they were to give this message to all those who were in the condition to hear it. "He that hath an ear to hear, let him hear."
The twelve apostles are mentioned by Matthew apparently in the order of their sending forth, two by two. As someone has said, "One of the ways Jesus took to overcome the imperfections of his followers and to the better prepare them to do a work which required perfection, was by his grouping of the apostles, whose imperfections were perhaps like our own, of the nature of halfness: we too frequently see one side of a truth and not the other. We too frequently feel the greatness of some quality to such an extent that we depreciate some other quality which seems contrary but is really complementary. Our Lord seems to have acted with careful reference to this, in sending out his apostles two by two in the order indicated. Peter, the bold, impetuous man, is joined with Andrew, the apostle chosen by the Scotch as their national patron--as far-seeing, careful, cautious. James and John were paired, the former elderly, the latter young. Philip, the slow-witted was paired with Bartholomew (Nathaniel), the quick-witted. Thomas, the doubting, skeptical intellect was joined with Matthew, one of the heroes of faith. James, the son of Alpheus, the advocate of works, was united to Jude, a man of doctrine. Simon,
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the zealot, a man of enthusiasm and independence, was linked with Judas Iscariot, the conservative economist. So, the Master made one full man out of two half men in each case."
Having grouped his disciples, our Lord endowed them with power, gave them of his spirit or power over various diseases (`Luke 9:1`) and sent them forth. But they were not to go at random, anywhere and everywhere; a particular work was to be done, and no other --the true Israelites only were to be sought, and hence the charge, "Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not, but go instead to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." How evident it is from this that our Lord's work at the first advent is considerably misapprehended: he very evidently was neither dealing with the world nor teaching the world, but fulfilling his own commission to the seed of Abraham, as he elsewhere expresses it, saying, "I am not sent, save to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." The message which the apostles were to deliver was not for the Gentiles, neither was it for the Samaritans even, altho the latter were a mixed people and had been dwelling for centuries in the land of Israel and claimed Jacob as their father also;--it was a message only to the legitimate Israelites. These were called lost sheep, not because they had wandered out of the land of Israel, for they were in it; nor because of having lost their identity as Israelites, for they had not; but because they had wandered from the Lord and from their covenant. They are similarly spoken of by `Isaiah, the prophet (53:6`), "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all."
The reason for sending the disciples only to the legitimate Israelites is evident when we notice the message they were to carry: "The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand." God had promised Abraham that of his seed he would raise up the great ruler of the world, Messiah, and the hope that Israel long enjoyed was that when Messiah would come as one of their brethren, they, as his family or nation, would be specially blest and made associates with him in his Kingdom. For eighteen centuries they had been waiting for the fulfilment of this Abrahamic covenant, and now Messiah having come, all the gracious promises of God, made to them, were ready to be fulfilled through him. And therefore, the message was as above.
The ears of all true Israelites would certainly tingle, as they would hear such an announcement; but inasmuch as they had waited long, and with much disappointment, it need not surprise us that they were generally skeptical, and refused to believe that theirs was the favored day, and that the unpretentious Nazarene and his heterogeneous company of disciples were the nucleus of a great Kingdom which should bless the world. Their faith staggered,--that is, the faith of all those who did not have sufficient faith. But, as we have elsewhere seen, the Lord gave special helps to all those who were right at heart; true Israelites indeed --such as Nathaniel, subsequently called Bartholomew.
It will be noticed that the preaching commissioned was wholly different from that done by "Evangelists" to-day. The latter no doubt would feel like criticising our Lord for sending out twelve teachers with any such commission, because their views of what should be preached are so different from our Lord's views. Had they lived at that day, and been confidential friends of our Lord, they no doubt would have offered a suggestion like this: Master, with all deference to your abilities, we want to suggest that the message is not the proper one: you should instruct these evangelists to give the pure gospel. They should tell the people plainly and distinctly, "You are all miserable sinners straight on the road to hell fire and eternal torment; repent, therefore, and come to the mourner's bench, if you would escape it." This, Master, is the true gospel that you should send forth, and if you neglect it, these disciples themselves ought to disregard your instructions to the contrary and should go forth to save souls from hell, and to preach accordingly.
But we, dear readers, are not to suppose that our Lord made a mistake, but rather that some of his deluded followers of the present day are mistaken respecting what constitutes the gospel. The gospel which our Lord and the apostles preached was really gospel,--"good tidings of great joy:" it was, then, a message to that one nation only, but later, in its full development, it will be unto all people--to every member of Adam's race.
In announcing that the Kingdom was ready, if Israel was ready to receive it, and to constitute its channels of mercy for the blessing of all nations, it was appropriate that some signs or proofs respecting this matter should be given. Hence, the miracles which our Lord performed, his apostles were commissioned to perform also. These were to be understood as manifestations of divine favor coming with the Messiah as proofs of his Messiahship; and they were so understood, and the disciples merely represented themselves as being the advance agents and heralds of Messiah, and properly did not claim any of the powers exercised as being their own. The cures performed were merely foregleams of the blessings which in fuller measure would result from the inauguration of Messiah's kingdom, in which, according to the prophets, they understood to expect that all the blind eyes would be opened, all the deaf ears unstopped, all the lame leap for joy, etc.
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The apostles had something to give, but not to sell; freely they had received, freely they were to dispense God's mercies. They were, nevertheless, to live, to obtain their daily bread, from those to whom they ministered. To this intent they were not to make advance provision, neither in money nor in clothing, nor even an extra cane: in other words, they were not to go as travelers, but rather as persons who were thoroughly at home, and who expected to find a home and the necessities of life wherever they went, giving back, in exchange for these temporal blessings, the blessings they had been empowered to bestow; namely, (1) the physical healings and (2) their peace or blessing. The Lord evidently intended by this method that all should be witnesses that his gospel was not one of self-seeking, nor for show, nor for money making. Not only was there no uniform provided, but no arrangement was even made for carrying gifts, let alone taking up collections, for they were to take with them no scrip; that is, no valise or satchel wherein to carry surplus.
On entering a city they were to seek for the worthy ones--they were not to be careless respecting where they lodged, nor to expect that any except the worthy would appreciate their message: nor were they to go from house to house as beggars for their meals and lodging, but rather to expect to remain with some true Israelite during the period of their brief stay in each village. If received into a house, their peace or blessing was to be with it--they were not to stay in any place where the Lord's blessing would not be appreciated. There is a special sense in which a blessing goes with every true child of God wherever he may go, now as well as then; but apparently a special blessing was designed of the Lord to rest upon those who entertained his special representatives, when bearing the harvest message in the end of the Jewish age. The family would be blessed of the Lord because of the presence of his representatives, and they would lose nothing by having entertained a herald of the Kingdom. Similar instances are recorded of olden times, for instance, Elijah's stay with the widow and her son: the divine blessing going with the prophet caused that the barrel of meal did not exhaust, neither the cruse of oil. Likewise we remember it is written that while the ark of the Lord was in the home of Obed-Edom, a special blessing rested upon his house, his family, his affairs. Here we have a lesson respecting hospitality and how the divine blessing rests upon all those who endeavor to do anything for the Lord's disciples, because of love and respect for him--even a cup of cold
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water to one of the least of these shall have a reward, we are assured.
We are forcibly reminded here of the fact that we are now living in the harvest time of the Gospel age, the exact parallel of the Jewish harvest; and that our same Master and Lord is now sending forth to the nominal "holy nation and royal priesthood," Christendom, a similar message, "The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!" and is sending this message in much the same manner that he sent the message to the fleshly house of Israel. It seems now also to be his general method to send the messengers, who bear to the household the present truth, in couples. These take with them a more elaborate message as represented in the various volumes of MILLENNIAL DAWN; but it is the same message that was carried at the first advent, namely, "The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand." True, the method are slightly different as the times are different, but the general principle is the same, in that the messengers in the present truth are not self-seekers or money-gatherers, but merely accept, in exchange for the blessings which they confer, enough financial support to meet their expenses, economically. And we have no hesitation in saying that whoever may receive these representatives of the Lord and the present truth will receive into their homes with them some measure of the divine blessing in compensation for any service they may render them.
The shaking off of the dust from the apostles' feet when leaving a house or a city where they were not received, was not to be done as a vindictive expression of hatred, but rather as a closing part of their declaration, namely, that if their message was not received, if their hearers were not interested in the Kingdom, the result would be that they would fall under judgment as being unworthy of any part or lot in that Kingdom. It was a symbolic act implying that they renounced all responsibility for what the consequences of the rejection might be.
Our Lord's words confirm this thought, for he says, "It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment than for that city." As a matter of fact, the people and cities of Israel, after the rejection of our Lord, were given over to a great time of trouble which resulted in very general loss, trouble, calamity upon all except the few who did receive the Messiah, and who were gathered out as "wheat" for the garner of the new dispensation. It may be said truly, that in some respects the destruction which came upon Sodom and Gomorrha was less awful than the destruction which came upon Jerusalem and other cities of Palestine during the burning day at the close of the Jewish "harvest."
The remainder of the discourse (`vss. 16-42`) would seem to indicate that the work done by the apostles then sent forth was designed to be representative or typical of the entire work of the Gospel age; and so it has proved: not many have received the Kingdom message gladly; but enough will be found to complete the elect "little flock" to whom it will be the Father's good pleasure to give the Kingdom.
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL:--Our little band still gather together to commune on those most precious truths which have been shown to us of late, and we have been helped in a marvelous way. In several instances at our meetings we have dwelt upon difficult questions which have been put forward by brethren or others, and of course many times we have not quite gained a conclusion which seemed satisfactory. But peculiarly the very next TOWER that appeared contained some helpful solution, and that before any mail could get to you. This has occurred not once but several times and has greatly stimulated us.
Three weeks ago our brother Thirkettle took a few tracts, etc., to a spot a mile or two away from town and commenced distribution. This was Sunday morning, and in the same week he had communication from a gentleman who had received a "Do You Know?" tract and was much impressed by it. The gentleman stated that he had never before to his remembrance been absent from early prayer meeting and morning service at Chapel, but on that morning he seemed impelled to take a walk rather than attend chapel. He took his walk, though from quite a different district and by a different way, which brought him to where Bro. T. was giving his tracts. I had a long talk last Sunday with him. He confessed his desires had continually been for something higher than the formalism of Christendom, and now he's got it. He has already finished DAWN, VOL. I., and says that he feels convinced of its teaching. This is the latest instance of God's dealing. Bless his name! We also have with us a brother who was once an active spirit medium, but is now a medium [or holy temple] of the spirit of truth.
Yours in the Lord Jesus, FRED. GUARD, JR.
EDITOR WATCH TOWER:--I received MILLENNIAL DAWN, VOL. IV., and have been privileged to read I., II. and III. during the past year, through the kindness of friends in Oregon. I think I can imagine the feelings of a miser who should suddenly find a pile of gold as large as Mount Shasta. How helpless he would feel, because he could carry so little away. The books are stupendous!
Kindly give me a little information as to the best way to circulate them and oblige,
Yours in His Name, J. L. BROWN.
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL:--After I clearly understood the necessity of withdrawing from the Nominal Church, and fully determined that I would do so, I delayed, allowing myself to think that I could reach many with these truths that I could not if I separated myself. The Master has been very good to me in enabling me at all times to clearly see that I must do so, but the delay was until I thought I had reached all that it was possible to reach. However, now I can see that the delay has been not only of no advantage so far as teaching was concerned (for no one has been reached who could not have been under other circumstances), but my continuance in the denominational fold has been deleterious to my growth in grace;--for altho I have had great liberty and freedom, yet it has had an insensible reactive influence, for I can see that it has required a discipline of the spirit to maintain my growth that I would very probably have not required. And among other things the Word has taught me that it is best to first obey a positive command of the Lord, and then wait for the spirit to give us wisdom later to clearly understand why. If we do this --render absolute obedience--wholly trusting in the wisdom and power of our Lord, instead of waiting to learn the why and the wherefore, it will be conducive to more rapid growth in grace than anything else we can do. We will learn when we render prompt obedience and implicit trust to not only this command ("Come out of her [Babylon--Nominal Church], my people!"), but all others, that "Obedience is better than sacrifice," for we will receive the blessing of the obedient.
With love to all, and praying that these thoughts will be helpful to some brother or sister still hesitating, I remain, Yours in fellowship and service of our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, C. C. SEABROOK, M.D.
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL:--I have been lending both the TOWER and DAWN to a few friends. I am so full of the new and glorious teaching that I am anxious that others should see it too. Since I have read your books I see the Bible in a different light; once it was all a dark and mysterious composition, now it is all a glorious light, and God a different God, a God that the poor sinner can venture to approach through Christ, and not the dreadful being that we have been made to believe he is by the various teachers of the present day.
In conversations I have had with some about the books a few have expressed a desire to read them while others are indifferent; the general idea is that any teaching which differs from what the parsons preach must be something dangerous and would better be avoided. However, I am determined to do what I can at my own cost to introduce this precious knowledge of the Lord's gracious mercies toward fallen man, and so have enclosed $5 in greenbacks and ask you to send me tracts and DAWNS.
I will ever pray the Lord to bless and prosper you in this glorious work. Pray for me also that I may ever keep close to the Lord under all circumstances.
Yours in the Lord, JOHN SMYTH.
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL:--I have been reading the 4th volume and find the array of evidence simply overwhelming. How any can shut their eyes to the impending convulsion is more than I can see. God bless your and the Church's work in sealing the foreheads! The holding back of the four winds is as much of a standing miracle as the standing walls of water on either side as the Israelites passed through the Red Sea.
Of course, you, too, have your discouragements and trials, but bear up, brother. My kindest thoughts and regards to you and the Church in Allegheny.
Yours in Him, E. C. LEIGH.