VOL. XVIII. MARCH 15, 1897. No. 6.
Special Items..................................... 78
The Unconditional Oathbound
The Law Covenant Added........................ 81
The New Covenant Added........................ 82
"Our Sufficiency is of God"....................... 84
Interesting Questions Answered.................... 86
13 Questions on the Anglo-Israel
Miracles at Lydda and Joppa....................... 90
Interesting Letters............................... 91
SUBSCRIPTIONS AND BUSINESS COMMUNICATIONS
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THINGS ACCEPTABLE TO GOD.
"...We cannot always be doing a great work, but can always be doing something that belongs to our condition. To be silent, to suffer, to pray, when we cannot act, is acceptable to God."--Fenelon.
"Charge not thyself with the weight of a year,
Child of the Master, faithful and dear;
Choose not the cross for the coming week,
For that is more than he bids thee seek;
Bend not thine arms for to-morrow's load--
Thou may'st leave that to thy gracious God;
Daily only he saith to thee,
'Take up thy cross and follow me.'"
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"Never let your Christian life disown its past. Let every new and higher consecration and enjoyment into which you enter be made real to you by bringing into it all that Christ has already trained within you of grace and knowledge."--Bishop Phillips Brooks.
"Only love seeks after love. If I desire the love of another, it can surely only be because I myself have love toward him. We care not to be loved by those whom we do not love. It were an embarrassment rather than an advantage to receive love from those to whom we would not return it. When God asks human love, it is because God is love." --Spurgeon.
ALLEGHENY CHURCH MEETINGS.
"THE MEMORIAL SUPPER" will be celebrated April 15, at 7.30 P.M. Baptism services and worship at 4.30 P.M. of same day. See our last issue.
Preaching and divine worship every Sunday afternoon in Bible House chapel, No. 56 Arch Street, at 3 P.M.
Cottage Meetings--for prayer and testimony on Wednesday evenings; and Dawn Circles for Bible Study on Friday evenings--various localities--inquire at WATCH TOWER office.
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THE UNCONDITIONAL OATH-BOUND COVENANT
AND THE "OLD" AND "NEW" COVENANTS ADDED THERETO.
"Though it be but a man's covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto."--`Gal. 3:15`.
A CLEAR appreciation of the divine covenants is important and valuable to the Christian. In the knowledge of these he possesses the key to the understanding of the entire plan of God.
THE NECESSITY FOR A COVENANT.
It was because of man's fall into sin, and its accompanying degradation, mental, moral and physical, which followed ejectment from Eden, and especially because of the sentence of death pronounced against him, that he had need of the divine arrangements for his recovery and blessing provided in these covenants-- original and added. The failure of Adam had cut off himself and his race from divine favor and placed them under divine sentence; and nothing that man could do would restore divine favor. The initiative toward reconciliation must come from God if at all; and the Covenants were his statements of his proposition for a reconciliation, and how and with whom and by whom it should be accomplished. God did not make his plan because of Abraham; but merely made known his predetermined purpose to faithful Abraham; and chose his family as the one through which Messiah would be sent, for the accomplishment of that plan. The plan itself was, we are told, predetermined--from the foundation of the world. Abraham's faithfulness merely brought him and his family into relationship to that plan of the ages.
To enforce the sentence of death, Adam was at once driven out from Eden and its grove of life-giving trees into the wilderness of earth, infested with thorns and briers, "accursed" or unfit for the sustenance of life. There he was permitted to prolong his days as best he could, until the sentence which was upon him should accomplish his destruction--dust to dust.
From the moment of his rejection and sentence, degeneration set in; affecting all his posterity. The unfavorable conditions of the soil and climate have since had their effect upon the physical man, and incidentally upon his mental and moral status; for since an imperfect body cannot sustain a perfect mind, the elements of decay quickly fastened themselves on the mental powers; and mental and moral impairment are the result. The undesirable conditions of the new surroundings, so different from what had previously been experienced, gradually developed selfishness as the leading characteristic of his being. Thus did the sentence, "dying thou shalt die," surely go into effect along all the lines of his organism.
With all the race since, the tendency has been downward; so that in the course of six thousand years man's physical powers have become so impaired that instead of living nine hundred and thirty years, as did Adam, the average of life is now only about thirty-five years, despite all the efforts of medical science to lengthen the span of life. And although improved nursing and medical skill and surgery have lately increased the average of life about five years (from thirty to thirty-five years), yet this longer survival of the physically impaired evidently means a general weakening of the race as a whole. Surely all can see, and should admit, that everlasting life is abundantly proved to be beyond the reach of Adam's race. Nothing that any of the condemned can do can perfect himself or his
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fellows. Hence, as death reigned from Adam to Moses, and from Moses till now, so it must continue to reign over the race unless God shall interpose for the relief of his condemned creatures, and in some manner provide a release from the death sentence.
Many are inclined to consider the term "sin" applicable only to murder, theft, and such like heinous crimes; and not having been guilty of these, they consider themselves good, exemplary people. They fail to see that from God's standpoint and standard of righteousness anything short of perfection is imperfection, wrong, out of harmony with his original creation, "sinful." "All unrighteousness [imperfection] is sin," and the "wages [result and penalty] of sin is death."
It is written, "All his [God's] work is perfect." It was so in Adam's case and with the angels. Whatever imperfection--mental, physical or moral--there may be, is therefore, directly or indirectly, the result of disobedience to divine arrangement and command. Imperfection, therefore, is an evidence of disobedience to God and the laws which he ordained for the well-being of his creatures;--an evidence that sin lieth at the door.
But although God "could by no means clear the guilty," he nevertheless sympathized with his fallen creatures, and made provision for their uplifting,--from degradation back to the plane of perfection, where he can fellowship and bless them as at first. In order to accomplish this gracious plan, God "gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him [obediently] should not perish, but have everlasting life." (`John 3:16`.) Thus the man Christ Jesus became the mediator between God and man.
In his dealings with mankind God is manifesting to all his creatures, angels as well as men, the various attributes of his character--Justice, Wisdom, Love and Power. In his condemnation of Adam's sin, God brought forcibly to the notice of all the attribute of Justice, the basic principle of his character; as it is written, "Justice and judgment are the foundation of his throne." (`Psa. 89:14`; `97:2`.) This feature of his character (viz., Justice) God continued to make prominently manifest for more than four thousand years; until Christ came and suffered and died, the just for the unjust, by which act the beautiful, divine quality, Love, was made manifest; as it is written, "In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins." (`1 John 4:9,10`.) "God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for the ungodly."--`Rom. 5:8`.
Until then the world knew nothing of God's love, practically. There it was demonstrated. He had indeed made some gracious promises to the seed of Abraham, but as yet they were unfulfilled, while all others of mankind were without God and without hope.-- `Eph. 2:12`.
THE UNCONDITIONAL OATHBOUND COVENANT.
It was in view of his desire and intention to bless the world of sinners, Adam's race, that God, as indicating that intention and the lines or conditions to be followed, made the great Abrahamic Covenant, and later its two dependents--(1) The Law Covenant, (2) The New Covenant. The original covenant or promise includes all that its added or dependant covenants include in the way of blessing; while the latter constitute but proper and reasonable limitations and regulations, by which the blessings promised may be made everlasting blessings to all the worthy.
Though little is said of Abraham prior to God's making the covenant with him, we may suppose that he was a man of honesty of heart, of good intentions, and one who had already manifested a strong faith in God. When Abraham was living in the land of the Chaldeans, God called him out from his relatives and friends, and directed him to go into the land of Canaan, where he would make of him a great nation; promising, further, that in his seed all the families of the earth should ultimately be blessed. This covenant was
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a definite declaration of God's benevolent intentions toward humanity in general, and that it had pleased him to select Abraham's posterity as the line through which to communicate the great and much needed blessing. The only condition to the covenant was obedience in going a stranger into a strange land. Abraham's obedience manifested his faith; and his continuance in Canaan marked the continuance of his faith (see `Heb. 11:15`); and this faithful obedience was the only condition imposed or connected with this great Covenant. If Abraham would exercise obedient faith, God would do all therein promised through his seed. If Abraham had failed in faith and obedience, the same good things would in due time fulfil the divine purpose, but through another man's seed.
Abraham no doubt wondered at times how God intended to fulfil his Covenant, seeing that the Canaanites continued to live in the land, while he was never more than a sojourner in it. God's promise concerning his seed seemed also to fail; and after many years, when Isaac was born, he proved to be only a type or foreshadow of the true "Seed" through whom the promise of great prominence and world-wide influence and blessing would be fulfilled.
Four hundred and thirty years after making this Covenant with Abraham, God manifested another feature
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of his plan. When bringing Abraham's posterity out of Egyptian slavery to establish them in the promised land of Canaan, he brought them to Mount Sinai, and there entered into an additional covenant with them, known as,--
THE LAW COVENANT, ADDED.
God wrote his law in ten commandments upon two tables of stone, as representing his requirements, and appointed Moses the mediator between himself and the people of Israel, to ratify the covenant and in his name to promise the people escape from death and from every evil and blight, upon condition of their living up to the requirements of that law; as it is written, "The man that doeth them shall live in them."--`Gal. 3:12`; `Lev. 18:5`; `26:3-11,14-44`.
Israel, hopeful that the long deferred blessing of the original promise was now to be fulfilled, readily assented to the terms of this Law Covenant addition, and said, "All that the Lord hath spoken we will do" (`Ex. 19:8`); and no doubt they honestly intended full obedience and considered it possible. Moses, fulfilling his part, ratified the covenant on behalf of God and the people, by sprinkling the blood of the sacrifice on the people and on the tables of the Law, saying, This is the blood of the Covenant which God hath enjoined unto you,--or by which you and God are joined in Covenant.--`Heb. 9:19,20`; `Exod. 24:8`.
This covenant was unlike the original Abrahamic Covenant, which required no mediator, because it was unconditional on Abraham's part except as to obedient faith. When Abraham entered Canaan, the terms on his part were complete, and God at once announced the Covenant and confirmed it with his own oath, thus assuring Abraham, and all who are similarly full of faith in God, that all of its provisions will surely be fulfilled regardless of human cooperation. Abraham's Seed shall bless all the families of the earth.
The Law Covenant, whatever its object, the Apostle assures us, could not (and hence it did not) make the original or Abrahamic Covenant useless, nor could it in any manner or degree impair its gracious promise; for it was complete in itself, and God had confirmed it most absolutely.--`Gal. 3:8,17`.
What, then, could be God's object in making the Law Covenant with Israel, and (so far as they were concerned) adding it to the Abrahamic Covenant? The Apostle answers our query, saying, "It [the Law Covenant] was added because of transgression [sin], till the promised seed should come." (`Gal. 3:19`.) The promised seed of Abraham, which God had in mind when he made the Covenant with Abraham, was Christ our Lord (and incidentally the Church which is his body, his bride, whose blemishes he covers). And by giving Israel the Law Covenant God purposed--(1) to show them their own sinfulness and unworthiness to be the "Seed" which could and should bless all mankind. (2) The Law addition to the Abrahamic Covenant insured that the "promised seed" would be a perfect man, able to keep all the requirements of the Law Covenant perfectly, as our Lord Jesus alone did or could do. (3) If the Israelites learned the lesson of their own inability to fulfil the requirements of the Law Covenant, it would prepare them to expect Messiah's birth out of the usual order, to insure his freedom from Adamic condemnation and weakness.
Thus the Abrahamic Covenant and its confirmations assured that the "Seed" must be of Abraham's descendants, while the Law addition just as surely proved that he would be "holy, harmless, undefiled and separate from sinners."
It would appear that Israel never fully appreciated the requirements of their Law Covenant, which no one but a perfect man could fulfil; for a very large class, Pharisees and others, claimed that they kept it inviolate--"trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others" (`Luke 18:9`), who made no such claim. But our Lord's definition of the Law showed that anger with a brother may contain the spirit of murder and be a violation of the command, "Thou shalt not kill;" and that the command, "Thou shalt not commit adultery," may be broken in the secret thought of the heart. And, summing up the whole Law, as meaning supreme love for God (more than for self) in every word, thought and act, and love for our neighbor as for one's self, his teachings brought conviction to all honest Jews who heard him, that none of them ever had kept or ever could hope to keep the conditions of that Law Covenant perfectly. Such saw that they could no longer hope for eternal life through their Covenant, and said, like Peter, "Lord to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life." Such honest Jews realized what the Apostle Paul so graphically describes in `Romans 7`, that their Law Covenant was not able to deliver them from death because of their inherited imperfections, the "dead body," sin-impaired, which hindered the obedience they would gladly have rendered to God's just, wise and good law. But by these the gospel of Christ was then seen to be a God-send; and the Jew whose heart was in proper condition, catching sight of the mercy of God offered in Christ, exclaimed, as represented by the Apostle-- "I thank God [for deliverance and life] through Jesus Christ our Lord; for what the Law [Covenant] could not do [for us Jews], in that it was powerless because of [our fallen] flesh, God accomplished [in another way; viz.,] by sending his own Son in the likeness of the flesh condemned for sin and as a sin-offering
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for sin-condemned flesh; that [under the mercy of the New Covenant] the righteousness of the divine Law might be reckoned as fulfilled in us, who [however imperfectly], walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit of the divine law.--`Rom. 7:25`; `8:3,4`.
Our Lord Jesus could and did fulfil the demands of the Law Covenant: he proved his supreme love for the Father by his obedience to the divine arrangement "unto death, even the death of the cross." Thus he demonstrated that he was the Seed of Promise, and became sole heir to all of the provisions of the Abrahamic Covenant, promised to Abraham's Seed. Hence, now, in him, and in him only, "shall all the families of the earth be blessed."
Thus our Lord Jesus, having fulfilled the conditions of the added Law Covenant (thus proving himself the "Seed," and heir of the Abrahamic Covenant), made an end to the Law Covenant to every Jew who believed, nailing it to his cross (`Rom. 10:4`; `Col. 2:14`), and was ready to begin the work of blessing.
THE NEW COVENANT, ADDED.
The Law Covenant did indicate the perfect one, the "Seed," the true heir; but it was God's purpose, additionally, to select "brethren" of Christ to be his "joint-heirs" in carrying out the original, the Abrahamic Covenant of general blessings to the world; and, as we have just seen, the Law Covenant could avail nothing in this selection--its requirements being too severe for any except perfect beings, and our race being all imperfect.
On the other hand, to bless the world with a knowledge of God and the lengths and breadths and heights and depths of his wisdom and love and power, and yet to have made no provision for the race, for justification to life everlasting, would have been but a temporary blessing; for after seeing and tasting they would have been obliged to die under their original just sentence.
It was expedient, therefore, and as an addition to the blessing of the Abrahamic Covenant, that divine mercy added the New Covenant, that through it the original blessings may become everlasting--to all who conform to the terms of the New Covenant. The "New" Covenant addition is to indicate the way by which convicted sinners may return to divine favor, obtaining mercy and finding grace to help in the merit of its Mediator, Christ--in whom their holy efforts and intentions can be accepted as perfect, although actually imperfect. The "Law" addition was to the Jew only; the "New" addition is for "all the families of the earth;" for whoever of Adam's race may choose to accept its provisions.
Since all men are sinners and consequently incompetent to make a covenant of full obedience to all the requirements of the perfect, divine law (as was proved to be the case with Israel), the New Covenant must needs have a mediator, as did the Law Covenant. Moreover, it required a better, more capable mediator than Moses, or else it could be no more efficacious to mankind in general than was the Law Covenant to Israel.
The work or office of Moses as a mediator was to effect reconciliation (harmony) between God and Israel--the two parties to the Covenant, both of whom
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desired reconciliation. Similarly, the work of our Lord Jesus, as the mediator of the New Covenant, is to bring into harmony with God so many of Adam's race as may wish peace with God upon his terms; viz., faith and obedience to righteousness.
Question:--What did our Lord Jesus do as a mediator for all mankind that Moses could not do, and did not do, for Israel? This: (1) he, being holy, harmless and separate from sinners, fulfilled the requirements of the Law in his own person; and (2) he gave himself ("the man Christ Jesus" and the seed of an unborn human race in his loins) as a ransom-price or corresponding purchase-price for Adam and his race (which was an unborn race in Adam's loins at the time of his trial and failure and death sentence). Because this was done in obedience to the divine will and plan, our Lord Jesus was perfected as a "new creature," partaker of the divine nature, in his resurrection from death, and is now highly exalted "far above" men, angels, principalities and powers, in heavenly glory;-- sharer of the Heavenly Father's throne.
By means of his sacrifice of himself as "the man Christ Jesus," a ransom-price for the first man, Adam, he, as we have just seen, redeemed (purchased) Adam's race from the divine sentence--death, extinction. Not that the race was set free by his sacrifice, but that the divine law (justice) having been met, the race is delivered over to him who "bought" it with his own precious blood, that he may release from death and bring to everlasting life the willing and obedient.-- `John 3:36`.
Thus, by purchase, by the full satisfaction of the claims of Justice against Adam, the new Mediator has a great advantage over Moses, and is thus a "better mediator," competent to do all that can be done to reconcile, or make at-one, God and his sinful, fallen creatures. As the sentence of death brought exclusion from the grove of life-sustaining trees in Eden (`Gen. 3:22-24`), and death as the result, so now by reason of having paid man's ransom-price, the great Mediator is permitted to feed his people with "the bread of life which came down from heaven," and thus to revivify them.
But the Mediator can do nothing for the redeemed except in harmony with the spirit of the divine Law, nor
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does he otherwise desire. Hence the New Covenant, sealed and ratified by the Mediator's blood, and under which alone the blessings are obtainable, demands:--
(1) Faith in God, acknowledgement and repentance of all sins, a full recognition of the Mediator, and of the fact that this, the only covenant of grace, mercy peace, was sealed and ratified by "the precious blood of Christ"--his sacrificial death.
(2) It requires also obedience and reformation from sin to the extent of the sinner's ability, and a full desire of heart and effort of life to live righteously, soberly and godly--a desire to know and to do the heavenly Father's will, under the guidance and help of the Mediator.--`James 1:25`.
WHO WILL BENEFIT BY THE NEW COVENANT?
Thus the rights, privileges and blessings of the New Covenant, while open to all, as required by the original Covenant, will be of everlasting benefit only to the willing and obedient--such as desire and seek God and his [standard of] righteousness; and they alone will gain everlasting life under this Covenant, either in this or in the coming age.
Since the trial for everlasting life under the New Covenant has as its primary qualification faith, it is evident that only a very small proportion of the world's inhabitants have yet benefited by it. As the Apostle says,--"How shall they believe on him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? and how shall they preach except they be sent? (`Rom. 10:14`.) But any doubt that the blessings of this New Covenant are to be extended ultimately to every member of Adam's race, by bringing each one to this necessary knowledge, is not only set at rest by the Apostle Paul's declaration that it is the will of God that all shall come to the knowledge of the truth, and that it shall be testified to all "in due time" (`1 Tim. 2:4-6`), but it is guaranteed by the oath by which God attested the original covenant with Abraham, saying, "In thy Seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed."--`Gal. 3:16,29`.
The whole subject becomes transparent when we see that the Abrahamic Covenant (which needed no mediator because it was God's unconditional promise, confirmed by his oath) is the full, broad statement of the divine plan, and that as the Law Covenant was added (to illustrate the inability of sinners to help themselves and) to manifest Christ Jesus as the Seed of Promise, so the New Covenant is added (to the Abrahamic Covenant) also,--not to hinder the "blessing" of every creature, but to make that "blessing" of knowledge and the Millennial Kingdom opportunities more effective,--even unto everlasting life--to those approved under it.
THE FULFILMENT OF THE ABRAHAMIC COVENANT.
From this standpoint we can see that the only steps thus far taken in the fulfilment of the original and comprehensive statement of the divine plan, the "Covenant with Abraham" (which, as the Apostle declares, was an advance declaration of the whole gospel--the good tidings in an epitomized form--`Gal. 3:8`), are:--
(1) The manifestation of God's only begotten Son as "the man Christ Jesus," and his approval as perfect under the Law.
(2) By the same act of obedience and faithfulness he "bought" Adam and his race; and by meeting the terms of their sentence, according to the divine plan, he has made it possible for God to be just and yet be the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus; and made it possible for himself, as the divinely proposed and foreordained "Seed of Abraham," to make the blessing upon the willing and obedient an everlasting blessing.
(3) According to the original divine plan a multitudinous "Seed" was contemplated from the beginning (`Gal. 3:29`; `Eph. 1:4`)--the fullness, power and authority of which should always reside in Christ Jesus, our Lord and Redeemer. The next step in the divine plan has been the selection from among men of this special class,--called the Church of Christ--of which Jesus is the Lord and head (`Eph. 1:22,23`); called the Bride, the Lamb's wife and joint-heir (`Rev. 19:7`); called also "members of his body," controlled by him as the Head (`1 Cor. 12:27`); called also his "brethren" (`Heb. 2:11`); called also the "royal priesthood," under him as the High Priest or Chief Priest, and sharers of his glory, honor and immortality, and joint-heirs in his Kingdom and in his inheritance in the Abrahamic Covenant as the "Seed" to whom belongs the promise.--See `Rev. 20:4`; `Gal. 3:29`.
This selection of the Church is along lines of severe testing; for God has predestinated that all who will constitute members of the multitudinous Seed must "be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren." (`Rom. 8:29`.) And since none are "called" to this high honor except the "justified," and none justified except through faith, under the terms of the New Covenant, it follows that, since the vast majority thus far are blinded by the prince of this world so that they cannot believe (`2 Cor. 4:4`), and since even after believing and being called many fail to make their "calling and election sure;" therefore this elect Church, when completed and perfected and glorified at the end of the "narrow way" which few find (`Matt. 7:14`), will be a "little flock,"--containing "not many great," rich or wise, according to the estimate of this world.--`1 Cor. 1:26-28`; `Jas. 2:5`.
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(4) When the elect number has been selected, and been glorified with their Head, Christ Jesus, as associates and joint-heirs in his Millennial Kingdom-- then, and not till then, will the "Seed of Abraham," contemplated in the divine Covenant and oath to Abraham, have fully come. And then, immediately, the way being all prepared, the blessing of all mankind (eventually "all that are in the graves") shall begin. All shall be blessed with the knowledge and opportunity of the gracious provisions of the New Covenant, and all who heartily accept its provisions shall have life and joy everlasting.
(5) Incidentally, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and the holy prophets, faithful before the New Covenant, will receive a special blessing and be associated as earthly or human representatives of the spiritual Kingdom of God in blessing the world; but their part and service will be under the direction of the Church, God having provided some better thing for US, that they without US should not be made perfect."--`Heb. 11:40`; `Luke 16:16`.
(6) Incidentally, also, another class, "a great multitude whose number no man knows" (`Rev. 7:9,13-15`) will be developed; but not being "overcomers," having failed to "make their calling and election sure --although they will be privileged to "serve"--will constitute no part of the elect "Seed" in whom will reside the blessing power of royalty and priesthood.
(7) Incidentally, also, the preaching of the gospel in connection with the "calling" of the "Seed" has had a civilizing influence throughout the world. It has scattered some of the "gross darkness" by which Satan and sin have enshrouded the world of mankind. But still it is dark;--still "gross darkness covers the people;" still the god of this world blinds the minds of them that believe not; still "the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together," waiting for the glorious Millennial morning which shall accompany the shining forth of the Seed of Abraham, the Sons of God in glory, as the "Sun of Righteousness with healing [restitution] in his beams."--`Isa. 60:2`; `Rom. 8:22,19`; `Mal. 4:2`; `Acts 3:19-21`.
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"OUR SUFFICIENCY IS OF GOD."
--`2 COR. 3:5`.--
"Wherefore,...work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God which worketh in you, both to will and to do of his good pleasure."--`Phil. 2:12,13`.
THE thoughtful reader of the Scriptures must often be impressed with that intensity of zeal and earnest striving urged upon all the followers of Christ who would so run as to obtain the prize of our high calling which is of God in Christ Jesus. For instance, we read:--
"Strive to enter in at the strait gate; for many I say unto you will seek to enter in, and shall not be able, when once the Master of the house is risen up and has shut to the door"; "Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, that leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it"; "Whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple"; "Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin that doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus"; "Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life"; "Watch unto prayer"; and, then, "Be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that shall be brought unto you at the appearing of Jesus Christ." And Peter again adds, "Beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent, that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot and blameless....Seeing that all these [present] things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness."-- `Luke 13:24`; `Matt. 7:13,14`; `Luke 14:33`; `Heb. 12:1`; `1 Tim. 6:12`; `1 Pet. 4:7`; `1:13`; `2 Pet. 3:14,11`.
How different all this appears from that easy-going Christianity which seems but a very little removed from the spirit of the world, and which is so common that the zeal which strives and runs and fights and watches with sober vigilance that the sacrifice of self is kept upon the altar is generally regarded as extreme, peculiar, fanatical and foolish. Nevertheless, in the face of this latent opposition, as well as of all open opposition, the course of the overcomer is right onward. It is a course of self-denial and cross-bearing, even unto the end. It is a dying daily to the spirit, hopes, aims and ambitions of the world which control other men and women, so that in the end of our course we may be of that happy "little flock" of "overcomers" of whom it is written, "Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord."--`Rev. 14:13`.
These thoughts are strongly suggestive of what it is to be an overcomer. It is, as the Apostle Paul expresses it, to become dead with Christ;--"Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him"; "If so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together." (`Rom. 6:8`; `8:17`.) If we would reach that point of deadness to the world which will in the end constitute us overcomers, we must die daily. But herein is a deeper significance than may be apparent at first glance. To die daily, to deny self and humbly take up and patiently bear the
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daily cross, to mortify the deeds of the body (i.e., to put to death the former dispositions, etc.), means a great deal. It means more than merely the putting away of sin. As human beings we have no right to sin, and must renounce it when we first come to Christ, as only such can be accepted of him. But as new creatures, partakers of the divine nature, through a subsequent more intelligent re-dedication of all our ransomed powers to the service of God alone, and a consequent begetting of the holy spirit to a new divine nature, our business is to die daily to the ordinary and otherwise legitimate ambitions, hopes and aims of the present life. Or, as Paul expresses it:--"Be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed, that ye may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God" (`Rom. 12:2`); that is, we are to submit our minds, not to the earthly, but to the heavenly influences which will dictate to us in every matter great and small.
The heavenly influences draw a distinct line of demarkation between things earthly and things heavenly. Upon the one side are the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, which are of the world (`1 John 2:16`); while on the other side is that "simplicity and godly sincerity" whose delight is in the beauty of holiness, and whose adornment is a meek and quiet spirit, submissive to discipline, patient in tribulation, always abounding in the work of the Lord and delighting only in his manifest favor.--`2 Cor. 1:12`.
But who is sufficient for these things? Who can walk so contrary to the course of this present world? Surely none who have any considerable measure of the world's spirit. It is only as we become filled with the spirit of God that we can do these things. Our sufficiency is not of ourselves; but "our sufficiency is of God." "It is God that worketh in you, both to will and to do of his good pleasure." (`Phil. 2:13`.) He it is who, for the asking, will so fill us with his spirit that we can go forth from victory unto victory.--"If ye... know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the holy spirit to them that ask him."--`Luke 11:11-13`.
God bestows this grace upon all that diligently seek it of him, through our Lord Jesus Christ, our Redeemer, our Head, our Leader and Teacher. Therefore, says Paul, "I can do all things through Christ, who strengtheneth me"; and again, "The love of Christ constraineth me." (`2 Cor. 5:14`.) Those who have the spirit of Christ, which is also the spirit of God, the holy spirit, are his disciples under his teaching and training. "If any man have not the spirit of Christ, he is none of his." Thus it is, that God works in us through Christ to will and to do his good pleasure, while in his strength we work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. (`Phil. 2:12`.) And he also further works in us to this end by all the incentives of his exceeding great and precious promises, his providences, his discipline, training and teaching and also by the sweets of that fellowship with himself, with Christ and with his saints, which is our present and daily privilege.
It is plain, therefore, that as Christians we have a life work before us. It is not enough that we covenant with God to follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth, and that we find ourselves accepted in the Beloved: that is only the beginning of this higher life. Then begins the work of overcoming, of dying to self and to the world. And who ever found it easy to die?
But now, look away from the struggle of this death to the old nature, and consider the new nature that at the same instant is developing its powers. Every victory gained in the crucifying of the flesh gives the new nature more room to develop and to expand its powers; and as the spirit of the world and the will of the flesh recede, we find ourselves more and more in the company and fellowship of our Lord. True, it is, on the one hand, the fellowship of his sufferings, but on the other, it is the fellowship also of his joys. We enter with him into the joy of knowing and doing our Father's will. Like him, we have meat to eat that others know not of; and we sit together with him in the heavenly places of communion and fellowship. The deep things of God are ours, the precious things symbolized by the gold within the typical Tabernacle,-- "the exceeding great and precious promises" and a lively appreciation of them, the deeper experiences of divine grace, the abiding presence of the Father and the Son realized, the fellowship with the Father and with the Son, and the communion of saints.
These are some of the present rewards of dying daily to the world and becoming correspondingly alive toward God. The new nature, daily becoming more and more alive toward God, has an increasing sense of the value of these spiritual blessings; and with such appreciation comes a more earnest, ardent longing after more and more of the fellowship and favor of God, and more intense longings after holiness. The language of every such heart is beautifully expressed by the Psalmist, --"As the heart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?"--`Psa. 42:1,2`.
This hungering and thirsting after righteousness, this reaching out after God, this patient, loving submission to all the heavenly influences of divine grace through whatsoever channels they may flow to us; these are all parts of the transforming work that will, in the end, make us overcomers. To resist continually those influences which would conform us to this world is to die daily to
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the world, to overcome the world, and to refuse to be conformed to this world; while to cultivate the higher spiritual aspirations is to be transformed, changed, to be developed as new creatures begotten to the divine nature. This process of dying daily to the things that belong to this world and of being transformed by the renewing of the mind to the divine nature and likeness is the Christian's most important life work; and if it be diligently pursued we shall at last be accounted worthy to be of the spiritual seed, which, in the resurrection, shall receive its own appropriate body, like unto Christ's glorious body. (`1 Cor. 15:38,48,49`.) But this selfward work does not end with self, for it includes a glowing zeal for God which, by example and precept and diligent service, ever strives to push forward the great work of the Lord.
In this view of the matter it is clear that this great work before us requires patient, watchful diligence, spiritual ambition and effort, fervency of spirit and persevering energy and faith in God. Only those who have and who cultivate these qualities can ever hope to be "overcomers"--"dead with Christ." It was
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such considerations that prompted those earnest exhortations of the Lord and the apostles to faithfulness and diligence in our warfare against the world, the flesh and the devil. We are reminded, too, that in our warfare we wrestle not with flesh and blood, but with the invisible powers of darkness strongly intrenched both in the world and in the downward tendencies of our fallen flesh; besides which there are innumerable arts and wiles of the adversary, against which we must maintain a vigilant watch.
We cannot afford, therefore, to slacken our diligence, or to grow negligent in availing ourselves of any of the means of grace, or to waste the precious time granted to us for this overcoming work in idly dreaming of the crown, while we fail to bear the cross. Let us be up and doing, for "the time is short," the work is great, the way is narrow, the obstacles are many, the foes and their devices increase: let us be sober, let us be vigilant. But let us not forget that the work is the Lord's, in the sense that his strength supplied to us is vouchsafed to accomplish it, and that he who has begun the good work in us is able to complete it; and he will do so, if we let him; i.e., if we obediently follow his leading, doing his will.
To do this requires faith: "This is the victory that overcometh the world, even your faith." A wavering faith will hold on, with one hand at least, to the things of this world, as "something tangible," being afraid to let go and trust in the things unseen and to live for them alone. But our Lord encouragingly says, "Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." (`John 16:33`.) Having overcome, he has long since entered into his glory; and it is the Father's good pleasure to permit those to share that glory with him who, when tried and proved, as he was proved, under the discipline of fiery trial, shall not be found wanting in faithfulness and zeal for God.
Let us, then, as many as would be counted worthy to live and reign with Christ, take heed, not to the examples of the multitudes of those who name the name of Christ, but, first of all, to the perfect pattern, Christ Jesus, and secondly to those most faithful ones who follow in his footsteps of self-denial and of zeal for the cause of God. M. F. RUSSELL.
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INTERESTING QUESTIONS ANSWERED.
RECKONING THE PASSOVER DATE.
Question.--How do the Jews reckon the date for the Passover?
Answer.--Their first month Nisan (also called Abib) was reckoned as beginning with the first new moon after the Spring equinox, in Palestine,--not quite the same as here. And if the new moon preceded the equinox a day it did not matter: the important point was that the moon should be at her full on the 14th of the month, the day for the killing of the Passover lamb.
The importance of the moon's being at her full was that the moon symbolized the Law Covenant as the sun symbolizes the Gospel or New Covenant (`Rev. 12:1`) and the offering of our Lord to Israel as their King, the day before he was crucified, represented the full of their blessing: from his rejection, then, they as a nation began to wane.
THIRTEEN QUESTIONS ON THE ANGLO-ISRAEL THEORY.
One who read the treatise on this subject in our issue of Jan. 15, asks several questions, which we answer in order below:--
Question.--(1).--If the "ten tribes" do not exist as a nation, but returned to Palestine with the Jews under Cyrus, how do you account for the failure of `Amos 9:15`?
Answer.--We did not say that the ten tribes returned to Palestine with the Jews under Cyrus. We said that during that long captivity the division and jealousy disappeared; and that then, and ever since, the names Jews and Israelites no longer distinguished as between descendants of the two and the ten tribes, but were used indiscriminately in referring to the same people. We proved this by many New Testament references; and referred to the fact that no Jew to-day will pretend to say from which tribe he descended.
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Although the tribal lineage of but few of the early believers is given, these show that the Jews were mixed tribally;--Paul was of the tribe of Benjamin, Barnabas of the tribe of Levi, and Anna, the prophetess, of the tribe of Asher. We proved that only a few of all of the tribes returned to Palestine when Cyrus gave the permit to all under the name (not of Judah but) of Israel. We proved from the Scriptures that such of all the tribes (a remnant) as accepted Christ became spiritual Israel, that many ("all Israel") were blinded and will not have their eyes opened until the full number to complete the bride of Christ has been taken from the Gentiles. (`Rom. 11:25-33`.) We showed that all of that nation who abandoned the promises and circumcision ceased in every sense of the word to be of either natural Israel or spiritual Israel.
We are not obliged to account for the failure of `Amos 9:15`, for it has not failed. It is not yet fulfilled in the return of the "Jews," "all Israel" to Palestine. This Scripture was evidently in the mind of the Apostle James, when, after hearing Peter's explanation of God's sending him to preach the gospel to the Gentiles, he said:--
"Simeon hath declared how God at the first did [or made a beginning to] visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. And to this agree the words of the prophets: After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David."-- `Acts 15:14-16`.
The throne of David was over all the tribes and here represents the throne of the greater David--the Beloved Son of God--about to be established after this.
Question. (2).--Zechariah, who prophesied about 250 B.C., after the return of the Jews from Babylon, mentions the return of Joseph as yet future. Why, if Joseph had already returned?
Answer.--Your question indicates great prejudice and blindness which you must get rid of if you would see the truth. You say, "the return of the Jews from Babylon," but `Ezra (3:1`; `7:13`; `9:1`) says that it was Israel that Cyrus set free, and Israel that came to Palestine with him. And the next company under Nehemiah, ninety years after (and after Zechariah's prophecy), knew no division in Israel.--See `Neh. 9:1,2`; `11:3,4,20`.
Turn now to Zechariah's prophecy. Note that the theme beginning `chap. 9:9` and concluding `chap. 10:4` relates to and was fulfilled at our Lord's first advent; as also the `11th chapter`. (See particulars in MILLENNIAL DAWN, VOL. III, chap. 8.) `Chap. 10:5-12`, to which you refer, evidently applies to the second advent of our Lord. Notice that while Judah, Joseph and Ephraim are mentioned (See `9:13`; `10:6,7`) they are not, as formerly, mentioned as antagonistic or even rival kingdoms, but as unitedly sharing divine favor;--of the same kind and at the same time. The Lord does not mention Israel as one nation and Judah as another; but mentioning the chief tribe of each part of the once divided nation, he so to speak clasps their hands and assures them that the coming favor will be to both and to all the tribes of the covenanted seed.
Question. (3).--At what time in the forgotten history of the race did the house of Joseph enjoy the birthright blessings of `Gen. 48:19`?
Answer.--The birthright, with its "double portion" of the promised land (`Deut. 21:15-17`), went to Ephraim and Manasseh, the sons of Joseph; and the blessing, "let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth [margin, land]," made the double portion almost a necessity. Nevertheless, notice carefully that the ruling power went to Judah.--See `Gen. 49:8-12`.
You possibly refer specially to Jacob's declaration, Ephraim "shall become a multitude of nations." The marginal reading corrects this to read "fulness of nations." But the fulness of what nations? We answer, Ephraim became the fulness of multitude to the tribes, or nations, or peoples* of Israel. Look in your "Teacher's Bible" at a map showing Canaan as divided among the tribes, and note the goodly portions given to the children of Joseph (Ephraim and Manasseh) on the west of Jordan; and then note how the "branches went over the wall" or river; see the large tract east of Jordan. In all they had about one-half of Canaan. These large appropriations of the best of the land were because these tribes were multitudinous amongst the tribes or nations of Israel. The map shows Manasseh more numerous than Ephraim at the beginning: but soon, as Jacob had prophesied in this blessing, Ephraim became the greater, so that when the federation of tribes split and formed rival kingdoms the influence of Ephraim's multitudes among the nations or tribes was so great that the side which he espoused took the name Israel, and sometimes because of his numbers and influence all were called Ephraim.
Now turn to `Gen. 49` and compare the blessings upon Judah in `vss 8-12` with those upon Joseph (including Ephraim and Manasseh) in `vss 22-26`. Both blessings are great, but that of Judah is by far the greater.
*The same Hebrew word rendered nations in `Gen. 48:19` is rendered the people in referring to the twelve tribes, in the following passages:--`Josh. 3:17`; `4:1`; `5:6,8`; `10:13`; `Judges 2:20`.
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The statement, "The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him: but his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob, by the name of* the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel;
*Preferred reading of old MSS.
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even by the God of thy father, who shall help thee," is not a promise for the future but a recounting of Joseph's past experiences at the hands of his brethren. His blessings, as enumerated, are multitudes of children and estate. If any think the prosperity of Joseph's children among the tribes does not fulfil all this, let them recognize the fact that Ephraim and Manasseh constituted a majority of the dispersed Israelites now commonly called "Jews" after the name of their great capital city, Jerusalem. Surely, the Jews are a fulness amongst all nations, and prosperous as no other people. They are, as predicted, lenders to many nations (`Deut. 28:12`), and in a peculiar manner are pushing or goring all peoples to the ends of the earth. (See `Deut. 33:17`, Revised Version.) So much so that every nation is seeking to get rid of them.-- "These are the ten thousands of Ephraim and the thousands of Manasseh."
Question. (4).--Must not Israel exist as a nation before the fulfilment of `Jer. 3:18`?
Answer.--No; neither will Judah exist as a nation at that time. This verse merely tells of the gathering of Israel and Judah for the purpose of reestablishing them in their own land. This prophecy corresponds to that of `Isaiah 11:12-16`. They walk "with" each other and "come together out of the land of the North [where they have been together, all recognized as Jews] unto the land that I have given for an inheritance unto your fathers." Those who think erroneously that the Jews are only two of the tribes, and that the peoples of Great Britain and the United States and the British colonies are parts of the ten tribes, would have all these peoples--over one hundred millions--go with the Jews to the little corner of the earth called Palestine.
Do you ask, why are Judah and Israel mentioned separately by the prophets if they are to be one people, dwelling together as Jews, at the time of the fulfilment of the prophecy? We answer: Because these prophecies were written before all had gone into captivity to Babylon; and had the national name Israel alone been used Jeremiah's hearers would have supposed that Judah was not to share in the promised blessing. For this reason also it is shown that there will no longer be factional differences between the two members of the one nation,--as there had been for over two centuries up to that time.
Question. (5).--Has `Deut. 32:26` ever been fulfilled?
Answer.--This prophecy by Moses was not concerning a part but against "the whole house of Israel." If taken literally as it reads in our common version of the Bible it has not yet been fulfilled, for the remembrance of Israel continues. The Hebrew word here used, translated remembrance, does not signify knowledge (as the questioner evidently supposes), but rather memorial or scent.* Pleasant remembrance of Israel is to cease--we may say has very generally ceased (except with themselves and the true spiritual Israel). The modern name for Israelites--"Jews"--is becoming a stench instead of a scent in the nostrils of the world, which shortly will "drive them" into their own land as predicted in the Word of the Lord.
Do you object to this answer? Then we will refer you to the inspired Apostle Paul. Let him settle the matter as to whether or not "all Israel" as he knew them in his day--not lost--is here referred to by the Prophet Moses. Paul quotes part of verse 21 verbatim, with other prophecies against Israel, and applies them without qualification or limitation to "all the house of Israel" living in his day--not lost, but well known, called "Jews"--living at Jerusalem and scattered throughout the world. He specially addressed some living at Rome.--See `Rom. 10:19-21`; `11:1,7-12,25-32`.
Question. (6).--What did the Jews mean when they said, "Will he go to the dispersed among the Gentiles?"--`John 7:35`.
Answer.--The meaning of this is plain. There were probably more "Jews" living outside Palestine, among the nations, than resided in Palestine. The latter, however, were accounted the more faithful and devoted, in that they clung to the land of promise as well as to the promise. It would not occur to a Jew that anyone claiming to be the Jewish Messiah would go to the Gentiles; and so when our Lord spoke of going away they wondered if he would go to the Jews residing in the surrounding nations. The Apostles did this afterward--preaching to the Jew first and afterward to the Gentiles. It was to these "dispersed" "Jews," "Israelites" of "our twelve tribes" that James and Peter wrote epistles.
Question. (7).--Can we imagine all the branches of the olive tree broken off, and only wild branches in their stead?
Answer.--If you refer to the Apostle's illustration, we refer you to his own words, `Romans 11:15-21`. The Apostle does not say that all, but some, of the natural branches were broken off. Our Lord and the Apostles and the several thousand brought to Christ shortly after Pentecost were Israelites, natural branches, and were not broken off. And doubtless many others among the Jews were found worthy of the light and blessing then due.
Notice that none of the savages living at that time in Britain and Ireland (without knowledge of God or of Moses or of the Law, or of Abraham, or of the
*The same Hebrew word here rendered remembrance is rendered "scent" in `Hos. 14:7` and "memorial" in `Esther 9:28`.
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promises, or of circumcision) could be here referred to. Such could not be branches of the "olive tree" to which the Apostle refers, whoever their ancestors may have been. The olive tree existed complete in the Apostle's day;--then some were broken off and cast away, in order that the wild branches from the Gentiles might be grafted in.
Question. (8).--Does the declaration of `Matt. 21:43`, "The kingdom of God shall be taken from you [Jews], and given to a nation [Greek, ethnos] bringing forth the fruits thereof," mean what it says, or that it was to be given to the conglomerate mass of nations known as the Gentile Church?
Answer.--The church which you describe as the "Gentile church" (or churches?), composed of a "conglomerate mass of nations," is not recognized of the Lord's Word, except it be as mystic "Babylon." Your description fits Babylon,--it is "conglomerate;" it is composed of "nations," gentiles, aliens; it might therefore perhaps be called a "Gentile church." But it will inherit nothing but tribulation and destruction, as promised.--`Rev. 18:4-12`.
The Kingdom heirship was taken from "Israel," the "Jews," as the Apostle testifies. (`Rom. 11:7`.) It was transferred to the nation bringing forth the proper fruits. (See `Luke 22:27`; `12:32`; `2 Tim. 2:12`; `Matt. 11:12`.) Which nation? do you ask? Well, not the British nation nor any nation of "this world." None of these "bring forth the fruits thereof." The best of them are Ishmaelitish. In none of them can we see even a prospect of the fulfilment of our Redeemer's prayer, "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is done in heaven."
Let us ask the inspired Apostle Peter to definitely and positively point out to us the nation to which the promise of the Kingdom was transferred when it was taken from Israel after the flesh. The Apostle replies:--
"Ye [new creatures in Christ are neither Jew nor Gentile, bond nor free, but ye] are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people." --`1 Pet. 2:9`; compare `Exod. 19:6`.
Is the questioner a member and heir of this Kingdom and yet ignorant of it? Perhaps he has been so mistaught in the "Gentile church" (good name!) that he knew of no other church than "the conglomerate mass" called Christendom, and had not heard of "the gospel of the Kingdom" and the "peculiar people."
Question. (9).--Jeremiah says, "Behold the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah." (`Jer. 31:31`.) Does not this mean that the covenant made with the Hebrew race is for them alone?
Answer.--The Law Covenant was with the Hebrew race alone; but the original promise to Abraham was for the blessing of all the families of the earth. The New Covenant began to operate as soon as it was sealed with the precious blood of Christ, and throughout this Gospel age it has "justified" all who come unto God through Christ--the household of faith. When this age ends it will be made effective as a covenant with "all the house of Israel" whose blindness will be turned away that they may "look upon him whom they have pierced." But next in order the light and knowledge of the blessing and privileges of this New Covenant will be granted to every creature--for all of whom it was sealed. See the leading article in this issue. Jeremiah's prophecy mentions both Israel and Judah because when he wrote they had not been reunited, and to have used the name Israel alone or even "all Israel" might at that time have been misunderstood as not including Judah, whereas he specially addressed Judah, with whom he resided.
Question. (10).--What is implied by Simeon's words,--"Mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people, a light to lighten the gentiles [heathen] and the glory of thy people Israel?"--`Luke 2:30-32`.
Answer.--Jesus is not only to be the glory of Israel, but the light of the world;--eventually, he shall lighten every man that cometh into the world. (`John 1:9`.) As to Israel--What Israel is here meant? is probably
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your inquiry. We reply, (1) Christ is the glory of the Church, the true Israel of God (`Rom. 11:7`); and (2) he will be the glory of fleshly or natural Israel when their eyes are opened and they are received by him under the New Covenant. Earthly Israel (under Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets) shall then as the agents and representatives of the heavenly Zion become a blessing and a praise in the whole earth--as the earthly representatives of the spiritual Kingdom of Christ.
Question. (11).--When will `Isaiah 41:21,22` be fulfilled?
Answer.--Evidently at the close of this Gospel age, as indicated by the Apostle Paul, who almost quotes the words.--See `Rom. 11:26,27`.
Question. (12).--`Isa. 48:11,12` says, "I will not give my glory to another. Hearken unto me, O Jacob, and Israel, my called." Will this glory ever be given to Gentiles? Is it not for Israel only?
Answer.--You totally misapprehend the Scripture you quote. God gives his glory to no one (neither to Jews nor to Gentiles), but keeps it for himself. Read `verses 9 to 11` as one subject. `Verse 12` begins a new subject. Compare `Isa. 42:8`.
Question. (13).--Does the Apostle Peter (`1 Pet. 2:9,10,25`) refer to Gentiles? If so, when were they
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sheep, and when did they wander away so as to make return possible?
Answer.--Peter was the Apostle to the circumcision, Paul to the uncircumcision. (`Gal. 2:7,8`.) Peter accordingly addresses those who had been Jews, Israelites, non-residents of Palestine. But please note carefully that he is not addressing "lost" Israelites; but the large class of Israelites of all tribes, who after the Babylonian captivity made their homes amongst the Gentiles. Peter knew and tells where they resided. See `1 Pet. 1:1`.
However, do not lose sight of the fact so clearly stated (`Gal. 3:5,6`) that these called from amongst the Gentiles are fellow-heirs and of the same body, priesthood, or holy nation, with the remnant of all Israel which received Christ.--`Eph. 3:6`.
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--(MARCH 28.--S.S. LESSON, REVIEW)--
MIRACLES AT LYDDA AND JOPPA.
--APRIL 4.--`ACTS 9:32-43`.--
"Jesus Christ maketh thee whole."--`Acts 9:34`.
THIS lesson calls us back to the period when the Church had rest from persecution--probably about A.D. 40. In divine providence it was a time for the rooting and establishing of the Christian faith. The general dispersion of believers noted in a previous lesson had not yet taken place; but the apostles were actively circulating throughout the towns and villages of Palestine;--as is here stated of Peter's visit to the believers at Lydda. We pause to remark that believers in the days of the apostles lived lives so separated from the world, that the name "saints" (holy ones) was appropriate to them. So let all true Christians today live--consecrated, holy, separated lives, copies of God's dear Son, to the extent of their ability. The habit in the Roman Catholic Church is to wait several centuries; until his evil deeds are forgotten, and then to canonize a man or woman as a "saint," often in recognition of services rendered to Papacy and against the truth.
The healing of the paralytic, Eneas, was a very notable evidence of the power of the Lord, very similar to the healing at the temple gate, Beautiful. Here, as always, the great Apostle made sure that none should think the power exercised to be his own;--distinctly affirming that Jesus, the Messiah, whom their rulers had crucified, had performed the cure and was therefore not dead, as they supposed, but risen.
The valley called Sharon, very fertile, was thickly settled, and Lydda was one of its towns. We are not to presume that all the people became true Christians, but that they were convinced of the power of Jesus; and doubtless some of them consecrated themselves to him and became true disciples.
The holy spirit was evidently guiding the apostle and using these occasional miracles to draw attention to the Gospel which Peter preached. Thus he "found" the man who, under divine providence, was to be cured. Thus also at the right time, when he was near (about nine miles away), Tabitha (Aramic language) or Dorcas (Greek) died, and afforded the opportunity for one of the most remarkable miracles ever performed;-- a parallel to our Lord's greatest. It would not, however, be correct to suppose that thus our Lord's words were fulfilled, which say, "He that believeth on me, the works that I do, shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do." (`John 14:12`.) These words can only be understood to refer either (1) to a future work, in which the Church will share with her Lord, during the Millennium, or (2) it may be understood as ranking the works of spiritual quickening and revival as higher than physical healing and revival. Our Lord's ministry was prior to his offering of the sin-offering, and the general impartation of the holy spirit to believers; and hence his work was chiefly physical healing and the uttering of parables and dark sayings not to be fully understood by any not imbued with the spirit of adoption.
We must dissent also from the views of some, that this power or gift, exercised so readily by the Apostle Peter, is a general power possessed by all of God's people--then or now. Peter did not upbraid the believers, the "saints," saying, Why did you not heal Dorcas, when sick, or revive her, when she died? Even Peter himself healed comparatively few; probably there were plenty of palsied and blind and otherwise sick in the valley of Sharon; surely, there were multitudes of dead. But every evidence proves that these powers were special and for a special purpose--to introduce the Gospel to the attention of the people, and not for the purpose of dispelling sickness and death, either in or out of the Church. On the contrary, the Apostles taught that this age is the time in which the faithful are to suffer, if, by and by, they would reign with Christ: to rejoice in tribulations, knowing that these, rightly endured and enjoyed, will work out for the faithful a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, in the Kingdom.
The name Tabitha signifies Gazelle; "called Dorcas by the Greeks on account of its bright, flashing
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eyes." Whether or not this name was appropriate, whether Dorcas was a graceful, bright and beautiful woman, we cannot know; but it evidently fitted her well as a noble Christian woman. Nay, her face must have beamed and her eyes must have sparkled; for she had a warm, generous spirit, as testified by her sympathetic and energetic helpfulness of others. O that the spirit of loving self-sacrifice for others might more and more abound in God's people, male and female! O that more might be able to surround the coffins of true Christians and testify to evidences of loving service --earthly food or clothing or, better still, spiritual food and robes of Christ's righteousness or, still better, if possible,--both.
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL:--Yours of Feb. 15, explaining `Isaiah 40:3`, etc., was received. Many thanks for your help to me. May the Lord richly reward you! The truth grows brighter and brighter every day, and though there is much darkness most everywhere, yet the glorious truth of Jehovah's love as revealed to us through Jesus Christ doth illuminate my heart, and cause me to rejoice, yea, even more and more, so that my delight is to do God's will at any cost.
I desire the prayers of the saints; and I want to keep so meek and humble, that any lesson which I need to learn may be quickly understood; for, above all things else, my heart's desire is to learn and to do the will of our kind heavenly Father, who doeth all things well.
My prayers continually ascend to God for your blessing--that you may be blessed yet more and more in the giving out of truths both "new and old." O! what blessings are already ours: reconciled to God, accepted in the Beloved, given exceeding great and precious promises, and sealed in our foreheads with the truth--the present truth, the wonderful plan of redemption, and the knowledge of our Lord's presence. Surely, it is a joy to know these things; and I pray that I may be loyal and faithful as a true follower of our blessed Master.
I am glad to say that we have found a few who are much interested in the truth, so far as learned, and it appears that they are wheat, or else will become such, as soon as they know what the Lord requires of them. I will not trouble you for an answer to this, as your time is very valuable. Again I thank you for your brotherly kindness; and we both send Christian greeting and love to you and all the brethren and sisters at Allegheny. May the Lord bless Sister Russell also.
Your brother in Christ, JAS. MCFARLAND.
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL:--We are still striving daily to make our calling and election sure; and we can do this only by God's grace. Praise him for his great grace manifested in Christ Jesus our Lord!
Our meetings during last Summer were hindered somewhat by not having a convenient place for them, but we have held a few meetings out of town, and we trust some good may have been done. We have commenced our meetings again here. At one time we spoke on the subject, "What manner of persons ought we to be." (`1 Pet. 3:11`.) We realize more and more that it is not safe to neglect the assembling of ourselves together, but to be more diligent in this matter as we see the day approaching. We find that we need each other's prayers, encouragement and help; especially in the present hard times the cares of life bear down heavily upon some of us; and the enemy takes every advantage. In reading again the chapter on the "Times of the Gentiles," in DAWN, Vol. II., I have been more forcibly struck than ever with the thought of the shortness of the time. And while I am led to rejoice that the struggle will soon be over, I am also led to renewed energy in the use of all my consecrated powers in the blessed Master's service. God help us to be faithful to the end!
The TOWER continues to be a great help. Each number seems better than the one preceding it. Please send me a few dozen tracts for free distribution. I send greetings on behalf of the Church here.
Yours in the Lord, JOHN N. LATHWELL.
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL:--Brother Florey (colporteur) thought I ought to write to you and let you know how great a blessing to me has been your MILLENNIAL DAWN series. I published in a recent number of my paper a favorable review of the first volume, a copy of which paper Brother F. sent you. Since then I have read the second and third volumes, and have given the first two as close a study as my duties will permit. I am already quite satisfied that you have the exact key to the "Plan of the Ages," and the more I study the subject with the aid of that key, the stronger and more completely satisfying the evidence becomes. The second volume I regard as a complete mathematical demonstration of the time features of the Plan.
Having had, in my student days, a special delight in Thomas Dick's works on Astronomy, I am prepared to say that I can surely discern in the complex yet beautiful harmony of the divine plan in reference to man the same Architect who adjusted the motions of the planets in their orbits and made the starry systems of the "heavens declare his handiwork."
The Colporteur found me in the ripest condition possible to accept and appreciate the truth which is now "due" to be revealed. I had considered and rejected, one by one, all the creeds and theories of the churches and the scientists as wholly speculative and unsatisfying. I could see abundant evidence of an all-wise God in everything but the affairs of men. There all the harmony of creation was reduced to "confusion worse confounded." My observations as an editor revealed to me an irrepressible conflict between the contending elements of society which threaten the near destruction of the whole existing order of things. That selfish and shortsighted man is incapable of controlling the destructive forces, or of properly distributing the
blessings which modern invention has called into existence, has been long so clear to my mind that, without the intervention of a higher power, I could see no possible escape from utter collapse. What to expect beyond, I knew not.
At this critical point of my threatened descent into pessimism your MILLENNIAL DAWN series turned a flood of blessed light upon my benighted mind. It has given me a new and glorious lease of enthusiasm, where every hope for myself and the world had been abandoned to despair. My only regret is that I cannot yet see my way clear to reconciling my duties as editor of a local paper, and in the support of my family, to any active work in this new field of the "harvest." I trust, however, that, with divine assistance, I may.
In my earlier days, before the cares of the world dragged me from my first love, I found peace in the Master, and had an era of joyous meditation on his promises. Whether, since my backslidden state, I may yet be counted worthy of the high calling is not now clear to my mind, though the facility with which I have been led to see the truth when properly presented, and the boundless desire I feel of witnessing its fulfilment, I am thankful to construe as a favorable indication. With a lively hope and faith in the continued success of your work, I am
Sincerely Yours, C__________
[Yes, dear Brother; the fact that the Lord has counted you worthy to see the light, coupled with the fact that you love it and are anxious to serve it, argues that your "backslidden state" was largely, if not wholly, the result of prevalent misrepresentations of the divine plan of the ages. Ah yes, our Lord's words, "Sanctify them through thy truth," is pertinent: sanctification through error and fear tends to backsliding. Ten thousand WATCH TOWER readers rejoice with you as they read your letter, and we join in prayer that, as you see the great privileges of service in the Lord's cause and the obstacles in the way, you may have grace and strength to overcome them and at last have an overcomer's reward.--`Rev. 2:7,11,17,26-28`; `3:5,12,21`.-- EDITOR.]
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL:--I will write a few lines to-day in answer to your kind letter which reached me at--almost three months ago. I am still rejoicing in the Lord and present truth, and am still "looking unto Jesus" who is the author and who will be the finisher of my faith,--if I submit fully to him, as it is my desire to do. Because of my poor success at colporteuring I have sometimes thought that the Master did not want me to serve in this way, but I now seem to see the matter in a different light. I think it is for my good that I am not more successful. It seems that the Lord would teach me a lesson of confidence and trust in him. If this be so, then I can rejoice in poor success; if it be part of the "fire" that is to try my faith, I can say, Amen. I desire the transforming work to go on to the end of my race, and want to submit cheerfully to whatever our wise Heavenly Father sees best for me, for--
"God knows--not I--the devious way
Wherein my faltering feet must tread,
Before into the light of day
My steps from out this gloom are lead.
And since my Lord the path doth see,
What matter, if 'tis hid from me."
I certainly would be glad if I could put out five thousand DAWNS a year, as I know that those who read them will be blessed thereby; but if I can put out only five hundred a year, it will still be a little mite for the Master, and it may cheer some weary pilgrim along the rugged way. I wish to continue in the work as long as possible, for this favorable time will evidently not last many years longer.
I was much pleased with the Tract Society's report. I felt a little solicitude for the Society, as money seemed so very scarce; but the Lord does surely provide, and we praise his name for the funds so graciously provided through Bro. Hay and others. I trust that the present year may be better for all lines of the work. It seems impossible for me to realize the great importance of the work as I would like to do. And I feel that I need above all things more burning zeal and love. Oh! how I long for such zeal, devotion and love as characterized so many of the Lord's dear saints all the way down the Church's history to the present time. And I know that there are some to day just as zealous as the Apostle Paul.
May the Lord bless you abundantly in the great work that he has committed to you, is my earnest prayer. I trust that 1897 may be a grand year for the spread of the truth, and for the upbuilding of the prospective members of the Christ.
With Christian love to you and Sister Russell and the Church at Allegheny, R. H. BRICKER.
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL:--It gives me much pleasure to report an increasing interest in the truth and in opportunities of telling the glad tidings. We have now four Bible classes in friends' houses, one every week, one every fortnight, and two once a month. Beside this, a small mission hall work is becoming a general centre for the saints of like precious faith to meet together on Sundays--morning and evening. Bro. Ashton, one who has been abundantly honored by the Lord, was the beginner of it.
This dear Brother is a remarkable man: converted from Romanism at Oakfield Mission shortly before your visit there. He has made astonishing progress in the truth and has been a constant witness in that place. Last month he had given him an opportunity of speaking upon the second parousia [presence] of our Lord, in the Mission, and he spoke freely--on two occasions. His testimony, however, was not received nor in any way supported.
How careful we all should be to hold fast the faith once delivered to the saints, and, being established, to "walk by the same rule." Would like a supply of tract No. 1, when convenient to send them. With good wishes for a bright and successful New Year in the Lord's work, to Sister Russell and yourself, in which my wife joins,
Yours in the Master's service, JAMES HAY.