VOL. XVIII. SEPTEMBER 1, 1897. No. 17.
Divine Secrets Revealed..........................255
"He Will Show Them His
"He is Faithful Who Hath
The Book of the Covenant.....................259
Lending to the Lord..............................260
Poem: Scatter Seeds of Kindness..................263
Living the New Life..............................263
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ALL ABOUT HELL.
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DIVINE SECRETS REVEALED.
"The Secret of the Lord is with them that fear him; and he will show them his Covenant."--`Psa. 25:14`.
IS THERE any secret in connection with the divine plan? Are not all of God's arrangements so plain that "a wayfaring man, tho unlearned, need not err therein?" Are not all of the steps of the plan of salvation so simple that even a child may understand them?
Oh no! very evidently not; for everywhere we find the utmost diversity of opinion respecting the divine plan. Not only is there a great variety of heathen theories utterly false, but the various theories which obtain amongst Christian people are in violent antagonism the one to the other. Even amongst the worldly-wise of Christendom how various are the conceptions of God's intention and method respecting his creatures? These differences are represented in the various theologies of all the various sects. His plan is claimed to be one of "Free Grace" in which he gives an equal opportunity to all his creatures to share; yet, looking about us we see most evidently that all are not alike privileged, not alike informed and not alike circumstanced. On the other hand, there is the claim of an "Election" which denies that grace is free to all, and holds that it is restricted to the favored few. Besides these, we have various other conflicting theories in Christendom, and the most obtuse thinker must admit that where so many theologians, college professors and doctors of divinity are in dispute, the unlearned "wayfaring man" has many chances to err in his endeavor to grasp the divine plan.
Observation therefore sustains, as most literally true, the statement of our text that the Lord's plan is a secret: and it is in agreement with the statement of other Scriptures respecting the "mystery of God," "hidden from past ages and dispensations." In harmony with this is the fact that all the prophets have spoken more or less obscurely and in parables, not excepting the Great Prophet, our Lord Jesus, of whom it is written, that "he taught the people in parables and dark sayings"--"and without a parable spake he not unto the people." He promised, nevertheless, that in due time the holy spirit would be granted as a guide and instructor to his true disciples: "He will guide you into all truth" and "show you things to come." (`Jno. 16:13`.) Some of the mysteries of God were due to be understood at once, and some more gradually down through the age, but the great unfolding of the divine mystery we are expressly told was reserved until the close of the Gospel age, when "the mystery of God should be finished," which he hath kept secret from the foundation of the world.--`Rev. 10:7`.
Even so much of the divine plan as was due to be revealed by the spirit and to be understood step by step during this Gospel age, was intended only for a special class, and not for the world in general. The Apostle Paul emphasized this when he declared, "The natural man receiveth not the things of the spirit of God, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." "But God hath revealed them unto us by his spirit; for the spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep [hidden, obscure] things of God." --`1 Cor. 2:14,10`.
This same thought is before us in our text, "The Secret of the Lord is with them that fear him." As this has been true all the way down throughout this age, it is still true, and the finishing of "the mystery of God" in the close of this Gospel age must therefore
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be expected to be understood and appreciated only by this special class of the Lord's people,--those who fear or reverence him. We are to make a distinction between those who fear or reverence the Lord and those who fear or reverence man and the work of man, sectarian systems, creeds, etc. "The fear of man [and of man's churches] bringeth a snare," and hinders growth both in grace and in knowledge;--hinders an appreciation of the "Secret of the Lord." "But the fear [reverence] of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom," and this wisdom, if continued, leads to fuller knowledge of God, to greater confidence in him, and to that degree of intimate friendship and sonship which is the key to the understanding of the "Secret of the Lord."
Abraham was called the "friend of God;" because he had the divine confidence, so that God made known to him certain things that he did not make known to others: "The Secret of the Lord" was with Abraham, so far as that Secret could be communicated to any one at that time. For instance, in the matter of the destruction of Sodom, the Lord said, "Shall I hide from Abraham [my friend] that thing which I do?" And it was because Abraham was the friend of God that he also made known to him something of the divine plan for human salvation: as the Apostle declares, God "preached beforehand the gospel to Abraham, saying: 'In thee shall all the nations be blessed.'"--`Gal. 3:8`.
While it was not possible for Abraham or any one else than God to fully comprehend this statement, or to understand therefrom the lengths and the breadths of the divine plan of salvation, yet it contained the whole gospel, in the same sense that an acorn contains a great oak tree. So likewise our Lord at the first advent spoke in parables to the nominal house of Israel, that "Seeing they might see and not believe, and hearing they might hear and not understand;" yet, a certain few, full of faith and obedience and consecration to the Lord, were not thus treated; but, on the contrary, were treated as "friends" and had much explained to them. Thus our Lord said to the disciples when they inquired concerning the significance of a parable, "To you it is given to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of God; but to them that are without, these things are spoken in parables." And again he said to the same devoted disciples, I have not called you servants, for the servant knoweth not what his Lord doeth; but I have called you friends, because whatsoever I hear of the Father I have made known unto you.--`John 15:15`.
This "mystery" of the divine plan, hidden in parables, in figures, and in symbols from the world, and from the nominal Christian,--hidden from all except the fully consecrated children of God--is most beautifully symbolized in the Book of Revelation. As therein recounted, John was shown in a vision a symbolic panorama, illustrative of the subject. The heavenly glories were symbolized and the Father shown seated upon the throne of his glory, holding in his right hand a scroll sealed with seven seals. This was the Mystery, the Secret of the Lord, unknown to any one but himself--his plan for the salvation of the world. John in the symbol hears the proclamation, "Who is worthy to open the Book and to loose the seals?"-- who is worthy to have committed to his care, the execution of the great divine plan, wonderful for its wisdom and love, and its lengths and breadths and depths and heights past human comprehension--that he may open it and execute it? A silence followed; and John fearing that this signified that none would be found worthy, and that hence the divine plan would never be fully revealed, and therefore could not be fully executed, wept much. But in the symbol the angel again touched him and said, "Weep not! for the Lion of the tribe of Judah,' the 'Root of David,' hath prevailed to open the Book, and to loose the seven seals thereon."
Ah yes! this was one significance of the severe trials and sufferings of our dear Redeemer;--in humbling himself, leaving the glory with the Father, becoming a man and ultimately giving his life a ransom for all, he was doing two works: not only (1) redeeming us with his own precious blood, but (2) additionally by this obedience he was commending himself to the Father, and proving himself worthy to be the Father's agent and representative in carrying out all the great "mystery of God" hidden from previous ages and dispensations. --`Eph. 3:3-5`.
The interim of thirty odd years, in which our Lord's humiliation and subsequent exaltation took place, is all passed over in the vision, and the symbol merely shows in the midst of the throne "a lamb, as it had been slain:" how forceful the illustration to those whose eyes are anointed that they may discern its meaning. And now the symbolical panorama proceeds, and shows us the Lamb approaching Jehovah and receiving from him "the mystery of his will," the great plan of the ages, as mapped out in the divine purpose from before the foundation of the world. As soon as the "mystery of God" was committed to "the Lamb of God;" who had already fulfilled an important part of that plan by redeeming the world with his own precious blood, he
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receives homage, as it is written: "Him hath God highly exalted, and given him a name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow of things in heaven and things on earth," and "that all men should honor the Son even as they honor the Father."
Then came the opening of the seals: the disclosing of one after another of the various features connected
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with the divine purpose. Each seal as it was loosed permitted the scroll as a whole to open a little wider, and a little wider, thus permitting "the mystery of God" to be a little more clearly discerned. And so God's people down through this Gospel age have been privileged to know something of the "Secret of the Lord;"--the divine plan. But not until the last seal was broken, did the scroll fly wide open, permitting the "Mystery of God" to be fully disclosed; as it is written: "In the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the Mystery of God should be finished, as he hath declared to his servants the prophets."--`Rev. 5:1`; `10:7`.
This same thought, that God's consecrated people will have intelligence respecting his plans far different from any the world will have, is everywhere kept prominently before us in the Scriptures, and must therefore be considered a very important indication with all who profess to be God's people;--distinguishing whether they are merely his "servants," or whether they are still more intimately connected and have received the spirit of adoption as serving "sons," and are being treated as sons;--made acquainted with the Heavenly Father's plan.
Our text speaks merely of the fear (reverence) of the Lord, but, as we have seen, this reverence continued leads into the very deepest work of grace obtainable; --to a fullness of consecration to the Father's will and service. It is of this class who fear (reverence) the Lord that we read,--"They that feared the Lord spake often one to another, and the Lord hearkened and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared [reverenced] the Lord, and that thought upon his word [esteeming his Name, his Honor, his Will above any earthly, sectarian name or work]. And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them [they "shall be accounted worthy to escape" the severity of the great time of trouble with which this age shall end], as a man spareth his own son that serveth him." These who reverence the Lord, in this full and Scriptural sense, are surely the Lord's "elect," "the body of Christ," the "overcomers," the "little flock," the "royal priesthood," who shall reign with Christ, and with him bless all the families of the earth in due time.
The privilege of this "royal priesthood" to know "the Secret of the Lord," to comprehend "the deep things of God" hidden from others, was beautifully symbolized and typified in the privileges of the Jewish priesthood. When the Tabernacle was set up, with its beautiful golden furniture, lamp stand, table of shew bread, golden altar, etc., all symbolizing spiritual things, they were covered over, hidden, not only from the ordinary Israelite, but even from the Levitical "servants" of the Tabernacle, who were not even permitted to look therein. The privilege of seeing those typical secret things, reserved exclusively for the priests, thus typified "the royal priesthood" and their exclusive privilege of understanding the mysteries of God, his Secret.
"HE WILL SHOW THEM HIS COVENANT."
But our text adds, "He will show them his covenant." This is stated as tho it were a very important matter to see or clearly understand God's Covenant: and it is an important matter, for God's Covenant is really the key to the entire divine plan. What God promised to Abraham in the Covenant, "In thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed," included directly and indirectly all the riches of divine grace. Yet, how few see this. We do not say how few of the world see this, for we should not expect any appreciation of the divine Covenant on the part of "them that are without." But we say, How few of those who have named the name of Christ, and nominally stand related to spiritual Israel--how few of these know or care anything whatever about the divine Covenant.
Alas, that Satan should so grossly blind the eyes of so many, that they should have no interest in the divine Covenant and not even know that there is a divine Secret or Mystery! Satan has gotten them thoroughly imbued with the delusion that God's plan is, --that every poor human creature born in sin, shapen in iniquity and schooled more or less in vice and superstition, shall have a few years of very imperfect opportunity to hear one or the other of the many conflicting creeds and theories of Christendom (or a jargon of them all), to thoroughly reform his life and become a copy of God's dear Son; and that if he does not succeed in doing these things, with the thousand chances to one against him, he shall be relegated to an eternity of torture. Alas! we say, that Christians should ever conclude that this is the plan of God. Truly, it was an enemy of God (Satan) who put before the people so monstrous, so God-dishonoring a doctrine as this: and persuaded them that this is the length and the breadth, the height and the depth of divine wisdom, and love, and provision for poor fallen humanity.
But with our eyes anointed, and our hearts fully consecrated to the Lord and fully desirous to know just what is his will and his way, we look at the Great Covenant, and behold, it opens gloriously before us into three parts: (1) All the families of the earth--every member of the human family is to receive a blessing. (2) The Seed of Abraham is to be the channel of these divine blessing to every creature. (3) This Seed in
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its primary sense we find meant our Lord Jesus Christ; but in its secondary sense it includes the "bride the lamb's wife," his jointheir in this Covenant and in all of the divine mercies. This is clearly set before us by the Apostle in his letter to the `Galatians.--3:16,29`.
With this thought in view we realize at once that none of the spiritual blessings of this Covenant were possible until Christ Jesus, the Head of the Seed had finished his course and been glorified; and we see that the Lord's work since that time has been the gathering of the "elect" Church to be the "bride," the "body of Christ." We see also that the work of blessing cannot begin in its proper sense until this entire "Seed" is complete and glorified: and that with this glorification of the Church with her Lord, in the end or "harvest" of this Gospel age, will come the time mentioned by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the `Romans (8:18,23`), when the "groaning creation" shall be blessed by the "manifestation of the sons of God," in the glory of the Kingdom. This spiritual Seed of Abraham (Christ and the elect Church) has indeed been the salt of the earth, throughout the Gospel age, and has helped to preserve the world from utter deterioration; but this is but a small part of the great blessing which God designs to send through the Church to the world. The "light" of truth as it has been dimly shining during this night, is properly compared to a candle or lamp, but the "light" of the Church glorified in the Kingdom during the Millennium is properly represented as "the Sun of righteousness, which shall arise with healing in its beams."
The Covenant then shows us our privilege of the present time, of becoming "heirs of God and jointheirs with Jesus Christ our Lord, if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together." And it shows us the object of this trial, the object of this election, the object of the glorification of the Church, to be a work of mercy, blessing, helpfulness, toward the remainder of mankind. The Covenant is broad: it does not promise, merely, that all the families of the earth who will be so fortunate as to be living at the time when the Seed is complete will receive a blessing; neither does it merely say that all the families proceeding from Abraham, dead and living, will receive a blessing; but comprehensively it promises a blessing to "all the families of the earth,"--those who have fallen asleep in death as well as those who will be alive at the time of the establishment of Christ's Kingdom.
To this end our Lord Jesus became Master or "Lord of the dead:" he bought all with his own precious blood: "He is the propitiation for our sins [the Church's sins] and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." And as we have received a blessing as the result of his ransom, so in God's due time "all the families of the earth" will also receive a blessing because of the ransom. It is from this standpoint that the Church is called the "first fruits unto God of his creatures,"--not the entire harvest. The first-fruits are to be used of the Lord as his instruments for blessing the remainder.
And in the coming blessing, to the families of the earth, the natural seed of Abraham are to be given a place or preference, a priority over others;--"To the Jew first." As the spiritual blessings were offered to them first, so the earthly favors are to be offered to them first. They shall obtain mercy "through your [the Church's] mercy." (`Rom. 11:31`.) And after Israel shall have obtained mercy, a blessing through the glorified Spiritual Israel, then in turn natural Israel shall let the light shine upon others--"all the families of the earth;" until in due time the promise shall be fulfilled that Christ as the true light shall enlighten "every man that cometh into the world." (`Jno. 1:9`.) Oh glorious covenant! luminous with divine Love and Wisdom.--`Rom. 11:33`.
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THE COVENANT SURE AND EVERLASTING.
And is this Covenant sure? It is sure; as the great Apostle points out, God took special care to so state this Covenant repeatedly to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and to repeat it through the prophets; thus giving us most absolutely his word on this subject. But lest this should not be thought conclusive enough on a subject of so great importance, lest some should fear that there might be a contingency involved, by which that covenant might be vitiated, the Apostle points out that God not only gave his word but also his oath, that its engagements should be strictly fulfilled and in no wise miscarry. He says,--
"God, willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: which hope we have as an anchor to the soul."--`Heb. 6:13-19`.
"HE IS FAITHFUL WHO HATH PROMISED."
Those who have the "Secret of the Lord," and to whom he has not shown the significance of his Covenant should forthwith examine themselves, to see whether or not the fault be unfaithfulness on God's part or failure on their part to come up to God's conditions. They should strictly inquire within whether or not they have been sufficiently and properly reverencing God, or whether their reverence and worship has to any degree been to man and to human institutions, churches, etc.--whether they ever became "servants"
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of God and, if so, whether they progressed and became servant sons.
And those to whom the Lord has disclosed his Secret, and the significance of his Covenant, should see to it that these divine favors lead their hearts to still greater reverence for the Lord. For we may be assured that if the reverence is lost the Secret will slip from us, and the Covenant become more and more dim. And here we perceive God has placed a great test: He has permitted the great adversary to malign his character, and to traduce his plan, and to misrepresent the teachings of his Word to such an extent that the majority of those who name the name of Christ are at first influenced to turn to the Lord chiefly from fear of eternal torment. Their activities in mission work and in their general Christian course are actuated chiefly by fear and sympathy--sympathy for those whom they esteem to be in danger of eternal torture at the hands of a loveless and unjust God, and fear for themselves, lest they should not be spared a similar fate. Love to God finds no room under such conditions. In fact, it would be impossible for any one to truly love a God of such merciless character. But, amongst those who outgrow their creeds and fears are some who, in opposition to their false instructions, learn to think better of their Creator, and by faith grasp sufficient from his Word to beget a love for him which produces a fullness of consecration to his service; and thus they become sons of God: and then, by entering into divine fellowship through Christ, these have committed to them the "Secret of the Lord" and are shown something of his Covenant.
This fullness, however, does not come all at once; it is a gradual development, step by step. If the truth is rightly received it leads onward into more of the truth, and into more of its grace; but if wrongly received, it may lead outward, away from the Lord and his Word, away from his Secret, away from his grace, into utter darkness with the world. Nor is it infrequently the case that those who lose their abnormal fears lose practically all their reverence for the Lord, and become careless with reference to his Word, and with reference to their conduct. Such "receive the grace of God in vain;" in some respects, indeed, it does them injury, instead of bringing them blessings.
In our fallen condition we need some strong impellent motive, to enable us to live righteously, soberly, godly in this present evil world. And if the abnormal fear and superstitious dread be removed before a love for God, for righteousness and for truth has been implanted, the probabilities are that the knowledge of God's grace in such will fall upon stony ground. But where the spirit of the Lord has been implanted, where the spirit of the truth, the holy spirit of Love, has begotten to newness of life, where love to the Lord and appreciation of his goodness is the ruling and controlling element of life, there the increase of knowledge of the divine Secret and Covenant will bring increasing blessings of heart, of mind and of daily life. (Compare `Isa. 29:13`; `1 John 4:18`.) It was for this that the Apostle prayed for the early Church, saying,--"That ye might be able to comprehend with all saints [the Secret of the Lord] the lengths and the breadths, the heights and depths of the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God."--`Eph. 3:17-19`.
THE BOOK OF THE COVENANT.
As we have just seen, the divine blessings are all hidden in the Abrahamic Covenant,--to which were added because of sin the Mosaic (typical) Covenant and its antitype the Covenant in Christ, the New Covenant sealed with his blood.
The Bible is the great Book of these Covenants. And it like every other feature is considerably hidden, obscured, to the natural man; and its deeper and grander presentations can be seen only through the vail of types and shadows, parables and symbols. And the privilege to look beyond this vail, and to grasp the spirit of the truth, is reserved in large degree for the class mentioned in our text foregoing:--"The Secret of the Lord is with them that reverence him, and he will show them his Covenant."
To this class--them that fear the Lord and have his Secret and know his Covenant--the Bible becomes a Chart of the Ages, which shows not only the coast lines and rocks and sand bars of the six thousand years of evil, but also the blessed port then to be reached, and the glorious land of blessing and righteousness and divine favor--the thousand years of Christ's Millennial reign.
To this same class the Bible is a Compass also, which, in connection with the Chart, indicates to them the divinely directed route, by which they are to escape certain troubles coming upon the world, and by which they are to obtain certain trials and experiences which will be valuable to them in fitting and preparing them to be jointheirs with Christ in the Kingdom. Without this Compass they might indeed be able to judge in clear weather of some portions of the route, but never satisfactorily: and in times of storm and darkness, sun, moon and stars obscured, these, like the world, would be left to the mercy of their own imperfect judgments as to which way to steer, and would feel all the trepidation and uncertainty which so many others feel, were it not for their Compass. But the Compass can be seen, and its directions followed, however dark or obscure the natural light; and following its directions the
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Lord's people are to attain unto their high calling-- make their calling and election sure.
The Lord's Word, in the hands of this same class, may be compared to a Telescope, whose properly adjusted lenses represent the bringing into harmony of the human will with the divine will, in Christ. Careful adjustment is required that we may get a proper focus; but when this condition is obtained, wonderful things through the Bible we see. The far off and indistinct promises are brought nigh, made clear and plain. Hitherto unseen features of the divine character and plan are made manifest; and by the aid of this Telescope the lengths and breadths, the heights and the depths of divine Wisdom and Love and Power may be much more closely approximated by our finite minds.
To this same class the Bible is also a Microscope. The proper adjustment of its lenses--the complete consecration of the human will to the divine--brings to bear upon all the little affairs of life a power which magnifies them, and shows us their importance as never seen by us before, and as cannot be seen by the world in general. Through the Bible as a Microscope, we can see that all the trifling affairs of the present life are potentialities, which, under divine direction, are working together for good to "the called ones according to his purpose." It magnifies the Law of God, shows us how grand, how sublimely perfect and altogether reasonable, is every requirement of God. It shows us that the weaknesses and imperfections which hinder us from measuring up to the standard of that perfect Law are inherited from father Adam. It shows us that the blemish of sin has affected not only our physical systems, but also our mental and moral faculties; and thus it points out to us that our own reasoning on every subject requires to be re-adjusted and harmonized with the spirit of the divine Law; and thus it enables us by such mental and moral adjustment to obtain what the Apostle calls "the spirit of a sound mind." It not only shows us what we could not see before of our own shortcomings, but graciously it indicates also how after coming into Christ and being covered with his robe of righteousness by faith, we may to some extent make up for these deficiencies by adding to our faith fortitude, and to fortitude knowledge, and to knowledge self-control, and to self-control patience, and to patience piety, and to piety brotherly-kindness, and to brotherly-kindness Love, which things, as they more and more abound, will incite us to cultivate fruitfulness, in the use of the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. --`2 Pet. 1:5-8`.
In view of the blessings attached let us strive more and more to retain and to cultivate that true reverence for the Lord, which is not only the beginning of wisdom but also its end; that through it we may have the
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benefit and helpful assistance of all the gracious provisions which God has made for the progress of those who love him, in knowledge and in character; that in due time, if we faint not, we may inherit the promises and share the glories of our Father and our Lord.
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LENDING TO THE LORD.
--SEPTEMBER 5.--`2 COR. 9:1-11`.--
"For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, tho he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that we through his poverty might be rich."--`2 Cor. 8:9`.
OUR lesson inculcates Christian benevolence-- alms giving. It is addressed to the Corinthian Christians and is on behalf of Christians in and about Jerusalem. A question arises why collections should be made for the Christians at Jerusalem more than for the Christians at Corinth. There were three reasons: (1) A severe famine had prevailed in the vicinity of Jerusalem. (2) Jerusalem was not a commercial city, and therefore money was less plentiful. (3) It would appear that the classes who received the gospel in and about Jerusalem were chiefly the poor, and we can readily judge from the open persecutions of the truth there that there was also a great deal of quiet opposition to all who sympathized with the gospel of Christ. As small shop people they were probably boycotted; and as laborers they probably were as far as possible rejected except as necessity might demand their services. On the contrary, the cities of Greece, Macedonia and Asia-Minor were prosperous; and as far as we may judge the class of society which accepted the gospel was in many cases the better element.
This was indicated in our last lesson by the statement that the "chiefs of Asia" dissuaded Paul from going before the people at the colosseum. These chiefs of Asia were generally quite wealthy and prominent men. We remember also in the same lesson the fact that the books of magic, which were burned after the owners had accepted Christ, represented a very large amount of money. Probably, therefore, their owners were correspondingly wealthy. We remember also the favorable decision of the town clerk at Ephesus; and the fact that Tyranus was so in sympathy with the Apostle's teaching as to permit the use of his schoolroom. We recall the conversion of Serges Paulus, the deputy governor, at Paphos; also Dionysius, one of the professors in Mars Hill college at Athens; and Damaris
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of the same city; and Justus of Corinth; and Crispus, chief ruler of the synagogue in the same city.
The question naturally arises, Why should the same gospel attract the well-to-do and middle classes in Greece and Asia-Minor and Thessalonica, and attract few outside the poorer class at Jerusalem? The answer would seem to be (1) that among the Jews who had long been acquainted with the true God, the true religion and the gracious promises of the Messiah, a religious pride had developed, especially amongst the wealthy and the learned. And because their religious system was in advance of every other religious system in the world, the learned attributed a like superiority to themselves individually--they "trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others."
This was the secret of Israel's being "blinded" to the gospel. The leaders and theologians were so self-conscious, and relied so implicitly upon their interpretations of the divine promises as centering in themselves, that they could not regard the humble Nazarene and his unlearned followers except as impostors. And when, later, the gospel began to be preached to the Gentiles their opposition was increased; for it was utterly contrary to every thought of their religious pride that God would accept either the humble Jews or the Gentiles to his favor, and reject themselves, the leading representatives of his cause and work.
But amongst the Gentiles the case was very different: while the illiterate masses were firmly bound in the superstition of their various religions, those who were of an honest mind among the better educated were quick to discern that many of the features of their own religions were superstitions merely. They had probably, previously, been somewhat attracted to the Jewish religion as being much more reasonable than their own, as we find that the Gentiles readily resorted to the Jewish synagogues; but the Jewish religion would necessarily be unsatisfactory to them since it would appear to be very narrow, limiting the divine blessings in a special manner to Israelites--a people whom they considered rather inferiors in the arts at that time. But, the gospel, throwing wide open the door to those who desired righteousness, truth and goodness, of every nation, people, kindred and tongue, would naturally commend itself to the class we describe as being the most reasonable explanation of the Jewish doctrines and their grand eventual outcome, and long hidden meaning.
At all events, the saints at Jerusalem were poorer than were the saints in Corinth. It was therefore appropriate that the Apostle should suggest to the latter the propriety of sending a gift to the former. Living at a time when the conveniences for transferring money were very inferior to the very poorest known to-day, the only possible method seemed to be that the various congregations should send their gifts at the hand of the Apostle when he would go to Jerusalem the following year. And Paul's words intimate that the suggestion made by him nearly a year before, to the Corinthian brethren, had been well received, and the collections zealously entered upon. For this reason it was "superfluous" for him to write in this connection particulars respecting the necessity for and propriety of this collection; but he hints to them that there was a bare possibility that the work zealously begun a year before might not have been patiently carried out, and that after he had boasted somewhat to others of their love and zeal for the Lord, he would regret if coming to them, enroute to Jerusalem, it should be found that after all they had failed to have their donation ready.
In his previous epistle to the Corinthians he had suggested methodical charity, saying, "Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given instructions to the Churches at Galatia, even so do ye. On the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God has prospered him, that there be no gathering when I come."
It was the Apostle's experience, as it is the experience of all thoughtful people, that systematic charity is better than spasmodic charity: not only is the result generally larger, but the influence upon the giver is more beneficial: it keeps an object before the mind, a service to be rendered as unto the Lord. And with many the opportunity for serving the Lord's cause with money is almost the only opportunity for service. Of course, where a consecrated child of God can do so it is far better that he should give to the saints after the manner of Paul and his traveling associates--giving spiritual gifts and blessings, either by public preaching, or by house to house visiting: presenting the truth either by the printed page or by tongue or both.
But there are others so circumstanced in life through lack of talent, or strength, or opportunity (hindered by prior mortgages upon their time--family obligations) that practically their only chance for serving the Lord and manifesting their love for him is through their gifts to his cause and to his people. For such to be deprived of the opportunity of exercising themselves in the Lord's service in this manner either through a lack of a cause needing their assistance, or through lack of instruction respecting this method of divine service, would be to deprive them of an important opportunity of service, and correspondingly to deprive them of the blessings which always follow every service to the Lord, whatever its character.
We notice, therefore, that the Apostle felt very free to recommend to the Church the grace of giving and to even press upon them the fact that their liberality
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in proportion to their ability, would in a large degree be an index of their love for the Lord and the gospel. But, here we note in contrast, that the same Apostle did not ask alms of these believers when first they received the Lord's grace; lest they should in any manner get the impression that the gospel was being preached from mercenary motives--for lucre's sake. Accordingly, we find that rather than mention money the Apostle preached to these very same Corinthian brethren for more than a year without a suggestion as to remuneration; laboring with his own hands at his trade of tent-making, rather than be chargeable to any. He reminds them of this later on in this same epistle. --`2 Cor. 11:7-9`.
Let us note also the change which the full appreciation of the gospel wrought upon the believers at Corinth. At first they were so negligent of their privilege that seemingly they never thought of volunteering financial assistance to the Apostle while he was serving them by the labor of his own hands, and receiving some assistance from believers in other places. But, after the grace of God entered more fully into their hearts and they began to appreciate the value of the truth which they had received,--that it had brought them priceless blessings of hope and joy and faith and
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character--they had a zeal, a "forwardness" to do something financially in the Lord's service. And now that the Apostle was absent from them, and after his course had proved to them that he sought not their money but themselves, to do them good; he felt free to draw their attention to the great blessing that would come from liberality in the Lord's cause in proportion to their ability and love.
Urging this matter he gave them a parable, saying, "He that soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he that soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully." And this reminds us of the proverb, "There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is proper, but it tendeth to poverty. The liberal soul shall be made fat: and he that watereth shall be watered also himself." (`Prov. 11:24,25`.) The evident lesson is that the Lord is pleased to see his people cultivate breadth of heart as well as breadth of mind;--generosity in proportion to their knowledge of him and his generosity.
The Scriptures nowhere declare that cases of absolute privation amongst the Lord's people are proofs that at some time in their past lives when possessed of means they failed to use a portion of it in charity, in the Lord's service; but the inspired words above quoted come very close to giving this lesson. At all events, it is profitable that we lay this testimony to heart and that each child of God henceforth shall be earnestly careful that out of the blessings of the Lord coming to us all from day to day some measure be carefully, prayerfully and lovingly laid aside as seed to be sown in the Lord's service according to the best wisdom and judgment which he will give us. How many have that carefulness for themselves either in using every penny as fast as it comes, or in being so interested in laying by for the outworking of future plans, that they feel they can spare nothing for charity. How many such can afterward see that they made a great mistake, when their accumulations suddenly vanished, either by reason of sickness or accident or bank failure or what not; and how then they have good reason to regret that they sowed no "seed" after the manner described by the Apostle in the sixth verse of our lesson.
Our Lord showed us how he measures our gifts; that he esteems them not according to the amount given, but chiefly according to the spirit which prompts the gift, when he drew attention to the poor widow who cast in two mites into the Lord's treasury. Our Lord declared that from the standpoint of his estimation the poor widow had cast in a larger sum than any of the wealthy who had given merely out of their abundance, and not to such an extent that they felt it. How many of the Lord's people would be more "fat" spiritually to-day, if they would give attention to the exercise of this talent, this opportunity for service, we cannot say; the Lord only knows. But this lesson makes it incumbent upon us to point out a privilege in this direction which is within the reach of the very poorest.
Very seldom is it necessary to caution people against over-much giving; yet in some instances such caution is proper, and in some instances in Scripture giving has been restrained. No one should give to the extent of causing privation to those dependent upon him. Nor should any one give to such an extent as to bring upon him financial bankruptcy and cause losses to others. The apostolic rule for giving we have quoted above. The laying by should be in general, "according as the Lord hath prospered him." The degree of our prosperity should be the measure of our charities. "The spirit of a sound mind" is inculcated by the Scriptures, upon this as upon every subject.
"The Lord loveth a cheerful giver." And gifts in any other spirit than a cheerful one might just as well not be given: they will bring no blessing. The Lord does not appreciate such giving: it has no "sweet odor" in his estimation. The gift, to be appreciated of the Lord, must be a thank-offering, prompted by a realization of a debt of everlasting gratitude, to him from whom cometh every good and every perfect gift. And to such, the Apostle assures us, "God is able to make all things abound." All who give anything in the divine service, time, talent, strength, money or influence
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--any or all of these--will find themselves proportionately abounding in the different graces; because such are in the right attitude of heart to grow in grace.
But, the Apostle seems to imply further that such will have "sufficiency in all things" as well as be able to "abound in every good work." In thinking of sufficiency in any direction the condition of the mind must be taken into account. Sufficiency may not mean luxury and every comfort, but "all sufficiency" is gained always where there is "godliness with contentment." In proof that he is inculcating no new theory respecting the divine care over those who are seeking to scatter to others a portion of the blessings that come to them, temporal or spiritual, the Apostle quotes from the `Psalms.--112:9`.
When in the last verse the Apostle speaks of "being enriched in everything," we are not to understand him to mean that the Lord's people will all be enriched financially. The Apostle himself was an example of how the Lord's people do not become wealthy. He is speaking rather of the enrichment of the heart, as he says in another place, speaking of himself and co-laborers in the gospel work: We are "as poor, but making many rich;"--rich in hope, rich in faith, rich in love and all the various concomitant graces which these imply.
Our Golden Text reminds us of the grandest example of self-denial in the interest of others on record --the gift by our Lord Jesus of himself for the world. He was rich in the possession of the spiritual nature and its honors and glory, yet for our sakes he became poor, taking the human nature that he might redeem us; and to this end he surrendered even life itself at Calvary, that through his sacrifice we might become rich:--become possessed of divine favor, and the riches of divine grace in Christ; even jointheirship with him who is now our exalted Lord at the right hand of divine Majesty. But to attain this jointheirship with him, we must study to be like him, to have his spirit; and like him desirous of sharing whatever he may give us of either temporal or spiritual favors with others, particularly the "household of faith;"--either to feed or clothe it, spiritually or temporally, as circumstances may dictate. "The liberal soul shall be made fat."
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SCATTER SEEDS OF KINDNESS.
"Loving words will cost but little,
Journeying up the hill of life;
But they make the weak and weary
Stronger, braver for the strife.
Do you count them only trifles?
What to earth are sun and rain?
Never was a kind word wasted;
Never one was said in vain.
"When the cares of life are many,
And its burdens heavy grow
For the ones who walk beside you,
If you love them, tell them so.
What you count of little value
Has an almost magic power,
And beneath that cheering sunshine
Hearts will blossom like a flower.
"So as up life's hill we journey,
Let us scatter all the way
Kindly words, to be as sunshine
In the dark and cloudy day.
Grudge no loving word, my brother,
As along through life you go,
To the ones who journey with you;
If you love them, tell them so."
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LIVING THE NEW LIFE.
--SEPT. 12.--`ROM. 12:9-21`.--
"Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good."--`Rom. 12:21`.
WHILE the Apostle Paul was a wonderful logician, and in his writings has set forth the elements of Christian faith along doctrinal lines more than any other apostle, yet we notice that he is in pursuit of a certain object: he is not beating the air, not discussing theological points for the sake of making an argument or showing his own ability. His arguments along doctrinal lines lead the reader in every instance onward and upward, as a stairway, to a grand upper room of perfected Christian character: and nowhere is this more manifest than in his epistle to the Romans. Beginning with the distinctions between the Jew, informed respecting God, and to some extent respecting his will and his plan, and contrasting these with the general ignorance prevailing amongst all classes of Gentiles, "without God and having no hope in the world," he carries the mind forward, pointing out how the degradation had come, and how the knowledge of God had reached Israel first, not because Israelites were better, but because of the divine favor, "grace," "election."
He points out nevertheless that "the Law made nothing perfect," but was merely a pedagogue (a servant whose business it was to take children to school); thus the Law was to bring Israel to Christ, the great
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Teacher, that they might learn of him. He points out further that, while Israel was seeking divine favor, they failed to get the chief blessing because they were not thoroughly candid with themselves, and hence mistook the mission of Moses' Law. They hypocritically claimed that they kept that Law inviolate and were entitled to its blessings,--eternal life, etc.,--whereas they should have admitted that the Law was so grand and so perfect, and themselves so fallen from perfection, that they were unable to keep it; and they should have looked to the Lord for help. In this attitude of mind they would have been ready to receive eternal life as a gift, through Jesus Christ our Lord; and would have given up seeking it by the perfection of their own works. So the Apostle points out that Israel failed because they sought the blessing not by faith but by works. Thus "Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded." (`Rom. 11:7`.) He then points out that this fall of Israel into blindness and the calling of a peculiar people from among the Gentiles to complete the "elect" company was foreknown of God and declared by him through the prophets. (`Rom. 9` and `10`.) But he shows that Israel is not cast off forever, and that when the elect class is complete all Israel shall be saved from the
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blindness into which they stumbled in the rejection of Christ; and that their recovery then will be the signal for blessings upon the whole world. --`Rom. 11:15,25,32`.
It is after eleven chapters of argumentative, logical, beautiful, instructive, blessed reasoning that the Apostle reaches the crown of his argument, saying (`12:1`), "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God [presented in the previous eleven chapters] that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service." He is addressing the "elect" body of Christ, of which a part was being gathered from among the Jews and the remainder being made up from those called from among the Gentiles. These should know what are the terms and conditions upon which God hath "called" them; viz., (1) to suffer with Christ in this present time, and (2) to be glorified and reign with him in the coming age, to bless the world. These should know the reason for their sufferings and the character which God would develop in them, and without which they would not be "fit for the Kingdom." It is concerning some of these characteristics, necessary to those who would make their "calling and election sure," that our present lesson treats.
"Let love be without dissimulation." He had already explained the necessity for love; but he now puts us on guard against a merely feigned love, which would only outwardly appear kind and polite. The true spirit of love, a holy spirit, will not be a dissimulating one, a hypocritical one: the love will be genuine, heartfelt as well as mouth expressed. This love is to be toward God, and toward all in proportion as they are God-like, or striving to be so. It is to be a love of that which is good, right, pure, true.
"Abhor that which is evil." We are not merely to avoid doing that which is evil, not merely to have no love or affinity for evil; but more than these we are to hate, to abhor evil. And as the love for God and for all things true and pure and making for righteousness is to be cultivated, so the abhorrence of sin and impurity of every kind is to be cultivated, so that the stronger we become in Christian character the more intense will be our love for the good and pure and true, and the more intense will be our opposition to the untrue, the impure, the sinful. The more we learn of the beautiful harmonies of this heavenly grace of love, and the more they become the melodies of our own hearts, the more distressing and repugnant and abhorrent will sin and selfishness, "the spirit of the world," be to us: just as discords in music grate upon our ears in proportion as our knowledge and appreciation of musical harmonies grows. As holiness and sin are opposites, so our feelings toward these must be represented by the sentiments of love and hatred. To grow cool in love for righteousness, is to lose some of the abhorrence for sin. Let us therefore cultivate in ourselves hatred for sin, selfishness impurity and every evil way, that we may find it the easier to cultivate in our hearts the beautiful graces of the holy spirit.
"Cleave to that which is good." The thought is, adhere to, be cemented to, that which is good. There is a constant tendency not only from our own fallen natures, but also from the world and the devil, to separate from that which is good and pure and noble. And we must resolutely determine, that at all hazards and for all time, by the Lord's grace, we will adhere to him,--the truth, the way, the life.
"Be kindly affectioned." The thought here seems to be: Cultivate among yourselves that kind of affection which properly belongs in a family, where the blessing or honor of one member signifies the blessing, honor and advancement of all. Perhaps the Apostle thus delicately suggests the impropriety of any manifestation of affection except such as would be proper between brethren: as we read in another place, "Love as brethren."--`1 Pet. 3:8`.
"In honor preferring one another." That is, rejoicing more if honor come to another than if it had come to self. Our hearts should be so unselfish that we would take pleasure in seeing honor and prosperity come to another, and rejoice in it: and so sympathetic that a brother's failure would cause us as much
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chagrin as if it were our own failure. This is the holy spirit which unfeignedly rejoices with those who rejoice, and weeps with those who weep.
"Not slothful in your affairs." The word here does not refer specially to mercantile business, but to affairs in general. The class addressed, who are seeking to make their calling and election sure, are to "do all things as unto the Lord;" and nothing done for the Lord should be done in a slovenly manner. We are in a world full of opportunities for good or evil: there are few on our side, the side of God and of righteousness; and whoever realizes this, and is fully consecrated to the Lord, will certainly be aroused from slothfulness which is natural to many in the fallen condition. If the battle of truth against error, of light against darkness, does not awaken us to energy in the Lord's service, it marks an unfavorable condition of heart. And to the consecrated child of God, every affair of life-- eating, drinking and all other business in this present life--is to help us to serve the interests of our Master's cause.
"Fervent in spirit." This is placed in contrast with sloth: if as stewards of divine mercy and truth we are slothful, it is because we are cool in our love to the Lord; hence the Apostle's instruction that we should be hot, fervent in spirit. The Greek word here translated "fervent" signifies to be hot, to boil. We are reminded of our Lord's words to the Church of Laodicea, boastful of its works but luke-warm in the spirit of its love. "I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would that thou wert cold or hot. So then, because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth." Let all who have received the Lord's spirit take heed lest they get into a lukewarm condition and lose the Lord's favor: let them cultivate rather a growing appreciation of the mercies of God, which growing appreciation as fuel will add fervency to our love and zeal for his truth, and for purity in our own hearts, and for service to others.
"Rejoice in hope." We are not to expect to have much in the present life to rejoice in, if we are faithful to our "calling;" because, "through much tribulation shall ye enter the Kingdom." Our rejoicing is to be in hope--looking into the future. The eye of faith is to see what the natural eye cannot see, the crown of life and all the glorious things "which God hath in reservation for them that love him [fervently]." And here is the advantage of doctrinal knowledge: it inspires hope; it gives a foundation for hope. Knowledge cannot bring us to the Kingdom; but it may be a great help in building us up and preparing us for it, by constantly holding before us the hopes which God designs should stimulate and encourage us while running the race for the great prize.
"Patient in tribulation." Our word tribulation is derived from the Latin tribulum, the name of a roller or threshing machine used in olden times for cleaning wheat, removing from it the outer husk or chaff. How appropriate the thought when applied to the Lord's consecrated people, who in the Scriptures are symbolized by wheat. Our new natures are the kernel, the real grain: yet this treasure or valuable part is covered with the husk of earthly conditions. And in order that the wheat may be made properly ready for the "garner" and for usefulness, it is necessary that each grain shall pass through the tribulation necessary to separate those qualities which, until separated, render us unfit for the future service to which we are called of the Lord. In proportion as we are able to realize our own imperfections, and the perfect will of God concerning us, we will be enabled to bear patiently, and even with a certain kind of rejoicing, all the tribulations which the Master shall see best to let come upon us. "We glory in tribulations also."--`Rom. 5:3`.
"Instant in prayer." No advice that the Apostle could give to the class addressed could be more vitally important than this. "Ah, whither could we flee for aid when tempted, desolate, dismayed? Or how the host of sin defeat had suffering saints no mercy-seat.
Prayer, communion with God, is indispensably necessary to our spiritual welfare; and the appreciation of the privilege of communion with the Most High and with our Redeemer, or the lack of such appreciation, as the case may be, indicates tolerably clearly our fervency or our coldness with reference to the things of the Lord. People may be fervent in serving schemes or plans of their own, or human systems and theories, and have little desire for prayer; but those who serve the Lord and his truth from a hot, fervent heart, will so realize their imperfection and their own inability in the divine service, that they will desire and will continually seek the Master's guidance and direction with reference to the service they are rendering to him.
If, therefore, we ever feel a growing indifference, either to private prayer or to public worship or to social prayer-meetings, we may be assured that it is a very dangerous sign of one of two things. (1) Either that our love is growing cold, or (2) that our love is misplaced, misdirected, placed upon some earthly scheme or ambition, and is not fervent toward the Lord. And whichever is found to be the difficulty should be corrected at once. The appreciation of prayer, like the growth of love, and like the increase of fervency of spirit, is a matter for development; and the best fuel, as above suggested, is the consideration of the divine
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mercies already enjoyed.
"Distributing to the distresses of saints." The Greek word here rendered "distributing" signifies to
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make common. The thought evidently is, that altho Communism is not encouraged in Scripture, nor is it the best method in this present time, while it is better that each should have the responsibility largely for his own affairs and be the steward of his own talents, nevertheless that feeling of brotherhood is to prevail amongst the saints, which would "make common" to others of the spiritual family, such things as are necessities to them. Love, not Selfishness, is to control.
"Given to hospitality." The Apostle's language here does not signify if requested we should not be inhospitable; but it means much more: literally, it signifies following after hospitality--going out after, or seeking for opportunities for the exercise of hospitality. This principle is as applicable to the poor as to the rich. If what we have is plain or common, the hospitable use of it will just as truly show our heart-intentions as tho it were the best. Some, we fear, fail to cultivate this grace; and if they exercise hospitality are inclined to give better than they have, and perhaps would go into debt in order to entertain more lavishly than their circumstances would justify. This is wrong. It is not cultivating the grace which the Apostle here inculcates, but is cultivating a very evil weed,--pride. Let us learn not only to love without dissimulation, but also to follow after hospitality without dissimulation, without seeking to show off better conditions than are really ours.
"Bless them which persecute you." This is a quotation from the sermon on the mount. It addresses a mind enlightened by the divine Word, that has thus drawn against it the opposition of Satan, and of those whose understandings he has darkened. It means an opposition of persecution not for wrong-doing, or as busy-bodies in other men's matters, or for nonsensical peculiarities, but persecution for the truth's sake. It implies a heart full of love and sympathy and pity; for no other heart could really and truly bless its persecutors and wish them no evil, but good. This is the kind of a heart, overflowing with the holy spirit of the Lord, that is able to rejoice with those in prosperity, to weep with those who sorrow and even able to forget its own tribulations or adversities.
"Be of the same disposition toward each one." Be sympathetic toward the very humblest brother or sister as well as toward the most refined. "Mind not high things." Do not allow your affections and sentiments merely to go out along ecstatic lines, but bring your mind down so as to enter into sympathy with those of God's people who financially and intellectually are in a low estate.
"Be not wise in your own conceits." This is a further injunction to humility. Those who are always minding high things and overlooking the humbler ones of the Lord's people usually do so because of too high an opinion of their own wisdom and intelligence. Few things more blemish an otherwise developed Christian character than a conceit which separates him or her from the humblest of the Lord's flock. Moreover, there is no more dangerous thing than such an opinion of one's own wisdom. This condition is described as being "heady," "high minded." It naturally leads into error, and to a fall from both the letter and spirit of the truth. "Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall." Let all beware of this terrible disease. Nothing is a greater hindrance and stumbling-block to the ministers of the nominal churches to-day (hindering them from receiving the truth) than this kind of pride in their own wisdom, which leads to and is distinguished by the unscriptural division of believers into "clergy" and "laity." And there is equal and even greater danger along this line for those who have received present truth, and who are seeking to minister it to others. Let all of the Lord's people, especially those who have a little more knowledge, and who attempt to make known the riches of divine grace, be specially on guard against attacks of the enemy from this quarter.
"Recompense no man evil for evil." Much of the previous instruction of this lesson relates to our dealings with the brotherhood; but here the Apostle points out a general line of conduct toward all men. There is a general tendency on the part of well-intentioned people to recognize a line of justice and a desire to vindicate justice and to punish evil doers. The Apostle points out that this is not the rule governing the Lord's family. It is not improper for the world to have laws and regulations for criminals, in the interest of society; and the Apostle is not discussing those, nor finding fault with them. He is treating rather of the minor affairs of life in which various evils may be inflicted and resented without coming directly under the control of civil laws. The policy of the Christian is to be not along the lines of slothfulness, animosities, revenges and perpetual conflicts, but to the contrary of all this; because of his greater knowledge of how sin came into the world, and how all mankind are fallen mentally, morally and physically, and how God has sympathy with the poor groaning creation and has provided a ransom for all, and that in due time a restitution for all shall be possible. And he is to have a heart so full of sympathy with this plan, that he will be generous, and God-like, toward the sin-blinded ones--anxious chiefly for the opening of the eyes of their understandings, and for an opportunity of blessing and helping them, rather than entertaining feelings of revenge.
"Provide things honest in the sight of all men." Realizing that part of the service which the Lord requires
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of him is an honest provision for the necessities of himself and family, the true Christian will seek to live up to this reasonable requirement. If he cannot obtain employment at that which he prefers, he will be bound in honesty to take some other employment, in order to meet his obligations. Few things are more likely to bring dishonor upon God's people in the sight of the world than dishonesty. Of course, none of the saints would steal; but there is another way of being dishonest, which seems to slip by many consciences under certain circumstances. This is the dishonesty of purchasing on credit by actually or impliedly promising a payment at no distant date when there are no assurances of ability to pay at that date, as the merchant is led to presume. Some indeed seem to encourage themselves in such dishonest methods, persuading themselves that they are exercising "faith" in God, that he will provide means for the payment of their debts. This is a great mistake. God has never authorized any one to go into debt for him, and such a faith has no backing in God's Word. On the contrary, he instructs his people not to go into debt; but he says, "Owe no man anything." A good plan is to always live within our income and, if possible, to "lay by in store that we may have to give to him that needeth."
"Live as peaceably with all men as lieth within the range of your possibilities." With the various crooked natures of the world, and with our own imperfect dispositions (more and more coming under control of grace however) it will be a difficult matter to avoid all friction. But while in the interest of peace we are to submit to trifling wrongs and injustices with good grace, yet there is a place where we must draw the line; a place where our desire for peace must not control; that is, whenever a principle is involved. Here is a great difficulty: those who are naturally peaceable, will be tempted to pursue peace even at the expense of principle, and in conflict with the divine commands; on the other hand many of those who are firmest in defense of righteous principles are inclined to be combative, and have great need to guard themselves and to cultivate this disposition for peace, which is a part of the divine character which we are to copy. The rule should be, "First pure [truthful and loyal to righteousness] then peaceable."--`James 3:17`.
"Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves"; but preferably get out of the way of your opponents and their wrath, remembering that it is written, "Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord." Hence we do not need to feel that justice needs to be vindicated at our hands. God will take care of the vindication of his own justice. If it were left in our hands to mete out justice to those who mistreat us and say all manner of evil against us falsely for Christ's sake, we would doubtless make many mistakes. We should therefore be glad that the matter is not in our hands at present, and that divine wisdom and justice will repay to evil doers with greater mercy than we would probably be able to exercise. Our feelings, therefore, should be largely those of sympathy and pity for wrong doers, remembering that surely either in the present life or in that which is to come a man shall reap according to his present sowing.
For these reasons and in order to cultivate in us more of the divine mind, we are instructed to be kind to our enemies and not to see them want for necessities of life. Such treatment will be more likely than any other to do them good, and to win them as friends. We are not, however, to treat them kindly in order to see how badly we can make them feel under it. We are to treat them kindly because love is the principle of our nature, the "new commandment" of our Lord and Master, the holy spirit which is more and more actuating us. We are to treat them thus, regardless of whether we ever melt them by our kindness in the present life or not.
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"Be not overcome of evil." We are to remember that there is a constant conflict between good and evil, that each has its servants, or soldiers, and that we have enlisted on the side of good, under the Captain of our salvation, with the engagement that we will "fight a good fight." We are never, therefore, to take up or to use evil words or methods or manners. To do so is temporarily to join the enemy, or to admit that his implements and methods are better than those of the Captain to whom we belong. To answer anger with anger, evil report with evil report, bitter words with bitter words, slander with slander, persecution with persecution, blow with blow, or any of these, would be to endeavor to overcome evil with evil. This which is natural to our fallen natures is what we are commanded to avoid, that we may the more thoroughly cultivate the new nature. To be misled by the adversary to use his methods in any of these ways is to be overcome of evil.
"Overcome evil with good." The fact that the Lord so directs us is proof (1) that it is practicable and (2) that it is preferable. Faith accepts these declarations of divine wisdom on the subject; and experience endorses or ratifies them. Whoever has tried, has found that evil can be overcome with good, in many instances. Not infrequently, however, all the good that you can do in return for evil will work no change in the evil-doer; he goes on in his evil way, is more insistent, and more intolerant. Nevertheless, the course of the Lord's people cannot vary; they are authorized to do only good, and to keep on doing good whether it shall melt the opposition or not. In this, we are but following
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the divine example. God causes the rain to fall upon the crops of the good and of the evil; he causes the sunshine to come indiscriminately, upon the just and the unjust. "His tender mercies are over all his works." And even by and by, when his vengeance shall be exercised, it will still be in love and kindness; (1) that those who will may be benefited by the discipline of trouble, and (2) that those who will not benefit may be destroyed from among the people; to the end that their baneful influence may be removed forever. Let us all more and more seek to live the new life.
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MR. M. L. MCPHAIL, Illinois.
DEAR FRIEND AND BROTHER:--It was through a recent letter received from Mr. C. T. Russell that I obtained your name and address. And I now take pleasure in penning you a few lines.
You do not know--O yes! I think you do,--but certainly only a few can know, what exceeding blessedness has come to me through my brief acquaintance with Mr. Russell and his works. And how I long for more!
I am a middle-aged man of 40. I was brought up a Christian from my mother's knee.
Eleven years ago (about), I lost my sweet wife, after a marriage of 2-1/2 years. She was a devoted Christian, so good, so beautiful, so true; for her sweet sake I could willingly have died. But God took her from me, leaving me with no children, no cares, but a crushed spirit, a broken heart and almost a rebellious inclination. But these extremities set me to thinking as I had never thought before.
I have long felt that Christian religion ought to be a great deal more or a great deal less than that usually presented either by pen or pulpit. I accordingly went into the ministry in the Methodist Church. And while I enjoyed working for my Master according to my limited knowledge and ability, I learned to feel more and more that the Methodist Church did not mean business: did not believe what it presented nor try to present what it did believe.
After working hard for 2-1/2 years I was obliged to stop from nervous prostration. And really, the teaching of this church is enough to prostrate the nerves of anybody who is honest enough to work consistently in harmony with such views. Thus I left the pulpit: but I could not leave off thinking. Last winter I advertised in the Chicago Record for truth, thus,-- PERSONAL NOTICE.
Correspondence wanted from any one who is a candidate for absolute and abstract truth. Address: Box 142, __________, Ill.
This ad was echoed and enlarged by the Tribune, and I received many answers: among them VOL. I. of MILLENNIAL DAWN, a copy of the WATCH TOWER and "What Say the Scriptures about Hell?" These were sent me by a brother Dixon, of Iowa, and this was the first that I ever heard of the good people at Allegheny. But I have feasted on it since that time.
Then it was, upon inquiry concerning who and how many accepted this interpretation of the Word, that I learned of the little band so near as Chicago. Now it so happens that I expect to spend two or three days in Chicago some time in September (perhaps before the middle). I have a number of friends in and near the city, and I think I would like to meet some of you people and have a nice long talk with you personally, if it be agreeable to you.
I am Yours in Christ, R. W. LOVERING.
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL:--Quite accidentally, the other day, I became acquainted with a miner, returned to these parts from Alaska. He has done fairly well there.
I found that he did not believe in "One word of the Bible, not one word from beginning to end of the book!" I told him there was a surprise in store for him, and gave him two TOWERS and lent him VOL. I. of MILLENNIAL DAWN. A few days after I saw him again before he had finished VOL. I., and he said: "I am going back to Alaska early in March, and want to take all those books with me!" I am sure he is now well on the road to grasp the truth.
Will these be the first of the DAWNS to go to the Arctic Circle? If so please let the TOWER readers know that Mr. Walker has the honor of God to bear the Light manifested at the close of the Gospel age into the Arctic regions.
Yours very truly, ALFRED R. PEARSON.
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL:--I write you that you may know how the Lord's few are getting along at this place. We have had six meetings from place to place since I wrote you last, and had a soul refreshing time at each gathering. But as our homes are so scattered over the neighborhood that house to house meetings are very inconvenient, I have fitted up a good house on my place, at the edge of our little town, to be used as a meeting house for God's people. To-morrow will be our first gathering at our new meeting place. I pray the Lord may bless us in our effort.
Last Saturday the Baptist church, which is three miles from here, held a meeting in which they proposed to discuss among themselves what they call the Russell doctrine. The questions were asked through a question box. Three important questions,--"To what extent does the atonement reach?" "How far does the Redemption extend?" "Is there to be a restitution of all things?"--were assigned to one Burl. Henry, said to be the ablest minister in the Baptist Northern Association. Mr. Henry answered those three questions in broad terms as taught in the MILLENNIAL DAWN. Then they all rose up and told Mr. Henry that he would have to stop advocating such doctrine, or they would turn him out of the church; but Mr. Henry frankly told them that he did not care if they did turn him out of their church, that they could not stop him from preaching this Gospel of the Kingdom, except they stopped his breath. Thus it is, one by one, they keep coming as the Lord's sheep to his bountiful provisions.
May the Lord bless you in your every effort to spread the truth. Yours in Love and Christian fellowship, G. E. TOLIVER.