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VOL. XVIII. JANUARY 15, 1897. No. 2.
Item, About Traveling Brethren……………… 18
View from the Tower………………………… 19
Program for a Triumphal Church Reign………… 19
A Christian Nation……………………… 21
An Evolutionist Enthroned Lord Archbishop, Primate of England… 22
Christian Fellowship………………………… 22
The Lame Man Healed………………………… 25
“They Had Been with Jesus”…………………… 27
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SUBSCRIPTIONS AND BUSINESS COMMUNICATIONS
TOWER PUBLISHING CO., BIBLE HOUSE, 58 & 60 ARCH ST.,
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TRAVELING BRETHREN ON TIME
When you get word that any of the “Pilgrim” brethren are coming to your vicinity at a particular date, you may expect them and prepare accordingly. Do not delay arrangements for meetings until their arrival; else there will be little time left for meetings; for rarely do they remain over two days at one place. The routes are arranged in the WATCH TOWER office, and the time apportioned according to circumstances and interest—sometimes but one day at a place. These “pilgrims” are not slothful, but fervent in spirit serving the Lord; so arrange for two or three meetings each day, as will suit your convenience. Improve such opportunities for having your friends and neighbors, whom you have been trying to interest by conversations and reading matter, hear a connected delineation of the Plan of the Ages from the Chart of the Ages. We commend to you as a privilege the entertainment of these brethren of whose coming we send you notification (Heb. 13:2; Rom. 12:4-18); but they do not take up collections, all needful expenses being provided from the Tract Fund.
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VIEW FROM THE TOWER
TENDENCIES already noted, toward a combination of religious sentiments in sympathy with “political reform” movements, are step by step making headway, preparing for the predicted politico-religious “Confederacy.” (Isa. 8:12.) These give evidence of four things: (1) that the “form of godliness” and outward ceremony flourish as the Apostle predicted (2 Tim. 3:5); (2) that personal, vital godliness and clear appreciation of the divine mind are decreasing; (3) that the nominal church contains so much of the world and its spirit as to be ready for the move; (4) that the worldly, while unconverted in the true sense, are greatly influenced by respect, fear and public sentiment, and see no danger from the movement.
We are far from claiming, as many do, that our day is witnessing a general decline of moral and religious sentiment. On the contrary, we hold that these sentiments are more general perhaps than ever before, as witnessed by the philanthropies and charities of both public and private support, and the increase of humane and kindly sentiment. But we claim that while the civilized world is much brighter and better as a whole than it ever was, because of the diffusion therein of the Gospel light, yet the mass of the church, the light-bearers, are declining in intelligent faith and zeal and approaching the worldly standard about as fast as the world has been approaching the Christian standard, so that the world and the nominal Church have again come close together;—closer than at any time before during the present century; so close that to many it appears that, to fully install the Millennium—the triumphal reign of the churches—only the three following “reforms” are needed; viz.—(1) Insert the names of God and Christ in the United States Constitution; (2) compel professing Christians to take a more active part in politics, form Good Citizenship Leagues, etc., and learn to outwit Satan at his own game; (3) by so doing obtain prestige and power enough to influence legislation to the enactment of stringent Sunday laws which would at least make us look like a religious people; also suppress the social evil and break up present “rings,” or else convert them to the new religio-political program. Later on it will do to enforce religious worship and have the public servants attest their fidelity by attending in squads and in uniform. The appointing of obligatory fast days and thanksgiving days as is and has long been the case in countries thoroughly dominated by Roman Catholicism will follow later. The next step would be to suppress all literature antagonistic to this union; symbolically behead it (Rev. 20:4—like John the Baptist) for pointing out the wrong of the professed bride of Christ being united to the world. Then, later, when questions would arise as to what would constitute Christian worship, the Supreme Courts could be called upon to define more and more explicitly what is, and what is not, Christian faith and worship.
Such a reign of the churches will be but the counterpart to the reign of Papacy during the “dark ages,” except that it will be a more enlightened reign, from
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the fact that general civilization has progressed, and general intelligence will have some weight.
But that reign will be short. Worldliness, being merely covered with a thin outward veneer of religion, will speedily assert its true nature—selfishness, envy, malice, hatred and strife. But it will not be left thus to disintegrate: its fall will be sudden; it will be utterly disrupted by the “great earthquake” (Rev. 16:18), the revolt of the masses, precipitating the anarchy foretold in Scripture, in the midst of which the dominions of this world shall pass into the hands of the true Kingdom of God, when the true Millennial reign will begin.
The fact is that the faith of the Church has always been the most pure and fervent when under opposition and even persecution from the world. There can be no ground for union between the Church and the world except as the Church wholly or in part loses sight of or abandons the divine program. Our Lord’s example and precepts are applicable to all of his followers yet, and will continue to be so until the “present evil world” shall give place to “the world to come” and its Messianic Kingdom. Our Lord declared, “Ye are not of the world. I have chosen you out of the world. Marvel not if the world hate you, ye know that it hated me, before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love its own.”
The present effort to unite the Church and the world more closely, like the successful efforts of the past, is only a trap and a snare by which the great Adversary would divert attention from the true work of the Church—her self purification and separation from the world, by which her light would shine upon the world with greater clearness, convincing of sin, of righteousness and of a coming judgment.
But as in the past a falling away of the majority into worldliness served to separate the Lord’s “jewels,” so now such a separation is in progress. And it is for this “jewel” class that God is supplying the light of present truth;—clearer light on the “ransom” and its present and future results; on the “royal priesthood” and its present sacrificing and future glory; on Covenants and their fulfilment; on the Kingdom now in embryo suffering violence, and by and by in glory and power the blessing of all the families of the earth; on the fulfilment of prophecies which prove that we are in the “harvest” of this age, and that the great Reaper is present, “gathering together his elect,” his jewels.
* * *
The champions of Church and State have been rejoicing considerably over two incidents which they consider favorable to their cause,—
(1) A Supreme Court decision which, although indirect, can be, and no doubt later on will be, construed to signify that the United States Government is in some sense a religious, a Christian government, and become a basis for Christian laws and regulations, and not merely laws of Justice. All should know how many narrow meanings have been given to the term, “Christian regulation,” by various well-meaning, but grossly deceived, parties in the past.
(2) President Cleveland in his last Thanksgiving-day Proclamation departed from all past usage by mentioning
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in it the name of Christ, and what might be construed as partisan politics in the suggestion of thankfulness that the Silver Party had failed to carry the election. His example was followed by the Governors of several States in their Proclamations. There is nothing in the Constitution giving any authority for such Proclamations: they are therefore merely suggestions; and in making the suggestions all previous Presidents have wholly separated politics, and in consideration of the fact that millions of citizens (including Jews, infidels and skeptics) do not acknowledge Christ, have merely suggested that thanks be rendered to Almighty God for his blessings, etc. The framers of the National Government were not devoid of religious sentiment, but they were logical when they said, “Who does not see that the same authority that can set up the Christian religion over all other religions, can with the same ease set up some particular sect of Christians in exclusion of all other sects?” Acting upon this thought, they sought to found a government of the people entirely free from religious bias, under which every citizen and stranger shall have liberty to worship God or not to worship him, according to his own conscience.
So intelligent a journal as the Independent proves the wisdom of the foregoing, for while defending President Cleveland’s proclamation, it says,—
“Suppose the President had been a Roman Catholic and referred to the invocation of Mary as a mediatrix, he would have made a mistake, because the prevailing sentiment of the land would be against him.”
The intimation is that so broadminded a man as the Editor of the Independent would be inclined to allow the majority to rule the minority, especially if he were on the side of the majority.
Indeed, the United States Constitution seems to us almost miraculous: we believe that God must have providentially guided in its preparation—so remarkably does it guard religious liberty even against the will of a majority; and that in a land where majorities rule in general matters.
Considerable opposition was aroused by these two evidences of religio-political combination, as well as considerable approval; but the masses of the people are apathetic and care little one way or the other, and do not see the danger. In answer to criticisms the Cleveland
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Plain Dealer seems to suggest an Amendment to the Constitution, establishing rules (to be drafted by experts) for such occasions as Thanksgiving-day Proclamations.
The Reform Bureau, commenting appreciatively on the proclamation, says,—
“Thus at last we have a proclamation in accord with the Supreme Court dictum, ‘This is a Christian nation.'”
Again, in the Washington Evening Star, the same Bureau says,—
“The Thanksgiving proclamation is in this respect the first one that might not have been appropriately issued in China or among the Choctaws, or wherever a Supreme Being is recognized. This is the first proclamation in accord with the long list of historic facts on the basis of which the Supreme Court said, on Feb. 29, ’92, in a unanimous opinion (Trinity Church case): ‘This is a Christian nation.’ This proclamation, with the burial of the spoils system and the arbitration treaty, will make this administration distinguished in history above any other since the war.”
“On the other side we quote from the Chicago Israelite as follows:—
“Between undue sensitiveness and a just appreciation of insult and rightful apprehension of encroachments upon liberty, there are great differences. No one familiar with the systematized efforts of the numerous Christian organizations to obtain recognition of Christ in the Constitution; of the tendency of the decision of the United States Supreme Court, that this is a Christian nation; and of the natural results which must follow upon the arrest and conviction of Seventh-day Adventists in various States of the Union, can view with indifference President Cleveland’s departure from the precedents of all the presidents who have gone before him. Mr. Cleveland has done what no previous president has ever dreamed of doing, what all have taken pains to avoid doing. …
“There is an untiring effort being made to turn this country into a Christian State and to place on a footing of toleration only, all those who do not profess the Christian religion. The danger of the eventual success of this scheme is much greater than many are inclined to believe. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty, and it behooves every lover of freedom to be on his guard against its foes, and, more especially, against such an evident attack as is made in President Cleveland’s message, whether it was intended or not.
“Those who close their eyes to the strength of the movement which has for its aim the Christianization of our country, and the consequent death blow to all of its boasted freedom, either know little of what is going on or sadly underestimate the number and influence of those engaged in this revolutionary and retrogressive movement. Ignorance and indifference only can account for the tendency to make little of President Cleveland’s breach of the unwritten law which has hitherto been held sacred. … Those who are inclined to underestimate the influence of his action will have a chance to estimate it at its true value when the jubilations of Christianizing elements have had time to make themselves heard. That they will be heard in tones unmistakably loud, only those who know nothing of the fight being made can doubt.”
* * *
The desire to rule others and to compel obedience is very strong in some people. The Christian Standard, for instance, is urging a rigid religious observance of Thanksgiving Day, and would like to have all religious people oppose foot-ball and other recreative games on that day.
The Christian Endeavor Society wants to make its mark also, and proposes another holy day. It proposes to give to Washington’s Birthday a “religious tone.”
The Christian Endeavorer says:—
“Many Christian Endeavor societies last year utilized Washington’s Birthday for Christian Citizenship day. They found this plan to be helpful to the cause of Christian Citizenship. …
“As Washington was distinctly a Christian citizen and showed his loyalty to his divine Master on every occasion, there is every reason why the celebration of his birthday should have a religious tone to it.”
It says that about six hundred C.E. Societies will follow the plan this year. It is proposed to make it general at the next convention. It will not be long, probably, until those who hold aloof from these church and world combination schemes will be esteemed religious anarchists.
All this is of a piece with Rome’s saint days, only modified to suit our times.
* * *
Advocating Sunday observance before the “Iowa Sabbath Rescue State Convention,” Rev. E. L. Eaton gave the key note of the present movement when he said,—
“We want to touch legislation; we want to go over yonder into that Capitol building and sit there among the law makers with as much serenity and with as much right as do the lobbyists of the great corporations. We want to put our finger on the moral pulse of the legislature until they feel the power of our influence to the extent that they dare not refuse our demands.
“He added that Catholics, Lutherans and all other Protestants could as brothers work together in a great cause that is worthy of their effort.”
As usual, false doctrine, ignorance of and opposition to the divine plan expressed in the Word, lies at the foundation of these well-meant but really evil movements.
Let all who can read the signs of the times draw specially near to the Lord and his Word, and seek the more grace and wisdom to walk circumspectly and to labor while it is called day, before the night shall close our opportunities and indicate that the gathering of the elect is complete.
* * *
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The “Evangelical Alliance” has taken a specially active part in Christian Union efforts of late. It is worth while remembering that in this association directly the union movement took its start in the formation of the “image,” as marked in prophecy, in 1846 A.D. It is altogether probable that it will also play an important role in connection with its receiving “life.”—Rev. 13:15.
* * *
A remarkable sensation was created in London recently, in connection with the public consecration of Rev. Dr. Temple as Archbishop of Canterbury, Primate of the Church of England, and next to the Queen the head of that church. As the ceremonies (which took place in the Church of Saint Mary LeBow) commenced, the Rev. Edward Brownjohn of Bath arose and solemnly and earnestly protested against the consecration, “on the ground that Rev. Dr. Temple was a confessed believer in the full doctrine of Evolution, a doctrine incompatible not only with the Bible but also with the Book of Common Prayer and Articles of Religion of the Church of England.”
The Queen’s commissioners refused to entertain the protest of one man; and considering that they had the backing of practically the entire Church of England in favor of Evolution, and the Queen’s choice of Primate, the ceremony proceeded. This was on Dec. 22, ’96.
On Jan. 8 the Archbishop was enthroned, as the following dispatch describes:—
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“The mandate for the enthronement was presented by the vicar-general to the chapter of Canterbury, in the treasury. After this ceremony the chapter proceeded to the deanery and conducted the archbishop to the great West door. The procession was then formed.
The archbishop was attired in full archiepiscopal robes, his long scarlet train being borne by two boys, king’s scholars of the cathedral school. They wore, according to immemorial custom, surplices of pure white linen, yellow sandals and little purple caps.
“There was a dramatic incident as the archbishop was traversing the nave at the end of the procession. A voice shouted loudly: ‘The whole proceedings are a fraud.’ The interruption came from an elderly gentleman of clerical appearance. He was speedily and forcibly ejected amid considerable excitement.
“The order of installation was read in Latin, and the archbishop was conducted to the marble chair, accompanied by the archdeacons of Canterbury. The marble chair, known as the patriarchal throne, is said to have been used by St. Augustine, and in it during many centuries the archbishops of Canterbury have been enthroned.
“The new Archbishop of Canterbury is one of the most advanced Liberals among English churchmen. He is a professed advocate of Darwin’s theory of evolution.”
* * *
The reaction in the Church of England against Papacy is showing itself in an increased desire to form a Universal Protestant Organization. The Bishop of Salisbury at a public meeting recently said, of the Pope’s recent deliverance which repudiated Anglican Orders and union,—
“It has set us free to do work which lies nearest hand, without so much regard to ulterior consequences. We are free to follow the path opened to us by a Divine Providence, and to create an independent world-wide communion.” He suggests that the first step should be toward a union with Presbyterians.
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“He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world? Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.”—John 14:21-23.
IN these words the people of God have set before them the blessed privilege of intimate communion and fellowship with our Heavenly Father and our Lord Jesus, the privilege of a realization of the divine presence, of which the world cannot know, and which realized is an earnest of our inheritance with Christ beyond the vail of the flesh. If we be one with Christ here, his faithfulness is our assurance that nothing can separate us from him now or when we shall have finished our course and proved our faithfulness even unto death. “Who,” says Paul, “shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? … Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For, … neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”—Rom. 8:35-39.
This is the blessed assurance of faith that springs spontaneously from the realization of a present and vital union with Christ. Such fellowship and intimate communion should therefore be the longing desire of every child of God, whose prayer and constant attitude of heart should be,—
“O God, this is my plea,—whate’er the process be,
This love to know.”
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It is only in heart-to-heart fellowship that we become truly acquainted with another; and only so can we realize the depth and sweetness of divine love. But the conditions of this fellowship, the process by which we may come to really know him in whose favor is life, and his dear Son, our Redeemer and Lord, must not be overlooked. The conditions are that we have and keep the divine commandments. The having and keeping of the commandments, our obedience to the heavenly wisdom, constitute the proof of our love to God. Thus also is proved our love of righteousness; for the law of God is the law of righteousness, commending itself to the highest moral instincts of our nature. To the soul, therefore, that loves righteousness the commandments of the Lord are not grievous (1 John 5:3); for they are the expression of the most exalted virtue, the noblest benevolence, the purest love, and all the beauties of holiness.
In the inspired words of the Lord and the apostles and prophets we have the divine will expressed, explained, illustrated and enforced, line upon line and precept upon precept. And yet, with all this teaching, it is possible, even for the consecrated people of God, to be forgetful hearers and readers of the Word, so that its most explicit directions for daily living, its most faithful warnings against snares and besetments, and its most careful expositions of the principles of righteousness and truth, may avail little or nothing in the education and training of character. “Therefore,” says the Apostle, “we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip; … for … how shall we escape [the wrath of God] if we neglect so great salvation”—the salvation which comes only through faith and obedience to the Word of the Lord diligently laid up in our hearts, and its principles carefully and prayerfully wrought out in our lives. (Heb. 2:1-3.) The promise of the divine favor and blessing is not to the forgetful, listless hearers who fail to apply their hearts unto instruction, but to the attentive hearers and faithful doers of the Word.—James 1:25.
It is not enough, therefore, that we have read the Word of God and gained a general knowledge of its principles and precepts and the plan and purpose of our God: there is yet more, much more, to be learned and done. There must be a daily laying up of its treasures of wisdom and counsel in the heart, and the working out of its principles in the life. “Thy words were found, and I did eat them,” said one of the saints of old; “and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart.” (Jer. 15:16.) So must we also feed upon them in our hearts.
Moses, addressing the typical people of God, shows with what carefulness God would have all his people regard his testimonies, saying, “Ye shall lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes. And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt write them upon the doorposts of thine house and upon thy gates.” (Deut. 11:18-20.) Joshua also said to them, “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein.”—Josh. 1:8.
Again we read (Prov. 7:1-3), “My son, keep my words, and lay up my commandments with thee. Keep my commandments and live; and my law as the apple of thine eye. Bind them upon thy fingers, write them upon the table of thine heart.”
It is those who thus carefully lay up the treasures of divine wisdom that they may in deed and in truth live by them, that truly keep the commandments of God. It is very manifest that our Lord would have us apply not only our heads, but also our hearts, to the instructions of his Word. (Prov. 23:12.) This implies
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the study of ourselves, as well as of the divine Word, that we may see just what portions of the Word apply to our individual present necessities. We know that as members of the fallen race we are all afflicted with the malady of sin; and though through faith in Christ, our Redeemer, we are freely forgiven and reckoned of God as free from sin, even this reckoned standing before God, through faith in Christ’s merit applied to us, is accorded to us only in view of our hatred of sin, our love of righteousness, and our earnest heart-desire to be pure and holy. It would indeed be a vain thing to trust for eternal life in the imputed righteousness of Christ, and at the same time to love and continue in sin. If any of the world of mankind do so in the next age, they will never reach perfection and eternal life. Accepting first, the favor of redemption through Christ they must then work out their salvation by obedience and persevering effort to eradicate sin and put on righteousness. The same principle applies also to the Church now on trial. We should ever bear in mind that justification through faith in Christ does not directly, and beyond all peradventure, insure to the believer eternal life; but it does secure that legal standing before God upon which believers, both of this age and the next, must work out their salvation with fear and trembling.—Phil. 2:12.
Having, by faith, accepted this legal standing before God, our subsequent course of life must make manifest our heart-desires to be cleansed from all sin: “Shall we continue in sin that grace may
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abound? God forbid;” for if we continue in sin, the grace of God will not abound; and if we give up the struggle against sin and allow it to take possession of our mortal bodies, the grace of God must eventually be withdrawn.
Sin is a disease inherited from our fallen progenitors: it affects one individual in one way and another in another: and even though, through faith in Christ, we are reckoned of God as free from sin, nevertheless the actual tendencies to sin are still present with us. Like the children of Israel, we are led into Canaan (the rest of faith and of the divine favor), but we have still a great work to do in the way of routing the enemies of righteousness long intrenched there; and for this work both persevering effort and divine grace are needed. While the precious blood of Christ applied by faith is the great atoning remedy for sin whereby we are justified to life, the only restorative remedies are in the law and testimonies of the Word of the Lord, all which would, however, be unavailing except as supplementary to the great atoning remedy; and these must be carefully and prayerfully sought out and applied with persevering effort for our cleansing and healing. To this end it is important also to remember that a correct diagnosis of our case is one of the first essentials to a cure. But who is sufficient for this?—”Who can understand his errors?” who is able to look into his own character and, without prejudice, to mark its defects? Surely none who are intoxicated with the spirit of the world, with pride, or selfishness, or vain glory.
It is for this reason that the Apostle Paul counsels sobriety and humility, saying, “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly.”—Rom. 12:3.
A sober estimate of self is a humiliating, not an exalting, exercise; yet it is healthful and beneficial. It reminds us continually that we are “men of like passions” with other men, and thus enables us not only to strive against our own weaknesses and besetments, but also to sympathize with those of others, and to bear with them as we wish them to bear with us. It makes us continually to realize that our fallen nature gravitates toward sin, and that we must resolutely strive against it or else float with its downward current to destruction.
A sober estimate will remind us too of our mental infirmities; for, however favorably we may compare with some other members of the dying race about us, we are very imbecile as compared with human perfection. How slowly and laboriously does the mind act; how dull are the perceptive faculties; how inert the reasoning powers; how unskilled the judgment; how feebly we discern the great principles of truth, and how stupidly we go about applying them; how repeated are our blunders and failures, and how tedious and slow our progress! Surely no man, however favorably he may compare with some of his fellows, has anything whereof to boast in a sober estimate either of his mental or his moral capacity or development as compared with the standard of perfection.
In a sober estimate of character how painfully manifest are those overestimates of pride and vainglory which are due to the intoxicating spirit of the world! How unlovely it is, how absurd and ridiculous, how mean and contemptible, how vain and foolish! and how effectually it impedes progress toward actual perfection! No man can make commendable progress toward perfection in any direction who does not recognize his shortcomings. If we say we see, our blindness remains; if we say we are wise, our ignorance remains, and our folly is manifest to others while we glory in our shame.—Phil. 3:18,19.
Such is the spirit of this world. It is blind to the highest interests and noblest ends of life; it intoxicates the mind and heart and sends the man staggering along the downward way to destruction, wise only in his own conceit. Against the intoxicating spirit of this world it is the duty of the Christian to set a vigilant guard. He has covenanted to live apart from the world with all its ambitions, pride and vainglory, and apart, too, from its selfishness, greed and strife. Let us, therefore, be sober and watch unto prayer; and let the burden of our prayer be, “Cleanse thou me from secret faults [show them to me that I may put them far from me]. Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me.” “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my thoughts, and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”—Psa. 19:12-14; 139:23,24.
We need to know and clearly recognize our errors, if we would indeed be cleansed from every secret fault. If there be any secret fault in us, what though no human eye might detect it, if we are indeed lovers of righteousness, we will want the cleansing power of the Word applied to take it away, remembering always that “all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.”—Heb. 4:13.
Yes, it is in the diagnosis of our case that we are most likely to err, and it is here that sobriety of mind and meekness are so much needed. Self-love does not like to admit the faults that are in us, to particularize them and look them squarely in the face with the searchlight of God’s Word clearly revealing them. It is much more conducive to complacent ease of mind to generalize, and to overlook particulars;—to say, Yes, I know I am not perfect, etc., etc. But it requires a
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great deal more of moral courage to say, Yes, I see now, in the light of God’s Word, that I have been selfish, or unkind, or unfaithful to my obligations, or whatever the fault may be. It requires meekness, humility, to admit these things, even to one’s self; and still more, to confess them to those who have been injured or grieved by them. Yet how necessary are the recognition and the confession—the proper diagnosis of the case—to the healing. “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another,” says the Apostle James, “that ye may be healed.” (Jas. 5:16.) The recognition and the confession, as well as the prayer, are thus seen to be very important in order that the heart may be in the proper attitude to receive an answer to the prayer.
Careful reflection will show at once how necessary to the cure is a correct diagnosis. For instance, suppose a case of extreme selfishness. For a time it moves along and prospers, and the disease grows worse and worse until, by and by, some of its bitter fruits begin to appear. Now if the patient fails to discern or admit the selfishness, he may regard the bitter fruits of it, not as the penalty for wrong-doing, but as sufferings for righteousness’ sake. And with this incorrect diagnosis he may come to the Word of God and take away the wrong remedy. If he should go at all, he will probably look for words of consolation designed for those only who are truly suffering for righteousness’ sake. And that will not help his selfishness, but will make it worse: he will go on cultivating the selfishness and take comfort in the promises that are not his; whereas, if he realized and admitted the selfishness, he would be considering the warnings against it and praying for grace to overcome it; he would be acknowledging it to those concerned, and endeavoring to make amends for it; and in so doing its bitter fruits would begin to wither, the peace of God would come into his heart, his heart would enlarge, and the love of God and of his fellow-men would begin to fill it.
This is what it means to keep the Lord’s commandments and to apply our hearts unto instruction. It means, not self-gratification, but self-abnegation, and self-purification: it means that, in meekness and humility, we must deny ourselves, and take up our cross daily, and follow Christ. This is the narrow way; walk ye in it. There is no other way to life, and certainly no other way to the Kingdom, than the way of righteousness, humility and true holiness, and of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, whose abundant merit, applied by faith, will make up for all our deficiencies that are not wilful. It is those who walk this narrow way that may even now enjoy the sweets of fellowship with the Father and our Lord Jesus and with all who are led of
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the spirit of God.
Let as many, therefore, as would follow on to know the Lord, whom to know is life eternal, studiously apply their hearts unto instruction, and in meekness and humility receive the ingrafted word, and let it do its purifying work. Hear the exhortation, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double-minded. … Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.”—James 4:7-10.
Paul speaks of the great profit to the Corinthian Church of their humble recognition of and godly sorrow for sin, saying, “Now I rejoice … that ye sorrowed to repentance; … for godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation; … for behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you; yea, what clearing of yourselves; yea, what indignation; yea, what fear; yea, what vehement desire; yea, what zeal; yea, what revenge [against the evil]. In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter.” (2 Cor. 7:9-11.) Such are the results of sober self-examination in the spirit of meekness and prayer and with a view to cleansing our hearts and minds from all the defilements of sin, both small and great. O Lord, keep thy servants in the way of thy commandments, in meekness and soberness, and let the rich reward of divine fellowship be ours, both here and hereafter!
MRS. M. F. RUSSELL.
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THE LAME MAN HEALED
—JAN. 24.—ACTS 3:1-16.—
“His name, through faith in his name, hath made this man strong.”
THE stirring scenes of the Day of Pentecost were past, and this lesson introduces us to another notable discourse by the Apostle Peter, delivered probably not long after the day of Pentecost in company with the Apostle John. They had gone up to the temple at the hour of prayer. The clear intimation is that the apostles were praying men and that under the leading of the holy spirit they were guided in their ministrations of the truths connected with the new dispensation to the praying Jews, “devout” people, rather than to the godless. And so it is with the true gospel ever since. There is a message or a call to repentance which is
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applicable to every member of the human family; but the special message of the gospel is not to the unregenerate, but to the repentant, to the forgiven, to the reconciled. The Jews who assembled to worship the Lord at the temple were of course not believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, and therefore were not justified by faith in his blood, but, under their Jewish covenant, the Law covenant, and by means of its typical sacrifices, they were up to this time typically justified as a people, and the grace of God was offered to them from that standpoint: they were not treated as strangers, aliens, foreigners, but as heirs of all the divine promises and blessings. And as a people the Jews continued to occupy this position for three and one-half years after our Lord’s crucifixion and their national rejection. The Lord’s favor according to promise continued with them individually until the full end of their “seventy weeks.”*
*See MILLENNIAL DAWN, Vol. II., Chap. 3.
(2,3) At that time hospitals, homes for incurables, blind asylums, poor houses, etc., apparently were not thought of, and were not instituted as we have them to-day in civilized lands; nor are they yet institutions in the East. Thus public alms-giving was probably considered a duty. We might here remark that, in our judgment, the course adopted by civilized nations of taxing all property and wealth for the reasonable and comfortable support of the incapables of society is eminently proper, and should be so completely carried out as to make public begging unnecessary.
(4-7) Peter’s statement would indicate that he at least was a very poor man. “Silver and gold have I none.” Although he said, “Look on us,” thus directing the cripple’s attention to the Apostle John as well as to himself; yet, speaking of their financial condition, he does not say, “Silver and gold have we none.” The fact is that there is good ground for supposing that the Apostle John had some property. We remember that our Lord with his dying words commended his mother to the care of John—possibly not merely because of his love for John and John’s love for him, but also because John had some means wherewith to care for Mary. We remember furthermore that the account states that John took Mary “into his own home.”—John 19:27.
The Apostle Peter seems to have exercised his individual gift in the healing of the cripple—”Such as I have give I thee:” nevertheless, it was not in his own name that the miracle was performed, but properly all credit was given to the Lord Jesus. This was evidently not a case of “prayer cure,” for we have no record that the Apostles prayed over the man, nor that they anointed him with oil in the name of the Lord. It was on the contrary an exercise of “the gift of healing,” which was then with the Church for the purpose of introducing the apostles and the gospel which they preached.
Although fully conscious of the power of God operating through him to perform the miracle, Peter, apparently to assist the exercise of faith on the part of the cripple, stretched forth his hand and helped him to his feet; thus illustrating the propriety of acting according to our faith, and permitting the influence of our faith to reach others in a natural and helpful manner.
(8-10) It is very evident that the poor cripple was not an impostor, for such a one instead of leaping about and enjoying his blessing, and praising God, would have regretted any circumstance which would deprive him of the opportunity for preying upon the sympathies of the people in order to avoid working for a living.
(11,12) We may reasonably suppose that the going of Peter at this particular time to the temple was of premeditation; we may suppose that he had been there frequently before; and that frequently before he as well as the others who attended at the temple had seen this same cripple. If Peter did not plan this particular visit and healing, we may reasonably suppose that the holy spirit planned and directed it for him. At all events the whole matter was very successful in that it drew the attention of the most devout, prayerful Jews to the gospel of Christ. The Apostle Peter was quick to use any and every opportunity to tell the good tidings. He began by modestly assuring the people that it was nothing wonderful in John and himself that had produced the miracle, and that the man was not cured either by their holiness or by their power, but by the power of the risen Christ Jesus. It is worthy of note that although in addressing the man Peter exercised his own faith only, yet now in speaking of the matter he associates John with himself as a sharer in whatever honor might belong to them as the instruments of God. How unselfish and how beautiful! What a lesson is in this verse for all who attempt any service for the King of kings. How necessary that we should realize not only our own insufficiency and nothingness in connection with the work of God, but how proper that self should sink entirely out of our thoughts and the glory all be given to Him whose right it is.
(13-15) The apostles’ discourse as narrated was a short one, but well directed and right to the point. Beginning with a statement by which his hearers would understand him to be also a devout Israelite, he proceeded directly to the point—Christ, a crucified and risen Savior. Nor did he spare his hearers, but drove home the truth that the nation of Israel were the real crucifiers of God’s dear Son, even when a Roman governor found no fault in him and desired to set him at liberty.
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“Ye killed the Prince of life!” What a thought! They all realized themselves as death-condemned and dying creatures. They felt their need of life, eternal life, and had been praying for it and hoping that according to the divine promise it should come through Messiah, a Savior—a Life-giver, and now they were almost staggered by the Apostle’s words, “Ye killed the Prince of Life”—the Life-giver! It is presumed that our Lord and the Apostles spoke in the Syriac language; and in the Syriac version of the New Testament the word “Life-giver” is used where in the English the word “Savior” occurs. The Apostle must have struck a very tender chord in the hopes and aspirations of these devout, prayerful Jews. We fancy them looking with incredulity, and saying within themselves, “Could it be possible that Jesus of Nazareth was indeed the Messiah, the Life-giver?”
(16) While they were yet wondering on the subject, the inspired Apostle quickly drew their attention to the evidences before them in the healing of the cripple, which attested the truth of his declaration that Jesus was no longer dead but risen. Here was just such a miracle as those which he a few months before had performed in their midst. It was another of Jesus’ miracles; the apostles themselves performing it in his name and utterly disclaiming any ability to do such things themselves.
(17-21) Thus pointing them to the fact that Jesus was still a living, powerful, sympathetic and gracious Savior, he urged them to repent, assuring them that it
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was God’s intention to send great blessings through Jesus and to send Jesus himself back again a second time: assuring them also that at his second coming there would be an abundance of such manifestations as these which they had just witnessed, saying,—
“Times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; and he shall send Jesus Christ which before was preached unto you whom the heavens must receive [retain] until the times of restitution of all things which God hath spoken by the mouth of all the holy prophets since the world began.”
Note that the Apostle began by expressing confidence in the “fathers” and in Israel’s hope, built upon Jehovah’s promise to them. Note also that after connecting those promises and hopes with Christ and his sacrifice, and linking it with the cure of the cripple, he points them down to the Millennial age as the grand consummation-time for all the blessings, all the good things, which God had promised by the mouth of all the holy prophets since the world began. Is it any wonder that such testimony—both reasonable and comprehensible—delivered to such devout Israelites, drawn together by a desire to worship the Lord, resulted as it did, in the conversion of about five thousand? As in the case of those noted in our last lesson, these were the “wheat” of that Jewish age, which the Lord was gathering out preparatory to the blinding of all the remainder of that people for the period of the Gospel age, at the close of which their blindness will be turned away.—Rom. 11:25,26.
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“THEY HAD BEEN WITH JESUS”
—JAN. 31.—ACTS 4:1-14.—
“There is none other name under heaven, given among men, whereby we must be saved.”
AS the apostles were preaching Christ, taking for their text the manifestation of his power through Peter in the healing of the impotent man at the temple gate “Beautiful,” and while the devout worshipers heard them gladly and repentantly, the theologians were disturbed; it seemed monstrous to them that any but themselves should undertake to teach the people, and that the people were giving more interested attention to these “laymen” than they gave to them,—the chief priests, religious rulers and doctors of the law. In this they but manifested the usual worldly spirit, which in every religious system except the true one manifests special opposition to any light or teaching which does not emanate from those recognized as “ordained” teachers. True, these apostles were ordained by the very highest authority in the universe—the spirit and power of God, communicated by Christ; but such ordination, such authority to teach, was not recognized by those doctors of divinity who, like their successors to this day, failed to recognize the ordinations of God and merely recognize human authorizations to preach.
Not only were they envious that others than themselves should have the ear of the people for religious instruction, but they had listened sufficiently to the discourse themselves to ascertain that the apostles were really imparting to the people some knowledge of spiritual things. The people were actually being taught, and that upon subjects concerning which they, the recognized doctors of divinity and theology, knew nothing and could teach nothing. If, therefore, such teachings were permitted, the worshipers would very soon know more than their religious rulers, which would never do. They were unable to teach the people themselves, and were not humble enough of heart to receive instruction, and hence were quite ready to
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be overcome by the spirit of envy, hatred and malice, against those whom the Lord had appointed and was using, while passing them by. They had power to stop the preaching and to imprison the apostles, and they made haste to use it.
This same spirit was equally manifested, and even more unrighteously, by the Roman Catholics during the dark ages: they not only imprisoned but tortured and put to death those who ventured to instruct the people in spiritual things without their permission, ordination, etc. This same spirit was manifested to a considerable extent by the reformers also, we are sorry to say: Calvin, Luther, and numbers in authority in the Episcopal Church from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries were similarly grieved with efforts to instruct the people outside their own channels; and the same spirit to a considerable extent followed some who fled from persecutions, in the Mayflower, to this free land. We need not accuse any of these of intentional wrong: they lived in a time when religion and politics were blended, and they verily thought they did God service in opposing as they did that which they considered to be “heresy.” Had they opposed the heresy with force of logic and Scripture merely, and sought thus to vanquish what they believed to be errors, with what they believed to be truth, they would not only have been worthy of approval, but also of admiration, and they might have been led into the truth; but their zeal misled them into the use of unjust means, and they more or less fought against God. But be it noted, all these improper efforts were unavailing to suppress the truth, and merely served to purify and refine the saints, as “gold tried in the furnace.”
Intelligence and liberty during the last century have to a large extent annulled the power of the spiritual rulers, and unwillingly confined their opposition against advancing truth to anathemas, excommunications, insinuations as to “unorthodox,” and social ostracism. And as each reform grew in strength and asserted itself, these oppositions gradually died out;—as, for instance, the opposition to the “Quakers,” to “Baptists,” to “Disciples,” and others. But as we read the signs of the times in the light of the divine revelation, we have every reason to believe that the present movement in favor of “Christian union” will eventuate in such a combination of all the powerful and influential religious systems as to affect politics and laws, and put into the hands of theologians the power to head off the further advance of divine truth and to stop the spirit-ordained ambassadors of Christ from teaching the people advanced truths respecting the close of this and the dawn of the new dispensation.
Arrogantly accustomed to overawing the common people with their titles, learning and authority, the High Priest and all the priestly family, and the religious rulers, and elders, and learned scribes, met as a court to hear, to overawe, to browbeat and to condemn Peter and John for their temerity in attempting to teach the people.
They were surprised when the two men whom they had judged from their general manner, dress, etc., to be “unlearned,” not theologians, but of the “common people,” addressed them meekly, simply, yet with holy boldness, concerning Jesus of Nazareth and his power to heal:—as much since his crucifixion and resurrection as before. Peter if speaking of himself might have been inclined to avoid mentioning the guilt of his hearers in connection with the crucifixion of our Lord; but as a chosen vessel for this very purpose he was specially under the control of the holy spirit; and, although in no bitter or acrimonious language, he told his hearers the plain truth concerning their guilt as the crucifiers of Jesus, and showed them from the prophets that they had set at naught the chief stone of the spiritual temple of God; but that nevertheless God had highly exalted him to be the Head over the Church, which is his body—the spiritual temple—into which we as living stones are being built up.
There is no ambiguity in preaching done thus, under the inspiration of the holy spirit: it is direct, to the point. Peter did not say that Jesus of Nazareth was one of the great teachers of the world, and as worthy to be heard as Moses or Confucius or others; neither did he say, It makes no difference whether you ever hear of the historic Christ or not, as some false teachers now declare. Peter’s spirit-inspired teachings were evidently not at all in harmony with what is known as the “new theology,” nor with what is known as the “higher criticism,” nor with what is known as the “broad theology,” espoused by the Chicago Parliament of Religions, and advocated by many of the “great theologians” of our day. Peter gave the message direct and with force—”There is none other name given, under heaven or among men, whereby we must be saved.” In these words he told his learned hearers that there was no hope of salvation in Moses and in the Law, any more than in the heathen systems of theology—that knowledge of, and faith in, and obedience to Christ was the only God appointed way of salvation.
What could they say! What could they do! under such circumstances? They had utterly failed to overawe these humble fishermen, and instead had received a discourse from them, which was wholly unexpected under such conditions. They were not in the humble attitude of heart to be affected as were the three thousand who on the Day of Pentecost were pricked to the heart and converted; nor were they of the humble, worshipful, teachable spirit of the five thousand worshipers who had been converted by hearing the apostles in the temple the day before. They could do nothing but marvel. But they took knowledge of the fact, that the same meek and quiet spirit of Jesus was in these, his disciples, and the same powerful logic, directness of discourse and humility of manner.
So let it be with each of us, the followers of Jesus! If we have opportunity for testifying to his grace and gospel, let us not fear to declare the whole counsel of God, but let us not do it rudely nor unkindly, but with the gentleness and force which are of the spirit of the truth.