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VOL. XVIII. APRIL 1, 1897. No. 7.
Special Items……………………………… 94
God’s “Peculiar People”……………………… 95
Relative Values of the Heavenly
and Earthly Treasures…………………… 98
“To be Testified in Due Time”………………… 100
Interesting Questions Answered……………… 102
Is There No Hope for Poor Judas?………… 102
Truths Seen More Clearly………………… 103
Friday, The Close of Our Lord’s
3-1/2 Years’ Ministry………………… 105
God’s Acceptance of Cornelius………………… 105
The “Christians” of Antioch………………… 107
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“MY SOUL, BE ON THY GUARD!”
Do not forget that our ever active Adversary seems to be granted additional liberty and power of temptation at the Passover season. Let each soldier of the cross be specially on his guard to resist him—steadfast in faith and good works and love. Let each also be on guard to help and not to stumble the “brethren” at this time. Pray for one-another and for us; as we also remember all of you at the throne of the heavenly grace.
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GOD’S “PECULIAR PEOPLE”
“Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light: which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God.”—1 Pet. 2:9,10.
WE LOOK in vain for this “holy nation” amongst the various nations of the world today. The pathway of even the best of those denominating themselves Christian nations is marked with blood and violence and various evidences of selfish rapine. The very best of them would fall far short of any reasonable standard of holiness. They are all, as the Scriptures declare, parts of the kingdom of darkness under the prince of darkness, “the prince of this world,” who still rules the “kingdoms of this world.”
This “holy nation” was founded by our Lord Jesus, and had no existence before his advent. The basis upon which it was founded was the “ransom for all” which he gave at Calvary, and the beginning of the construction of his kingdom was at Pentecost. Since then it has progressed after a manner which is
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adapted to his purposes, tho very contrary to the manner of the world and the nations of earth. It is unknown to the worldly, as it is written, “The world knoweth us not, even as it knew him not.”
This Kingdom is an ecclesiastical Kingdom—a Church-Kingdom; but even if we look amongst the numerous church-kingdoms which have sprung up in the world (each of which claims to be the kingdom of God’s dear Son), we find that this “holy nation” or Kingdom is none of these. It is not the Roman Catholic church or ecclesiastical kingdom, nor the Greek church, nor the Armenian, nor the church of England, nor the Methodist church, nor the Lutheran, nor the Presbyterian, nor the Baptist, nor the Congregationalist. These all may have amongst their millions some members of this “little flock,” this “holy nation,” this true Kingdom class which the Lord is selecting; but none of these institutions is the Lord’s Kingdom; none of them contains all who are his. There is only one record in the universe that enrolls all the members of this “holy nation” or Kingdom: it is called, “The Lamb’s Book of Life.” Hence, if we examine church history, we shall no more find this “holy nation,” this holy ecclesiastical Kingdom, than amongst the temporal kingdoms. The historians knew not of the true “holy nation:” they saw and knew and recounted the incidents of the human organizations, called “Christ’s kingdoms,” but they knew nothing of the true one. Altho it has existed from the day of Pentecost to the present time, it has always been the kingdom of heaven suffering violence—despised and rejected of men, insignificant and ignored in the sight of the world.—Matt. 11:12.
The reason for this is that it is a “peculiar people”—not peculiar in dress, nor in manners, nor in language, nor in foolish, senseless forms and idiosyncrasies; but peculiar in that it is separate from the world and the spirit of the world. It has the spirit of Christ—a spirit of full consecration to the Lord, and separateness from the world and its selfish aims. It is peculiar in its adherence to the Word of the Lord as its only law. It is peculiar in that it rejects worldly wisdom when it conflicts with the divine revelation. It is peculiar in that it is in the world, but not of the world. It is peculiar in that it has a decided faith and acts in harmony with its faith, and with zeal. It is peculiar in that it is self-sacrificing and knows no will but the will of its King.
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It is peculiar in that it knows the truth and is able to give a reason for the hope within, while others merely speculate and wonder and doubt.
The King, when establishing this Kingdom, forewarned all who would be of it that, in proportion as they possessed his character and his truth, and were thus “children of the light,” and likenesses of himself, who was “the Light of the world,”—in that proportion they would have the enmity of the world and the opposition of the flesh and the devil to withstand and overcome. In view of his forewarnings, “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, but now ye are not of the world; because I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you;” “Whosoever will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution;” in view of these admonitions it should not surprise us that the nations of the world (political and ecclesiastical kingdoms) have always hated and persecuted the individuals composing this “holy nation.” They seem to realize an antagonism, however little it may be expressed. This “holy nation” looks to a higher King and higher laws than any by which others are governed, and as Herod sought to destroy “him who was born king of the Jews,” so the various worldly nations have sought (under the influence of the prince of this world) to hinder the development of this holy nation as antagonistic to their systems.
Nevertheless, we note the care with which the apostles pointed out that all who compose this holy nation shall, so far as possible, “live peaceably with all men”—avoiding strife and contentions, except where principles are involved; and even when contending “earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints,” to manifest the spirit of meekness and patient forbearance, that “whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.” He urges, therefore, all of the holy nation, saying, “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: … For so is the will of God, that with well-doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: As free, and not using your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness, but as servants of God. … For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. … For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps; who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth; who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously.”—1 Pet. 2:13-23.
Thus the King of this “holy nation” set for every member of it an example that they should walk in his footsteps. He declared that his Kingdom was not of this world; consequently neither does the Kingdom power of this “holy nation” belong to this present age. It awaits the return of the King himself, who said, “If I go away, I will come again, and receive you unto myself.” He has promised, moreover, that when he comes again it will not be in a body of humiliation for sacrifice on behalf of the sins of the world—for this sacrifice he has already accomplished to the full: He comes to reign, and has promised that his “holy nation” shall be associated with him in the reign of righteousness, wherewith he will “bless all the families of the earth.”
But we notice further the Apostle’s statement that this “holy nation” or Kingdom is also a “royal priesthood.” We look amongst the priesthoods of earth, but we find that the priestly office is distinctly kept separate from the kingly office, everywhere. Indeed, they are generally antagonistic. The kings and royal families usually represent the highest developments of ambition and self-gratification: the priests of earth, theoretically at least, present sacrifices, and thus seek to make atonement for sins. Priests do not exercise kingly authority, nor kings condescend to priestly services. But in this “peculiar people” the priesthood and kingship are united.
It was so with the King himself,—as a priest he offered up his own life, unselfishly, for the redemption and blessing of others. As a King he still has the same unselfish character and will use his kingly office to carry forward to all mankind, and make available to all, the blessings, liberties and privileges purchased with his own precious blood. His reign will be for this very purpose;—and for the establishment of righteousness and the extirpation of evil and those who adhere to it. The King himself is the great High priest of this “peculiar people,” this “holy nation,” this “royal priesthood;” and it is required of each individual member of this “holy nation” that he shall be a priest; that he shall be a sacrificer; that he shall partake so much of the loving and generous disposition of the King that he will desire to do good unto all men, as he may have opportunity, especially to “the household of faith;” and that he shall lay down his life for the brethren—in the service of the truth, in their interest. In these and all respects they must all be conformed to the image of God’s dear Son.—Rom. 8:29.
This experience as sacrificers in this present time as sufferers for righteousness’ sake, as tempted and tried and able to sympathize with the weak and the erring, is a necessary part of the educational discipline which must be undergone by this priesthood before they are
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accounted ready to enter the honors and powers of their divine kingdom, as representatives and associates of the King of kings and Lord of lords.
Nor does their priesthood end when their kingly powers begin, for it is written concerning their future reign,—”Thou hast made us unto our God kings and priests, and we shall reign on the earth.” (Rev. 5:10,11.) This “peculiar people,” this “holy kingdom” or nation all of whom are “royal” priests, has a great work to do when established in the kingdom power; for it is none other than the promised “Seed of Abraham,” which, according to the divine promise, is to have entrusted to it the great work of blessing all the families of the earth, by bringing them to the knowledge of the Lord, and into harmony, if they will, with the New Covenant sealed by the precious blood of the King. As explained by the Apostle Paul (Gal. 3:16,29), the King himself is the head of this “seed,” this “peculiar people,” this “royal priesthood;” and they are reckonedly members of his body, and with him they complete this holy seed to which is committed the work of blessing.—Rom. 11:31.
Israel after the flesh, the natural seed of Abraham, supposed that they would have inherited this great privilege and honor, of being the divine representatives in blessing and enlightening the world; but when the King came unto them as “his own,” they received him not, as a nation, but to as many as received him, the faithful remnant, to them gave he “liberty to become the sons of God” and members of this “peculiar people,” this “royal priesthood;” and he then visited the Gentiles to take out of them suitable ones of sufficient number to complete this foreordained priesthood. This “royal priesthood” then, be it noticed, is not the priesthood of Levi, even as this “holy nation” is not the nation of Israel. It is a new priesthood, a new people and a new nation, which never before had any existence, “which in times past was not a nation,” and was not a priesthood, but now is become the people of God,
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the “royal priesthood,” the “holy nation.”
The Apostle notes still another distinctive feature pertaining to this “peculiar people,” saying that it is a “chosen generation” or race. How strange it would at first seem that the Apostle should speak of this peculiar people, gathered out from amongst various races, Jews and Gentiles, as being a special, particularly chosen race: as though they were a different family entirely from the remainder of mankind. If tribal relationship be understood, is not this “peculiar people” a mixture of all the races? And if all humanity be considered, are not these “peculiar people” of the same race as the remainder of mankind?
Ah, no! they are a new race, a race separate and distinct from all others. True, they once were of the same race, and some belonged to one branch or family and some to another; but their King, in calling them to be this “holy nation,” set aside entirely their previous genealogy and started them as a new race. As members of the Adamic race they were already slaves of sin and under condemnation of death; but their Master and King, who redeemed them from sin and death, opened the way for a full completion of the great divine purpose, and they were begotten again, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:13; 1 Pet. 1:3.) They are therefore “new creatures” in Christ Jesus. (Gal. 6:15.) To them old things have passed away, and all things have become new.—2 Cor. 5:17.
The apostle therefore was right in his declaration that these are a different generation or race from others of mankind. He was right also in speaking of them as a “chosen generation”—the race which God himself is selecting for the accomplishment of his great and wonderful plan, first declared to Abraham, but not understood, and expected to be fulfilled in Abraham’s literal posterity. In reality this salvation “began to be preached by our Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him.” (Heb. 2:3.) True, God has certain provisions and blessings in reservation for the natural seed of Abraham, and let us remember that to them also came the first opportunity, and the first place, in this new, select, spiritual race or “chosen generation.” The Head or Chief of this chosen race, the twelve subordinate chiefs, the apostles, and many of the other members of this “holy nation” came from the literal seed of Abraham; but as a whole the natural seed was not worthy to become the “chosen race” or generation; but only to as many of them as received him (Christ), to them gave he liberty to become the “sons of God,”—by regeneration.—John 1:11,12.
Grasping the full statement of the Apostle with reference to this peculiar people, this holy nation, this new or regenerated race, this royal priesthood, we can see readily that none of the human systems or organizations of earth, past or present, fit these demands. But we can see also that the conditions are well fulfilled in a “little flock” of which we may find scattered members here and there to-day, and all the way back to Pentecost. They are all self-sacrificing priests, who serve the living God through Christ Jesus acceptably, by serving one another, and all men as they have opportunity, and in general serving the gospel. Fully consecrated to God, and their imperfections (unintentional) all covered by the merit of the Redeemer, they are indeed a “holy nation,” with higher and different aims from those of the world, and with a different spirit, they are indeed a peculiar people. And the royalty of their priesthood, altho unknown to the world at present,
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shall be revealed in due time; for it is declared by the inspired Word, that “the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now,” “waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God.”—Rom. 8:19,22.
When the glory of these sons of God, this chosen race, this royal priesthood, shall be revealed in the establishment of the Messianic Kingdom, during the Millennium, the entire groaning creation—the whole race of Adam, condemned in Eden, but ransomed at Calvary—shall be blessed by this great “Seed of Abraham.” Instead of their groanings they may have joy and peace, through accepting the blessed arrangements of the New Covenant; and as a result, by the close of the Millennial age, all who will may have experienced the blessings of the divine promise, “God shall wipe away tears from off all faces and turn away the reproach for being his people.” Then shall be brought to pass the saying which is written, He that sat upon the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new; and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”—Rev. 21:4,5.
Is it any wonder that the Apostle declares that each and all of these “peculiar people” should make it the first, the chief, practically the only business of life, “to show forth the praises [the virtues of character and plan] of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light?” And the showing or the telling of these is the preaching of the gospel, whether it be done in public or in private, by word of mouth or by printed page. And this, the chief business of the peculiar people, begun now, will continue to be their business throughout the future, tho under more favorable circumstances, in the majesty of the Kingdom, with power to enforce the wise and just and wholesome laws, and with love and mercy to help and to succor the weak and the erring, and gradually to restore them, if they will, to all that was lost in Adam.
What a wonderful gospel! What a wonderful privilege to be permitted to engage in its proclamation in any manner! Truly, all of the peculiar people can appreciate the testimony of the great Apostle Paul, “Woe is me if I preach not the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
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RELATIVE VALUES OF THE HEAVENLY AND EARTHLY TREASURES.
“A man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.”—Luke 12:15.
THIS statement of our Lord reminds us also of the exhortation of the Apostle Paul, “Let us lay aside every weight, and run with patience the race set before us, looking unto Jesus.” All that the Lord’s people have and are should be consecrated to their most efficient use in the divine service, according to their understanding of the teaching of God’s Word. As we reflect upon it, how manifest it becomes that all earthly riches which are not consecrated to God are only weights and hindrances to the Christian. And not only so: it is not enough that our all be consecrated to God as an acceptable sacrifice; for if all be consecrated to sacrifice, and yet never subjected to the flames of the altar, of what avail is it, except as a broken vow to rise up against us in judgment?
Many, indeed, are foolish enough to think that abundance of possessions is the only thing worth living for; and when they are obtained they put their trust in these uncertain riches and forget God. Their time and attention are all engrossed and their interest absorbed in the accumulation and care of the earthly treasures, which shut out all nobler aspirations toward spiritual things. It is for this reason that the Lord cautions his people not to be overcharged with the cares of this life. It is right to be charged to the extent of our necessities, and also to the extent of the responsibilities of our stewardship in the Lord’s service, to be provident and thoughtful, not only for ourselves, but also for others whom it may be in our power to assist; but to be charged is one thing, to be over charged is quite another. To be over charged is to permit corroding care and anxious solicitude to absorb our thought, our time, our interest, and so crowd out spiritual interests and spiritual aspirations.
In the discourse from which the above text is selected, our Lord was endeavoring to give to his disciples that amount of confidence in God which would enable them to cast all their care upon him, knowing that he careth for his children as a wise and loving parent, and that his tender mercies are over all his works. He drew illustrations from the sparrows, the ravens, the lilies of the field and the grass, showing that God had not forgotten nor failed in his care of even these comparatively insignificant things, then adding, How much more will he clothe and feed you, who are of more value than many sparrows. The very hairs of your head are all numbered, so minute is his knowledge of you. Do not be anxious about what you shall eat, or what you shall drink, or wherewithal you shall be clothed; for your Father knoweth that you have need of these things. Seek the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added
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[supplied as needed] unto you. Sell that you have, and do good with it, as wise and faithful stewards of your consecrated talents, and fear no want of any good thing in consequence; for “no good thing will the Lord withhold from them that walk uprightly.”
What a blessed promise that is! Not only will he make all, even the adverse things, work together for good to them that love God, to the called according to his purpose, but he will not withhold any really good thing from us. Can we fully appreciate this tender, loving solicitude and watchful care for us personally? Can we understand how it takes cognizance of every interest, temporal and spiritual, and how, with wise and loving forethought, it maps out our present course and guides our steps in view of those eternal interests which at present we cannot fully comprehend? Perhaps we cannot fully do so all at once; but let us take it into consideration, praying for a clearer vision of
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the love of God, and by and by the blessedness of these promises will dawn upon us more and more; and we will begin to realize more fully than ever before that, having placed our all upon the altar of sacrifice, subject to the consuming flames of the altar, we thenceforth belong to that blessed “little flock” to whom our Lord addresses these comforting teachings, and whom he exhorts to loving, patient faith, saying, “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom.”
Truly, those who follow the Lord’s leading in this narrow way of sacrifice and of faith are only a little flock; for only a few thus apply their hearts unto instruction and wholly follow the divine direction. Consequently, only a few know the blessedness of the realization of the Lord’s tender care. But to those who follow this leading there is a growing sense of his love which the daily walk with him deepens, confirms and sweetens as the years go by, and as experience makes plain the guidance of his loving hand. As one after another of the trials of life come, and we mark his overruling power, which caused even the adverse elements to work together for our good, faith takes deeper root and the character becomes more stable, sturdy and pleasing to God.
It is for this very purpose that the Lord permits us to be subject to the various vicissitudes of the present life, and that those who belong to the Kingdom of heaven suffer violence at the hands of an unfriendly world. There are lessons of immense value to be learned in this hard school of experience—lessons of faith, of fortitude, of heroism, of courage, of endurance, of meekness, of patience, of sympathy for the suffering, and of loving helpfulness to others. There are works of grace to be wrought out in us which only the hard experiences of life can accomplish. For instance, we would be inclined to lean too much to our own understanding, if we were not at times brought face to face with problems that baffle our skill. It is when we are “afraid to touch things that involve so much,” that in our perplexity we come to him who has kindly said, “Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he will sustain thee,” and ask him to undertake for us. Or we might be inclined to trust too much in the arm of flesh, if the arm of flesh had never failed us, and the disappointment driven us to the Lord to seek the shelter of his wing. Or we might learn to trust in uncertain riches, if moth and rust had never corrupted nor thieves stolen the little or much of our earthly possessions. Or we might have been satisfied with earthly friendships and earthly loves, had not their loss sometimes left us alone with God to prove the sweetness of his consolation. Or we might be weak and imbecile, had not the storms of life swept over us and the very emergencies of our case nerved us to courage, endurance and Christian fortitude. In view of all these necessities to the development of character, the Christian can truly feel that whatever the Lord permits to come upon him will be made to work together for his good; and in this confidence he can peacefully sing,—
“If on a quiet sea toward home I calmly sail,
With grateful heart, O God, to thee, I’ll own the favoring gale.
“But should the surges rise, and rest delay to come,
Blest be the tempest, kind the storm, which drives me nearer home.”
It would be a mistake, however, to suppose in view of the Lord’s promised care over all our interests, that he would in every case make things work together for our temporal advantage. There was at least one in the company to whom our Lord was speaking who seemed to interpret him thus, and who therefore requested his interposition on his behalf in the matter of an inheritance, saying, “Master, speak to my brother that he divide the inheritance with me.”
In reply to this request Jesus said, “Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you?” and then followed the instructions concerning the superior value of the heavenly treasure, showing that the earthly things are not worth the strife to obtain them. Jesus had not yet come to judge the world, but referring to that time when he would be the divinely appointed Judge of all the earth, he showed that the searching scrutiny of that judgment would extend to all the minutiae of human affairs. Every selfish act, every injustice, every unkindness, every wrong thing, will then,—but not now, except in very few instances,—receive its just recompense of reward. “For there is nothing covered that shall not be revealed, neither hid that shall not be known. … Whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and
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that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops.”
Men and women in their present selfish condition of mind and heart, and intoxicated with the spirit of the world, although thus forewarned, do not consider with what shame and confusion of face they will one day have to meet the record of the past, when the little mean acts which they supposed none they cared for knew of, and the unkind words to the defenseless which they thought no one else would ever know all rise up to bear testimony against them. Such often overlook their own folly, and consider that the penalties will fall only upon the criminal class. But the Lord’s judgment will be discriminating and exact; “God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing; whether it be good or whether it be evil;” and “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good.”
In view of this judgment to come, when the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall be established in his Kingdom, Paul says to all of the Lord’s people who realize oppression or injustice or unkindness of any kind,—”Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord. … Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”
No, Jesus is not the Judge or divider of the earthly things now: that will be the work of the Millennium; and so far as the earthly things are concerned now, his people may suffer many injustices and difficulties of various kinds; but the Lord’s counsel is to dismiss all anxious care concerning them, and, having food and raiment, to be contented, and wait for the great reward of patient endurance.
Meanwhile, let Christians see to it that they are rightly exercised by all the disciplinary experiences of the present time; let them learn the lessons of trust in God and all the other valuable lessons so necessary to fit them for the exalted position to which they are called; let them rejoice in the present favor and communion with God which is the privilege of all the saints, and, with steadfast faith, look forward to the rest that remaineth for his tried and disciplined people.
Lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven, and let your heart be there. Then disappointments, ingratitude and all the vexing trials of the present life which go to make up the daily cross can be borne with a comparatively easy grace. Your life consisteth not in the abundance of the things you possess: you, beloved, are not dependent upon these earthly things; the Lord is the portion of your inheritance; yea, you have a goodly heritage. (Psa. 16:5,6.) “Fear not, little flock”—fear not to carry out your consecration to the full, keeping your little all upon the altar of sacrifice, and subject to the consuming fire, trusting all of your future, both for the present life and that which is to come, to the loving care of your covenant-keeping God; and, by and by, in the glory of the Kingdom, you shall prove the superior value of the heavenly treasures when the victory of faith shall be fully realized. Praise the Lord for his abundant grace and his precious promises! M. F. RUSSELL.
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“TO BE TESTIFIED IN DUE TIME”
A correspondent sends us a published answer to the question,—”Since Christ gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time (1 Tim. 2:6), and since the great majority of mankind has not had the privilege of this testimony, how and when will it be given?” as follows:—”Christ has already been ‘testified’ as a ransom for all, by his incarnation, in which he lived in our nature in this world; by the voice of God acknowledging him as his only begotten Son; and by the manifestation of his power in his behalf in raising him from the dead.
“The point involved in the question, as we understand it, is, How far is God under obligation (if we may so speak) to bring these facts before every individual
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of mankind? In answer to this let us ask further, Has not God done all that is necessary on his part, to give the world sufficient knowledge of the gospel in every age? It is his plan to work through men; and thus every one who receives light and truth becomes a debtor to his fellow men, to make known that light and truth to them. If he does not do this, and those within his reach live and die in darkness, who is responsible? Is not God’s throne so far clear? …
“Again: it will doubtless be admitted that God has in mind just the requisite number to people this earth, and when this number have embraced the gospel, the call will cease, and the eternal state begin. But if all who have not heard the gospel are to have another chance, and have the gospel pressed upon them till they do receive it, there would be in the end a sufficient number to people several such worlds as this. Thus the whole course of events shows the plan of God’s providence to be this: to gather out from each generation those whom the gospel reaches, till the requisite number of people are gathered out for his name, then establish the promised kingdom. And that the time has been so far prolonged is owing to the dilatoriness of men, not to any limitations of the provisions of the grace of God. URIAH SMITH.”
Our correspondent wishes to know what we think of this interpretation of the text in question.
We think it very illogical and unsatisfactory.
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Really three answers are given, or three parts to the one answer, and we will review these in order, separately.
(1) It is manifestly untrue and unreasonable to claim that Christ was or could be “testified as a ransom” BEFORE HE HAD PAID THE RANSOM PRICE, as this writer claims. Our Lord’s own testimony is that he came into the world to give his life a ransom. The ransom was not given before Calvary, and could not be testified to truthfully until after that event. Indeed, while the laying down of our Lord’s life, finished at Calvary, was the ransom-price, it was not presented to the Father or formally paid over “for us,” until after our Lord’s ascension. He ascended up on high, there to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. In the typical sin-offering for Israel, this presentation of his sacrifice as man’s ransom-price to God was typified by the sprinkling of the blood upon the Mercyseat and before the Mercyseat.—See Tabernacle Shadows of Better Sacrifices.
Besides, this wrong view excludes from testimony of any kind all except the Israelites; for the remainder of mankind were without God and had no hope. (Eph. 2:12.) Furthermore, the Apostle does not say that the ransom had been testified, but on the contrary he puts it future—to be testified in due time.
The testimony referred to in verse 6 is the explanation of the knowledge of the truth of verse 4, just as Christ a ransom for all is the explanation of the statement that God will have all to be saved (verse 4). The testimony must extend to all, in order that all may have the promised knowledge. Verse 7 agrees, also, declaring that the Apostle himself was even then engaged in giving this testimony. How unreasonable the claim, therefore, that Christ gave this testimony in full. The Apostle declares that this testimony “began to be preached by our Lord”—but it has continued by the apostles and all the faithful Church since and must continue until it has reached all and brought all to a knowledge of the truth.
(2) Respecting God’s “obligation” to save few or many, or to testify the terms of salvation to few or many: He had no obligation originally; nor has he any obligations now except such as he has voluntarily assumed. But he has voluntarily, of his “grace,” assumed some obligations;—toward Israel, toward the Church of Christ, and toward “all the families of the earth.” As shown in our last issue, all of these obligations are set forth in the great Abrahamic Covenant. As shown, that Covenant is unconditional. It is therefore a first-class obligation. Moreover, it was sworn to by the Almighty. God wished us to know positively that he obligated himself; so that when the Law Covenant was added and still later the New Covenant was added (both added, as we have seen, for necessary and useful purposes) we might still know that neither of these could render void or “of none effect” the original, wide promise. (Gal. 3:17.) Hence God assured us of the blessing of all through the Seed, by two immutable (unchangeable) things—his word and his oath.—Heb. 6:18.
All men are to be “blessed” by being brought to a knowledge of God’s gracious arrangements in Christ. All must be blessed with sufficient “light” to see Christ as the “way,” the “truth,” the “life” and the “door” to divine favor everlasting. The testifying of this to all “in due time” will be the blessing of all as provided for in God’s oath-bound Covenant.
(3) The third answer is no less unreasonable than the others. In MILLENNIAL DAWN, VOL. I., page 170, we give figures to prove that several times the entire population of the world for the past six thousand years could be comfortably provided for on this planet. Anyone can figure it out for himself; there is no need for anyone to be deluded by the oft repeated nonsense that the earth is one vast cemetery, and that if the dead from Adam until now were all restored to being they would be unable to find even standing room.
Mr. Smith is the foremost teacher amongst “Seventh-Day Adventists,” who hold that no one but Seventh-Day keepers will be saved; explaining that they are God’s “little flock.” Now put this claim (and the total known numbers of Seventh-day keepers, of the past and the present) alongside the claim above that—”God has in mind just the requisite number to people this earth; and when this number have embraced the gospel the call will cease and the eternal state begin.”
How do those propositions harmonize? The present population of the world is estimated at above fifteen hundred millions, and yet these do not begin to populate this planet—there are millions of acres without an inhabitant. Mr. Smith teaches that the end of all hope is nigh, even at the doors, yet, according to his reasoning above, it will require Seventh-Day Adventists nearly a million years to convert enough people to their view of matters in order to properly let the gospel call “cease and the eternal state begin.” Nor does he leave himself a loophole by claiming that God will exercise miraculous power to increase the number of Seventh-Day keepers, for he says again, “God has done all that is necessary on his part;” “it is his plan to work through men.”
O! if Brother Smith and his zealous colaborers could only see clearly the full meaning of this one Scripture,—”The man Christ Jesus—gave himself a ransom for all—to be testified in due time,”—it would straighten out all their difficulties and introduce them to the antitypical Sabbath.
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How else could the oath-bound Covenant be fulfilled,—than by the Millennial reign of Christ and his “little flock,” the “royal priesthood?” How else could the benefits of the ransom be made applicable to “all” to “every man” and “for the sins of the whole world?” How else could our Lord ever be “the true Light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world? (John 1:9.) How else will he ever “draw all men unto [or toward] himself” than by the presentation to all of the same truths which now constrain or draw us? How many will so make use of the blessing—the light, the drawing and the knowledge—as to conform to the requirements of the New Covenant is another question entirely. But there is no question that the work of the glorified Church in the Millennial Kingdom will be the fulfilment of God’s oath-bound Covenant. (Gal. 3:29.) But first the “little flock,” the Christ (head and body), must suffer many things and enter into glory. All the “members of his body” must be “lifted up” to shame, and share their Lord’s ignominy and all must also be “lifted up” to glory, to share his honor. Then, the Seed complete, its work will be glorious.
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INTERESTING QUESTIONS ANSWERED
IS THERE NO HOPE FOR POOR JUDAS?
Question.—I have read the TOWER article (Apr. 15, ’96) in which you give reasons for believing that Judas had many opportunities above others of his time and nation; and that hence, while the nation crucified our Lord “ignorantly” and may be forgiven, Judas sinned against light and has therefore no hope, and has died the Second Death—the penalty of wilful sin. But I find it hard to give poor Judas up. Am I wrong in this; or is it an evidence that I have more love than others?
Answer.—By reason of the fall our entire race has suffered depravity both of mental and physical tastes—likes and dislikes; and many are by heredity disposed to call the good evil, and the evil good. Christianity does not select the least blemished amongst men, but oftener the more blemished; the less blemished often feel a self-complacency and satisfaction which hinders them from coming to God as repentant sinners and realizing that they can be justified only through the imputed merit of Christ. But those who do come to Christ, and hear him, soon learn how imperfect are their own depraved conceptions, and seek and obtain his mind to thenceforth be instead of their own judgments. “We have the mind of Christ,” says the Apostle—it is our “new mind,” we are “transformed
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by the renewing of our minds” so as to be able to “prove [know] what is the good, acceptable and perfect will of God.”—Rom. 12:2.
Your question indicates that however much you have submitted your judgment to God’s will on some questions, you have not submitted on this point. The reason seems to be that you are deceiving yourself into thinking that your sympathy with Judas is the true love which the Scriptures everywhere enjoin as the essence of Christian character. But you are deceiving yourself. To love an evil thing is on a par with hating a good thing. Both are wrong; both are sinful; both are evidences that the depraved mind is not renewed, remodeled, transformed into the mind of Christ. As well might the drunkard or the libertine claim that his love of evil things indicates more true love.
The mind of the Lord, inculcated by his Word, teaches that we are to love the beautiful, pure, true, noble; we are to love (in the sense of sympathizing with) the weak, penitent and oppressed who are seeking for the paths of truth and righteousness; but we are to “hate iniquity” and “every false way” and all the meanness and sin which is wilful, against light and of the devil.
Cease to pride yourself upon your love for one of the most detestable characters known to the pages of history, of whom our Lord who so loved (sympathized with) the world that he laid down his life for it (—and greater love hath no man than this) said, “It had been better for that man if he had never been born.” Adopt God’s standpoint, as the Apostle says, “Be not deceived, God is not mocked, he that doeth righteousness is righteous [and approved of God], but he that practices sin [knowingly, willfully] is of the devil.”
For our part we have no thought of ever becoming more loving than the Lord: we accept his definitions, and seek to be conformed mentally thereto—the image of God’s Son. We want to love just as he loves and just what he loves, and we want to hate what he hates. Of him it is written, “Because thou hast loved righteousness and hated iniquity; therefore the Lord, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.” (Heb. 1:9.) “Do not I hate them, O Lord, that hate thee? … I hate them with a perfect hatred.”—Psa. 139:21,22.
We are glad that neither Satan nor Judas nor any other creature will ever be tormented to all eternity. We are glad that a full, fair opportunity for coming to a knowledge of the Lord and of the way of righteousness will be granted to every member of Adam’s race; but we are glad that, on the contrary, all who rejoice not in the truth but rejoice in iniquity will be utterly
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and everlastingly destroyed in the Second Death. We abominate Satan, who for over six thousand years has wrought unrighteousness and gloated over the evil and pain and sorrow which he has wrought, and who with clear knowledge of the redemptive work has for eighteen centuries opposed the Kingdom and the great salvation. The person who could believe in Satan’s conversion after all this battling against the light and the truth has a perverse mind, very sadly blinded by the god of this world.
SEEN MORE CLEARLY
Question (1).—In a recent number of the WATCH TOWER you show quite to my satisfaction that mother Eve was not reckoned as a separate individual, but as part of the body of Adam as much as before she was taken from his side, and that thus the one sacrifice, once for all, covered her in him. But now I want to ask two questions: Is not this presentation a little different from the presentation on the same subject in MILLENNIAL DAWN, VOL. I., page 123?
Answer.—Yes; this statement is a little different from that in DAWN, and the next edition, now on the press, will show a few words of change on the page referred to. While the point is comparatively unimportant, and does not vitally affect any part of the plan of the ages, yet we spare no pains to present the truth as clearly and as fast as we see it. The trunkline of truth, the plan of the ages, is not only the best and safest route for the consecrated mind to travel in coming to a knowledge of the things which were, the things which are and the things which shall be, but, more than this, it is the only through route. Along this route, here and there, are side-tracks and switches which may require and must have straightening and alignment with the main track; but these are all “betterments,” not impairments, of the road. But, anyway, we have never claimed for the DAWN verbal accuracy or infallibility. It is our enemies who cannot refute the general teaching of the divine plan, that seek to divert attention and arouse prejudice by crying, “Infallible!” The divine plan of the ages is so grand, that all the consecrated who see it realize that God is its author, whoever may be its promulgators, connected with the various steps of its presentation. Such rejoice with the clarifying of its every detail.
Changes in the language used in expressing the same thoughts have been made in several instances. (Notably VOL. I., pages 106, 107, 140, 157, 240, 279, 321 and foot notes of pages 124 and 288—the latter formerly an appendix. Also note addition of foot note on page 150.) These alterations of language are all, we trust, beneficial to the readers. They were made necessary by reason of two things:—
(1) Enemies have tried to put a false light upon our words, and to pick out sentences or portions of a sentence to use against the truth and to misrepresent the general teachings of DAWN;—thus we have been misrepresented by some as being “Universalists,” by others as teaching a second individual chance or trial for all of Adam’s race, by others as being in agreement with their blasphemous doctrine that God is the author of all sin and wickedness.
(2) Friends have honestly misunderstood our teachings. Unused to reasoning on religious subjects, many failed to see the two distinct parts of the one salvation; (a) the part between Justice and the ransom given by our Lord Jesus for all mankind by which he “bought” the whole world, and became Lord and Judge of all, with the right or power to grant lasting life to whomsoever he will; and (b) the part of salvation which relates to the purchased race, and the terms upon which they may individually avail themselves of the grace of their Redeemer, and obtain from him the life-everlasting which he (by virtue of his ransom sacrifice) has the right to give to all who comply with the terms of the New Covenant.
Our constant aim is to have the teachings of the WATCH TOWER and MILLENNIAL DAWN so expressed, that, like legal documents, they cannot be misunderstood. That we have not always succeeded does not discourage us; for we find that the inspired words of Scripture are frequently wrested by false teachers, and misunderstood by God’s honest children. The difficulty encountered by the legal profession in stating matters so that they cannot be misunderstood is witnessed by the frequent contest of Wills. A case in point is the broken Will of the noted lawyer-millionaire, Hon. S. J. Tilden. Yet, presumably, his Will was the most painstaking paper he ever prepared.
We cannot hope that the plan is yet so stated that a “wayfaring man” cannot misunderstand our meaning and enemies cannot misrepresent us. We trust that no false pride, nor false ideas of infallibility, will ever hinder us from declaring the truth, the whole truth, relating to God’s plan, as he shall give us to see the truth.
Question (2).—Would the fact that, as pointed out in Tabernacle Shadows of Better Sacrifices, the Church, the Bride of the Second Adam, joins in his sacrifice, have any bearing on this question?
Answer.—No; for it is only after we have been “justified” by the ransom price that we are called to be his bride, joint-sacrificers and joint-heirs with Christ.
THE DATE OF JESUS’ BIRTH
Question.—It appears that a considerable number of Seventh-Day-Adventists are reading MILLENNIAL
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DAWN [The Lord be praised!] and are finding that their dates and theories are faulty. They are writing to the editor of the Sabbath Herald for help and further proofs. The editor sees what many of his readers do not see probably; viz., that the date of Jesus’ birth, as clearly and forcibly set forth and proved in DAWN, VOL. II., utterly destroys the back-bone theory of Seventh-Day-Adventism in re the “Cleansing of the Sanctuary”—by showing as VOL. III. does, that they have not only misunderstood the nature of the “cleansing,” but also the time of it, which they fix in 1844 instead of 1846 A.D.
The article referred to throws a lot of dust for the eyes of its readers, but really makes only two points, which I will thank you to answer.
(1) He claims that the date of Dionysius as given in foot note on page 54, DAWN, VOL. II., is incorrect.
(2) He claims that “two years before Augustus’ death” Tiberius “was allowed the celebration of a triumph in Rome, and was then clothed by Augustus with PROCONSULAR POWER, which was understood by all the people as CO-SOVEREIGNTY with himself.”
I see that the first point is of no consequence, as it no more bears on the subject than does the date of my birth. But the second point is of consequence; if it proves Tiberius to have begun his reign two years before the death of Augustus.
Answer.—(1) The foot note referred to is in error, evidently a slip of the editorial pencil or by the compositor. It should read, and will be found in later editions, as follows:—
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The year A.D. was fixed upon as early as the sixth century by Dionysius Exiguus and other scholars of that period, though it did not come into general use until two centuries later.
However, as you suggest, this has no bearing whatever on the subject, and might just as well have been the twelfth or any other century.
(2) The editor of Sabbath Herald finds his dates and reckonings all out of harmony with the testimony of Luke 3:1-3;—the only positive date given in connection with our Lord’s birth and ministry, by which it can be connected with reliable Roman history. Like many others this editor has been misled by Josephus’ unreliable dates, and having adopted them and fixed his theory thereon, as do many others, he must needs cast some discredit upon Luke’s statement. There is not a shadow of doubt as to when Tiberius began his reign (A.D. 14); but this editor (and many others), having a false theory and date to uphold, claims that Tiberius began to reign and that his reign dated two years before he was recognized as Emperor, two years before the great Augustus had vacated the office by death.
The so-called proofs of this, which you quote, are absurd, and find their only strength in the ignorance of his readers: the editor evidently thinks that the words “proconsular powers” will be misunderstood by his readers to mean imperial power—a totally different thing. That the fallacy and weakness of the argument may be seen we quote from the Standard Dictionary, the highest authority, the meaning of proconsular and proconsul, as follows:—
“Proconsular.—The dignity, office, or term of office of a proconsul.”
“Proconsul.—A Roman official who exercised consular authority in one of the provinces, or as commander of an army—though not a Consul.”
Illustration.—”Judea was henceforth to be incorporated into the province of Syria, with the Proconsul … as supreme head under the Emperor.”
So far from “proconsular powers” signifying that Tiberius was made the Emperor, or that he shared imperial honors with the Emperor, these words signify an officer under the Emperor. And, indeed, there were several Consuls and Proconsuls in the great Roman empire. Nor would the vain and ambitious Augustus Caesar, who changed the order of the calendar so as to perpetuate his name in one of the months with the most days and at the high noon of the year, be the kind of man likely to grant one mite of his honor or office to another, until death.
The fact is that students of chronology are quite at a loss for anything that will fix the date of our Lord’s birth with positiveness, except it be this statement of Luke 3:1; and we accept it implicitly, as God-given, for our instruction. Besides, Luke was an educated man and shows himself to have been well acquainted with the general affairs of his time. He connected the beginning of John’s preaching of the Kingdom of heaven at hand with the reign of Tiberius Caesar for the very purpose of locating or fixing the event chronologically; and it would be passing strange if he would purposely misstate the matter. There is no question, in secular histories, as to when “the reign of Tiberius Caesar” began; the only people to raise a question about it are those who, following the inaccurate records of Josephus, want to twist Luke’s plain statement into harmony with a date two years earlier.
The beginning of the “Seventy Weeks” (490 years) of Israel’s favor (Dan. 9:24) was so obscure and indefinite that the Jews could not and did not know positively when to expect Messiah. No doubt this was of divine intention. Had the fulfilment of the time of this prophecy been apparent to the Jews, doubtless they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. Only a few dates as far back as the beginning of those Seventy Weeks can be accurately fixed, and they by reason of notable eclipses recorded in connection with them.
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Recognizing the fulfilment of the events of the seventieth week, and getting the date thereof from Luke 3:1-3, we are enabled to reckon back and know exactly when they began, regardless of the inaccuracies of records and the multiplied disputations of chronologists.
The best answer to such criticism is the re-reading of the plain statements of MILLENNIAL DAWN. On this topic see VOL. II., pp. 54-72; VOL. III., Chap. 4.
FRIDAY, THE CLOSE OF OUR LORD’S 3-1/2 YRS.’ MINISTRY
Question. Mr. Totten writes as follows:—
“A brother writes us under date of Nov. 18, ’96,—’By the way, have just ended a long correspondence with Russell; he has had to throw up the sponge on both the 3-1/2 year ministry and Friday crucifixion!”
Mr. Totten gives a few lines of comment on the above. Now as a personal favor I ask if your opinion on these matters has changed in the least from that presented in DAWN?
Answer. There is not a word of truth in the statement. It is “out of whole cloth” like Mr. Totten’s Astronomical and prophetical misstatements exposed in our issue of May 15, ’96.
We have not changed our opinion in the least from the presentation of these subjects in DAWN; we see not the slightest shadow of reason for any change on either subject.
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GOD’S ACCEPTANCE OF CORNELIUS
—APRIL 11.—ACTS 10:30-34—
“Whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.”—Acts 10:43.
CORNELIUS, noted as the first adopted son of God from amongst the Gentiles, was a Roman soldier, the captain of a company quartered in Caesarea for the better preservation of order and the enforcement of the will of the Roman government, which, at that time, controlled Palestine. It may be that he was the very same Centurion mentioned in Luke (7:2-10) as a worthy, noble and generous man, of whom Jesus said, “I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel;” and whose servant was healed as a reward of this faith. True, that Centurion was stationed at Capernaum, while Cornelius we find in Caesarea; it is possible, however, that these bands of Roman soldiers were moved about from place to place as a better means of awing the people with a small number of soldiers. It would certainly be very remarkable to find two such Centurions of so remarkable a character residing so near together. And we are to remember that a period of about six years must have elapsed between the time of our Lord’s healing the servant at Capernaum and the events we now consider.
The date of Cornelius’ conversion cannot be positively determined from history, but from prophecy we may locate it with great positiveness in the year 36, A.D., because there the “seventy weeks” of Daniel’s prophecy terminated. Our Lord was baptised at the beginning of the seventieth week (Oct., A.D. 29), was crucified “in the midst of the week” (April, A.D. 33). The seventy weeks ended the special favors of the Jewish nation (Oct., A.D. 36). That date, therefore, was the earliest at which it was possible for the gospel to be sent to the Gentiles.
It would appear that Cornelius had been in an acceptable attitude of heart before the Lord for some time. We may reasonably infer, therefore, that God delayed the sending of the gospel message to him for some particular reason. That particular reason, we see, was, that the full period of the “seventy weeks” (of years) must be confined to Israel, as it is written, “He shall confirm the covenant with many for one week,” altho he was to “cut short the work in righteousness” (so far as the nation was concerned) “in the midst of the week.” The “many,” to whom the covenant was confirmed for the remainder (3-1/2 years) of the seventieth week, consisted of those worthy Jews who, beginning at Pentecost, were specially taught, and thousands of them converted, during this remaining period of individual favor to the Jew. We may, therefore, presume that Cornelius, having been for some time in an acceptable condition of heart, the gospel went to him at the earliest possible moment—about Oct., A.D. 36.
We cannot properly speak of these experiences of Cornelius as a conversion or turning of his heart; for his heart was already in the right attitude, as was that of Saul of Tarsus. As the latter needed to have his knowledge corrected, so the former needed to have his knowledge increased; and then both needed to be accepted in the Beloved,—and to receive the spirit of adoption as “sons of God.”
The testimony is that, at the time of receiving this great blessing of the truth, Cornelius was in the right attitude of heart to receive it: he was hungering and thirsting after righteousness, and was fasting and praying for it. What a suggestion is here! If all people could be gotten into a condition similar to this described of Cornelius, we might expect the conversion of the whole world speedily. The great difficulty in the presentation of the gospel is the unreadiness of the hearts
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of those who need it. This is true, whether of the savages of Africa or the philosophers of India and China, or the self-satisfied ones of so-called Christian lands.
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They do not know the truth, and they cannot receive it, because their hearts are not prepared for it. And if the truth be received into any other than into a good and honest heart, it not only is not likely to bring forth a good harvest, but indeed may introduce a liberty (freedom from superstition, etc.) which may actually be unfavorable in its results. The constant effort of all, therefore, should be, not only to be in a proper attitude of heart themselves, but to see to it that those whom they approach with the truth are brought in contact not only with the knowledge and liberty which the truth carries, but also with its influence as a sanctifying and cleansing power.
In the vision granted to Cornelius the Lord commends (1) his prayerful attitude, which implied faith in God and a desire for harmony with him in righteousness; (2) his works of righteousness—his alms-giving, his endeavor to overcome selfishness and to copy divine benevolence. So we believe it is with all; whoever is in the right attitude of heart will be more and more moved to good works.
We have here also an illustration of divine methods; and we have every reason to believe that they are the same to-day. God did not miraculously fill the mind of Cornelius with a knowledge of the gospel and the details of the divine plan of salvation;—nor does he do this to-day, altho some of his children evidently so misunderstand his arrangement. On the contrary, the Lord made use of his servant Peter in communicating the truth, in teaching those who were ignorant of it. Men accordingly were sent a considerable journey to find Peter, and Peter journeyed with them the same distance in order to preach the gospel, rather than have any miraculous presentation of it.
The language of Cornelius, when Peter was come to his house, indicates an appreciation of the fact that the message was from God, and that Peter was merely the honored instrument. Cornelius, presenting himself and his household in the presence of Peter for instruction, said, “We are all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God.” Here was a proper respect for the servant of God as a servant of God and his Word; but also a full recognition that “every good and perfect gift cometh down from [our Father] above,” and that the gospel itself is “neither of man nor by man.”
It is safe to say that Peter, as well as Cornelius, received a great lesson from the Lord in connection with this visit. He was learning that, altho the divine favor and privilege of the gospel had been granted “to the Jew first,” according to divine promise, nevertheless only true Jews could be acceptable with God, while “in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is [now] accepted with him”—through the merit of the sacrifice given “once for all” by him who has since been highly exalted and made “Lord of all.”
Peter presupposes on the part of Cornelius just such knowledge as we would expect of an educated and influential man at that time, particularly if he were the Centurion of Capernaum who had personal contact with our Lord. He says, You have heard about this preaching of Jesus all through your country here, the matter is public, no one could live in this vicinity without coming to a knowledge of these general facts. They may have heard the facts misstated to some extent and misrepresented, but in a general way all know that our preaching is concerning Jesus of Nazareth: that he was anointed of God, the Messiah; that he received the holy spirit and with it power; and that he used this power in doing good and healing all oppressed of the devil (through sickness, etc.),—all of which, either directly or indirectly, are traceable to sin and thus to the author of sin, Satan.
Having briefly rehearsed the matters which Cornelius already knew, the Apostle rehearsed some matters which were not so generally known, but denied as incredible; namely, that the death of Jesus was not like the death of others, but was a sacrifice; that this sacrifice was acceptable with God as the ransom-price for sinners; and that God had “given assurance unto all men” (that the sacrifice was satisfactory and had been accepted on behalf of all men) by raising Jesus from the dead on the third day.—Acts 17:31.
We have heretofore seen that our Lord Jesus was not raised from the dead a fleshly being, a human being, but a spirit being, and that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God.” We have seen that, accordingly, no one could see him as the resurrected spirit being, except a miracle were performed, either by granting special powers to see a spirit being, or by our Lord’s appearing in a body of flesh on certain occasions (just as angels had done previously) for the purpose of the better impressing upon the disciples the two facts; (1) his resurrection, (2) his change of nature which prevented his being seen, except as he would specially “appear” or “manifest” himself. Thus, Peter here declares that the people in general did not see the Lord Jesus after his resurrection, but that God “showed him,” unto “witnesses chosen before of God, even unto us.”
Thus by these proofs of our Lord’s resurrection God granted us the evidences of coming divine favor—proofs that Christ is empowered of the Father to be the Judge of all who are to be judged, the living (the angels who
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kept not their first estate and who are “reserved unto the judgment of the great day,” and upon whom the death sentence has never yet been pronounced) and the dead (the world of mankind, “dead in trespasses and sins,” and dead, in the sense that all are under the sentence of death).
The Apostle’s discourse was orderly, and he next proceeded to show that all this was in harmony with what had been foretold respecting this long-promised Savior, Messiah. Then, completing his argument and bringing it down and making a personal application of it to his hearers, he showed that, the penalty of sin having been paid for all by the Lord Jesus, and all judgment of the sinners having been transferred to the hands of him who “bought us with his own precious blood,” it followed that he had full power and authority to extend the terms and conditions of the New Covenant; namely, the remission of sins to all who believed in him as their Priest (Redeemer), their Prophet (Teacher) and their King (Ruler).
We are not surprised to find from the narrative that this man, whose heart was so ready for the truth, who was hungering and thirsting for it, fasting and praying to be in a condition for receiving it, was so ready that he appropriated the words of the Apostle as the bread from heaven and the water of life for which he had been hungering and thirsting. It does not surprise us, therefore, that God immediately, in view of his full consecration, accounted him worthy of “the spirit of adoption;” and not only so, but also gave him some of the outward manifestations or miraculous “gifts,” similar to those granted to the believers on the day of Pentecost.
The Apostle Peter, as he subsequently testified to his fellow-disciples at Jerusalem, was astonished to see that God in every respect treated the converts from the Gentiles the same as the converts from the Jews; and dropping all prejudice Peter at once grasped the situation and did not hesitate to offer to Cornelius symbolic baptism as the evidence or pledge of his consecration to the Lord; assuredly gathering that whomsoever the Lord counted worthy of the holy spirit was worthy also of every other feature of the divine arrangement for the household of faith. With us also should it be the same: whoever we may find truly believing the gospel of redemption and forgiveness of sins through Christ, and consecrated to God’s service in Him,—such, wherever found, are to be esteemed as brethren and fellowshiped to the full, whether or not they have seen every item of the truth now due. Further knowledge will come to the consecrated, and, as a fruit of it, obedience in every particular may reasonably be expected.
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THE “CHRISTIANS” OF ANTIOCH
—APRIL 18.—ACTS 11:19-26—
“Then hath God also unto the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.”—Acts 11:18.
ANTIOCH was one of the chief cities of the world at this time: it ranked with Rome and Corinth. It was the capital of the province of Syria. The gospel reached it as the result of the persecution which arose about the time of Stephen’s martyrdom, in which Saul of Tarsus was one of the leaders. Some of those who had received the gospel at Jerusalem when “scattered everywhere,” got as far away as Antioch, about 300 miles from Jerusalem. They did not put their lights under a bushel, but endeavored to “show forth the praises [virtues, glories] of him who had called them out of darkness into his marvelous light.” They met with hearing ears and believing hearts, under the divine leading and blessing. They no doubt thus eventually realized that their persecutions were part of the “all things working together for good to them who love God;” and those of right mind surely rejoiced that by any means they were permitted to be co-workers together with God, and to be used of him in his glorious work. These laborers were not apostles, nor even notable ones amongst the Lord’s disciples, so that it was not considered necessary by the writer even to mention their names; nevertheless
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we can be sure that however obscure amongst men, they were reckoned by the Lord as his jewels whom he will shortly gather, and who, numbered amongst those who turn many to righteousness, will shine as the stars for ever and ever. The testimony to their efficient work is,—”A great number believed and turned unto the Lord.”
It is worthy of notice that believing is one thing and turning to the Lord is another thing. We fear that this distinction is too often forgotten, and that too many are satisfied merely to get their friends to believe some of the good things of the gospel of our Lord Jesus, and do not press the matter on to the only legitimate and proper conclusion—a complete turning away from sin and the world; a thorough turning of every sentiment, hope, ambition and desire “unto the Lord,” and into harmony with his divine plan. Let us remember the statement, “devils also believe;” and let us not rest satisfied with efforts merely to convince the head without convicting and regenerating the heart.
Many speak of the Church at Antioch as “the first Gentile Church” and of “Gentile Christians” and “Jewish Christians.” All this is a mistake: there is not and never was a “Gentile Church,” nor a “Gentile Christian.” We might just as well speak of a “heathen Church” or a “heathen Christian,” for such is the meaning of these expressions. There was a Jewish Church under Moses, but there was never a Jewish Christian Church, and there never will be. The way may have been smoother for a Jew to pass out of the partial light of the Law Covenant into the new light of the Gospel Covenant, than for the Gentile to pass from the outer darkness of heathenism into the full light of the gospel; but, nevertheless, there was a positive transfer in both cases. Christianity is not a blending of the gospel with Judaism, nor is it a blending of the gospel with heathenism. Our Lord declared that he would not put a patch upon the Jewish system and call it Christianity, nor put the new wine of the gospel into the old wine skins of Judaism; but that, on the
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contrary, he established a totally new thing; and that those who would enter his Kingdom must first be begotten again, and ultimately be born again before they could share it.—John 3:3-8.
While we would contend earnestly for the truths and facts of the gospel, we do not wish to be hypercritical as to words and names. If, therefore, any have used the terms “Jewish Christians” and “Gentile Christians” merely through mistake of language, and have had the apostolic thought in mind, namely, that there is “neither Jew nor Gentile, bond nor free, male nor female, but ye are all one [a new one—a new Church] in Christ Jesus,” we have no desire to quarrel with such, nor to be captious; and yet we do respectfully urge upon all such the unwisdom of using terms which of themselves, and without particular private explanation, are misleading.
The gospel was preached at Antioch at first, properly, to the Jews only; yet, when the due time for it to go to the Gentiles arrived, the Lord’s providence opened up the way and showed his servants that Cornelius was not an exceptional case, but that the gospel was to be preached in all the world for a witness, for the purpose of gathering his little flock from all kindreds, nations and tongues who should have an ear to hear it and to whom he would send it.
The progress of the interested at Antioch was a refreshment to the central company of believers at Jerusalem, and forthwith appreciating the fact that they would need instruction in the truth, and that the Lord would be pleased to continue to use human instrumentalities to this end, they at once dispatched Barnabas on a missionary tour. Barnabas, as a good, faithful servant of the Lord, was greatly rejoiced when he found the condition of matters at Antioch, yet, apparently, he found a condition of things to meet which he himself lacked certain qualifications. Of a loving and kind disposition, his visit no doubt was very helpful to them, but he apparently discerned that they needed instruction as well as exhortation, and immediately he thought of Paul, the wonderful Christian logician, and of how ably he could present the gospel in its various features to those Grecians of a philosophical turn of mind. Accordingly he sought him and found him and brought him with him to Antioch. The results showed the wisdom of the course, and no doubt it was entirely ordered by the Lord. A year’s stay in Antioch under the able teachings of Paul and under the loving ministries and exhortations of Barnabas resulted most favorably: not only was the church of believers well developed, but the multitudes who assembled received considerable instruction also, and thus the knowledge of the gospel was greatly spread abroad.
Some have surmised that the name “Christian,” first attached to the Lord’s people at Antioch, was applied in ridicule. But it seems to us that the evidences all point to the contrary, and indicate that this was the name which the believers adopted for themselves, by which they would be known to outsiders. Had the name been a disreputable one we might have supposed it to be applied in ridicule; but since the basis of the name Christian is the word Christ, and since the word Christ signifies Messiah or the Anointed (of God), it must have been accepted as a most honorable name, or who would think that a divine anointing could signify anything dishonorable in the eyes of any man, Jew or Gentile.
This adopted name “Christian” indicates the healthy condition of the Church, and testifies to the sound instruction which they had received from Paul and Barnabas. When later another company of Christians began to split up into factions, some calling themselves followers of Peter, some followers of Paul, some followers of Apollos, the Apostle reproved them for this, assuring them that it was an evidence that their views in general on the subject were fleshly, carnal, worldly and not spiritual. He told them that it was an evidence that as yet they were “babes” in spiritual things, and pointed out to them that neither Peter, nor Paul, nor Apollos, had died for them, and that at very most they were only servants of the Lord Jesus, who had redeemed them and who had sent them the blessing of the truth, using such instrumentalities as seemed to him good. (1 Cor. 3:3-23.) What evidences we have all around us that the carnal or worldly mind prevails very largely to-day,—that very many who have named the name of Christ are merely “babes” in spiritual comprehension. The evidences of these conditions may be found in the fact that one says, “I am of Wesley,” another, “I am of Calvin,” another, “I am of Peter,” and that in general the believers of the Lord Jesus are split up into parties and factions—Lutherans, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Episcopalians, Baptists, etc.
Moreover, it is not true, as some claim, that these names are merely forms and that they signify nothing. They do signify much: they imply that those who brand themselves with these names acknowledge various the rules of various parties and factions, and that they are all more or less in bondage to human systems and traditions of men, and have failed to a large extent to realize the individual “liberty wherewith Christ makes free” all those who have come to him, and who are united to him only. Nor do we with many advocate the removal of these dividing fences of human creeds merely to construct of them a “union” fence, doubly strong, around the whole company of believers in Christ. On the contrary, we deny the propriety of any human fences, and hold that each individual Christian is to be united and bounden only to the Lord and to his instructions, and not to others, few or many. All the truly consecrated and truly united to the Lord will find themselves in fellowship with all others similarly united to him, and the bondage between these various members (the bonds of love and of common submission to the one Head and to all of his arrangements) will be the only bondage necessary to the complete operation of this body of Christ, according to the directions of his Word.
Let us each make it our highest ambition and aim to be Christians in the fullest sense of that word. To truly be a Christian implies a union with Christ; it implies a submission to him as our Head, it implies a share with him in the anointing of the priesthood for the work of sacrifice and of self-denial in this present time; it implies also an association with him in the anointing of kings and joint-heirs in the coming Kingdom. Let us take and let us keep this holy name, and it alone; and let us make sure that we do not take this holy name in vain.