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VOL. XVIII. AUGUST 15, 1897. No. 16
Views from the Watch Tower……………………239
Zeal the Measure of Love……………………240
“Wash One Another’s Feet”……………………242
The Sum of All Graces is Love…………………244
Gifts in the Early Church…………………245
Fruits of the Spirit More Desirable………245
Faith, Hope and Love Abide Forever………………248
The Gospel Preached at Ephesus………………250
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A SYNAGOGUE AND JEWS AT ATHENS
By an oversight (which however involved no principle or doctrine) we recently made the statement that there was no synagogue at Athens, and that no Jews resided there at the time of Paul’s visit, whereas Acts 17:17 plainly states to the contrary. This furnishes first class evidence of the truthfulness of our claim that the WATCH TOWER is not infallible, but liable to Editorial as well as typographical errors. Our readers will therefore do well to keep a sharp look-out: and while we are always very careful as respects doctrinal statements, it is our desire to be correct also in respect to even the comparatively unimportant features of the divine Word; and this slip will make us the more careful.
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“What Say the Scriptures About Hell?” is the title of a pamphlet in which every text of Scripture containing the word hell is cited and examined in the light of Scripture and reason, together with other Scriptures and parables supposed to teach eternal torment. Price 10 cents; 50 cents per doz.; $4.00 per hundred.
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VIEWS FROM THE WATCH TOWER
TWO thousand carrier-pigeons collected from various parts of Germany by the German government, sent to Dover, England, and there set free to see how many of them could be relied on to return quickly to their homes, is but a trifling incident of itself; but it has created a great commotion in England. It is interpreted to indicate that the German Emperor is considering the possibilities of a war with Great Britain; and desires to know how he could keep in communication with his army after it had landed on British soil, supposing that the telegraph cables would be destroyed or under British control. The matter was taken up in Parliament, but it was decided that the affront was of so peculiar a character that no notice could be taken officially by the Government.
In our opinion it is one of Emperor William’s strategic bluffs, by which he is pleased frequently to startle the world, and keep himself in notice as a central figure—the arbiter of peace or war. It is an offset to the “Jubilee” show by Britain of a war fleet greater than that of all other European nations combined. It perhaps merely suggests,—”Britishers, when thinking of your naval strength, remember that others have greater army-strength.”
But it nevertheless indicates the love of the grandson Emperor for his grandmother Queen; and indicates that the present-day inclination to peace on the part of the so-called Christian nations and rulers, springs not generally from any change of hearts or renewal of right spirits within the rulers or the masses, but from changed conditions which make results extra hazardous, as well as very expensive.
Theoretically both grandson and grandmother reign “by the grace of God;” i.e., they claim to hold power not from the peoples whom they govern, but as rulers divinely commissioned and set over the people, as representatives of the Kingdom of Heaven: and similarly all the kings and emperors of Europe claim. Yet, in the light of these false claims, how absurd are propositions of war like the above, and all the unholy wars the accounts of which cover the pages of “Christendom’s” history.
* * *
An English journal, The Morning Star, is responsible for the report that Queen Victoria recently said to a minister of the Church of England,—”I am looking for the coming of our Lord, and I do not think it impossible that I may not have to surrender my crown
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till I shall lay it down at his feet.”
It is pleasant to be assured that one of the potentates of earth is looking for the Heavenly King and his Kingdom of righteousness, even tho her words imply that she sees the subject comparatively obscurely. Only his special “friends” know that the Great King is already present, is assuming his great power and is about to use it as a rod of iron in dashing to pieces the human systems of church and state which falsely, and often ignorantly, call themselves by his name,—Christian governments and churches. Only these realize that the judgment of these man-made systems is now in progress. Only these have been served by the Master through his instrumentalities with the “meat in due season” for the household of faith. (Luke 12:37.) Only these know how to interpret the growing confusion and darkness coming upon the nominal churches, and the forboding “clouds” of trouble causing distress of nations with perplexity, and making men’s hearts to fail them for fear in looking forward to the things coming
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upon the earth. Only these are able to see through these events to the blessings they presage, to the Church first, and to all the families of the earth later on. Only these therefore are able to lift up their heads and rejoice, knowing that their redemption draweth nigh.
* * *
Many odes and poems were written in commemoration of the Queen’s Jubilee; but one of the last, and less boastful than many, seems to meet with general appreciation. It is styled “Recessional,” as indicating thoughts on the conclusion of the Jubilee, and has just been published. It is as follows:—
“God of our fathers, known of old—
Lord of our far-flung battle-line—
Beneath whose awful hand we hold
Dominion over palm and pine—
Lord God of Hosts be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!
“The tumult and the shouting dies—
The captains and the kings depart—
Still stands thine ancient Sacrifice,
An humble and a contrite heart.
Lord God of Hosts be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!
“Far-called our navies melt away—
On dune and headland sinks the fire—
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
Judge of the nations, spare us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!
“If, drunk with sight of power, we loose
Wild tongues that have not Thee in awe—
Such boasting as the Gentiles use
Or lesser breeds without the Law—
Lord God of Hosts be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!
“For heathen heart that puts her trust
In reeking tube and iron shard—
All valiant dust that builds on dust,
And guarding calls not Thee to guard—
For frantic boast and foolish word.
Thy mercy on Thy people, Lord! Amen.
“A curious movement is on foot among the Jews in one or two of the provinces of South Russia, which may result in an important religious revival. A number of pious Israelites are establishing associations for the reading and study of the Scriptures, both in the homes of the people and in their public assemblies. Much attention will be devoted to the prophetical books of the Old Testament, and to investigating the claims of Christians that Jesus of Nazareth has in his life and work and death been the fulfiller of many utterances of the prophets which have for so long been stumbling blocks to the Jews. It is further reported from Russia that a deeper religious feeling than has hitherto characterized them is noticed among the Karaim Jews of the Crimea. This sect of Israelites reject the Talmud as in any sense binding on them, their only sacred scriptures being the Old Testament. They are only found in the Crimea and in one or two isolated districts in Western Russia.”—The Independent.
This is a favorable indication. The Talmud stands between the Jew and God’s Word just as the creeds and decrees of Synods and Councils stand between Christians and the Word. Nothing must be allowed to separate between us and the inspired Word if we would walk in the Light. Whatever “helps” really point us to the Bible as the only authority, and assist us in rightly dividing it, are profitable to us as servants and guides: but that which attempts to be to us instead of God’s Word is a dangerous foe.
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ZEAL THE MEASURE OF LOVE
“There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most? Simon answered and said, I suppose that he to whom he forgave most. And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged.”—Luke 7:41-43.
THE peculiar circumstances which drew forth the above colloquy will be very generally remembered. It was toward the close of our Lord’s ministry, and a prominent Pharisee had invited him to dine with him and a company of friends; and while they reclined at dinner, after the custom of those times,—the table being spread in the centre and couches surrounding it on which the guests rested upon one elbow, while their feet extended out behind the couches—there came behind the Lord a woman, Mary Magdalene, widely known as a disreputable character; she was in deep contrition and was weeping, her tears falling copiously upon the Master’s feet. She had with her an alabaster box of very expensive ointment, and as she prepared to anoint our Lord’s feet with it she first wiped them with her hair. Such a scene probably never occurred before or since, and was well calculated to move even the hardest hearts. But, so far from entering into the real spirit of the situation, the Pharisees were of cynical mind and merely interpreted this as a proof that our Lord was not a prophet: arguing that, if he were, he would have known the character of the woman,
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for she “was a sinner.” Our Lord, discerning their hearts, gave them a better explanation of the case in the language of our text.
We are not to understand from our Lord’s illustration that Mary was ten times as guilty before the divine law as was Simon, the Pharisee, but rather that in this illustration our Lord pictured the sentiments of the two sinners. Really “there is none righteous, no, not one;” “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God;” both Simon and Mary were under the Law of Moses, according to which he who was guilty of violating one feature of the Law had broken the Law as a whole; and had therefore failed of the reward promised to the one who would keep the whole, and had incurred the penalty pronounced for the violation of the whole,—death. Strictly speaking, then, both Simon and Mary owed the same amount—the lives of both were forfeited because of sin: and if either one of them were ever to obtain eternal life it could be only by the mercy of God, in the forgiveness of their sins. Strictly speaking, then, they each owed five hundred pence (were under sentence of death), and were alike unable to meet their indebtednesses.
Our Lord put the illustration of ten to one, not as representing his view of the situation, but as illustrating the sentiments of Mary and Simon. Mary realized her unworthiness, and in this respect was like the publican mentioned in one of our Lord’s previous illustrations, who smote upon his breast, saying, “God be merciful to me a sinner;”—she realized her sinful load and how much need she had of the Lord’s mercy in its removal. But Simon was like the other character of our Lord’s discourse, who thanked God that he was not like other men, but that if not entirely perfect in every particular he was at least very nearly perfect. Alas! those who are in this condition of mind are farther from the Lord than the truly humble and penitent who realize their need of a Savior, even tho as respects many moralities they may be humanly on a higher plane. So in this case, while the Savior was present and Simon might have had a great blessing, it was penitent Mary who really received it. She heard the Master’s words, “Thy sins are forgiven,” while Simon who appreciated his unworthiness but slightly got no forgiveness. Here we have an illustration of our Lord’s statement at another time,—”The whole need not a physician, but the sick.” In reality there are none whole, all are sick; but only those who realize their sickness apply to the physician for his remedies.
Not only did our Lord justify his course in receiving the kind offices of penitent Mary, but, turning the argument, he administered a gentle but sharp reproof to Simon; he pointed out that he had neglected the common courtesies of that country and time. It was customary then to receive guests with a kiss, as it is now our custom to shake hands; it was customary then to provide water for the washing of the guest’s feet, uncomfortable by reason of travel along the dusty roads
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of that time; in the case of an honored guest a servant would be sent to wash the feet. Furthermore, with special guests sometimes perfumed ointments for the hair and toilet were provided. Our Lord calls Simon’s attention to the fact that these little courtesies had been ignored by him, but had been more than made up for by Mary; and that the secret of the difference of sentiment lay in the fact that Simon loved him little, and that Mary loved him much.
It could not be that Simon had accidentally omitted these courtesies, for all Pharisees were punctilious on the subject of washings; nor need we suppose that it was an intentional slight put on our Lord. On the contrary, we may reasonably suppose that Simon, like Nicodemus, had a genuine interest in the Lord, and a surmise that he was a more than ordinary prophet. But both Simon and Nicodemus belonged to the respectable class, or higher caste, and came under the description of John (12:42,43), “Nevertheless, among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.”
Nicodemus came to the Lord by night to interview him, but Simon more shrewdly thought to get the opportunity of a conversation directly with the Lord by inviting him to dinner; but to prevent the thought that he had anything more than a general interest and curiosity respecting Christ, and thus to maintain the good opinion of his co-religionists, he treated the Lord and the disciples, who evidently were also guests, as persons of a lower caste; and as tho he thought that it was a sufficient honor to them to be his guests at all, he entertained them as inferiors; altho, probably, could he have done so without endangering his standing as a Pharisee, he would have enjoyed extending to the Lord every courtesy.
How many who like Mary have realized their sins and have appreciated the divine mercy in the forgiveness of their sins have almost envied Mary her privilege of touching the feet of the blessed Master and, as he declared, “anointing them for his burial.” With us, such opportunity might properly be appreciated still more highly, because of greater knowledge; for we have learned what Mary probably very imperfectly understood, that our Lord Jesus for our sakes left the glory which he had with the Father and humbled himself to human conditions in order that we through his poverty might be made rich. And not only so: Mary at this time had no knowledge of the extent to
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which the Master would go on her behalf and ours, to redeem us from sin and its sentence of death;—Calvary was then still in the future.
What a comforting thought it should be to all who are of Mary’s attitude of mind that it is still possible to wash and to anoint the Lord’s feet. His own lips have declared that, whatever is done for the least one of his consecrated followers, is accepted by him as done unto himself. Ah! blessed thought; the Lord is still in the flesh, representatively; his faithful are to be esteemed “members of his body,” as new creatures. And while these are still in the flesh, the sufferings of Christ in the flesh are still in progress, and will not be finished until the last member has been glorified.—Col. 1:24.
Moreover, the Scriptural figure holds good: Christ is the Head of this body which is his Church, and which for eighteen hundred years has been in process of development; and now the last members of the body are here,—”The feet of him.” As members of the feet class many are weary, discouraged, needing rest, refreshment and comfort, such as was bestowed upon the literal feet of the Master.
Here comes in a test with respect to the symbolic feet of Christ, similar to that with respect to the natural feet which proved the great love of Mary and the slight of love of Simon. The members of the feet class are unpopular to-day as was the Master himself in his day, with a class corresponding to the scribes and Pharisees and doctors of the Law. Only those who love the Master much and appreciate greatly their own forgiveness will love his “feet members” in the present time to the extent that they would be willing to serve them and to fellowship them; while others like Nicodemus and Simon, altho well-meaning and considerably interested, will be ashamed of the gospel of the Nazarene in the present time, and ashamed of his feet, which published to Zion glad tidings, saying, “Thy God reigneth”—the Millennial age is dawning and the reign of Christ has already begun. (Isa. 52:7.) But those who are ashamed either of the gospel or of its servants are ashamed of the Master and of the Father; and such cannot be recognized as “overcomers” of the world, because instead they are overcome by the world and its spirit. Such shall not be accounted worthy to progress into the full knowledge and privileges of discipleship.
How few there are who seem to have a large measure of the spirit of Mary Magdalene! How few are really very helpful to one another. How few pour upon one another the spikenard ointment of comforting words, helpful suggestions and encouragements. Those who are thus helpful will be found filled with a genuine love for the “head,” for the “body” in general and even for the “feet.” And the secret of their love as in Mary’s case will be found to be a large appreciation of their own imperfections and of the Lord’s mercy and grace toward them, in the forgiveness of their sins. The Apostle expresses the sentiments of these helpful and loving members of the body, who are the only ones who are making their calling and election sure, saying,—”For we thus judge, that if one died for all then were all dead; and that we who live should not henceforth live unto ourselves, but unto him who died for us and rose again.”
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“WASH ONE ANOTHER’S FEET”
IT WAS shortly after the incident related foregoing that our Lord, alone with the twelve disciples, took a basin of water and a towel and began to wash the disciples’ feet. Strange indeed, this conduct seemed to them: not only their Master’s words but also his actions were inexplicable riddles to them. He had acknowledged himself as the Son of God, the Messiah, their Lord and Master; and yet here he was, kneeling before them in the attitude of the humblest servant, washing their feet. Wondering and dumbfounded, but accustomed to obey the Master, no remark or protest was made until in turn he came to Peter. But Peter, as humble as he was bold, refused to allow the Master to perform the menial service, until assured that the explanation of it would be given after the service had been performed, and that unless he was washed he could have no part with the Master, whereupon he desired that his head and his hands as well as his feet might be washed.
Since literal feet-washing was frequent, the custom of that day, and almost indispensable to comfort, we may suppose that our Lord’s example would be frequently followed in the early Church. But, we do not see in it any command that feet-washing should be performed simply as a ceremony—regardless of its usefulness and its convenience.
Our Lord’s words to Peter, “If I wash thee not thou hast no part with me,” certainly imply that the washing was more than a mere ceremony—more also than a mere expression of humility, as we shall endeavor to show. Nevertheless, the principle should hold good in every time and in every clime: that whatever useful service can be rendered to a fellow-member of the body of Christ, however humble or menial, it should be performed, as unto the Lord.
Having finished the service the Master explained its significance. He had set them an example (1) of humility, in being willing to perform the most menial
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service to those who were truly his; (2) the washing was an illustration of a great truth, namely, that altho already cleansed by the Lord—justified freely from all things, through faith in him—yet that there were certain defilements which would attach to each of them so long as they would be in the world, from contact with its evils and besetments. While the general washing (justification) would stand good for all time, yet they would need continually (figuratively) to wash one another’s feet—with the “washing of water by the word.” (Eph. 5:26.) This would signify that they should have a mutual watch-care over one another’s welfare; to keep each other clean, holy, pure, and to assist one another in overcoming the trials and temptations and besetments of this present evil world;—arising from the three sources of temptation, “the world, the flesh and the devil.”
This cleansing work which is to be done for one another is in harmony with the injunction, “Keep yourselves in the love of God.” They could not get each other into the love of God: that could be attained only in the one way; through the original cleansing of the precious blood, through faith; and no one can thus cleanse us or help us into divine favor, except the Redeemer himself. But he having cleansed us and brought us into divine favor, has commissioned us that we should help one another to “abide in his love” and to keep ourselves unspotted from the world. The merit, the way and the privilege are all of God through Christ. The agencies used in applying these to one another are ourselves. “Ye ought also to wash one another’s feet;” to help keep each other separate from the world, and clean through the Word he has spoken unto us,—by “the washing of water by the Word;” “building one another up in the most holy faith.”
This again reminds us of the Scriptural statement, in reference to the Church perfected and glorified,—”His wife hath made herself ready.” (Rev. 19:7.) While the entire arrangement for her wedding robes, the washing of regeneration (justification) and the water for her feet-washing, are all provided for the
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bride through the agency of the Bridegroom, and she is thus made ready, yet the use of these means, the putting on of her adornment, the embroidering of her robes and the arrangement of the jewels presented to her through the spirit, is left for herself to do; each member of the body co-operating unto the edification of the whole body in love.—1 Thes. 5:11; Rom. 14:19.
It would doubtless be pleasing in the sight of the Master, our Head, that we should have a disposition to help and to reform the world in general, and to wash the vilest of the vile from all their sin; but however praiseworthy such a disposition might be, we are to remember that this is not the command which he has placed before us in our text. His injunction here is not to do general washing of all the unclean, but to do special washing for those whom he already has cleansed, justified, through faith. It is in respect to the fellow-members of his body that he has given this charge; and we emphasize it here, because this fact seems to be very generally overlooked by Christian people, who give their time rather to the outward cleansing, the moral and social uplifting, of those whose hearts have never been washed by the Master, and correspondingly neglect one another, his “feet.” Yet, as already seen, preceding, tho it is a great honor to render such a service to one another, the privilege will be properly appreciated and much used only by the truly humble who have much love for the Master.
But, it requires peculiar qualifications to enable us to help each other in this respect; before we can help others to remove the motes out of their eyes, and to cleanse their way of life, in all its little particulars, so that every thought as well as every word and act shall be brought into subjection to the divine will, it is necessary that we have experiences along the same lines ourselves. We must endeavor to get rid of the motes and beams that would obstruct our own vision. We must cultivate purity in our own lives,—in our deeds, words and thoughts. Only as we cultivate the various graces of the spirit,—meekness, patience, gentleness, brotherly-kindness, love, can we hope to be specially helpful to others in putting on these adornments of character and purities of life, and to get rid of defilements of the world, and the flesh.
To this end it will be found helpful to remember the lesson of Mary in her service to the Lord’s literal feet. Many who would reject well-meaning criticisms of conduct, resent well-meant efforts to wash their feet, as interferences with their private business, would be very amenable to the influences of the same person if he approached them with such evidences of true devotion and loving interest as would be symbolized by tears. It is the sympathetic ones who are most successful in helping the various members of the body of Christ out of the difficulties, besetments and defilements incident to the following of the Lord in this present time. Oh, let us study and strive and pray that we may be very successful in obeying the Master’s words, “Ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.”
It will also be a great help and comfort to the fellow members of the body, if in connection with these efforts to help one another in the cleansing of our ways, by taking heed unto the Word of the Lord, we will have with us also some of the precious ointment of sympathetic and, as far as possible, commendatory and encouraging words, and helpful assistance: for all the members of the feet class who are seeking to walk worthy of the Lord need the ointment of sympathy and encouragement, as offsets to the trials, difficulties and persecutions incident to the “narrow way,” coming to them from the great Adversary and his blinded servants.
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THE SUM OF ALL GRACES IS LOVE
—AUG. 22.—1 COR. 15:1-13.—
“And now abideth Faith, Hope, Love, these three; but the greatest of these is Love.”—1 Cor. 13:13.
NEXT TO the Great Teacher’s sermon on the mount, stands this discourse upon Love by the great Apostle Paul. Both discourses teach the same lesson; but they approach it from different standpoints. As pupils in the school of Christ, all the instructions of the divine Word and providences are intended to develop our hearts and influence our conduct in harmony with the lines of Love. This was the testimony of the Master when he said, “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another.” Similarly he declared that the entire law of God to men is fulfilled in Love—toward God and toward men: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with all thy heart, with all thy mind, with all thy being, and with all thy strength; and thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Since, then, “Love is the fulfiling of the law,” and “the bond of perfectness,” without which no other grace of character would be truly beautiful, we do not wonder to find the statement in Scripture that “God is Love;” and again, that “He that loveth not, knoweth not God.”
Our Lord declares, “This is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God”—the God who is Love. To know God in the sense here indicated means more than merely to know that there is a God; it means more than merely to know something of God’s loving plan and character; it means to know God in the sense of personal acquaintance, and an appreciation of his character; and no one can have this knowledge except as he receives, partakes of, the spirit of God, the spirit of holiness, the spirit of Love. And this spirit of holiness and Love cannot be acquired instantly; it is a growth, and its development is the chief business and should be the chief concern of all who hope to know God in the complete sense which will be rewarded with life eternal.
Hence, after Love’s great provision of the Lamb of God, and the ransom of all mankind accomplished by him, all of its various steps for our deliverance from sin and death have been along the line of developing in us this character of Love, the character of God, which, according to the divine standard, alone will make us acceptable before the Father and bring to us his grace of everlasting life. Oh how important then, that we should be “taught of God” and develop this his character. “Learn of me,” said our dear Redeemer; and well we may, for he is the express image of the Father’s glorious character of Love. And “if any man have not the spirit of Christ [the Father’s holy spirit, Love] he is none of his.”
To begin with, we are very poor material out of which to form likenesses of God’s dear Son. (Rom. 8:29.) We were “children of wrath even as others”—the original likeness of God possessed by father Adam before he transgressed has been sadly lost in the six thousand years intervening: hence, instead of finding ourselves in the divine likeness of Love, we find that we were “born in sin, and shapen in iniquity” to such a degree that, instead of Love being the natural ruling principle in our characters, it is in many instances almost entirely obliterated; and what remains is largely contaminated with evil, self-love and sin-love and carnal-love;—perversions which are in direct antagonism with the wholly unselfish Love which is the essence of the divine character.
The work of grace for the world, during the Millennial age, will be to make known to all mankind the gracious character of God, and his provision for the salvation of all; and to transform all who are willing from the depravity of sin to the perfection of character—Love: making mankind once more images of God. It will not only transform their wills, but it will also be accompanied by a physical transformation which will remove from them all the blemishes of sin, and all hereditary inclinations thereto, and leave them in the likeness of God, with a recollection of the undesirableness of sin and its evil consequences.
The work of grace for the Church during this Gospel age is to transform our perverted characters and reestablish them in the divine character, Love. Whoever fails of attaining this fails of attaining the will of God concerning him; and must necessarily fail of winning the prize set before us in the gospel.
But since our transformation of mind or will is not accompanied by a physical transformation or restitution, it follows that so long as we are in the flesh, we shall be obliged to contend against its inherited weaknesses and dispositions to selfishness and sin. But this sharp and continual conflict not only selects a special overcoming class, but serves to develop the desired character more quickly than will the more easy processes of the Millennial age. In consequence, while it will require nearly a thousand years for the world’s perfecting, the perfecting of the saints in character may be accomplished in a few years, under the special, sharp discipline and the special course of instruction designed for the “little flock.” But whether in few years or many years, and whether with little or much friction of adversity, the transformation and polishing of character must be accomplished. This love-likeness of our wills to the will of God is the end to be sought, if we
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would finish our course with joy, and with good hopes for the eternal glory.
GIFTS IN THE EARLY CHURCH
In the early Church God indicated in a miraculous manner his acceptance of those who consecrated themselves as followers of Christ, by the bestowal of what were termed “gifts of the spirit.” A particular account
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of these is given in the chapter preceding our lesson. (1 Cor. 12.) The Apostle indicates that some enjoyed several of these gifts, remarking concerning himself that he had more than any of them. Not unnaturally the recipients of these gifts, while feeling thankful for such a recognition from heaven, realized that some gifts were more valuable than others: and the Apostle confirms this view and urges that they seek to use the highest and noblest gifts where several were possessed. And perceiving that the Church was likely to consider that the possession of these gifts indicated such a measure of divine favor as would imply that they were overcomers and would ultimately gain the prize of their high calling, the Apostle took this opportunity, while discussing the gifts, to point out that their possession implied far less of divine favor than the recipients had supposed. To this end he points out in our lesson that these outward gifts of tongues, miracles, healings, etc., were necessarily and properly divided between the various members of the Church for their mutual welfare, and to draw them and hold them together, making them mutually dependent upon one another. This being the case, all could not have the same gifts; but as he points out, God has divided these and set or established the various members and gifts in the body as it hath pleased him. Yet, it is proper that all should recognize the difference in the gifts, and each covet or desire earnestly to have and to use in the divine service the best gifts that God has been pleased to entrust to his stewardship. And then, the Apostle adds, “Yet show I unto you a more excellent way.”
FRUITS OF THE SPIRIT MORE DESIRABLE
This more excellent way is that, instead of seeking and striving for the “gifts,” which were solely at God’s disposal, they should seek for another kind of “gifts,” otherwise called “fruits” of the same spirit; namely, Faith, Hope and Love. These gifts are termed “fruits of the spirit,” because, unlike the others, they grow gradually, and are not given miraculously. However humble a miraculous gift any member of the Church might have, there would be nothing to hinder him from growing the largest “fruits of the spirit” by careful attention to the cultivation of his heart. If the chief “gifts” were not open to all, the greater and more precious “fruits” were open to all; and to desire and cultivate these is much more excellent than to strive after miraculous gifts or talents which God has not been pleased of his own volition to bestow.
Proceeding along this line, the Apostle calls attention to the fact that any one, or even all, of the miraculous “gifts” might be possessed, and yet the recipient be far from the condition of heart which would be fit for the Kingdom. The quality which is necessary, as a basis of character, which would make any service acceptable to God or cause it to be appreciated or esteemed by him, is Love. If Love be not the motive power, the greatest zeal and richest rhetoric and eloquence on behalf of God or on behalf of righteousness, would pass for nothing in God’s estimation, and bring us no reward from him. If Love be lacking, great ability as an expounder of mysteries, and much study and knowledge would pass for nothing in God’s esteem. Even a faith that could cure all manner of diseases, or, to use our Lord’s illustration of the largest degree of faith of this kind, a mountain-moving faith (Matt. 21:21) would count for nothing, if, deep in our hearts as the basis therefor, God could not see Love,—for himself and for our fellow-creatures. Even the giving of all of one’s possessions to feed the poor, as charity, would count for naught except the moving cause were Love. And even to be a martyr, and to be burned at the stake in the name of Christ, would pass for naught except in the recesses of the heart God could see that the moving consideration to the suffering was Love. Because, all of these things, the acquisition of knowledge, the dispensing of it with eloquence, the exercise of mountain moving faith, and the giving of all of one’s goods to the poor, and his own martyrdom, might be done from selfish motives—to be seen of men, to be highly esteemed by men, for ostentation, for pride, or because of a combative disposition. For this cause the Apostle exhorted the Church to seek for this inestimable fruitage of the spirit,—Love; so that whatever gifts they might possess, either natural or miraculous, might be exercised in a manner that would be a blessing to their fellows and acceptable to God, and bring the users the great reward,—eternal life.
What then is Love, this wonderful quality without which nothing is acceptable in the sight of God? The Apostle does not attempt to define Love, but contents himself in giving us a description of some of its manifestations. The fact is that Love, like life and light, is difficult to define; and our best endeavors to comprehend it are along the lines of its effects. Where Love is lacking results are more or less evil; where Love is present the results differ according to the degree of Love, and are proportionately good. A college professor, commenting upon the word Love, said,—
“As you have seen a man of science take a beam
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of light and pass it through a crystal prism, as you have seen it come out on the other side of the prism broken up into its component colors—red, and blue, and yellow, and violet, and orange, and all the colors of the rainbow—so Paul passes this thing, Love, through the magnificent prism of his inspired intellect, and it comes out on the other side broken up into its elements. And in these few words we have what one might call the spectrum of Love, the analysis of Love. Will you observe what its elements are? Will you notice that they have common names; that they are features which we hear about every day, that they are things which can be practiced by every man in every place in life; and how by a multitude of small things and ordinary virtues, the supreme thing, the summum bonum, is made up?
“The spectrum of Love has nine ingredients:—
Patience—’Love suffereth long.’
Kindness—’and is kind.’
Generosity—’Love envieth not.’
Humility—’Love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up.’
Courtesy—’does not behave itself unseemly.’
Unselfishness—’seeketh not her own.’
Good temper—’is not easily provoked.’
Guilelessness—’thinketh no evil.’
Sincerity—’Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth.'”
We cannot agree with the professor that these graces can be practiced by every man, in every place, every day. We must contend that these graces as a whole cannot belong to “the natural man.” He may indeed put on some of the gentleness, some of the humility, some of the courtesy, some of the patience, some of the kindness; as men may attach grapes to thorn-bushes and figs to thistles; but with the natural man these graces are wholly put on, and not the outgrowth of the inward grace, the holy spirit, Love;—not an evidence of relationship to God. Where the imitator has not been begotten again, by the word and spirit of truth, his imitation of certain outward features of Love will not constitute him a son of God nor bring to him the rewards and blessings of sonship to which there is but one door,—Christ Jesus.
In the Christian, an outward manifestation of patience, meekness, etc., is not sufficient either in God’s sight or in his own sight. These graces of the spirit must be produced by the spirit of Love, filling and expanding within his own heart. But in civilized countries many of the graces of the spirit are recognized by the unregenerate, and are imitated as marks of good breeding: and in many cases they are successfully worn as a cloak or mask, covering hearts and sentiments quite antagonistic to the holy spirit of Love.
The putting on of the outward forms of Love does however mitigate the evils and distress and friction incident to the fall, even in “the natural man,” even when these graces are merely simulated with more or less of hypocrisy and deception as to the real selfishness of the uncircumcised heart. But trying times occasionally show how thin is the polished veneer of politeness and gentleness which covers selfish and stony hearts: for instance, the last reports from the recent holocaust at the Charity Bazaar in Paris, shows that the most polished and aristocratic young “gentle-men” of the most polite city and nation of earth displayed the ferocity of brute beasts when face to face with death, and that in their mad rush to escape the flames they knocked down and injured each other and even the first ladies of rank in France, to whom erstwhile they were overly polite. We cannot expect more of a love-veneered selfish heart—even the strong glue of chivalry will not hold the veneer under some such cases. And the time is not far distant when a still greater, more general and more terrible crisis will make manifest to the whole world that much of the politeness and gentleness of our day is only skin deep, and is not from the heart, the fruitage of the holy spirit of Love. In that great crisis, as the Scriptures show, every man’s hand will be against his neighbor. In that Day of Vengeance the masks of formal politeness will be discarded, and the world for a short time will get such a glimpse of its own hideous selfishness as will help prepare it for Millennial lessons in Love and its graces, to be given them by the great Immanuel.
The Scriptures inform us that in our fallen state Love is foreign to our natures, and must be introduced into them by the power of God; saying,—”Not that we first loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be a propitiation for our sins.” And, learning of this, God’s Love, and truly believing and appreciating
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it, “the Love of Christ constraineth us [to Love].” We are “begotten by the Word of truth,”—the message of God’s Love toward us in the forgiveness of our sins, and his call to us to return to his favor and likeness, and his provision of the helps by the way that we might become copies of his dear Son.
The measure of our appreciation of divine Love will be the measure of our zeal in conforming our characters to the divine pattern. A naturally rough, uncouth, depraved disposition may require a long time, after the grace of divine Love enters the heart, before that grace is manifest in all the words and thoughts and acts of the outward man. Others, on the contrary, of more gentle birth and cultured training, may without the grace of God within have many of the outward refinements. None but he that readeth the heart is competent therefore to judge as to who have and who have not received this grace, and of the degree of its development in their hearts: but each one may judge for himself, and each one begotten by this holy spirit, Love, should seek to let its light so shine out, through all the avenues of communication with his fellow-creatures,
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as to glorify our Father in heaven and “show forth the glories of him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light.”
Perfect Love is patient with the weaknesses and imperfections of those who give any evidence of good intentions. More than this, it is patient even with those who are out of the way, and that oppose themselves to righteousness, realizing that the whole world is more or less under the influence of the great adversary who, as the Apostle declares, blinds the minds of the masses. This manifestation of Love was very prominent in our Lord Jesus: how patient was he with his opponents. Let us heed the Apostle’s words:—”Consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied [in well-doing and patience] and faint in your minds.”—Heb. 12:3.
Perfect Love is kind in its methods. It not only seeks to do good to others, but seeks to do it in the kindest possible manner. And who has not discovered that the manner and tone have much to do with every affair of life. In proportion as perfect Love is attained the effort of the heart will be to have every word and act, like the thought which prompts them, full of kindness. It is well to remember the motto of the old Quaker,—”I shall pass through this world but once. Any good thing, therefore, that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer it, nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”
Perfect Love is generous and has no place for envy, which, on the contrary, springs from a perverted nature—from selfishness. Love on the contrary rejoices with them that rejoice, in the prosperity of every good work and word, and in the advancement in Christian grace and in the divine service of all who are actuated by the divine spirit.
Perfect Love is humble—”vaunteth not itself.” It does not sound a trumpet before it. Its good deeds are not done to be seen of men, but would be done just the same if no one saw or knew but God only. It is neither boastful of its knowledge, nor of its graces, but in humility acknowledges that every good and perfect gift cometh from the Father; and it makes return for every mercy to him. Some one has truly said that—”Love saves a man from making a fool of himself by consequential conduct, and by thrusting himself into positions which betray his incompetence.”
Perfect Love is courteous—”doth not behave itself unseemly.” Pride is the root out of which grows most of the unseemly conduct and boorishness so common to those who think themselves somebody, either intellectually or financially. Perfect Love on the contrary develops courteousness along with humility. A thoughtful man has said,—”Politeness has been defined as love in trifles. Courtesy is said to be love in little things. The one secret of politeness is to love. A gentleman is one who does things gently, with love.”
Perfect Love is unselfish—”seeketh not her own” interests, exclusively. Nothing in this signifies that one should neglect the duty of caring for and providing for those dependent upon him by ties of nature, that he may do good to others. In every sense, “Love begins at home.” The proper thought, as we gather it, is that the men and women possessed of the spirit of perfect love, would not think exclusively of their own interests in any of the affairs of life. In bargaining they would have an interest also in the welfare of the one from whom they bought or to whom they sold. They would not wish to take advantage of a neighbor, but sympathetically and generously would wish to “live and let live.” Put into exercise, this element of Love would have a great influence upon all the affairs of life, inside as well as outside the home and family.
Perfect Love is good tempered—”not easily provoked” to anger. Among the evils abounding and very common to-day, is this one of ill-temper, fretfulness, bad humor, touchiness, quickness to take offence. Yet, to whatever extent this disposition is fostered, or willingly harbored, or not fought against, it becomes an evidence of a deficiency and imperfection of our development in the holy spirit of our Father, and of the deficiency of our likeness to our Lord Jesus, our Pattern. Very few of the evidences of a wrong spirit receive as much kindness and as many excuses for their continuance as does this one. But however natural depravity, and heredity, and nervous disorders, may tend toward this spirit of fretfulness, taciturnity, and touchiness, every heart filled with the Lord’s spirit must oppose this disposition to evil in his flesh, and must wage a good warfare against it. It will not do to say, “It is my way;” for all the ways of the fallen nature are bad: it is the business of the new nature to overcome the old nature in this as well as other works of the flesh and the devil: and few show to our friends and households more than this the power of the grace of Love. This grace as it grows should make every child of God sweet tempered.
Perfect Love is guileless—”thinketh no evil.” It seeks to interpret the conduct of others charitably. If pure and good intentioned itself, it prefers, and so far as possible endeavors, to view the words and conduct of others from the same standpoint. It does not treasure up animosities and suspicions, nor manufacture a chain of circumstantial proofs of evil intentions out of trivial affairs. Some one has wisely remarked that “faults are thick where love is thin.” Love makes all possible allowance for errors of judgment, rather than to impugn the motives of the heart.
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Perfect Love is sincere—”rejoiceth not in iniquity.” It is grieved by evils wherever encountered, sympathizes with all who fall into evil, or who are beset by temptations. In this respect Love prompts to an opposite course of action from that of Balaam, who “loved the reward of iniquity.” Balaam, it will be remembered, feared the Lord, and as his prophet could not think of doing otherwise than according to the strict letter of the Lord’s injunction; but he did not have the spirit of the Lord, the spirit of Love; and hence, when a reward was offered him if he would curse Israel, he was willing (in order to secure the reward) to conform to the evil proposition in spirit, in intention, while outwardly refraining from saying aught except as the Lord indicated. So, there are some amongst Christians who have a respect for the letter of the divine word through fear, but who lack the holy spirit of Love, and who by reason of a perverted love for wealth, etc., are willing to engage in various practices which come as near to the injury of the Lord’s cause as is possible, without openly opposing him. Some of these Balaams are in the ministry and for the sake of salary, and the maintenance of their positions, and the friendship of wealthy Balaks, are willing to preach doctrines which they do not believe (respecting eternal torment, etc.), and in various ways to cast stumbling blocks before spiritual Israel. (Num. 22:7; 31:16; Rev. 2:14.) The Apostle mentions these Balaams as being specially represented by false teachers in the nominal Church.—See 2 Pet. 2:15; Jude 11; Rev. 2:14.
Every one who is seeking to develop in his heart the holy spirit, perfect love, should guard carefully this point of sincerity of motive as well as uprightness of conduct. The least suggestion of rejoicing at the fall of any person or thing that in any degree represents righteousness and goodness, is to be deplored and overcome. Perfect Love rejoiceth not in iniquity under any circumstances or conditions, and would have no sympathy but only sorrow in the fall of another, even if it should mean his own advancement.
Perfect Love “rejoiceth in the truth.” However profitable error might be, Love could take no part in it, and could not desire the reward of evil. But it does take pleasure in the truth—truth upon every subject, and especially in the truth of divine revelation; however unpopular the truth may be; however much persecution its advocacy may involve; however much it may cause the loss of the friendship of this world and of those who are blinded by the god of this world. The spirit of Love has such an affinity for the truth that it rejoices to share loss, persecution, distress or whatever may come against the truth and its servants. In the Lord’s estimate it is all the same whether we are ashamed of him or ashamed of his Word, and of all such he declares that he will be ashamed when he comes to be glorified in his saints.
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Perfect Love “beareth all things.” It is both willing and able to endure for the cause of God—reproaches, reproofs, insults, losses, misrepresentations and even death. “This is the victory that overcometh the world, even your faith”—the very center and life of which faith is the holy spirit of Love to the Lord and to them that are his, and sympathetically for the world. Perfect Love can bear up under all circumstances and by God’s grace bring us off “conquerors and more than conquerors” through him who loved us.
Perfect Love “believeth all things.” It is not suspicious, but on the contrary disposed to be trustful. It acts on the principle that it is better if necessary to be deceived a hundred times, than to go through life soured by a distrustful suspicious mind—far better than to wrongly accuse or suspicion even one person unjustly. This is the merciful disposition as applied to thoughts, and of it the Master said, “Blessed are the merciful, they shall obtain mercy.” The unmerciful, evil-thinking mind is father to unmerciful conduct toward others.
Perfect Love “hopeth all things.” It is not easily discouraged. This is the secret of Love’s perseverance; having learned of God, and having become a partaker of his spirit of holiness, it trusts in him and hopes undismayed for the fulfilment of his gracious Covenant, however dark the immediate surroundings. This hopeful element of Love is one of the striking features in the perseverance of the saints, enabling them to endure hardness as good soldiers. Its hopeful quality hinders it from being easily offended, or easily stopped in the work of the Lord. Where others would be discouraged and put to flight, the spirit of Love gives endurance, that we may war a good warfare, and please the Captain of our salvation. Love’s hopefulness knows no despair, for its anchorage enters into that which is beyond the vail, and is firmly fastened to the Rock of Ages.
FAITH, HOPE AND LOVE ABIDE FOREVER
Not only is Love the greatest of all the graces, and really, as we have seen, the sum of them all in combination and unification, but it is the most lasting grace: Love never faileth—will never cease; and he who has this character of Love will never fail, will never cease: It is for such that eternal life has been provided in the divine plan.
Now bear in mind the Apostle’s argument to the Corinthian friends: (1) that the gifts of miracles, tongues, etc., bestowed upon them by the spirit, were divided amongst them according to talent or divine wisdom, and were not the results of their own efforts;
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(2) that he is pointing out to them a grace much more excellent than those “gifts,” something that God will be pleased to give to each one of them; a grace of more value than any of the “gifts”—of much more value than all of them together; a grace that might properly be termed a fruitage of the spirit,—Love. And the fact is that some possessed of few talents have proportionately less to contend against while seeking to cultivate the all-important Love.
Having described this wonderful and necessary element of character in its perfection, the Apostle comes back and contrasts it with those “gifts” which they so highly appreciated and coveted, and shows that the chiefest of those “gifts” are inferior to Love. The gift of prophecy he declares will fail, will cease; because the necessity for prophecy would cease: the miraculous power of speaking with unknown tongues would cease for the same reason: the knowledge of mysteries and the ability to expound the deep things of God will gradually vanish away, as the perfect light gradually comes to all men; for when the full, clear light shall have come there will be nothing hidden, all shall be revealed, and all will be able to see; hence the gifts of ability to understand mysteries of the divine plan and to expound them to others, altho two of the greatest of the gifts, will ultimately vanish in the perfect light: but Love will never fail. It is the greatest thing in this world, and it will continue the greatest thing in the world to come; for God is Love; and all who would enjoy his favor and its reward, eternal life, must possess this, his holy character.
Pausing, the Apostle remarks how little we all know in the present time; even those who have the largest amount of knowledge and who can expound the divine Word and its hidden mysteries, know only in part; they see only obscurely: and while the obscurity will gradually vanish into the perfect light as the Sun of Righteousness arises, yet we will only know in part until that time, when we shall be “changed;” when imperfection shall give place to perfection.
Looking back to childhood we can see that as we have developed physically and grown in knowledge in earthly matters, and have changed our processes of thought and conduct and language correspondingly; so in spiritual matters we should realize that in the beginning of our Christian way we were but “babes;” and we should not be satisfied to remain such, but desire individually to grow up into Christ in all things. And what is true of each individually is true of the Church collectively. The period of the gifts of tongues and miracles was the period of infancy, childhood; as progress was made, under the leading of the holy spirit, certain of those features very necessary and well adapted to the childhood stage passed away, and instead came other experiences, methods and leadings in the truth. Hence, to-day the “tongues” are gone, the “prophesying” in the sense of foretelling future events is gone, the “miracles” are gone, etc., after having served their purposes well. But the Lord still continues to provide in the Church “knowledge,” even tho it be but imperfect knowledge; he still continues to provide methods for evangelizing or spreading the news of the truth to the unbelieving; he still provides teachers and helps in the Church. But these are not usually provided miraculously, as at first, but naturally and by the addition of the Lord’s blessing to natural qualifications. But all these will cease so far as the Church is concerned when her course is finished;—”when that which is perfect is come,” she will have no further need of these imperfect helps.
Three gifts of the spirit, of the kind developed as fruits, will survive; and these three are to be earnestly sought and diligently cultivated; they are Faith, Hope and Love: but the greatest, the chiefest, of these is Love. Faith and Hope, altho they are two of the most necessary qualities for the present time, in aiding us in making our calling and election sure, and two which will never cease to all eternity, will measurably lose their active operations, “when that which is perfect is come;” because in a large degree and in reference to many subjects, sight and knowledge will take the place of Faith and Hope. But Love will never fail, never fade, never grow dim. It will be as active and glorious and useful in the life to come as it is now. Indeed, the sum of the future perfect life will be Love.
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Let us, dear readers, with all our getting, get Love—not merely in word, but in deed and in truth; the Love whose roots are in the “new heart,” begotten in us by our Heavenly Father’s Love, exemplified in the words and deeds of our dear Redeemer. All else sought and gained will be but loss and dross unless with all we secure Love.
The Editor has a proposal to make to every reader, which he believes will be helpful to all who cooperate. It is this:—
(1) That during the remainder of this year each of us pray every morning, that the Lord will bless us in the cultivation of Love in thoughts and words and deeds throughout the day; and that every evening, when reviewing the events of the day at the throne of the heavenly grace, we remember to report to the Lord respecting our measure of success or failure.
(2) That during the remainder of this year we read carefully and thoughtfully every Sunday morning, alternately, 1 Corinthians 13 and Matthew 5:1-16. That those who would like to read in unison may do so, we mention that the Editor will read Matt. 5:1-16 on August 22, 1 Cor. 13 on Aug. 29, and thus onward alternately. Note the results of your watching and praying; keep on the lookout for all encouraging evidences of growth in this fruitage of the holy spirit: and, when you write to us, if you please, mention your progress in willing to Love and in practicing it; we are specially glad to know of your growth both in grace and in knowledge.
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THE GOSPEL PREACHED AT EPHESUS
—AUGUST 29.—ACTS 19:21-34.—
“Take heed, and beware of covetousness.”—Luke 12:15.
THIS lesson stands related to the history of Paul’s evangelistic service amongst the Gentiles, connecting with our lesson dated August 1; and the intervening verses should be considered. Leaving Corinth, the Apostle made a short stop at the important city of Ephesus, parting there with Aquila and Priscilla who accompanied him that far. He proceeded to Jerusalem that he might be in time for the feast of the Passover, purposing no doubt a visit with the Church there, amongst whom were several of the apostles and James our Lord’s brother. The account of the visit to Jerusalem is briefly summed up by Luke in the statement that Paul “saluted the Church.” (Acts 18:22.) Apparently, the reception accorded the great Apostle was a rather cool one, the believers there having not yet learned so thoroughly as had Paul that but a “remnant” would be gathered from the Jews, and the remainder of the elect Church be selected from the Gentiles. Cannon Farrar makes a remark on this visit by Paul to Jerusalem which is well worth repeating; he says,—
“Had James and the circle of which he was the centre, only understood how vast for the future Christianity would be the issues of these perilous and toilsome journeys, … with what affection and admiration would they have welcomed him? So far from this, St. Luke hurries over the brief visit in three words that he ‘saluted the Church;’ … there is too much reason to fear that his reception was cold and ungracious; that even if James received him with courtesy, the Judaic Christians who surrounded ‘the Lord’s brother’ would not; and even that a jealous dislike of that free position towards the Law, which he established amongst his Gentile converts, led to that determination upon the part of some of them to follow in his track and to undermine his influence, which, to the intense embitterment of his later days, was so fatefully successful. It must have been with a sad heart, with something even of indignation at this unsympathetic coldness, that St. Paul hurriedly terminated his visit. But none of these things moved him.”
Oh, how much some of the “brethren” missed it, when they failed to recognize the leading of the Lord’s providence in connection with the work of the Apostle Paul. John-Mark, as we have already seen, and afterward his uncle Barnabas failed to see their great privilege in being co-workers together with that servant whom the Lord was pleased specially to use in the presentation of the gospel message at that time. And afterward we note how some “false apostles,” not sent on any such errand, followed the Apostle into various cities where he by the Lord’s grace had planted the truth and there sought, and to some extent succeeded, in overturning his work—”teaching the people that they should keep the Law of Moses,” etc. But we are not to understand that they really did injury to the Lord’s work; for the Lord himself is behind his own work. Their teachings served as siftings to draw off those who were not Israelites indeed, and who had not received the perfect Law of liberty through Christ. And they gave occasion for the writing of certain parts of Paul’s epistles to counteract these errors, which have proven a blessing and a great help to the Lord’s people for the eighteen centuries since. Thus does the Lord overrule the work of evil for good to those who love him and who are in the proper attitude of heart to be “taught of God.”—See 2 Cor. 11:13; Gal. 2:4; 5:4.
Returning to Ephesus the Apostle remained there for three years, finding it an excellent field from which the influence of the gospel would radiate through all Asia-Minor. Ephesus was one of the most important cities of that time, its population being chiefly Greeks. It was called “one of the eyes of Asia.” It had a colosseum or place for public gatherings, capable of accommodating fifty thousand people, and one of its chief attractions was an immense and grand temple erected to the honor of the goddess Diana, and it was the centre of her cult, whose influence and numbers extended throughout all Asia-Minor. The temple was built of the purest marble: the historian says of it:—
“It was 425 feet long and 220 broad; its columns of Parian marble were 60 feet high, and 36 of them were magnificently carved. The porticoes in front and rear consisted each of 32 columns; the entire number of columns, 127, being given each one by a king. The hall was adorned with the most wonderful statuary and paintings.”
From this description we readily see that the character of the idolatry with which the Apostle had to contend was very widely different from that of the South Sea Islanders. Its majestic temples were not out of harmony with its priesthood and general features, all of which were evidently on an impressive scale, quite in harmony with its devotees,—intelligent and cultured people, as the Ephesians were.
The account shows that in the interim of Paul’s visit to Jerusalem the Lord prepared the way at Ephesus for the greater work of the three years’ ministry which followed; for Apollos had in the meantime visited Ephesus,—mighty in the Scriptures as far as he understood them, but “knowing only the baptism of John” unto repentance, and faith in Christ as the Messiah. Apollos, apparently had not learned particularly respecting the new dispensation, and the gifts of the spirit by which it was being introduced. But Aquila and Priscilla, altho not themselves gifted so as to be able to speak in public, hearing of Apollos and his good work, sought him out, invited him to their home and there found quiet opportunity for imparting to him a clearer knowledge of the new dispensation: thus they
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became sharers in the fruits of his subsequent efficiency.
When Paul arrived at Ephesus Apollos was gone, but some whom he had interested were soon found and instructed respecting the gifts of the holy spirit; then being baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus they received some of the gifts. The real baptism of consecration to the Lord Jesus as his servants, was no doubt part of the Apostle’s explanation; but this was followed by instruction with reference to baptism in water, and these brethren, twelve in number, being of proper and teachable spirit, were not only willing but anxious to render obedience to every feature of the divine will; and having by their immersion in water publicly confessed Christ and themselves as his servants “dead with him,” they were blessed with a share of the gifts, some of which were granted to every believer in that time;—as we have already seen in the lesson preceding.
As usual, wherever the truth is preached there is a division; not merely a division as between those who respect God and his Word and those who deny the true God, but further than this, amongst those who acknowledge the true God and the Scriptures;—a division respecting Christ, and especially respecting the work of Christ, the value of the cross and the blessings which now and hereafter shall flow therefrom, to the blessing ultimately of all the families of the earth. The Apostle was not surprised at the division; he expected it. He doubtless remembered the Lord’s words, “I am not come to send peace but a sword” and to cause division: it was better that the sincere followers of Christ should meet by themselves than that they should meet with others whose opposition to the truth would make continual disturbance, or else hinder their advancement into further knowledge and grace. It was for this reason that the Apostle secured, probably by hire, for use on certain occasions for meetings, the school-room of Tyrannus.
Ephesus was a great city for magic, incantations, divinations, etc. The worship of Diana and the delusions connected therewith, “black art,” etc., were (like all the heathen religious practices) devices of Satan and the fallen angels, whereby the people were made to believe in the power of Diana for good and evil, for health and sickness, for safety or accident. A vessel going to sea in order to have a prosperous journey it was thought must have on board a miniature “shrine of Diana.” The individual who wished for luck repeated certain words or prayers to Diana and wore upon his breast a charm or amulet marked with her likeness or with a prayer to Diana (much after the manner that Roman Catholics wear upon their bosoms what are termed “scalpel,” blessed with prayers to the Virgin Mary, with holy water, masses, etc.). As we have already seen,* the powers of darkness (Satan and the fallen angels) have liberty and ability to perform wonders of certain kinds under certain circumstances, just as Jannes and Jambres had power from the same source as recorded in Exodus 7:11. In consequence we are not surprised that the Lord greatly blessed the Apostle Paul in Ephesus with powers of the holy spirit which enabled him to more than meet the powers of darkness. The record is, “God wrought special miracles by the hand of Paul: so that from his body were brought handkerchiefs and aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them.” This naturally attracted the attention of all classes to the gospel which Paul preached, and to the power of God which was with him—whose manifestation was so different from the power which was with the workers of magic and incantations. The attempt of certain vagabond Jews to do the same miracle of casting out demons, using the name of Paul, their failure and the fact that they were worsted, the demons
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having no respect for them, helped to convince some respecting the gospel,—the very object intended by the Lord in the giving of “gifts.”
*See “Spiritism—Demonism” in our issues June 15 to July 15.
“Many that believed came, and confessed, and showed their evil deeds [acknowledging that their works of magic were evil and from an evil source]. Many of them also which used curious arts [magic] brought their books together, and burned them before all.” And when we are informed that the value of those books was 50,000 pieces of silver, estimated to be $9,300 in our money—but if calculated in proportion to the rate of wages then and now, equivalent to a very much larger sum—it will be manifest that the work of grace was moving mightily in Ephesus. When the gospel so takes hold upon the lives of believers that they are willing not only to abandon evil ways, but to destroy the instruments of evil which previously had brought them gain, it proves that it is a genuine work and not a mere emotion. It is worthy of note also that these believers did not sell their books and merely go out of business of evil, but destroyed them, lest the work of evil should propagate itself further through this agency. “So mightily grew the Word of God and prevailed.”—Acts 19:20.
With this connection we are the better enabled to understand the opposition which now arose; and why those who were engaged in making small images of Diana, and miniature copies of the temple, and charms, and amulets, and “Ephesian spells” should become so excited and realize that their craft was endangered, not only in Ephesus but throughout all Asia-Minor.
Having spent about three years in Ephesus, Paul’s purpose of mind was to return again to Jerusalem after visiting the Churches of Berea, Thessalonica, Philippi and Corinth; and his courageous heart was meditating a visit to the City of Rome, the seat of empire, where the gospel would have an opportunity of reaching another intelligent class and be brought more particularly in contact with the governmental and military influences and perhaps be even more liable to provoke persecution than in his previous experiences; for Aquila and Priscilla had been expelled from Rome for being Jews: in harmony with this plan he sent two of his co-laborers before him into Macedonia.
But the Lord saw best to permit the adversary to raise up a persecution about this time, and, of course, Paul would in a large measure be the centre of it. This persecution was on strictly business lines. The manufacturers and workmen engaged in the producing of the images, amulets, charms, etc., of Diana, were gotten together by one of their craft, Demetrius, who pointed out to them that the progress of Christianity meant the destruction of their various trades and that now was the time to put a stop to it and to reenkindle amongst the people a fervor of sentiment for Diana. The scheme worked well, and soon a furor was created: the less intelligent
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masses being easily aroused by the cry, “Great is Diana.”
It has been surmised that this riot occurred in May, the month of Diana’s Festival, when usually there was the largest demand for the charms, amulets, etc., and that on this occasion business being less brisk than usual, the depression was laid to the charge of Christianity, whose influence was by this time considerable, and certainly every item of it in opposition to Diana. Ephesus was not only the shrine of Diana, but it was a great mercantile centre for Asia, as Corinth was for Greece, and the May Festival of Diana was accompanied by not only sacrifices in her temple and processions in her honor and prayers for her protection, but with these were associated wonderful displays in their theater or Colosseum,—gladiatorial combats, athletic feats, hippodrome races, etc. These drew people from far and near, and for a time, commercially, the city was a fair, and a large amount of business was done with the strangers. It was doubtless in order to have an opportunity of presenting the gospel to these multitudes from round about, that the Apostle delayed taking his journey into Macedonia until after the Feast of Diana.
Paul being the prominent leader in the promulgation of Christianity was of course the central figure against whom the rioters moved. It is supposed that he still made his home with Aquila and Priscilla and that the mob made directly for their lodgings: apparently, however they missed getting Paul, and as the next best thing took Gaius and Aristarchus, two of his co-laborers. It is probable that it was at this time that Aquila and Priscilla, as Paul’s faithful friends, risked their lives in his protection, as intimated by the Apostle’s statement in his epistle to the Romans (16:4) where he says of them that they “laid down their necks” for his life. When the mob got Gaius and Aristarchus they took them to the Colosseum (theater), the general place of rendezvous for large gatherings. Here Paul, full of courage, purposed to attempt to speak to the mob in defense of the Christian cause, but the Ephesian converts would not permit him, knowing better than he the vicious and unreasoning spirit of the superstitious lower classes of Ephesus.
When the mob got to the theater it was much confused, and of different opinions respecting the object of the gathering. Many of them evidently supposed that it was a tumult against the Jews,—a very likely mistake, since the Apostle and some of his co-laborers were Jews, and since the common people would probably only distinguish Christians as being a Jewish sect. Realizing this the Jews put forward Alexander. (Probably Alexander the copper-smith, mentioned by the Apostle in 2 Tim. 4:14, possibly a convert to Christianity who subsequently apostatized.—1 Tim. 1:20.) Alexander was put forward by the Jews evidently for the purpose of explaining to the mob that the Christians were renegade Jews, and that the Jews proper would thoroughly approve of and support their persecution as disturbers of the general peace; that the Jews in general were a commercial people, interested, therefore, in the festivities of Diana, and the associated business prosperity. However, the Lord did not permit so insidious an attack, Alexander not being permitted to speak.
The account here given is very brief, but is supplemented by the Apostle’s own statement of the matter. (2 Cor. 1:8-10.) “Concerning our affliction which befell us in Asia, that we were weighed down exceedingly beyond our power, insomuch that we despaired even of life: Yea, we ourselves have had the answer of death within ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raised the dead: who delivered us out of so great a death, and will deliver.”
It was probably the intention of the ringleaders of the mob to have a “spectacle” in the Colosseum,—to have the Apostle cast into the arena to be devoured by the wild beasts in the presence of the multitude. The Apostle refers seemingly to this persecution saying, “If I have fought with beasts at Ephesus” (1 Cor. 15:32) which would imply that if he did not have a combat of the kind intended for him, it came so near being such a conflict that it amounted to practically the same thing so far as his trials were concerned;—or it is barely possible that he referred to the Ephesian mob itself, as “beasts” seeking his life.
Two important lessons to be drawn from this narrative are (1) that thorough conversion to the Lord means a thorough abandonment of evil, whatever the cost, the self-denial, financial or social. (2) That the love of money is the root of all evil and a frequent cause of opposition to the Lord’s Word and plan.
These principles, at work eighteen centuries ago, are still the same, and exercise similar influences to-day. And this is the very object of the truth during this Gospel age,—to be a test of our love for truth, for righteousness, for God. Sufficient evil is still permitted to test the Lord’s people, to prove who are “overcomers.” Those who are fully the Lord’s are ready to lay down everything in his service—the service of righteousness. Just as the converts in Ephesus were willing to burn their once highly esteemed and commercially valuable books on magic, so to-day those who become the Lord’s are ready to change their business if they find it inconsistent with righteousness and truth; and to lay down even life itself in the service of him who has called us out of darkness into his marvelous light.
And there is a class to-day, like Demetrius and his fellow craftsman, who, as the Scriptures express it, “look every one to his own quarter for gain.” It will be noticed that the business of Demetrius and his associates might be considered a religious business, inasmuch as they were forwarders of the worship of Diana: and so it is with a certain class to-day who are financially identified with the worship of “the image of the beast.” (Rev. 13:14-17.) These support various religious systems from which also they draw goodly compensation of honor, praise, titles, money and respect. These likewise often oppose the truth, and go as far as public sentiment and civil government will permit in opposing the truth and those who serve it, and in inciting opposition among the masses. Their reasons therefor are similar to those which influenced Demetrius and his companions; they realize that their “craft is in danger.” It is for each individually to be on guard lest he be “led astray with the error of the wicked,” and fall from his own steadfastness, and be found to fight against God either for financial interests or earthly ambition.